Skip

"Journalists' children deserve to be fed" -- a plan to save the NYT
February 9, 2009 8:24 AM   Subscribe

Steve Brill has a crazy idea that just might work. Would you pay a modest annual fee (about the cost of a magazine subscription) to read the New York Times online, if it means the survival of the world's greatest newspaper, er, news-gathering organization? It's an interesting idea.
posted by nance (172 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
No, because the NYT hasn't been a decent source of journalism for the last fifteen years. The death of the Grey Lady is really our only hope for getting decent journalism back, because the rule is if the NYT will run it, it *obviously* must be a real story.
posted by eriko at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


The NYT isn't dead yet, or are the rumors true?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:28 AM on February 9, 2009


How would giving money to the NYT help the world's greatest news-gathering organization?
posted by DU at 8:30 AM on February 9, 2009 [21 favorites]


I'm in. I have wished the New York Times had a "donate" button - I used to subscribe to the paper edition, but my wife and I just read it online, so we didn't need the wood pulp delivered. I have supported NPR, so why not the New York Times?

I mean, I am all for citizen journalism, but blogs don't have the coverage, contacts, and breadth of field of the best newspapers. A hundred years of news-gathering traditions are worth saving, in some form at least. And I don't understand the Times-hatred. Sure, it isn't perfect, but it produces an incredible amount of quality writing on a huge number of topics per day. Read other stuff too, but the world would be a worse place without it.
posted by blahblahblah at 8:32 AM on February 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


I buy and read the NYT just about every day, and I always hope against hope that they will do some real journalism. But since their cheerleading for the Iraq War, I have seen precious little real investigative journalism from them. It is sad that alt-weeklies are the only places you can find that now.

God, I hope every one of the Sulzbergers dies in a horrific yachting accident.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:33 AM on February 9, 2009


Oh, and they hired Bill Kristol, so fuck 'em.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:34 AM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]




the Times has no business paying as much as it does for its content other than to be an eleemosynary institution

See Mr Brill, the NYT would have put a little underline under that word, and when I click it, it tells me what it means. IRONIC ISN'T IT
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2009


I don't understand how this will work. What will the NYTimes do when one blogger/regular guy pays for the subscription, downloads all the stories, and the puts them up on his blog where everybody else (including all the other newspapers) reads everything for free? Especially if said blogger edits the content down to un-copyrightable facts.

I understand that serious investigative journalism might be something that the writers and staff of the Times would want to protect, but what they do right now? Not exactly thought-provoking material most of the time.
posted by nushustu at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2009


Im right behind this and i'd also like to see more done to help used car salesmen going out of business because of the internet.
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:39 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a counterproposal: I will join in to this scheme, if the NYT Co. dissolves and reincorporates itself as a nonprofit.

As long as the news industry conceives of itself as a for-profit enterprise, the readers are the product and the advertisers are the customer. The journalism is just a come-on. The necessities of that business model dictate that the news produced will be exactly as cheap and sensationalistic as it needs to be to pack in the product (readers / viewers) at minimum cost per unit, for sale at maximum price per unit.

When the news industry retools itself to make the reader the customer they're trying to please, we readers may start to give a damn whether it survives or not.

We don't ask Chicken McNuggets to pitch in and help pay for themselves to be sold.
posted by rusty at 8:40 AM on February 9, 2009 [103 favorites]


His crazy idea will work - could do better than work - if you could plug in your e-book at night and the next morning open it up with the morning's news fresh on it.

For all the web is a great way to read news, it's a lousy way to browse for stories compared to a paper version. He can still keep his advertising model, and still charge for his subscribers.

The key things to resolve in the business model are what to deliver for free online? It's the same thing that newspapers are having to deal with now as their print customers and ad revenues desert them and seem pretty happy reading free stuff.

I suppose one could deliver an e-copy to subscribers without advertising, but what businessman is going to want to keep his commercial clients from accessing his most valuable customers? The obvious alternatives are an embargoed or abridged online output, neither of which is likely to appeal greatly to readers or advertisers.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:40 AM on February 9, 2009


They actually tried this, remember? And it failed already. Why would it succeed now.

The NYT would be profitable if all they did was run their website, but they were a major media empire with TV stations, newspapers, and giant buildings, the value of which has tanked.

The cost and value of itself just can't subsidize a huge printing operation, and it can't pay for all the perks that newspaper monopolies enjoyed in the past. (Not that the NYT was a local monopoly like in most cities, but it was a marquee brand)
posted by delmoi at 8:42 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mr. Brill seems to be referencing Dodge v. Ford Motor Co. with his "eleemosynary" remark.

In any case, I wouldn't pay. I'm so tired of the vapid commentary and the political/axe-grindy commentary sneaking into sections other than op-ed. I want a full and detailed report of the facts of the situation, maybe a few comments from experts, and predictions as to the likely results of a particular event. I don't care about your writers' pet issues, and I hear Blogspot has vacancies.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:44 AM on February 9, 2009


Sorry, the NYT got co-opted by the oligarchs long ago. This is the paper that just ran a story about how it's "impossible" to live on half a million dollars a year. Not to mention its cheerleading for the Iraq war, its endoresemnt of "yellowcake" lies, its hiring of Bill Kristol, or Jayson Blair.

Now, I would pay to support a paper with Krugman and Frank Rich, the one that broke the unconstitutional FISA story. So I guess I have mixed feelings.

Good knows, I'd rather support the NT than the ostensibly "liberal" Washington Post, which just dropped its books section and never drops its fellating of Israeli imerialism.
posted by orthogonality at 8:44 AM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Information desires to be free.
posted by baphomet at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2009


This is the paper that just ran a story about how it's "impossible" to live on half a million dollars a year.

I wanted to ask someone - was that an elaborate troll or what? Please let it be that.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


• A merger with CNN.com should also be explored as a way of completing the ultimate online paid package.

Yep, that's the ticket! We're sure to turn this business around soon boys, we're just too good not to!
posted by Science! at 8:47 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Let's ignore the fact that NYT doesn't really have a lot of online content many people would consider worth paying for (opinions may vary on this). The fact is that online newspapers already tried this model and it failed. Online news isn't free by an accident of history: it's because in the early days of the web, lots of people tried to come up with schemes to get people to pay for content, and those schemes failed.
posted by deanc at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The recent NYT blog post on what to wear to your firing — featuring, without discernible irony, Marie Antoinette's final outfit as a prominent example — pretty firmly established it as The Other Side from where I'm standing. Let it burn. Creative destruction!
posted by enn at 8:49 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


I don't know about the business model idea, but I do think people here are doing some pretty lazy arguing when they say that the NYT is devoid of decent journalism, such be rejected b/c they hired Kristol for a year, or is entirely co-opted by oligarchs.
posted by found missing at 8:50 AM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have a counterproposal: I will join in to this scheme, if the NYT Co. dissolves and reincorporates itself as a nonprofit.

In fact, anyone tempted to send money to poor ol' NYT Corp should instead send it to PBS/NPR (along with a note telling them to drop their non-ads and rightwing bias).
posted by DU at 8:50 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Right. Because, if anybody knows how to keep online publications going, it's Steven Brill.
posted by felix betachat at 8:51 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pay to read the paper that hired Bill Kristol, Wrong about Everything (tm)? Yeah.. Right..
posted by vivelame at 8:53 AM on February 9, 2009


Actually, whenever I click a link to an NYT article, I find it pretty good. Their 9 pager on Madoff was great.
posted by delmoi at 8:54 AM on February 9, 2009


But, oh, the MSM is totally in love with itself, and believes that it's dispensing conventional wisdom to the masses represents some kind of sacred public service, which is absurd. But they do have good reporters, IMO. But so does TPM. The NYT's cost structure and debt are unsustainable. Like so many others, the newspapers leveraged themselves to the hilt when times were good, and now they're fucked.
posted by delmoi at 8:56 AM on February 9, 2009


I'm biased. I pay for the delivery of the NY Times and LA Times to my house daily.

Personally, I find reading a paper must faster than reading online. Headlines tell you what you need to know rather than enticing you to click the link to read more. As you flip pages, you will see stories that you wouldn't have searched or bumped into online. The serendipity of reading a newspaper is unmatched by the web.

So no, I don't want the NY Times to become an online only paper.

What I am looking for is for the newspapers to deliver customized news to me. A new section that complies what ever I'm specifically interested in as an addition to the regular sections. The tech is there, but the will is not. I believe the future is in adding personalization that you get on the web into newspapers.

I also use nytimes.com online, but it's a shadow of the actual newspaper experience. BTW, if anyone is interested in playing with the Timespeople social experiment, feel free to add me as 'cruftbox' to share interesting stories.
posted by Argyle at 8:56 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


If you want me to be completely honest? I would end up looking for a greasemonkey script or some other javascript doodad that would allow me to read the paper for free, if the NYT moved on line.
posted by FunkyHelix at 8:56 AM on February 9, 2009


Getting an average of just $1.00 a month (3.3 cents a day) from each visitor would yield $240m in new annual revenue.

Ah yes, micro-payments. Just because you have millions of unique visitors doesn't mean you can suddenly start charging for your free content and make any money off of it. A much more effective plan is to create premium content, and charge the most active subset of your visitors a largish monthly fee to subscribe. That's what ESPN does with their Insider service, which seems to work for them.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:58 AM on February 9, 2009


I don't know about the business model idea, but I do think people here are doing some pretty lazy arguing when they say that the NYT is devoid of decent journalism

Well, you're right: it is the least shitty American daily newspaper. In a country with the Washington Times and the Arizona Republic, that's not very impressive.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:58 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Online news isn't free by an accident of history: it's because in the early days of the web, lots of people tried to come up with schemes to get people to pay for content, and those schemes failed.

On further reflection, some might consider just that experience from the early days of the web to be an accident of history.

Things I'm willing to pay for: services, like flickr. I willingly pay $30 (?)/yr for because I get to store and display my digital photos at full resolution and have the ability to upload as many pictures as I want per month. I'm willing to pay for content like a book. It's a physical object I can carry around and read at my leisure. I don't think I'd be willing to pay for the privilege of reading the aforementioned 9-pager of Madoff. Odds are that 2/3rds of the info on that will be available for free elsewhere, and if I want to read about the saga in-depth, someone will probably publish a book on it, which I will buy.
posted by deanc at 9:00 AM on February 9, 2009


When the news industry retools itself to make the reader the customer they're trying to please, we readers may start to give a damn whether it survives or not.

Even better than sending money to PBS/NPR would be if you send $N to MetaFilter and use your N/5 new accounts to fave that comment. With enough favorites, the entire Internet will focus on that comment, making the MSM aware of it and eventually changing the oligarchic status quo.

(Warning: This plan may have a certain amount of unwarranted optimism.)
posted by DU at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It would be a welcome experiment in paid content, but I suspect it would take a few years for them to get the level of buy-in that they need to make it financially successful. I'm not sure they have a few years yet to make something as obvious as subscription + strategic partners + affiliate program (which is what his recommendation comes down to) work. In the meantime, they'd be taking a huge chunk out of the ad real estate by gatekeeping off the content. Nothing really revolutionary here that people haven't been discussing for more than a decade.
posted by bclark at 9:01 AM on February 9, 2009


Wow, on second read ... he really doesn't completely get it, does he?

"There is simply no example, not one – in print, on line, in television – of quality content offered for free ever resulting in a viable business."

Really? Seems like there are plenty of examples of "viable businesses" without a subscriber-borne fee in both television and online media, it is just the print content industry that can't seem to make that happen. Unless he truly believes that most of the web and television doesn't count as "quality" by some high standard in his head.
posted by bclark at 9:05 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


btw, the Times addressed its own future in Business section article today.
posted by found missing at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2009


No. They shamelessly ignored important issues and sat on stories at the request of the government. These actions resulted in catastrophe. Also, they suck at journalism.
posted by odinsdream at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Not a chance.

Like others I used to have it delivered but after Judy Miller, I let it lapse and so it will remain.
posted by BlueMetal at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


His crazy idea will work - could do better than work - if you could plug in your e-book at night and the next morning open it up with the morning's news fresh on it.

For all the web is a great way to read news, it's a lousy way to browse for stories compared to a paper version. He can still keep his advertising model, and still charge for his subscribers.


