My plea.

First, congratulations are in order. NN.C’s BFF Deb’s husband — are you following? — was the editor of one of the Pulitzer Prize winners announced yesterday. This one. So that’s good. Also, our virtual pal Gene Weingarten won for feature writing. I’m sure today’s regular chat will be something, if he can fit his head through the door.

This, however, is bad: The Seattle Times is cutting 200 positions, 49 in the newsroom. Part of me wants to see the end of the ink-on-paper newspaper, if only because I want to stop fearing the next thing and just see what the next thing is. (The other part doesn’t want to lose 65 percent of our household income, not to mention our health insurance, followed by our house and all of our possessions.) I keep thinking that once you take ink, paper, presses, Teamsters, gasoline, trucks and all the rest of those costs out of publishing, maybe the decreased ad revenue will cover a few meager salaries for those of us who provide content. Or maybe not.

The other day I took a left turn (oh, never mind how) and happened upon a porn blog. Immediately I was served a banner ad offering to hook me up with some hot babes in Grosse Pointe. Their adware had figured out a way to access my Zip code — fine with me, and not because I want to meet hot babes in Grosse Pointe. I want the newspaper industry to continue in one form or another, and needless to say, this does not happen when I land on the Free Press or News sites. Let’s check now and see who is advertising there. A bank and the lottery on the home page. A house ad — an ad for the paper itself, one that doesn’t return revenue, in other words — on the first inside page I visit. Elsewhere, not bloody much.

If a pornographer can figure out what Zip code I want to meet hot girls in, why can’t the newspaper ad staff figure out a way to sell a similar ad to a local bakery having a sale on muffins? Why doesn’t the ad say, “36 garage sales in Grosse Pointe this weekend! Search the listings by clicking here!” Just wondering.

Bossy is a humor/domestic-life blogger. I’d call her a latter-day Erma Bombeck, but I always hated it when people compared my column to Erma Bombeck’s, so I’ll just say she’s like a far, far hipper great-grandniece thrice removed from Erma Bombeck. She writes about home and family life and trying to get a decent haircut, and she knows intuitively how to write for the web, how to use photos and strikethroughs and different colors and styles of type to enhance the story she’s telling. Go ahead and poke through her archives if you don’t believe me. At the moment she’s on a road trip, one lap of America to meet her readership. And guess what? Somehow — she hasn’t revealed how — she got a car company to sponsor her. Yes way, as Bossy would say. Saturn is loaning her four — four! different! — hybrid vehicles to make her drive in. I don’t know if she has some agreement with them to feature the vehicles in any particular way; I will say that so far (she’s on vehicle No. 3, the Sky) what she’s written about the cars hasn’t seemed intrusive or product-placement-y. has been a little product placement-y, but at least in an amusing way. So my question for you today is, if Bossy, one little non-corporate blogger somewhere around Philadelphia, can figure out a way to get a major GM brand to give her four cars to drive around the country in, in return for the exposure they’ll get in her little non-corporate blog, why can’t the professional sales staffs of the nation’s newspapers figure out a way to rework their advertising the same way? I know at least part of the answer — accepting the loan of a car for a week for a road-tripping writer would taint their holy journalistic integrity — but that’s not the whole answer. At least some of the answer is: They don’t know how. If the people running newspapers had half a clue, one would have hired Bossy by now. They wouldn’t have her coming into the building, but they would have some sort of arrangement whereby they link to her blog, feature her on their site, and figure out some mutual back-scratching financial arrangement.

And Bossy is just a humor blog. Imagine what could happen if newspapers took the time to find independent partners in the rest of the community, the ones they have trouble penetrating anyway — ethnic groups, young people, enthusiasts of this and that. What if there were big, clickable badges on related newspaper pages, and a regular monitor to tell the paper’s readers, “Bossy has a great story today; be sure to check it out.”

As some of you know, I have a part-time job that requires me to spend a great deal of time visiting newspaper websites. I’m becoming intimately acquainted with all the ways I can be served ads on a website. Many of them are annoying. Some are clever. All are necessary. Most are rare. But I want to see local papers trying them all, and then some. I can’t think of the last time I had to pass through an ad screen (like you do at Salon, and several other big sites) at a Detroit newspaper, if I ever did.

But worse than all of this, newspaper journalists show few signs of “getting” the web; that is, they don’t know how to add links to their copy, or embedded photos, or even of adapting their prose style to a itchy-click-fingered readership. That’s because they’re not writing for the web, but for their main product, the ink-on-paper version. And it shows — in the columns that go on too long because they have to fill a hole, in the turgid writing that has to stay turgid so some old lady in Warren isn’t offended, and so on.

The Online Journalism Review put a provocative headline on this piece (It’s time for the newspaper industry to die) but all Robert Niles is arguing for is the death of the old ways of thinking. The meat of the piece is a discussion of comments on individual stories, an idea the industry has only recently adopted. Niles points out what has bugged me since it started — how quickly comments sections can veer off-topic, and into rantfests dominated by two or three posters with nothing better to do. (One of the things I marvel about on my own little blog is how good our comments are from day to day, how I can leave for a day to attend a funeral and come back to discover a lively discussion has broken out in my absence, and I just want to sit down and listen for a while.) Where are the monitors, the guides, or, failing that, the Slashdot-type rating systems that shove the irrelevant and annoying posters to the back of the queue? (I’ll tell you where: Doing three other people’s jobs. You might have heard that staffing is way down.)

Well, this is now officially a trainwreck of a post. We started out talking about advertising, and now we’re back to writing, which I persist in believing will save us, at least a little bit. I apologize. But everything is happening so fast now. A decline I thought would play out over 10 years is now down to three. Roy is only the ten millionth smart person to point out the obvious

Despite all the grand claims made for the groovy blog revolution, the phenomenon is still basically parasitic. Few bloggers do primary reporting. Why should they? The doomed dinosaurs do it for them, and all the bloggers have to do is link to them, occasionally adding some variant of “I call bullshit.”

Were the Times to fold, and all the other big pubs to be drawn down into its maelstrom — a consummation devoutly wished by wingnuts everywhere — these bloggers would have nothing left to talk about except one another, and reports from large rightwing publications which would presumably, as honorary non-members of the MSM, survive.

— but it doesn’t seem to be sinking in. Every day, I read someone online saying, “I cancelled my dead-tree paper because I don’t need it anymore. I read all my news online!” Well, good for you, then. Check back in a decade and tell me how that’s working for you.


Once again, you can financially support the family of our late NN.C community member, Ashley Morris, here. If that makes you nervous, I’m sure Ash would appreciate a donation to a worthy New Orleans charity, perhaps Habitat for Humanity.

And to end on an amusing note, Improv Everywhere calls its latest stunt “Best Game Ever.” I agree; be sure to watch the video, which is tremendous. If you aren’t in tears by the time the Goodyear Blimp shows up, you aren’t human.

