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Save-the-Newspapers Columnist Fires Back, Misses

The SF Chronicle’s David Lazarus, normally a terrific columnist, digs a deeper hole today in a surprisingly un-sharp response to criticism of another recent column.

Here’s what started the debate: “Pay-to-play is one way to help save newspapers.” Please read it and then come back.

I was one of the critics of that column. In this posting, which I hope you’ll also review, I took Lazarus to task on several accounts, including his misguided understanding of the copyright issues he brought up and, even more amazing, his call for a new antitrust exemption for the newspaper industry so it could make more money online.

(I do regret my use of the phrase “pathetically whiny” to describe the way his original column sounded. That was over the top.)

Today, Lazarus fires back in “So who will get the story?” — an angry commentary that, tellingly, fails to seriously address the problems with his original piece.

Let’s be clear on one thing. He has a right, and maybe a duty, to respond when people attack unfairly. And some of the people who responded to his original piece did make some ridiculous claims.

He errs in his utter dismissal of bloggers, however, as anything but uninformed opinion spouters. There’s ample evidence to disprove that broad-brush characterization. But let’s chalk that up to the columnist’s privilege.

In flaying his critics, he writes:

Dozens of bloggers weighed in on my earlier column, and not one — not one — did a lick of original reporting in challenging my ideas.

That is wrong again. I can’t speak for the others whom he insists insist did no reporting (though, how did he know for sure?), but I can speak for myself.

Let’s see. Does my book about the changes in media count as reporting? I spent a considerable portion of that book looking into the questions of how people will get useful news — hopefully, I wrote, via en expanded journalistic ecosystem that includes both the traditional and new media.

Does the fact that I spend my days now looking at these issues — plainly, in a lot more detail than he has — count? My posting was based entirely on my reporting over the past few years.

How much time has Lazarus spent reporting — that is, digging out information — on copyright issues? In the decade I was writing a column at the San Jose Mercury News, and since then, I’ve spent countless hours reading books and documents, and interviewing copyright lawyers and industry people on that subject.

I ask this question because he mischaracterized the copyright questions in his first column. The analogy of YouTube to what aggregators do was flat-out specious. I pointed that out. Lazarus didn’t address that today — or, for that matter, any of the actual issues raised in my posting, except tangentially in the case of wanting to create a newspaper cartel.

The antitrust question is one of opinion. But I can’t believe Lazarus is still asking for a new exemption. His argument in both columns boils down to this: The monopoly era is fading, so we need new protection to preserve a business model that maintains enormous profit margins so we can continue to provide what we consider high-quality journalism.

As I noted in my original response to his first piece, the newspaper industry already has one antitrust exemption — the odious joint-operating agreements that let organizations combine business operations to create advertising dominance in individual cities. Now that the industry’s market power is fading, Lazarus wants more protection.

No. We do not want to grant even more special favors, not to a once-monopolistic and still-rapacious industry that for years has been reducing its journalistic value and screwing its customers.

Lazarus would come down like a ton of bricks — in his normally excellent work as a consumer rights crusader — on any other industry tried to pull the same trick. Does he not see how ironic (the kindest word I can use in this context) his call for protection sounds, coming from him of all people? I guess not.

35 Comments on “Save-the-Newspapers Columnist Fires Back, Misses”

  1. #1 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 11:07 am

    I find this fascinating. He’s *reinvented* *copyright*! (reinvented as in the phrase “reinvent the wheel”, not as in “revinvent government”)

    His basic approach is the public policy copyright rationale – we need this monopoly (I’ll say it again, monopoly, monopoly) – to support the valuable intellectual endeavor.

    And the reaction was one that virtually all self-respecting pundits would have denounced otherwise as naive commie hippie pirate – “OH MY GOD THAT’S MONOPOLY BAD BAD BAD!”. The knees all started jerking, but in a direction that would have been practically unthinkable for other matters.

    But that’s what copyright is. A monopoly for an assumed social benefit.

