Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Jan 12

Great Design Equation

Posted: under Design, New Marketing, new media, Online Video.

Here’s another quick hit:

Al Gore divided by Bill Gates?

Al Gore divided by Bill Gates?Does that mean that the polar icecaps will now recede as slowly as a Vista boot-up? 'Cause that'd actually be pretty cool.

I really love the playful spirit behind this ad – the way that it takes great design, which by its nature cannot be reduced to a set of integers and mathematic functions, and reconstructs the evolution of great forces in advertising and marketing into an arresting image.  Great stuff.

Maybe I’m loving this just because it’s so “meta” – an ad image that seeks to comment on, and explain forcefully & originally, what is best & most innovative about advertising design.  The Big Scary Project I’m working on right now is kinda like this – it’s a journalistic project that seeks to impress other journalists with its depth & insight.  Which is a high-wire act that borders on the reckless.

Jay Rosen did a piece today that was so good & interesting that it pissed me off.  I’ll be blogging about it, in light of the stuff I wrote about last night from David Simon.

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Jan 12

Stuff Journalists Like

Posted: under Uncategorized.

STUFF JOURNALISTS LIKE.

Just one more thing. This is hilarious … well, at least to journalists it is.  To outsiders, it’s probably the equivalent of taxidermists guffawing over someone using the wrong type of agates in Grampa Palin’s stuffed moose. To us ink-stained wretches, the recent listing of “Drinking” at No. 10 was both funny and somewhat sad. 

You can tell a
journalist’s bar by names such as Trail Dust, Cell House 7 and Top Hat Lounge.
Such dingy hole in the wall watering holes will typically have two beers on
tap, PBR and Budweiser, and a well of cheap liquor.

Here journalists gather
to complain about the death of their industry and how much they miss the good
ol’ days. Most of the time such bars are a stone’s throw from the newsroom so
weary journalists won’t have to stumble too far to wet their dry pallet’s.

A good beer and a shot
is just the medicine for any spent journalist who survived another treacherous
day in the trenches reporting the truth. To report the news is to be a
journalist. Same goes for drinking. Drinking is so much a part of a
journalist’s life that J-schools nearly made it part of the curriculum but
instead choose copy editing. And journalism has suffered ever
since. 

We useta drink Blue Margaritas at Yank’s on Tuesday nights, racking up the expense accounts & telling lies.  It turned out that this was pretty much the highlight of the week … well, at least it was when I was in town, working on the depressing celebrity-gone-wrong stories.

And yeah, I did love The Wire.  It’s brilliant. See below.

Here’s Wire Producer David Simon talking about the reaction to Season 5, which was about journalism, and how the press was consistently missing the story, falling down on the job, and not reporting on what was really important.  There is much, much more to this interview, and it’s one of the most bare-knuckle assessments of the profession that I’ve ever seen.  Read it.

Part of the critique of journalism in Season 5 was that instead of
examining the real “why” of issues, and really analyzing what our
problems are and how to address them, journalism had reduced its
ambitions to something much smaller, and much more onanistic—a prize
culture that rewards “gotcha” and quote-unquote “impact” journalism,
and shaping shit to win a prize. I saw an awful lot of that in
journalism. It was one of the destructive forces in play.

(snip)

My feeling is, there’s a lot in Season 5 that’s a love letter to
journalism. This is not people who hate newspapers, or are angry at
their alma mater. I’m angry at what happened to my alma mater. I love
the Baltimore Sun. I grew up there. So did Bill Zorzi. The only thing I
was conscious of was that the mythology of pure victimhood is ripe in
journalism at this time.
I was very conscious that somewhere, about
halfway through the run, a lot of journalists—not rank-and-file
journalists, not a lot of people who’re in the trenches, but a lot of
powers that be, pundits, managing editors and publishers and columnists
who haven’t seen the pavement in years—a lot of them were gonna be
wailing like cats with their tails on fire.

