Monday, February 2, 2009
This morning I heard a kind of grinding sound, which I thought was maybe ice melting from my rooftop and falling to the street below. Or perhaps hungover Steelers fans trying to find first gear.
But it may have been the sound of teeth grating all over the blogosphere, as Chad Hermann, he of the late Teacher. Wordsmith. Madman. blog, has unveiled a new blog at the Post-Gazette. There was a lot of talk a couple months back about the P-G taking on bloggers ... looks like Hermann won the golden ticket inside the Chocolate Factory.
In any case, he picks up where he left off, taking an early shot at Obamania, prompting the inevitable riposte from Bram Reichbaum in the comments section. It's just like old times. Except for the fact that there is a comments section, which Hermann's previous blog didn't have. (People used to criticize him on that basis -- which never really interested me much: It's a blog, people, not a sacred trust. On the other hand, what to make of the fact that going to an MSM outlet has helped make him more "bloggy"?) Hermann tells me he plans to exercise some editorial control over comments, but hey, everyone's doing that these days. And understandably so.
Still, we here at City Paper bridle against any form of editorial control -- just ask the writers I edit. So I'll just address something Hermann says here. Quoth the madman (in the comments section):
"One thing many Obama supporters did in the Democratic Primary, and then never really stopped doing, was renounce -- or at least seem to forget -- the successes of the Clinton years."
I'm probably not the rabid Obama supporter Hermann has in mind. But I think that that one of the biggest sucesses of the Clinton years -- the supposed 1990s economic miracle -- has pretty well discredited itself by now. Much as I'd like to blame Bush for our current woes, Clinton aided and abetted the mania for deregulation of our financial markets. He was only too happy to have Alan Greenspan, a devotee of Ayn Rand, chairing the Federal Reserve. It's worth remembering that now that Atlas is shrugging -- and insisting "it's not my fault!" -- as he makes his way up to the window for a federal bailout.
There is that tiny fraction of us who are critical of both Clinton and Obama, and for the same reason: We see them both as being far too chummy with Wall Street. I want Obama to renounce the success of the Clinton years -- or at any rate to recognize much of it wasn't a success at all. My fear is that he won't go far enough in questioning the decisions and assumptions made back then, in part because so many Clinton-era folks surround him now.
In other news of the P-G's trying to come to grips with the internet, I note the paper has opened up an "open letters" feature, that allows you to comment on letters to the editor. Which is fine, but I can't help but notice that comments still aren't enabled on the paper's editorials. So it's fine for us to second-guess our fellow citizens, but the wisdom of the paper's editorial board is not to be questioned. Its pronouncements will still be handed down from on high -- honeyed scrolls that we must continue to swallow. You can write a letter to the editor, of course, but in doing so, you put yourself at the mercy of internet critics the editorial board has so far avoided.
But perhaps such paradoxes are inevitable as we MSMers are dragged, kicking and screaming, into the electronic frontier. And some of those paradoxes are much more painful, as with this story, which explains that while online readership at newspapers is up ...
big increases in Web traffic simply are not translating into increased online revenues.
In fact, the latter trend appears to be headed in the opposite direction... Online revenues slumped 2.4% in the second quarter and 3% in the third. As the economic downturn gained speed in the fourth quarter, it would be surprising if the most recent figures bucked the trend.
The decline in online revenues, while small in dollar terms, is still a crushing blow to the newspaper industry, as the digital medium held out the primary hope for newspapers, which have seen their print ad revenues implode due to Internet competition.
I've offered some thoughts on the problems professional media outlets face online already. With respect to this piece, I don't think it's a surprise that ad revenues drop in an economic downturn. The same thing is happening in print editions. The problem is that the online ad market is being strangled in its crib, before it even has a chance to mature.