Dave Winer hits one out of the park

cardboard box by Steve Keys

Readings from news execs
[Via Scripting News]

Preparing for Jay Rosen’s class today, I, like all the students, had to read eight speeches given by news execs.

It was a really depressing task. I guess that’s the point. Unless I was required to read them, I would have given up on each long before the end. The story is just too sad, and the rationalizations too weak, and honestly, way too vain and self-centered.

There was an interesting juxtaposition. Rupert Murdoch giving a mercifully short speech saying the biggest mistake someone in the news business could make is thinking the reader is stupid. He could easily have been introducing the next speaker, Bill Keller of the NY Times, who clearly thinks almost everyone who doesn’t work at the NY Times is stupid. It seems he would exempt reporters at The Guardian, the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune. Probably the Boston Globe as well. Not sure who else he respects, but he certainly doesn’t respect bloggers, or seem to understand that bloggers could have facts or perspectives that a Times reporter might cite (though, thankfully quite a few Times reporters seem to do that these days).

For Jay’s class, our assignment is to figure out how these guys are trying to adapt.

Here’s how I visualize how they’re doing it. Imagine a box made of cardboard. It’s big, but it’s light. Pick the box up and move it from one place to another. When it gets to the new spot, it’s still a big cardboard box. It still can contain the same stuff as the box did when it was in the old place.

That’s the transition each of these execs feel they have to make. The stuff in the box are news stories. The box is their editorial structure. The old place is print. The new place is the Internet.


They do not realize that the cardboard box has been completely transformed into a totally new shape and that they need to adjust their business to reflect that. What these companies believe they provide can now be done by people for free or for very little. The world is full of Peter Parkers, free lance photographer. Most of what passes for media can be done by stenographers and PR people.

By Sturgeon’s law, 90% of the media is crap. And that crap can be filled by regular people who do not really get paid. These MSM heads are trying to keep their business model afloat in order to provide for that 90%. But the business arena has changed.

What they should be doing is supporting where they have some advantage – that 10% who are great. There are lots of media photos but only a few real photojournalists. Many people blog, but only a few can be uplifting and enlightening. Everyone has an opinion but only a few can get that across in 500 words.

These companies should be aggregating the 10% that is great. Instead, they just try to move the box. Leaving it for others to figure out how to leverage the box’s new shape.