Monday, April 06, 2009

The last rant: Failing papers ‘bring me joy’

The more the problems of the media mount, the more that newspaper-bashing comments are flowing to this blog. As of today, the media bashers can save themselves the trouble, because I will reject them, one and all.

Before I turn off the spigot, I want to share the mother of all anti-MSM rants to illustrate the virulent hostility that many feel toward the press. Journalists and publishers ought to know what they are up against. After taking note, they should move on to more constructive pursuits.


The following 1,181-word broadside scourges journalists, publishers and even journalism educators, whose ranks I joined earlier this year as a member of the adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.

Like the authors of most such efforts, the writer is anonymous. (UPDATE: The ever-vigilant Mark Potts notes that, unbeknownst to me until now, a similar version of this post appeared at AngryJournalist.Com.)
And now, here’s the last anti-media rant you’ll see on this blog:

By Anonymous

Seeing newspapers fall apart brings me joy. Not for those suffering loss of income of course, but rather I see a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs to serve customers for social gain and profit.

In their present incarnation, newspapers are regional monopolies of sales and distribution of display advertising. As such, they charge exorbitant fees for their advertisements to support and protect their monopolies – leaving few resources actually to gather news. I left that business after I witnessed the way the monopolists practiced it.

Entrepreneurs exist to slay bloated, mismanaged so-called businesses just like these. And monopolist newspaper owners know this. That is why they have developed – for decades, at every deliberate step – a program of undermining competitive business practices.

For this reason, we all want to see them fail, no matter the cost or collateral damage.

Joint operating agreements demonstrate the most obvious example. Natural monopolies define the business. High barriers of entry: fancy offset web color printing presses, wide geographic house-to-house distribution and big staffs.

The way the business was originally established, it was very difficult to gain a foothold. Only the most daring would spend the amounts of money required to compete.

To punish them, media owners with political influence convinced lawmakers to permit the ultimate competitive abomination, the joint operating agreement. A JOA allows a single capitalist to take control of two separate, supposedly competitive media entities to extract the profit from both.

The solution to the economic equation admits two variables: capital and labor. The JOA allowed a constraint against competitive capitalists, but what about competitive laborers?

This was the only business that was allowed to hire child labor into the 1980s. I know: I was a legally employed child laborer employed by a monopolist newspaper corporation operating under a JOA in the 1980s. I woke up at 6 a.m. to throw papers on doorsteps at $0.15 apiece plus tips.

The only reason newspapers stopped hiring children was because eventually they realized they could hire ex-cons with driver’s licenses and $800, gas-guzzling, 15-year-old clunkers – and pay fewer of them the same rate as the children they once employed!

But it’s worse than that.


I am convinced these monopolists loaded up journalism schools with operatives to teach students one thing: that journalists should not expect high wages. Then, drape the profession in the flag and a noble patina and inculcate students with the expectation of low pay.

The monopolists installed these operatives at places like Columbia and Northwestern who charge how much for a degree? What other profession trains their workers never to expect to be successful? Why should any worker providing a valuable service to millions of customers not expect to become wealthy? Was it this way in the days before large monopolies took over?

I expect when there was competition among producers – a time when being a journalist was not defined by possessing a qualified university liberal arts degree – a journalist would expect her superior talents would allow her to rise up the income ladder, as with other industries.

The journalist laborer’s expectation of low wages – repeated from the first j-school professor to the last suburban line editor – comes from the top, BY DESIGN, as a cost of protecting the monopolist profit.

Who endows and supports these positions politically within the university system? What sort of academic credentials does a typical journalism professor possess, compared to, say, a physics or law professor?

A guy with a J-school degree and 20 years experience as a mid-level night city editor is damn happy to get a square 9-to-5 teaching gig with benefits. And he owes a debt of gratitude to his benefactors. This is a perverse way to train professionals but a great way to ensure cheap labor.

What is happening to all these journalism degree holders now after being laid off and forced to compete in other fields? What is the value of that credential, training and newspaper experience? I believe the monopolist extracted it.

The monopolists also get away with providing an inferior product: day old news wrapped in layers of plastic weighing five pounds. The informational, or “news,” yield of news versus total ink content is probably less than 30%. The commercial yield is, let’s say, 20% of coupons and information about other commerce.

The rest is literally garbage. This thing is dumped off at your doorstep (if you’re lucky) by someone possibly an ex-con (which is not to say that describes ALL delivery people, but such people find it easier gaining employment as newspaper deliverers than fast-food cashiers. And excellent fast food cashiers probably expect raises or they work somewhere else).

The opinions are usually unhinged screeds rather than sustained appeals to reason. If someone made arguments like these in another professional context, how long could they keep their jobs? Maureen Dowd calls George Bush ignorant names. Pulitzer-Prize opinion maker Cynthia Tucker calls white conservatives racists because they’re white conservatives.

These are not arguments. And at their worst they are dangerous incitements. Karl Marx at least presented an argument, even if it was against monopolist behaviors exemplified by the employers of Maureen Dowd and Cynthia Tucker.

And the reporting. Of the news-ink to total-ink content described above, celebrity and sports coverage is probably close to 50%. Wire coverage from distant areas, say, another 20%, leaving about 30% for local news. Obviously the monopolist knows the cost of celebrity and wire news compared to local original reporting.

As a former reporter myself, I realized that the newspaper was a ridiculously inefficient means of getting valuable local information to people in the community compared to what is technically and economically feasible.

The newspaper paid me a wage to collect information about a local area. I went out and conducted interviews with important officials lasting many hours. I collected data on important meetings, reviewed legal proceedings, observed political processes, etc. I collected thousands of documents, maps, spreadsheets, court filings and pages and pages of interview notes. Now reporters collect other images, audio and video.

One day of solid reporting could literally return many, many megabytes of valuable data about a community. The result – a two paragraph brief that runs on page D-16 usually presented outside of any useful context.

Other than the low pay, this to me was the most dispiriting aspect of reporting. Most of it was literally a waste of time. Under this scenario, how does one worker stand out from another when it’s so difficult to publish the reporting? By kissing a lot of ass, that’s how.

Consequently, ignorant incompetents abound at high levels and quality and working conditions suffer. But the monopolist does quite well, thank you.

