R.I.P. Newspapers–but Not the News
Eric Alterman is correct when he discusses the “end of newspapers” by saying, “What is needed–pronto–is a plan to save the collection and dissemination of the news itself” [“The Liberal Media,” May 11]. As a citizen, I heartily agree. As a leader of the Boston Globe Freelancers Association campaign against a retroactive rights-grabbing contract in 2000, I have another perspective. We also need to understand the perfect storm that combines corporate and public expectations that all content is–and should be–free with the deprofessionalization of everything.
The New York Times Company (owner of the Boston Globe) was eager to wrangle its content for as cheap as possible through a freelance contract that grabbed retroactive rights from writers, photographers and illustrators. Although I regret having been a canary in the newspaper industry’s coal mine, it turns out that even the Globe can’t stay in business when its product is being given away without compensation.
But new media outfits are not necessarily better: “content providers” are subsidizing a millionaire named Huffington by working for “exposure.” Good for people with academic salaries or trust funds, perhaps, or the express goal of getting invited to talk shows, but it doesn’t work for me.
Journalism is work. Cultural work requiring time and expertise. If we save the newspaper business but exploit the people whose work it disseminates, we have only ourselves to blame when talented people flee the industry. When the long tail of online narrowcasting replaces newspapers we can’t all be freeloading. Micropayments and revenue sharing, anyone?
New York City
Debra Cash and I do not disagree. My point was only that if the people of Boston and the staff of the Globe expect to rely on the generosity of Times stockholders to subsidize the paper for tens of millions of dollars a year as its survival strategy, this strikes me as a bad long-term bet. I think the business is over as a business. And I think we need to deal with that before we lose the news together with the newspapers that once provided it.
How to Deal With Pirates
I never advocated going into Somalia and “rooting out the pirates,” as Karen Rothmyer says in “Misreading the Somali Threat” [May 11]. I stated that if you wanted to eliminate the threat, that is what you would have to do. I do not, however, endorse such a disproportionate strategy. For the record, here is what I do think is right. The United States should support a “grassroots model” of identifying and bolstering existing legitimate authorities, including civil society and traditional clan authorities–except those with links to terrorism, piracy or Islamic extremism. Applying this strategy will take time and face many difficulties. However, such an approach is more likely to lead to success in the long run. To encourage local Somali authorities and statelets to improve their governance and to mature politically, the international community should reward them with the benefits other governments receive–provided they meet clear benchmarks. For instance, to address the situation in Puntland, the international community should demand that local authorities clamp down on piracy and cooperate with international anti-piracy efforts as a key early condition. A similar approach should be used for other Somali regions, tailored to their specific circumstances. If Rothmyer had bothered to ask, instead of just Googling a quote, I’d have told her that.