Media postsWednesday March 18, 2009
You Say You Want a Revolution
Clay Shirky has an astonishly temperate, reasoned piece on the future of newspapers in the digital age. The money quote, for me:
It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem.
He focuses on newspapers and journalism but I'm wondering how much of his argument can apply to the book-publishing industry and authors. It's my assumption that authors can survive on an iTunes model, because, in theory anyway, they're selling something unique: their voice. It's not like, "If I have to pay for the Times' story in Iraq, I'll just read the Post's, which is free." If you want to read John Grisham, there's really only one place to go.
Anyway check out Shirky. Sober reading the day after The Seattle Post-Intelligencer killed its print edition.
Read It Read It Read It
The must-read of the week, for anyone who cares about viable newspapers in either print or Web form, is David Carr's column in The New York Times today. He argues in favor of collusion among newspapers in order to save newspapers. I agree. Whole-heartedly.
Yes, eliminate free content. Yes, no more free rides to aggregators like Google. Yes, no more free rides to me. I've paid for The New York Times online in the past and I'll pay for it again in the future, if it comes to that. I hope it does. I'll pay for a good, smart, local newspaper as well, whether in print or online form, whether daily or weekly. A weekly print version, with daily online updates, also makes sense. It just has to be worth my time.
Read Carr's piece all the way through. Times are tough, times are scary, but a world without investigative journalists would be much, much scarier.
The Reductive Headlines of the Seattle P-I
The NY Times, though, is a piker compared to the Seattle P-I, which is increasingly fond of reductive "X or Y" headlines. Their latest from Saturday: BICYCLES OR WILDLIFE? Apparently you can't have both. At issue is the widening of the Burke-Gilman trail for safety reasons, from 8-10 feet to 12 feet. A last-minute argument against widening the trail is the effect this will have on salamanders and wetlands.
The headline is reductive because it's not just cyclists who use the Burke-Gilman, it's all of us. In fact, the primary battle isn't bicycles vs. wildlife, since most cyclists will continue to use the Burke-Gilman no matter what happens. The primary issue is: Safety vs. Wildlife. Or Safety vs. Salamanders. Or Safety vs. Shade. All are less divisive, and thus less jazzy, headlines.
But the P-I got the headline it wanted because cyclists are thought to be pro-environment, and yet, lookee here, when it suits their interests they don't care about the environment at all. If, in fact, that's the issue. And if the issue is looked at myopically.
Because you could say: Well, if the issue is quality-of-life, or safety, or wildlife on the Burke-Gilman, what are the alternatives to widening the path? Is there a way to relieve some of that traffic? And there is. Give bicyclists their own lane on most roadways. A lane with a concrete barrier so they feel safe. Of course that leads us back to the real debate, which is bicycles vs. automobiles. That's "vs.," by the way, not "or."
But that's if this last-minute argument against widening the trail should be taken seriously, and my gut tells me it shouldn't. It's just another argument for doing nothing, which is what Seattle is famous for.
It's Tuesday and I love Bill Moyers
Tom Toles has been the best editorial cartoonist in the U.S. for years. The cartoon below is from February 11 but I thought I'd post it today to remind the Dems, and everybody, what the stakes really are. We're on some thin ice here. That Toles can still make us laugh with this stuff is amazing: