Friday, November 01, 2013

1247 Angel of Mercy, Angel of Death

1247 Angel of Mercy, Angel of Death

Every now and then you read about a nurse or doctor who kills patients he or she is sworn to care for, treat and -- sometimes -- save from death.

Every now and then you read about a firefighter who moonlights as an arsonist, sometimes to appear as a hero when he’s first on the scene with the truck or just likes to see stuff burn.

Now there’s the internet, connecting the world, increasing the flow and quantity of both information and data.  And you can revere its goals and its ability.  But you also can rightfully accuse it of attempted murder. if not murder itself.

Okay, we all know that printed newspapers and printed magazines are on life support, just waiting for Nurse Deadly to finish the job. Part of it is their own fault, of course. They started giving away information that they probably should have charged for in the first place.

The big exception to this seems to be the Wall Street Journal.  The Journal, of course, is not a newspaper.  It’s a trade paper.  Probably the best trade paper ever.  But still, a trade paper.  

Its subscribers tend to have money and expense accounts.

The rest of the print world now tries to act like crack peddlers who tease you with a free sample, hook you and then make you pay for online news.  At the same time, they’re pricing their print product out of the market.

Even the mighty New York Times is trapped in the new model.  The Times experimented a few years back with a hybrid pay/free system.  You got the general news free but you had to pay for the columnists and specialty reports that are the real reason people read the Times.

We’re in a recession.  Yes, yes, officially we’re not.  But emotion trumps statistics in this case.  We feel recessed.  So we look carefully at what we spend.

You probably lie when you say you’ve created a budget. But probably you do question yourself when it comes to spending.   “Okay, I’ll pay for the Times, but not for Newsday or Modern Grocer or the East Acne, Idaho ‘Daily’ Bugle” which only prints three days a week and home delivers on one.

The latest example of business model failure is possibly the easiest to understand.

“Consumer Reports” is losing money.  CR does some of the best journalism in journalism.  But they don’t accept advertising either in print or online.  And people are abandoning them for Amazon user reviews, competing magazines that DO accept advertising and self verified review sites like Angie’s List.

OK.  You don’t need CR unless you’re buying, say, a refrigerator or looking for the best running shoes or the best used cars.

But in fact you need the kind of research, testing and polling CR does.  Would you rather get the opinion of skilled investigators or Mrs. Kunklewasser down the block?  You know… that woman known for the charming phrase “get your dog off my lawn.”

So, solid testing, alert editors, accurate figures.  Great way to build confidence.

Mrs. Kunklewasser, not so much.

Time to shift this paradigm (don’t you just love “paradigm?” It’s soooo much fancier sounding than “template” or “system” or “action plan.”)

If you set the same standards for news sources that you use for the ratings of lawn mowers or heat-and-serve waffles, you find the well- staffed and (relatively) prosperous newspapers, wire services, major magazines and so on.  When you accept any old report on the internet, you’re as likely to get the Kunklewasser Post as anything else.

And Mrs. K is so busy chasing you and your dog, she has little time to supervise what her inexperienced unpaid writers write.

This doesn’t mean everything in the K-Post is wrong.  It just means you can’t depend on it to be right.

The internet is killing the traditional media.  The death will not be immediate and some of it will be slower than even the most nay of the neighwhinniers neighwinny.

The answer of course, is to pay for what you buy instead of shoplifting it off a screen.

Now, what of the doctors, nurses and firefighters that ended their careers by playing God or committing arson?  Well, many of them were highly skilled.  And they started with a keen desire to help.

So did the world wide web.  But like everything else on the internet, it is both larger and more numerous than the human fellows and felons.  And the actions of the few affect people by the millions, not just one at a time.

I’m Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Please address comments to or find Mrs. Kunklewasser in the phone book, if you still have a phone book.

© WJR 2013

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