No offense, but what in the hell are you talking about? What in the world is an e-book and why would you have to plug it in at night to have your brand spanking news in the morning? Also, how is clicking on "business" or "US" or "opinion" not a million times easier to navigate than flipping open a paper, folding and refolding flimsy 2' x 2' sheets of the cheapest paper available, all the while scrambling to find section 2D which is inevitably the section that you wiped up that coffee spill with 5 minutes ago and is now a sopping mess on the table?
posted by clearly at 9:10 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I really want to love the Times but it keeps printing stuff like "Trying to live on 500K in New York City" which makes me hate it for being such toadies to the ruling class.
posted by octothorpe at 9:11 AM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


I second Rusty. Rusty, your idea is worthy of "a crazy idea that just might work". Brilliant.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:13 AM on February 9, 2009


odinsdream: they suck at journalism
posted by found missing at 9:14 AM on February 9, 2009


That kind of argument keeps me coming back to MeFi.
posted by found missing at 9:16 AM on February 9, 2009


I've been a really angry critic of the Times for a while now, but still buy it 5-6 times a week. Facile dismissals of the whole organization's reporting quality miss the good work being done by a whole bunch of sharp reporters around the country and globe. The idiocy of the top editors (and those folks' complete unreliability at crucial moments like the Iraq war buildup when the shit really hits the fan and they have to put their business on the line) is essential to keep in mind - always - when reading the Times, sure, but until the nonprofit foundations supporting quality daily journalism actually appear - and rusty, I can't favorite your comment enough; it's dead on target - it's stupid to dismiss papers like the NYT out of hand.

And, that said, I should mention that this morning I did what I've been meaning to do for a while and subscribed to home delivery of the NYT, which is only $6.70 a week for the next three months. It'll be nice to have it in my hands when I leave the house instead of having to buy it at the coffeeshop, and to basically get the Sunday paper free while paying the same amount I was paying before.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still disgusted by much of what the Times' top editors do. But damn if I can feel good about paying nothing whatsoever at all for the basic daily reporting that, cliché notwithstanding, is absolutely essential to the functioning of democracy. I mean, come on - does anyone really disagree with that?
posted by mediareport at 9:17 AM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


iTunes is the worst possible model for selling news.

First of all, iTunes itself isn't in the greatest position -- it's basically got a transitional business model, and services like Spotify (sorry Americans, you can't have this one), are showing how free+legal music can really work. I haven't bought a single iTunes track since I got Spotify, and I used to spend a fair chunk there. I watched my dyed-in-the-wool mac-fan "I want to own my music" friends transformed within hours of using Spotify.

But most importantly, there's just no overlap between the two kinds of purchase. If I buy an album, it's either because I've heard it before and want to own it, or because I'm a great fan and know I'm going to love it and get repeated use out of it. Neither of these things apply to news: if I've read it before, I know the facts and have no need to "own" it.

I also don't become a great fan of a particular reporter -- "ooh, I must read his latest report from the town council" -- and even if I did, it's not like much journalism is stuff to cherish and read, again and again.

So then there's his other model, of subscription access. He thinks this will generate almost as much as the ads do now. Although of course the ad income will plummet when it's all behind a pay wall, so it's going to come out just about even. Scrap that one, too.

I'm kind of a freak, because I don't mind paying for news -- I paid my TV licence even when I didn't have a TV, because I value news.bbc.co.uk very highly -- but the ideas proposed here are all gash. If they can't sell them to me, they're never going to make enough from the masses; who haven't been interested in paying for news qua news since the radio was born.
posted by bonaldi at 9:18 AM on February 9, 2009


Information desires to be free.

In my experience it also desires to get tied to the bed and have its hair pulled. Let's not get all jovial about the death of MSM outlets--they do actual reporting, and the web apes it. It's not impossible that information could just cease to be generated by human beings finding shit out and writing down because they are too busy following celebrities to the bathroom.

As David Simon said:

Day by day, with buyout after buyout of veteran reporters and institutional memory, the newspaper became less essential to people who wanted to consistently find out what the hell was actually happening in their world, apart from the three or five five-part series on a given issue or outrage. That's what a newspaper is. That's why they matter.

...thus far, no other media source--not television, not the alt-weeklies, not magazines, not the internet--have taken responsibility for the consistent and immediate acquisition of a wide range of information about their communities, their regions, their nation, their world. Are there other places apart from The Sun to acquire national and world news? Sure. But if The Sun doesn't put boots on the ground to watchdog the institutions of central Maryland, then those institutions go unwatched. The Jeffersonian nightmare of a government without newspapers. God help us all.

posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:18 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


There is simply no example, not one – in print, on line, in television – of quality content offered for free ever resulting in a viable business.

Ahem.
posted by erniepan at 9:18 AM on February 9, 2009


I love the New York Times. I hope it survives bankruptcy.
posted by grobstein at 9:20 AM on February 9, 2009


bankruptcy?
posted by found missing at 9:21 AM on February 9, 2009


Nah...every so often they come up with a decent piece of journalism. But missing out on those occasional articles would not materially impact my life or my understanding of events. And with the signal to noise ratio so low, you have to do a lot of filtering to get to the good stuff, anymore.

Infrequent and sporadic quality + Awash in dreck much of the time = Waste of my money.
posted by darkstar at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2009


If my paid subscription includes a video of Judith Miller getting tarred and feathered I might consider it.
posted by Ber at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2009


That kind of argument keeps me coming back to MeFi.

Forgive me if I don't expound to essay length, but that's mostly because the Times' failure at basic journalism has been discussed at great length here on mefi. As mediareport mentions, though, I'm sure there are plenty of good journalists employed by the Times. It's not a matter of the individual employees, though. It's more to do with the Times driving a culture of news gathering that relies on government propaganda and ad revenue. That they employ journalists and occasionally print something good is completely accidental. That's not their purpose in design, and it isn't what they're good at, quite demonstrably. Better that they fail and those few honest journalists they did employ move on to something else.
posted by odinsdream at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2009


I get the strong sense that you don't read the NYT every day, because what you say about it may describe certain elements of the paper, or low points in the paper's history, but overall it doesn't ring true to me.
posted by found missing at 9:30 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, how is clicking on "business" or "US" or "opinion" not a million times easier to navigate than flipping open a paper, folding and refolding flimsy 2' x 2' sheets of the cheapest paper available...?

It's "easier" to read online if you know exactly what you're looking for and have little interest in reading anything else, but a physical paper conveys a variety of information much more easily: headlines, subheads, illustrations, and article length for numerous pieces are available at a glance...not to mention that reading off paper is a hell of a lot easier on the eyes than being irradiated by a white-background news site. And those flimsy 2' x 2' sheets are much lighter and more portable than your most advanced Macbook Air.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:35 AM on February 9, 2009


Although I used to enjoy lazy Sundays sitting around with the paper and coffee, that paradigm just doesn't match the ADD-addled click-frenzy that corresponds to my daily web regimen. I rarely actually *read* entire articles, I quickly scan them for salient points (and occasionally bookmark them to read in more depth on a rainy day that never comes). Paying $0.10 for the privilege is a giant buzzkill.

Believing that simply producing quality information is a viable business model is kinda quaint and charming and will always fail in a world where that information can be reproduced and mass-disseminated in seconds. Maybe they should publish the articles as DRM'ed PDFs. I keed, I keed!

The iTunes analogy fails because we enjoy listening to the same song multiple times. I don't go back and reread my favorite NYT articles over and over.

The subscription model is a better fit, but we've come to expect a lot more for our money than I believe the NYT currently delivers. Premium prices demand premium features - the Metafilter FPP isn't why I come here, its the collaborative feedback on the FPP. NYT plus community would be interesting, but I suspect the level of commentary would be more Youtube than Mefi.
posted by argh at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2009


"All online articles will cost 10 cents each to read in full, with simple, one-step purchases powered by an I-Tunes-like Journalism infrastructure ...
A customer will be able to buy a pass to read all articles in one day for 40 cents. ...
There would be a five cent charge to forward an article to someone else"


The same old micropayments dream/delusion rehashed yet again? Is this a joke?

Most news organisations have simply taken too long to adapt to the web, and it's now perhaps too late for them to fully capitalise on its opportunities. Ten years too late.
posted by malevolent at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I get the strong sense that you don't read the NYT every day,

I don't. I also don't watch FOX news daily. These are systemic problems I'm talking about which affect my ability to trust the source at all.
posted by odinsdream at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2009


The Times just published a self-congratulatory puff piece on its future, mentioning that after years of "torrid" growth, digital revenue is off.

However, the Times continues to expand on the digital front, "even taking on Wikipedia with its Times Topics pages." I've already deleted my Wikipedia bookmark. From here on, it's Times Topics for all my research needs!

When you're borrowing money at 14% from a Mexican named Slim Helu, in my book, that means you're fucked. Lights out.
posted by Gordion Knott at 9:40 AM on February 9, 2009


I really want to love the Times but it keeps printing stuff like "Trying to live on 500K in New York City"

I'm not getting the hate for this article. The way I read it, it's not saying "it's impossible to live on 500K in Manhattan;" it's saying "those who are used to making 2M would have a hard time adjusting to 500K." Which, I know, is hardly a shock to anyone, but it is in the Fashion & Style section. I'm in general agreement with those who want their news journalism to be hard-hitting, but picking out an article from the Fashion & Style section really isn't a good example of NYT's failings.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:40 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


For every flak writing "Trying to live on 500K in New York City" ad-pandering garbage there's someone at the Times like Mark Lacey, whose reporting on Mexico's drug/corruption wars is not only brave but from my seat has been a standout in the paper for a while now.

Bottom line: I notice stuff like that in the Times regularly, and it's worth supporting, not least because pretty much all of the other options right now are much, much worse.
posted by mediareport at 9:41 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I get the strong sense that you don't read the NYT every day,

I don't. I also don't watch FOX news daily.


wow, you're using all the tricks
posted by found missing at 9:41 AM on February 9, 2009


Er, Marc Lacey.
posted by mediareport at 9:42 AM on February 9, 2009


On my way to Krugman and Rich, I am occasionally distracted by a cuisine think-piece, a fashion week slideshow, or a human interest story on the travails of private school teens. Mostly to marvel at a world of concerns strangely disconnected from my own. By and large, the Times is not my paper. It's targeted at someone I've never met - someone wealthier and more self-involved than I am, even if we share somewhat similar political beliefs.

And then I wonder - why are the photos in these media presentations so small? (Don't they realize the size of a modern monitor?) Why is the video game coverage so buried? Where are my opportunities to curate content? Where are the tags? Why are the movie reviews not accessible through facted navigation by genre, reviewer pick, and director? Why, in general, is this whole web site so hard to navigate, so hard to love? Why does the design still hearken to 1999?

I would possibly support the "Times of the Future" with my money. A Times I could get inside of, one that connected me better with what my friends were reading, one that was more "accessible" on all levels. It would be a Times that understood that taking yourself seriously and having journalistic integrity are not the same thing. It would, in short, be a Times that had digested both Jon Stewart and Clay Shirky thoroughly.

But not this Times. This Times deserves to die. For the same reasons the auto industry does. Too many missed chances for genuine innovation. Too much failure to create and seize a better audience because of concern about who they think their audience already is.

As the Times dies, I can only hope that the culture to which it caters dies too. Perhaps liberal. Perhaps intelligent. But utterly self-involved and utterly disconnected from the core values of the future - media ecology, planetary ecology, political and financial transparency, and the realization that living well means everyone living well.

A Times committed to the outside and not the inside.
posted by macross city flaneur at 9:45 AM on February 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


found missing: I have no idea what you're talking about. I'd be glad to have a conversation, though, if you care to.
posted by odinsdream at 9:47 AM on February 9, 2009


Am I the only one who paid $5.00 for Metafilter?
posted by pianomover at 9:47 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Since we're piling on, anybody else catch the comments on the NYT groundbreaking investigative piece asking whether great meals could be found for less than $100?

Enjoy the delicious interplay of bitter Mississippi readers with the rich sweetness of clueless Upper East Side writer.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whoops, here.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:55 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, I was the plus one of a friend for a party hosted by the NYT. Top-Shelf Open bar, famous photographer doing portraits, private Manhattan rooftop. I don't think a whole lot of money is going back into the paper, you know? Combined the sensationalistic reports of people having to HAVE ROOMMATES and BUY STORE BAND MAKEUP*! I get the distinct feeling their "target readership" is on a material plane far, far removed from mine.

That and their rah-rah-war reporting, borderline illiterate op-ed pieces, and complete lack of backbone over the last 8 years makes me think they need a severe slap in the face. It's a bloated mess.

* I know it's not the main news page but SOME standards would be nice. Their Arts reporting is unreadable. Is there any phrase worse than "Featured in the Times Style Section"? Besides being featured in the Science section?
posted by The Whelk at 9:55 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


NYT hasn't been the "world's greatest newspaper" for a long time--if ever. If they start charging, I'll simply read some of the other thousands of free online news sources.
posted by Sassenach at 9:56 AM on February 9, 2009


I have no idea what you're talking about.