    Then he got nitpicked over not having the qualifiers in his phrasing, which is true, but not all that relevant to the main point.
    (That is, you can’t say “Bloggers just rant”, even though it’s true to the 99.99% level. You’re supposed to say “Notwithstanding the wonderful bloggers who are revolutionizing journalism by emergent citizen distributed you-powered Wikinomical networking that’s never been seen in the world before, where It’s A New Era of those who Get It versus the oldthink dinosaurs, 99.99% of bloggers just rant”).

  2. #2 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Seth, that’s absurd.

    The copyright law already applies to newspaper journalism. (And copyright is not a grant of absolute control in any case; it’s a bargain designed to reward creators for limited times and — this is key — to ensure that others can build on the work through what we call “fair use” in the modern era, among other things.)

    He’s not arguing for a monopoly. He’s arguing for a cartel. You bet that’s offensive. (And who defines newspapers anyway, in a time when CNN runs print stories and newspapers run videos on their respective sites?)

    Nitpicked? I don’t think correcting flat-out inaccuracy is nitpicking. I do agree that some of the people whose responses he quoted are as wrong in their own way as he is, however.

  3. #3 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 12:34 pm

    Right, right – he’s *recreated* it. Pretend copyright law didn’t exist. Then say an author writes a column: “We authors write these books, the publishers make money, but who is going to pay the authors? I propose the authors get paid *every time* a publisher prints a book. Publishers don’t write anything, they just re-use author’s work”.

    And then many publishers reacted: “That’s absurd. Our printing your books gives you publicity and a bigger audience, spreads your ideas. And you’re WRONG WRONG WRONG to say publishers just re-use author’s work, because, GOTCHA GOTCHA GOTCHA, there are a tiny fraction of publishers who are *also* authors (see this one, and that one, etc etc etc.)”

    That’s basically what happened.

    He proposed basically that there should be the equivalent of a “music cover” right for print. It doesn’t exist, it’s not in current law, yes, yes, I understand – that’s what he *proposed*. But the reasoning he used was completely standard public policy reasoning that is the basis for the copyright system. What’s so interesting is that it couldn’t even be heard (as we see), and he got buried in cliches.

    By the way, it’s not at all clear that some of Google’s products, like Google News, are OK under copyright law. That’s why they *lost* the Belgium case – another instance of the same difference in how the reactions were framed.

  4. #4 Scripting News for 3/23/2007 « Scripting News Annex
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 12:47 pm

    [...] Dan Gillmor takes off the gloves. [...]

  5. #5 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Absolutely false, again.

    He and you are conflating quotation with wholesale appropriation of other people’s work.

    No one (not me, anyway) suggests that this is remotely the same as a music cover, where I might record someone else’s song for a new album. OF COURSE I should have to pay royalties in that case.

    Since there hasn’t been a fully original melody since, oh, 1900 or so, every new song with a melody is built upon snippets — quotations, if you will, rearranged in novel ways — of other people’s work.

    To carry your inapt analogy further, what he is proposing is that simply quoting from someone else’s work is enough to trigger some kind of permission requirement or royalties scheme. If that is what you believe, that’s your right. But a system of this kind would do serious damage to scholarship and creativity.

  6. #6 Chris Heuer
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 1:15 pm

    Hi Dan.

    Thank you so much for helping to bring civil debate to this issue and working so tirelessly to enhance the functioning of journalism across the whole of society. It amazes me how so many journalists are not in touch with the reasons for their work’s importance to society and instead choose to support the status quo rather than seek out ways to serve their purpose better. Resistance to change does not shock me, I was here before in 1994 and through the late 90′s witnessing it first hand across the economic spectrum. What surprises me is how this attitude of elitism has crept so deeply into the profession, moving it away from the ideal of Murrow into the Hollywood like struggle for power and fame. Still, I am hopeful that we can create some common ground where we can stand together, citizen journalists and ‘professional’ journalists, learning from each other how we might use the best of our collective protocol’s and tools, to illuminate the truth and educate the people we reach.