I guess my point here is that there is nothing about the practice of daily journalism (and perhaps journalist training) that could not be improved by eliminating these toxic monopolist practices that pervert newsgathering and presentation.

Going from natural monopolist perverse newsgathering to competitive market newsgathering requires one first crucial step: That the monopolists fail.

It will be difficult for any lean, focused newsgathering operation to gain a commercial identity in the shadow of these monsters.

68 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

A bit too jaded. Job loss hurts.

8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great summary.

8:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above "rant" may seem unfair and certainly slanted, but there's many different seeds of truth in it.

Let me give you a practical layout for a way for a local newspaper to start to make a really serious impact in the marketplace, amd make a decent buck doing it:

1. Add something of value, and make money at it (sounds easy, it's not - but it can be done). Here's how.

As the newspaper, you are a (maybe "the") local information distribution player in a specific region. The starting point is to get your product out there, where people will pay for it, or other business entities will pay to be part of it. The above screed touches on a point of having the reporter(s) gathering vast amounts of information, only to see a tiny fraction is ever utilized - that's both discouraging & demoralizing. That's also extremely critical.

Here's what you do to change. Your local governments (say, County Register of Deeds or equivlent) has a vast trove of information on real estate. A fair number, but not all of local governments have some of the information available over their websites, but oftentimes it is very limited, and oftentimes have to subscribe for it and at a substantial cost. Often it may only be available in the government center.

Newspapers are an information distribution point - they're not a "newspaper" any longer, they are an "information distribution portal". Know your business!

Get your legislature to adjust laws to make such information (such as recording, property taxes, etc.) all available IN DIGITAL FORM at reproduction cost under terms of FOIA (Freedom of Information Act, or equivlent). It's called making government "more transparent".

Then make the digital information you are acquiring (weekly, or even daily basis) searchable, which will require some investment in the newspaper's website, load up your data center's capacity, get scanned images of all the recorded documents, and make the access to the information free as long as any users sign up with a valid email/IP address.

Make advertising available on the website (see this little tiny company called "Google" as a good example as to how it's done) for all sorts of local firms, many of whom either already advertise with you in the print version, or have advertised with you in the past. You don't think law firms, title companies, real estate agencies, appraisers, moving companies, etc, etc., etc. aren't going to come back to advertise with you - you've just started to become a mini version of Google, only Google really can't compete with you, because your acting locally.

Why? - because you've got the better information database for your local area. Link to Mapquest.

You've (as the newspaper) have just got to make the effort every single day to keep your databases up to date, but again, that's what a newspaper does best. Your already doing it, just move into the digital information distribution environment. It's called introduction of "creativity" into your daily business environment.

9:44 PM  
Anonymous john honovich said...

I agree with you about the hostility but I do find a number of very compelling economic arguments made in this rant. For instance,

"Newspapers are regional monopolies of sales and distribution of display advertising"

Is this not a succinct description of the problem?

"The journalist laborer’s expectation of low wages – repeated from the first j-school professor to the last suburban line editor – comes from the top, BY DESIGN, as a cost of protecting the monopolist profit."

As a journalist for companies historically making significant profits, does this not make sense?


"the newspaper was a ridiculously inefficient means of getting valuable local information to people in the community compared to what is technically and economically feasible."

Isn't this an important point in how journalism is changing and how either MSM needs to adapt or be replaced by new journalists providing greater depth/

9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a true newsosaur. Suppressing dissident content just as the old media did.

Bye!

1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that's Anonymous. Are you sure it isn't Dan Gillmor?

:-)

A tad paranoid around the edges but there's a through-line here that is at least a cogent argument. From your set-up, I expected wild hair and spittle.

Tim Windsor (can't log in)

3:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's still peeved about his paper route? Give me a break. Do you have any screeds from adults?

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like Anonymous, the rant author, is bitter he never became a star reporter.

And by his definition of monopoly, we need to eliminate all chain restaurants, chain department stores, chain anything, because apparently it's always bad for companies to grow big and dominate their respective markets.

McDonald's? Gone. But don't worry. Your neighbor, Fred, will spark up his charcoal grill in his driveway and serve lumpy burgers for $2 or $3. No doubt he can handle all the traffic that will be diverted from the three-dozen McD's driver-through windows when they go under.

Auto dealerships that sell one brand and carry 10X the inventory of their closest competitor? Gone.

Clothing stores that sell True Religion jeans over Levis? Gone. Why? Because True Religions cost more and are more popular...with consumers who can afford them.

Yeah, Anonymous is brilliant: Any industry in which corporations over a period of decades have built a huge advantage should be crushed and replaced with entrepreneurs. That will keep the general public happier, and in the case of news, better informed.

Give us a break.

Remember that Anonymous, next time you want an Unhappy Meal. Rather than the drive-through window, you may have to stop in neighbor Fred's driveway and get an entrepreneur-produced burger wrapped in tin foil and packed in a recycled grocery sack.

I hope it's good though, 'cause if not, who are you going to complain to?

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, I'm guessing this guy got fired from a small town daily and never got over it.

6:27 AM  
Anonymous The Lawnmower said...

Ummmm... This ain't the "mother" of all anti-MSM screeds. This guy's actually thought quite a bit about what he wrote. The Communist stuff is a little off-base, but, I mean, there's a lot of thought put into this however misguided. I was expecting a profane rant. And, if I'm honest with myself, I don't even disagree with a lot of what he's saying -- and I hate people like this guy! I'm not a huge fan of journalism schools either. I went to the University of Maryland, where I majored in English Language & Literature, and I worked for four years on the college newspaper, The Diamondback, before I hopped into daily journalism.
Each and every person I know who majored in journalism found the degree useless or unworthy of the cost. They would have been much better off doing what I did -- selectively take courses on ethics and media law and so forth and learn newswriting on their own. The only people who benefited greatly from their degree the annointed few who were pushed to the front of the line by deans of the school. And those deans' judgment was woefully... crappy most of the time.

Basically, I just dislike journalism schools. They simply make up for the fact that most shoddy newspaper companies can't afford to properly train their journalists. It's a pretty bogus racket.

6:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The words "former reporter" kicked the legs out from under this baby - it's a long whine from someone whose genius was under-appreciated. (Presumably if his/her articles had been given more prominence, newspapers would still be thriving.)

