Monday, August 17, 2009

Why I Love New Media People So

So James Warren, of the Chicago Tribune, goes to England for a wedding and, like many an American visitor before him, picks up British newspapers and marvels at their intelligence, depth, breadth of world news, and spirited cheekiness.

Wouldn't it be nice if we had some of that in American newspapers? he asks. Our newspapers are so darn boring, it's no wonder no one reads many of them.

All of which has been said before, but, of course, no challenge must go unanswered, and Roy Greenslade immediately leaps to the fore:

"Indeed, I wonder whether editorial content would make any difference at all to newsprint sales.

"After all, despite Warren's praise for "British high-energy imagination and flair" in our papers, sales here are in decline, as the latest set of the ABC figures show (here and here and here).

"That is not to say that the quality and range of journalism is irrelevant to readers and potential readers. Far from it. But print, as veteran editors seemingly find it impossible to admit, is a failing medium."

But while Warren is certainly writing from a print background, nothing he says could not be equally true of U.S. newspapers' online operations. Consider:

"That (middle-class) strategy twinned with a firm belief in most newsrooms that being too colourful, impressionistic or intentionally provocative undermined one's air of authority and legitimacy. By and large, balance meant rarely offending. The premeditatedly provocative tended to be relegated to the occasional serious investigation or editorial, or to the approved ranting of a well-compensated "populist" sports columnist, inveighing on ultimately inconsequential topics."

Since much of the content of American newspapers online is produced by, and is often identical with, the content in print, it seems like Warren's point could be made regardless of medium. And what if more people might read a better print paper? But let us not ponder such issues. Greenslade must make the point again: You print people are dead, dead, dead. Stop trying to do better, stop trying anything. Nothing you do can do anything. Just roll over and die.

How this can possibly be useful is beyond me. All it really says is: Those of us who got it early got it, and those of you who didn't are chum.

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