articles about those things, doing research, conducting interviews,
filing your articles, and then going home to cry, the end.
You people probably love that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, and
especially those wacky typos Jay Leno sometimes holds up, on the teevee.
WELL YOU DON’T GET TO DO THAT.
That is not your job. If youwant to try your hand at writing jokes for Comedy Central or working forThe Onion,
then by all means quit, today, and start sending in your resumes, which
will thankfully be ignored, because you people aren’t comedy writers.
You’re self-important mandarins in an industry that’s actually dying,
right now, in large part because you people have the intellectual
wherewithal of a raccoon distracted by a ball of aluminum foil. You see
blogs and you don’t say, “Hmmm that is an interesting development in
new media.” Instead, you lose your fucking institutional mind and turn
newspapers into blogs. Becausethat’s what we were short of, in this country, right?
You see some dingbat meaningless fad like Twitter and instantly decide you mustdevote your days
to this inanity, typing brief typo-ridden updates about your
meaningless life routine. This morning, Steve Case was supposed to
appear on CNBC, to talk about business, in America, which is an
important subject. But he didn’t show up when he was scheduled to show
up, and eventually the hosts began idiotically yapping in joy because
they saw an update from their missing guest, Steve Case, on
motherfuckingTwitter. Because telephones and e-mail — not to mention basic human manners — just plain stopped working, right?
You people notice that on this Internet, and the cable comedy
channels, and oh goodness even on the regular old broadcast teevee on
Saturday nights for the past 30 years or so, that some wise-acres are
making fun of the news, perhaps commenting in a humorous or satirical
manner about topical events. (This may have even occurredbefore those wacky fake newscasts onSaturday Night Live,
but of course there’s no way to know for sure.) And then, that’s what
you want to do, except you want to do this while in the process of
actually reporting the actual news. Stop it.
Since the rest of the liberal blogosphere has decided to join the conversation about the news we’ve been having over here for months now, I think it’s useful to remember that not everybody in newspapers resisted change. There were (and are) the hyper-risk-averse, those who view any change as bad, there are those caricatures in American newsrooms all across the country, as Kos noted today:
this pompous ass, anyone who would deign challenge him on the page
containing his column was a tagger. And not in the positive, artistic,
sense of the word, but in the “vandal” sense. And if that vandalism
wasn’t removed from pages containing his column, he would quit the
paper. The paper’s leadership panicked, and the commenting feature was
removed from the paper’s site.
But there’s also an even more destructive critter, the one who wants to
jump on every passing fad and make that the new mission of the paper,
the one who wants everybody to blog last week, twitter this week, text
and podcast later on in the month, who confuses tools with the use to
which they’re put, and who thinks the answer to people liking the
Internet is to make the paper like the Internet, instead of making the
paper good at being the paper and letting the Internet take care of
itself. So you have video game review columns, and lists of columnists’
favorite web sites, and painfully self-consciously “wacky” features
designed to do nothing but remind readers how terribly freaking old
they are and distract already overburdened reporters from the work they
ought to have been doing all along.
I’m biased in this, what Kos’s post is about. Local newspapers’ comment sections are among the most vile and racist places on the web and I include Little Green Footballs on that list. They don’t add anything to the paper’s content and there’s no reason to have them at all. Listening to your audience and understanding what your readers need doesn’t mean you slavishly copy everything else they like; it means you try to be what they bought you for in the first place. If the Internet can contribute to your mission in some ways, then use it for those purposes. If it can’t, then don’t pointlessly ape it out of some flailing desire to be cool. Your average third grader could tell you that isn’t gonna work.
If newspapers had continued for the last 15 years to be good at what they were good at 20 years ago, had continued to market their efforts well and distributed their products wisely and paid people fairly and been satisifed with sane profit margins, we might have a very different picture of the business today, even if the Internet as we know it didn’t exist, or even if it did.