He's talking about your completely juvenile and illogical rhetorical strategies. I agree they're pretty fucking funny, myself.
posted by mediareport at 9:57 AM on February 9, 2009


I can't get behind this at all. Doesn't this essentially deny access to the NYT to anyone without a credit card? What about all the teenagers that use the paper as a resource for school?
posted by LSK at 10:03 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


As long as the news industry conceives of itself as a for-profit enterprise, the readers are the product and the advertisers are the customer. The journalism is just a come-on. The necessities of that business model dictate that the news produced will be exactly as cheap and sensationalistic as it needs to be to pack in the product (readers / viewers) at minimum cost per unit, for sale at maximum price per unit.
*snip*
We don't ask Chicken McNuggets to pitch in and help pay for themselves to be sold.


People need to realize this about every magazine. I dated a junior editor for a prominent environmental magazine a few years ago and she clued me into this. Investors care about profit, which means owners care about profit. And, while its nice to create a magazine about a subject matter you care about, investors only care about profit.

Many magazines are short haul publications: go through Cooking Light for 9 months and you'll have seen *every* recipe they will ever print. After that what you start to see are variations; cranberry nut scones instead of last years cranberry orange scones. Clue: if you learn how to make a basic scone, and how to handle certain additive ingredients, you've learned how to make next year's scone recipe. Look at Gourmet, Cooks Illustrated, Saveur and so on and sooner or later you realize the same thing: its all just variations on a trend. I should note: CI is probably the least biased of the bunch, as it does refuse advertisements and as such it has a slightly different model, but read it long enough and you'll be able to guess the protien that they'll be using this month (the BEST pork loin roast? the BEST roast chicken? the BEST cut of beef for a given task? REPEAT!)

Sensationalism sells. Magazines write about how we need to get more protien from eating eggs, then the following month or week they tell us that the eggs that they told us to eat last week contain the wrong type of cholesterol. As such, we scour this months articles to find out what we should or should not be eating, meanwhile we've scaremongerd our selves into eating 3 ding dongs and a box of ho-hos.

Which is more profitable: to create a source of atual information which people read, learn and then never need to look at again, or to create a reader base deliverable every week to your advertisers because they're never quire sure of what's what?
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:03 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


They should start by rehiring Jayson Blair to write ten or twelve stories a day. I would pay to read that guy's fictional assessment of the day's news. Or merge with The Onion.
posted by mattbucher at 10:05 AM on February 9, 2009


It's interesting how many people here are frusterated with the quality of journalism at the Times. I've said this before but I really don't think newspapers get how damaging their pre-war WMD coverage was. A lot of people really felt that the US waging a pre-emptive war was the story of the decade and the Times and other newspapers got it completely wrong. If they couldn't have gotten one of the most important stories right, why does it matter if they get the small stuff right? The NY times followed up Judy Miller by sitting on the FISA story for a year and, I don't know, it sure seems like they could have been writing some stories five years ago about the economic issues the country now faces. I think if the Times had sat down and really tried to figure out what went wrong with their pre-war coverage, they might have kept more readers.
posted by Staggering Jack at 10:09 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Well. I started this thread and told myself to hang back for an hour or two, see how it goes... And it's gone about the way I expected it to, but never mind that.

What I'm wondering about is what people are willing to pay for, online or elsewhere. My prejudices, up front: I'm a freelance writer, formerly employed by a newspaper, increasingly drifting away from ink-on-paper work, in part because the work is drying up with the economy, in part because it just doesn't pay very well anymore. Five years ago editors apologized at not being able to go above 50 cents a word, and established freelancers said a dollar a word was their absolute rock-bottom rate. Today I went on Craigslist and saw an ad asking for someone willing to write 600-word "articles" for websites for -- this is not a typo -- $3. Three. Dollars.

I also subscribe to three ink-on-paper newspapers (NYT, WSJ and a local daily, all home-delivered), and pay around $700 a year for it. It's a luxury, but I'm a reader and writer, and it's what I buy instead of purses or video games or whatever you spend your $700 annual dollars on. And while there's something in every single paper, every single day, that sends me right up the wall -- news flash: the $500K-a-year piece was troll bait -- I find on balance these are still very rich publications. I work at home and leave them on my kitchen table all day, and read most of all three, every day. I shudder at a world without the NYT; for every Judy Miller story, there's a Dexter Filkins or John Burns dispatch from Iraq that was essential journalism. The annoyance of Sunday Styles is balanced by good stuff in the A section. Maybe I'm an idiot, but as long as I'm seeking it out and finding something good in it every day, it's worth it to me.

But I know it isn't assembled by fairies, either. I simply don't understand the argument that "even if they charged, I'd find a place to steal it." I don't shoplift from stores or buy pirated DVDs; why do people think it's OK to take a piece of reporting and repost it in its entirety on a blog? I liked Brill's argument because I agree that good content is valuable. I've never understood why "information wants to be free," beyond reading a newspaper someone left behind at Starbucks. That just sounds like a bullshit latter-day argument for "liberating" steaks from the grocery store.

If the NYT charges $5 a month, I'll probably still buy the pulp version, if only because I like the newspaper experience. But if they make a stab at saying, "No more free candy," I for one hope they succeed. (Times Select had it exactly backward. Charge for news, and give opinions away free. Dumb idea.) Five bucks isn't very much money, and as others have been pointed out, it's the same argument made by NPR.

Also, for those of you who say the NYT sucks or can't do basic journalism: Who doesn't suck? (And don't say the Huffington Post. I beg you.) Just wondering.
posted by nance at 10:11 AM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Good gravy, octothorpe, that is one of the most extraordinary tubs of hagiographic froth I've ever seen from a major newspaper. You can almost see the original point - an almost defensible one, that 500 grand means less on the Upper East Side than it would in Podunk - but the language and shading is just unbelievable . . .

The work in the gym pays off when one must don a formal gown for a charity gala. . . . Each Brooks Brothers suit costs about $1,000. If you run a bank, you can’t look like a slob. . . . a well-to-do man with a certain sureness of stride, something that might be lost if the executive were crowding onto the PATH train every morning at Journal Square, his newspaper splayed against the back of a stranger’s head . . .

Can't you see? These are not mere mortals. Slobs like you wallow in your own filth on the PATH train in your pathetic $750 suits and revel in the execrable mess, but the Ubermenschen of Wall Street simply can't execute the brilliant sleight-of-hand financial tricks that have brought the global economy to its knees if they arrive at work by any conveyance lacking in overstuffed leather seats. Public school? You expect the children of royalty to attend public school? Without a private tutor or even a week off to limber up their muscles on the slopes in Gstaad?

Yeah, this is actually the problem, this kind of drivel. Newspapers have become so thick with shit like this that it's easy to miss the fact that there are still some really good writers telling really important stories on the same pages (without the deep-pocketed Times to keep a permanent and extremely expensive Baghdad bureau, there'd be no Dexter Filkins and thus no Forever War, which would truly be a loss).

There's just enough genuine utility left in these arrogant old dinosaurs that they can't see how flawed their business model is nor how laughably inessential most of what they spend their money on has become. Their attitude, most of them, has until recently consisted of unwavering certainty that nothing as vital as they are could truly be threatened by, you know, bloggers. They shy away from investigative reporting on the most corrupt administration in American history and slash back their freelance budgets while giving a six-figure career to the likes of Jennifer 8. Lee, and now we're supposed to essentially donate money to their survival like they're Unicef?

These organizations as a whole don't serve an essential democratic function, but certain of their pages and bylines do. I don't know how you save those alone, but any new business model that doesn't recognize the dead weight of the superstructure won't be getting my micropayments.
posted by gompa at 10:12 AM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Nance - here's my advice to you.

Become a paralegal, teacher, or night club bouncer to feed yourself.

Start a blog on your topic of choice.

Become a great writer. Develop an audience.

In 3 years, if you're good enough, and you're still interested in writing for an old-media company, go back to your journal of choice and tell them what they're going to pay you.

Otherwise, accept that your writing is worth precisely what the market values it at.
posted by macross city flaneur at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


With innovative thinking like this, I don't understand how media businesses finds themselves in these situations.

Newspapers and other print publishing businesses are probably the biggest practitioners of marketing myopia in history. Until news-gathering organizations figure out that reporting is what they do, and not publishing they have no hope for success. Publishing is becoming/is commoditized, reporting is becoming ever more valuable.
posted by sfts2 at 10:16 AM on February 9, 2009


Yeah, conflating the various sections of the Times together isn't very helpful. They are of very different missions and quality levels. I hate the affluence-pitched Style section articles as much as the next person (and Thursday's is a million times more annoying than Sunday) but have always figured that they are allowing the sale of advertising to said affluent people which is underwriting the actual news gathering. And there is actual news gathering. Not all of it satisfies the precise ideological pitch of my ideal platonic newspaper, and they fell down hard on investigating tons of Bush-era stories, but they do a ton of real reporting day in and out which costs money and which is valuable.

To the reading of it, my long-term habit of a fairly thorough daily read of the NYT has of late been destabilized by the various ways that news reaches me electronically throughout the day. But for me, it is very different to sit down with the physical paper and read it - I skim the online version in a way that does not happen with the physical paper. If they could figure out a way to provide it electronically in a way that resembles the physical paper more, I'd be happy to pay for that. As it is, I think of the physical paper as the "real" paper and the online version as a handy archive of sorts.
posted by yarrow at 10:20 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is actually the problem, this kind of drivel.

Oh please. The Style section is pretty easy to skip, gompa. I do it every week; it takes about .5 seconds. Outrage over that stupid article is a red herring.
posted by mediareport at 10:21 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


- Jon Stewart doesn't suck.

- Frontline doesn't suck.

- In its way, Fox News doesn't suck - because, unlike the Times, it has no illusions about what it is and where it's coming from and who it serves.

- The collective information-gathering and bullshit-filtering capabilities of massive networks of people directly consulting regular people on the ground - without the intervention of an editorial board whose decisions are a thinly veiled series of concessions to investors and politically-connected managers...

... doesn't suck.

And just to dispel the myths.

1. There is no objectivity

2. The media is not liberal or conservative; it is a product.

3. Professional standards and journalistic integrity are at fundamental odds with the values of modern newspapers and have been for more than 2 decades.

4. To the extent that a media outlet gives us access to an "inaccessible" world to which regular people do not have easy, routine, and absolute access - it does us no favors, but only delays the demand that we dismantle that world utterly.
posted by macross city flaneur at 10:35 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


But I guess if you mainly read it online, it's less obvious what section something is from and easier to redound irritation back to the paper as a whole. There are a lot of cues from the printed version that are missing online - like in the printed paper, analysis has ragged-right alignment where as straight news is fully justified. Looks like online, everything is ragged-right. Maybe there are some other cues to signal the same thing online, I don't know. Point is, it's really hard to transfer the full experience of the printed paper online.
posted by yarrow at 10:36 AM on February 9, 2009


It did cost money to read the times online up until a few months ago, no?
posted by munyeca at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2009


Lessee, the paper that hired Jayson Blair, and William Kristol, that continues to employ Maureen Dowd, the one that drops every single news event involving women into the "Fashion and Style" section, the one that helped reelect Bush in 2004 by sitting on the story about his domestic spying program for over a year, the newspaper that was on the forefront of the impeach Clinton movement, *that* New York Times? The print version of Fox News? And people want me to pay to support them?


Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha - gasps for breath - hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

If there's anything I can do to speed their demise I'll do it. I'll dance a jig on its grave once its dead and buried.

I'd gladly pay to support journalism. Paying the New York Times is not paying to support journalism.
posted by sotonohito at 10:39 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I love the NY Times. I have subscribed for years and years. Now with my own site, I find lots of stuff I can get from that paper (free) and post to my site. Not long ago, a well-known conservative site had a post suggesting that since the NY Times was a lefty paper (!) why support them? Instead, read it free and deny them money. My comment at that site: if the paper is "evil and lefty" why be hypoicrites and read it free? What does that tell us about conservatives?

Meanwhile, most magazine allow some stuff free and the rest via subscription (ie, New Yorker), but the NY Times gives the entire paper away free. As the man says, if you can get the whole thing free, why pay for it?
Save that paper! You may not like some editorials, some op ed writers, reporting, but there is so much more to each edition--science section, magazine section, book section, entertainment section etc etc etc
posted by Postroad at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2009




In its way, Fox News doesn't suck - because, unlike the Times, it has no illusions about what it is and where it's coming from and who it serves.

Fair and Balanced
posted by fusinski at 10:41 AM on February 9, 2009


The competition of the NYT is not other papers or blogs. It's Financial Times, and Google. There is still a market for journalists to do in-depth investigative work. Magazines and books. NYT is the middleman standing between the redaer and the journalist. The internet is all about cutting out the middleman.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:42 AM on February 9, 2009


Oh please. The Style section is pretty easy to skip, gompa.

Oh please. As if it's just the Style section. This is a symptom of a much more malignant disease. Maureen Dowd is to real political commentary as this 500K thing is to real class-conscious political reporting. Thomas Friedman is to genuinely insightful socioeconomic analysis as this 500K thing is to solid social justice reporting (and marvel at what it must've cost the Times to send His Flatness to Davos to come up with the sterling insight that "Elvis has left the mountain"). The average lapdoggy access-obsessed press-conferencing Washington bureau chief (at the Times or elsewhere) is to real truth-to-power investigative reporting as this 500K thing is to muckraking.