    Seth – I disagree that 99.99% of bloggers merely engage in drivel and rants, but perhaps my belief here is colored by the fact that I am referencing people who “consider themselves bloggers”. I don’t have the math or the research, but I would hazzard a guess that it is more along the rules of participation percentages, with 10% + at the very least being people who genuinely care and have something of value to contribute, and 90% who are communicating within smaller, personal networks.

    Please do let me know how we can help with your efforts Dan. We will certainly be supporting your efforts to spread the Principles of Citizen Journalism and I imagine we will be hosting many discussions on them around the country in our various local networks.

  7. #7 IL LICEO » Blog Archive » Today’s links
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 1:44 pm

    [...] Dan Gillmor takes off the gloves. [...]

  8. #8 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    Dan, he specifically said the opposite of what you claim (my emphasis):

    “Bloggers and Web sites are entitled to what is called fair use of copyrighted material. In other words, they can cite a paragraph or so of a newspaper story in commenting upon the work.

    But I frequently see blogs that include entire stories or columns (my own included). Obviously a newspaper can’t go after all such violators. But the big ones need to play by the rules. ”

    Elsewhere, this seques into the issue of if another business takes MANY MANY “snippets”, does that IN AGGREGATE amount to a copyright law violation? Complicated question, very unclear. But the Google News case in Belgium went the way that it’s *not* like fair use, so that’s not an unreasonable view to take on the face of it.

  9. #9 Shelley
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    His original column was very mild. He was basically brainstorming ideas. One was aggregator access to the news items. He wasn’t saying that was _the_ way, just a way. And he was also right: many times publications are copied in their entirety. Especially if the item is behind a paywall.

    I’m not sure where the vehement response comes from, myself. We have a problem: we need these organizations with people who are both trained and paid to go out and find facts. Organizations and people are not going to deal with webloggers on a piecemeal basis coming by pestering them — I’m running into that with a Missouri story. We need organizations with enough clout to get access to the info.

    We also need trained journalists. Oh, much of what is called journalism nowadays isn’t much, but there are many fine writers and investigative reporters employed by newspapers who provide material we probably wouldn’t have access to if the concept of a ‘the newspaper’ was gone.

    And what is a newspaper? It’s not paper, anymore. It’s the written word, true, but it’s also the organization behind the written word: we do need these organizations, Dan.

    His YouTube analogy was incorrect, but your response seems to me to represent your own frustrations at your organizations not having a particularly successful run at citizen journalism.

    I also don’t think his idea of news organizations working around a fee-based system for access to articles would be a violation of anti-trust. If this were true, then newspapers already exist in this state just by charging the same fee for the hard copy editions.

  10. #10 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    But the examples he cited specifically — such as Huffington — and implied (Google) do no such thing. The “big ones” he mentions AREN’T DOING WHAT HE CLAIMS. Read my lips: I have absolutely no objection to going after people who cut and paste entire articles.

    The “many many” snippet aggregation you’re talking about is aggregating the headlines of many different stories, not snippets of the same story. What you’re effectively suggesting is that if I report something here and then post a long collection of links to related articles from newspapers, your copyright hair trigger gets pulled and someone says, “Sorry, bub, pay us.” How would that differ, especially if I ran a keyword search that automatically populated those links?

    The Belgian case is quite unreasonable in my view, for the reasons above. Let’s agree to differ on this.

  11. #11 mike mcgrath
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 2:19 pm

    Lazarus’s column caught my eye this morning and it certainly seemed whiny, if not pathetically so. Embracing change is a way to create a win-win situation. Denying that change is happening and digging in one’s heels is a sure route to the buggy whip grave. I’d hate to see that happen to the Chron or any other daily, but that’s the end result of refusing to learn how to use current trends to one’s advantage.

    I can understand the upset when news feeds are aggregated yet someone else is selling the ad space and there’s no revenue sharing. The argument that the feed leads to greater readership falls on deaf ears unless that feed can be monetized. Why aren’t newspapers looking at ways to insert ads in their feeds? I’m not advocating any vendor, but it seem that a company like Pheedo has a wonderful opportunity to work with publishers to ensure that their advertisers benefit from the additional readership that aggregators enable. Of course, this could lead to a MySpace-like situation in which revenue generating widgets are outlawed, but I don’t think so. There’s too much at stake for all concerned.

