To the certain amusement of bloggers, L.A. Times columnist David Lazarus resurrects the classic Big Media canard: Big Media is great and blogs suck.
The observation comes in a column that bemoans the fact that newspapers don’t charge for online content. Lazarus gripes that teenagers will pay for .mp3s, but not for online newspaper subscriptions. These damn kids nowadays!
My favorite part of Lazarus’s column is the part where he displays his dinosaur-like attitude towards New Media. Lazarus lauds his own publication as “the much-respected, widely esteemed news outlet you’re currently enjoying” — as contrasted with blogs, which he views as nuisances that “continue sprouting like crab grass throughout the electronic ether.” (You can tell he is pining for some blog herbicide that would remove this pestilence from the online world.) He adds: “Soon, the line separating quality journalism from utter hokum will be too blurry to discern.”
Breaking news for you, Mr. Lazarus: your editors are already unable to tell the difference.
Allow me, a mere crab-grass blogger, to give a much-respected and widely esteemed L.A. Times business columnist a remedial ecomonics lesson. If you’re supplying something people want to pay for, people will pay for it. If you aren’t, they won’t.
Your solution should not be to whine about this state of affairs. Your solution should be to provide a product that people want to pay for.
Why don’t people want to pay for the L.A. Times? I don’t know for sure. Speaking strictly for myself, I refuse to subscribe because your paper irresponsibly published details of a classified and legal anti-terror program. But others have their own reasons.
For example, many conservatives argue that your product is unpopular because it is untrustworthy.
There’s no doubt that it is. I’m in the process of compiling the links for my annual year-end review of the performance of your paper. It isn’t pretty, Mr. Lazarus. And it hasn’t been for quite some time.
But I have never completely bought into the idea that newspapers are having financial problems because they are inaccurate and/or liberally biased. Blogs have their foibles, too — and your paper has some strengths.
Here’s what I think is happening. We are all in the midst of an Internet revolution that none of us completely understands. Newspapers haven’t figured it out yet. I hope they do, because I think there’s a need for watchdogs — and there are investigations that (currently, at least) require the kind of manpower that only institutions like yours can spare.
But you’re never going to figure out what the next move is by whining.
It wouldn’t hurt to lose the arrogant attitude either.
Just some thoughts from the crab grass, Mr. Lazarus. Take them for what they’re worth.
(Thanks to Arthur K.)