Kvetch of the Week: All hail the grim reapers

Naming this week’s winner was especially tough, given the plethora of candidates on either side of the old media vs. new media tug-of-war that competes for the emotions of journalists in transition or those who are soon to be in new career mode.

The pro-print cranks are back with a vengeance, clinging even more desperately to their ink-stained view of the world. Or proclaiming that the fate of democracy hangs in the balance.

So are those who think the print cranks are sentimental saps who have no one to blame but the people who’ve led their industry off the cliff. And who haven’t done democracy any great favors lately.

While I’m firmly in the new media corner, some of the poobahs of the movement have sounded even more utopian as the labored breathing of the printed press grows worse. Some lofty and worthy ideas are occasionally undermined by hyperbole and self-importance.

A friend’s first impressions of reading “What Would Google Do?” nails this perfectly, and she’s not from the world of journalism or new media: “The author is wonderfully impressed with himself.”

Fortunately, we have a nice little (and rare) piece of satire on this subject from Paul Dailing of the Huffington Post, who has decided to be a “Death of Newspapers” blogger. Unlike Dan Kennedy, I don’t think this treatment is unfair at all. If good journalists are supposed to question grand pronouncements from politicians and other public figures, then they also ought to scrutinize the visionaries who have positioned themselves as the gurus of a rapidly transforming profession.

Like any good satire, Dailing’s little ditty contains some serious shots that haven’t resulted in much blowback from the intended targets. If that’s not the case please correct me, but for now enjoy the new Kvetch of the Week, albeit one that’s a bit tongue-in-cheek:

“I’ll join the ranks of Jeff Jarvis, Paul Gillin, Jay Rosen and Clay Shirky in competing to see who can use the most jargon to describe something everyone knows is happening.

“Apparently, it’s very simple. The more you self-reference, pick feuds and talk about the failure of TimesSelect, the better you’re doing. If you make it sound like you’re the one who figured out newspapers are dying, you win.

“I mean, the point’s not to fix anything. It’s to describe the problem more dramatically than the next guy.”

Their methodology is finally exposed:

“Basically, imagine a group of people watching a building burn down and bickering amongst themselves about whether it’s a conflagration or an inferno. It’s like that, but with consulting fees.

“Talk about how everything online is wonderful, everything paper is crap and then use the online to pimp your upcoming (paper) book. Bonus points for talking about how much you love the New York Times at least twice per blog post. It’ll help your credibility. You love the Times, but . . . ”

And Dailing “quotes” one of the sages, an ex-newspaper hand, who explains how he got all geeky and then lays out a euphoric future for the news that is all sunshine and daffodils — except for those doing the news:

” ‘This computer thing,’ my editor said to me one time in 1983, ‘I don’t get it.’ And I think about that conversation a lot. It’s a perfect example of how newspapers have botched everything connected to everything new ever. Granted it was one conversation with a 72-year-old man back in the era of Flock of Seagulls, but that didn’t stop me from making it the title of my upcoming book, ‘This Computer Thing, I Don’t Get It,’ coming out in October from Obsequious Press.

“In TCTIDGI, I talk about how people will still create professional-level journalism will still exist in an environment where there’s no incentive to create professional-level journalism. It’ll all be done online, for free and will be better . . . somehow. The best and brightest journalists will pull out all the stops for no pay, I swear.

“Really, reporters don’t even LIKE having health insurance.”

Here’s the link again, and the comments section is interesting too.

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