New Media Leads to Excommunication and Assault w/Utensil… almost

Over the past few days, I’ve been pondering upon new media and how things might shake out for ink slingers. My mind landed here due in part to items I’ve read here and there. I suppose it’s idling on the topic mostly because of the strange new separatist vibe I’m picking up from friends on the print side of the industry.

Yeah. Blogging is treason.
Didn’t you know?
Neither did I.

(Warning the following contains a rant about work-type things, which many of you may not find interesting… except for the part about the naked lady with the pet monkey.)

For the past ten years or so, on the 4th Friday of each month, I’ve had a standing lunch date with five fellow news hounds. Our group has been gathering monthly since back when we were all pushing newsprint and thought Blogger was something you could kill with a good anti-virus program.

Now, we know better.

Though most of us remain ink-stained in some form or another, four have ventured into the world of words beyond paper. The other two are reluctant to explore. Nevertheless, the holdouts have always endured our “blog talk” with good humor – and even interest at times.

So, I was completely surprised when attitudes started to shift. Good humor was replaced with beleaguered sighs, then eye-rolling and this past Friday, I was served up a good ol’ healthy dose of outright animosity.

Things started out pleasant enough. For the first time in awhile, all six of us were able to attend. This was good. After we exchanged greetings and placed our order, we talked about disasters, both minor and major: children, men, women, money, marriage tornadoes and politics. You know, the usual.

By the time the food arrived, we had worked our way from insensitive men, who never bring flowers, to the passport peeking deal. This is when I mentioned a blogger “round-up” I’d spotted somewhere on the internets.

The acerbic response from Ink Slingin’ Elder was:

“I’ve told you all before I don’t read that drivel. It’s written by blow-hards who sit around all day with their computers pretending to be reporters. You people tend to forget that websites and blogs aren’t real news! And you should know better.”

Um, ouch. That stung a little. My first instinct was to sting right back: “Look heifer, I ain’t Matt Drudge, so back off.”

Of course, I didn’t say that. I’ve developed a high tolerance for snottiness over the years: otherwise I might have stabbed her in the arm with my salad fork. Honestly assaulting someone with an eating utensil in the presence of five reporters is not the best idea. The incident might be splashed across the front page page four by morning. And since the crime wouldn’t earn you any street cred, eh, why bother?

Besides, this isn’t just a group of former co-workers: they’re friends. A decade is a long time to stay involved in another person’s life if you’re not married, related or otherwise required.

So, I reminded myself that the “attitude” is coming from a place of fear and uncertainty. Hell, Ink Slingin’ Elder chewed nerve pills like Hubba Bubba when her paper went from wax-n-paste to computer pagination.

So, yeah, I’d say this has to be difficult.

Actually, the changes taking place in media are daunting for any newspaper person (and if you’ve ever been a newspaper person, you will always be a newspaper person.) You hear about the cutbacks. You hear folks predicting a world without print, and you cannot imagine. A World Without Broadsheets? Gasp! Horror! This is worse than the consequences of global warming, the Second Coming of Jesus or Bush canceling the elections and buying himself a new desk plaque with the name “Dicktater Dubya” engraved in all CAPS.

(For the record, I don’t think any of those things will happen… well, the Bush part I’m not entirely sure about… )

But why draw a line in the media sand? It didn’t matter that the four bloggers present blog about lipstick, life, kids, and news that’s already been reported: even if we don’t compete: we contribute to the problem.

We are the “You People.”

Define that. Would this be all bloggers? Users? Readers? Traitors with internet access, with the exception of Comcast, which may or may not count? And if news sites and blogs aren’t real news, what are they then? Speculation? Pretend? The Dark Side? A passing fancy? Holy shit, someone should alert all major markets because most have invested loads of money in developing a user-friendly, multi-media format.

They obviously have no clue this is all an illusion!

Can I just say I find this attitude incredibly frustrating? I am losing my ability to feel sympathetic here.

These changes in the market were NOT sudden. This wasn’t something unforeseen or unpredictable. The consumer shift from traditional media to online outlets has been occurring gradually for years now.

We’ve talked about this many, many times.

I’ve pulled my Paul Revere of the Press: “The Internet is Coming. The Internet is coming. We must develop a plan!”

The standard reply has been: (scoff) “We are a reputable newspaper. We are not in the business (shudder, snort) of running a website. That is not what we do. That is not our primary focus.”

Well, la-di-da.

And how is that working out for ya? Since online news is no longer popular as much as it is commonplace – have we arrived at a point yet where we accept newspapers either get with the program(ing) or try not to let the door hit em in their reputable asses on the way out?

As I see it, there are two options remaining:

(1) “Old media” can sneak off to that secret “old media” meeting, which WKRN apparently attended, and decide, “Hey, if we embrace this trend, people might think we approve. Let’s ignore it and see if it will go away!”

Eh, this kind of media magic, which makes things disappear, only works on tangible objects like Crystal Pepsi… and maybe Britney Spears. Someday. One can only hope.

I don’t see this as a plan as much as a delay.

The remaining option is (2) jump in. Unfortunately, the smaller the market, the more resistant they seem to change.

Ink Slingin’ Elder says:

“All the internet does is create the most ill-informed groups of nitwits to ever wander the face of the earth. I swear to God and all that is Holy, we’re going to revert to cavemen because of the internet. There’s no way in hell I’d allow reader interaction on our site.”

True to a point. News seekers do have this fantastic new opportunity to take control of their news, to determine what they read, who they read, what is truthful, and what has been written by a mentally-defunct hack. I also agree some folks should not be turned lose on the internet without a managing editor to hold their news hunting hand… maybe a pastor too, some medication maybe, and the SWAT Team on standby.

