Monday, September 28, 2009

Stop the presses for thee -- not for me

So, this is how it ends.

Newsmagazines turning on newspapers with sharpened shivs. Self-important and cooler-than-thou tech bloggers turning on dowdy and plodding paper-and-ink scribblers, advocating euthanasia for Grampaw Media. Newspaper publishers turning on their readers, and The Associated Press turning on everybody with a phalanx of suits and lawyers behind it.

Wow, New York University professor Clay Shirky
was right. There is going to be chaos as print trudges down that long Extinction Highway.

THERE'S ALSO going to be ill-tempered snark, callousness and all-around "don't let your mouth overload your ass" bomb-throwing. The latter is courtesy of Newsweek (Really? That hasn't folded already?) technology editor Whatshisname.

Huh? Oh, right. Daniel Lyons. Yeah, that's the ticket:

It's hilarious to hear these folks puff themselves up with talk about being the Fourth Estate, performing some valuable public service for readers—when in fact the real customer has always been the advertiser, not the reader. That truth has been laid bare in recent years. As soon as papers got desperate for cash, they dropped their "sacred principles" as readily as a call girl sheds her clothes. Ads on the front page? Reporters assigned to write sponsored content? No problem.

Now, new companies with names like Politico and Huffington Post and The Daily Beast and Gawker are beating newspapers at their own game. The new guys are faster, and often better. They're leading, with newspapers chasing behind. If the old guys really want to retain their chokehold on the news business, they should consider buying up the new guys. Problem is, the old guys waited too long, and now they're too broke to make acquisitions. Whoops.

Sure, nobody has yet figured out how to make loads of money delivering news over the Internet. But that's partly because there are too many old newspaper companies, stumbling around like zombies: creatures from another century, clinging to their lame old business model, surviving but not thriving—and sucking up money that Internet companies could put to better use.

Instead of giving newspapers bailouts, we should be hastening their demise. The weak papers need to die. The strong newspapers need to go into bankruptcy and restructure their businesses with smaller staffs and lower cost structures. Yes, it will be painful. But journalists will find jobs — and they'll be working in a better, faster medium.
IF THERE'S ANYTHING I dislike more than puffed-up pontificators of pompous pablum (See 'ya, Mr. Safire), it's puffed-up pontificators of pompous pablum holding forth from the Emperor's New Boutique. Does this guy really think Newsweek will last as long as the metropolitan dailies he so wants "out of the way"?

No, I don't want to see a newspaper bailout -- one can't "watchdog" one's master. And, yes, I think newspapers are toast, for all the reasons Lyons cites and more.

But to wish a speedy death upon them? Advocating "hastening their demise"? All while flitting across the piles of rubble and the fields of carnage with a blithe "Yes, it will be painful. But journalists will find jobs — and they'll be working in a better, faster medium"?

That's just bulls***.

Can you say "Famous last words"?

Can you say "Arrogant, stupid and sadistic"?

BEING A COOL, hip and invulnerable newsmagazine guy, Lyons gets to write like an ass and call it analysis. Whistling past one's own graveyard means never having to say you're sorry -- or having to consider that you are calling for the hastened destruction of careers . . . and lives.

Calling for unemployment checks and dashed dreams. For bankruptcies and foreclosures. For divorces and college educations deferred.

Working for an Olympian institution such as Newsweek means never having to consider that people work at newspapers, that you want their livelihoods to disappear, or that bad, bad things happen when people's livelihoods disappear. Especially when your livelihood disappears forever, which certainly would be the case for many of today's remaining working print journalists.

But that's OK. Whatshisname -- oh, right . . . Lowry . . . I mean Lyons -- has it all figured out.

"Yes, it will be painful. But journalists will find jobs."

I guess considering the whole "Where?" and "When?" details are just sooooooo beneath the pay grade of the Newsweek technology editor. Whatever.

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