I mentioned in the previous post the PG's editorial on blogging that followed up on Netroots Nation. Here is a parsing of that editorial. I was going to leave it alone, but it just seems that my good friends at the PG are missing the point. If you want to skip all the words, just go to the bottom and call up the link I have to a youtube video labeled prosumers
. Otherwise, here are a few sentences from their editorial over the weekend and some tough love comments.
1. “Ouch! As the older information delivery system of the two – “ (blogging and print media that is)
Stop already with that… You have to ask yourself. Is blogging an ‘information delivery system’? Of course not. Blogging is not another medium delivering the same news in an alternate vehicle. The Internet might be described as such a new medium, as a new ‘information delivery system’ that is. But blogging and the Internet are not synonyms in any sense. It's like saying editorialists define all of the printed word.
2. “we at the Post-Gazette are feeling slightly wistful as bloggers come into their own just as a handful of newspapers are closing around the country.”
I was going to quibble with the “just a few” characterization, but as yet I suppose it’s true enough. It is equally true that ‘just a few’ print media organizations are making money these days. Wait. Print media and blogging may have more in common than they know. Do newspapers really want to become blog-like? Then their only hope is declaring themselves nonprofits.
3. “ There was a time when newspapers occupied the center of the media universe.
Sure.. but it wasn’t in the year before the WWW was created. Walter Cronkite just passed away right? The ‘most trusted man in America’ and all of that. When did CBS first put him on the air? Network news has been burning a hole in print media longer than most current journalists have been working.
4. “The condescension that many print journalists once felt toward bloggers is long gone”
Well, that's honest. Granted it’s not the PG, but they seem to be trying to speak for their profession. This was from not too long ago:
Mourn not for end of pointless blogging
and the PG was firing off lawyers at those pesky internet people not too long ago as well:http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07208/804879-153.stm
5. “replaced by a determination to wed Internet-based technologies to the centuries-old discipline of daily news-gathering.”
This is where I get confused. In fact, the PG does a pretty decent job at wedding “Internet-based technologies” to news gathering. Awfully good I would say. The metrics I have seen show the PG ranking far above what the local population ought to support. If that isn't working for them, then do newspapers need to think differently about how to deliver the news, or do they need to think differently about the news itself?
6. “ It is a survival mechanism, as well as an acknowledgment, that what we do as a newspaper must evolve if it is to remain relevant.
And when was this not true? When is it not true for every industry?
7. “Despite a certain amount of sibling rivalry, no one appreciates what newspapers do more than bloggers.”
Again, the whole sibling rivalry starts from a premise that blogging and journalism are the same thing…
8. “Many will admit that they rely on mainstream media for initial reporting of the facts, though that is changing as more reporters join the ranks of bloggers.”
Ha. So I guess it never happens that the mainstream media gets any reporting of facts from bloggers however defined. I really wonder, would Mark Felt have started an anonymous blog 36 years ago instead of passing notes to Woodward, then an unknown young local beat reporter that his editor was likely to ignore. The point is that it’s not just an alternative means of transmission. I have to admit I don’t get the intended meaning of the latter clause about reporters joining the ranks of bloggers.
9. “Through one platform or another, the Post-Gazette and other deeply rooted news organizations plan to be around and serving democracy for a long time.
I suppose we could argue over what a long time is.
I just sense a great deal of transference going on. The business model of print media is in trouble no doubt. I don’t think any of that is because of bloggers at all. It may be in trouble because of those disruptive intertubes, but that is another matter altogether. Can anyone find any study quantifying the number of folks who are so satisfied with the news delivery of blogs in particular that they canceled a single print media subscription? I would lay odds that if there are people canceling their PG subscription because of online content, it’s because of the online content of other print media organizations. So those who can read the NYT online really have no need to see the AP news filler in a local print paper everyday do they? It’s just easier to focus on the face of bloggers since getting mad at the NYT would be tilting at windmills. To meet its enemy print media needs to look in the mirror.
What I sense is that someone thinks newspapers are like railroads that didn’t get into the airline business because they did not view themselves holistically as transportation providers. If newspapers just don’t make the same mistake and think of themselves as more than ink, as omnimedia information providers, then they will not go the way of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It’s a deceptively simple analogy that sounds good, but is meaningless. It’s not that the medium is changing, but how people are relating to the news that is changing. Print media once ruled because it was a captive and passive audience that had little other source for the news that mattered to them. Both the captive and the passive parts are history. The former more so than the latter, but give it a few months. Newspapers have to realize they will never again be that sole source of information. Their future will be finding a role in that new world where we are all ‘prosumers’
Do I have an answer for the future of print media? Of course not. But it seems to me that most financially strapped newspapers are doing the opposite of what they need to. If the headline news will be blasting out of our phones, newspapers have to focus on the in depth, local reporting that only they can do. Yet most ‘reorganizations’ have moved away from that admittedly expensive model of reporting. I don't quite know where it all ends. I will bet that that more than any incremental steps, everything must cha
nge. Otherwise, just go read Reflections of a Newosaur