There remains a Dexter Filkins veneer of quality on the glossy surface of an organization like the Times just thick enough for it to continue to presume to its fourth-estate pose, but if that was ever the organization's core business, it hasn't been for a very long time. And most media critics would argue that it never was, that delivering eyeballs to advertisers has always been the newspaper's raison d'etre. They as businesses have goals strongly divergent from what we as citizens consider valuable about their product. Certain news might be essential, but the newspaper isn't, necessarily. And undiluted bullshit like that 500K piece only lends credence to the argument that maybe the newspaper isn't terribly good anymore at the public-service aspect of its mission.
posted by gompa at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


What about all the teenagers that use the paper as a resource for school?

NYT has some sort of deal where a .edu email gets you into the archives for free (I forget exactly what it is - I signed up 2 or 3 years ago), and many high schools subscribe to extensive news paper databases.
posted by niles at 10:48 AM on February 9, 2009


nance: If the NYT collapses, Dexter Filkins and John Burns aren't going to die. If they're good, they'll find work somewhere else. "We must save the newspaper industry because some reporters are really good!" is essentially the same argument as "We must save the music industry because there are good bands!" News, like music, is a basic human need. Even the most aggressive government-backed efforts have never succeeded in fully preventing people from gathering and sharing news.

If the music industry were to collapse completely, good music would perhaps be a little more difficult to find. Although I doubt even that. If the newspaper industry were to collapse, there would be an enormous flowering of individual donation-backed reporter-blogs and news aggregators the like of which the world has never seen. That's a big hint, would-be blog network moguls. It's never too early to get started.

People make music. People tell each other what's going on. Neither of those is going to stop because some other people, who do neither thing, can no longer amass great personal wealth from them.
posted by rusty at 10:51 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Yeah, conflating the various sections of the Times together isn't very helpful.

Actually, it's very helpful - because it reveals the conflicts of values that are at the heart of the organization. The supposed urbanity that the Times hawks is precisely the evidence of the bubble in which their reporters, their editorial staff, their readers, and their advertisers have been living.

If we don't see the connection between this bubble and the direct political consequences of the last 8 years, we are fools.

And what's becoming increasingly clear is that, regardless of politics, people on the Obama team, like Tim Geithner and Larry Summers - who have also lived inside that bubble - are going to have a hard time bringing real change to this country.

Regardless of your politics, the ideals presented by the lifestyle section of the Times are the perfect critical mirror of their political coverage. The question we should be asking ourselves is whether anyone who feels comfortable with that lifestyle can be an unhypocritical critic of the Bush years.

Personally, I don't think they can.
posted by macross city flaneur at 10:52 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


From Rusty-

As long as the news industry conceives of itself as a for-profit enterprise, the readers are the product and the advertisers are the customer. The journalism is just a come-on. The necessities of that business model dictate that the news produced will be exactly as cheap and sensationalistic as it needs to be to pack in the product (readers / viewers) at minimum cost per unit, for sale at maximum price per unit.

Thank you internet. There are people out there who think like me, and get it. That's all I need for this day. Really, thank you.

*closes browser*
posted by captainsohler at 10:54 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


In its way, Fox News doesn't suck - because, unlike the Times, it has no illusions about what it is and where it's coming from and who it serves.

Fair and Balanced


That's not an illusion. That's unadulterated propaganda. And even moderately intelligent Republicans know the difference.

Fox News is more winking and self-aware than Jon Stewart on most nights.

Even if it is evil, you have to give it that.
posted by macross city flaneur at 10:55 AM on February 9, 2009


Salon.com did this a decade ago. I dropped my subscription after a year, anyone else tough it longer?
posted by furtive at 10:59 AM on February 9, 2009


Actually, David Foster Wallace said this (like so many other things) better than I ever could. Here's his magnificent snapshot of the typical six-figure-salaried A-list political reporter, which in my direct experience in social and professional situations similar to the one he describes is deadly accurate for Canada's elite press corps as well:

The Twelve Monkeys (or 12M)

The techs' private code-name for the most elite and least popular pencils in the McCain press corps, who on DTs are almost always allowed into the red-intensive salon at the very back of the Straight Talk Express to interface with McCain and political consultant Mike Murphy. The 12M are a dozen marquee journalists and political-analysis guys from the really important papers and weeklies and news services, and tend to be so totally identical in dress and demeanor as to be almost surreal — twelve immaculate and wrinkle-free navy-blue blazers, half-Windsored ties, pleated chinos, oxford-cloth shirts that even when the jackets come off stay 100% buttoned at collar and sleeves, Cole Haan loafers, and tortoiseshell specs they love to take off and nibble the arm of, plus always a uniform self-seriousness that reminds you of every overachieving dweeb you ever wanted to kick the ass of in school. The Twelve Monkeys never smoke or drink, and always move in a pack, and always cut to the front of every scrum and Press-Avail and line for Continental Breakfast in the hotel lobby before Baggage Call, and whenever any of them are rotated however briefly back onto Bullshit I they always sit together identically huffy and pigeon-toed with their attaché cases in their laps and always end up discussing incredibly esoteric books on political theory and public policy in voices that are all the exact same languid honk. The techs (who all wear old jeans and surplus-store parkas and also all tend to hang in a pack) avoid and try to pretty much ignore the Twelve Monkeys, who in turn treat the techs the way someone in an executive washroom treats the attendant. As you might already have gathered, Rolling Stone dislikes the 12M intensely, for all the above reasons, plus the fact that they're tighter than a duck's butt when it comes to sharing even very basic general-knowledge political information that might help somebody write a slightly better article, plus the issue of two separate occasions at late-night hotel check-ins when one or more of the Twelve Monkeys just out of nowhere turned and handed Rolling Stone their suitcases to carry, as if Rolling Stone were a bellboy or gofer instead of a hard-working journalist just like them even if he didn't have a portable Paul Stuart steamer for his blazer.


You know what else these pompous assclowns have in common? They're the kinda guys who live on the Upper East Side and would actually agree that it's unfair to ask a bank executive to live on a mere 500K.

Click here for Wallace's summary of the 12M in hard-hitting action - it's well worth the read.
posted by gompa at 11:03 AM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


i get all my news HERE.* why?
1) it's peer-reviewed. while no guarantee, it provides a higher statistical likelihood of being accurate.
2) (hi, welcome to the internet) it's instantly verifiable. as an artist, i love paper, but paper just can't do that.
3) it's more eclectic and wide-ranging than any newspaper (online or off) that i've ever read.

that being said, i will miss the nyt...not because i was ever a big reader of it, even when i lived in nyc, but because of its ubiquity and because of its symbolic standing as 'old venerable institution of knowledge'...unfortunately, our need for symbols doesn't look like enough to keep it alive. i used to never read the news...most papers seemed either too stodgy (NYT, most other papers) or too trashy (NYPost, sun, etc)...i realize now that that's mostly a side effect of being slaves to their advertisers, and am thankful that there are now much better, and more balanced, alternatives.

*well most of it anyway...i get my science supplement HERE, and from various sites in their sidebar
posted by sexyrobot at 11:13 AM on February 9, 2009


Well, you know, the medium is the metaphor. I fear that most online so-called "citizen journalism" suffers from the bloggies; i.e., everything over 250 words is suddenly tl;dr'd. It could be that those of us who haven't offered up our libraries and newspapers to the Electronic Age are just being pissy for the hell of it.

Whatever the case, I think it's worth investigating just how the shift in medium from print to online has altered the rhetorical structure of this kind of writing. A similar thing is happening in the fiction world; as more and more literary journals go online, I'm finding that many submissions guidelines call for smaller and smaller word counts. Suddenly, every short story writer is meant to produce flash fiction.

Given, this is all anecdotal, and certainly deserves a more thorough, academic investigation. Lucky for me, this page and my lowly comment on it will be long-forgotten by the time someone posts to the latest variation on an LOLcatz, so it hardly matters.
posted by ford and the prefects at 11:17 AM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


gompa: See also Hunter Thompson in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 for an eerily similar snapshot of the A-listers of nearly 30 years before on McGovern's primary campaign plane. I always felt like Wallace was, consciously or not, very much going back to the Thompson well in that piece on McCain. In a good way, mind. Same magazine paying the bills, even, so maybe he felt it was sort of expected.

In any case, it's been this way for thirty years, at least. The end has to come eventually.
posted by rusty at 11:17 AM on February 9, 2009


Steve Brill has a crazy bad idea that just might won't work.

ftfy.
posted by wayofthedodo at 11:18 AM on February 9, 2009


As someone on TWiT pointed out yesterday, the NYT could buy all their subscribers a kindle, shut down their printing presses, and increase their profits by a couple of hundred million a year.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:31 AM on February 9, 2009


Become a paralegal, teacher, or night club bouncer to feed yourself.

Start a blog on your topic of choice.

Become a great writer. Develop an audience.
If Nance was a freelancer getting a buck a word five years ago, she already knows more about writing than having a blog will ever teach anyone. Blogging teaches the fine art of putting your ass in the chair and writing, and that's a lesson every writer's gotta learn. But blogging goes on to reinforce some of the worst habits that afflict writers, most destructively 1) an emphasis on immediacy to the detriment of redrafting and 2) pushing simplicity over nuance, snark over analysis.

I care less about the NYT than I do organs like the Toledo Blade and the Fresno Bee and the Flyover City Hack-Picayune. Maybe blogs could replace print in covering the fax-chasing, flavor-of-the-news-cycle national stories, though to my mind there's a lot more Drudge out there than there is Greenwald. But when the newspapers die, outside of NYC and LA and a few other big cities, what blogger's going to spend time covering the zoning board hearings, much less spend enough years doing so that they can effortlessly provide a paragraph on the history of the last five scam projects the developer tried to get approved the next county over, and which board member's brother-in-law is on the payroll? That's work. Who, aside from members of the monomaniacal axe-grinding zealot community, is gonna do it for years unless they can get their rent and grocery bills paid thereby?

Blogs can provoke coverage of regional news that would otherwise be ignored by national media: the TVA sludge disaster provides a recent example. But that's disappeared off the national radar now. When the Chattanooga Times Free Press goes belly-up, who's gonna devote the time and energy and resources to covering the followup a year later, when residents start getting "unexplained" cancers and businesses in neighboring towns finally go under? Bet you a quarter it won't be TPM.
posted by Coyote Crossing at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


Salon.com did this a decade ago.

I was going to say the same thing. Pronounced dead numerous times. Still in business. Micropayments were the future 10 years ago. They are the present now.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:38 AM on February 9, 2009


My business model. Let the NYT be eligible for whistleblowers' compensation. Every time they prove wasteful or corrupt government spending in a form that can be reduced, they get 10% of the money saved. It would set them (and other journalistic institutions) on fourth estate jihads for the betterment of all.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 11:41 AM on February 9, 2009


People really think that Google and Metafilter are news providers? People actually think The Daily Show does reporting? Wow. We are fucking doomed.

If the Metafilter demographic doesn't understand the need for well-funded journalistic organizations that can sustain long-scale investigative reporting (or even just regular beat-reporting) then newspapers (and quality journalism) are dead.

Get ready for a future where the "news" is a bunch of blogs linking to other blogs ("Breaking news, I've changed my mind about Kanye West's latest release!!!"). This is a future where a significant (if imperfect) check on political and corporate malfeasance will have dwindled to virtually nothing.

But hey, look on the bright side. We won't even know what we're missing.
posted by yoink at 11:41 AM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: Let's all take a five-minute break from linking to New York Times articles and bash the New York Times!

So if the NYT sucks as bad as some of you claim it does, then what's that say about us?
posted by TBoneMcCool at 11:45 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


We won't even know what we're missing.

Well, we don't know what we are missing now, either. What aren't our politicians and leaders telling us? I think it's quite a bit.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:47 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I care less about the NYT than I do organs like the Toledo Blade and the Fresno Bee and the Flyover City Hack-Picayune. Maybe blogs could replace print in covering the fax-chasing, flavor-of-the-news-cycle national stories, though to my mind there's a lot more Drudge out there than there is Greenwald. But when the newspapers die, outside of NYC and LA and a few other big cities, what blogger's going to spend time covering the zoning board hearings, much less spend enough years doing so that they can effortlessly provide a paragraph on the history of the last five scam projects the developer tried to get approved the next county over, and which board member's brother-in-law is on the payroll?

You'd be surprised. Here in Seattle we have neighborhood bloggers going to zoning meetings. I've heard of similar things in Tulsa and Austin.