Posted at 9:58 am in Media |

50 responses to “My plea.”

  1. velvet goldmine said on April 8, 2008 at 10:27 am

    Oh my God, now I’m worried I’m one of the annoying and irrelevant posters getting shoved to the back of the line. I’m going to have to start checking!

    When I worked at my paper, which was one of a family of three, the sales and distribution was a constant annoyance to the reporters — and vice versa, I’m sure. But it always seemed that it was on our shoulders to write the stupid “gift guides” and merchant spotlights, rather than have the aging sales staff come up with any good ideas.

    Our own paper’s sales rep, when we saw her, was a sitcom in herself. She was literally a shopahoplic who spent more time buying crap during her sales calls than actually selling ad space. And, Nance, she actually made away with the Nancy doll I was about to send you! I had to hunt her down and threaten her to keep her from garage-saling it.

    …Uh, yeah. I’m rambling. Back of the queue for me.

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  2. nancy said on April 8, 2008 at 10:41 am

    No one puts Velvet Goldmine in a corner! — Patrick Swayze

    Stories of lazy, incompetent and otherwise FUBAR ad salespeople are as common as coffee stains in most newsrooms. But you’re misunderstanding the Slashdot comment-rating system. When people file comments, others rate each one on its quality. Those that make good points get higher ratings, the ones that say “DETRO1T SUXXXXX” get low ones. The comments load in order of quality. So it quickly sends the shit to the back of the line. Not a bad idea, if you can’t spare the manpower to moderate in person.

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  3. Danny said on April 8, 2008 at 10:44 am

    …Every day, I read someone online saying, “I cancelled my dead-tree paper because I don’t need it anymore. I read all my news online!” Well, good for you, then. Check back in a decade and tell me how that’s working for you.

    Yes. This is so obvious it surprises me that most poeple don’t get it.

    And regarding ads. Most people routinely ignore online ads, but it is probably not such a big deal, because the same can be said of print ads. So whether online or in print, the ads probably catch about the same amount of eyeballs.

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  4. Harl Delos said on April 8, 2008 at 10:45 am

    It’s called geolocation, Nancy. A number of people sell databases, and there are a couple of free ones, that map IP addresses to specific locations.

    There are problems with geolocation. If you use AOL, for instance, the IP the website sees is that of a proxy server in Virginia, not the IP of your computer. And the broadband companies keep switching IPs of their users, partly to keep you from running a server in your home. If you want to do that, you need a fixed IP, and they’ll sell it to you at a fairly high price. It’s smarter to get a server sitting right on the internet backbone.

    Nick Denton says that Pulitzers are bad for the newspaper industry. Back when newspapers had a monopoly, they could try to impress each other with the seriousness of their reporting. The respect of peers is a luxury they can’t afford any more. Jeff Jarvis says if the Pulitzers had the future of journalism at heart, they’d reward innovation.

    Newspapers have innovated – but not enough. When USA Today was founded 25 years ago, people laughed at McPaper – but they used vellum instead of pulp, used full-color printing, and let advertisers blanket the US with a single insertion order. They also made the paper easier to read – fewer jumps, for instance, and stories that weren’t too challenging, mentally.

    There was a joke going around in the 1980s, that automakers were slowly adopting Japanese manufacturing ideas; so far, they’d started serving sushi in the company cafeteria. Local newspapers responded to USA Today in a similar manner, by adding color, and removing local content.

    When newspapers have had long strikes, 7 of the 10 items readers miss most were categories of advertising. But what do they use to fill up the section with the grocery ads? Recipes. That’s stupid.

    The most important section of the newspaper is obituaries, and most newspapers have made obits smaller in the last 25 years. It’s as if they are trying to commit suicide.

    If I were trying to resuscitate the News-Sentinel, or any other afternoon newspaper, I’d be cutting back on national and international news. A newspaper simply cannot compete against CNN; the news changes completely between the time the stories are typeset and the news carrier delivers the paper to your door. And I’d eliminate virtually all the lifestyle stories. If you can’t tell whether the story was written this week or last week, it doesn’t belong in the newspaper.

    What does? Local news. Schools, especially. I’d double, or even triple, the space for high school sports, including the obscure sports. I’d double the space for obits, and increase the space for engagements and weddings by 50%. I’d actually run some stories about bowling, instead of just printing scores.

    There used to be a feature on WJR, back when they were in the “golden tower of the Fisher Building”, called “peopleworth” – stories about people worth knowing. They weren’t necessarily the leaders of finance, government and industry. They weren’t necessarily people who were making a big difference. They were simply stories about the ordinary people who were extraordinary in some way – which describes about 90% of the population, once you start looking at people. Joe ties flies. Bill is learning to fly, at the age of 73. Susan’s known for her egg noodles. Mildred coaches kids with Asperger’s Syndrome in techniques that enable them to succeed in school. Metta collects chickens in art and craft.

    I’ve seen about ten newspapers over the years that claimed on their banner or their masthead, something equivalent to “The only newspaper in the world that gives a hoot about Grosse Pointe,” but when you read the newspaper, you realize that even they barely give a hoot.

    I’m not sure that daily papers will survive – but weekly ones can, if they stop playing “that’s the way everyone has always done it”. City magazines, I notice, seem to be thriving….

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  5. moe99 said on April 8, 2008 at 10:50 am

    As a Seattle resident for 27 years, I remember how aghast I was at journalism here when I first moved from D.C. We rented our house from a Seattle Times reporter so we subscribed to the Times (they also had the better comics then–always a deal maker) over the PI. Neither paper has ever done reporting well imo. The PI was a Hearst publication (nuff said) and the Times was owned by the Blethen family, which seemed to be totally parochial. I remember one afternoon (the Times was the afternoon paper then) looking at the top headline, and it was huge, which read: BILL MUNCEY DEAD!! Who the heck was he, we grumbled. And it was not until we got to the second page of the article that we learned that he was a hydroplane driver. Ah well.

    But your point about the boots on the ground nature of print journalism vs. blogging is well taken. I think that is one site that is going beyond simply commentary and I would suspect we may see more as they figure out how to create and maintain a stable revenue stream. For now, we are in the midst of that old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

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  6. Danny said on April 8, 2008 at 10:51 am

    The comments load in order of quality. So it quickly sends the shit to the back of the line. Not a bad idea, if you can’t spare the manpower to moderate in person.

    Hmm. Up until recently you could choose how you wanted comments filtered on slashdot (e.g. highest scores first, forward or reverse chron order, etc). I guess that choice is still there, i am just not seeing it.