    In the end, it’s not David’s whining that’s bothersome. It’s his lack of thinking creatively about the situation that publishers face that bothers me.

  12. #12 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Shelley,

    His original column wasn’t just brainstorming, and wasn’t just wrong in a small way. It essentially endorsed fairly radical ideas that go against the law and tradition.

    No one disagrees that the erosion of the current business model isn’t having a negative effect on investigative journalism, potentially a catastrophic one. But that doesn’t mean we should erect barriers to entry for new folks, propping up the business model of the ones who are doing the journalism now (and often doing just the least they can get away with while they siphon money from local advertisers off to corporate shareholders in other cities).

    We need good journalism organizations, and trained journalists of all kinds. But why do we have to assume they’ll be the same ones that dominate now due to a business model from an industrial age, when they created monopolies that are no longer sustainable? If nonprofits and foundations and startups and other kinds of entities replace them, I’m okay with that even though I still own shares in three newspaper companies that I respect and want to see survive and thrive. But in each case these companies strike me as having a clue that their future doesn’t deserve anyone’s guarantee, and are working hard to evolve into the new world.

    By the way, the newspapers in boxes near my house run from free to a dollar, and their advertising rates vary by orders of magnitude. I suspect it’s the same where you live.

  13. #13 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    Here’s the core of that argument:

    “Just as Viacom is arguing that Google/YouTube shouldn’t have unfettered access to clips from “The Daily Show” MTV and other copyrighted material, newspapers should insist that a licensing fee be paid for aggregators to have access to their content.”

    Now, note YouTube *is* being sued for copyright violation, on the basis that it’s commercial nature and use *in total* (not per-clip, but IN TOTAL), are violating copyright law, as a business.

    He’s extended this to repackagers and aggregators, saying “sites like the Drudge Report and Huffington Post that pull together stories from a wide array of media sources (and charge advertisers a fee to appear beside links to content that they had nothing to do with creating)”

    We can then go into the “what’s fair use?” argument. One could say “If I whistle a tune, is that fair use? How about if I’m walking with a few friends? Suppose they like my whistling and want to buy me a beer? Where oh where does your copyright hair trigger gets pulled and someone says, “Sorry bub, stop whistling, the copyright police are coming after you”.

    The interesting thing is again that, while people sometimes do run this sort of oh-me-oh-my-it’s-just-so-complicated for traditional copyright, with the exception of high-status academics, pundits often regard it as showing they’re unsophisticated, or worse, suspicion that they’re Communists (note I’m being sardonic there, not implying anything against you). Here, the reaction is almost flipped around completely.

    Certainly, it’s a reasonable position to think that the Google News Belgium case was wrongly decided. But I’d say it does show that the people who think it was rightly decided aren’t insane in their views on the issue of aggregators being in the wrong vs. fair use.

  14. #14 Shelley
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    I’ll concede that his exemption from anti-trust is not going to happen. I don’t think he’s that serious about it. That sounded more like frustration and worry. I think he and other professionals are worried about the loss of ‘the newspaper’. I think we should be, also.

    Dan, how else do you see trained journalists not only getting paid, but also given the resources to get the info needed for an in-depth story? We have _some_ political webloggers who have some clout, but we’ve seen crap come out of them as much as cream. Most of us don’t have the clout of even a small town newspaper reporter. That’s because only a few people can direct enough attention at once to effect change, and most of them use this for their own benefit.

    What’s worse, though, is we’re losing the ability to find the in-depth ‘local’ stories. Most of the webloggers with clout all focus on the same stories, which typically tend to reflect natioanl or international interest. For instance, rarely does anything of interest to people in Missouri extend beyond the borders of Missouri; not unless it’s already related to a ‘national’ story.

    I have no worries about losing the national or international stories, but I do worry about losing the local stores. As it is now, most local publications tend to repeat the national stories in an effort to keep the eyeballs. In Missouri, when we should be hearing about Ameren and Taum Sauk and Nixon and Childers, we’re getting Britney Spears and some kid lost in North Carolina.

