Photo: orphanjones via Flickr
Our post a couple of days ago on the New York Times’s obsession with how hard people in online media companies work got a lot of comments and emails. Several readers reacted angrily to our poking fun at the apparently leisurely work ethic at the NYT, suggesting that we had maligned the many newspaper folks who bust their asses every day. (We know that these folks exist, and we did not intend to suggest otherwise).
But one reader, a former newspaper industry insider, had a different take. The former insider said that most newspaper folks are so inherently leisurely that they don’t even know what hard work is:
One of the things that got me in trouble at my last [newspaper] job was I started complaining about how lazy newspaper people are.
I got chewed out by an editor once because I suggested employees who really cared about their career should take their laptops home and learn photoshop or imovie. He pointed out to me that employees have families and hobbies and such and they work hard enough every day when they’re on the clock.
I’ve made similar statements in other places. And I always get blasted by the newspaper people. We’re not lazy. I get the stories about all the hard work newspaper people do.
Apparently, if you work an hour or three of over time once a week, you’re working hard. If you feel like you’re working hard, you’re working hard.
I’m convinced 80 to 90 per cent of the people in newsrooms don’t have a clue what hard work is (caveat, of course, I’ve known a few very hard working journalists). And those people get offended if you suggest they’re not working hard. They just don’t understand what hard work really is.
I’ve built a profitable online news business that is growing by putting in 15, 16, 17 hour days seven days a week. Usually about every minute of every day is jammed with work to do. The formula for my success wouldn’t be difficult for any journalist to duplicate, so I ask myself, why aren’t more striking out on their own and doing it?
I just don’t think they understand the hard work involved in building a digital news business.
On the other side — for the non-entrepreneur, you’ll also hear from journalists that they don’t want to put in extra hours for The Man without being paid. Why should they help some publicly traded company? They don’t understand — like employees of digital companies seem to understand — that you’re not just helping The Man, you’re helping yourself and you’re making a contribution and you’re building something better. The idea of working hard to “save journalism,” to build the new model for online journalism — perish the thought. That might benefit The Man.
And another, from reader Jennifer Mabry, reacting to our note about our third birthday:
Dear Mr. Blodget: I have to strongly disagree with you regarding the “state of journalism”
as it relates to digital journalism. Lay people, online, who create their own blogs and
other informal opinion sites, now calling themselves “reporters” or “journalists” hurt
the flow of information. If it weren’t for newspapers providing original, indepth, news
coverage and analysis — especially when it comes to local news (municipal meetings on planning and development, school boards, crime, taxes, etc.) there wouldn’t be anything for those who rant and rave on their websites to discuss. There is NO original reporting occurring online, from any resource that is not affiliated with a major, established traditional news outlet. Why?
Because unless the average person was being paid s/he would never sit through a six-hour meeting on land-fill regulation; or the re-structuring of bi-laws for a school district allowing girls the opportunity to play contact sports with boys; or spend an entire day, looking at past tax filings of their city mayor, alleged to have taken $100,000 in gifts from a local lobbyist and not reported them. …
Journalism is hard, gritty work. It’s more than just sitting in front of computer and typing out one’s opinions; hitting “send” and then calling ones self a “journalist.” And one certainly cannot trust random readers on the web to be the so-called “fact checkers” that you referred to. Newspaper journalism always has been, and always will continue to be, the foundation of solid, investigative, serious hard news and journalism in this country.
The Internet and people like you are part of why journalism is becoming devalued. There’s a myth circulating in the online world that anyone can write and report, and that’s simply NOT true. It’s a true craft. It takes heart, curiosity, passion, and among other things a general interest in learning more about people and the world around and outside of you.
As someone who is well-read and informed, why in the world would I trust “Linda J,” some random, unproven, unknown entity, to know anything about politics or anything else of import to me, and take her word over that of an institution like, “The New York Times.” You’re poking your chest out for having been in business for three years. Big whoop. Brag, when your business model is 50 or 75 or 150 years old. Then, maybe, we can talk.
The Internet is a nice, useful informational tool, but in addition to devaluing journalism and fact-checking it and other digital influences, like texting, are part of why the next generation’s ability to communicate orally and in the written word is so messed up.
Because many of those in the current generation who lean so heavily on technology to do everything for them don’t know how to properly research information at a library using books and periodicals (not “google” it); they don’t know how to spell; and they don’t know how to properly communicate with others. …Similar to the Internet, I’m always appalled when I watch a local news cast and the reporter actually quotes someone from their twitter page! (Read: Rest in piece Corey; U R missed. we will 4ever love u.”). I mean, really! the level of importance some people, like yourself, place on the Internet is ridiculous.
It didn’t take newspapers — or television for that matter — more than a New York minute to figure out how to make money off of those mediums. But aside from five people (Jeff Bezos, Nikki Finke, Al Gore, CEO of Google and Steve Jobs) who were smart enough to figure this thing out early, no one else has been able to. “But it’s so great! It’s the next big thing! It’s our future” “Everything is going to be online.” Blah, blah, blah. … And yet, no one reads online adds or will tell you that they saw an ad online for Honda or BMW or Brooks Brothers or Electrolux, which made them want to purchase that product. Again, why? Because the pop-up ads online are even more annoying than TV commercials. Like, pay television, part of the early greatness, for many, about the Internet was the lack of ads. And yet, here they are. Albeit, in effective.
Maybe your little website is doing well. And good for you, but you’re NOT the Wall Street Journal, The Economist or the New York Times business section, but any stretch of the imagination. So, cool your heels, junior. …You’re patting yourself on the back, much too soon.
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