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  7. Dave B. said on April 8, 2008 at 11:30 am

    I’m very concerned about all the people who cancel their dead-tree papers. Circulations seem to drop around 7% a year, and the papers seem to get thinner and smaller in size. My business shreds and fiberizes about 250,000 tons annually to make cellulose insulation. The demise of the dead-tree paper will also be the demise of my business. The big question is WHEN.

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  8. Jeff Hall said on April 8, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    I have, and will continue to have as long as there are trees willing to give their life to be tattoo’d and delivered to my door, a subscription to my local daily (in this case the Raleigh News and Observer – big shout out to the N&O, yo!), but the relationship between the online world and traditional media needs to be rethought. There has to be a way to synchronize and create symbiosis between the two. As long as we all try and make it a zero-sum game, then it will backfire – we all lose.

    That said, the fact that news rooms across the US continue to slash the number of real reporters doing real journalism in the name of some perceived economic benefit we will suffer as a republic. A truly free press is the only real check on government power we have. Sorry Judy Miller.

    And the comments most people leave on most websites, up to and including this one, are completely and totally, what’s the word? Oh yeah. Dumbass.

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  9. whitebeard said on April 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    As a dead-tree journalist for the past half-century, first as a stringer and now as a free-lance columnist (with a helluva lot of challenges in between) I see some newspapers morphing from just reprinting their paper stories on the web. They offer slide shows and videos of top news stories, others will put breaking news on their websites or run updates on the web while their presses are idle. On obituaries, The Providence Journal in tiny Rhode Island, has guest books online where friends and family can comment. One obituary’s guest book has 19 pages that will be on the website for slightly more than a year and seems to be able to accept audio and photos. The New York Times broke the Governor Eliot Spitzer sex scandal story on its website as it happened and then did the followup in printed form. The news rooms of magazines and newspapers have a flock of talent that can produce both web and print content as long as the bloodletting does not get too severe. One writer told me his magazine has hired a half-dozen videographers (is that a word) to keep pace with the technology and supply video content on its website. News is news, ladies and gentlemen, and should not be abandoned to the newcomers who sit at a keyboard and monitor and copy whatever they find and present it as their own. OK, I will step down to the ground and put the soapbox back in the laundry room.

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  10. velvet goldmine said on April 8, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Nancy, thanks and a self-duh, rolled into one.

    Whitebeard, So many of the innovations you mention make sense. Make newspapers the place for professionally-written hard news, sports, and features (and, while I’m dreaming, the old-fashioned kind of “human interest” features, not the “news you can use” stuff).

    If my experience participating in brainstorming sessions about what our newspaper’s web site should look like is typical, I would assume that most papers focus overmuch on the talent of the web designers rather than in getting personable, lively editors to set the tone for the thing.

    Let the web sites be a readers’ hangout for lively forums, the obits guestbooks that you mentioned, and for additional stuff you can’t stuff into the paper. (I know as a wordy reporter and enthusiastic photographer, it always broke my heart to have to pick one just one photo and slice out the interesting marginal text.)

    Wouldn’t it be great if newspapers threw some more money at some of their more talented columnists and had them kind of hang around the web sites andintroduce/moderate forum topics, spice up the comments — that kind of thing? It seems like a little thing, but it makes such a difference if there’s a kind of den mother at a forum to set the tone and make everyone feel like part of a community.

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  11. John said on April 8, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    The Providence Journal and many other newspapers join with in publishing on-line obituaries. Legacy is one of my stops of my morning routine. Obituaries, in addition to honoring the life of deceased, almost always have the family connections that are tough to find elsewhere.

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  12. whitebeard said on April 8, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    velvet goldmine. my experience with newspaper brainstorming sessions is almost everyone, with noteworthy exceptions, seems to leave their brain back at their desk. My wife was at one brainstorming session where the better (or worst) part of an hour was spent discussing the size of the subheads on the op-ed page and one mathematical genius used a very precise ruler to announce that the subhead was 13 points, but the electronic phototypesetter only had 12 and 14 points. When my wife showed it to me, I replied that it was 12 points …. but it was out of focus … because the composing room was having mechanical adjustment problems. When there was a brainstorming session at my newspaper and we went from downstyle to upstyle, e.g. capitalizing the first letter of the first word in a headline to capitalizing the first letter of every noun and verb in the headline, there was a long heated discussion of whether to capitalize pronouns, conjunctions and other words as in “To Be or Not to Be” My outrageous suggestion (I have a loud voice even when I am not shouting) was totally upstyle in that every word in the headline should start with a capital letter just as in book and movie titles, so we could stop all this useless bickering each day about “to” or “To” every time a headline was written. My idea was accepted and is still In Force (mostly) more than a decade later, even on the website.

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  13. nancy said on April 8, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    Maybe part of the problem is, no one reads *a* newspaper anymore — they read dozens. I do, anyway. So while I mourn what’s happened to my old paper, I’ll still look at it online, and if I find a single interesting story, that’s a good day. But it doesn’t bug me as much as it would if the thing were sitting on my doorstep every evening, because I can read many more stories, even stories about FW, in the dozens of news sites and blogs I visit daily.

    The catch is, the fewer people take the paper at home, the more they cut staff, which reduces the chances I might find even one story on the website worth reading, and…

    That’s why I think maybe it’s time for the clean break from paper, or at least some sort of radical shift. Require registration to get past the homepage of the newspaper, target advertising by zip code (or geo-location; thanks for the explainer, Harl), and aggressively sell the thing to online advertisers. Have rollover-and-expand ads, Flash, whatever. But cut the costs on the production-and-delivery side, because that really is yesterday. You can argue that there will always be a market for news, but you won’t cultivate it by dropping journalists’ bodies.

    EDIT: Oh, and Whitebeard, your recollection sounds like most of the newsroom meetings I suffered through. Once we spent an hour discussing our mission statement. Yes, we had one.

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  14. Jen said on April 8, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    What do people think about newspaper websites where you have to have a subscription or pay to read it online? The newspaper I work for has that.

    Our website has video and slideshows, so I think we’re starting to understand at least some of the potential there. However, I’m the one who is always checking my stories and seeing if they need to be linked to something else.

    I think that newspapers need to get more and more local if they’re going to survive. I cringe when most of the front page of our paper is wire stories. Today, all but one story on page 1 was local, but Monday, four of five stories were wire. I’d venture to say that there were few people who didn’t already know that Charlton Heston died by Monday afternoon when the paper actually got to their doorsteps. That’s one of the main things people complain about when I say I work for the newspaper: There’s too many AP stories! People I talk to usually read the police news (arrests and wrecks), obits, engagements/weddings and divorce listings. They read the paper essentially for the local gossip, not for the national news.

    Also, it sounds like a silly thing to worry about, but some newspapers (the one I work for included) could probably stand for its comics page to be updated just a little bit. I was looking at back issues, and I don’t think our comics selection has changed at all since the 1980s, and all of the comics from the 1970s still run in our paper. If they’re trying to get younger people to read the paper, they need to have more hip comics like Get Fuzzy or Zits and less stodgy ones like The Born Loser and Blondie.

