Why Are Newspapers Exploiting The People They Cover?

from the questions,-questions... dept

When we recently wrote about yet another journalist complaining about how Google exploits their content, someone in the comments made a really salient point that should get wider exposure. If you go by the journalist's own logic, then the truth is that they are exploiting the newsmakers they cover. After all, it's really the newsmakers who are "creating" the story, and all the journalists are doing is writing up an account of it, for commercial purposes, and not rewarding the newsmakers who make their jobs possible in the first place. Journalists have been freeriding on the backs of the people who actually make the news for too long! I think it's time that everyone who is in a news story start standing up for their rights, and demanding that journalists pay them to stop this free riding. Perhaps some newsmakers will band together and create a new consortium, where journalists can just pay a one time regular subscription fee, to be divided up among newsmakers, based on who makes the most news. Yeah... that's the ticket...


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 7:37pm

    journalists ... Bloody Pirates !

     

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    Buzz, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 7:46pm

    Yup

    I've been trying to make this point for ages. Journalists feel entitled to special treatment and protection despite the fact they profit directly from other people. They are so bent on collecting royalties from anyone caught using their stories, but they refuse to pay royalties to those who made the story possible in the first place.

    The same applies to any industry. I pay for a song; why does the RIAA never send me a check for introducing three of my friends to the artist and causing them to become paying fans? It is such a one-way mentality. Greed drives the industry.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 9:55pm

    Ah, a true libertarian perspective! Also, all roads should be pay-by-the-mile, and we should hook up fart meters to people so we can charge them for the environmental impacts of the methane gas they're producing! Wonderful!

    (I keed, I keed! Kinda. :) )

    As flippant as this question is, it's actually a good one, and there are some good answers.

    First, I imagine that many journalists do pay for news, at least sometimes. At one of my favorite bastions of journalism, the Enquirer, it's probably more common than not. Is it against journalistic integrity requirements to pay informants or sources? If not in money, than in, I dunno, dinner?

    I imagine that some newsmakers demand compensation, too. Octomom has it right - want an interview? She probably wants $500. Or a reality show. Or both.

    Newsmaking is a funny idea, it's not like too many people get up in the morning and intend to create news. A lot of news just sort of happens. Most inadvertent "newsmakers" (the guy living next door to a murder victim?) will get get paid in novelty factor and by fifteen seconds of fame. I also imagine that journalists have to ensure that they keep the cost on the newsmakers sufficiently low. Even a deliberate newsmaker (say, Steve Jobs) wouldn't tolerate an incessant reporter taking up half his day.

    People are also bad at assessing the value of infrequent things. What is the value of a five-minute interview about the guy who got murdered next door? It has some indirect value to the advertisers who buy time in between segments on the nightly news. It would take the interviewee more time to negotiate the cost and then get the check issued than it'd ever be worth in dollars. Overhead costs would kill you in this model.

    People get better and better at assessing the value of frequent events, though. Let's say that a local reporter takes a shine to you and wants to use you as the local expert on moose, whenever a moose-related story comes up. Let's say this happens once a week.

    Maybe the first week you do it for the novelty factor. It's fun to get all dressed up and be on camera looking smart.

    The second week you do it because it makes you feel good to be on TV and your friends call to congratulate you.

    The third week it's getting to be a pain in the ass, but you do it because you think being a little bit famous will make the rest of your life better somehow, so you're willing to invest the five minutes as a sunk cost.

    The fourth week, you find out that actually, this is kind of a drag, and it's not making your life better, but you do it out of guilt.

    The fifth week, you find out that the local news affiliate is selling your five-minute clip to the network for $500.

    By the sixth week, you're probably asking for $100 for your trouble.

    Are you gonna get your $100? Depends on how much trouble the journalist will have finding a replacement moose expert, I guess.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 10:21pm

    Hm, this fart metering concept is intriguing. Tell us more...

    Thanks for the grins.

    "People are also bad at assessing the value of infrequent things."

    This is a problem for frequent things too, like news itself.

     

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    Tor, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    Possible source of this perspective

    One of the leading Swedish IP-critical blogs Copyriot (google translate did a somewhat poor job - "interview victim" should be "person being interviewed") recently brought up this perspective and then the Pirate Bay brought it up once again in their press conference the other day. While it may be that the anonymous commenter arrived at the same question independantly, it may also have its roots in the blog post above.

     

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    Guy One, Apr 17th, 2009 @ 11:57pm

    just missing W. Harold
    :(

     

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    alan herrell - the head lemur, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 5:31am

    Residuals! Don't forget Residuals! Need to count every time you get mentioned, so that you can get paid.

