Quit Giving Us More Work

You know, I was at a meeting on Saturday in which yet again the vague sense of pressure to replace the American newspaper began to be discussed (and was mercifully stopped by the moderator) but it’s really becoming a thing.A very annoying thing:

You don’t see newspapers fighting to open court proceedings the way they used to, and people are starting to notice.

“The
days of powerful newspapers with ample legal budgets appear to be
numbered,” a public defender in Georgia, Gerard Kleinrock, wrote in a
recent Supreme Courtbrief. “Will underfunded bloggers be able to carry the financial burdens of opening our courtrooms?”

Let’s start with the most obvious point: THAT’S NOT MY JOB. My job, as I’ve assigned it to myself, is to be an Internet smartass. If I manage to commit some journalism in the process of making cat macros and quoting Chris Dodd’s finest oratory, okay, but nowhere in the mission statement of this site (TRY NOT TO SUCK) does it say, “Pick up the slack the New York Times and its smaller-town counterparts have willingly laid down.” And they have willingly laid it down:

Thanks to The Press-Enterprise, a newspaper in Riverside, Calif., the press and the public have nearly an absolute constitutional right to attend jury selection in criminal cases. In the 1980s, the paper fought ferociously toestablish that principle, takingtwo access cases to the Supreme Court.

News organizations used to consider those kinds of lawsuits a matter of civic responsibility.

“For
the last four decades, maybe longer, citizens have been able to rely on
small, medium and large news organizations, mostly newspapers, to fight
their access battles on their behalf,” said Lucy Dalglish, the
executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press,
which has filed a supportingbrief in Mr. Presley’s case.

These days, she said, “the access litigations have dried up.”

It is notable, for instance, that theAmerican Civil Liberties Union
and other civil rights groups have taken the leading role in trying to
shake loose information about the Bush administration’s policies and
actions, while news organizations have largely sat on the sidelines.

One of the things that drove me out of daily journalism was the refusal of the paper’s higher-ups to pay a lousy $10K to fight to open court records. I yelled. I begged. I asked them to take it out of my paycheck. And I was told there wasn’t any money and it wasn’t important enough. But there sure was plenty in the budget of the company that owned us for summer drinks at parties. Apparently mango margaritas were pretty damn crucial.

My point is that you can’t give up on something and then get pissy with bloggers because they don’t do it. If you want it done, you have to do it yourself. That’s one of the things that drove me out of daily journalism, too. Out here with my cat macros and Chris Dodd, I have the ability to pursue whatever stories I want to pursue and thanks to the generosity of our readers so do all the writers here. But I don’t have the responsibility to do a story the Times or the Press-Enterprise wants done. They have that responsibility.

(Oh, and the central point is bullshit anyway, because: Marcy Wheeler, the Beachwood Reporter, Scout, TPM, and a ton of local bloggers I don’t know about who are probably working their asses off. Once in a great while I’d like these media stroke-sessions to include actual facts. Just a couple of times out of a billion.)

A.

10 thoughts on “Quit Giving Us More Work

  1. montag says:

    Most of us are not well-heeled. I regularly see appeals from bloggers for help with some fairly ordinary stuff–like getting teeth fixed–because there’s not a lot of money around.
    The expectation that bloggers are going to take over legal work formerly done by news organizations is just downright silly. Sure, there are some lawyers out there who are blogging, and may do somepro bono courtroom work if it looks like something important is being ignored, but, the average blogger, if he or she isn’t completely tapped out, is not living high on the hog.
    Yeah, maybe Arianna Huffington can afford to do that once in a while, but you can be sure that her grubstake in Huffington Post wouldn’t last too long if she made a habit of it. And there are damned few blogs working on large outside funding.
    What the better-known and widely-read bloggers can do, though, is to cultivate connections with groups like CREW, who probably can come up with money now and then for legal help.
    What’s really necessary, however, is that newspapers start doing their jobs again, instead of spending all their time trying to please Wall Street.

  2. spocko says:

    What montag said.