Those folks are easy to ignore; it's the concerns of real readers that matter.

6:30 AM  
Blogger Bradley J. Fikes said...

There's a lot of truth in that piece. Sneeringly dismissing it out of hand only proves the author's point about the arrogance of monopolies. You're not doing journalism any favors by reinforcing that attitude.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not find that very convincing. Most markets don't have JOAs. This also assumes that the typical reader wants incredible in-depth reporting with lots of "context." If only it were so.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

Funny how this "anonymous" guy says he once "went out and conducted interviews with important officials lasting many hours ... collected data on important meetings, reviewed legal proceedings, observed political processes ... collected thousands of documents, maps, spreadsheets, court filings and pages and pages of interview notes."

And then he says:

"The journalist laborer’s expectation of low wages – repeated from the first j-school professor to the last suburban line editor – comes from the top, BY DESIGN, as a cost of protecting the monopolist profit."

... without citing any reporting or evidence whatsoever.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Crisatunity said...

"Accountability is a requirement of community. On the web, the anonymous are cowards or psychopaths. Choose." - John Kusch

Big newspapers' failure doesn't bring me joy, but I do find the generally repetitive denial of any culpability on their own part amusing.

Even though I find the Newsosaur cheerleading more than I'd like, I find that there's more truth going on here about all news-gathering than anywhere else.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recognize some of these comments because I've read them before, particularly the child labor/ex con delivery phrases. Whoever it is frequents other journalism sites and doesn't change the presentation. Let him or her start their own blog.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

8:11 - Job loss does hurt, but bankruptcy might be the only way umemployed journalists can get their jobs back. Our newspaper left upper and middle management virtually alone and instead fired the most productive writers in round after round of layoffs.

These editors, vice-presidents and publisher do not come cheap and they have long histories of mismanagement, but even so they appear to be cemented into their jobs for life. How do you get rid of them without a total restructuring?

The laid-off writers might be gone for good anyway, but they sure don't have a chance with the current "leadership" at the helm.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps I'm in the minority, but I enjoy a good rant (in this case, by theatre director Billy Bermingham):

http://tinyurl.com/c8jcd9

7:46 AM  
Blogger Carrespondent said...

Most newspapers that are dying deserve to do so. All most publishers know how to do is to make their products increasingly irrelevant, with little value added. This is a strategy for circling the drain, not for succeeding. You can't compete with something new by offering something old, and less of it.

I still subscribe to my daily out of a matter of practice and belief in what the product should be. But week after week, less and less of the paper is worth reading. When I look now at the papers I used to write for, I'm disgusted and saddened by what trifles they've become.

8:31 AM  
Blogger DigiDave said...

Can't we all just get along?

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are many nuggets of truth in this rant. For instance:

"One day of solid reporting could literally return many, many megabytes of valuable data about a community. The result – a two paragraph brief that runs on page D-16 usually presented outside of any useful context.

Other than the low pay, this to me was the most dispiriting aspect of reporting. Most of it was literally a waste of time. Under this scenario, how does one worker stand out from another when it’s so difficult to publish the reporting? By kissing a lot of ass, that’s how."

It is extraordinarily inefficient as well as soul-draining for many reporters to spend so much time and effort on a story that is reduced to a two-paragraph brief.

But papers continue to do it just so they can say the subject has been covered -- ever so scantily -- as opposed to simply ignored.

9:29 AM  
Anonymous Derek Harper said...

I am disappointed.

When I read this was the "Mother of all anti-MSM rants," I was expecting cross-eyed, spittle-flecked, semi-coherent rage. Instead, the writer seems to be afflicted with an acute case of Holden Caulfield syndrome

While I don't really agree with all of these points, the person does have elements of truth and makes his or her points in a fairly rational, straight-forward way.

But I want rage! Where is the hilariously unbalanced, rambling, profane screed I was promised? I demand answers!

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy is this guy jaded. Sure, the business stinks, but I don't see too many happy accountants or cops or construction workers around me. And there's mismanagement / hostile business practices in every other field too.

As for the anti J-school rants: It's the same deal! Sure there are some hacks, but are you telling me the same can't be said for every other discipline?

9:31 AM  
Anonymous B said...

I find the standard anti-MSM nuggets to be far more irritating than the screed posted here. At least this thing has some thinking behind it. It's better than the typical, knee-jerk "Screw newspapers, I'm glad to see them die, they're finally paying for their leftist bias / corporate influence."

And it's LIGHT YEARS beyond the reigning idiotic chestnut: "I don't need newspapers, I get all my news online now."

9:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It must be nice to be able to dismiss someone's comments out of hand because you think he's a failed reporter, or for some other irrelevant reason.

Bottom line: There are serious points made in the rant, and if you strip all the personal garbage and overdramatic flourishes away, you can see those points clearly:

1. Newspaper monopolies bred an expectation that they'd be profitable forever and that they'd be impossible to replace. Of course the author is right about that.

2. High profits, coupled with low wages, have been self-defeating for newspapers. When they need talent the most, they don't have enough of it because their most talented folks have gone on to teaching or PR or ... well ... anything more profitable and stable for them than the news business. Newspapers are good at keeping the very top talent, at high wages. They have lots of low-paid/low-capacity talent. The salary issue has flushed out the competent middle, where the "utility infielders" live(d).

And given those two major conditions -- an expectation of permanent profitability without significant change; and a lack of talent needed to produce change quickly -- newspapers are in a world of hurt.

It's a world of hurt of their own making. I cannot agree with the rant's opening comment, that this destruction can make a critic happy, but it's hard not to see how newspapers are only reaping what they had sewn, and what they have failed to sow.

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Tom Stites said...

My critique of Anonymous is a quote from Anonymous:

"The opinions are usually unhinged screeds rather than sustained appeals to reason," he or she wrote of newspapers. "If someone made arguments like these in another professional context, how long could they keep their jobs?"

Speak for yourself. Actually, you did.

The piece strikes me as an anthem to narcissism and entitlement. Thanks, Newsosaur, for promising never to publish any more of these.

As for how much the professions are paid, consider teachers, librarians, nurses, social workers, and clergy. Some people are motivated by social responsibility. So are many journalists. Anonymous is clearly not among them.