And even the current press reporting of city meetings is questionable. One of the Seattle city councilors had a meeting to discuss the demise of the P-I and the possible collapse of the Seattle Times. The Times' reporter didn't mention half the people at the meeting, most notably the bloggers that were there to give the online media side of the story, focusing primarily on a couple of quotes. Other bloggers who actually watched the meeting on the Internet posted their own summaries, and these were passed around and discussed far more than the poorly written press report.

So long as there's passion, there will be someone to write about it. And there are about to be a bunch of cranky, unemployed folk who have nothing better to do than sit in zoning meetings and write things up.
posted by dw at 11:49 AM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


You'd be surprised. Here in Seattle we have neighborhood bloggers going to zoning meetings. I've heard of similar things in Tulsa and Austin.

Same here in Pittsburgh. I get much more complete and insightful coverage of local city politics from blogs than I ever got from either of the two local papers.
posted by octothorpe at 11:59 AM on February 9, 2009


But hey, look on the bright side. We won't even know what we're missing.

The NYT, at the request of the government, did not publish information about the government illegally spying on its citizens for at least a year.

Won't know what we're missing? That's exactly the problem.
posted by odinsdream at 11:59 AM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If the Metafilter demographic doesn't understand the need for well-funded journalistic organizations that can sustain long-scale investigative reporting (or even just regular beat-reporting) then newspapers (and quality journalism) are dead.

Personally, I would love to see a well-funded organization that can sustain thorough investigative reporting over the long term. The New York Times isn't it.

Or rather, let's say they are most capable on this front where it concerns issues that least matter to their advertisers and access-filterers, and increasingly looks like an effort to sustain the illusion of journalistic professionalism rather than the reality. "Did you see Joe Gumshoe's 16 page report on Luxembourgian child prostitution rings? Bracing!"

What I would have rather seen is a daily 4 page disembowelment of the Bush administration's justifcation for war, which was as protean and up-to-the-minute as the lying justifications themselves, as reported by those who refused to be cowed or influenced by Republican talking-points. What the Times has prove over 8 years is that it cannot be replied upon to marshall the facts about what matters most. Period. Dead in the water. Time to move on to another model.

Those who mock the ability of blogs to do investigative reporting get it precisely backwards. We don't yet know whether internet-based journalism can or cannot do investigative reporting well. It's too new, and not enough different models have been tried. However, what has been proven is that mainstream newspapers can't do it.

The reason to hate on the NYT is precisely because you value reporting, not because you don't.

And frankly, there have been many many times in the last 8 years when I have found the simple reportage of a blogger who happens to be there (and who has a perspective that is not "objective" or "respectable", thankfully) describe what's happening to them. And yes, it has felt fresher and more informative than anything on the pages of any American newspaper for months on end.
posted by macross city flaneur at 12:03 PM on February 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


Note for news junkies: you can of course get yhour news from here or there. But I suggest that if you pick up three-day's worth of copies of the NY Times, go through it from page one to the end, you will find enough there to inform and to entertain...and that is all stuff beyond simply "news." News you can get on tv, a number of blogs, local papers, etc etc
posted by Postroad at 12:12 PM on February 9, 2009


The item mentions a few of the recent reports of zombie road signs. And then it says, “Authorities were puzzled over how pranksters could have reprogrammed the road signs”, and then “the choice of imaginary danger may reflect the hard economic times…last fall, data posted by the science fiction blog io9.com suggested that the number of zombie-themed movies released tends to spike in period of national trauma.”
...
Part of what’s going on in the Times article, though, is also a performance of respectability, an attempt to construct what it is that serious people know and think. Serious people aren’t supposed to have paratextual knowledge of zombie tropes or of the practice of pranksters. So a practice which is in some sense quite easy to explain (both the how and the why) gets an alchemical makeover and becomes baffling in its how and something other than itself in its why, becomes a safely familiar reference to respectable news. via Easily Distracted
This kind of journalism is one of the reasons I dislike newspapers. They all too often report on things that are "baffling" and "puzzling" about aspects of culture that in reality make perfect sense. It annoys me to read articles that when making some statement aside from reporting the facts, their statement is basically, "kids these days!".
posted by Axle at 12:16 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And there are about to be a bunch of cranky, unemployed folk who have nothing better to do than sit in zoning meetings and write things up.

Yeah, keep dreaming.

And gompa, fair enough; I can't argue with Friedman. Yes, there's an endemic problem. On a different day, in a different discussion, I'd be making your case for you. But the facile dismissals in this thread for some reason rubbed me the wrong way. There's still a lot of solid stuff in the NYT, and there's still as yet no real daily alternative.

None.
posted by mediareport at 12:21 PM on February 9, 2009


"...data posted by the science fiction blog io9.com suggested that the number of zombie-themed movies released tends to spike in period of national trauma."

Thank goodness blogs aren't going away. Otherwise, what would NYT reporters link to?
posted by macross city flaneur at 12:22 PM on February 9, 2009


news flash: the $500K-a-year piece was troll bait

Meaning what - that it was humor? Poking fun at the Style section's target demographic maybe, knowing they wouldn't get the joke? Seems to have flown over just about everybody's head, then - which looks a lot like tone-deafness.

Or does 'troll bait' mean something else?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:23 PM on February 9, 2009


Poking fun at the Style section's target demographic maybe, knowing they wouldn't get the joke?

The Style section's target demographic is middle class NY metro-area suburbanites who like reading about the "lifestyle" of UES Manhattanites. The $500k story was the equivalent of the above-mentioned "kids these days!" stories, with some aspirational overtones that appeals to the audience.
posted by deanc at 12:40 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Here in Seattle we have neighborhood bloggers going to zoning meetings. I've heard of similar things in Tulsa and Austin.

For nothing? In the middle of the day? In cities of that size, I'm pretty sure you can watch city council meetings on public access cable, in off hours. Are grad students or bored unemployed people producing these? If so, the blogs won't last long, unless the economy tanks and the authors are waiting tables and bored in their off hours. Are they produced by stay-at-home moms or something, whose kids have gotten older? I'm going with grad students or community activists who, if they haven't started a community development-related non-profit already, will be doing so soon enough.
posted by raysmj at 12:48 PM on February 9, 2009


I pay a yearly subscription fee to read Die Zeit and Sueddeutsche Zeitung online as ePapers.

Based upon my experience with the NYT however, count me out.
posted by vkxmai at 12:50 PM on February 9, 2009


Those who mock the ability of blogs to do investigative reporting get it precisely backwards. We don't yet know whether internet-based journalism can or cannot do investigative reporting well. It's too new, and not enough different models have been tried. However, what has been proven is that mainstream newspapers can't do it.

This is complete nonsense. Watergate, any one? Illegal wiretapping (that was the NYT-- and it was NYT post-Iraq), that whole horrible story of abuses of workers at metal plants. You say you like Frontline? One of its top investigative reporters-- Walt Bogdanich-- co-reports for them with the NYT. Virtually every TV news expose was first a newspaper expose-- often in the NYT.

You obviously don't know many people who are trying to make a living as journalists: investigative journalism takes time, money and support. Bloggers may have time-- but they don't have money and support from their blogging in the vast majority of cases. The few who do get support from blogging have product links: AKA tech blogs.

And you can't get money and support without institutions-- look at spot.us which is trying to get people to chip in for investigative reporting. They've done something like 6 stories in 6 months and none of them are especially ground-breaking and the kind of money they've raised for each story is $500-$1000 which wouldn't pay for the time and money needed to do real investigative work.

I'm a freelance investigative journalist and just in my tiny beat covering abusive teen programs, I know of numerous stories that I don't have the time or money to cover but that should be covered because children are being abused. And everyone on their own beat has similar stories. And there's not a single blog that will pay enough to support this work: the only way I get to cover the investigative stuff I do cover is a combination of having a fellowship that supports my science work, an ability to sell books and also articles to magazines and newspapers and the willingness to work for a lot less than I could be paid if I didn't work on stuff I believe really matters.
posted by Maias at 12:58 PM on February 9, 2009 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: Let's all take a five-minute break from linking to New York Times articles and bash the New York Times!...what's that say about us?

It says MetaFilter is a diverse group of tens of thousands of users, some of whom love the New York Times, some of whom hate it, some of whom have mixed feelings about it, and some of whom don't care. Unless you can show that an individual MeFite links to the NYT on the front page and also bashes it here, there's no contradiction. It is a mistake to conclude that MetaFilter as a whole approves of the NYT just because it's frequently posted to the front page, and it's also a mistake to conclude that MetaFilter as a whole disapproves of the NYT based on the comments here.

We might jokingly call ourselves "the hive mind," but it's not really an accurate description.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:02 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


However, what has been proven is that mainstream newspapers can't do it.
Oh wow you're as wrong as possible on this. The majority of news -- close to everything beyond the X Happened In This Place And At This Time recording of events -- is generated by print, mainly newspaper, journalists and picked up by other media.

That's why this end-of-print is such a big deal: without it, nobody's sure where real journalism is going to come from. And when the watchful cat's away, the mice will play. They already launch enough corrupt wars over cheese while the cats are still around.
posted by bonaldi at 1:04 PM on February 9, 2009


I suspect that newspapers, as we fondly remember them, are on their way to that great printing press in the sky. All that holds them together now is the reputation equity and comfortable biases that feed the hopes and desires of their varied readerships, wrapped up in a desperate need to make money to feed the machine. Rusty is 100% correct, the readers are the product, they are pandered to only to keep the advertisers happy. That means nothing too challenging, provocative or alien to the status quo. You no longer read many stories seriously attacking any of the major corporate food groups, because that's definitely not good for business!

I think newspapers changed, at least in my inexpert opinion, sometime in the late 90s when it became clear that the Web had the potential to destroy Old Media and replace it with the new fangled and, at the time, unknown quantity called New Media. That realisation scared the owners and their puppet editors to bits, and it still does. All that's happening now is the slow dance of death as newspapers reap the brand benefit of a century of media domination by pathetically carving ever smaller chunks of attention from the flanks of the growing Internet news monster. I can't begin to imagine what Twitter must be doing to their collective olde schoole psyche.

The problem is these olde schoole media types still don't understand the Web. Not really. So they're trying to fight shadows (i.e. compete) by facing the wrong way. They don't understand their strengths (because they've never had to ask) and therefore are playing to their weaknesses. They're trying to compete with the Web by getting stories Dugg, or posted to Techmeme blah blah using the same trite headline grabbing tactics, when all along their real forte is expert, intelligent and insightful in-depth reporting using the very journalists they've been abandoning. Real journalism of this sort is something the general Web does very badly (with exceptions of course).

I've been a newspaper journo for 14 years and during that period the decline in the quality of rank and file journalist output as the old timers were laid off in favour of cheaper, younger staffers is astonishing. Celebrity chasing is just part of it, sitting alongside the inexorable drive towards news as entertainment. Newspapers long ago ceased to be the guardian of democracy (if they ever were, really) and have become a sad, press release reshashing, shadow of greatness, studded with one or two highly paid superstar columnists to make it all seem like business as usual.

Newspapers are going to go away in their present form, there's no doubt. But in the meantime what we really need is a new form of Web news network which will adopt the kind of professionalism, integrity and expertise of the best journalists, to create primary source content with flair and enthusiasm. What we have instead is a transitionary situation where newspapers flounder while the nascent New Medja corps is - either through lack of training or funding or both - unable or unwilling to take up the sword. There are positive signs though, for example the new Global Post operation. But it's not going to be easy.

I'm optimistic that the transition will eventually be good for us all. And for democracy. But it may take a while!
posted by Duug at 1:23 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


For nothing?

Some of them, yes. They're just up in arms about something. Others are doing it for pay. And still others are now paying freelancers to sit in those meetings.

I'm going with grad students or community activists who, if they haven't started a community development-related non-profit already, will be doing so soon enough.

I know two neighborhood blogs run by what you'd call "community activists." One sits on the neighborhood's council (which was only reconstituted after his blog commenters asked why their neighborhood didn't have a council). The other is more about making her neighborhood better, so in that way she's an activist, but she's as much about gathering up the stories the local press isn't covering (or covering well).

The rest, well, I don't think there's a grad student among them. Most are 35-54 and civic-minded. Many have journalism backgrounds, but not all. They're mainly about newsgathering first, but the thing with blogs is they form communities, so that does become part of it.

But you are giving them short shrift. There's a lot more going on online related to community news coverage nowadays than there is in newspapers.
posted by dw at 1:28 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


The majority of news -- close to everything beyond the X Happened In This Place And At This Time recording of events -- is generated by print, mainly newspaper, journalists and picked up by other media.

And where do they get the ideas for their stories? Blogs. Television. Online communities.