But ultimately, until journalism re-embraces
its higher ambitions, something a lot higher than grubbing a Pulitzer
or dancing around with stuff they regard as “impact” stories, until it
starts realizing that it mattered when it chose to explain the world in
an increasingly sophisticated and subtle way…

When I was in
journalism school, they told us that newspapers were going to become
more like magazines, and magazines were going to become like fucking
books. Everything was going to get smarter. And when the money was
there to make it smarter, it got stupid. And then the real poverty
landed, and newspapers were in no position to charge for their product,
because their product was inferior. And now it’s a horror show. What we
were describing is the exact equivalent of Detroit in the 70s. Hey, we
have a monopoly. What the fuck—let’s make Gremlins and Pacers and Chevy
Vegas. And then all of a sudden you don’t have a monopoly, and you’re
standing there on the lot going, “Hey—buy my Vega.” And that’s what
happened with journalism. You saw them manufacturing Chevy Vegas, and
then you saw the monopoly ending. And you saw the panic in the
newsroom. And those who only wanted to believe that they were still
putting out Thunderbirds, and that all was fine, and that it was all
heroic in the ‘80s and ‘90s—they were greatly offended by The Wire. But they’re also full of shit.

Ultimately,
there was a problem with the message. Journalists did not want to hear
that they were at all complicit, as an industry, in their own demise.
But it was something we felt the need to say. And, by the way, I say
“they,” but the truth is I got 600 emails from people at newspapers, in
the trenches, who were like, “This is my fucking life every day.” It’s
been the same dynamic all along. If you go to the Baltimore police
department, all of the beat cops and detectives are like, “I fucking
love the show. This is my fucking life. You got it. You got it.” But
then, if you go up to major and above, you hear, “Well, actually, we’re
a lot more functional than you give us credit for. We’ve actually made
some improvements in how we’re approaching drug enforcement.” Same
thing in the school system. You get above the rank of assistant
principal, and it’s all about, “Hey, the test scores are going up.
We’ve got a handle on this thing now. No Child Left Behind is working.”
The same thing happened in journalism. But journalism—they vent
outward, rather than inward.

To anyone from GQ, if this amount of excerpting seems excessive, drop me a note, or a cease-and-desist, and I’ll yank it. But dammit, this is good stuff, and I want to put a bunch of it up here so’s people go to your site and read the rest of it.

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Jan 12

Seattle P-I Stares Into The Abyss While the LA Times Web Operation Actually Makes Money

Posted: under Uncategorized.

Short takes, because I’m editing stories these days, as well as writing 9 of the little buggers myself.

First, there’s the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is up for sale, and that if it doesn’t sell in the next two months, it’ll either be liquidated & turned into a web-only brand, or taken out back & shot.

“One thing is clear: at the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in print,” said Steven Swartz, president of the Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division.

Well, that’s pretty stark.  No chance that the Dead Tree edition will be able to sputter along for a while yet?  Damn. The ad market must really be eating it up in the Pacific Northwest … well, at least for paper editions.  All the dweebs, nerds & propellerheads in the area (you know who you are) have long since sworn blood allegiance to information arriving over the intertubes.

Others have pointed out that, just as wolves pick off the old, sick & lame in the herd, so too do economic forces strike first at the most vulnerable. In this case, that vulnerability was that they were 1) the 2nd-place paper in a 2-daily town, and 2) a paper in a market where ad revenues were either getting tight, or moving to other platforms.

The part of the sick & lame reindeer in this metaphor will be played by the Detroit Free Press & Detroit News, and the Rocky Mountain News.

The San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times are having trouble keeping up with the rest of the herd, and the wolves are licking their chops.

The Atlantic article asserting that the New York Times could croak this spring has been pretty ferociously fisked. As has been pointed out (ad nauseum) elsewhere, the revenues that come in from the digital editions still don’t add up to even 1/5 of what the paper edition brings.  Of course, people are starting to notice what the dour Norwegians did a coupla few years back – the profit is lower, but so are the costs.  I wrote about this, and the slides showing the relationships between costs & revenue are online.

Here’s what Poynter (in the link above) had to say: 

But one of the most intriguing issues in considering partial or complete conversion to online is that the cuts would not be distributed equally through the enterprise. Distribution, paper and pressroom costs would be reduced dramatically or eliminated. That could leave a much higher share of the remaining budget for the smaller company to devote to newsgathering. 
 