  3. pansypoo says:

    we need to fix teevee news 1st. it has more bad influence.

  4. dan mcenroe says:

    the average blogger, if he or she isn’t completely tapped out, is not living high on the hog.
    This is why I always get a little nervous whenever I hear someone say, “Fuck the villagers! We have citizen journalists now!”
    Um, yeah, first off, journalists are citizens. Second, it’s a full-time goddamn job if you do it right and still pretty time-consuming if you suck. Finally, things like FOIA lawsuits and covering foreign wars cost money and I sure don’t have that kind of cash.
    No idea how we get them to do their jobs again, but I’m certain that we’re not going to take over.

  5. Interrobang says:

    My ex used to work for a paper in New Jersey, and finally got documents from a FOIA request he’d filedtwenty years previously, right around the time he had to quit reporting because of an injury. Most of us bloggers — even if we do, as I wrote in an open letter to Joke Line yesterday, have editors, do research, and play in the majors — don’t have the kind of institutional resources backing us up the way that he did, the kinds of things thatlet you do a 20-year FOIA request.
    I’m a hell of a researcher, but I’m one person with a computer and access to a couple university libraries…

  6. Frank says:

    This tendency of the press to point the finger at blogs for the decline of newspapers it so much hogwash.
    It demonstrates the recurring ability of the press To Miss the Real Action.
    Probably the majority of computer users I know have never read a blog. The activity within the blogosphere, particularly the political blogosphere, is intense but rather in-grown, but much of it is not noticed outside of blogs and that corner of the press that is obsessed with blogs.
    Newspapers are losing readers to a lot of different sources, and I fear they are losing a lot of them to nothing at all.
    When I grew up, my parents read the paper every day. It was just something literate persons did, almost everyone almost every day.
    These days, for a lot of young ‘uns, it’s something they don’t do, something they’ve never done. (Cue “Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?”)
    When I’m away from home, I buy a paper every day (not USA Today, either–a real paper, whatever the local paper happens to be). My kids look at a paper when they sees one lying around. (I tried to teach by example, but, oh, well.)
    And the young ‘uns aren’t flooding the political and news-oriented blogosphere.
    Furthermore, what’s truly killing the papers is loss of advertising, not loss of sales–and it’s not advertising that has relocated to blogs; it’s moved to commercial websites, maybe, not blogs, with the possible exceptions of Huff Post and a few other biggies.
    But the heart of newspaper revenue has moved to Craig’s List and similar services.
    The classifieds used to be the major source of reliable newspaper revenue. In my local paper–which is a big city paper in one of the five largest cities in the US–the classifieds have dwindled to nothing. Yesterday’s classifieds section was five pages long and not even a separate section.
    Google “newspaper classifieds percentage of revenue” for data.

  7. Joe Blow says:

    more info on Mango Marqaritas please…

  8. Carl Nyberg says:

    Here’s my insight:
    Newspaper managers are idiots for not realizing bloggers and newspapers are mostly on the same side on the crucial issue facing both institutions.
    How do we better monetize online content?
    Newspaper people who think bloggers are the problem are frickin’ idiots. All the bloggers could go on strike and newspapers would still have revenue problems.
    They may fantasize that if all bloggers went on strike forever and Congress granted an anti-trust exemption then newspapers could charge for online subscriptions.

  9. bartkid says:

    Remind me, how many newspapers reported the US Attorneys scandal?
    I’m more concerned that newspaper reporters never bother to even factcheck even the most simple of policy statements. For example, how many newspaper reporter did like Jon Stewart did to Betsy McCaughey? He read aloud the section of the legislation which she mandates death panels, and sure enough, that section said the exact opposite of what she claimed.
    I.F. Stone never sued for any access to documents. What is out in the public already is enough to prove all governments lie.

  10. Oilfieldguy says:

    If only reporters would publish what is in front of their faces. Gawker scooped the world and created an international incident by publishing photos of degenerate contractors wilding in Kabul, six hours after POGO released the info to the press.

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