    Need an ASCAP to count and enforce performancing rights especially in the blogosphere, since those folks have no idea what pressure newsmakers are under to produce the next quote.

    Need to setup a royalty board to count usage in Network vs Out network for billing like the mobile phone company.

    Need an organization like Newsmaker Industrial Academy of America, NIAA, to protect your rights.
    Of course newspapers can join for redistribution like the AP...

    Part of this money can go to The Old Newsmakers Home, so that when your Newsmaker/Dunbar number drops, we can find you to wheel you out a few years from now when we have a "Remember When" Tribute tweet a thon.

     

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    Tim, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    well said!

     

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    Ben, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 8:13am

    Even Worse

    What I always thought was even worse is that many newspapers have a policy of not linking to sources, websites, or organizations they are referencing. At least Google sends you to the original.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 8:26am

    Re:

    "Newsmaking is a funny idea,"

    It's not funny when it lands you in court.
    For example, NBC and the GMC gas tank incident

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 8:26am

    While obviouly sarcasm, it does seem to me worthwhile to note that journalists getting a free ride on the "work" of newsmakers bears a striking resemblance to business method counselors getting a free ride on the "work" of economic theorists.

     

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    JohnFen, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    I'm a wet blanket

    I realize that it's a tongue-in-cheek post, but I can't help throwing a little water.

    Technically, newscritters are paid for their original work, the actual writing, the specific expression that appears in the paper (or TV, radio, whatever). The people making the news could, theoretically, write the news up themselves and get paid the same as the newscritters.

    Reprinting someone else's expression of an event is different in kind from writing, in your own words, something that you have learned about.

    Ugh, a double wet blanket! I appear to be defending the newscritters (and I suppose, in the specific instance, I am), but really, my heart is not with the copyright abusers at all. I swear. I feel a little dirty.

     

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    Curious Anti-Libertarian, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    Re: I'm a wet blanket

    Thanks for at least one thoughtful comment. Despite being tongue in cheek, this type of post is yet another stab at the progress in economics and ownership rights brought to the world at large by the good ole US of A. If Google and its ilk gets to rip off intellectual property, then where does it stop? Why does Microsoft get to prosecute piracy?

    Personally, I think this post any many others is less about IP rights and more like the Roman coliseum viewers who simply loved to cheer at the victims of torture. It is crass and base voyeurism, not true social commentary.

     

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    ITWARZ, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 9:31am

    Feelinf Suckered!

    Reading this story was a waste of time... ITWARZ

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re: I'm a wet blanket

    "... progress in economics and ownership rights ... If Google and its ilk gets to rip off intellectual property ... Roman coliseum viewers ... crass and base voyeurism"

    What (specifically) are you going on about?
    Or is it sarcasm, I cant tell.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 10:51am

    Re: I'm a wet blanket

    Technically, newscritters are paid for their original work, the actual writing, the specific expression that appears in the paper (or TV, radio, whatever). The people making the news could, theoretically, write the news up themselves and get paid the same as the newscritters.

    Now let's apply that same principle to, say, someone selling "bootleg" music recordings.

    Technically, bootleggers are paid for their original work, the actual bootlegging, the specific encoding that appears in the recording. The people making the music could, theoretically, record the music themselves and get paid the same as the bootleggers.

    See how that works?

    Reprinting someone else's expression of an event is different in kind from writing, in your own words, something that you have learned about.

    Ah, but if you're using your own words then you're NOT reprinting someone else's expression, you're printing your own. Now you may both be using the same information but neither one of you created that in the first place either.

     

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    jjray, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    'journalists'

    What value do brick and mortar newspapers bring to society beyond employing lots of people? That's what they have to ask themselves. Many papers are blatant government shills. They no longer act as a check and balance upon our government. The blogs and online journals have taken that over. What do they do of value? I'm missing it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 12:20pm

    Re:

    First, I imagine that many journalists do pay for news, at least sometimes.

    If someone pays for music, at least sometimes, does that make the times that they don't OK?

    Is it against journalistic integrity requirements to pay informants or sources?

    Informants and sources don't create the news anymore than second-hand car salesmen create cars.

    Newsmaking is a funny idea, it's not like too many people get up in the morning and intend to create news. A lot of news just sort of happens.

