Thursday, June 19, 2008

A quick Pitts stop

Good friend Alex from Miami & Beyond brings a Herald column by Leonard Pitts to my attention. In the column Pitts come to many of the same conclusions that I have come to. I wish I could take credit for being so forward thinking so as to influence people in the newspaper industry about what they need to do survive but the reality is that the conclusions that Pitts and I drew, no doubt independently, should be drawn by anyone with two brain cells to rub together.

In any case here are some excerpts (emphasis mine):

We in the business of selling news have yet to adapt. Yes, every newspaper has a website now. Some, like The Herald, have TV and radio facilities as well. I'm talking about something more: a radical change of focus.

We still tend to regard our websites as ancillary to our primary mission of producing newspapers. But I submit that our primary mission is to report and comment upon the news and that it is the newspaper itself that has become ancillary.

So maybe we should regard the Internet not as an extra thing we do, but as the core thing we do. Maybe we should maximize the fact that we know our cities as no one else does. Maybe we should make our websites not simply online recreations of our papers, but entities in their own right, destination portals for those who want news and views from and about a given city, but also for those who want to find a good doctor in that city, or apply for a job in that city or reach the leaders of that city or research the history of that city. Maybe the goal should be to make ourselves the one indispensable guide to that city. And then maybe we should hire away the bright people who figured out how to make Yahoo and Google profitable and ask them to make our sites profitable, too.
Agreed on all counts. Then Pitts makes the only idiotic statement in the piece:
Maybe -- heretical idea ahead -- it's as simple as requiring online readers to pay for the product, just as our other readers do.
The internet, as an information source, is largely about free. I understand that internet advertising does not command the same amount of dollars as the fishwraps have been able to historically command but the cost of maintaining an online news organization is substantially cheaper than printing and distributing hundreds of thousands of dead tree editions EVERY DAY. Think about what the rising cost of fuel is doing to the distribution costs of newspapers.
A few weeks back, Carl Sessions Stepp, senior editor of the American Journalism Review, published a call to arms, an essay exhorting journalists to stop weeping over the state of their industry and launch an all-hands-on-deck, man-on-the-moon campaign to reinvent and save it. Consider this my way of seconding his motion.
Pitts accurately describes the mindset of many journalists who are traditionalists and purists. If you've read Bob Norman's lamentations, you know what I'm talking about. It reminds me of baseball fans who can't accept free agency, and new ways of evaluating players. Those changes are here to stay whether you like them or not.


Rick said...

I would never be one to say that Leonard Pitts doesn't have two brain cells to rub together. I've had him up to a half dozen at times. But, his statement suggesting online subscription fees is as boneheaded as his statement that it's acceptable for blacks to vote for Obama because he's black but not for whites to vote for Clinton because she's white. (has Pitts ever missed an opportunity to race-bait?)

I suggest that I am like thousands of other Herald subscribers that have the Herald delivered for sports, business, and local news (and probably in that order). Even Pitts' two brain cells should have been able to figure out that sports and business news can be found at a myriad of websites, and local news is available at sites operated by local TV stations...all for free.

In other words, we don't need the Herald. They need us.

Anonymous said...

You're an idiot, Gomez.

And you prove it with every stupid post on your stupid little blog.

Rick, you're an idiot also.

Apparently, you both went to Idiot School together.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Thank you for that well-reasoned comment, anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Leonard Pitts is a columnist I very much enjoy. While his column is on the money, it makes points that many of us in the online side of journalism have been conveying for years now. If anything, it underscores how backward the journalism industry's attitude is toward the Web.