    I think that Lazarus’ column, whether intentional or not, is a good “shake ‘em up” column. Webloggers have been saying how we’re the ‘new’ way, without once coming up with a viable business model, or with good plan on how we’re going to replace information lost at the local level.

    Most of weblogging is commentary off of stories that appear in mainstream journalist sources. I don’t agree with this: why do we spend so much time parroting others? But such is the result of the attention economy.

    Lazarus is a consumer reporter — do you realize how little consumer issues are reported in webogs? They just aren’t ‘interesting’ topics. Oh there are consumer-related weblogs, with audiences in the dozens. Ooo, that will scare big companies. Most of time, the big stories are what new Google toy was just released, and I haven’t bought anything from Apple lately. Not particularly helpful from a consumer perspective.

    As for newspapers by your house being free, sure, most of which make money from ads or some form of sponsorship. Are you saying that ads are all that’s needed? Seems to me a lot of newspapers are cutting staff. Something isn’t working.

    I don’t want to lose ‘the newspaper’. If we seek to replace the newspaper with ‘citizen journalists’ within weblogging, we’re in serious trouble.

  15. #15 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    “If nonprofits and foundations and startups and other kinds of entities replace them …”

    This reminds of the response where when one asks Libertarians (Ayn Rand sense of the word, not ACLU sense of the word) how they propose to handle all the non-market civic needs of a functioning modern society, they say “Charity! Private charity! If voluntary charity completely replaced everything necessary that’s now done by government, the problem would be solved”.

    I suspect the explanation for the vehemence is in there somewhere.

  16. #16 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    Seth,

    You’ve lost me with your latest argument. It is not “extending the argument” to connect one act — providing videos of TV shows whose copyrights are owned by other people and selling advertising off those — with posting headlines with links back to the original stories. There is essentially no connection.

    I still haven’t heard a solid argument to show why the latter activity — which publishers encourage, after all, by making their material available to crawlers and readers — is bad. And I’m completely baffled by your whistle-and-beer point. I guess I’m just dense.

    Shelley,

    I haven’t ever suggested we replace all newspaper-type reporting (at least the good stuff) with citizen journalism. Why the straw man argument?

    Most blogs may well be commentary off of traditional sources. But there’s a great deal of genuine reporting going on in blogs, too, in the aggregate.

    In fact, when it comes to consumer stories, the bloggers easily outdo the traditional folks except in clout (though Lazarus’ valuable coverage of privacy issues has done little or nothing to produce real change among the corporate giants he goes after on that issue). No, the blogs don’t have — initially — the clout of the big guys, but over time they are making a genuine difference.

    I worry much more about losing the international stories, and some of the national ones, than many of the local stories. I agree that the hard-nosed watchdog role newspapers used to play is essential. Too bad that fewer and fewer genuinely take that role seriously anymore.

    Who’ll do it if the newspapers don’t? Well, we’re finding out. In many cases, in the short term, nobody will do them. I’m not happy about that state of affairs, but I also think we’ll see more journalism emerge to tackle some of what’s missing.

    If you think he’s not serious about the antitrust exemption, then why devote much of two columns to the idea? I take his work seriously, and I think he means it.

  17. #17 Shelley
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    “Who’ll do it if the newspapers don’t? Well, we’re finding out. In many cases, in the short term, nobody will do them. I’m not happy about that state of affairs, but I also think we’ll see more journalism emerge to tackle some of what’s missing.”

    Dan, you’re indulging in what we in the tech field call “The Blackboard effect”, based on the cartoon where the scientist is writing out a formula and where a great unknown exists he writes out, “And a miracle occurs”.

    In-depth stories? I would say the Walter Reed story was an example of good journalism. What would arise to take its place? And following the story, what did most webloggers write? Their opinion of this story.

    But no, I am more worried about the local stories, the small stories that might get big if events aren’t publicized sooner. The stories that takes an organization to make, not just one single person (though a single person could be instrumental in ensuring it is written).