These are the folks who end up sending 1/2 their crazy check to the anti-Mexican & down-with-Obama Coalition to help stop the secret conspiracy to destroy America. You’ve heard about it… of course, it is accurate! Why else would it be on World Net Daily with Chuck Norris? Chuck Norris doesn’t lie.

Regardless of whether readers make good choices or bad: the choices are there – too many really. The market is saturated with content: and consumers are going to pick those which are first, fast, accessible, relevant, inexpensive and/or free.

Why not be that choice?

If I were reputable, which I am not, but if I were – I’d put myself out there as the “authoritative new source.” I’d wrestle the technology and figure out different ways of making it work for me. If I couldn’t make it work, I’d take myself right on over to Hooterville and ask somebody.

I believe there’s a way for the markets to not only coexist – but complement each other. In fact, I think they must.

Okay, here is where I get caught up in my typical harangue about online media – but this always end with me wailing about localism, building community, blah, blah, blah.

We’ve been there and done that. Those who will listen: have. Those who haven’t: won’t. And I’m tired of trying to be persuasive.

So, at lunch, I did what I normally do when I give up.

I dropped it and just made a mental note: “topic of online media officially off-limits in presence of certain print people.”

Unfortunately, since I do get most of my news and information online, this places severe restrictions on what might be considered “acceptable” conversation. Fearing the lull would leave me comatose, I chewed my burger at an impolite speed and made up a lame excuse to leave.

No, my dog wasn’t really sick. There’s also no naked lady with a pet monkey… it all goes back to that whole “I’m not reputable because I’m a blogger” thing.


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5 thoughts on “New Media Leads to Excommunication and Assault w/Utensil… almost

  1. What an excellent post.

    The buggy-whip manufacturers all said that those horseless carriages would be our ruin. Even though it turns out that they were at least partially right, a) it is taking a lot longer than they ever imagined and 2) it doesn’t mean we should have drowned the automobile in a bathtub.

    I don’t have a print media background, so this utter resistance to reality is very confusing to me. I guess I’m just one of the nitwits.

  2. Pingback: News Is Evolving « Newscoma

  3. Thanks joe – and for the record, this resistance to reality is just as confusing for some of us with ink in our blood. Although you do develop an odd attachment to print in this business: you’d have to be a nitwit to not understand that online product is crucial to survival.

    I realize the market, which has been flooded for awhile, is self-regulating. Strong and innovative publications (with open-minded management) will adapt and survive. The others… it will likely be too late when they catch on. This “weeding out” was inevitable, couldn’t be avoided – but it is still depressing to watch some of these smaller community papers fade away without putting up a good fight.

  4. Good article. I’ll comment with my usual different perspective.

    Newspapers are dying, it certainly seems so. But at the same time, music CDs are dying. I believe these are related in a way in two ways:

    1. Industry representatives for both blame the situation on consumers who are said to be ‘unwilling to pay for quality content’ thieves and/or ignorant.

    2. Unknown to the representatives, consumers are consuming as much as ever.

    The music industry has failed because the music they market basically sucks. It’s utter tripe. It’s become completely corporatized, to the point that almost all radio stations in the US are owned by a very small group, with ClearChannel being the majority owner of vast stretches american airwaves. When not playing commercials round the clock, these stations push homogenized low quality product of little intrinsic worth and containing no local or international content.

    As a result, people have turned off the broadcast radio and turned to things like the iTunes store, XMRadio and internet stations because there you have a choice, and there you can find a wide variety of high quality content.

    In short, ClearChannel and the RIAA members tried to create a monopoly where they could force consumers to accept a low quality product. In return, consumers found alternative outlets that suited their needs. As a result, Apple has done well financially selling a music on demand to consumers, in a variety that far surpasses the drek one hears on broadcast radio.

    You knew it was coming and here it is. Newspapers are in the same boat. Papers have become consolidated. Good content is out, propaganda is in. Years ago I subscribed to the New York Times because it had fabulous content. But about a decade ago they stopped writing from an impartial viewpoint and started promoting various agendas. I was not surprised when they had scandals where their reporters were just making up stories and faking quotes, by the time that happened their newspaper, once the most prestigious one in america, had ceased to be relevant.

    So much for corporate papers. There is also the smaller ones, which have failed for a different reason.

    With a few exceptions, local papers do not have substantial real news coverage, and also do not address local issues. Papers become controlled by certain families or business interests in a community and then stop reporting on issues contrary to the agenda of those interests. It is obvious to the readers when this happens since one hears about a variety of scandals from people in the community, but the newspaper remains silent. An example of this would be that the San Diego Union does not report on any news critical of McDonalds corporation since Joan Kroc owned the newspaper. I’m sure you all can think of others.

  5. I was lucky in a lot of ways – I still have a hand waxer somewhere in a drawer and know how to use it – but computers were so much more fun that I couldn’t stay out of them. So I find myself to be a silicon slinging elder, which is almost as odd a place to be.

    Part of the response is disdain – any place like the internet that includes scam letters from Nigerians can’t be taken seriously – and then there’s the fear of the unknown added into the final loss of control. People refuse to pay for things online that they can find elsewhere for free – like news, so the traditional media (whether it uses newsprint or a TV tower) doesn’t know how to make money here.

    Neither does the record industry and bands are discovering that they may actually make more using their own viral marketing schemes. Deep down, I think the older media people are afraid they are this generation’s buggy and carriage makers guild, facing the automobile chugging up over the hill into view. The reality is that the car has already passed by the newsroom and the TV station on it’s way into the future without them.

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