Online News is Not Arianna Huffington's Dastardly Plot to Destroy the Newspaper Industry And Other Reality-Based Observations

John Kerry's Senate Committee hearing on the future of journalism evidently turned into a bunch of self-congratulatory wanking about how important newspapers are to our American way of life.
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John Kerry's Senate Committee hearing on the future of journalism evidently turned into a bunch of self-congratulatory wanking about how important newspapers are to our American way of life:

"High-end journalism is dying in America," testified David Simon, creator of HBO's "The Wire," who wore an open-collar black sport shirt for the somber occasion.

Simon was invited to testify at a hearing on journalism because. . . well, because he created a cool TV show and is a snappy dresser, I guess:

But it was Simon, once a Baltimore Sun reporter, who struck the strongest blow for newspapers. Though scolding publishers for their "martyrology" and mismanagement, he spoke of how "aggregating Web sites and bloggers contribute little more than repetition, commentary and froth" and added: "The parasite is slowly killing the host."

As someone actively working to develop a viable financial model for gathering online news, what I really need in life is to be lectured by a guy who hasn't worked as a journalist since 1995 and has never had any experience in online news. This whole "bloggers are just parasites" meme is a tedious, unsubstantiated fantasy. Someone go tell Marcy Wheeler.

"The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore zoning board hearing," added the casually clad Simon, "is the day that I will be confident that we have actually reached some sort of balance."

Simon seems to have reached the conclusion that any news organization that doesn't cover the pie eating contests of Baltimore is woefully inadequate, those were the days, etc etc. I don't recall anyone ever covering the Atlantic Yards as meticulously as Norman Oder, who has written quite thoughtfully on the subject of local online news coverage. Perhaps if the Atlantic Yards project moved to Baltimore, Oder would pass Simon's litmus test.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) had some complaints for Huffington. "For your audience, there's not going to be a lot of stories about the cop that has been running the dice game on the side," she said. "The way you get those stories is by investing in people."

You mean people like Sam Stein? I guess if it isn't on Twitter, it's not "keeping it real."

In the end, there's nothing like being told by the Washington Post, a paper that's only surviving because it owns the Kaplan Learning Centers, on how to run a business:

"The future of quality journalism is not dependent on the future of newspapers," announced Huffington, whose Web site relies on free newspaper reporting. She scolded newspapers for having the nerve to want to charge money for their products.

What Arianna actually said (PDF):

But what won't work -- what can't work -- is to act like the last 15 years never happened, that we are still operating in the old content economy as opposed to the new link economy, and that the survival of the industry will be found by "protecting" content behind walled gardens. We've seen that movie (and its many sequels, including TimesSelect). News consumers didn't like them, and they closed in a hurry.

If by "scolded" you mean pointed out that TimesSelect was an abysmal failure that the New York Times ultimately had to jettison, then I guess so. But since Arianna goes on to mention that an integral part of her revenue stream is advertising, which the Huffington Post very much charges for, it's safe to say Dana Milbank just made the rest of it up.

John Kerry bats clean-up:

Kerry had difficulty understanding why "money goes to Google rather than the newspaper" and why it would be so "onerous" for the likes of Google and the Huffington Post to sit down with newspapers and figure out a more equitable arrangement. "I see cacophony without standards," Kerry said. "I see more and more people operating in public life with snippets, and I think that's dangerous."

Right-o. A "cacaphony without standards?" Let's review:

As opposed to:

It could have been an interesting and valuable panel, because a lot of people are struggling to figure out how we go forward, and it would have been nice to hear about some of the innovative efforts being made to develop a viable financial model for online news. But journalism isn't migrating online due to some dastardly plot by Arianna Huffington, it's happening because that's where people want to get their news, and they enjoy being active participants in the process. The people involved in this panel didn't quite seem to grasp that fundamental reality.

And BTW, what the hell was John Kerry thinking?

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