Note that I sign my name.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Separate the bitterness out of this comment or the thousands of others that are out there and what's left? Not much. Wishful thinking about 'new paradigms' that the author always has a vested interest in. Uncorroborated personal anecdotes that prove this point or that. I'm sick of having to read them.

Not because they scare me about the future of journalism. But because they're rarely really constructive. Ask yourself as you read them how many seem to be more interested in ranting than in improving journalism? Anger seems to be the main motivation.

I hope this really will be the last of these rants. They're enervating, misguided and lead to emotional arguing rather than anything that will improve either news or newspapers. It will be a great loss to all if newspapers do disappear. Let's spend some time trying to prevent that. I for one do not really believe that news on the web or any digital device will ever fully replace them.

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm stunned at all of the dismissive "That person must have been a crappy reporter" comments here. It's that kind of attitude that permeates newsrooms, and clogs the innovative ideas from getting implemented.

Yes, the comments were a bit harsh, but there is some truth to what that person wrote.

For example, I was stunned when I heard about what Dean Singleton is doing to his LA Newspaper group. He is suspending all vacation accrual for an entire quarter. AND, he is forcing people to take ALL of their vacation before the ban takes place. So, by the end of the year, his employees will have NO vacation. Nada. Zilch.

With everything else going in newsrooms - layoffs, furloughs, people doing the work of 10 other people - it is stunning and downright cruel to not allow staff members to take hard earned vacation days. Are they supposed to just work 20 hours a day? What's next, they won't be allowed to go to the bathroom?

THAT is the point that the original poster was trying to make: Not only is the business model broken, but the entire newsroom culture and thinking is broken as well. We were trained, from the start of our careers, to accept low wages and work 22 hours per day. That is a fact.

And, for the record, I was a reporter for several large newspapers, won awards, and had a fairly successful career.

10:27 AM  
Blogger Kang (not the one from The Simpsons) said...

Why do you assume Anonymous is "a guy"? The rant contains "she." If Anonymous is a man, he's at least a militant feminist. Can't a woman be just as bat-shit crazy and bitter over career failure as a man?

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I spent a couple decades as a reporter and editor and, while I find the "rant" to be somewhat hyperbolic, I find the description of it as the "mother" of all anti-MSM rants to be much more hyperbolic.

Journalism is a business, and journalists and journalism educators should try to understand what consumers desire. Far too many journalists just want to do journalism in a way that appeals to their "tribe."

You can see the dilemma in the comments here. Many say the rant makes some valid points. But others, including Newsosaur, see him as a crackpot who should be ignored.

I say, ignore him at your peril. Someone else will meet the consumer's needs if you don't.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sick of people outside the industry telling us how crappy we are in every way, and how if only we would listen to them, everything would come up roses. Good lord. It's absurd. Do I have any notion how to fix, say, Detroit? No way. And it would be arrogant and obnoxious for me to write screeds to Detroit about what they should do. So why does this guy think he can correctly diagnose our problem and prescribe solutions? Oh right, he's a former reporter. Lord knows when that was...five days ago, five years ago, 1950? If this were such an easy problem to fix, so obvious, well, we would have solved it already.

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course the newspapers set themselves up to be as much of a monopoly in their markets as they could. That's why they have been clustering their properties together in geographic areas for years - "Strategic Marketing Groups" as Thomson liked to call them. The whole point is to be THE choice in the area for advertising.

And yes, they did (and still do) milk that position to great profit. Why do you think classified advertising has taken such a huge hit from Cragslist et al? Why do you think "National" advertisers pay such high line rates for their advertising? The whole reason newspapers have dragged their heels on the Internet is because it doesn't have the same profit margins they enjoyed with print.

Sure, the poster is bitter but most of his points are accurate.

11:58 AM  
Blogger tom said...

It would be just like a newspaper type to be so far behind the times as to imagine the monopolies still exist.

The monopolies have been shattered; that's the whole problem for newspapers.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Philip said...

Can't understand why this genius never made it as an editor.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Mindy McAdams said...

Instead of reading this, we could simply watch Season 5 of The Wire. I like both. Many valid points are made in each.

Do they represent every situation at every newspaper? Well, no. That would be impossible, wouldn't it?

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Zac Echols said...

There are many valid points in the screed, when you look past the personal lunacy. There are also many valid points in these comments, when you look past the woefully arrogant ad hominem attacks.

But not one of you offers a solution.

That is incredibly sad.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Disclaimer: I'm a reporter)

Long live dailies!!...in one form or another. They represent the best journalism around, at least when they're functioning right.

Sounds like this bitter author never wrote anything important. So...his stories were stuck on D-17.

Still, no one can deny that drastic changes are needed.

We can start this way:

Daily newsrooms need to trim their fat staffs -- that means the 50 percent or so who don't consistently produce meaningful copy.

Admit it, a lot of you daily guys are too comfortable. It's time to say goodbye, like all those auto-industry workers who punch a clock and head to the bar. They're about to get it too.

Only the intelligent, important, HYPER-LOCAL content should make it to that expensive print edition, which ought to hit every single doorstep for free, and only three times a week.

Get rid of D-17. You can shove that crap to the web, where there's infinite space to be found without the cost of printing.

The web site is also where you post constant breaking news, world news, etc. until everyone in town knows you're the best source of information around.

Then you take the project pieces and the "Best Of" for your three print issues.

Also, every journalist damn well better learn to shoot/edit video and take pictures while they're out reporting. It's a hell of a lot to juggle, but you'll figure it out.

The news biz needs do-it-all Navy Seal types, not basic grunts.

This helps trim staff -- which is crappy, but better than seeing daily newspapers disappear altogether.

Blogs are like dumps -- full of garbage, with a few buried gems. Is that what we want the infosphere to look like? There's no way I'm trading that for what I get from professionals -- even if some are lazy.

4:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved the bit about ass-kissing...I hate to say it, but after seven years and two big metro markets, it's true. Too many dummies make it to the top in this industry, hence the whipping it's received from the Web. The smart ones see through it immediately, make their connections and leave.

5:01 PM  
Blogger famebook™ said...

I gather Eric Schmidt just addressed the heads of most of the Newspapers... http://www.thewrap.com/article/2291#comment-2294

In other words.... you need me to supply you with Google ads within your format in order to survive!

