SF Chronicle columnist David Lazarus is at it again, moving ahead the conversations about newspapers — journalists that create valuable, reporting based,  fact-checked content — and their fight for survival.  His March 13 column, “So who will get the story?” is both provocative and defensive. 

This is great!  This makes it real.  If he was “so right” about everything, then the discussion might be over. 

To be fair, this discussion is really about journalists vs. bloggers.  It’s about finding a sustanable business model for traditional media — the forefathers of content creation — in a new world running on new technology that empowering people to get information and entertainment in new ways.

Anyone who has been reading Lazarus’ spirited stories on this topic can tell it won’t be over for a while.  By exploring this further and engaging readers, he is really helping to deepen the discussion and quicken the pace for finding some helpful solutions.  Most will agree that free rides are paid by someone, somewhere and once they go away…all of us who’ve become dependent on what’s being given away will suffer somehow.  In a capitalistic economy, we’ll suffer and move to the next best deal or free ride. But in the end, people help push the best to the top.  This is a right worth fighting for whenever we’re exploring new models and understanding new paradigms.

Like most great discussions at the dinner table, this one comes down to values and how they improve or impair an economy.  And now this is exactly what Lazarus points out: 

"Newspapers to the digging that most bloggers do not.  The blogosphere — a silly term coined by bloggers to legitimize their posturing — is comprised by an large of people whose work constists of commenting on the work of others.”

I can’t really argue with that, but it’s plain to me that Lazarus has fallen into a trap and is feeling attached and frustrated and even despises blogging.  The blogosphere is "silly" and later he says that bysuspending antitrust laws and allowing newspaper owners to unite in charging for online content:

“…would be to collectively demonstrate to online news agreegators, bloggers and various freeloaders that this industry intends to safeguard its output until a more suitable means of electronic distribution comes to light.”

Wow:  freeloaders, safequard.  Sounds like hate and fear.  Sure you want to fight for what you have and fight for what you believe is right.  The reality is we live in a civilized society…at least we aspire to.  Waging war,  spreading hostility, name calling and safeguarding seems so defensive.  It feels stuck in the mode we’re all trying to escape after our country’s reaction to 9/11.  It’s tough to heal and move ahead to a better way of living while perceiving things as threats rather than opportunities. 

Cut the name calling and real talk and understanding is allowed to happen.  I like nothing more than getting into a heated Italian dinner discussion.  It can get vulgar and radical, but hateful and name calling is not furtulizer for negotiation.  Not one, but both sides have to win…or there’s less chance for advancing together.

What I like about Lazarus’ approach is that he criticizes AND offers ideas to fix the problem.  It’d be great if the reporter could investigate the ideas and undercover new ideas rather than stay trapped in the cheap thrill of name calling.  Let the bloggers do that if they want.  As a blogger, even I am trapped by the cheap thrill of “commenting” rather than “reporting.”  Blogging has bad or worthless value but it’s open, accessible, sharable nature is something that can tremendously improve understanding — of each other and of ourselves. 

A reporter has an opportunity and platform to rise these cheap thrills  and bring people together.  That’s the power of great journalism.  And that skill and service will always be in demand in a society that to continuously improve.

In my next post, I will dig into some of the paragraphs from Lazarus’ story.  Parts that make me pause.  Parts that could be looked at in other ways to actually help rather than divide.  The full column by Dvid Lasarus here.

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