Friday, June 1, 2012

On Content (Friday LINKS)

My friend TJ forwarded on this piece about the evolution of print journalism and the merits of introducing a paywall to protect and promote "content".  It hits all the right notes and I highly recommend checking it out (as it is free and free stuff is still awesome).

It had me thinking about content and information.  As described in the post, content is the arrangement of information; the manner in which information is conveyed.  George Will and Paul Krugman may reference the same information, but produce very different content in conveying its meaning.  The post describes information as "facts", which may be readily available and impossible to protect with a paywall. 

While considering this piece, I thought of a second level concern about the type of content we consume.  It almost feels as if the even-handed purveyor is old and busted, as the argument has flourished.  If you get even 10% of your daily news from this blog, you would seem to have a preference for argument (or a lackey 30 year old reading your news for you). 

If you flip over to Facebook, where maybe you get another 20% of your news, my experience is that you will have 200-300 ongoing arguments presented by your "friends" that will be supported by the occasional news story or editorial that further bolsters their right or left position.  Maybe you have that "friend" that posts op/eds from obscure ultra-right or ultra-left wing "news" sites (TownHall or those pretty MoveOn graphs) with introductory captions to the effect of "Finally, the TRUTH!"  Well, not really.  I don't even think the author would suggest that they are positing the truth.  Rather, they are taking information, forming an argument, and presuming that the readership will not present a counter-point.

If you disagree with anything I write, Google will allow you to drill down through the infinite information points available to find that one bit of poll data, science experiment, or politi-fact (the ugly duckling of facts) to respond to my argument.  As an example, here is a link to a piece of information about why the sky is not blue

But through all this, the lazy consumer of news is screwed.  There is more information available than ever before, which has ramped up the ability to present ridiculous nonsensical (often harmful) arguments that are accepted by others as "content news".  The fall-back of "If it has a citation, it must be true" doesn't even stand up anymore.  I just cited a post that said the sky was not blue (and now can't get the thought out of my head).

Let's go back to the argument that brought us here.  What are paywalls protecting?  I would suggest that they are protecting the brand.  There are many voices, but only one Wall Street Journal.  There are many sources of content, but only one New York Times.  You may question biases or hidden interests, but the credibility of these sources of content has stood the test of decades.  They can attempt to present balanced, non-argumentative content and have some acceptance by the public.  MSNBC, Fox News, even a number of the networks, have all mortgaged that trust in favor of feeding the beast of argumentative content.  That's not to say there are two pillars of the Fourth Estate.  The WSJ and NYTimes are just examples, and most of you would subtract or add to that list as you see fit.  I would simply suggest that the overwhelming majority of consumers would be surprised to hear about a completely fabricated story from either of those two houses that would not necessarily be the same if it was said about TownHall (to the extent anyone expects real information from amongst their 30 some-odd op/ed columnists).

In a sea of a billion voices, credibility is the last marketable trait.  If you lose your credibility, all the content in the world will not save you.


A unanimous vote on the County Budget was not meant to be.  It passed 4-1 with Greg Fox as the dissenting vote.  I've been encouraged to review the video of the Council session, but I'm really not that much of a geek.  All the same, it is clear from Lindsey McPherson's piece that it got a little heated, especially in relation to Greg Fox's 11th Hour amendment to the fire tax.  Based on everything I've heard, I think Jen Terrasa really summed up the reasons why the Council was not interested in buying into Greg's "compromise": "Jen Terrasa, also a Columbia Democrat, said Fox's proposal 'really punts the decision into next year.' She said the council shouldn't take a gamble that Fox can come up with a sufficient plan to avoid another tax increase next year, considering he didn't propose any cuts this year."

The Flier takes a very odd route to supporting Council-member Calvin Ball's proposed Charter amendment to extend term limits.  They include a cartoon of Calvin begging for "more" terms, while noting that they do not support term limits of any number of years, but to the extent there would have to be limits, four terms is just fine by them.

Senator and former Presidential Candidate John Edwards has been aquitted by way of mistrial in his criminal trial for campaign finance violations.  Anyone who dug into this case knows that the charges were very weak, but I think the entire Country wanted to see this guy go to jail for being a very bad person.  Fortunately, we have not yet written that into the criminal code and Edwards will be allowed to return to the wreck of a life he has created for himself.  Interesting thing that no one has really brought up -- For as much tee-heeing about Sarah Palin being "one heartbeat away" from the Presidency, how about the fact that this guy was on the Dem ticket for that spot?  I would take stupid over evil any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  And quite frankly, I'm not sure the man is all that smart.

Maryland has its eyes on a proposed New York ban on 2 liter soda bottles, but none of our elected leaders have indicated that they will be following suit should the ban pass. 

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow has an exclusive photograph from inside the new Wegman's.  It is sad that we are so excited about this but...HOWCHOW HAS A PHOTO FROM INSIDE THE NEW WEGMAN'S!!!

That's all for today.  Have a fantastic Friday doing what you love!  It is impossible not to.