Metaphors: maggot-infested meat, everything but the kitchen sink

Steak and maggots
Gene Weingarten’s Gene Weingarten column mentions Lady Gaga.

Call me a grumpy old codger, but I liked the old way better. For one thing, I used to have at least a rudimentary idea of how a newspaper got produced: On deadline, drunks with cigars wrote stories that were edited by constipated but knowledgeable people, then printed on paper by enormous machines operated by people with stupid hats and dirty faces.

Everything is different today, and it’s much more confusing. For one thing, there are no real deadlines anymore, because stories are constantly being updated for the Web. All stories are due now, and most of the constipated people are gone, replaced by multiplatform idea triage specialists. In this hectic environment, mistakes are more likely to be made, meaning that a story might identify Uzbekistan as “a subspecies of goat.”

Fortunately, this new system enjoys the services of tens of thousands of fact-checking “citizen journalists” who write “comments.” They will read the Uzbekistan story and instantly alert everyone that BARACK OBAMA IS A LIEING PIECE OF CRAP.

I basically like “comments,” though they can seem a little jarring: spit-flecked rants that are appended to a product that at least tries for a measure of objectivity and dignity. It’s as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots.

It’s like everything but the kitchen sink
Steve Buttry’s Academics measure new media (again) by old-media yardstick

To measure what citizen journalism is doing in the Washington area, you need to study dozens, if not hundreds, of sites and blogs. Especially if you’re studying whether citizens could “replace” old media, you need to look at the full citizen effort. The cliché of bad comparisons is that you’re comparing apples to oranges. This is more like comparing an apple to a grape. A grape will never replace an apple. But a bunch of grapes might provide similar or more nutrition, even if one makes a better pie and the other better wine. These researchers didn’t study the full bunch of grapes that exists in every metro area.

These studies miss the point as badly as if you were to study whether NASCAR will replace horse racing. One kind or racing is declining and another is rising, but no one is replacing anyone here. The media revolution we are experiencing and witnessing isn’t like trying to replace an old quarterback by sending in a younger one (a story most traditional media would give more coverage than your average watchdog story).

Admission: On rereading, I notice that I have gone on a metaphor spree here: auto and horse racing, quarterbacks, fruit, watchdogs, a yardstick. Each of them makes the point I wanted to make, though, and I decided to poke fun at this weakness in my writing because I don’t have time to fix it today. I’ll just point you to the news-business metaphor collection Nick Bergus is compiling (at my suggestion, ironically enough). It’s so much easier to recognize my weaknesses in the writing of others.

If the kids just understood how the world used to work, life would be better

Earlier this month, the Corridor Business Journal reported that Iowa City was all but video store-less. Mr. Movies and others have closed, and That’s Rentertainment, a local independent shop, was soon to follow suit, leaving us with a just single Blockbuster. This is gets back to the news business, just stick with me.

That’s Rentertainment has clearly seen better days. When I was a kid — when you had to physically schlep to a store if you didn’t want to settle for the TV edit of National Lampoon’s Vacation — That’s Rentertainment had at least three locations and seemed to be doing well. Now, it has receded into a $250-a-month piece of the Hall Mall, an off-the-beaten-track home to tattoo parlors and head shops. (The Hall Mall has gone downhill since my childhood, too).

Netflix, Redbox, iTunes, Hulu and other online-stream services have got to be just killing That’s Rentertainment’s business. It’s more convenient to have movies show up in the mail and to browse the selection online. And cheaper two; That’s Rentertainment charges $4 to rent a new release for two days, $3 to rent anything else for three days. I pay Netflix $9 to have a single DVD out at a time and all the streaming I can handle through my laptop, wifi-enabled Blu-Ray player or my Nintendo Wii, and nothing to watch movies and television shows on Hulu.

The recent change of location probably didn’t help business since it’s now more inconveniently located for most movie-renters, but, here’s the interesting part: instead of saying “yeah, there’s just no way I can compete with that infrastructure and convenience,” the CBJ quotes That’s Rentertainment’s owner saying:

I’ve really noticed a generational shift during the past few years with incoming University of Iowa freshmen and sophomores, who grew up watching things on the Internet, where everything’s free, right? … It’s not just educating them about your new location, it’s educating them about the video industry.

Yes, blame the customer for being ignorant of what your older model has to offer. See, if the kids who grew up with free Internet stuff were educated in the ways of the video industry, they’d understand why they should pay more for less convenience. It strikes me as similar to the bitter old-school print guy’s lament about how the Internet is devaluing the core product by letting jerks take this stuff for free. But why adapt when you can complain that the young ’uns are ign’ant, and go out of business?

Metaphors: The band on the Titanic

Playing while sinking
Jason Whitlock’s “Whitlock on the Newspaper Industry: Letting ‘Myth’ Albom Preach Was the Equivalent of the ‘band playing while the Titantic took on water‘” on The Big Lead

APSE and its myth-building contest bait newspaper leadership to stay stagnate. Presenting Albom an award and giving him a platform to preach was the equivalent of the band playing while the Titantic took on water.

News Metaphors: The moon, KFC and the church

The pull of the moon
Carmen K. Sisson’s Lost and found in Biloxi

That might have been the end of my career, but journalism is the moon to my tide, the lure I can’t quite break.

