Saturday, April 01, 2006

Newspapers, Blogs, and the Internet

Don’t get me wrong: I think newspapers are sacred things. Growing up in Arabia, I didn’t have access to as much information as I wanted. The most current paper I saw was the Rome Daily American that would arrive 3 or 4 editions at a time. Every workday my Dad would walk home for lunch – it was a small town – and bring a single white sheet of paper with the days latest news on it. That was the key. Then on weekends – which were Thursday and Friday over there – we’d hear a thud outside the house, which meant the teletype roll had arrived. It was around 15-feet long and we got it because my father was in government relations. This had tons of news, but rolling it back up just right so we could pass it on to the neighbor, was a big hassle.
Because of this information deprivation in my earlier years, I consider the process of going out in the morning and scoring a newspaper to be a treat, and I’ll always do it - unless they stop printing them. And let’s face it, that could happen. These computer monitors could someday be as big as plasma TVs, with actual pages set out like papers used to be. They could even add some familiar newspaper rustling sounds when you clicked to the next page. As an efficiency thing, it probably should happen, but the Day the Newspapers Died, will be a horrible morning in my life.
The only thing holding back this transformation is the pay structure. I foresee a flat rate that gives you 30 or 40 newspapers much as cable channels. Right now the stuff is free, and while that is a golden era for consumers, it is at the expense of thousands and thousands of newspaper jobs.
It’s an exciting time in media. Professional news people often criticize the blogs, but the “Be the Media” movement is roaring. Just look at yesterday: Around a third of Thomas Friedman’s column was a quote from a blogger in Bagdhad that Friedman had found on somebody else’s website.
His stuff is often in the Oregonian a day after it runs in the New York Times. This column appeared here in print this morning, but I had already read it this past Thursday night on the computer, from the paid New York Times service. So in effect, I bought the same thing twice, although to be fair, the Oregonian adds a new headline. Meanwhile the blog Friedman reprints was probably available around the world 3 or 4 days before that.
How about the other papers in town? Phil Stanford quotes from the Blue Oregon website in yesterday’s Trib. Randy Leonard had posted a long piece there responding to an Oregonian article. I believe I read that one last Monday. The Willamette Week had an article called “Blog Blasphemy” about a couple’s web postings that led to trouble in Pakistan. In addition their “Meth Watch” coverage reprinted some of the comments they got on their website. Blogs and their comments are everywhere. Newspapers are starting to rely on them. They are increasingly used as source material.
The whole dynamic of media is changing. The Portland Freelancer was mentioned in the Willamette Week just a few weeks after I started it up. The action is on the computer – no question about it. Something happened here that actually made me kind of sad. Twice now I found a copy of the local paper on the dining room table the day after it was printed. I had gone out and bought it, and brought it home as always. I just hadn’t read it.


At 10:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even fresh news in print can feel a day old, and then you feel like confirming the date.

At 10:53 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

The worse is the celebrity news in the Oregonian. I have seen stories come out on the Internet in real time, gone through two or three days of clarification as to what really happened, etc...before being discarded as not true. They are completely resolved and forgotten, only to pop up days later in the Oregonian as if they had just happened. Ridiculous.
Newspapers are now more for the opinion pieces and to review. Of the factual stuff, much of what's in a newspaper is no longer news. That's a problem. Hell, the TV network news shows feel dated now, so by the next day, you're talking ancient history.


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