    As for the anti-monopoly stance, frankly, I didn’t find that part of any of this to be very interesting. I think that media organizations becoming an unpaid newsfeed service is an interesting topic, but I can’t add to anything that Seth and others have said on this topic. I do think that a pay-per-piece model could be very feasible if it’s greatly simplified, and news organizations agree to using the same purchasing model (though not necessarily the same pricing model). I have found a dozen papers and in-depth stores that we behind paywalls in the last year I’d have gladly paid one or two bucks to access.

    As for all publications agreeing to do this and anti-trust, well, sorry but that just struck me as pushing around bubbles. The issues of giving the material away for free, and what happens when no one is paying the bills, and should organizations such as Huffington Post, which does tend to have a lot of people making comments about stories from other publications, make money and not share the wealth–now that strikes me as the real conversation.

  18. #18 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Shelley, you’re plainly unfamilar with the brilliant investigative journalism being done by organizations that don’t report to shareholders. The Center for Public Integrity and PBS Frontline leap to mind.

    By the way, Salon (which is for practical purposes a traditional media organization that happens to live online, though with nothing like the WashPost deep pockets) should be getting credit for the early heavy lifting on how badly Iraq vets were being treated. Salon did that story two years before the Post.

    If the papers don’t want to give HuffPost a way to point at their work, and thereby make it more difficult to talk intelligently about their work, that’s their right. But at least recognize that they what you call free is an odd term given what they’ve been charging readers, which is close to zero for the print edition. A quarter or 50 cents for the print edition doesn’t begin to cover the cost of producing it. For all practical purposes daily newspapers have been nearly free for decades.

  19. #19 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 4:50 pm

    The connection is “a business which profits by taking *many* small portions of copyrighted works” (and sometimes even wholesale duplications), where a single taking in a noncommercial context would be fair use, but the commercial and accumulated takings make the fair use argument much more uncertain for the business overall. YouTube does this with video (current lawsuit), and he’s saying news repackagers/aggregators do this with journalism (per, my explanation, Google News Belgium case). My example about whistling is that the “music cover” royalty right could be similarly attacked, by focusing on small noncommercial contexts where it’s more relevant to large commercial contexts.

    The problem with the argument “there’s a great deal of genuine reporting going on in blogs, too, in the aggregate”, is that it’s like the above hypothetical Libertarian saying “there’s a great deal of charity and just plain folks helping each other out, in the aggregate”. But it’s the difference between the story of a small town which had a fundraiser to help a sick child, and national health care. The former is heartwarming and praiseworthy, but not an adequate substitute for the latter.

  20. #20 Shelley
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Dan, I’m not detracting from such organizations. I have a feeling, though, that the reasons such organizations can focus on the stories they do is because they don’t have to worry about the hundreds and thousands of other stories that also need to be told.

    I went out to the Huffington Post, something I rarely do, and checked all the front page stories. All referenced mainstream media. All. Now, there was a great deal of informed commentary. Good writing, interesting opinions. But someone else found the facts.

    What happens if the fact finders close their doors? I have to agree with Seth that assuming that the people will rise up and fill the gaps brings us back to the blackboard, and waiting on a miracle to happen.

    We need the news media. Eventually they may even need us. If we work together now, we may ensure that our relationship going forward forms a symbiotic relationship rather than one of parasite and host. After all, the parasite doesn’t do well on a dead host.

  21. #21 Lettuce
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    You mean the factfinders like Talking Points Memo and TPM Muckraker, if they shut down?

    Or the ones that nightly get almost everything I have personal knowledge of wrong?

    Or the thousands that pushed the Abu Gonzalez story int the mainstream?

    Or the ones that covered the Plame stroy so well?

    Or maybe the ones the continue to slander Al Gore?

    Which?

  22. #22 Dan Gillmor
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Seth, whether you quote someone for commercial or noncommercial purposes is irrelevant in the fair use context.

    Shelley, if the current fact finders close their doors, other people will open new ones. Will those doors reveal the things we need as a society? too early to know.

