I’m usually flattered if some other blog links to my work. I figure anything that brings more readers here has to be good. But for every responsible blogger out there, there are other who cut and paste the work of others and either pass it off as their own or barely credit the author.
If you know the solution, contact the newspaper industry because you will be a well-paid consultant. The problem will soon be this: If newspapers decide they can’t afford beat writers, where will that information come from? Somebody has to get on the plane, go to Toronto and ask the questions.
Mike’s observations about this are astute as always: rip-off blogs rarely get much traffic, and it’s not obvious that the world needs a dozen people covering the Yankees. But the thing that caught my eye was that last sentence: “Somebody has to get on the plane, go to Toronto and ask the questions.”
Actually, no they don’t. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, there are a lot of people in Toronto. Many of them are good writers. Some of them even cover sports for a living. And the Internet makes it easy to transmit content from place to place. So there are plenty of places the information can “come from,” and plenty of ways information about the game in Toronto can get back to readers in New York.
Most obviously, Toronto presumably has sports reporters of its own. They presumably cover Yankees away games. So one obvious approach would be for New York publications to syndicate the content of Toronto publications when the Yankees are in Toronto, and for the opposite to occur when the Blue Jays are in New York.
Now, I don’t necessarily think this is the best way to do sports reporting. And I don’t think we’re headed for a grim future when reporters can never afford plane tickets. But Abraham is asking the wrong question. The question is: “how do we make sure fans have good coverage of their favorite sports teams?” Maybe that will continue to involve Abraham flying to Toronto. But maybe it won’t; the Internet may help us come up with better ways of doing things.
That might sound like nitpicking, but I think it illustrates an important point about the kinds of arguments newspaper partisans make. More often than not, they start from the assumption that newspapers need to continue doing all the stuff they’re doing now, and then they complain that their revenues are no longer sufficient to cover those costs.
Innovation often involves abandoning an old, expensive process in favor of a new, cheaper one. We don’t have as many telephone operators, linotype operators, or stenographers as we used to because we developed technologies that allow us to do those jobs a lot more efficiently. And it’s because of these kinds of changes that businesses have been able to cut costs, lower their prices, and ultimately make us all richer.
So it’s important to distinguish between reporting in the abstract and the particular activities of today’s dominant news firms. The former is important and worth preserving. The latter simply isn’t. And when you equate the two, you wind up reasoning backwards: trying to figure out how to finance unnecessary expenditures rather than thinking about which expenditures are unnecesary. The problem is that if you’ve spent your whole professional life working at newspapers, as many print reporters have, it can be rather difficult to see the difference.