Thursday, June 19, 2008

A Hug for Doug and a Coupla Quotes

Doug Fisher's "Common Sense Journalism" is, gosh, next to "That's the Press, Baby," the most vital blog about journalism. ... Seriously, it is something everyone interested in the future of the business -- and particularly in the future of copy editing, which Doug is also greatly interested in -- should be reading regularly. Doug and I differ on whether newspapers are basically print publishers who can also do other things or information providers who look for the best medium, as the exchange after my last post shows. But we agree on a lot of the rest -- such as that there is no one magic bullet -- and his viewpoint is always enlightened and enlightening. And he zeroes in on tidbits that don't get noticed widely elsewhere. He pays attention to more input in a day than I can follow in a week. These ex-radio guys, how do they do it?

In a post about his post in response to my post before this post -- God, this is what I love about blogging, it's like the old Velveeta Box Infinity Paradox -- Doug's quote of John C. Abell at Wired News (yep, a link from a link) really struck home with me:

"If nobody pays for news –- or rather, if the people that gather the news aren’t paid -– then there is no business model for journalism. ... But free often only means that it isn’t me who has to turn my pockets inside-out, that someone else is paying what amounts to a subsidy. In all media – online and offline -- that subsidy is generally advertising.

"But there is a rub: pre-internet, that subsidy always went one way – straight to the content creators. Now, it can go in infinite directions. It can even go to a site that makes use of what the market determines are the most valuable bits of a news package and not to the writers and producers. Is that wrong? This is more a matter of nature than the law; you can’t make hurricanes illegal."

It comes to mind because of this quote from Sun-Times editorial page editor Tom McNamee as quoted in Chicago Reader:

“'Even bands like Wilco, nobody's buying the records, they get them free online. So what's going to happen, music is not going to die, people still love music, there will still be bands out there making fantastic music, but they won’t make megafortunes. There's nothing wrong with that. That’s a wonderful thing -- the only people it’s bad for is Wilco. Same thing here.'"

So we're not going to get paid as well, maybe not very well at all. But hey, that's OK because there'll still be fantastic journalism, and whaddya gonna do? This is truly an aesthetic appreciation of one's own plight. It reminds me of one of my college professors, who one day told us we would be lucky as the first generation of journalists who made enough money throughout our careers that we could raise families and not have to go into P.R. A couple of days later, he said: I'd write for free for a byline, and so should you. So as for Wilco's diminshed paychecks -- well, who cares? I downloaded their music free. Let 'em live in a garage. Just keep turning out those tunes, Jeff. I love your stuff. Not gonna pay ya for it, though. Find someone else to subsidize it.

Somehow Tom Lehrer's famous lyric comes to mind: "'Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That's not my department,' says Wernher von Braun." And that's why Doug's thoughts are so worth reading. We may disagree on tactics, but he knows that journalistic idealism and a hope that something will somehow take care of things is not going to get us out of our problems.