Readings: Newspapers and democracy, the freelancing life, Craigslist and slow media

Some good long-form pieces on journalism, the media and related topics for some weekend reading. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the fate of newspapers, but soon I’ll be unveiling a revamped blog concept designed to move far beyond those boundaries.

As usual, I seem to conclude this roundup with an admonition to get off the Web for a bit. It’s a great and wonderful thing, but not merely for its own sake:

Unnecessary death of an institution: “To see the word ‘I’ in any kind of piece written by a reporter is about as shocking a development as a reader can read in the Times. Suddenly Times reporters are writing in the first person. The next thing you know Times beat writers will be cheering in the press box.”

Vanishing down the ink hole: “Not to be snide about it, but is quality journalism the best tool to foster democracy? Advocates of participatory democracy and government accountability might be smarter to invest their time directly in reforming government.”

The Midnight Disease: Freelance Writing’s Joy and Terror: “One night, sharing drinks with a woman, long after the thrill of seeing my byline had died, she asked in wonderment, ‘Don’t you just love seeing your name in print?’ I replied: ‘I love seeing my name on a check.’ ”

Why not sell EveryBlock to a newspaper? “It’s like asking me, after I put together a band of musicians, why I didn’t choose the musician who spoke Portuguese. What difference does it make if a musician speaks Portuguese?”

The New Media Crisis of 1949: “Americans of all ages ­embraced TV unhesitatingly. They felt no loyalty to network radio, the medium that had entertained and informed them for a quarter-century. When something came along that they deemed superior, they switched off their radios without a second thought. That’s the biggest lesson taught by the new-media crisis of 1949. Nostalgia, like guilt, is a rope that wears thin.”

Of Media Poverty and Passion: “Add a healthy dose of old-fashioned journalistic passion to the mix, and you will be more successful than your father or any journalism professor ever could have imagined. That knowledge is all that keeps the hope within me alive after three consecutive layoffs, two of them within 10 months, in a changing media world. The future of journalism is both scary and exciting. It will be literally what we formerly ink-stained wretches make of it.”

Portrait of the Artist as a Digital Native: “As a creative type you can promote your work as much as you can online, you can give samples or all of your work for free, but until now a sure foot on ‘old’ media is still needed for success. Notions of authority, professionalism, quality, respectability and good artistic reputation are still defined by gate-kept models.”

Why Craigslist is such a mess: “It is easy to find hypocrisy in the idealism of a business owner who prescribes democracy for others while relieving himself of the tiresome burden of democratic consultation in the domain where he has the most power. But of course, craigslist is not a polity; it is just an online classified advertising site, one that manages to serve some basic human needs with startling efficiency. It is difficult to overstate the scale of this accomplishment.”

A Manifesto for Slow Communication: “Many of the values of the Internet are social improvements—it can be a great platform for solidarity, it rewards curiosity, it enables convenience. This is not the mani­festo of a Luddite, this is a human manifesto. If the technology is to be used for the betterment of human life, we must reassert that the Internet and its virtual information space is not a world unto itself but a supplement to our existing world.”

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