Reminds me of Vito Corleone assuring all the bosses he wouldn't be the one to break the peace before Michael then wipes them all out during the christening of his Godson.

As a 'customer', I still yearn for decent content and though I would like my 'news and sophisticated opinions' delivered to me in a much more portable way, I hope you don't take your pants down any further.

In my humble view you need to start selling your products as an elegant 'service' instead. Don't ruin the brand by allowing get rich ads on your business pages from any third party and by all means charge me a 'membership' for being allowed the benefit of commenting, downloading articles to readers, email etc. and then send me a nice monthly mag to cheer me up too. Maybe you could turn the tables and filter the noise from Twitter etc. too and just give me the best ones and comment with your experience over the top of the amateur sea of opinion. I'd pay more for all that than I currently do over the counter.

BUT asking me to 'subscribe' for just your news won't do it I'm afraid.... it needs to be a lot more sexy, and then you've got me!

Lastly, when you are in the depths of despair, just remember, if I own a wall and invite everyone and anyone to come and write graffiti on it, then what have I actually got? Initially I may have an interesting collage that everyone wants to look at, but at the end of the day, when people have moved on back to quality content, in reality I just have a messy wall. Who’d want to advertise next to that?

For more about this... http://tinyurl.com/dn7rmg

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Journalists and publishers ought to know what they are up against."

Excuse me... but you have been "up against us" for many, many years. It is why some of us are not going to miss you. We didn't start this
hostility. You did.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Cliff said...

John Galt speaketh

6:11 PM  
Blogger aldo santin said...

There are always kernels of truth in any rant but I conclude, like some others, that Anonymous is merely a bitter, failed reporter.
I’ve been a news reporter for 30 years. I’m well paid and, according to my readers, my reporting has made a difference to my community – as has the work of my colleagues here.
Perhaps I am a dinosaur but I actually enjoy reading a newspaper. I like how it smells (not so much the ink stains) and I enjoy sharing the sections every morning with my family over breakfast. My children learned to read with the newspaper and have learned and are continuing to learn about their community and the issues that confront it. The newspaper is reliable – in my mailbox every morning by 6:30 a.m. – unlike my ISP, or the laptop I am using to write this piece.
I know the newspaper industry is in trouble. I don’t agree with most of the decisions taken by management here but somewhere out there I’ve got to believe there is an answer to how this industry will evolve and survive. Personally, I hope the solution involves the printed page.

Aldo Santin

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Puh-lease. if this is the "mother of all anti-MSM rants" you have not read enough of them. This is well-argued from someone who has obviously been in the ranks and got discouraged at all the crap many of the newspapers deploy their limited staff on.... It's easier to cover your ass by sending your reporter out on some dumb-ass story that is simply being covered because one can say it happened yesterday - or because everybody else is covering it , even if no one, including you, would be interested in reading about it or would find any value in it -- just because it happened yesterday, which somehow makes it "news". doing original reporting -- or letting a good reporter follow their own idea - takes a lot more time and can be a lot more 'risky' because it involves original research and search for the truth --and it needs to be framed - hence it takes time. As a reporter at a half dozen papers from small to large, how many times did i want to put "not my idea" under my byline or "i did the best i could with some lame idea of my bird-brained editor," or "only had one hour to report this" ...how many great stories sit in the queue for weeks or mos at newspapers while crap that happened yesterday flies into the paper? .let's face it - journalism has some wonderful reporters and editors - but it also has a huge percentage of folks who have no original ideas and only want to recycle stuff that 's already out there - because they have no ideas themselves or aren't curious enough to turn over rocks. they don't realize that there's an opportunity cost to having folks sit around in the White house press corps and take dictation from George Bush or Barack Obama - hell, readers can watch that on C-Span or read the press releases directly-- with limited resources, why wouldn't you want your reporters to go find something that other papers don't have or can't get from a press release-the stuff most of the press corps would simply rewrite and call news? ..why is it that the press has become one vast echo chamber? when there are so many incredible stories out there -- ..do we think the public doesn't recognize crap? ink courses through my veins, but i'm less interested in newspapers these days because they have become a lot less interesting -- and now, with the focus on multimedia -- hey arm that reporter with a video camera, recorder, and Final Cut , while also expecting them to dig deep --, they are simply turning into ....TV reporters!!! with all the depth we know tv has. Can you spell STUPID? ....so here's to ranting....

6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are good reasons to be angry at newspapers for ending up the situation they are currently in.

This post doesn't address any of them.

I work in the newsroom of a mid-sized city newspaper. And I am angry at the managers at my newspaper.

I am angry at them for shrugging their shoulders and repeating the cliche "the model is broken," but not taking responsibility for letting it break.

I am angry that management acts as if the Internet was a bolt from outer space that could not be anticipated, even though the newsroom has been begging them to respond since 1995.

I am angry at management for refusing to invest in online when the investment could have made a difference.

I am angry at management for sucking profits from our paper but not investing in even the most basic needs to preserve it.

I am angry that, in my newsroom, half the reporters work on the original iMacs -- you know, the cherry and lime green models with the built in CRTs. Cutting edge in 1997. Our reporters can't view most internet pages, including our own website.

I am angry that, despite this, management tells reporters they have to think like an online company and become "platform agnostic."

I am angry at management for responding to the current crisis in exactly the wrong way -- laying off journalists and giving our readers a product that is demonstrably worse that the product we used to deliver a year ago.

I am angry that most of the people who let this happen, who allowed the "model to break," who continue to make the problem worse, are allowed to keep their jobs, while journalists lose theirs.

I'm not angry about the paper boy.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but "the last rant", as you called it, sounds like the story of the seven blind men (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_Men_and_an_Elephant ) to me. It may be his exaggerated personal experience from his perspective, but it is certainly not true of the industry as a whole.

The financial barriers to entering the newspaper business have dropped dramatically the last few years but I don’t see too many reporters risking their financial necks to start or buy a newspaper. If it’s so easy, why are they complaining on your blog? Why don’t they just go out there and show us how it’s done?

6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't like the conclusions the man has drawn, so you label him a "basher" and your solution to dissenting opinion is to ban all comments you take exception to. Hmmmm, how interesting.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Steve Ross said...

Anon does overestimate the local news content at 30%. Sigh.

BTW, I taught full time at Columbia for 20 years (and for another 15 as an adjunct), and I am a physicist. Go figure.

