Whither goest the newspaperman, that bastion of bulletins, that purveyor of print?
He is, I’m afraid, about to be swallowed up by the electronic era.
When I was in college, I wanted to be a reporter. I wanted my stories to be delivered with a thwack! on the front porch. To be folded up and carried in a suit pocket. To be clipped and stuck to the fridge. I wanted to use words like “lede” and “slug line.” I wanted to rip my story out of a typewriter, and shout “COPY!” (I used to do this when I wrote for my college newspaper, to great laughs from my editor.)
Sadly, it was not to be. Instead, I work as a professional blogger, and am looked down on by “real” journalists at “real” newspapers. (Full disclosure: I am also a newspaper humor columnist, appearing in 10 weekly print newspapers around the state. So there.)
Last year, 53 weeks ago in fact, I wrote a humor column about Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky, who wrote his own column sneering at bloggers with:
I DON’T have a blog. If I did blog, this is what it would be like. (To make it seem like a real blog, I’ll include typos and factual errors.)
I would link to Stu’s original column, but it, like most of his fellow newspaper reporters, are no longer available. They have been cast aside, presumably to make room for newer, more up-to-date pieces.
Bykofsky, who is perhaps best known for saying this country “need(s) another 9/11” needs to realize that blogging is not going to go away. Newspapers, on the other hand, are fast disappearing from our landscape. I think reporters would do well to rethink their attitude.
To paraphrase Chicago humorist Rex Huppke (@RexHuppke):
It’s funny when journalists mock (blogging). It’s also funny when people about to be eaten by a bear mock the bear.
Huppke’s quote was originally about Twitter, but mocking a bear is mocking a bear.
So what are the journalists’ complaints about blogging? That we didn’t go to journalism school? They’re teaching electronic media writing in J-school right now. That our pieces aren’t properly fact-checked and vetted by editors? Disgraced
plagiarizer fabricator New York Times reporter Jayson Blair could tell you a thing or two about that. Or is it that our stories aren’t printed on dead trees? I found Bykofsky’s original column online.
Citizen journalists — the people who are picking up the slack that the mainstream media are missing — have taken to the web to cover the news and write about the issues that journalists have been missing. If they’re not former journalists who became bloggers, they’re learning how to do proper journalism. The really good citizen journalists are writing stories that are just as good, if not better, than a lot of the mainstream media stories.
These modern day pamphleteers share the news and their opinions via a blog instead of a printing press. And while they are still looked down on, these citizen journalists have uncovered a lot of stories that Byofsky and his ilk have ignored, overlooked, or scorned. We’re breaking the news before The News does.
Griping about bloggers is nothing but pure elitism. Snob journalism at its finest. When children start playing a game, it’s not uncommon for the child on the losing team to pout, whine, and make excuses for why he’s playing poorly. And Bykofsky’s blogging gripes make him sound like he’s taking his ball and going home.
The newspaper industry has been in decline ever since the advent of radio and TV news. It slipped further into decline when Craigslist became popular. And now, blogging is threatening to be the final stake through print journalism’s heart.
We’ve seen significant gutting at our local paper (the Indianapolis Star will now be laid out in Louisville. Sounds about right for Gannett.), and journalists are being thrown overboard left and right.
A friend of mine worked for the Associated Press in Indianapolis, and was let go right before Christmas 2009, after 17 years of service. Why? The AP was losing money because fewer newspapers were licensing their content. So rather than stick with the professional who had the most experience and best judgment, they let him go in favor of someone with a lower salary and less experience. In another state.
So we have younger, less experienced journalists — remotely — running our country’s newsrooms, and it’s bloggers who are being dismissed out of hand as Not Real Journalists?
I’m sad to be watching all of this unravel. I think the decline of the big city American print newspaper is one of the great tragedies of our time. But I also see the future of the industry, and if it’s going to survive, it’s going to be online, not on dead trees.
Journalists need to stop deriding blogging, and embrace it instead. Learn how to do it now, rather than watching it pass by. You can either mock the bear or turn and face it. Otherwise, your next byline will be from the south end of a north-bound bear.
For related reading, check out:
- Newspaper Death Watch
- Nieman Journalism Lab’s commentary on the AP’s “Protect, Point, Pay — An Associated Press Plan for Reclaiming News Content Online“
- Russell Baker’s commentary in the New York Review of Books, “Goodbye to Newspapers?
- A hilarious infographic on the AP’s “Protect, Point, Pay“
- Or go here to see the original.