Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A first response to Jeff Jarvis’ column in The Guardian

Jeff Jarvis got all up in Rupert Murdoch’s face over Murdoch’s plan to start charging for access to The Times (London). The column ran in The Guardian, which a commenter pointed out is losing millions of pounds each month. It is well worth reading, and before more time passes I want to post some of my thoughts on what Jarvis said about the future of newspapers, free versus paid content on the Internet, and low-cost news businesses.
  • Why so emotional, Jeff? Rupert Murdoch instituting a paywall isn’t intended as a personal affront to you. It’s just business.
  • If something can’t go on the way it has, it won’t. There is no reason why there won’t be a second bursting of an Internet bubble, though this won’t return the genie to the bottle or restore newspapers and magazines to financial health. But it’s unreasonable to expect publishers (or anyone) to go on losing money year after year if profitability isn’t imminent.
  • Real journalism (sourced, fact checked) isn’t for amateurs. That doesn’t mean they can’t do it but that doing it consistently and well, and maintaining a site of some kind, is not going to be common. (See Dr. Johnson quote in the right column.) Some people keep on with their hobby, a very few make money at it, many give it up. Opinion is easy; news stories take time.
  • If journalism can’t pay more than twice the minimum wage, why should anyone with intelligence and ability go into the field?
  • What’s my personal bias in this? I don’t want to read a full newspaper or magazine on a computer monitor, e-book reader, or iPad. I don’t want to spend that much time tethered to the screen when I’m not at work. I would be willing to pay for an online subscription to The New York Times, but if I could afford it I’d prefer to buy it each day and read it on my way to and from work. I won’t subscribe to all the papers whose Web sites I look at now—very occasionally, to be sure. I almost never watch network TV news (PBS News Hour aside, usually on Friday for Shields and Brooks, and Washington Week—maybe I should have majored in poli sci) so I’m definitely in a minority here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Everyday I Have the Blues #17
Before too much more time passes I would like to welcome Hilton Als and The New Yorker copyediting team to the Hall of Embarrassing Usage with this example from the February 15/22, 2010, issue.

When the camera hones in on Linney’s heart-shaped face...

I confess that I had to look up ‟home in on” and ‟hone” in the dictionary before I could be sure that I wasn’t the one who was confused. After all, I’m just a freelance copy editor. The New Yorker is — or used to be — one of the best edited magazines in the country. As this example shows, ‟used to be” is more like it.
Horton Foote and David Mamet in Conversation, part II

Here is another page of my notes on the program Horton Foote and David Mamet gave at the 92nd Street Y in 1986, the first part of which is here. I will post additional material if I find more pages.

Mamet: [In Hollywood] if someone gets shot in Act III, they don’t see why they can’t get shot in Acts I and II also.

Mamet: More and more, the kind of movie I like is a silent movie.

Mamet: Wait a second—you’re writing about human beings and I’m writing about Chicago?
Foote: I mean, human beings in Chicago.

Mamet: ...wishing they hadn’t sent the limo because you know you’re going to pay for it at the story conference.

Mamet: They always invite me to come on the set... they never mean it. Sure, I’d love to stand on the corner for three hours feeling like a damn fool while they massacre my screenplay.

Mamet: It’s like the mother of Moses—you just watch your baby go [when you sell the copyright].

Mamet: All you can put on the screen is the narrative line or what Aristotle called the ‟structure of the incidents.”

Foote: Couldn’t your work [About Last Night, based on Sexual Perversity in Chicago] have been done correctly?
Mamet: Yes, but it was done by venal and unpleasant people.

Foote: I wanted to be an actor in the worst way.
Mamet: I did too. I was an actor in the worst way.