Thursday, 11 December 2008

Journalists versus Bloggers

I wrote a comment on NPR yesterday.....and got a "perky" note on my facts. It was kinda obvious that journalists have a problem with bloggers.....and we bloggers are in a special category. So I sat and pondered this, and came to this analysis.

Prior to 1700, if you were a newspaper in America.....you had a publisher and a couple of 'helpers'.....and if you were lucky...you might publish once a week. Your paragraphs were short and choppy. Your education? Fairly good but no college or university background. You had a great skill of writing a summary of events....nothing more.

Prior to 1800, you were a simple journalist with a limited background. You might make enough to survive.....and spent most of your time helping to set the type on your story. You avoided slanted articles....otherwise, your target would come to visit you and offer a knuckle sandwich.

Prior to 1900.....you might have had some training as a young man with the paper.....doing "type". You did real articles and might have made a bit of money.....only if the boss really liked the story. Universities had yet to offer degrees in journalism, but you could take a degree and spin over into the "skill".

Prior to the 1930s.....you looked for angles and slants. Your education was mostly what you got from being a junior person on the paper. You made a fair wage, but never got rich. No university in America offered anything in terms of a real journalist degree.

Prior to the 1950s.....you started to see some degrees and educational efforts made. You found journalism creeping into radio with real reports. You had begun to see TV as a possible vehicle. You were watching several major papers in America reaching a major level of readership.

So things finally started shifting in the 1960s.....TV, newspapers and radio were all playing on a level playing field for a brief time. Journalist students graduated from school and were blessed as "professional" journalists.....thus making them the kind of folks you need for news organizations.

By the 1980s....news TV took center stage.....and newspapers were viewing the slow beginning of the end. But what the TV and newspaper crowd didn't really grasp....was that the simple non-professional writer was sitting there....ready to go. By 2000....bloggers were ready to move onto the national scene.

The curious thing is that non-professional writers needed a platform, which only the internet could provide. The public was seeking something that the TV, radio, and newsprint crowd could not deliver.....fresh prospective.

So we stand here today....with bloggers facing off journalists. Journalists hate bloggers.....because they are the "hired guns" of writing of today. A blogger might have twelve folks a day or 300 folks a week reading their material. A blogger might have 50,000 folks an hour reading their material. The journalists feel threatened.....frankly, they might be right.

An entire segment of the journalists society could sit there on a story....refusing to give it traction......for a political reason.....and the blogger really doesn't view the political reasoning or logic involved. The blogger has no oath, no loyalty, no boss, and no handcuffs upon his written word. If he wants to write......he writes. He does it for no pay. Journalists can't say the same.....their entire life is dependent on making their boss happy.....otherwise.....no money.

So I can understand the NPR-viewers logic and why he/she wanted "slam" me a little. The truth is.....its mostly amusing that anybody from NPR would ever read my written word. I'm a simple guy from Bama, with no journalistic background or education. I've read Steinbeck, traveled the Rhein, sat in a sandbagged pit under SCUD attack, drank Danish beer, and watched the sun rise 10,000 times. Maybe I have a fresh prospective on life and events. And if not, then I'll just write another blog, and live another day.

NPR and the Saga

As things got sorted out today....the NPR story had fascinating turns. The main players mentioned yesterday as being "finished".....aren't.

So what do we know....from various publications? Well...there were around twenty-odd positions which they were going to fill....but hadn't done so yet....and those got cut (easily enough). The remaining 45-odd positions are mostly support and technican positions....with no one of any great mention amongst the group. The NPR folks were told the travel budget is pretty "hot" and not likely to be used unless is real important. The general expense account? Well....its on a short stick and folks are going to be reminded to cut close when they need stuff.

Will they be shifting the temperature down to 65? No. Will they cut back on manhours? No. Will they shift to other formats of a lesser cost variety? This...no one can be sure of.

Based on belt-tightening....they might survive with the new number of employees through June....but I don't see this ease of economic pain improving. They likely will come another cut of a similar variety by August of 2009, unless some company comes up with significant capital. Its hard to see any positive for the whole year of 2009.

My advice to NPR? Settle back and start accepting the idea of four hours of folk music, jazz, opera, and classical each day. Settle back and accept some programming by local colleges or state programs. Dump news as much as possible on weekends and just have interviews or story-reading.

For the life of me.....I can't understand this massive fascination that NPR has with news. Their initial structure in the 1970s and 1980s.....didn't have more than five percent of the news that they feature today. Do people really need this? This is the curious thing about this organization....they really don't want regular people telling what to put on.

My best idea? Start a show where you pick two events over the past forty years.....and bring in two folks associated with the event.....and interview them for fifteen minutes each. It would be great to get prospectives from regular people and not from historians or professors or political figures. It'd be nice to bring back the 1972 shortstop of the New York Yankees.....Gene Micheal (if he's still living) and ask him a dozen questions about the team and the year.

My belief is that NPR is really stretching itself and its future....by playing this current game. They really don't want to focus on anything except what they perceive as their best asset. I'd like to believe that we get enough news from Fox, CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS.....and we sure don't need anymore. But we aren't getting any classical or jazz....if you run around most southern states or the western part of the US. Try finding a station in Idaho that plays jazz.....it simply doesn't exist.

I grew up in Bama in the 1970s......and every evening around 9PM....I'd turn to the state channel and listen to opera, classical or jazz......or listen to the St Louis Cardinals baseball game in the summertime. I would imagine now....in Bama....there isn't a single station within 300 miles of my old home....where you could pick up jazz. Its kinda sad.