Paul Andrews

February 24, 2009

A Seattle HuffPo?

The Stranger (Slog) is doing what looks to be a fascinating piece on the Seattle P-I’s future online plans (if indeed it has any). I posted on Horsesass.org on this with observations on what a local HuffPo would have to look like. The comment queue is high quality as well, including posts from Seattle Jew, and I added this in response to one of the comments:

@15 Ah yes, the archives…who owns ‘em and what happens to them? This is the question raised by the legacy “Northwest Source” URL that essentially buckets both newspaper archives into one destination/database. I’ve never been able to get a straight answer on why this is, and what it means in terms of the two papers’ future.

This is especially crucial because archives represent a real revenue stream if, make that when, paid content comes to the Web. For academics, researchers, historians, authors, journalists, activists and others, news archives are a crucial resource worth paying for (a reasonable amount, which the NYT’s $1.50 a pop was not before they dropped it).

I think The Times plan was always to buy out the P-I and absorb its archives, and the P-I went along because it figured Hearst would buy out The Times with the same deal. Then the news biz went south…but if the P-I folds and The Times declares bankruptcy to rid its debt and somehow survives — or vice versa! — the archives will exist in one big pot. If they both just plain cease to be — has this happened yet at a major paper? — then some online entity will surely purchase the archive database for standalone or synergy with other properties.

February 15, 2009

TechFlash: My guest column on Microsoft’s new retail stores

TechFlash gets online journalism

TechFlash gets online journalism

TechFlash, started by John Cook and Todd Bishop, former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters, is a rarity: Professional journalists who truly get the Web. I’ve admired John’s and Todd’s work for years of course and was intrigued and surprised when they launched, given that most projos have resisted throwing their fates (and healthy salaries) to the vast ether of online journalism. But they quickly established that they know what they’re doing. When Todd asked if I’d be interested in contributing a guest post, I jumped at the chance.

My ultimate hope remains a Seattle-based, locally focused version of Huffington Post. The technology slice of such a publication would look a lot like what TechFlash is already doing.

My guest post looks at where Microsoft is headed with its foray into retail stores.

January 1, 2009

Finally, A Year To Look Forward To

Eight years ago I started blogging, becoming just the second full-time daily newspaper staffer (after Dan Gillmor) to write a blog. What motivated me, besides the prescience of Web agitator and uberblogger Dave Winer’s warning that print media were headed for the technological scrap heap, was the incipient presidency of George W. Bush. From the time he was elected, if that’s the right term given the Supreme Court’s circumvention of due process and its de facto anointment of King George, I had a terrible sinking feeling about the future. George Bush, as I wrote in my very first blog, would come to be known as the greatest president since Herbert Hoover.

My reference point was simply Hoover’s incompetence, his inability to process reality, his boneheaded allegiance to Republican dogma when creative alternatives were obviously in order. I was not even sure Bush would actually be worse than Hoover. But today I think of Bush as not just America’s worst president ever, but the biggest loser of all time. Think of it. As Molly Ivins and Michael Moore documented so well, everything George W. Bush has touched in his life has turned to clay. He’s just that kind of guy, and documenting how he managed to run a great and powerful country from wealth and stature so far into the ditch will provide historians a vast and endless quest of explication.

When I started blogging, the most frequently used term was “Web log,” and only Internet cognoscenti even knew what it meant. Blogging’s evolution roughly tracked that of email: First people asked what it was. Then they asked why they needed it. Then it became the primary way they communicated. You cannot really have a presence on the Web without a blog, although what that really means for most people is a kind of calling card rather than, say, a personal Huffington Post. Many of the early bloggers, in fact, including the coiner of the term and Winer and Gillmor, hardly blog at all compared with what they once did. There are too many other mechanisms for communicating on the Web — everything from social networks to YouTube to Twitter.

I blogged almost daily for nearly two years before cutting back, starting again, then stopping. Blogging well is harder than it looks (for one thing, you have to know how to edit your own copy). And time-consuming. Plus it was not going to pay any bills.

But I’m starting up again because I feel we’re getting close to some sort of economic viability (if not quite a business model). Perhaps it would be more accurate to say we have to come up with some sort of economic viability. Because newspapers are indeed going down in flames, and something has to replace them if we’re to maintain a healthy democracy. I should not say “replace” because newspaper journalism does not translate to the Web, that is, the (purportedly) objective voice and truth delivered from Mount Olympus. We need the truth more than ever, but it has to be conveyed in a way that is compelling, meaningful, relevant and most of all unfiltered. Life in America is so entrenched with dishonesty that the primary function of news today is simply dismantling the dissemblance.

Newspapers may indeed be going down in flames. But the process will have to play out, it seems, like the fable of the Phoenix, where the pyre must be lit and the bird consumed before it can rise from the ashes.

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