    I could go on and on (don’t get me started on film and music critics).

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  15. moe99 said on April 8, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Nancy, this is OT but worth a read from Harpers.

    It’s the tale why attorney John Yoo gets a plum position after writing the memo legalizing torture and the attorney who fought against it is in danger of being disbarred. As an attorney, I am outraged. And I wish more Bezerkely grads would live up to their backgrounds and do something about Yoo.

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  16. velvet goldmine said on April 8, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Yup, I guess most newspaper meetings are indeed the same. Maybe because there’s a correlation between alpha personalities and those who worry about font and caps? Maybe because the content people are hung over when the meetings happen and in no shape to contribute?

    One meeting I went to happened to be right after our sister paper ran a front page with photos from a fire, and so a rant started about how anal fire and police types are about letting the press on to accident scenes and fire sites. They scoffed at the claim that one little person with a camera could get in the way. Thinking about what a klutz I know myself to be, I timidly asked if the fire/cops might have a point.

    You would have thought I’d suggested that the media start running all stories by George W. Bush prior to running them. I felt like a right idjit by the time I stumbled out of that meeting.

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  17. beb said on April 8, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    So someone who has all but stopped reading the Detroit Free Press I would argue that it isn’t so much that I’ve left the Freep as the Freep has left me. Since Gannet sold the news and bought the Freep it has become thinner and more content-free.

    And the content they do include often seems ill-considerd.
    Here’s Susan Tombor about a month back touting adjustable-rate mortages as if ARMs weren’t at the heart of the current credit industry melt down. Last Sunday she was touting Reverse Mortages, which involves selling your house to a mortgage firm and living there until you’ve spent all your equity ad then its out on the street, grandma. What kind of a finace adviser constantly touts the latest scheme of flim-flam artists?

    The other business guy talks about how hard it is for business to operate in Michigan but never talks about how hard it is to be a worker in Michigan. If they want to sell newspapers they should be writing to their largest audience – workers – and not the Fords and De Vos who only see labor as an expense to beat down as frequently as possible.

    One of the things I really miss about the Freep is its former listings of important deaths from around the world. These days the world is divided into celebs whose deaths are front page news and your uncle whose announcement you have to pay to have inserted. When artist Dave Stevens, creator of The Rocketeer (made into a movie) and instigator of the second coming of Bettie page, died recently it would have been nice of the paper had mentioned it.

    I’ve read the occasional article over the years which have pointed out how pornographers have constantly been at the forefront of technology. It is said that without pornographers the VCR would not have taken off, or the internet and that the recent battle of blu-ray over HD-DVD awaited the decision of the pornos which media to support. So I’m not surprised that Porno sites have found new ways to target web surfers. I just think it’s really creepy that they can do this kind of stuff. The internet was supposed to be all about anonymous browsing and commenting but every time you turn around there’s someone trying to rob you of your anonymity.

    Can this kind of targetted browsing help newspapers? I suspect if there was more porno in newspapers there would be more readers. Maybe the brits have something with their “page 3” girls… Newspapers used to run comic strips as circulation builders and to do that (back in the 20s and 30s) they let daily strips run the width of the page, 5-6 panels long and 3-4 inches talk. You could tell a real story with that kind of space or put in some real art. Today’s strips are so small that only the crudest of cartoon exaggeration can come through, strips are gag-a-day though a few still try to throw in a week’s worth of continuity once in a while. How do you build circulation with that kind of junk?

    Where are the must-read columnists like the late, great Molly Ivens? I suspect that someone a few bubbles off balance like Jack Lessenberry would bring in more readers than he would drive off. Newspaper are just dying because people get their news elsewhere they’re not offereing anyone anything. They need to be a destination, but they’re not.

    “I cancelled my dead-tree paper because I don’t need it anymore. I read all my news online!” Well, good for you, then. Check back in a decade and tell me how that’s working for you. People who say stuff like that probably never read a newspaper to begin with. People who have read newspaper aren’t going to be a cavalier about stopping.

    “Were the Times to fold, and all the other big pubs to be drawn down into its maelstrom ….. A lot of other newspapers are doomed to extinction but the NYT, the Washington Post, WSJ, these are our national newspapers. They will survive because these are the ones people turn to to find out what’s happening. But blogging won’t disappear without newspaper to react to. A substantial portion of MediaMatters coverage is of radio and television. Crooksandliers is all about the TV. And other sites, like FireDogLake, have virtually created the concept of liveblogging. Journalism straight to your computer.

    DaveB worries My business shreds and fiberizes about 250,000 tons annually to make cellulose insulation. The demise of the dead-tree paper will also be the demise of my business.

    I suppose Dave could always consider buying raw lumber and shreding it into cellulose fiber, cut out the paper-making middleman. But considering how many advertising flyers still come with the newspaper I don’t think he has anything to worry about. He just won’t be recycling waste, he’ll be recycling a pre-owned resource.

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  18. Dexter said on April 8, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    I was a huge paper-junkie. The Fort Wayne papers were on the break table.
    I bought the Plain Dealer, The Detroit News, The Free Press, the Chicago Tribune, and the two locals from Auburn and Bryan, every day. How could I take a chance on missing Mike Ryoko or Neal Shine? (Neal has been gone a year now).
    It’s just routine, you have your favorites and you know where to find them in the paper.
    When people started using computers at home and work, and newspaper sites were readily available, much space was alloted to people who bragged they “never brought paper into the house”. It was all there online. I deeply resented that concept.
    Then, years ago, The Plain Dealer drivers stopped at Sandusky. Sunday papers made it Toledo, no further.
    I stopped buying the ChiTrib when it went to 75 cents in the vend box.
    Now I am retired and I read only online editions. It is not better.
    Newspapers indeed have to find ways to increase revenue from online advertising.
    After a year or so of TimesSelect at NYT, where we had to pay …what was it? $49 a year?—to read Friedman, Krugman, Dowd, Rich, etc., the Times ceased that and decided they could make much more than the 10 million dollars or so a year by providing the super-columnists as free online content and reaping the cash flow from the accompanying ads.

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  19. Jolene said on April 8, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    I’m one of those awful people who no longer subscribes to a daily paper and, yes, I really do feel guilty about it because I love my daily paper, the just-honored WaPo. Why? Because it’s so damn much paper! I live in an apartment, and recycling is by no means convenient. There are parts of the paper I never read, but I still have to haul them out of my place. I’d be delighted to pay for an online subscription, and I’ve said so in several online chats. But the Post has no provisions for this. Now, more than a decade into Internet-ism, it’s not clear how many people could b persuaded to pay for subscriptions, but I wish there were some way to make this happen.