I don’t begrudge Hirschorn his meditation on a future in which print’s role is minimal or disappears. I don’t happen to think, as he does, that Huffington Post, with its mix of unpaid opinion blogs, news lifted from elsewhere and hype, is the model.
 
How about getting your political news from Politico, your sports news from ESPN.com, your showbiz news from EW.com, your international news from an assortment of options, and your local news from somewhere to be determined? In short, the news would come from professionally reported and edited sites with standards — just not the single unifying standard of The New York Times or other quality publications.
 
It all may come to pass within a decade or sooner. Not, however, at The New York Times in May.

And finally, over at BuzzMachine, Jarvis is lobbing blogversation grenades, asking, “Can the LA Times turn off its presses?”

Kirk LaPointe at themediamanager.com says pretty convincingly, “Not yet.” Although he does cite the expenses from lawsuits twice in his 7-point refutation of Jarvis. Apparently, legal expenses are much on this editor’s mind these days.

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Jan 12

Seattle P-I Stares Into The Abyss While the LA Times Web Operation Actually Makes Money

Posted: under Digital Migration, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Webconomics.

Short takes, because I’m editing stories these days, as well as writing 9 of the little buggers myself.

First, there’s the news that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is up for sale, and that if it doesn’t sell in the next two months, it’ll either be liquidated & turned into a web-only brand, or taken out back & shot.

“One thing is clear: at the end of the sale process, we do not see ourselves publishing in print,” said Steven Swartz, president of the Hearst Corp.’s newspaper division.

Well, that’s pretty stark.  No chance that the Dead Tree edition will be able to sputter along for a while yet?  Damn. The ad market must really be eating it up in the Pacific Northwest … well, at least for paper editions.  All the dweebs, nerds & propellerheads in the area (you know who you are) have long since sworn blood allegiance to information arriving over the intertubes.

Others have pointed out that, just as wolves pick off the old, sick & lame in the herd, so too do economic forces strike first at the most vulnerable. In this case, that vulnerability was that they were 1) the 2nd-place paper in a 2-daily town, and 2) a paper in a market where ad revenues were either getting tight, or moving to other platforms.

The part of the sick & lame reindeer in this metaphor will be played by the Detroit Free Press & Detroit News, and the Rocky Mountain News.

The San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Sun-Times are having trouble keeping up with the rest of the herd, and the wolves are licking their chops.

The Atlantic article asserting that the New York Times could croak this spring has been pretty ferociously fisked. As has been pointed out (ad nauseum) elsewhere, the revenues that come in from the digital editions still don’t add up to even 1/5 of what the paper edition brings.  Of course, people are starting to notice what the dour Norwegians did a coupla few years back – the profit is lower, but so are the costs.  I wrote about this, and the slides showing the relationships between costs & revenue are online.

Here’s what Poynter (in the link above) had to say: 

But one of the most intriguing issues in considering partial or complete conversion to online is that the cuts would not be distributed equally through the enterprise. Distribution, paper and pressroom costs would be reduced dramatically or eliminated. That could leave a much higher share of the remaining budget for the smaller company to devote to newsgathering. 
 
I don’t begrudge Hirschorn his meditation on a future in which print’s role is minimal or disappears. I don’t happen to think, as he does, that Huffington Post, with its mix of unpaid opinion blogs, news lifted from elsewhere and hype, is the model.
 
How about getting your political news from Politico, your sports news from ESPN.com, your showbiz news from EW.com, your international news from an assortment of options, and your local news from somewhere to be determined? In short, the news would come from professionally reported and edited sites with standards — just not the single unifying standard of The New York Times or other quality publications.
 
It all may come to pass within a decade or sooner. Not, however, at The New York Times in May.

And finally, over at BuzzMachine, Jarvis is lobbing blogversation grenades, asking, “Can the LA Times turn off its presses?”

Kirk LaPointe at themediamanager.com says pretty convincingly, “Not yet.” Although he does cite the expenses from lawsuits twice in his 7-point refutation of Jarvis. Apparently, legal expenses are much on this editor’s mind these days.

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