  23. #23 Mick Gregory
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    Dan, I have been a fan of yours for years. I used to listen to your podcasts. I’m a bit too busy now working in the energy industry. I believe your vision of citizen journalism and free open and honest communication with Web 2.0.

    The gatekeepers have lost. Their togas no longer have the elite status they once held. Let the narrow-minded columnists dictate the business model for The Chronicle, it will be fun to watch them speed up their death spiral.

  24. #24 Seth Finkelstein
    on Mar 23rd, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Dan, rule #1 (literally) of fair use is a factor of (my emphasis) “the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes

    Regarding “if the current fact finders close their doors, other people will open new ones”, I agree with Shelley that’s “and then a miracle occurs …”

    There’s quite a few interests which want the number of fact finders to be as small as possible, preferably replaced with propagandists and marketers.

  25. #25 hugh macleod
    on Mar 24th, 2007 at 2:42 am

    How many unemployed journalists can dance on the head of a pin?

    Just curious…

  26. #26 Rollo
    on Mar 24th, 2007 at 5:41 am

    Dan, I think your book counts as original journalism. I have it on my shelf and I quoted it several times in my recent masters dissertation on citizen journalism (available on my site, but it’s in French). It was an inspiring read.

    I think we should all be able to agree that that the future economic viability of traditional (elite) journalism is going to depend on the goodwill of its audience. (To an extent the same obviously goes for citizen journalism, with its participating ex-audience.) Because, fair use or no fair use, nothing will stop the free circulation of information. But it that really a reason to panic? Goodwill is not in short supply, as the open-source movement proves. Tax-free donations, charitable foundations, micropayment subscriptions together with transparent corporate sponsorship… The models are there.

    If the traditional product is good, a way will be found to finance it. I currently pay a hefty online subscription to The Economist. To me it’s worth it: the journalism is top quality, I couldn’t be without it, and I want to contribute.

  27. #27 Doug Karr
    on Mar 24th, 2007 at 7:10 am

    It seems that the ongoing argument here is about the interpretation of the law. With all due respect, you folks can argue about the interpretation of the law all day. The fact is that the world is changing faster than anyone anticipated and the openness of the Internet will ultimately usurp any temporary protection of written law.

    I hate to throw it out there, but it truly is The Starfish and the Spider. Someone is trying to control and moderate a living, breathing, free, open system that doesn’t have any location, ownership, nor any responsibility to any person, industry, company or law. In Digital Aboriginal, the question was “Who owns the Wind?”. No one owns it. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but this is a new frontier and people are going to have to adapt.

    We saw how Unions tried to fight automation and machinery to protect skilled technicians and tradesmen… it was a futile battle and automation won. Now we’re fighting for hierarchical control and ownership of information in a world that makes it accessible and free… it’s a futile battle. The RIAA is fighting piracy… and losing.

    Change is always painful. Great industries will die, good companies will go under, valid business plans will fail, and talented people will be left behind. That’s life. You can adapt, or you can be left behind. It’s really that simple – no law is going to help you.

  28. #28 Michele Rosen
    on Mar 24th, 2007 at 7:45 am

    A few thoughts:

    1. If journalism is so crucial to the functioning of a democratic society, why can it only survive if the companies who publish it make astronomical amounts of profit (compared to most industries)? I would like to lay a little more blame for the ‘demise’ of newspapers at the feet of newspaper company shareholders and executives and a little less at the feet of those exploring the new possibilities of the online medium.

    2. I use We the Media to teach my online journalism students about the new news environment. Many of them (those 18-24 year olds who are supposedly only watching the Daily Show and surfing the web) are as resistant to the idea of citizen journalism as Mr. Lazarus. Most of them want to be print journalists. One of our recent graduates was part of the New Orleans Times Picayune team that won the Pulitzer for its coverage of Katrina, and another just turned down a job as a feature writer because she likes her current job covering municipal meetings and crime scenes. As long as young people like this exist, journalists will exist. Whether they can get paid to do what they love to do is up to the media conglomerates that own most of the newspapers.