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  20. irishbill said on April 8, 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Uhhh, Nancy?……..Teamsters have mortgages, too…….I’m a delivery foreman for the NYTimes who is waiting for the shoe to drop………….incidentally, the trucks use diesel fuel, which is way over 4 bucks a gallon in the NY area. The commuter RR newstands? Blind guy runs one in Port Chester; thirty years in the biz….use to sell 400 copies NYT a day………down to FIFTY now. He’s got a mortgage too………As we used to say in the USMC “Shit rolls downhill, and I’m at the bottom”……..

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  21. nancy said on April 8, 2008 at 3:49 pm

    Well, as one who has been hit by load after load of shit in the last few years, Irishbill, you’re not telling me something I don’t already know.

    And I know Teamsters have mortgages, too. My only response would be you can drive a truck with something else in it, whereas I’m unqualified to do much other than write words and tell stories.

    Those sales figures are terrifying.

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  22. velvet goldmine said on April 8, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Jolene: If only you lived near me, I’d take those papers off your hands. I roll ’em and soak ’em to make logs for the wood stove, and this time of year go through tons when making new “lasagna” gardens. (You know: the bottom layer is newspaper to kill weeds, followed by this and that, depending on your favorite recipe. It’s a little twee, but one book advises dusting the top with wood ash “like the Parmesan cheese.”)

    Obviously my creakly little newspaper job didn’t exactly have great benefits, but I consider it my pension that I can drop buy the former office whenever I want and pick up vast amounts of those never-got-sold papers for the garden.

    God, I’m on tangents today. It’s because I’m avoiding a deadline. I’ll talk about anything. Meetings, weed killer, you name it. Household income? How many times a week? All you have to do is ask.

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  23. Harl Delos said on April 8, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    one mathematical genius used a very precise ruler to announce that the subhead was 13 points, but the electronic phototypesetter only had 12 and 14 points. When my wife showed it to me, I replied that it was 12 points …. but it was out of focus

    That mathematical genius doesn’t understand typography, because you can’t determine the size of cold type from a single line. If you measure from baseline to baseline, you can tell the type size assuming that there’s no ledding. The important thing to know is that type size is NOT the size of the type, but the size of the metal it’s cast upon.

    In any case, electronic phototypesetters are all screwed up. They start off with the assumption that there are 72 points to the inch, which is NOT true. Take a look at any line gage. The 10 inch mark doesn’t amount to 720 points, it’s between 724 and 725.

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  24. Jeff Hall said on April 8, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Some great discussion here.

    As a consumer of journalism, and not a practitioner of it, I only have one thing to say.

    Don’t you think that the fact that you ALL get so wrapped around the axle about this shit is part of the problem?

    We (the public) all want to be informed. And we want you to take shots at the people in power.

    But we (most of us anyway) really don’t care whether you do it online, in the paper, or on the TV.

    We just want you to do it.

    Content trumps delivery mode EVERY time…

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  25. Harl Delos said on April 8, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    What do people think about newspaper websites where you have to have a subscription or pay to read it online? The newspaper I work for has that.

    The Wall Street Journal used to make money using that model, and Janes did, too. Janes publishes “All the World’s Armies”, “All the World’s Navies”, etc. I don’t think there are ANY other newspapers that have succeeded using that model.

    Except that I have questions about the WSJ. About a year ago, they started letting people see the page they clicked on, if they clicked on a link at Digg or Google. Then some wiseacre created a plug-in for Firefox that lets you visit ALL pages at WSJ freely.

    The reason I think newspapers can’t make money that way is that radio stations and television stations are openly welcoming users to their sites for free. What’s more, I find the news is better from, the Lancaster NBC station, than at, the Lancaster newspapers site. There’s a lot more video, for one thing, and they update the site all the time, instead of once a day.

    In 1960, 25% of a newspaper’s revenue came from readers. By 1975, it was down to 15%. I got an ad yesterday from Lancaster Newspapers, offering me the Sunday News and the Saturday Intelligencer-Journal for $13 per quarter – $1 per week. At that rate, they can’t even cover the cost of the ink and pulp, the trucking, and the money that goes to the carrier.

    I also got a coupon on the back of my register tape at the grocery yesterday, offering me 8 weeks of the Wall Street Journal for free. But why would I bother? It’s a morning newspaper – but Monday’s newspaper arrives in the Tuesday afternoon mail. Who wants to read the “olds”?

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  26. Jolene said on April 8, 2008 at 5:09 pm

    Content trumps delivery mode EVERY time

    I agree and, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why the cable news situation don’t use some of their resources to do some actual reporting. Reporting is expensive, I know, but I can’t believe there aren’t capable people who’d be willing to do it for salaries well below what the newsbabes on Fox and MSNBC get.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 8, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    History note: Newspapers in this country, at least, began as subscription monthlies, then weeklies. Broadsheets, gazettes, then recognizable (tho’ very different) newspapers.

    Free became a common model alongside of subscription in the 19th century, in large urban areas for general readers, with targeted audiences subscribing (sheep raisers, abolitionists, political parties).

    Subscription became the norm as the daily came to the fore post Civil War, with Sunday papers an entirely different creature and often business (see Sunday Times of London in this era). 1920s were the beginning of a six/seven day a week newspaper with a price plus ads, and as has been hashed over in these columns, usually with multiple players per market, segmented between morning papers and evening papers.

    This can be disputed, but journalism didn’t become a profession (a craft with a set of internally enforced ethics for practice) until the yellow journalism era of Hearst, Pull-it-sir, et alia forced a reaction from others like the Peabodys and Binghams, around 1900. The profession of journalism is built on a business model with less than a century of practices behind it, which compared to medicine and law is fairly slender. Medicine and especially pharmacy are professional fields which are going through major upheavals with new modalities of getting paid/making a profit.

    So writing will continue to be a craft, and journalism will be practiced, but the way we find jobs and/or get paid is going to shift. There’s almost certainly going to be some print papers around through our lifetimes and a number of people working there, but i’d rather be a skilled, consistent writer than a talented ad sales rep in whatever’s coming next — to be a hack under either category is going to be fatal regardless. Some talented writers will lose jobs, but there’s gonna be opportunites of some sort — ad goobers will be utterly without oxygen.

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  28. Jeff (the impolite one) said on April 8, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    Jeff the nice and I agree. I will spare you the history lesson, but the pint is the same – good writing and reporting will always find a voice.

    So calm down.

