The Unbiased Eye

A scientist's commentary on events and culture

Archive for May 2013

Our Dying Newspapers

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Anyone Need a Press Agent?

Everybody knows that the Internet is killing the newspapers, right?

Here’s an anecdote that should relieve you of this myth.

This afternoon, I read an article on the main page of the on-line Washington Post on bulletproof vests for schoolchildren, referring to the Newtown, Connecticut, shootings in December — strange enough to mention it to someone who said, “I read about this months ago … I think may have even been written the same way.”

After working in the newspaper business for about 25 years, this sort of thing is interesting. So I checked.

Below is a screen grab from the Huffington Post on Jan 4, 2013. The story was credited to the Associated Press:

Now fast-forward in time almost five months to the Washington Post:

Bill Keller, the former executive editor at the New York Times, wrote a couple years ago about news aggregators, “… too often it amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material.” He went on to call Arianna Huffington, who sold the Huffington Post to AOL for big money, the queen of the aggregators. (Bill Keller at war with Arianna Huffington)

These thieves and pirates, who also plague the movie studios, the music business, and book publishers, are depriving the high-minded owners of their intellectual property, at least that’s the argument from the producers of this property.

The argument always seemed hollow to me. What I know is that newspapers steal from each other, but before the Internet they were able to get away with it because few people in one place, say New York, knew what the papers were saying in another, be it Los Angeles, London or Paris.

The borrowing could be shameless, but little surprises me about journalism, from which I retired 15 years ago.

The irony that occurs to me as I read both versions of this bulletproof vest story is that it’s just a press release, retyped or rewritten, there’s not a shred of savvy reporting here.

The shame of it all is that the story treats the vests as something cute or clever, but it’s about a society that accepts the murder of 20 6-year-old children and 6 teachers, and I say this despite a few obligatory comments from gun-control folks in the Post article.

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Written by theunbiasedeye

May 28, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Business, Culture, Media