Inky Fingers

There’s something about the smell of fresh ink. Each time I enter a bookstore, I pick a book from the shelf, riffle the pages, and bury my nose in it. Ink is the smell of hope and wonder.

You can get it delivered daily with a newspaper.

Down the alleyway from our house, past the county courthouse and jail, was the newspaper office and print shop. The publisher didn’t much care for my hanging about, but he did tolerate me enough to print a couple of book reviews. I don’t recall talking to anyone much, just standing there, inhaling the ink, and dreaming over the supplies in the front cabinet — though there was that one time when I asked for an estimate on a print run for a fanzine. I may have asked for a job once, but no help was needed. The Recorder is still there; the press is not. The offices no longer smell of ink.

I have in my library a pile of newspapers, mostly unread, collected from places I’ve been. Not quite sure how I picked up the habit, but I tend to snag the local paper when I travel. Some places offer choices: perhaps a free weekly in addition to a daily, or one from the Big City somewhat further away. Cincinnati offered the Enquirer and the Post when we were in Loveland; one set of grandparents read The Inter-Mountain, the other read the News Leader during the week, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Sunday. The Really Big City papers, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, weren’t available everywhere, only in airports and near those cities. Maybe most people don’t feel that so many papers available and news-stands virtually everywhere is the one of the more exciting things about New York, so I’ll accept that I might be little odd.

But it was a bit of a shock to find that London, England, had even more. I gathered up The Times, The Sunday Times (found out that they were different), The Independent, The Observer, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, and more! That was a fun week in 1992.

Why does London have more papers than New York? Does it have more interesting newspapermen?

I worked in a print shop for a while, one which had a four-color offset press. But the Benjamin Franklin printing office in Philadelphia screamed out ink in louder, bolder type.

 

Why I Cancelled My Newspaper Subscription

I’ve maintained a subscription to the deadtree edition of my local newspapers since I was old enough to pay my own bills. I’ve continued to subscribe even though the newspaper has grown less and less interesting, because I have found some things of value in it. But those things have steadily grown fewer and fewer, until all that is left are the comics. Oh, and newsprint does still come in handy when starting a fire.

That’s not worth the subscription price.

I’ve always read the paper for local news, not national. I don’t expect the newspaper to be broad in scope, but to focus on those things that others do not cover. It might still do this, but the news needs to be current as well as local. I have no desire to read the day after about an event that I would have attended if I had known about it the day before. I have no desire to read election results two days after the election, when the on-line edition of the same newspaper published those results the night of the election. I certainly have no desire to read last week’s baseball scores. Perhaps the newspaper is no longer printed locally and the press deadline is too early to allow printing current news. If that’s so, perhaps that was a bad decision. Perhaps one needs to abandon currency entirely and become a weekly opinion piece. Or abandon the pretense of being a news paper.

It didn’t have to be this way. But the choices y’all are making are driving your business into the ground.

Now where will my children learn to love the comics?

Why I Continue to Subscribe to the Local Newspaper

I continue to subscribe to the local newspaper for a handful of reasons.

  • general coverage of national politics
  • excellent coverage of local politics
  • high-quality investigative journalism
  • cogent and thoughtful editorials
  • amusing letters to the editor
  • yesterday’s sports scores and the current standings
  • the comics

I think I’ll cancel my subscription.

Parrots

The differences between American media and the BBC World Service in treatment of the financial situation with the automotive industry, or anything really, are just striking. I’ve been listening to WNYC on my drive to the office, so hear NPR‘s Morning Edition, followed by Marketplace Morning Report and then the BBC World Service Newshour. I noticed earlier in the year — after NPR had a short discussion with Barney Frank where they asked him no questions, and he told them no lies — that the interviews on the BBC had more of the nature of a debate. Two guests of presumed opposing viewpoints are invited to discuss the issue of the day, and the host engages with them in a somewhat antagonistic fashion. If a claim is made, he asks for support of the claim.

This tool of the British government is less like a brain-dead parrot than our ostensibly independent media. What purpose does it serve for the media to regurgitate the latest press release?

Pointless Distinctions: barriers to entry to Real Journalism

Journalists can obtain a copy of this publication via the Password-protected Web site for accredited journalists or from the OECD’s Media Relations Division (tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00).

Non-journalists can download the raw data underlying each indicator and find out how to obtain a copy of this publication here.

For further information, journalists are invited to contact Simon Chapple (tel. + 33 1 45 24 85 45) in the OECD’s Employment, Labour and Social Affairs Directorate.

Have to keep those filters in place. We certainly wouldn’t want the people to see what kind of analysis is being done without the unbiased intervention of the media.

What Benefit are Wire Services in a Well-Connected World?

As a former employee of The Associated Press, it’s been somewhat embarrassing to watch their plodding attempts to control data which has already escaped from their control. I recall some discussions with graphics and photo editors in 1996 or so about the feasibility of preventing unauthorized copying of images, while still allowing authorized copies. We were in the business of distributing the news, after all. The discussion eventually shifted to watermarking in order to identify material from the A.P.

(While you can make copies extremely expensive to produce, that itself is expensive — and thus not feasible for most. In case anyone is still wondering, not only is it not feasible to prevent copies, it’s not possible.)

The Associated Press began in the cooperation of several publishers in the task of quickly delivering news dispatches from the Mexican War:

an 1846 arrangement whereby Mexican war reports arriving at Mobile, Ala., by boat were rushed by special pony express to Montgomery, then 700 miles by U.S. mail stagecoach to the southern terminus of the telegraph near Richmond, Va. That express gave the [New York] Sun an edge of 24 hours or more on papers using the regular mail.

But Moses Yale Beach relinquished that advantage by inviting other New York publishers to join the Sun in a cooperative venture. Five papers joined in the agreement: the Sun, the Journal of Commerce, the Courier and Enquirer, the Herald and the Express.

….

Moses Yale Beach’s decision to share news with rivals was “neither altruistic nor cost-driven,” but recognized that “nothing could compete with the telegraph for speed, and all newspapers, rich or poor, would now be on a par,” historian Menahem Blondheim [author of News Over the Wires: the telegraph and the flow of public information in America, 1844-1897] said. [emphasis mine]

There are two aspects to the A.P.: gathering the news, and distributing it. The gathering of news involves the collection and analysis of data as well as the direct observation of events. For example, election returns are publicly available, but broadly distributed, disjointed, and officially slow. After the news is gathered, it is distributed. News gathering can be done by everybody, but there’s some sifting to be done to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is distributing the news that is most disrupted by the Internet.

When you can go directly to the source, what need is there for someone to bring the news to you?

The advantage of wire services has been time. The speedy delivery of information to a third-party, whether television, radio, or print, who can then bring it to you. That advantage is lost when the whole world is connected.

When you can find out now, why wait until tomorrow?

The Internet shortens time and shrinks space. And in that environment, any business that relies on the scarcity of either must find some other means to survive.

It is not that the cooperative did not recognize the threat and the promise of the Internet. Many of us there did. But like many long-lived organizations, there’s an institutional bias in favor of the status quo. How would A.P. serve its member organizations if it adapted to the changed environment?

Now it seems that the Associated Press will fill the role for newspapers that the R.I.A.A. and the M.P.A.A. have for their respective industries. I do not wish them luck.

Not Enough Time

We’ve been very busy with work over the past month, preparing for a release this past weekend, and so parts of my normal routine have slipped away, such as grooming and eating dinner with my family. One might almost think that I work for a start-up in which I have a great personal stake. Anyway, I now have a pile of newspapers on my desk. I will likely read the comics and editorials, then dispose of the rest. While I have a certain fondness for reading the news on paper, it’s become almost pointless.

What keeps the local paper relevant is local news, of which it does not have enough.