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  29. sue said on April 8, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    I loved that video.
    I read three blogs every day: Nancy, Puntabulous and Austenblog. Puntabulous recently put in a donate button. I “subscribed” right away. If Austenblog and Nancy did the same thing, I’d sign on also. It’s time to understand that there are thrown-together personal blogs and there are cream-rises-to-the-top personal blogs, well-written and obviously time-and-thought-consuming to put together. Not that I’m looking for PBS-style membership drives, but really, quality should be appreciated and rewarded. Time to stop thinking of blogs as poor relations to “real” journalistic endeavors. You should know that better than anyone, Miss Plagiarism-finder. How about everyone is welcome to read but only subscribers can comment? Take it pro, Nancy.
    And speaking of top-notch blogs, will Bossy be visiting you? I can’t make either the Chicago or the Madison get-together, but I’m following the trip.

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  30. nancy said on April 8, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Good writing will always find an outlet, but like I said before: Health insurance. It might not always come with that.

    Sue, Bossy is coming to Detroit — at least in part to meet with her corporate sponsor — and I’ll be joining the gathering, but she won’t be staying here at Chez NN.C. Somebody out in Plymouth is hosting her. But I’ll be there.

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  31. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 8, 2008 at 7:35 pm

    Health insurance — we gotta go single payer for basic care, which is already true for 60% of the country (Medicare, Medicaid, VA, walk-in uninsured to ERs). We’re just fighting over what the other 40% of us are gonna get, and from whom.

    I think we’ve reached a point where the competitiveness and entrepreneurial values of the nation are best served by ending employer-based health care insurance. Maybe if R’s like me can keep saying that, the national compromise can be that Dems quit posturing without sincerity about free trade and globalization, and in return Rs will shut up about the free frickin’ market in removing your appendix or cancerous tumors.

    Then we’ll figure out how to carve out protections for Mexican farmers and convert the energy grid to solar/wind/geotherm inputs, and save ANWR for a really rainy day rather than trying to raid the piggy bank for another markdown at Best Buy.

    (The GOPolice are at the door already for my membership card. Darn it, they really do read everything. Thought i was safe being honest here . . .)

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  32. Jeff Hall said on April 8, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    What are we looking for? Journalistic integrity or health insurance? If it is the latter, you will be co-opted by those who control the purse strings.

    If what you are really looking for is health insurance, then get a job with Burson-Marsteller. Seriously.

    The point that the majority of the American public stopped caring about journalism is the exact moment when they started to care more about what was on their W-2 than what was in the paper.

    Passionate, caring people will always find an audience. That is why blogs are successful while traditional papers struggle.

    Blogs connect. Reporters care about health insurance.

    C’mon. What happened to giving the finger to authority? And vetting every source? And telling the truth to power?

    Glass. Blair. Miller.

    Journalism is hoisted on its own patard. Come down off the mountain and connect with your audience. Tell the frickin’ truth. Then maybe, just maybe, we will give a damn. Don’t assume we are stupid, or figure we don’t give a shit. We care. And we are smarter than you think.

    You decry corporate owners who slash newsrooms to save money and at the same time ask for health insurance.

    And you wonder why we all don’t give a damn.


    Is it that hard to figure out?

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  33. nancy said on April 8, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    When you have a kid and a 50-year-old body, yes, health insurance matters. I ain’t apologizing.

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  34. Jeff Hall said on April 8, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    I have 4 kids, including one with special needs, and I tossed a 12 year military career for the sake of them.

    I love you and your work Nancy.

    But a compromise is a compromise.

    No matter how small.

    Ask Horton.

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  35. sue said on April 8, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    It’s important to remember that health insurance was in many cases originally given to employees because it was a cheap benefit. It’s not anymore, and there are no easy solutions, especially with all us “50 year old bodies” heading full-steam into old age. The question isn’t going to be “who gets it?” but “how is it going to be rationed?” It’s not going to be pretty in any case. And I hatehatehate the “how dare you ask for health insurance, your job isn’t important enough to warrant it, don’t you know these are hard times?” attitude that I see way too often. I guess if we can accept that the US government employs people to find ways of turning down health claims for soldiers who fought in Iraq, then not having any patience with someone who considers health insurance an important part of basic living in the US shouldn’t be that big of a surprise.
    Nancy, you’ll come through this. Cream rises. I’m still surprised that you weren’t approached by anyone after your recent scoop.

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  36. Harl Delos said on April 8, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    When you have a kid and a 50-year-old body, yes, health insurance matters. I ain’t apologizing.

    Even if you don’t, it matters.

    When people talk about being gay as a “chosen lifestyle”, I think of Mark Twain’s comment on being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. If not fer the honor of the thing, he said, he’s have druther walked.

    Similarly, when I hear a kid say “I’m thinking about becoming a writer”, I tell him not to. Nobody sensible chooses to be a writer; being a writer chooses them. That’s not ink on the paper; it’s the writer’s blood, squeezed out under great pressure. Many writers are bipolar, and the rest must be feeble-minded; the average pay of a freelance writer is less than $10,000 a year, and while a lot of people call themselves freelance writers because they think it sounds classier than being unemployed, freelance writers generally would be well-advised to practice saying “Yew wunt fries wit dat?” because the pay is both higher and more steady. And it’s not a statistical fluke that a lot of writers die the way Papa Hemmingway did.

    But then, that’s a pre-existing condition, isn’t it? The other day, Elizabeth Edwards was on TV, pointing out that neither her cancer nor John McCain’s cancer would be covered by the health plan McCain is proposing, for exactly that reason. Each of them were able to get treatment because they married people who were multimillionaires.

    Everybody seems to think he has a great american novel in him, including people who have trouble composing a shopping list. People get paid well if they do things that other people cannot do, either for reason of talent (such a Tiger Woods) or special training (a cardiologist), or things they don’t want to do (work in a hot, noisy steel foundry, erect the framework of skyscrapers, underwater demolition team members.) Writing looks like something everyone can do, while seated in a comfortable chair in an air conditioned office. It’s never going to be well-paid work, except for superstars like Stephen King, John Grisham, and Deepak Chopra.

    Which is why we need universal health care. As a start, they could figure out how much it costs, per person, for Medicare A, B, and D, and allow everyone to buy in at cost. Then a few years down the road, they can take the next step, and require everyone who isn’t covered by a better plan to buy in.

    That plan has the advantage of simplicity. Everybody understands it. Obviously, it’d have no chance of passing; the lobbyists like complicated languages that let the people who find loopholes get rich.

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  37. Jeff Hall said on April 8, 2008 at 10:15 pm

    Do you hear that? Here comes the “waa”mbulance. You don’t like being a writer Harl? Go to law school. Like, umm, Elizabeth Edwards.

    Universal health care is a noble, and virtuous thing. But anyone who has navigated a large HMO or government health system (like Tricare for the military) will tell you that it doesn’t always work out like you think.

    There are delays, inefficiency, missed appointments, not enough doctors, etc., etc., etc. I spent over a decade in the Army. I would wait 6-9 months for a pediatric psychiatry appointment for my autistic son.


    Have you been to a doctor? Like, ever?