The idea that newspapers write the first draft of history is gone. Newspapers write the draft some people hold as authoritative, but they're basing it on what eyewitnesses from other media.
posted by dw at 1:33 PM on February 9, 2009


Giving them short shrift? Defensive a bit? I'm saying no one can do that unless there's a primary income stream coming from somewhere else. There's no money in blogging about a mid-sized city's council zoning commission, especially not in this economy. People gotta eat. I'd love to this sort of thing, but ... micropayments and (ugly) Google ads? That's a money-on-the-side job, not a main one, even if your blog is incredibly informative, well-written and, god forbid, entertaining.

There's no way even the most active community activist could keep up with all council or govt. meetings anyway. People get busy, have to take vacations and breaks, etc. Those meetings can go on for hours, as you have to know.
posted by raysmj at 1:41 PM on February 9, 2009


Others are doing it for pay.

In Seattle, maybe, I could say that--still a great deal of money around there, even with layoffs at Microsoft and other companies. But frickin' Tulsa? You're serious? I live in a city, New Orleans, with still a good bit of foundation money coming in years after Katrina (no naming names, but I'm talking many major foundations, some funding blogs), and I know of absolutely jack like this. The "freelance" work I've been offered is of the volunteer/unpaid variety, and I haven't heard of anything getting money of the sort to allow them to cover all city meetings full time.
posted by raysmj at 1:46 PM on February 9, 2009


And where do they get the ideas for their stories? Blogs. Television. Online communities.

The idea that newspapers write the first draft of history is gone. Newspapers write the draft some people hold as authoritative, but they're basing it on what eyewitnesses from other media.

These two things are not related. It's irrelevant where the ideas for the stories come from, and slightly bizarre given that "ideas" lie mainly behind features. Either way, that has no impact whatsoever on the first draft of history stuff.

And that, despite "eyewitnesses from other media", still holds. It's the "officialness" of the recording and dissemination of them that matter here. That's mostly a question of authority, and by and large newspapers still hold that. Witness threads online everywhere with "hey, it says on Twitter that a plane's hit the Hudson. Nothing on NYTimes yet" etc.

What's more, even the "first draft of history" is orthogonal to my point: news is generated by print journalists. It's like that Simon quote above: the web is excellent at commentary and analysis, and TV does a spectacular job of dissemination, but paid journalists writing for print companies are the wellspring of news reporting.

I don't say that this is a good state of affairs, btw, or even an ideal one. It's a pretty bad one, given the economic state of most of their employers. But it has to be admitted, because otherwise the "it can all be done by blogs anyway" hype is going to bite us in the ass when our bluff is called, the papers die, and we enter a (hopefully short) news dark age
posted by bonaldi at 1:54 PM on February 9, 2009


However, what has been proven is that mainstream newspapers can't do it.

Oh wow you're as wrong as possible on this. The majority of news -- close to everything beyond the X Happened In This Place And At This Time recording of events -- is generated by print, mainly newspaper, journalists and picked up by other media.


If reporting is measured in words, the 'amount' of reporting done by the traditional media looks like a lot (in terms of numbers of links to stories, etc). This can also be misleading because, remember, even traditional newspapers mostly print stories that were first reported somewhere else.

But if reporting is measured in terms of who is shaping our understanding of the news and who is breaking the most important stories - that 'amount' drops dramatically.

All this goes to show, however, is that 'amount' is the wrong way of thinking about it. Most of what both the blogging community and the traditional journalism community does is sound and fury signifying nothing. It's the news 'cycle'. The size of the edition printed by a newspaper on any given day doesn't change that much. It's a function of advertising - that paper will be filled to the 'correct' size regardless of what people need to know on that day.

The idea that journalism will cease if and when print-based institutions cease is what is actually as "wrong as possible". In fact, it is precisely the demand for better, more diverse, reporting that is driving the end of print. What average people need to know is now best gleaned from an aggregate that must, at this point, include both blogs and mainstream organs. There was a time when blogs were largely repeating what was in newspapers - but that balance is shifting with shocking rapidity. It's impossible to put a real figure on it, but on any given day, the chances that a newspaper article quotes a blogger is very high. Often, as in the case with http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/, during the election cycle, a single blog becomes the authority that both bloggers and journalists rely on. It becomes that authority because it is capable of putting an under-analyzed and confusing source of 'information' (in this case, polling data) in a new light. Thus, while FiveThirtyEight, in the grand scheme of things, constitutes very little in terms of 'amount' of news, it's influence has been profound, forever transforming the way we will digest polls from now on.

The NYT hasn't accomplished anything nearly so fundamental since it first went online.

What's particularly interesting about FiveThirtyEight, however, is that, in a funny way, it fits the dectractors' criticisms of blogs perfectly. "All it did," they might say, "is re-present polls from mainstream news sources." And yet, the truth is that FTE made that data intelligible and valuable to the public in ways that it had never been before. In fact, FTE single-handedly made polls valuable (and questionable) by giving context and rigor to data that had just been floating free on the pages of newspapers. THAT's what made it an authoritative source. THE source.

The idea that blogs can't do what the Times does is simply not born out by the facts. In fact, you could make a great case that they can do it better, and are already beginning to do so. Every day bloggers break more and more stories. Every day their stature rises. Every day they outclass their peers in print a little more.

It's driven by freedom. It's driven by motivation. Who is this Nate Silver guy from FiveThirtyEight? Somebody who did baseball analysis by profession. Statistics were his passion. Politics became his avocation. Blogs are dynamic. They are meritocratic. This is ultimately why they will kill the NYT. Because the people who write them do it because they simply want to do it, and do it well.

This whole notion that bloggers are a bunch of marginal wackos posting cat pictures literally started sounding outdated 2 years ago. And in internet time, that is forever. I'm frankly shocked at the level of ignorance here about what news blogs have accomplished in such a short time.

A vast and amoeba-like internet journalism will replace the likes of the NYT. Make no mistake. And it is going to happen so fast that it will make your head spin. In five years, you will wake up and wonder when exactly it occurred, because it will have happened so quickly and seamlessly that you will barely have noticed the transition. And, what's more important, you will be equally amazed at how much higher the overall quality of journalism has become. Not because the wackos will have disappeared - oh no, their energy feeds this beast as well - but because the cream will have risen to the top in a way that the rigidity of the mainstream news would have never allowed.

At that point, the doomcasting of the nostalgists will seem like feathered hair and Guns N Roses t-shirts - a silly relic of the 00s.
posted by macross city flaneur at 1:56 PM on February 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


Um... for irony's sake: CNN Pitches a Cheaper Wire Service to Newspapers. While AP may have been the dominant paradigm, the future of Print news is apparently going to hinge on a Television's Wire service...
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:00 PM on February 9, 2009


maccross city flaneur we're completely on different pages, and to try and bring us together is going to be one of those thread-killer multi-post back-and-froths, so I'm not going to try. But, in brief:

What's particularly interesting about FiveThirtyEight, however, is that, in a funny way, it fits the dectractors' criticisms of blogs perfectly. "All it did," they might say, "is re-present polls from mainstream news sources." And yet, the truth is that FTE made that data intelligible and valuable to the public in ways that it had never been before. In fact, FTE single-handedly made polls valuable (and questionable) by giving context and rigor to data that had just been floating free on the pages of newspapers. THAT's what made it an authoritative source. THE source.

This is almost the nutshell of it. Without the newspapers and their incredibly expensive polling data, FiveThirtyEight is an empty shell. He couldn't have afforded to do it without them. Of course he did it better than the paper sites, and of course that's a threat to them. But he couldn't have done it without them.

That's what I mean about print being the wellspring of news. Sure, bloggers, TV, radio and even other papers then do amazing added value with that stuff. But without those paid journalists doing the leg work (the city council meetings others are talking about, the calls to police and fire night desks, hell even just monitoring Twitter, etc etc) that creates the raw streams of news, there's nothing to drive the big waterwheels downriver.
posted by bonaldi at 2:08 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


This is almost the nutshell of it. Without the newspapers and their incredibly expensive polling data, FiveThirtyEight is an empty shell.

Newspapers don't do polling, polling organizations do polling. For three reasons.
1) For partisan political purposes, so that candidates can know what's going on. No candidate worth his salt would trust a public poll.

2) For newspapers and TV stations, and

3) To advertise their polling outfit to corporate clients, who do all kinds of random polling
pull newspapers and you still have 1, and 3 and the TV station part of 2.

Think blogs can't do polling? Think again or is that a pollster with a blog? Either way, polls get done and subsequently blogged about, even today they're still doing political polls (mostly in north Carolina, but they also did some on Caroline Kennedy).

Nate silver didn't get all his polling data from news, he got it directly from the polling companies. Daily Kos also commissions it's own polls now. And hell, Nate Silver already has preliminary polling on the 2010 senate race, when was the last time you saw that in the news paper.

Fact is, the idea you need a newspaper as a middle man between pollster and blogger is long gone. Big blogs do polls, pollsters do polls and post the results on their own blogs. Newspapers are totally redundant.
posted by delmoi at 2:22 PM on February 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


nance said: "Also, for those of you who say the NYT sucks or can't do basic journalism: Who doesn't suck? (And don't say the Huffington Post. I beg you.) Just wondering."

Well, the Knight Ridder (now McClatchy) reporters got the WMD story right before the Iraq War, so they don't suck. Much.
posted by gsb at 2:33 PM on February 9, 2009


The majority of news -- close to everything beyond the X Happened In This Place And At This Time recording of events -- is generated by print, mainly newspaper, journalists and picked up by other media.

And where do they get the ideas for their stories? Blogs. Television. Online communities.

The idea that newspapers write the first draft of history is gone. Newspapers write the draft some people hold as authoritative, but they're basing it on what eyewitnesses from other media.



No, sorry, newspaper reporters generate most stories that blogs pick up. Few blogs are reporting much news; far too many are simply commentary, with a couple of links thrown in. There are exceptions, Talking Points Memo, for example, that produce a few original stories each day but even at TPM, some of their material grows out of newspaper reporting. I love a number of good political blogs but few are creating original material.
posted by etaoin at 2:49 PM on February 9, 2009


You guys aren't listening. Nobody says we need newspapers. What we do need is reporters, while you are offering nothing but analysts and opinioneers. It's like the whole web is reading the King James Bible as if it was the first edition, ignoring the original. Maybe something good will come of out of the death of print, but nothing but lies and ignorance comes out of the denigration of the art of discovering and writing down the facts.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:56 PM on February 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's all about the content of views. Rush Limbaugh can depict himself as being this insurgent outsider. But he supported the wars of the last eight years. He supported the tax policies that Ronald Reagan essentially instituted as conventional wisdom, that we need to lower taxes, reduce government spending. All of the conventional clichés that the media airs frequently, and doesn't need much time in order to explain, are ones that Rush Limbaugh and the furthest fringes of the right essentially embrace.

And so, to include them into our discussion is not very disruptive at all, whereas if you had people on from the left who were advocating things like the United States' responsibility for its unpopularity in the world, the fact that we wage wars and bomb other countries and invade and occupy other countries far more than any nation on the planet.

To include somebody like that would not only threaten the vested interests of everybody who's participating in these conversations, it would disrupt the entire narrative.


- Glenn Greenwald on this week's Bill Moyers Journal
posted by swift at 3:06 PM on February 9, 2009


Yes, I think the "covering local councils" thing is being confused with blogs that discuss council meetings, no cover their goings-on in detail, or blogs that play connect the dots with reporting from newspapers and TV. I do think you'll see more new media-old symbiosis. I saw a big story broken here by blogs, re a housing scandal in NOLA, that was done in precisely this fashion. A non-profit dedicated to historic preservation, one that used blogging as an important tool, played a central role here as well.

Neither the non-profit nor the blogs in question had employees who were covering all city council and zoning meetings, however. That would take one person entirely too much time, time needed for fund-raising, networking, dealing with routine but essential office work and the like. With the airing of meetings on public access TV and probably the Internet in much of urban America, gleaning info about these meetings will get easier. What you'll miss is what goes on behind the scenes, which better newspaper reporters would pick up on (typically with the assistance of sources including community activists, local legal and business figures, the like, some of whom but certainly not all are now blogging). They've been doing that less, as papers have been bought out by chains, and reporters shifted to new cities every few years, old hands who know everybody who is anybody laid off, etc. But what will take the place of that? The non-profit-dedicated-to-reporting-only model is the best I've seen yet, but it is going to be tough to pull off in this economy, maybe for several years, in areas outside of the largest and most affluent cities.
posted by raysmj at 3:11 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


And when the watchful cat's away, the mice will play.

Great metaphor! Too bad about the declawing.

And the spaying.



I am curious why someone would shorten five-thirty-eight to FTE, rather than the obvious 538.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:28 PM on February 9, 2009


yeah, lots of people can cite one or two examples of blogs breaking news-- and those ones are usually run by actual journalists who are getting paid to do what they do.

also, "breaking" a story isn't just saying "X happened." You need to put it in context. People have outsourced coverage of city council meetings to people in India, having them transcribe public access TV. This is profoundly dumb and doesn't really add much for people who don't know local politics already and it certainly doesn't tell you why Guy A wants Initiative B passed so that his campaign contributor C can cash in. That's what you need reporters for.

