Sunday Open Thread [2.5.12]

Filed in Open Thread by on February 5, 2012

It is Super Bowl Sunday and many of you are tending to the food and drinks (and fine tuning the color calibrations on your TVs) that you’ll serve at your parties this evening. In case you’ve a few lazy minutes today to catch up on some reading, the theme of this Open Thread is The Media.

Here are some links to some writing you may have recently missed:

1. How the Media Lost the Plot on U.S. Taxation — I first saw this reprinted in The Guardian. It is written by Mike Lofgren who is a former GOP Congressional staffer. As he notes:

The media doesn’t seem to understand the basics about budgets — and the inescapable relationship between aggregate revenues, aggregate spending, and total deficits. Either that, or reporters just choose to play dumb. The end result is the same, however: Journalists don’t probe deeply — or they probe when it is too late to matter — into budget proposals and their real-world consequences (as opposed to regurgitating the talking points politicians issue to “explain” them).

True enough — and I’d add that they don’t get that a politician talking about policy is ALSO TALKING ABOUT BUDGETS. So when the local Delaware delegation shows up at some local commemoration of the latest good news coming from our local non-profits, the local media should be asking them detailed questions about how they reconcile telling people that these great programs should continue with the advocacy of reducing Federal government spending on said projects. Discussions of great programs and discussions of major cutbacks (or the everything is on the table locution) should not happen as separate conversations. Because they aren’t. Lofgren also notes that there are good a credible organizations doing yeoman’s work on analyzing these proposed tax programs that should get wider play.

2. Pick up the pitchforks: David Pogue underestimates Hollywood — David Pogue of the NYT famously wrote on his blog that those opposed to the SOPA/PIPA legislation should calm down and not worry about Hollywood’s motives in pushing this legislation. Clay Shirky provides the perfect explanation as to exactly WHY Hollywood should not be allowed to run the internets and leaves us with a warning:

We should delight in the stand we’ve taken in favor of things like, say, notifications, and trials, and proof before censoring someone, but we should get ready to do it again next year, and the year after that. The risk now is not that SOPA will pass. The risk is that we’ll think we’ve won. We haven’t; they’ll be back. Get ready to have this fight again.

3. Why Newspapers Often Don’t Call Out Politicians for Lying There has been a firestorm of debate over a question that the NYT Public Editor, Arthur Brisbane, asked his readers about whether or not their reporters ought to be calling out the lies of politicians. This has been an interesting debate to watch, as the NYT Editor and former editor have weighed in to try to tell their Public Editor that he needs to move along here, reporters are doing a very fine job indeed. They make the case — as do other editors and reporters — that beat reporting is one thing, and you need to look to the opinion pages or the blogs working at their sites for policy context or adjudication of truth. But the comments on Brisbane’s articles at the NYT and in blog across the internet have been incredibly clear that the people who consume the news want more context and more truth from their reporting. People don’t want to be sent to other sources for the thing that they came to read a story for in the first place. That’s not much of a surprise to me, but Friedersdorf’s article in The Atlantic tries to detail the controversy and the habits (structures?) that keep reporters working in a manner that persistently misleads their readers. Go read the whole thing.

4. Newspapers, Paywalls, and Core Users — Clay Shirky again, and this time he discusses newspaper paywalls. This may be the definitive piece justifying the paywall practice and the best piece to clearly outline their limitations.

Paywalls were an attempt to preserve the old mass+mass model after a transition to digital distribution. With so few readers willing to pay, and therefore so few readers to advertise to, paywalls instead turned newspapers into a niche+niche business. What the article threshold creates is an odd hybrid — a mass market for advertising, but a niche market for users. As David Cohn has pointed out, this is the commercial equivalent of the National Public Radio model, where sponsors reach all listeners, but direct suport only comes from donors. (Lest NPR seem like small ball, it’s worth noting that the Times ‘ has convinced something like one out of every hundred of its online readers to pay, while NPR affiliates’ success rate is something like one in twelve. Newspapers with thresholds now aspire to NPR’s persuasiveness.) Paywalls encourage a paper to focus on the value of their content. Thresholds encourage them to focus on the value of their users.

Which leaves me with a note to The News Journal. I understand you were to have implemented your paywall this week. However, I spent a good deal of time at your on line site trying to find where I could signup for just the online version. Even though I pick up your paper at retail prices every day I’m in town, I wanted to preserve my access to the online version. After emailing your subscription people, I find that I can’t signup online for the just the digital version of the News Journal. I actually have to call your subscription people during business hours to accomplish this. Really, NJ? Really? Not implementing the ability for our online readers to buy subscriptions online (clarifying that I mean just subscribing to the online content with no home delivery of the dead tree version) seems to be a fatal flaw in this strategy of getting more paying readers. I’ve been pretty slammed during the day for the last few weeks (and this week will be just as bad), so I’ll call sometime this month and get that subscription, but this omission doesn’t speak well for a strategy that might try to capture subscriptions from your online readers.

