Speaking of Priorities

I’ll leave it up to you smart folks to figure outwhich of the many comments Steve’s got posted up is mine, but this bit I found interesting:

This whole newspapers vs. the Web reminds me of back in the day when
film editors were resisting the move to non-linear editing systems. the
guild had meetings about the importance of updating your skills and it
was met with such resistance. But, what everyone finally discovered is
that the Avid and Lightworks were just TOOLS. For about a year,
computer geeks got editing jobs, but producers/directors learned
quickly that button pushers are not editors and while they can do cool
effects, they didn’t know squat about story, character development,
etc. In the meantime, film editors got their heads out of their asses
and learned the new tools. The job market is tougher, but those systems
are getting cheaper and cheaper so studios have more money to make more
films. It’s working itself out, if that makes any sense. I think it
mirrors what’s going on today in journalism.

And I’ve said this before but I’ll reiterate because, well, nobody listened the first time: There’s no reason this has to be adversarial. AT ALL. Google is not stealing. HuffPo is not stealing. Nobody’s plagiarizing by linking to you. All they’re doing, ALL they’re doing, is driving traffic to your site, where people can view YOUR content. You might as well bitch that the AP wire is stealing by sending your story out with your byline and your newspaper’s name on it. I don’t get this.

Admittedly, some bloggers have fanned the bonfire by claiming they’re gonna take down the “dinosaur” media by posting links to videos of themselves in little outfits or by sending Joe the Plumber to Israel. Those people are known, in any business of any kind, asidiots. They’re not emblematic of anything. They’re not the Internet. They’re just idiots. You find them digging ditches, too, doesn’t mean we should stop digging ditches.

I mean, I get that the print-only model was life. I was raised on it and I was as resistant to the Internet as anybody, back in 1995, when Mr. A was talking about putting newspapers on a computer you could read and I was screaming that it was a picture, a ghost in a machine, it was air, it didn’t mean anything. You coudln’t pull it off the press with your hands and see what you’d made right there in front of you. That’s a powerful experience and one that has informed my entire life, everything I’ve ever done. The roar of the presses at night, that sound will never leave me. I love it, that’s why I mourn its decline. A decline, as you reading here all know is not for a fraction of a second due as much to the Internet as to crap management and greed.

I just don’t think we’re as far apart as print hacks like to think. I get the same rush, the exact same one, from slamming something out here and watching you all chew it over, seeing it spread around to other sites if it’s any good or anyone notices, arguing with people, and then doing it all over again the next day. In Denver in August I did the same thing I used to do for my paper: I went somewhere something was happening, looked around, hung out, talked to people and then wrote it all down so that people who weren’t there could (I hoped) see what it was like. Did I do it the precise way I’d have done it for a paper? Probably not. They still don’t let you say fuck that much.

So I don’t understand why we can’t have both, especially if the skill set is the same, if the mission is the same. Why not a great paper and a great web site? You can’t tell me the money isn’t there, we all know it is, just maybe not as much as some shareholder might like. Why can’t we do both truly and well? Why does the argument have to be about old versus new, print versus online, as if the one doesn’t feed the other, around and around and around? It’s the exact same way we do the same old thing humans have always done: Tell each other stories. Why not do it all the ways we can think to do it, and revel in how much we have to share?


9 thoughts on “Speaking of Priorities

  1. Hi Athenae. “Nobody’s plagiarizing by linking to you.” Or by fair use excerpts which NO ONE IS PAYING OR EVER WILL PAY FOR. Yet APcontinues to claim they should. Which is why I specifically do not use any links to or quotes by them, and why I preface every single post with just such a notice. It’s like one of those old laws against blowing your nose on Sunday or something: It’s not relevant, it’s never enforced and you only make yourself look ridiculous by keeping it out there.
    By the way, no offense but it sure is taking you a long time to kill newspapers. I know there’s more of them than you but at some point you need to get at leasta few scalps.

  2. And on a serious note (sorry, I keep thinking of comments): Is no one willing or able to buy a paper like RMN and run it with slightly less fat profit margins? Can no one live on 4% or 5%? Why is shuttering the whole operation the only option?

  3. This…
    Comment 9: God DAMN, man. Marry me, do it right now.
    …sounds an awful lot like Elle McPherson.
    – – – – –
    I agree linking is a very good for the journalism business but there are legit issues with The Huffington Post poaching entire stories and intentionally making the source info as minimal as possible. They are using ‘link culture’ to hide their own skeezy behavior. HuffPo doesn’t want to drive traffic elsewhere in good faith, it wants sticky eyeballs. They are on the edge of fair use, tilting towards being shady.

  4. You might as well bitch that the AP wire is stealing by sending your story out with your byline and your newspaper’s name on it.
    Aren’t they doing exactly this?
    Dan – A killed theAlbuquerque Tribune last year as well.

  5. Aw, hell. I grew up on the Rocky. Thanks a lot, A! And Dan, I think the key word in your comment is “able”–I’m betting there were a number of people who’d love to buy the Rocky and keep it going, but nobody with deep enough pockets stepped up.
    Which sucks. I loved that paper.

  6. BuggyQ, if it could be even marginally profitable why wouldn’t it be considered a sound investment? In other words, screw deep pockets – do what you have to in order to get the money and turn a profit! I’m not talking about an act of charity for God’s sake.

  7. To The Other Sarah: Because, in general, newspapers ARE making money. A lot of weeklies are making substantial money; a lot of dailies are making money, just not boatloads of it.
    The trick is, as A never tires of pointing out, you’ve got to run a goddamned NEWSPAPER, not some mishmash left over after the focus groups and the bean counters get through telling you what you ought to be doing. If your main concerns are how to attract readers or ad revenue, you’ve already lost half the battle. Your main concern as a newspaper person ought to be gathering and printing the news. And as a former editor, I think a vibrant editorial page ought to be part of the mix, too. Our weekly has been known to run up to five pages of letters to the editor—and I’m not exaggerating for the sake of argument, either—because we figured it was not only our job to get and print the news, but it was equally important to give our readers their say. Come to think of it, I guess we sort of adopted a comments section before blogs had them.
    Back on point, it’s not that growing circulation and ad revenue isn’t a vital piece of the puzzle. But it should not be driving a newspaper. We found that if you’ve got strong news content, vigorous LOCAL commentary, and you encourage your readers to comment on whatever trips their trigger (we only accepted signed letters; none of that anonymous call-in or unsigned letter crap for us), the community will support you with subscriptions.
    THAT’s why most weeklies and lots of dailies are moneymakers.

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