Google and the Newspaper Business

Jay Rosen has an interesting post tearing apart this argument that “Google should pay reparations for destroying the newspaper business.” I enjoy reading this sort of stuff from Jay, especially when the source material is whining from the entitled elite about how the future isn’t respecting that entitlement. Not only are the details wrong, the arguments mostly with straw men that don’t exist in the real world but the entire underlying premise is profoundly wrong. Since when does any technology owe anything to those it supplants in whatever marketplace it may touch? Since they are responsible for the compact disk, ow much does Philips owe the makers of player piano rolls, cassettes, and vinyl LPs? That’s a notion that seems odd coming from a fairly well placed academic in the journalism world, being as it is so ignorant and bassackwards.

At Orycon last year I started doing some of my interviews guerilla style, until the con staff made me get a press pass. I understand generally why they did that but I didn’t particularly like it. Having to identify as press made me unhappy. Even when I do press-like things like conduct interviews for publication in my show, I don’t consider myself such. Like the old joke goes, I’d rather tell people I’m a piano player in a whorehouse so they don’t lose respect for me.

I vaguely follow via Doc Searls the weird stuff going down at the Santa Barbara newspaper. I saw at one point a reference to the fired editors and reporters suing to get their jobs back. That is an outlook I just cannot understand. I could understand trying to round up the out of work folks and organizing on the fly a hyper-local semi-pro Santa Barbara website and selling highly targeted ads to businesses sympathetic to the cause. That sort of activity is what I love, kind of like the podcasts from the locked out CBC disk jockeys a few years ago. Rather than railing at the technology and how it affects the classic model of journalism, take what you can from it and use it as a tool for your journalism. It makes sense to me. What doesn’t make sense is to sue to be allowed to return to an organization that fucked you over already in a declining industry that is hemorrhaging money and generally using their last gaps of air to rail at the upstarts instead of swimming for safety. That’s the kind of activity that not only guarantees an ironic future but helps bring it about. Nice work.

This has been a snarky rant from a basement blogger and thus has received the Neil Henry Seal of Disapproval. I wish there was a badge I could put in my sidebar for it. I’d wear that proudly. I love it when the pompous and clueless hate what I do because it increases the odds that I’m on the right track.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father.

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