Saturday, May 16, 2009

David Simon is right

I disagree with the remark "the parasite is killing the host," as I don't believe that bloggers and other commentators relying on professional journalists are killing their work by discussing it. He proceeds, however, to the real point, which is that those journalists need funding in order to commit journalism, and that "citizen journalists" most of the time are citizen commentators, and if they want to commit journalism, they need to become professional journalists in order to achieve that goal. In which case they need funding, resources, etc. His remarks about citizen journalists are not as kind as my paraphrase, but that's OK. Where he's coming from is generally correct.

David Simon's testimony to Senate committee

If we were a different country, a public-funding approach might work. If we set it up right, even in this country a public-funding approach might work. (Setting it up right requires that funding be guaranteed, and not at the whim of Congress or an Executive. I just don't know how that could be done.)

That leaves us with non-profits taking over papers - and that's an EXTREMELY interesting idea, or for-pay subscription models to access content (or both!). I pay $70 a year (starting this year) for access to the Encyclopedia Britannica because I need to be able to trust my content source. I would be willing to pay for a subscription to something else, too.

What bothers me about much of the for-pay subscription models I've encountered thus far with newspaper websites is the per-article approach. If I'm going to have to pay, I want to pay once (a year), like I would to pay for a print newspaper subscription, or once per day, like I would for a single issue of a paper. It has to be easy to pay and then when I come to a newspaper's website, I want access to the whole damn thing (save, perhaps, some custom archive from 150 years ago that requires an additional subscription or something, that would make sense, I suppose.) The freebie articles offered as loss leaders simply annoy me. And confusing, because after my first click I don't know what I have access to and what I don't.

I would also be highly intrigued by an AP or Reuters subscription service, or a multi-paper subscription service. I like reading multiple articles on the same subject across different papers to sniff out the bias. It's useful.

Simon's remarks about loosening antitrust restrictions go in that direction, but I worry that we'd open the door to further monopolization of the industry, and we already have one or two organizations with too damn much power and influence to begin with, so I'm not sure how to achieve the one (aggregate subscription services) without the other (centralized monopolistic corporate providers that are really all one provider). Dunno.