Many of my students have used their communications and investigative skills to work in business and even in politics. Wish more of them had wanted to buy into the idea of the joy of covering night court at 3 AM.

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That "rant" was actually very interesting to read. The author made some very valid points about the currents newspaper industry. Clearly he is upset, but there was a lot of truth in his criticisms.

10:58 PM  
OpenID sadbastards said...

Newsosaur,
You will soon regret your decision to stop running rants. The one you featured added great value to your content. In fact, it shows me your fear of the new online media, of the continuous interaction and participation. You seem to want to hold on to the gatekeeper status of newspapers.

You are living in the past. It's a new era of citizen journalists with FLIP video, CMS systems and Twitter.
Your former readers/bloggers can send their rants to me at http://sadbastards.wordpress.com

3:48 AM  
Blogger Christine Durkin said...

I spent 25 years in newspaper advertising, eventually becoming the second in command at a B2B regional paper.

As the web emerged as a viable contender, I was was unhinged by the "sacred cow" mentality I faced in the palace of print.

No one wanted to hear it, saying some version of "everyone reads newspapers and that isn't going to change".

One thing did soon after, I left.

I have my own company now, which produces online video and is directed at the B2B niche.

I am not a vindictive type of person, but I agree with the rant "...failing papers bring me joy".

This dying dynasty is no longer relevant. Bye Bye.

7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But I want rage! Where is the hilariously unbalanced, rambling, profane screed I was promised? I demand answers!"

Heh. Come over to McClatchy Watch, it's on the menu daily.

12:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too funny; too true! Alan, look at the number comments you got on this. Struck a nerve.

3:50 PM  
Blogger Stan Spire said...

Alan:

Your blog, your call, your rules.

But let me make an observation. One criticism of MSM journalism is that it tries to cover both sides of an issue - when in fact there could be many sides to an issue. Aren't you limiting the discussion just to one side by keeping out the angry rants?

Stan

3:55 PM  
Anonymous John Altevogt said...

From the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics:

— Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.

— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

Too bad you no longer believe in this.

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I retired last year after 35 years on three different #0k circ dailies

None of them did anything like this

— Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.

— Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
— Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
— Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
— Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.

5:04 PM  
Anonymous Free in the Rockies... said...

I freely admit to being a grouchy, crotchety smart-ass, but I've earned my stripes.

I'm recovering from many years in the trenches, during which time I did OK, working for small to medium to large papers, winning a box full of awards (only one of 'em still means much to me,) slamming P.1 on a regular basis etc and so I'm no bitter ex-page-D17er. Never did learn how to keep my big mouth shut in the newsroom nor how to play the kiss-ass game very well, though, heh heh. No surprise I got laid off eventually! By the time I got the axe, my "Navy Seal" reporter days were over. I was jaded and frankly bored. They did me a favor.

I'd spent too much time watching the game, you see. Watching this tsunami slowly rearing itself up out of the sea while everyone was busy buying stock options instead of waxing their surfboards:

Managers twiddling their thumbs and hemming and hawing about the Web and what to do about it or with it; corporate idiots who expect a 35 percent profit from a newspaper -- in a recession; the rape, pillage and wholesale slaughter of many papers' best and brightest (and, oh yeah, best paid...) journalists; a lousier and lousier, harder-to-sell product, 85 percent of which ends up lining some cat's poop box.

Most of all, it was just this pervasive, utter ignorance of or unwillingness on the part of management to face the wave that was obviously approaching, nor to take any responsibility for the consequences of their inaction.

It's too bad print journalism is on such shaky ground. On the other hand, let's admit it: a ton of the local newspapers in this country are just plain B-O-R-I-N-G, especially in one-paper towns, a point well made by Mr. Anonymous Ranter. Hence the fact they are dying on the vine, both for lack of subscribers and advertisers, and by having their blood sucked dry by their corporate masters, if they have any.

The way to save your beloved print edition is by embracing the Web. Get off your butt and create multiple, innovative, targeted, authoritative, comprehensive, networked, INTERESTING Web-based products aimed at the demographics you miss (Helooooo 20-somethings... Check CNN on the Web for a decent MSM example) with your print product. Rake in money (you know, from those Web ads that bring in more profit than print ads do?) Then use some of that money to, as someone else up there said, make a unique, authoritative, INTERESTING hyper-local print product that people might actually buy and READ before lining their cat's poop box with it...

'Course doing that takes guts and vision and brains and savvy and talent and extra bodies and equipment and, dare I say it, cash up front. Likely to see this fountain flow in today's economic climate?

Endeth the screed... ;)

5:47 PM  
Anonymous Walter Dnes said...

There are 2 main problems with the "newspaper industry"...

1) They have long been viewed as cash cows, with a guaranteed 30% annual ROI. People like Zell in the USA bought the Tribune chain and the Aspers in Canada (Canwest Media) bought the Hollinger chain. In both cases, the purchases were hugely leveraged. These purchases "made sense" only if you assumed that newspapers would continue to make 30% annual ROI forever. With the combined hit from the internet and the recession, annual ROI dropped to 10 or 15%. Those are still huge margins for many modern industries, but not huge enough to service, let alone pay off, the debt from crazy LBOs.

Another aspect of the "cash cow" mentality is that huge dividends are paid out to shareholders (in many cases the owner and their family). And CEOs and a ton of vice presidents make huge salaries with big fat cash bonuses and sweetheart stock options. Money that should've paid off the debt earlier went into their pockets, and the debt was too high when the economy sputtered.

2) The internet hurt newspapers badly, in several ways.

- why buy the cow if milk is free? Content shows up on the internet for free. Of course people prefer free if the content is roughly equal.

- timeliness. CNN.COM and all the radio/TV websites have breaking news on the web *NOW*, not tomorrow morning. And it gets worse for sports fans in the Eastern time zone. If their home team (baseball/hockey/basketball/football/whatever) is on a road trip to California, the game may end too late for the early morning edition. So you have to wait til Thursday morning to see league standings that reflect Tuesday night games... or you could go to NBA,COM or NFL.COM or NHL.COM, and see standings updated in almost real time. Newspapers can't do anything about that.