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  38. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 8, 2008 at 10:23 pm

    Hey, i broke the average last year! (Who’s doing their taxes tonight . . .) Just crept past $10K. Glad i married an academic, fer sure. TIAA/CREF rawks.

    Ashley, your muffaletta tribute also mixes nicely into a pasta salad that my nine year old will eat — thank you, blithe spirit!

    (If you do freelance writing that makes the average and get away with it by being married to an academic, you’d better do the cooking, shopping, too.)

    Jeff H., we’re mostly there on the universal health insurance. It’s just about negotiating the details, ‘cuz it’s working for seniors and the disabled and the astuter poor pretty well. Meanwhile, our HMO is as inefficient as it needs to be to discourage me from unnecessarily staying healthy. When i was a kid in the unfettered ’60’s, as oldest of four, i remember many, many hours waiting in a doctor’s office memorizing back issues of “Highlights.” We never subscribed, because, as i mentioned, there were three other littler ones. No need — my Goofus and Gallant fix was regularly serviced.

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  39. whitebeard said on April 8, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Harl, despite your assertion that ‘That mathematical genius doesn’t understand typography, because you can’t determine the size of cold type from a single line.” the whole point of the anecdote was that the mathematical genius did not understand that the type was out of focus, which is pretty hard to do with hot metal but was easy to do with phototypesetting in its earliest stages.
    Another related anecdote was that my wife was the only person in the newspaper working with cold type at first as a test subject and another genius (well, not quite, obviously) decided that she had to know when the phototypsetting machine was off line so he installed an electric horn in her room that blared enough to wake the dead. even the braindead.
    Funny thing, if one opened the horn’s innards and inserted a broken popsicle stick, less popsicle of course, as i did, from then on it only made a very meek buzz.
    As a retiree, I was offered a free online newspaper subscription this year so they would not have to pay a driver to drop off my free daily dead-tree newspaper on a rural route.
    So, I totally agree with you, Harl, on being against charging for an online newspaper or a newspaper website.
    Funny thing, I keep on getting mail now asking me to reconsider subscribing to the printed newspaper, which I got free for a quarter century. (Left hand not knoweth what right hand doeth, I guesseth)

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  40. whitebeard said on April 9, 2008 at 12:09 am

    Now, one more rant, I am a Canadian and was on the city desk in Montreal when the doctors were on strike against universal health care, but then went back to work because the Canadian insurance lobbyists could hold their annual meeting in a telephone and were not very effective. Yes, income taxes are higher in Canada, partly to pay for universal health care. But with my first major operation, to reattach my left retina, maybe $20,000 or $30,000 a quarter century ago, which did not include two weeks in hospital flat on my back with heavy sacks to keep my head straight and hand-fed by my wife and newspaper friends, I was forced to pay $5.69 for a bottle of eyedrops to keep my pupil dilated. No doctor bills, no hospital bills, no effing insurance companies saying they would pay only 80 percent, no being kicked out of the hospital after four days by an effing pencil pusher, no slimy collection types asking when I can pay the money I owed the hospital. No, it did not cover prescriptions e.g. the eyedrops; no, it did not cover nose jobs or other cosmetic surgery. My mother in Canada fell and broke her hip in her 80s and the local hip surgeon was on vacation. She was flown (her very first plane trip) to a city a few hundred miles away where the hip surgeon was not on vacation and she had the hip operation. Her cost: Nil, Zero, Nada. As long as the U.S. has killer pharmaceutical companies who peddle drugs they know are not effective, greedy insurance companies who make big bucks saying no to needed medical treatment and hospitals who turn away those in need who do not have a fat-enough wallet, the average American worker is screwed until he or she retires and is old enough for Medicare (and can afford expensive supplemental health insurance). OK, I will put the soapbox away again.

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  41. nancy said on April 9, 2008 at 12:16 am

    The debate over single-payer health care is too complicated to have in a blog comments section, but whenever I hear a story like that, I wonder why you never hear Europeans and Canadians saying, “You know, our system has a lot of problems. You know what could fix it? If we adopted the Americans’ way!” It just doesn’t happen.

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  42. EJ said on April 9, 2008 at 1:12 am

    At most papers, subscription revenue barely covers the cost of printing and distribution – so cancelled subscriptions (assuming those former subscribers are now reading the paper online), are at best a very small part of the problem.

    It’s really only in the last few years that big advertisers have begun to “get” the internet, and as a result online ad rates, at least on premium properties, are beginning to creep up. But online is still an absurd bargain for advertisers, and it puts a real squeeze on newspapers as they have to settle for reduced online ad revenue as their print revenue declines along with circulation.

    A bigger problem is that the papers missed the boat on online classified ads. All the private party advertising went to ebay, and employment, which used to be a gigantic cash cow, went to Monster, Dice, etc. I used to work in advertiser marketing in a big city daily, and I remember our sense of disbelief as we watched the brass dither around while this business that they could have completely owned crept away.

    I don’t know what’s to be done about this. That revenue is gone, and it’s not coming back, even if online display rates reach parity with print.

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  43. Dexter said on April 9, 2008 at 1:26 am

    So it’s established we all love newspapers. Here’s one I glance at to keep up with news from a place I lived for a year. Anybody read one regularly that is farther away?

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  44. Harl Delos said on April 9, 2008 at 2:24 am

    You don’t like being a writer Harl? Go to law school. Like, umm, Elizabeth Edwards.

    I didn’t choose to be a writer; it chose me.

    Among the nice things about being a writer is that “equal protection of the laws” clause in the Bill of Rights. If someone steals a 25c loaf of bread from Scott’s Discount Foods, they could go to jail for months. When Scott’s Discount Foods stole a $300 piece of writing from me, told me they decided against using it, and then six months later, I discovered that they’d printed it anyway, I found that the federal prosecutor couldn’t be bothered to enforce criminal violation of the copyright code. She said I had other remedies available to me, such as paying an IP lawyer $10,000 to take it to federal court – no small claims court actions allowed! – and then wait up to ten years to wend my way through the courts. Here’s a quick math problem for you: what’s $10,000 at 6% interest for 10 years? Yes, it would cost $6,000 in foregone interest to collect that $300. Unless my lawyer was to screw up, in which case, it would cost me $10,000 plus $6,000 in foregone interest to NOT collect that $300.

    Universal health care is a noble, and virtuous thing. But anyone who has navigated a large HMO or government health system (like Tricare for the military) will tell you that it doesn’t always work out like you think.

    There are delays, inefficiency, missed appointments, not enough doctors, etc., etc., etc. I spent over a decade in the Army. I would wait 6-9 months for a pediatric psychiatry appointment for my autistic son.

    You don’t seem to understand triage.

    Napoleon’s medics realized that some soldiers were going to die, no matter how much effort they put into saving them. Some soldiers were going to recover anyway, and doctors couldn’t speed that up, or make the recovery more complete, no matter how much effort they invested in the soldier.

