Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gee, It's Been a Long Time

Last post was in late September. Gosh.

Been learning how to use Twitter. Not really succeeding.

Off researching department stores in Baltimore. Going to the ACES board meeting. Being ACES secretary, which takes more work than being just an ACES board member.

Then there was the little matter of the ownership handover at my paper. I survived. Not everyone did, alas, but the bloodletting was minimal, for which I am thankful. I was going to quote from an issue of Editor and Publisher, but then they fired Mark Fitzgerald and his staff so that seemed irrelevant. No link for you guys.

And, probably most important, my addiction to Google Street View. I'm so angry at them for the data collection snafu, because -- to be really preachy here -- seeing how and where people in other countries actually live, as opposed to the tourist-oriented districts everyone knows, has made me feel more that it is one world than anything in recent years.

But a month and a half? I've probably lost all my readers, and preachiness like the above will lose the rest. Well, we'll just keep on plugging.

Let's get grounded again with News & Tech's Chuck Moozakis:

"When it comes to contradictions in terms, the words 'logic' and 'online' rank right up there with the best of them. Too often, objective, critical reasoning is dulled by the lure of the online siren.... Online has its place, heaven knows.... But the Web is a dangerous place when it comes to sustainable business." He's talking about the Toronto Globe and Mail's decision, noted in this New York Times story, to put money into better paper and reproduction:

"For Globe (Sorry, I wrote "Glove" earlier -- ds) and Mail Publisher Philip Crawley... investing in online, while important, pales in comparison to pouring resources into the paper's most vital component: the print edition."

Part of the problem is not in our Stars, or Timeses, but in ourselves. Chuck quotes from another Times story, about the mess at Tribune Co.:

"But even in 2010, when a print product is viewed as a quaint artifact of a bygone age..."

By whom, exactly? Not saying that it isn't by many. But one of the largest groups saying that is -- people who get their living from the sale of advertising in print newspapers. Yes, it's us journalists.

Not by the 2 out of 3 who, according to this poll, prefer print over digital. The report on the study is flawed and it looks to indicate that "paper" media has a lot in this survey to do with "printing out things at the office." But still. And then there was another Harris poll, which while highlighting that most Americans think "traditional media as we know it will not exist in 10 years" -- which is vague enough to cover any possibility -- also noted that 76 percent of 18-34s said "There will always be a need for newspapers in print." Admittedly, maybe they won't buy them. When I was 20 I thought there would always be Al Martino records, even though I wouldn't touch them myself.

I have no idea what people write in any country except America about newspapers and their problems -- except for Roy Greenslade in England. It's accurate to point out the vast fall in circulation and profitability. But I do know that like Barack Obama, those of us who see a future in print often have problem getting the point across, perhaps for the same reason: We see a nuanced future involving many platforms, whereas saying "Print Is Dead" is definitive, easy to understand, and makes you feel good about seeing the truth and contemptuous of those who don't.

But I can't think out if the sort of throat-clearing lines such as David Carr's quoted above come from this or that.

This: One becomes a journalist in part to show that one's hip, knowledgeable, not some stick in the Sandusky or Sidney or St. Cloud mud; so if those who "see the future" say, "Print's a dinosaur just like an Oldsmobile," I gotta let people know that I'm hangin' with them and not with those old guys. (As a baby boomer who went through many years in the 1970s of being an arrogant young ass who thought anyone over 35 who didn't agree with me knew absolutely nothing, I'm amused by the postings of so many young techies who are clearly just another generation of arrogant young asses who think anyone over 35 who doesn't agree with them knows absolutely nothing. Example: The comments on this report on our new CEO's plans.)

That: One is genuflecting in the direction of the future but also saying, "But of course, in my heart, I wish it were another way." So, print is like a scenic Victorian ruin, and wistfully accepting its departure allows one to think oneself superior even while bowing before the more denigrated future.


Brian Cubbison said...

Good post. The discussion needs to get beyond the Dinosaurs vs. Digirati feud, which never seems to name "those who say ..."

It's easy to doubt the print model, but there are weaknesses in the digital model, too, that should be challenged: Don't worry about money, just get millions of users, then drive them away when you do try to monetize them, then sell to a big media company, which spends more money, until tiring of it.

I think there are five main vehicles, and each requires a different mastery. In no particular order, print-based, web-based, web for mobile, mobile apps, and tablets. They're as different from each other as print is from the web.

Davisull said...


Good to hear from you. Thanks for not pointing out that I wrote "Glove and Mail."