Now, C's mistress might blog about his connections with A when she' gets dumped-- but if that's the only reporting you have on the story, it's not exactly objective. Not that journalists are "objective" either of course-- but they can give more than one perspective and they can check the truth of the allegations being made with other sources.

All of that takes time, money and lots of wasted time hanging out at meetings where nothing ever happens to happen to be there when something does.

I don't care if it's online only, if it's called a newspaper or called a blog but that kind of thing needs to be funded by someone if there are to be checks on government power.
posted by Maias at 3:34 PM on February 9, 2009


In fact, FTE single-handedly made polls valuable (and questionable) by giving context and rigor to data that had just been floating free on the pages of newspapers. THAT's what made it an authoritative source. THE source.

Wow--that is just incredibly short sighted (as is so much of this bizarre discussion). When the newspapers who spend all that money hiring pollsters to collect all this data that fivethirtyeight provides such interesting commentary on go broke, where is fivethirtyeight going to get its data from?

Oh, that's right, there just won't be any of that data. Of course, there will still be lots of opinions. There'll be just as many blogs, with just as many people offering well or ill phrased commentary upon the "news"--there'll just be a lot less news, and what there is of it will be a lot more readily manipulated by politicians and powerful lobbyists (think how they'll delight in the ease of buying off the biggest noisemakers in the blogosphere).

"Oh," someone will cry, "but the powerful already manipulate the news." Yeah--"letting the perfect be the enemy of the good" has been the watchword of the American left for decades now--why change what is obviously a winning formula. Manufacturing Consent was a fun film, but the fact that an institution like the NYT is subject to certain kinds of structural deformations in its editorial policy doesn't mean that getting rid of it (and all institutions like it) suddenly makes the world a better place. You people are like the right wingers who go on and on about the mistakes of the UN or of "government." They've got their equivalents of the WMD stuff and the Blair stuff, but that doesn't mean that they're right that "government is the problem."
posted by yoink at 3:35 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


To include somebody like that would not only threaten the vested interests of everybody who's participating in these conversations, it would disrupt the entire narrative.

...

But an Amy Goodman of "Democracy Now" will never show up on "Meet the Press." What's behind that phenomenon?

Bill Moyers must have read about the sphere of deviance last month.

"Things can move out of one sphere and into another—that’s what political and cultural change is, if you think about it—but when they do shift there is often no announcement. One day David Brody of Christian Broadcasting Network shows up on Meet the Press, but Amy Goodman of Democracy Now never does."
posted by mrgrimm at 3:41 PM on February 9, 2009


The death of the Grey Lady is really our only hope for getting decent journalism back
fucking as much as possible is our only hope of getting virginity back.

have you actually read a newspaper from around 1900? or 1920? 1940? they were horrible.
posted by krautland at 4:01 PM on February 9, 2009


You guys aren't listening. Nobody says we need newspapers. What we do need is reporters, while you are offering nothing but analysts and opinioneers. It's like the whole web is reading the King James Bible as if it was the first edition, ignoring the original. Maybe something good will come of out of the death of print, but nothing but lies and ignorance comes out of the denigration of the art of discovering and writing down the facts.

So maybe this is one key point of difference that can't be overcome. To me, the distinction between opinion and reportage is false and misleading. Its the linchpin of the journalistic claim to objectivity and balance. Its disappearance would be welcome, because it would smash the illusion that what the mainstream media reports is unbiased and deservedly authoritative. There is as much editorial prerogative in choosing what is reported as there is in writing a column (and obviously, the he said/she said style of American reporting has been endlessly mocked by Jon Stewart, etc.). The sooner we erase this false distinction the more usefully skeptical and critical all Americans will become of all news all the time.

And so, if you believe in this false distinction - if you've bought the press' objectivity talk - I can see how the lack of preservation of this distinction in the blog world might disturb you.

But personally, I would rather read three Palestinian and three Israeli blogs on the Gaza War than I would the "facts" assembled by any American newspaper. And what's more, I submit to you that, were every American to do the same, their understanding of the conflict would leap ahead of the understanding of those who have read each and every NYT story on the crisis.

However, setting aside the fact/opinion distinction, the idea that bloggers don't report news is simply false. Simply google "blogger scoops" for a long list.

Or, if you like, take this blogger, who reports tons of local happenings for her town. No, it does not have the imprimatur of an official journal. No, it has no pretence to objectivity. But I submit to you, this is a good thing.

Again, the notion that bloggers do not do reportage is simply not born out by the facts. It simply reflects the repetition of conventional wisdom all-too-conveniently spouted by the journalists themselves.

Now, considering that we still live in an age where newspapers are given special access to politicians and officials, while bloggers are not - it shouldn't surprise us that, yes, indeed, the messages of the major political parties primarily make their way into print via newspapers. In fact, it's quite well known that one of the routine ways in which the mainstream press is compromised is by its need to trade access for favorable coverage.

But this priveleged access should not be used as a bludgeon to beat bloggers with.

Neither the non-profit nor the blogs in question had employees who were covering all city council and zoning meetings, however. That would take one person entirely too much time, time needed for fund-raising, networking, dealing with routine but essential office work and the like.

Why should one person do it? Why shouldn't five housewives agree to take turns to share the burden? Again, you are manufacturing problems based on your assumptions that simply don't hold up in the real world.

OH, and Kirth, regarding 538/FTE, I think I my brain was under the influence the NYT thing.
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:02 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


When the newspapers who spend all that money hiring pollsters to collect all this data that fivethirtyeight provides such interesting commentary on go broke, where is fivethirtyeight going to get its data from?

delmoi already responded to this. I misspoke when I said that newspapers provided poll data. for the most part, it comes from elsewhere.
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:10 PM on February 9, 2009


think how they'll delight in the ease of buying off the biggest noisemakers in the blogosphere

but yoink, this is part of the point. there will be too many people to buy off.
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:14 PM on February 9, 2009


But personally, I would rather read three Palestinian and three Israeli blogs on the Gaza War than I would the "facts" assembled by any American newspaper.

Unless those blogs link to real journalistic coverage, then they're simply meaningless "human interest" background stuff. If Blog A tells me that Israeli tanks fired on a UN school because they received mortar fire from that school, and Blog B tells me that Israeli tanks fired on the school because the evil Israelis saw it as a good chance to kill more Palestinians, I'm exactly nowhere. Or worse, I'm with one or the other simply because they pander to my prejudices.

What I want is a news gathering organization that is large enough and powerful enough that it can send someone to ask the appropriate UN officials to respond to their questions, and other people to the appropriate Israeli government spokesmen, and other people to ask questions of eyewitnesses on the ground. I want an organization that has people who've been around long enough that they have been able to cultivate contacts in Gaza who might lead them to someone in Hamas who will give them some deep background comments on the situation, or to someone in the IDF who actually took part in the raid.

Now, will the resulting reports that are drawn from all these sources be "unbiased" in the sense of being utterly and completely free of any editorial slant, exactly the same as having been there in person and witnessed it all? Of course not--but once again you're letting the perfect (and impossible) be the enemy of the good if that is your standard. What will emerge from that is something infinitely closer to the truth of what happened than I will ever be able to discover by sifting through the meaningless "No, THIS is what happened" crap of the blogosphere.

The point is not that what appears on some person's blog somewhere may or may not be true. I might get lucky and stumble across the blog of someone who actually did witness the event and actually does give an honest account of it. The point is that there is no way at all of verifying that account, no way of knowing when it is that I've stumbled across it.

To pretend that news reporting is exactly the same as opinion commentary because it is subject to error is like pretending that there's no difference between a courtroom trial and a lynching because occasionally courtroom's find innocent people guilty and occasionally lynch mobs do in fact target a guilty man.
posted by yoink at 4:26 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


there will be too many people to buy off.

The vast majority of them will have audiences so small that no one will care what they're saying.
posted by yoink at 4:27 PM on February 9, 2009


will the resulting reports that are drawn from all these sources be "unbiased" ... but once again you're letting the perfect (and impossible) be the enemy of the good

This isn't true. You're projecting. To me there is no such thing as perfect news - it's not what I'm after - but even "better" news is not necessarily equivalent to "less biased", not least because bias is not something you can measure, like water, or tennis balls.

What is "better" to me is perspective. The situatedness or groundedness of a person's point of view. The fact that someone lives in a place, works in a place, is invested in a place. "Better" is about all the things that go with localism, specificity, non-abstraction.

Reportage is the same as commentary not because of error but because it's just discourse. Your courtroom analogy I think reveals that you are invested in systematicity and sanction - but again, the idea that blogs are incapable of these things is not credible.

We could, for example, easily envision a system of diverse imprimaturs developing to rate and validate blogs. You might only choose to read blogs stamped by the "Future Farmers of America", and I might only read blogs stamped by the "Upright Citizen's Brigade". This is sanction.

And as far as systematicity is concerned, I think we can agree the bloggers vary a great deal in their methods. But the idea that the best way to get information is to ask officials and representatives is clearly at odds with reality. At times that is an appropriate way of proceeding - at times not. Again, however, there is nothing intrinsic about bloggers that prevents them from talking to officials.

If Blog A tells me that Israeli tanks fired on a UN school because they received mortar fire from that school, and Blog B tells me that Israeli tanks fired on the school because the evil Israelis saw it as a good chance to kill more Palestinians, I'm exactly nowhere. Or worse, I'm with one or the other simply because they pander to my prejudices.

Not at all. You are somewhere great indeed. You haven't just taken the word of a reporter who says these problems are intractable - you've begun to form a specific picture of both the quality and strength of the differences between Isrealis and Palestinians. You've begun to understand the language with which they construct their grievances. You have all kinds of rich data that you wouldn't have gotten from a Times article.

And as far as potential prejudices, please trust me when I say that it is far easier to maintain them against the bland description of a newspaper article than it is in the face of seeing the real and grounded perspective of another human being - one who, like you, has suffered, has family, has a life. Abstraction is the tool of recruiters and trainers who try to convince us that those who disagree with us are inhuman. Reading a personal blog is an antidote to that, if anything is.
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:47 PM on February 9, 2009


I just read that Stamford CT blog. She does her own reporting occasionally, but the crime section is riddled with local newspaper and TV, but primarily newspaper, reportage.
posted by raysmj at 4:49 PM on February 9, 2009


there will be too many people to buy off.

The vast majority of them will have audiences so small that no one will care what they're saying.


In fact, in the case of blogs, the idea is that all of them will have audiences so small that buying off any one of them will be ineffective.

As opposed to the newspaper system where a small number of papers of record have a disproportionate level of trust of the American people - undeservedly. This means that all officials have to do is buy off these few papers. Or even better, befriend and intimidate them.
posted by macross city flaneur at 4:50 PM on February 9, 2009


The world is changing rapidly, and the NYTimes is learning that you have to adapt or die. They need to work on convincing advertisers to use the web. I'll do my part and keep reading the NYTimes, and they should do their part and find advertisers. I'd be happy to see the ads about airline deals, and the full page grudge ads in some format. The print model is unlikely to survive.
posted by theora55 at 4:58 PM on February 9, 2009


She does her own reporting occasionally, but the crime section is riddled with local newspaper and TV, but primarily newspaper, reportage.

So the idea that huge networks of people would do reportage obviously means that no one of them is reporting on everything, and the amount of reporting from any one of them is far less than you would expect from a newspaper.

This is the idea. Many hands share the work. However, the total amount of hard news potentially reportable by blogs, I would argue, vastly exceeds the capacity of American newspapers. Because everyone is doing it.

This is why the fact that Stamford Talk reports some original news, but also repeats the news from other blogs and newspapers, should not surprise us.

Crime is obviously not her forte. But she has lots of great specific information about restaurants, downtown construction, music, etc.