    But there were some soldiers, where prompt medical attention would mean the difference between life and death. They get priority treatment.

    You know what causes autism? If so, you’re the only person in the world who does. There are a lot of theories floating around, none of them proven. You know how to cure autism? If so, you’re the only person in the world who does. My wife is a TSS, currently working with kids in the autism spectrum disorder. You can give them tools for coping with their problem, but that’s the work of a therapist. Psychiatrists don’t do that; they write prescriptions, and there’s no medication that’s worth a darn for autism.

    So when it comes to scheduling appointments, your case would be pretty low priority.

    Now, consider something that’s fixable. Your back has gone out, and you can hardly stand upright. Call up ten doctors, tell five of them that you have pretty good insurance, being a postal carrier, and tell the other five that you’re self-employed and have no insurance at all. You think having no insurance at all will get you an appointment sooner?

    Simplicity? Have you been to a doctor? Like, ever?

    I’ve been hospitalized 14 times in my life, and my first wife spent 16 years dying of SLE. Yeah, I’m familiar with the drill.

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  45. alex said on April 9, 2008 at 7:40 am

    I’m not looking back wishing to relive my days as a freelance writer. You can actually make a very good living at it, provided you find a regular gig churning out absolute crap like retail ad copy. I used to pull down forty bucks an hour for that and it’s been a few years ago. Catalogs of gingham hens, or lawn furniture, or power tools. Ad circulars with Swiffers and Rubbermaid garbage cans and the like, or the occasional high-end piece full of pumps, purses and perfume. It helped support my writing habit — the one that earned me cents per word in newsprint.

    Alas, it eventually wasn’t enough to pay for decent health insurance. Now I’m in an HSA through my employer. $3K deductible per year for all treatment and prescriptions before the insurance kicks in, but then it pays 100 percent of everything, which ain’t a bad deal if you’re anticipating the eventual $100K heart attack. Kind of like traditional insurance plans were, it was explained to me, before people began running to the ER for every pimple and tummy ache and demanding to try every prescription drug advertised on television.

    In my current occupation (which involves writing of the dryest sort), I work on behalf of the insurance industry in “loss prevention,” which is to say litigation. When you see the sheer magnitude of fraud and misrepresentation in insurance claims, you begin to understand why it costs so damn much and why carriers treat each and every claim with suspicion. They’re still money-grubbing fuckmooks, though, and so’s big pharma and the hospitals.

    I may be biting the big teat in the sky that feeds me, but I’m not afraid to say the system needs a major overhaul. So does consumer credit. I hope Congress will find the political will to work on these, the two biggest problems facing the American middle class. You know, besides homosexuality and flag burning.

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  46. nancy said on April 9, 2008 at 8:19 am

    EJ, excellent point. We tend to forget about classified, when it’s the biggest cash cow in the building.

    And this just kills me, because with Craigslist and Monster, I’m interacting with classies more than ever. I search “grosse pointe” and whatever else strikes my fancy on Craigslist every day. I have RSS feeds set up to find interesting job openings with my keywords. When I think I could be doing this through a former newspaper, I want to cry.

    And you know what? Many of them STILL DON’T GET IT. By now, “Craigslist” should be part of every journalist’s baseline vocabulary, and I still run into people I have to explain it to. Or they go to the site and, seeing the plain-vanilla interface, think it’s some kind of amateur operation. It’s like they’re not paying attention. (The weekend of the Goeglein affair, I rewarded myself with a $300 Tiffany necklace that I picked up for $75 on CL. And yes, it’s authentic.)

    Alex, the woman who tracks health-care spending at GM — one of them, anyway — said she can tell which drug is being heavily advertised simply by watching their cash flow. When I was a J-fellow, the people from overseas were simply flabbergasted by direct-to-consumer advertising; one of the Turks cracked us up in a seminar, badgering some guy from Pfizer. “And then there is a man on the beach running with his golden retriever, and the announcer is saying, ‘Ask your doctor if this is right for you.'” All in his Turkish accent. It was hilarious.

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  47. John said on April 9, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Our Attorney General is about to go after Craigslist for the adult service advertising. The service providers are not very subtle in their offerings.

    I love my local newspaper, The (New London) Day, and have subscribed to it since we moved here 20 years ago. I don’t read the national AP stories in it anymore since I have already read them on line, but the local and state news is still fresh. My favorite section is the Opinion Page which never fails to entertain with its outrageous letters.

    Off subject, but is anyone else totally icked out by the “Big Love” raid in Texas?

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  48. Sue said on April 9, 2008 at 9:04 am

    From Bioethics International: “Canada’s ban on direct-to-consumer drug advertising probably saved Canadians with high cholesterol and their drug plans $150 million in 2006 alone, suggests a new study comparing sales patterns of a controversial cholesterol lowering drug in the United States and Canada.Canadian sales of the drug Ezetrol – the generic name is ezetimibe – were four times lower than those rung up south of the border, where the drugs’ manufacturers spent US$200 million advertising the drug to consumers in 2007.”
    Also re classified ads: Our weekly paper, which is affiliated with a daily in a nearby town, is barely hanging on and classifieds keep it going. However, there is no flexibility for its major user, the municipality. They have their deadlines, which they keep shortening because their stuff has to go over to the mothership in the other town. Problem is, if you email something in plenty of time (I always email at least three days before) but the person in charge takes a few days off, no one checks her email and you’ve missed the deadline! So working within their system gets you screwed either way. If the City decided to make some other paper its “official newspaper”, our local would go out of business and we would look really bad. So we put up with it and try to explain to various entities why their projects, bids, appeals etc. have to wait until another meeting cycle.

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  49. Jen said on April 9, 2008 at 9:18 am

    I’m always shocked when I talk about some new internet phenom in the newsroom and people don’t know about it! My editor is pretty good at keeping up on what’s new and hip – he has three sons in their 20s-early 30s who I think help him keep up on what’s going on – but the rest of the reporters often have no clue what we’re talking about and have no idea how to utilize the internet. I am shocked at how many times some of them walk around and ask for a phone number, address or some other fact that it takes me about 4 seconds to find by typing it in to Google. I’m no Internet ace, but some newspaper reporters I know don’t even have a working knowledge of the Internet, much less enough to be able to utilize it to its potential. They’re the ones who are going to be SOL as the internet takes over, or at least becomes a more important force in the news biz.

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  50. Elaine said on April 10, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    You are so right, Nancy. I’m one of those old newspaper dinosaurs who got tired of the old ways and decided to reinvent myself. I just wish I had Bossy’s skills (or yours for that matter). It would make my effort to secure advertising a little easier, no doubt.
    This post should be required reading in every paper in the land, and every J school, too.

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