Now, what interests you today?

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"You don't make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas." -Shirley Chisholm

Comments (22)

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  1. John Young says:

    Apparently this guy lacks basic understanding of meiosis and his role in gender determination:

    What’s is wrong with people?!

  2. cassandra_m says:

    I should clarify that what I want to do is to subscribe to the NJ online *only* — do not want or need home delivery. However, a tipster points out to me that there is an online option to subscribe to the NJ, getting a paper delivered to your house which also entitles you to see the online content as well. You can get that subscription at this link.

  3. cassandra_m says:

    @John Young — that article was horrific. And I’d like to see any further aid to Afghanistan linked to better human rights record across the board.

  4. thenewphil says:

    What paywall? When does it go into effect? I just read a bunch of stuff on the site. Christine O’Donnell bought nearly a third of the total amount of her book that has been sold herself.

  5. pandora says:

    The News Journal sign up is a disaster, and we do subscribe to the dead tree edition – blame Mr. Pandora.

    On last month’s bill it tells you how to get access to digital content.

    From PC or Mac:

    1. Go to
    2. Look for the “activate” link in the top right corner of the screen and follow the steps to get access.

    Well, I’ve been looking for the “activate” link and I don’t see it. I also went into “manage my account” and didn’t see anything to direct me as to what to do.

    The News Journal really needs to get their act together.

  6. thenewphil says:

    I thought this was supposed to have happened already?

  7. thenewphil says:

    “The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., will start charging for digital access on Feb. 1, according to one of my readers — becoming one of the first sites to do so as Gannett imposes paywalls across many if not all the U.S. community newspapers. “

  8. thenewphil says:

    I thought they gave up on it.

  9. Mike Matthews says:

    Yes this is odd. I was actually wondering the same thing about an hour before I read Cassandra’s post. It looks like there’s no “wall” yet, so has this been instituted? I do not want a hard copy of the paper…just digital. And I am willing to pay if it means supporting more quality investigative journalism.

  10. puck says:


  11. Grin says:

    Pandora, If you can manage your account , maybe you are already activated.

    I “heard” there was going to be a some access for the folks who don’t sign up. Full access for those that do.

  12. pandora says:

    I have no idea, Grin. Mr. Pandora set up the account many, many years ago. He doesn’t have a FaceBook page. I’m not sure how this works. I was hoping that when I went into “manage my account” there would be an option to add digital content. Guess we’ll have to wait and see.

  13. anon says:

    It starts Feb. 7.

  14. cassandra_m says:

    Thanks — I’ve heard this too. And that apparently there will be an online option to get an online only subscription then.

    We’ll see. If it doesn’t work, then they’ll be another note to the NJ here.

  15. pandora says:

    Thank you! I won’t try again until the 7th.

    It would be nice if the News Journal/delawareonline could put up a “Coming Soon” banner with the info.

  16. Perry says:

    Then there is the cost increase. It is no longer possible for me to pay three months, which for me was about $38 for the M-S service (no Sunday). Starting Feb 1st, I am being billed for $15 per month (for both paper and on-line), a substantial increase. If I agree to have them automatically charge my credit card, then it is $13.75 per month, still an increase over what I’ve been paying. So far, in the two recent mailings, there was no mention of on-line only, which is what I would prefer, the one downside being that my very reliable paper person loses a customer.

  17. Jason330 says:

    Christine O’Donnell’s political campaign gave $142,000 to her super PAC, which used the money to buy copies of her book.

    Not fishy at all.

  18. pandora says:

    Nope, not fishy at all.

    I heard that she bought them, signed them and then tried to use them as a fundraiser. This is a situation where being a witch would be useful.

  19. Dave says:

    When I moved to Delaware, I began buying the NJ at the newstand (metaphorically that is, there aren’t very many actual newstands anymore). I found it to be pretty pricey for the quantity and quality of content. Of course, I came from the DC metropolitan area so, I was used to the WAPO and my metric for content and quality has a different standard. Subsequently, I got a subscription to the Cape Gazette for local news and everything else I get online.

  20. cassandra m says:

    Apparently we were wrong about when the paywall was to go into effect. The Feb 1 date came from the Gannett blog some of us were reading, even though the NJ’s own announcement stated 7 February as the start date of the paywall.

    And I hear you, Dave, on the price of the paper. I’m hoping that the NJ is true to its word and will be upping the quality and quantity of their content.

  21. thenewphil says:

    Still reading the News Journal Online…it’s February 7th.

  22. puck says:

    I suspect technical difficulties.