- convenience. In the past, when I was looking looking for a new condo, I'd buy Friday and Saturday monster-sized newspapers and plow through pages and pages of irrelavant listings. I live in greater Toronto, Canada. When I was looking for a new home in 2007, I went to the MLS Realters website, and was able to select search criteria like location/price-range/number-of-bedrooms/etc. The fact that it was free, versus costing a dollar or two for a paper was almost irrelavant. Given the amount of time I saved by reading a couple of dozen hits on my search, versus umpteen columns of "Condos for sale" ads, I would've been willing to pay a few dollars to access the MLS website.

I'll be retiring in a couple of years, and my days of job searching are long past. But I do remember the extreme frustration years ago of searching through pages of "Help Wanted" ads, 99% of which were irrelavant to me. I can imagine job-hunters having a similar quantum-leap of improvement as house-hunters, given searchable job databases where you can select the job and location you're looking for, and filter out the other 99%.

So what can we take away from this? The "New World Order" for newspapers will include...

- much lower annual ROI, 5% or less. So forget about newspapers as cash cows, and don't get into huge debt purchasing newspapers.

- cut expenses in places other than newsroom staff. Does a newspaper really need a multi-million dollar former salesman CEO who never had a newspaper job in his life? Does it really need a dozen expensive executive vice-presidents? Does it really need umpteen executive editors on the payroll? The physical medium of newspapers is damn expensive. Consider the Kindle instead.

In line with the old slogan "hit them where they ain't", don't try to compete head on with the internet in areas where the internet is best. You *WILL* lose every time. Take what classified ads you can get, but don't be surprised that people prefer searchable databases, rather than hours of plowing through want-ads in a newspaper. You may have to charge more for the "newspaper" than current papers do, to make up for less advertising.

Go hyper-local, reporting on the city hall meetings and legislature stuff and local high school games that never make it onto Google.

Top management will always cut back at the worker bee level, or maybe lower-level management. But top-level management will never cut back top-level management. I don't expect the current majors to survive, definitely not with current management.

What I see rising out of the ashes are a lot of smaller newspapers. The ones that survive, and become the large papers of the future, will be run on razor-thin profit margins, by CEOs who don't fill up the place with umpteen layers of management.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Judging by the number of comments, "rants" may be the most popular types of posts on this blog.

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a journalism prof, I have to say, I sadly agree with many of Anonymous's comments, from the child and ex-con labor to the pap that is passing for news in corporate-monopoly newspapers. However, I may be unusual in that I don't teach students to expect low wages; I tell them to be entrepreneurial & start their own companies, competing with the dinosaurs. I also make sure EVERY student I advise (and many just passing thru my classes) has opportunities for internships and job-shadowing, so they can get ahead. Sadly, it is the youths that news employers are hiring, as they commit weekly bloodbaths in their newsrooms of the experienced elders there. And investigative reporting? Forget it. Our local Gannett paper doesn't even have "general assignment" reporters now to chase emergency stories. They pull reporters off the few beats they're still covering. Newspapers have become pitiful dinosaurs indeed, more victims of the Bush and Reagan eras of corporate greed and lack of regulation (FCC permissions to own huge numbers of b'cast media AND the local paper, for example).

Go, Anonymous! You are...mostly...right on the money!

8:23 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I used to expect the best from you Alan. You have disappointed me once again. Your target ranter is not the problem with the newspaper industry or your blog. However, you appear to be in lock-step with many newspaper industry people: kill the messenger. Why wouldn't you allow others to do what I was always taught as a reporter and passed on as an editor? That would be to glean what's useful from the source material and then discard the rest.

I happen to work for one of the best owners in the newspaper business. Because of company rules I can't say who he is or who I am because that goes against policy. But he owns several large US metros and has kept us going for years despite less than 10 percent profit margins (lately less than 0 percent). When my newspaper won their first Pulitzer the owner was in the newsroom with us awaiting the news. He embraced the lowly newsperson named in the award and helped serve champagne to us all.

Unfortunately he is not typical of today's current corporate newspaper owners. Those are more typified by the likes of Dean Singleton (who also chairs AP at the moment), Tony Ridder, and the crew at Gannett. (Is it ironic or something else that a guy renowned for raping and pillaging newspapers; someone whose name never comes up in discussions of journalistic integrity or news excellence, is now leading the charge to "save" the newspaper industry.) For years these guys have been trading journalistic integrity for higher profit margins. Now they want help getting their chickens off the roost.

Typical of many captains in the newspaper industry they want to blame the iceberg for hitting their ship. And bizarrely believe that the iceberg will listen. (Let's not even talk about the funny man from Parade proclaiming from the Ledo deck that there is no iceberg and everything will be fine if we just ignore the cold water around our ankles.)

A clue to you Alan, and those industry "leaders": Google isn't the iceberg; they are just one of many companies that have set up shop on the iceberg. They didn't make the iceberg and the didn't force newspaper executives to ignore the radar while sailing through the fog bank. And good luck getting them to save an industry stubbornly clinging to their right to drive their wrecked ship as they please.

Perhaps newspapers could have survived their encounter with the Iceberg Internet if not for the recent economic tidal wave. Now the bottom has been torn from their boat and they are discovering that the passengers have the lifeboats (they may lack needed amenities -- such as good city hall coverage -- but at least they float) and most of the orchestra was thrown overboard long ago.

I don't agree with the ranter. I am NOT happy to see the ship sinking even though a lot of the lousy owners are on board (journalism isn't just my paycheck, it's also my calling), but I can at least understand his feelings under the circumstances. Besides, he isn't wrong about everything.

Me, I'm mostly sad and spent. I devoted my life to newspapers. I've done just about every job in a newsroom that didn't require a title like AME. I spent several frustrating years shouting about the iceberg ahead. I tried to warn the execs at my place -- who are mostly good newspaper people -- that a catastrophe was coming and even when it would hit. I'm no genius, Harvard Business School predicted the severity and timing of this cataclysm three years ago during research into disruptive innovation. They could even tell newspaper why it would happen, but not how to avoid the eventual outcome.

One of the long-term forecasts was that many newspaper chains would NOT be willing to operate at less than obscene profits.

My newspaper owner isn't like that, but we are in trouble none-the-less. Blame it on failure to anticipate, failure to properly innovate, or just the way things go. Maybe nobody could have dodged that iceberg and the tidal wave really didn't help.

