July 10, 2009
My father only listens to all-classical radio (my parents have never owned a TV). He once told me that the brief news summary at the top of the hour told him everything he really needed to know about the "news" (solid-state physicists do tend to be eccentric like that).
The local Fox affiliate runs its late-night news an hour earlier than the competition, and does a recap at the top of the hour to keep viewers from switching to the other stations. As I've grown older, I've found that on most days that recap tell me everything I need to know.
Hand-wringing aside, much "professional" news content is being devalued because it's useless. The Internet makes that obvious. For example, Daniel Gross (a fine person, I'm sure) traveled to Japan and in 750 words manages to say nothing. As one commenter noted:
Wow, Mr. Gross flew all the way to Japan, went straight to the Roppongi district in Tokyo, and saw a lot of American chain restaurants there. Ergo, the Japanese love American fast food.
It's rather like analyzing "America" by hanging out in Times Square and eating at the Hard Rock Cafe. As travel writer Rolf Potts observes (read his far more insightful analysis of the international McDonald's experience here),
I'd wager that the contempt sophisticated travelers hold for McDonald's has less to do with ethical principle than the fact that fast-food franchises ruin the fantasies of "otherness" that are an inherent part of travel.
As a result, Gross completely missed the bigger story, namely that
McDonald's and other fast food establishments, rather than providing a symbol of the exotic foreign or non-Japanese other, have become ubiquitous establishments that serve important needs and tastes of the Japanese within their own culture.
Even more surprising, "many Japanese, and especially younger Japanese, are unaware that McDonald's is not a Japanese company."
In any case, Mr. Potts notes that "McDonald's (and other fast food) is easy to avoid." Anyway, it's hard imagining a Japan-based blogger being this boring on purpose. Basically, Mr. Gross was being glib and lazy and his editors let it slide. Those tough journalistic standards at work.
Read, for contrast, Japan newbie Orson Scott Card describing (among other things) dining in Tokyo. He gets off the beaten track. He tries different stuff. He observes. Card is a professional writer, but his blog is exactly the kind of "free" that Chris Anderson is talking about.
The Wall Street Journal can charge for content because it provides valuable information (that is at least perceived as such) that can't be found elsewhere. And like Fox News, its conservative perspective makes it "unique" compared to the rest of the MSM.
As Mark Cuban puts its succinctly, "When you succeed with Free, you are going to die by Free." There's no "more for less" when you start at zero, and you can't charge more--in money or attention--for more of the same when the "same" wasn't worth anything to start with.