Saturday, May 09, 2009

Go Chiefs! No, not really

- I'm in Kansas City today, on my first-ever outing here. When I got here yesterday afternoon, something about the city struck me - whereas most cities I've seen are surrounded by a cluster of hotels and fast-food restaurants, K.C. is not, at least along U.S. 71. I actually passed up my targeted hotel on purpose, because it seemed like it wasn't as close to the city proper as I wanted. But before long, I was literally out of the city. And it took me almost an hour to backtrack and find the hotel.

Once I found the place, I realized it was in a major shopping/college district. Anyone trying to peg it through demographics or economic factors would be frustrated. It's almost like a Midwest French Quarter and River Walk combined, but with less urine-vapor smell. And that was the reason I couldn't find my hotel: because I'm so used to strip-mall sameness that I unconsciously balked when I didn't see a massive, horizon-polluting sign advertising it. This area of K.C. (Country Club Plaza) is very un-mall-like, or at least in the sense in which I'm used to that sort of thing. And that's a huge improvement, I think. So I don't really mind that it had me lost for an hour. At least it stands out.

I've also seen multiple free newspapers and magazines, all with surprisingly strong and in-depth content. I'm inspired. Maybe print is still on life support after all, at least in the major markets.

- Speaking of the media, I have a special spot on my ass for Rupert Murdoch to kiss for saying, "The current days of the Internet will soon be over." He's referring to his plan for News Corp. to start charging for online content. My immediate reaction was that Murdoch realizes how lucrative the fools-parting-with-their-money demographic can be. But his quote has a far more chilling effect, because a new, non-neutral Internet is clearly an exciting prospect for Murdoch. He, like a lot of people who view the media as just another business commodity, would love to see the entire Internet become a pay-to-play toll road.

Now, I'm as curious as anyone as to how print news sources are going to resuscitate their flagging business models. And I don't pretend to have the definitive answer. But I don't think this is it. Charging for online content is not an idea the public will embrace, especially now that corporate greed couldn't be any less popular. It's also impractical, because bloggers could simply crib the text, whether as an act of subversion or for comment under Fair Use, as bloggers do. And the only way to combat that is to employ a battalion of censors to troll for violators, as YouTube does. That could lead to a very scary crackdown on free speech, not to mention a very lame Internet.

And that's why I dislike this idea. Making journalism financially viable is one (necessary) thing, but information should not be limited to those who are willing or able to buy it. Murdoch is a businessman above all else - in Seth MacFarlane's words, "He's a capitalist first, a conservative second." His expertise is profit, his media holdings more of a testament to their financial value than of his commitment to informing the public. The person who sent me this story said he hoped Murdoch had the right solution for journalism. For all of the above reasons, I hope he's extremely wrong.

- CNN just defined "young voters" as 18-29. I just turned 29 yesterday. Thanks, CNN.


rhonda said...

not that i missed the rest of the blog, but i am SO jealous. i want a birthday tryst to a city i've never been to before! such is never my luck, though. womp womp.

oh, and your political beliefs suck. you do too, just for having them. spar! hee hee, i know whatcha like. ;)

Hathor said...

My local paper charges 2.95 to access an article. It is currently in bankruptcy. For prices like those it would pay to subscribe to one of those journal databases and you still have the ability to cite and use as fair use. Suffice it to say I find another source besides my local paper and AP.

Ian McGibboney said...

Rhonda - If it makes you feel better, it doesn't happen to me very often, either. Oh, and you suck too ;)

Hathor - Exactly. The people who think charging for online content will save newspapers apparently think they'll keep every free reader they have. They haven't considered the variable that free readers will go elsewhere and not pay.

Is that $2.95 to access a single article? Really?