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December 30th, 2008

Man Bites Dog: Newspapers Outlive Themselves, Blissful Ignorance Becomes Artform

News came last week that the Old Grey Lady is starting an Instant Op-Ed feature online. This new technology will “allow the paper’s Web site to post immediate expert viewpoints on breaking news,” said Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal.

LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!


Thank you, New York Times. I am now completely keyed in to why your stock has dropped so heavily. I mean, golly, imagine. Now for the first time, I can get Maureen Dowd’s opinion on something before tomorrow’s paper comes out! I can even, gasp, comment on what she wrote! Paul Krugman can tell me what to think of economic news in the middle of the day!

As one editor reaching put it: “This could be a forum for one of those people to express themselves in a more extended way.”

In fact, thanks to the NYT, we are witnessing harnessing of the awe-inspiring power of the Internet…if this were 2001.

Oh, my Times. What you’ve created is called a weblog – or a blog. These have been around for several years. They’ve been scooping you for probably the last few. Your own paper has blogs that are starters. The guys over in Sports run an awesome baseball blog appropriately called “Bats.” There’s “Bits” with several of our well-informed friends writing on tech-smart topics far and wide. This blogging is not a new concept, friend.

As an imbiber of the Times since my days in small pants, I have to wonder and I need to worry. Are they unaware that blogs exist, or are they hoping we don’t know blogs exist? Or, most interestingly, are they calling their blog “Instant Op-Ed” in order to make their so-called experts seem like more than mere bloggers?

This is problematic because – everyone take notes – there are smart people in the world who write blogs without needing the validation of being called an “expert.” A guy named Duncan Black, who holds a Ph.D in Economics writes a fabulous political blog that merits reading daily. A lawyer/veteran from El Salvador has with a single hand organized the entire left into electoral victory with the power of HTML. Heck, the trombone player for our local Philharmonic just started a blog that The Times even wrote about. Heavy sigh.

The point is that the New York Times may have officially jumped over the ship, sailed over the shark and run over my admiration. Not only has its Op-Ed department not embraced the technology that has existed for years, they apparently are so hung up on the concept of “expert” that they fail to understand that anyone with a blog tendency is, can be, and should assert themselves with their expertise.

…The old-fashioned Op-Ed is dead with six feet of dirt on top. Freely ask anyone with WordPress capabilities if you think this isn’t the news that’s fit to print.

Reach me on twitter: @laermer.

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