Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good news, bad news

Good news: New York Newsday is wising up about the free Internet stuff.
Bad news: The Rocky is closing, but, like Tucson and Seattle, we're still talking about a city losing a second newspaper. Hearst is threatening to close The San Francisco Chronicle, but who wants to bet that if it happens, the Mercury News will drop the "San Jose" appellation? Also, keep in mind that 881 U.S. auto dealerships shuttered in 2008. Let's keep some perspective. There are thousands of newspapers. Newspaper Death Watch only added its 11 th dead newspaper, and two of those were related.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lies, damn lies and internet "journalism"

In what I assume is a column (have you ever noticed it's hard to tell on the internet what is supposed to pass as hard news and what is opinion?) referring to the oft-discussed switch to non-profit newspapering in the Internet "magazine" Slate we find these as the first seven words:
Now that newspapers have stopped generating profits

Hmm. Let's see. In a fourth-quarter that should see a net loss for the S&P 500 companies, Gannett reported operating earnings of $158 million. New York Times Company reported $27.6 million in earnings. These are just the big boys. Most community newspapers don't report earnings because they are often privately held, but I doubt many posted operating losses. It's just that they don't get the routine 20 percent margin they are used to. Yes the big boys are swimming in debt they accumulated from buying up papers (and making the former newspaper-owning families rich), but so what? If GM were posting operating profits and merely needing time to refinance debt Detroit would be ecstatic. Where is the earnings statement of the internet only news operations? The truth is, most internet companies from Twitter to Facebook are losing money. But everyone wants to give them millions because "they're the future." Newspapers MAKE MONEY, but its cool to diss them, so let's celebrate their destruction, or mock those who are trying to figure out how to survive the onslaught.
I guess real journalism involves making up "facts" on the fly and editorializing out of your sphincter.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Hubris alert

The Jeff Jarvis ego train rolls along. Here's the latest prediction.
Newspapers will die this year and there’ll be silence before successors emerge.

Note, he did not say some newspapers will die. He didn't say American newspapers will die. He said newspapers will die. So if just one of the tens of thousands of papers worldwide survives 2009, we win. Does he really think even a majority of American newspapers will fold?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Triple -J?

I'm starting to consider renaming my blog Jeff Jarvis is a Jerk (the triple J?)
What is offensive about Jarvis and his ivory tower assertions (it figures that one of the media's chief journalism biz pundits hails from academia) is not that he heralds the end of print. If that's your opinion (and it's a common one) that's fair. What's insulting to journalists everywhere is his criticism of the profession. Note this statement in a recent posting criticizing those who say Google should pay newspaper for posting, in total, the work journalists produce in small newspapers that gets picked up by the Associated Press

* Make Google pay. This one assumes that newspapers have a God-given right to the income they used to get from advertising and that Google (and craigslist and eBay and papers’ own customers with their own, free web sites, for that matter) stole it from the papers and thus are starving journalism. Show me where that commandment is written. Others competed with lazy, monopolistic newspapers, giving the marketplace a better service. Google and the rest owe them nothing. Indeed, newspapers should be paying Google for its distribution and promotion, as Google is the new newsstand and content gains value with links.
Shame on us for assuming that well-researched news stories that are vital to an informed public have intrinsic value. And newspapers are "lazy," while others competed, giving the marketplace a better service. How? When a bunch of computer geeks build an better Internet mouse trap to repackage the work of real journalists while doing absolutely NO original reporting, that's industrious competition??? And shame on us for thinking they should pay.
Jarvis' rejoinder, no doubt, is that his criticism is aimed at the business institutions behind newspapers and not the individual journalists. But journalists know we can't ply our trade covering one beat on one blog. Some sort of organization is needed. In the past, newspapers have provided that organization. In a newspaperless future, some Internet organization will provide that organization. The consumer loves the elegant simplicity that clearinghouses provide. If Google is that clearinghouse, fine. But I doubt Google has much interest in paying me to cover my city council. How lazy and monopolistic is that?

Monday, February 9, 2009

With friends like these, who needs enemies

Just when I was about to give Paul Gillin the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the future of newspapers, he comes out with this, lambasting NPR's David Folkenflik for suggesting that city's might be worse off without printed newspapers (what an NPR Luddite). Gillin suggests that if newspapers disappear, the vacuum of civic journalism will be filled elsewhere and decries Folkenflik's suggestion that a Connecticut governor's malfeasance would not have been exposed had the Hartford Courant not paid a journalist to expose it. Gillin just assumes that someone else would have put in the legwork. He offers no examples that the Web, now well over a decade old in ubiquitous usage, could do the same thing. He merely states it could be as a conclusion obvious to those not quite imbecilic. I've been pointed to one or two attempts at investigative journalism on the Web, such as ProPublica. It seems to be focusing its still meager resources on federal issues and linking extensively (surprise, surprise) to REAL newspapers He also mentions Talking Points Memo as "an emerging breed of online news organization." I went there. I found links to ABC and Reuters news stories, an interview with Robert Reich who seems to give interviews to anyone with a lens, and editorializing that was not clearly labeled as such.
If you see a blogger at your local city government meeting, please let me know. I'd be stunned. If you see a blog that involves in-person reporting at a city council, I'd be even more stunned. I do know there are fewer newspaper reporters at those meetings. The only ones happy about that are politicians, because smart bloggers know it means they have fewer links to underpin their editorializing.

By the way. If you want to see the final stages of Web-driven egomania, take look at what BuzzMachine has become. I don't think L.Ron Hubbard was as enamored with Dianetics as Jeff Jarvis seems to be with "What Would Google Do?"