And again, crime is one of those areas of news that tends to be very driven by officialdom. Police departments are used to talking to reporters, but not bloggers. This is a cultural matter that could easily change over time.
posted by macross city flaneur at 5:04 PM on February 9, 2009


yoink; to take your example, did the NYT actually get to the bottom of Israel firing on the UN school? What was their verdict, after putting their massive journalistic resources to the task?
posted by odinsdream at 5:08 PM on February 9, 2009


You have to start somewhere take your pick, USA Today or the NY Times? Which is the better business model? Who cares?
The Living on $500,000.00 in NYC article was in the Style Section, if your reading that article you also know where to get a pair of $2,000.00 shoes. Self - edit.
For all of the Times recent troubles they have openly self examined themselves and acknowledged their failures.
Unfortunately newspapers are a for profit organization, but not being one can only lead to state sponsored mouthpiece.
I'll take my NY Times, but I'll still read the Post for the sports.
posted by pianomover at 5:10 PM on February 9, 2009


Everyone is doing it? In Stamford? We ain't there yet, dude, not by any stretch of the imagination. One blog with some original reporting about music and restaurants, but not much in the way of hard news? OK. Find a better example.
posted by raysmj at 5:14 PM on February 9, 2009


Not saying that it's the blog's not interesting, just that ... I have yet to see any example of aggregate reporting of the sort you're talking about, in all areas of hard news. I've seen some impressive local crimes sites here in crime-ridden NOLA (although none seem to get the idea that most newspapers leave racial identifiers off for a number of reasons, especially in re to crime reported by always-potentially-unreliable witnesses; see, the Susan Smith case, for one), piecing together info not only from the newspaper, but neighborhood message boards, police reports, etc. But you don't get much in the way of fleshed out stories, maybe a detail here or there on occasion, from other blogs. And I read as much material online as anyone around, probably, sites which aren't read as frequently as the local newspaper site, as ugly as it is.
posted by raysmj at 5:26 PM on February 9, 2009


Neither the non-profit nor the blogs in question had employees who were covering all city council and zoning meetings, however. That would take one person entirely too much time, time needed for fund-raising, networking, dealing with routine but essential office work and the like.

Why should one person do it? Why shouldn't five housewives agree to take turns to share the burden? Again, you are manufacturing problems based on your assumptions that simply don't hold up in the real world.


This is where you completely miss the point, macross. If you have five people covering the city council, they aren't going to see the patterns that one person doing it regularly will see. This is why the concept known as "beat" reporting developed in journalism: so someone takes on one thing and learns it well.

More isn't always better. When you look at crowd-sourced stuff, it works well for some things-- slogging through massive data dumps, for example, but not others.

Attempts at crowd-sourced *writing* have failed miserably-- this is why "written by committee" is not a compliment.
posted by Maias at 5:59 PM on February 9, 2009


Oooohh but I would miss my old school newsprint crosswords!
posted by ginky at 7:17 PM on February 9, 2009


I've thought of just sending the NYTimes a check for $100, with a note telling them to keep it but please not to leave any dead trees on my doorstep.
posted by alms at 7:57 PM on February 9, 2009


I've worked in volunteer-based community journalism for the last two decades. I think it's crucial to an informed and active citizenry.

But to say that volunteer-based citizen journalism could replace paid, edited journalism -- for all the valid criticisms to be made of Print Media As They Exist Today -- is at its root a form of anti-intellectualism. It's essentially just like saying that Wikipedia could replace peer-reviewed journals, and that we'd be better off as a result. Each has both huge advantages and deep-rooted flaws, and we need both. Choosing one over the other is missing the point.
posted by Coyote Crossing at 8:40 PM on February 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have absolutely no idea what you're all freaking out about. I get the paper every day. One dollar 50 cents. It's the daily paper. It's like the Daily News or the Post, but more wordy. I certainly don't need it to be going anywhere anytime soon. It's a pretty good read for a buck fifty.

And that's that.
posted by attackthetaxi at 9:35 PM on February 9, 2009


Wow--that is just incredibly short sighted (as is so much of this bizarre discussion). When the newspapers who spend all that money hiring pollsters to collect all this data that fivethirtyeight provides such interesting commentary on go broke, where is fivethirtyeight going to get its data from?

Oh, that's right, there just won't be any of that data.


Damn read the post I already posted! Pollsters can post their polls on their own blogs, and they already are. You can get preliminary polling on the 2010 senate races on PPP's blog and those numbers aren't being reported in any newspaper. Daily Kos pays for polls all the time. You don't need "newspapers" to pay for polling and they are not that expensive in the first place.

The idea that polls need to be commissioned by non-blog news organizations in order to get to the blogs is just wrong. It's been wrong for a while and 538 did not just read news stories to get its numbers.
Unless those blogs link to real journalistic coverage, then they're simply meaningless "human interest" background stuff. If Blog A tells me that Israeli tanks fired on a UN school because they received mortar fire from that school, and Blog B tells me that Israeli tanks fired on the school because the evil Israelis saw it as a good chance to kill more Palestinians, I'm exactly nowhere. Or worse, I'm with one or the other simply because they pander to my prejudices.
Substitute "Blog" with "newspaper" or "CNN/Al Jazera". They didn't let any reporters into Gaza in the first place so it was all second hand anyway.
posted by delmoi at 10:31 PM on February 9, 2009


I have absolutely no idea what you're all freaking out about. I get the paper every day. One dollar 50 cents. It's the daily paper. It's like the Daily News or the Post, but more wordy. I certainly don't need it to be going anywhere anytime soon. It's a pretty good read for a buck fifty.

And that's that.


Not if it goes out of business, like many newspapers are.
posted by delmoi at 11:05 PM on February 9, 2009


Interesting if unclear what's motivated at least one person to write at great length about this.

Various things cast more black-and-white than shades of gray.

"To me, the distinction between opinion and reportage is false and misleading."

Reportage will never be 100-percent free of opinion on levels conscious or otherwise... which is far from making the distinction false and misleading.

We shall see, but I'm among those with some doubt about the five-housewives model. As someone noted, shared coverage sounds less appealing than one person doing it, all the more when it's one person's job--and that person has institutional knowledge, regular feedback from editors, will suffer operationally if they screw up unintentionally or otherwise. That aside, one of five is sick, it's raining and the one doesn't feel like going out, one of the other four can't make it... no coverage. Is it possible that a model can develop that reduces this likelihood? Sure and maybe it will over five years or some time.

But the idea that the best way to get information is to ask officials and representatives is clearly at odds with reality. At times that is an appropriate way of proceeding - at times not. Again, however, there is nothing intrinsic about bloggers that prevents them from talking to officials.

Agreed, though there are realities that may evolve. If someone is paid to spend time asking questions of officials, be it on the phone, at a meeting, etc., I like the chances of the questions/answers being part of the information more than if it's a blogger or bloggers who may or may not have the time to attend meetings, call people. Again, perhaps a model will evolve that will support and make it viable for quasi-professionals to do those things. Perhaps.

"You haven't just taken the word of a reporter who says these problems are intractable - you've begun to form a specific picture of both the quality and strength of the differences between Isrealis and Palestinians."

By definition, a reporter does not say these problems are intractible; pundits do, and it's naive to suggest there are no differences 'tween pundits and reporters. Regarding the formations of pictures and understandings, there are demonstrable examples of that information--that balance--being conveyed in news reports.

As opposed to the newspaper system where a small number of papers of record have a disproportionate level of trust of the American people

On a national level, arguably so, but this overlooks the countless local/regional issues (people have mentioned in this thread) that have been addressed by relatively small newspapers. Again, people like the woman in Stamford may come along more often and models may develop to support them, but challenging to see how at least for some time, she will be more the norm than the anomoly.

And as far as potential prejudices, please trust me when I say that it is far easier to maintain them against the bland description of a newspaper article than it is in the face of seeing the real and grounded perspective of another human being - one who, like you, has suffered, has family, has a life. Abstraction is the tool of recruiters and trainers who try to convince us that those who disagree with us are inhuman.

I do not trust you.

This seemingly makes the case against a view that "To me, the distinction between opinion and reportage is false and misleading." Is it a description or is there no difference 'tween opinion and reportage?

And obviously there are bland descriptions, just as there are not-bland descriptions. People may get a sense of the vehemence and passion felt by a blogger whose family's been blown up, er, allegedly blown up, but it's false to suggest that it's the only window into these things.

Too, if I don't trust you, I'm... what?
posted by ambient2 at 1:57 AM on February 10, 2009


No one should pay for news, because we will always tell stories to each other.

No one should pay for art or music, because someone will always make it.

No one should pay for plumbing, because shit rolls downhill.

No one should pay for space exploration, because it could be crowdsourced if we all just look around.

No one should pay any attention to this comment, because western civ. is doomed.
posted by melissa may at 9:08 AM on February 10, 2009


Michael Kinsley has a piece in today's NYT, dressing down Brill without actually naming him.

Kinsley is okay in my book, unlike his Slate colleague Jacob Weisberg, who is perhaps the finest specimen of Magazine Man -- he can produce the illusion of bigthink on any subject.
posted by grobstein at 9:38 AM on February 10, 2009


I though that it was interesting last night at Obama's press conference that Sam Stein from the Huffington Post asked a question about the Geneva Conventions and the Washington Post asked the president about baseball. What does it say when we've got two wars and a financial crisis and the main newspaper from our capital wants waste a question by asking about fucking baseball?
posted by octothorpe at 10:05 AM on February 10, 2009 [5 favorites]


melissa may: People will always pay for those things, if they're worth the price.
posted by rusty at 12:04 PM on February 10, 2009


Rusty, this thread and many others demonstrate that most people won’t pay. If it’s on the Web or can be put there, it’s free.

In college, I met a journalist and documentarian who lived in Utah collecting downwinder stories, interviewing government officials,and exhaustively researching massive stacks of documents released through the Freedom of Information Act. The now-defunct magazine Spin published her stories and they were eventually collected in a large book, very much a special interest publication as most people do not keep pictures of neck tumors on their coffee tables. It took many years for her to understand the issue, develop a rapport with her interviewees, and connect the dots of highly complicated research. It was hard and painful work and these sales didn’t come close to paying for them – but at least they paid her bills.

The market for the journalism she did is mostly gone, to say nothing of the general state of publishing, and it’s a huge loss no group of hobbyists could hope to replace. So if the majority of people won’t pay for the Times because it’s shoddy or say Huffington because it’s unprofessional, won’t do micropayments because they are a bummer, resent sites requiring passwords, and disdain ads served with their news – who in holy hell is supposed to tell stories like the downwinders’?

It’s a consumer combination of being both extremely cheap and massively entitled that’s being justified as a radical stance. It’s not.
posted by melissa may at 2:12 PM on February 10, 2009


Note that Sam Stein *isn't* a Huffpo blogger-- he's a *paid* reporter for them!!!!

Rusty, Melissa's point is that the market *isn't* supporting long-form investigative and analytic journalism very well right now when we probably need it most to do so. HuffPo is beginning to realize it has to pay for content-- but it's still living on venture capital, apparently.

I do think that what thoughtful journalists do is valuable and is valued and we will ultimately find a solution to keep it. But this transition is scaring the hell out of me and I'm usually an optimist...
posted by Maias at 2:33 PM on February 10, 2009


The thing I like about my Kindle is that I can get subscriptions to the newspapers, without having to get all the dead tree parts. With the NYT, I can subscribe to the headlines, without getting all the local stuff and style stuff that I don't care about. (They have a more expensive subscription that is the entire paper...but I really don't care what's showing on Broadway this week, since I'm nowhere near NYC.)

I can do the same with the Washington Post, and a ton of other newspapers, that aren't purely AP feeds. (And I would pay for an AP feed if the option was available.)

I subscribe, via Kindle, to a couple of blogs that I could read for free on the web, but the micro-payments seem like a fair trade to me. I like paying content creators, just as I would like to be paid when I write things

Point being...there are those of us that will support content providers via a subscription model...assuming the price point is right, and the delivery methodology is well designed.
posted by dejah420 at 7:28 PM on February 10, 2009


"Google, which might be a joint venture participant, might even make this well-ordered, neatly-arranged news index its home news page."

In your wildest dream, Mr. Brill.
posted by Sukiari at 2:00 AM on February 11, 2009


Rusty, Melissa's point is that the market *isn't* supporting long-form investigative and analytic journalism very well right now when we probably need it most to do so.

No, it's not -- that I agree with. But I don't lay the blame on the readers. I'd be happy to pay for good journalism, if it's not simultaneously trying to sell me to advertisers (and the way I see it, truly great journalism will only be produced by a for-profit enterprise as a sort of occasional fluke. The business model stacks the deck far too high against it.). I do pay for that, via NPR, and so do a hell of a lot of other people. The problem is they're the only ones offering that model. If I want to go support good nonprofit print journalism, who do I write my check to?

What I see as the most likely outcome of the current reshuffling is that reporters will start writing their own stuff, and band together in loose "unions" that handle donations and the money end of things for a number of different reporters focusing on different beats. Some will probably be local, some national or international. Their reporting will be licensed out to fixed media, which will be more like reportage aggregators and editors than what we think of now as "newspapers" who control the newsgathering and publishing process end to end. News junkies will donate to their favorite reporters and unions, many other people will buy one or another of the printed collections regularly rather than hunt down their own sources.

Journalists need to start thinking of themselves as entrepreneurs and not employees. The ones that do will survive. They will not be replaced by hobbyists or volunteers, by any means. When I talk about "bloggers" I mean professional reporters who are doing and publishing their own work themselves. Today's great investigative journalists are tomorrows "bloggers."
posted by rusty at 8:13 AM on February 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


« Older But who will marry the new servers?   |   "...And all for the want of a horseshoe nail." Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post