Friday, March 23, 2007

Reply: David Lazarus of the San Francisco Chronicle

This is a posting of an e-mail I sent San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus this morning in response to his mention of me in his latest column. See the original post, "Newspapers Undercut Their Own Profits, RIAA-Style."

Dear David,

I appreciate your thoughts in your recent column, "So who will get the story?" I'm glad someone is thinking about the business side of newspapers, because it seems few know what really to do. So we might disagree on details, but I think we're on the same side of "newspapers need to reorganize the way they do business."

However, I must take issue with just a few assumptions you make in your column - the same column that highlights the assumptions of the bloggers that wrote about you.

You write:

Whether or not that's the case, the simple fact is that newspapers do the digging that most bloggers do not. The blogosphere -- a silly term coined by bloggers to legitimize their posturing -- is comprised by and large of people whose work consists of commenting on the work of others.

"Thanks to Google, I'm able to stay abreast of what's said about my work online. Dozens of bloggers weighed in on my earlier column, and not one -- not one -- did a lick of original reporting in challenging my ideas.


There was blogger Andrew Nusca, a self-styled watchdog of both professional and amateur journalists, warning that if newspapers charge for online content, "the general public will soon get their news from unsourced blogs and AP wire snippets."

"Is that what you want to happen, Lazarus?" he asked.

To him and every other blogger eagerly awaiting my next words with fingers poised above their keyboards, I say no."

Frankly, David, I don't think it's your right (note from ed. - of course it's his right. But it's not correct.) to belittle bloggers, nor lump them into the same category. Just as your column doesn't compare with something like Page Six, my blog doesn't compare with one that does actual reporting and is for-profit. I'm not opposed to not doing original reporting - frankly, I'm as much of a journalist as you, David, I just don't have the opportunity for work for MSM yet - but my blog is an amateur endeavor, and never claims to be anything comparable to a column written by someone who makes salary. In fact, I gather much of my information from the print you paid journalists write,
and my opinions are based on my observations of the industry that we both are in.

As I've mentioned in previous posts on my blog, if bloggers were paid equal to MSMers, there would be no difference in content. The blog is merely a new distribution tool for the same opinion. But right now, the MSM columnist and the amateur blogger aren't making the same pay. So to equal the content, equal the pay (maybe not for Gawker Media, but they're not making any claims of being journalists, either).

Now I know you mentioned exceptions - The Politico, for example - but much of that staff is your peers. That's a bit of an unfair comparison, no?

I don't think anyone's really saying "nothing"can be done about making money on newspapers. I think people are saying that, while it's not a basic right to receive the news, it's quite close to being in the common arena - but not. That's why I mentioned advertisements - aren't they, historically, what pays for a paper? Why pass the price along to the reader?

I could go on a tangent about how the restriction of information slows down the advancement of society, but I'll pass for now.

Therefore, I think your comparison to the music business works in the way each manages content, but if it really does compare, it's a terrible foreshadowing for the newspaper industry. Sure, the RIAA and its ilk showed everyone that indeed something COULD be done about the "genie out of the bottle" - but really, let's not fool ourselves - is it working? No. Record labels are shape-shifting into creative artist image managing companies - their business is no longer records (this, by the way, is the product of original reporting).
To use Fred Schiff's ideas, bands continue to thrive despite losses at record labels because they're selling shirts, going on tour, and so on. Even Steve Jobs has mentioned that he doesn't like restrictive rights-management, but his hands are tied by record companies (whether you believe him or not, it's still a harbinger for our "Information Age.") So, to be sure, the level of content restriction is changing.

As an aside: to be honest, I don't think bloggers are "awaiting" your next words, "fingers poised." I wouldn't make the self-important assumption that mainstream media truly concern themselves with my words; why should you assume bloggers are the MSM's paparazzi? I'm flattered that you read my column - I was wondering where the sfchronicle bounce came from - but I'm certainly not assuming you will continue to do so.

Of course, maybe you're just writing in column-style. In that case, I'd like to know what you really think, on- or off-record.

Feel free to e-mail me if you'd like to continue this discussion off-column. I think it's a healthy one.

All the best and thanks for reading,
The Editorialiste.

No comments: