When I hear people talk about the slow death of the newspaper industry, I point out that it’s more akin to an assisted suicide. Of course there are many outside factors dealing blows to the business, but the industry’s knack for making self-destructive, short-sighted business decisions made those blows all the more wounding. The journo snobbery about the Internet is a case in point.
For decades, the twin monsters bedeviling the newspaper business have been production costs (printing plants ain’t cheap) and distribution (maintaining fleets of trucks and drivers to get the papers out to the public). So along comes the Internet, which at a stroke eliminates both problems, and the response of newspaper executives is to treat Web sites as garbage dumps, and then to whine about those nasty bloggers linking to their stories without paying. David Simon’s line about bloggers being the parasites that destroy their hosts is one of the dumbest things ever said by a demonstrably smart person.
So Michael Massing’s piece about how some adventurous journos are turning the Web to their own purposes is a refreshing tonic. He also provides a list of pioneering sites like Talking Points Memo that have exploited the possibilities of the Intertubes to advance journalism. For anyone who still needs convincing, this article might just do the trick.