    3. Just to paraphrase my own blog entry on this topic, Mr. Lazarus didn’t seem to have any problem borrowing quotes from Dan or from me for his column. What is the difference between him taking quotes from our blogs and using them in his column and us taking quotes from his column and using them in our blogs?

    4. Finally, I wish people like Mr. Lazarus would see that what we are conducting here is a conversation – he has an opinion, we have opinions, we all write about them. The only difference is that now I don’t need to be a full time columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle to publish my opinions. In the long term, this increased level of engagement is a good thing for journalism. (Not that I have to tell you that, Dan.)

    In short, I wish there was a greater financial commitment to investigative journalism. But I think projects like assignmentzero.com and tpmmuckraker.com have just as much of a chance of producing investigative journalism as existing newspapers. But we have to give them a chance to succeed. Investigative journalism will go on; it just may not be in the form Mr. Lazarus is used to.

    Just my $0.02.

  29. #29 Doug Lay
    on Mar 24th, 2007 at 9:52 am

    Aggregators and blogs drive traffic to “original journalism” sites; they don’t reduce it. I’ve seen no credible evidence anywhere to the contrary. The real business problem is online journalism is not enough ad revenue. CPMs are low compared to print rates, and newspapers have not been able to protect their lucrative classified ads business in the online environment.

    I have a very hard time believing any the aggregator sites or the bloggers are pulling down greater CPMs than “originator” sites in the same market segment (general news. business news, sports, etc.) If they are prospering, it’s not because of fat profits, it’s because their thin cost structures allow sustainability at lower revenue levels.

    Lazarus’ bitterness toward the aggregators is misplaced, pitiful and probably futile. His slag on Dan in his followup column is an insult. And his concluding remarks holding up the record industry as a model for professional journalists could not possibly be more ill-timed, given the brutally negative front-page article about the record industry that the WSJ ran last week. Basically, this guy is making an ass of himself.

  30. #30 links for 2007-03-24 | The Marketing Technology Blog
    on Mar 24th, 2007 at 10:20 am

    [...] Save-the-Newspapers Columnist Fires Back, Misses The SF Chronicle’s David Lazarus, normally a terrific columnist, digs a deeper hole today in a surprisingly un-sharp response to criticism of another recent column. (tags: newspapers sfchronicle davidlazarus) [...]

  31. #31 Daily Papers
    on Mar 24th, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    [...] few days and made it their own. US newspaper circulation is going down. O’Reilly, Powers, and others are worrying the issue right now in the face of trouble at the [...]

  32. #32 francine hardaway
    on Mar 25th, 2007 at 9:15 am

    Most of the bloggers I know occupy very niche spaces both in the public mind and in the content areas (tech, politics, etc.) they cover. They are specialists, and they are giving a venue to targeted advertising. I think this is where they really play, and have influence. Unfortunately, newspapers still try to be all things to all people, who no longer have time to get access to “all things.” Copywrite law is a red herring for the actual change, which is the migration of advertising and sponsorship dollars. Nothing will stop that; advertisers have ALWAYS wanted to figure out now NOT to waste half their dollars going after the wrong target market.
    Follow the money.

  33. #33 Information Architects Japan » iA Notebook » 10 Newspaper Myths deconstructed
    on Mar 25th, 2007 at 9:45 am

    [...] a whiny and ill informed attack on new media from one of its columnists, it turns out that San Francisco Chronicle is in [...]

  34. #34 Nation Blog » Blog Archive » Paying for the news
    on Mar 30th, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    [...] San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus and Dan Gillmor, founder of the Center for Citizen Media, have been going back and forth over a column Lazarus recently wrote on whether newspapers should start charging for their online editions. In brief, Lazarus: yes; Gillmor: no. [...]

  35. #35 Mick Gregory
    on Jun 15th, 2007 at 7:17 am

    I just read that the Chicago Sun Times lost nearly $60 million last year and is on pace to duplicate that financial nightmare.

    How long do you think secondary big city newspapers can hold out?

    I predict these papers will be totally online with only token print editions by 2008.

    Sun Times
    Minniapolis Star Tribune
    SF Examiner