KFC and RCA and YMCA and others
In reference to National Public Radio changing its name to NPR
Chris Amico on Twitter

NPR is KFCing itself

Slate on Twitter

NPR is the new KFC

Nieman Journalism Lab on Twitter

NPR goes SAT, AARP

Ken Doctor in Weigel and Nasr “Sins” Put the Church of High Integrity on Trial

Now, each Sunday, it seems, there fewer congregants in the church. There’s a strange information promiscuity sweeping the land. In fact, down the street, revivalists – in the case of the Post, TBD.com – are setting up tents from coast to coast to draw some of those who have left the mainstream news faith.

The High Church of Integrity is challenged. Its doctrines and dogma are being challenged by those who believe a more contemporary set of principles and practices can replace the received wisdom. Let’s call it the new approach a Society of Friends, with tips both to the Quaker collaborative style and to the Facebook era.

Metaphors: A wooing youngster, non-paying jerks, bike nerds

A young man a courtin’
Chuck Peters, quoted in John Kenyon in the Corridor Business Journal

Chuck Peters uses the analogy of a young man seeking the affections of an attractive woman when discussing the rather radical changes his media company is undergoing.

“It’s like saying, ‘I like that girl over there, I’ll just watch how somebody makes an approach and then will do it myself,’” he said. “But then, the relationship is gone.”

In this case, the tentative suitor is a typical media company, while the comely lass is the ever-eroding audience. Many in media, newspapers in particular, are waiting for someone else to come up with the model that will recover readers and viewers who have been fleeing in droves over the past decade.

Mr. Peters instead wants to be that bold young man who wins the maiden’s hand. The announcement last week that his company was rebranding itself from Gazette Communications to SourceMedia Group Inc. is the most public indication of an evolutionary process under way for a few years.

Non-paying jerks
Bill Cotterell in the Tallahassee Democrat‘s “There’s no more free ride for our online-only readers” (Now behind a paywall, free Google cache version here)

Just as an experiment, the next time you want to get to the mall, go to a car dealership and ask for a lift. When the salesperson asks if you mean a test drive, just say, “Oh, no, I don’t want a car, I just want a ride.”

Then go to a deli and ask what’s on the free lunch menu. Thinking you’re broke, someone might offer to buy you a sandwich, so you say, “Thanks, but I have money — I just choose not to pay.”

At the mall, go from store to store and don’t buy anything, just criticize the merchandise. Tell customers how ugly that tie is, what a lousy stereo they’re considering, how stupid they must be if they want that book. When shopkeepers tell you to leave their private property or be civil, yammer about “censorship.”

We don’t need such an experiment, because we know the results. But here at the Tallahassee Democrat, we’ve been competing with our own free alternative product for about 13 years — and we’ll soon find out what happens when you start charging for what you’ve given away.

and

President and Publisher Patrick Dorsey and Executive Editor Bob Gabordi on Wednesday wrote a front-page column, announcing our new “pay wall” content policy. Of the hundreds of comments that poured in, very few wished us well, but not all the critics were unhappy. Many were delighted to predict the end of the paper.

I have no way of knowing those commenters’ names and, if I did, I wouldn’t care enough to go over to circulation and see which, if any, are subscribers. But the greatest glee appeared to come from people who hate the Democrat, read it only online and regret that, come next Thursday, they won’t have us to kick around anymore.

We’ll miss them like Sears misses shoplifters.

and

Steve Hyatt, a Gannett executive from Reno who explained the new format to Democrat employees this week, used an interesting example. He said railroads started about 100 years before commercial aviation, but no airline today bears the name of a rail corporation.

That’s because the train tycoons thought they were in the railroad business, rather than the transit business. Well, we’re in the communication business. What worked when Gov. Napoleon Broward took office in 1905, the year the Democrat began publishing, doesn’t work now.

In his railroad analogy, Hyatt mentioned that the only trains you see now are freight lines or Amtrak passenger routes, heavily subsidized by the taxpayers. There won’t be any government bailout to keep print journalism going — as there certainly shouldn’t be — so our revenue model has to be either “all aboard” or “stop the presses.”

Elitist bike nerds
Scott Leadingham’s Why journalism should and should not copy bicycling culture

I’d become a hardcore bicyclist if it weren’t for hardcore bicyclists. In fact, I remarked to a friend recently that “the worst part about biking culture is biking culture.”

Forgive the gross generalization, but it’s been my experience that bicycling breeds an upper-crust crowd comparable to the snottiest fox-hunting, caviar-eating, polo-playing societal elitists out there. Go into any bicycle shop (not big box retailer) and ask about the lubrication benefits of using WD-40 on your chain.

“Eh. That’s a cleaner, not a lubricant. Don’t EVER use it to lube a chain!” is a likely response. “Here’s our selection of specialized lubricants – $10 per three oz. bottle.”

This notion of superiority, the kind coming from people on bikes that cost more than my car, keeps me away from becoming fully immersed and involved in biking culture.

Transfer that to journalism.

It’s not a new sentiment to say there’s a certain amount of arrogance in the profession. One doesn’t lead to the other, of course, but perhaps it’s more apparent in an industry that sees its practitioners’ names, faces and voices constantly before the public. As Linda Thomas aptly noted in a recent Quill piece on journalists to follow: “ … having the title of journalist doesn’t make you more interesting or important than anyone else.”