But none of that is a good excuse for ignoring the voices you don't like. Maybe it's not too late to listen and glean something useful from such rants; even if they only thing to be taken is that many of the people newspapers should be pursuing as readers dislike and disdain what we are trying to sell them. We can call them names or try to shut them up, but that won't make them loyal customers. Not will it make newspapers successful businesses.

12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's another reason for the msm's failure - it has become a willing tool of special interest groups whose view point it approves of.

How willing? Willing enough to 'flood the zone' on the question of health insurance using stories marketed by Families USA, a group whose funding comes entirely from Big Labor:

http://directorblue.blogspot.com/2009/04/msm-complicit-in-full-court-pr-push-for.html

12:06 PM  
Anonymous Beerzie Boy said...

I'm not sure what the guy who writes this blog's beef is, unless he is weary of the whole thing. Well, we all are, but that doesn't mean we have to pretend it is not there. My take is that the guy he quoted is mostly on the money, to wit:

"In their present incarnation, newspapers are regional monopolies of sales and distribution of display advertising. As such, they charge exorbitant fees for their advertisements to support and protect their monopolies – leaving few resources actually to gather news."

True.

"I am convinced these monopolists loaded up journalism schools with operatives to teach students one thing: that journalists should not expect high wages. Then, drape the profession in the flag and a noble patina and inculcate students with the expectation of low pay."

I don't think there has been an organized conspiracy, per se, but whether this was intentional or not, the end result has been the same.

"The monopolists also get away with providing an inferior product: day old news wrapped in layers of plastic weighing five pounds. The informational, or “news,” yield of news versus total ink content is probably less than 30%. The commercial yield is, let’s say, 20% of coupons and information about other commerce.

The rest is literally garbage."

True.

"Of the news-ink to total-ink content described above, celebrity and sports coverage is probably close to 50%. Wire coverage from distant areas, say, another 20%, leaving about 30% for local news. Obviously the monopolist knows the cost of celebrity and wire news compared to local original reporting."

True.

Suppressing this kind of comment is just the sort of thing I would expect from a member of the executive class: they can't tolerate anyone calling them on their BS business practices.

Sincerely,

A First (and last) time reader

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The truth hurts, Newsosour! By not running anymore critical stuff you prove that US journalism never was as good as US journalists said it was. Never! Perhaps you should read that rant again. This time r-e-a-d it!

11:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, journalists have no clue how to actually run the business of a newspaper - they just like to be back seat drivers and whiners. Most newspapers are in fairly decent shape, in spite of the brutal economic conditions we face. If you hate your job in the newsroom please find employment elsewhere....quickly. Spare the rest of us from your poor attitudes.

1:58 PM  
Blogger Herbert Barry Woodrose said...

First of all - I love this blog and recommend it often.

Second - this is a rant? This is a lot less fiery than the opinions in the Wall Street Journal.

Third - this had way too many well reasoned arguments and was NOT an attack on all the different wings of journalism you mentioned Mr. Mutter. This is an attack on capitalism and capitalists, meaning those who push money around and often don't know what goes on at the company. I can point you to a plurality of articles out of the AP just in the last two weeks that had no sourcing, and no details. They seemed to just be pushing a State message.

I'm much more concerned by the fact that today's problems reveal that the people DO NOT have a basic right to know what is happening to them, nor who is doing it. That is a real problem.

And, I just have to agree: what is happening to day is a capitalism problem. I know we're all brought up to respect that law of the land unquestioningly, but imagine being an entity from outer space witnessing this moment in our time: we have actually accomplished the ability to share information in moments across the world - and the only thing holding it up is how Tom Curley is going to get paid for it. Capitalism is breaking down, and all anyone can say is "so what's the alternative?!? Barter? Communism?!?" We have been indoctrinated so thoroughly we haven't even imagined alternatives, and so we angrily demand the messenger tell us how to do everything - in other words, it is no longer ok to just point out the obvious, that this is all breaking down, and the flow of information is what is truly democratic. Heaping rewards on CEOs, and managers, simply, is not.

I hope this didn't come off as a rant, I'm a little concerned right now as to what constitutes 'anger' and what is likely to be seen as 'an attack' even when it is clearly not. I think it is ok to point out when things aren't working, and I think it is ok to take pleasure when jingoism is revealed, and shown to be destructive. It should be ok to say that capitalism is failing, and that we are unprepared for such an eventuality. It is time to re-imagine ourselves, and stop pretending we can advertise away all our problems.

Once again, I remain a fan of this Newsosaur.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous kangadave said...

I've just spent the last forty-five minutes or so reading the comments on the "last rant." If nothing else, it made for entertaining reading. But more important, it provoked thought about the great newspaper game: the future, the faults, the flaws, the possibilities, the dreams.

Clearly for newspapers to survive they need to be lively, surprising, readable -- even entertaining. And be priced to survive.

So bring on the rants.

Kanga Dave

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite the vile and supposed excess of JOAs in this rant, you can count the number of them in this country on one hand. Such a problem.

5:46 AM  
Anonymous Dan Meadows said...

What exactly is wrong with this? As someone who has worked within more than one of these regional monopolies, as he called them, I have a difficult time finding anything he said, with perhaps the exception of seeding j-schools with professors that support their monopolistic ends, that I haven't found to be true as well. I'm one of the growing group of folks put essentially out of work by this crisis, and I've reached the point, after much consternation and effort, where I've concluded much the same thing. We won't see any genuine progress toward a sustainable future until these dinosaurs die off.

I spent the past year as a fairly lowly paid independent contractor for one of these outdated beasts trying to revive a publication back to former glory only to see all my efforts wiped out by the actions of one of those ass-kissing ignorant incompetents, as he called them. I won't get into specifics, but suffice it to say her actions were most definitely firable, and I wouldn't have hesitated for a second to put her out on the street. But what were the consequences for destroying the publication I was trying to save? She was promoted. Failing upwards has long been a standard at these places.

Anyway, despite the fact that I'm very disgusted with the way these companies have comported themselves over the past 20 years or so, I'm still plugging away, anxiously awaiting the day these unnatural beasts finally die off so someone who gives a damn about something other than executive profits can actually have room to grow.

Anyway, I like your blog very much. kepp it up, even though I think you are wrong about this guy.

12:36 PM  

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