Blame the journalism

Paul Farhi argues that it’s not the journalists’ fault [via] that newspapers are dying. But of course this is a bit of a straw man argument. Nobody reasonable is saying that it’s journalists fault alone. Blame goes to the newspaper industry as a whole, and mostly to leadership, for not playing square with the internet.

Classified ads were such a central part of your industry? What did you do to try to update them for the internet? Do you have maps? RSS feeds? Easy search? Easy online ad buying and the ability to post photos easily? Did you have them in 2002 when the writing was on the wall?

Advertising revenue is down? Viewers spending less time on your site then they did with your print edition? Are you ad sales reps pushing online with your advertisers, and making the transition easy? More importantly, are you opening up your archives to readers and search engines? Are you bringing us innovations that build on your expertise in extracting information from bureaucracy?

The answer to these questions is still often “no.”

And the reporters get some of the blame, too. I know a reporter I know travels not just with her notepad, but with two cameras. She reports, she shoots. How prevalent is this? Exceedingly, shockingly rare. Why didn’t reporters pick up digital cameras when they became cheap and practical about five years ago and bring them when they reported? Why didn’t they push their online editors to explore alternative ways to present news and information then “take the information, write a news story”?

Too, why are guys like Ryan Sholin, who are out there with great ideas trying to help you survive and thrive on the internet, struggling just to get your attention?

I guess I’m one of the folks who’s criticized the newspapers along the way. I think a little less self-righteousness and a little more curiosity and willingness to try something new would have served journalists pretty well over the last decade. It may even not be too late.

What’s up wiht the Daily Show?

daily show news team circa 1990s

Honestly, dealing with the Bush presidency has been a lot easier then it’d otherwise be by the Daily Show. It’s been especially great for the last few months, when the shows are uploaded nightly to their Hulu page, available for convenient and legal watching the next morning, no cable required. The show has been on the air with Jon Stewart since 1998, picking up Emmys, accolades, and scads of viewers — it’s indispensable.

So why the 4-days-a-week, when-we-feel-like-it schedule? Wouldn’t the show benefit from borrowing a slightly less anchor-centric approach from the real news shows, and go on a 7-days a week rotation? It’d give some of the other folks on the show a chance to host once in awhile, which would be interesting in any case. (“John Oliver, sitting in for Jon Stewart.”) A recent New York Times profile reveals that Stewart, “functions as the show’s managing editor and says he thinks of hosting as almost an afterthought,” which is a clue. But come on, after 10 years, there have got to be other folks on staff that can do this stuff. The Daily Show is Comedy Central’s cash cow, so they sure could afford to bring on more writers, put them on 7-day rotations, and get this going. The result would be maybe a little less consistency, but I actually think that would be a cool thing.

It’s interesting that Stewart has been making occasional comments about their scheduling on the air lately. During the crash, he said something about how the show was scheduled to be off the next week, but they decided (graciously) to come in and do it anyway. When Congress was off for Rosh Hashanah, he again pointed out “We’re here — I guarantee you the Daily Show has more Jews then Congress!” Well, I say that the Daily Show has gotten big enough for them to figure out how to do it every day. They need to abandon their fears of being less then perfect without every member of some imagined indispensable core team, and give some other folks a crack.