Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ignoring the Customer

It's hard to believe now, but I used to enjoy reading Kathleen Parker's opinion pieces in National Review. I stopped when she turned on Sarah Palin for not being sufficiently sophisticated for the Washington champagne circuit. I stopped reading a lot of people then. Now I've come to find out that she has a thing against bloggers.
There’s something frankly creepy about the explosion we now call the blogosphere — the big-bang “electroniverse” where recently wired squatters set up new camps each day...Each time I wander into blogdom, I’m reminded of the savage children stranded on an island in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Without adult supervision, they organize themselves into rival tribes, learn to hunt and kill, and eventually become murderous barbarians in the absence of a civilizing structure.

Let me guess. The "civilizing structure" would be Kathleen. Apparently she is unaware that running naked through the forest is not only serious business, it's loads of fun. She should try it sometime. It might loosen her up a little. She continues:
Drive-by pundits, to spin off of Rush Limbaugh’s “drive-by media,” are non-journalists who have been demonizing the media for the past 20 years or so and who blame the current news crisis on bias.

There is surely room for media criticism, and a few bad actors in recent years have badly frayed public trust. And, yes, some newspapers are more liberal than their readership and do a lousy job of concealing it.

Where do I start with this? There was a time, not so long ago, when one who worked for a newspaper was called a reporter. A journalist is something different. Journalism, so I'm told, allows for perceptions and feelings. And guess what Kathleen; your feelings are of no more consequence than those of any blogger picked at random. As for "a few bad actors"; how about a whole troupe? The players in Washington may seem Shakespearean to you, but from this distance it looks like yet another high school performance of "Harvey". And who needs to pay for liberal opinion? It's in the ether. I would pay to escape it, but not to read it. She continues:
But the greater truth is that newspaper reporters, editors, and institutions are responsible for the boots-on-the-ground grub work that produces the news stories and performs the government watchdog role so crucial to a democratic republic.

Yes, about that crucial "watchdog role", where were you when the current mess was developing? How about the mess before this one? As I recall, wasn't that you in the comfy chair licking your ass? It's time you put that "boots-on-the-ground grub work" ethic to practical use and sniff out a new business model.

If the Gazette Journal folded tomorrow, Anjeanette Damon would still have a job. Why? Because she is in demand from people like me. And when it comes to Ms. Damon, there are a lot of people like me. We would search her out, find her new venue, and continue as before. As for the Washington troupe, just look for the room with the comfy chairs.

God, I love blogging.


Marion said...

Well said!

E!!-lizabeth Crum said...

There are two kinds of media elites: those who are willing to mix and mingle with the folks - whether on a website forum or in person - and who even see such mingling as a chance to "get in touch" with people outside their Circle...and those who wouldn't be caught dead in a room (or on a blog) with them: The Little People.

The critical spirit and general dismissiveness of the latter is not only unkind; it smacks of judgment and pride. Which are cardinal sins (for those of us who still believe in such things as sins).

Kathleen Parker has become a very nasty person of late, and I do hope the better journals will stop printing her soon.

The Anon Guy said...

I don't read Parker, but I will say if you look at her 2005 article, where the "Lord of the Flies" quote was cherry-picked from, you'll find some truth there. The vast majority (and by vast, I mean about 99.9%) of political bloggers don't investigate or report. They simply riff off the work done by the newspapers and other media they so often like to make light of. Most are just blathering idiots who fancy themselves a George Will with an edge, an Olbermann or, dare I say, a Parker, not a Woodward and Bernstein. They don't want to do the hard work of actually investigating something.

Commentary is easy and anyone can do it. But somebody needs to dig up the info for you to comment on.

I like Damon too. She is a pro. And one who doesn't mind a question or two once in awhile from a lowly blogger. But if the RGJ shuttered tomorrow, you're not going to see her shlepping it down to Carson every day so she could post on a Wordpress blog for a couple bucks a month in ad revenue. Reporting is a career that helps put a roof over her head, provides insurance, a retirement plan and pays her mileage for those Reno to CC trips. If the RGJ quit, she would either change careers or go someplace that still had a newspaper. But her coverage of Nevada politics would cease (well, unless she edged out Molly Ball in Vegas).

Local So-and-so said...

AG - I’m of the opinion that “reporters” don't want to do the hard work of actually investigating something, either. The stories I comment on are not generally found in newspapers. I would no sooner look to a newspaper to find economic news than I would an economist to tell me about highway accidents. Unlike newspapers, the blogoshere is filled with first person accounts and personal insights. People like Kathleen Parker offer neither.

I’ve never met Ms. Damon, but I know that talent and hustle will always be in demand. Whatever her choice, the need she fills will remain regardless of the RGJ’s future. Either she, or someone else, will fill that need. Those who reprint AP stories, or the rip and read TV shows will disappear. That is good news.

The Anon Guy said...

Most reporters I have known loved the chance to dig into a story. It was the mundane assignments of board meetings and such that were tiresome, but a big part of their job. Even your average, small-town cub reporter will run rings around a blogger 99% of the time when it comes to nailing a story.

If the RGJ and Damon dropped, who in the blogosphere would fill that hole? Virtually all the in-person coverage in Carson is by the professional media.

It costs money to report news. Whether one quotes the Economist, Sports Illustrated, Wired or USA Today it's from a source that needs to charge someone somewhere in order to pay the writer.

As for Parker, I know she pissed off conservatives last year but I don't think I would classify her as a reporter, she's just an opinionist. A political commentator who is good enough at it to make a living. And by "good enough," I mean in the professional sense that editors must like her and she has an audience.

I'm not throwing you into this group, Ron, but most of the time when I hear a political blogger carp about some MSM commentator I always get the strong feeling it's mainly because they wish they were the ones getting paid the bucks to spout off.

Local So-and-so said...

OK, fair enough. I wasn’t trying to rip the newspaper business, just one editorialist in particular. I think you’ll agree that, as far as conservative editorialists are concerned, a number of big name editorialists lost market share with their anti-Palin rants. That can’t be good for circulation. An anti-blogger stance does no better. The only way I would read Parker again is if someone else was ranting about her.

Also, this time last year I was paying $20/month for a stock market forecasting service. Even people of modest means are willing to pay for timely and useful information. It was the wisest $240 I spent last year. That might be a little steep for political news, but if the RGJ were to fold, there is a possible solution there. With the supply near zero, demand would skyrocket. Only the delivery system would change.

And last, but not least, as a one time TV cameraman I remember city council meetings all too well. I got to shoot 15 minutes worth of cover video and leave, while the poor reporter had to sit there all day. They will always have my sympathy.

The Anon Guy said...

A lot of them did burn a few bridges with their base audience. Parker was probably one of the more annoying of them. I wonder if it will affect her business long term?

Niche publications with real research I think will always find an audience. Not so sure about politics, though I think Jon Ralston is doing quite well with his $299 a year Flash.

Yeah, I remember once having to cover a little league board and a library commission meeting back-to-back. Four excruciating hours of my life I will never have back.

If you don't mind me asking, what was the pub you subscribed to?

Local So-and-so said...

I no longer subscribe. They're very good on when to buy, but not so good on when to sell. Maybe you've heard the expression; bulls climb the stairs, bears jump out the window. In between they do a good job of technical analysis. I'll probably sign up again in the future, but I don't see a turnaround anytime soon.

The Anon Guy said...

If you are looking for investment newsletters, is a good way to sample a few on the cheap to get a feel for their methods.