    That could sometimes be said of musicians as well. In fact, sometimes they come up with songs even before they get up in the morning. I know I have and Paul McCartney has claimed that one of his most famous songs, "Yesterday", came to him in his sleep. Now, I doubt that he went to sleep the night before intending to do write it in his sleep. It "just sort of happened". Would you say that he didn't deserve ownership since it was unintentional? Is it still "a funny idea"?

    Many scientific discoveries are also made serendipitously while the discoverer was looking for something entirely different. In other words, they were unintentional. Is it "a funny idea" to give them ownership?

    Most inadvertent "newsmakers" (the guy living next door to a murder victim?)...

    You're still confused. The news creator was the murderer, not the guy living next door (unless he was also the murderer) or even any witnesses.

     

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  19.  
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    ehrichweiss, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 4:43pm

    THIS!!

    Mike,

    Ahem, from http://techdirt.com/articles/20090413/1122214481.shtml?threaded=true

    "I wrote the story based on the original report, which turned out to be missing some facts which were filled in in the comments. That's the point of the blog posts I write..."

    Yet, somehow this one comment actually deserved a "correction" so you could jab newspapers one more time!?!?

    Heaven forbid you actually try to get to the truth. Time to wake up.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 6:29pm

    Copyright is becoming nonsense

    I'm going to go make up a 10 minute choreography piece that is slow but incredibly awkward so it attracts attention (like I'll take 10 slow steps right, 10 slow steps left, then bite off the head of a raw fish, repeat 5 times, sing "i love to barf fish... i love to barf fish", and then barf my guts out into a sand castle bucket, and pour it on my head). I'll register it with the copyright office as a piece of choreography. Then I'll perform my dance all day long in the center of times square. When AP finally writes about what my dance is, and Fox News sends some reporters to record it, I'll sue them all for recording and distributing my live performance.

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Apr 18th, 2009 @ 8:02pm

    Re: I'm a wet blanket

    JohnFen wrote:

    Technically, newscritters are paid for their original work, the actual writing, the specific expression that appears...

    But that’s still only copying from the actual events that the actual people lived through. Who else should own the copyright on a life, if not the person who lives that life?

     

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    Your Editor, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 4:35am

    IT wishlist

    Adopt the old NYT/WSJ model. Give the news away for a limited amount of time (say 3 days) so everyone on the interwebs can know what's going on, and you can also get featured on Google. But if someone at the same IP address reads the same news article say 10 times, look at ways to convert that person to a paying customer.

    WSJ is seemingly backwards. At WSJ, you need to be a member to contribute, and feedback in the form of comments or letters to the editor, are often more important in the newsroom for additional news leads. Even WaPO recently discovered this.

    But from the business side, obviously, if a free customer is accessing the same content 5-10 times, they like what you wrote, they probably wouldn't mind ponying up $10-$25/mo to get access to the same story. How can we walk them into the decision of being a regular print or online subscriber with full access?

    But most importantly, don't jeopardize contributor trust. Often, contributor commentary is done in the moment, as I'm sure those who do hard-hitting journalism know. Rupert Murdoch knows that controversy sells. It sells his papers, it sells his news networks. Sometimes you need to be controversial, but also allow conversation.

    Should you allow conversation on the website, perhaps commentary from 3rd parties should be available for a limited amount of time, let's just say say 14 days. After that, comments should be accessible to companies for a fee.

    Let's say comments are worth $1,500 or more per article.

    Understand that at this point, those asking for comments are perhaps from a consulting company or otherwise, and may be willing to pay any amount you ask.

    But as part of the offer, the requester should be able to receive city/state of each commentary, but that's it.

    Next, Keep commentary private and un-viewable from public search engines after the 14 days to protect your contributors from libel issues. You need the comments, but no one needs a libel suit.

     

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    Your Editor, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 4:49am

    IT wishlist

    There's more, but hey, I need some better food!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 8:21am

    Re: IT wishlist

    and how does this visit counter work ?

     

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    GL, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 12:14pm

    Re: Feelinf Suckered!

    Well said.

     

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    mobiGeek, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: THIS!!

    Except that Mike is not a journalist, does not try to claim to be one. Techdirt is not a news organization.

    So your point is not relevant to the discussion at hand.

     

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  27.  
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    Jon, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    Journalist or Pundant

    There is a difference between true journalism and being a pundant. Most of the news we watch on TV and read in Blogs is created by pundants, reporting a story with their own inflection. Whereas a journalist/reporter actually reports, verbatim, the event.

    A "journalist" reporting a story with their "own logic" is a pundant. The story is no longer pure. It has been tainted by said "logic".

    Do I think a true news organization should pay a criminal for the reporting of their activities, NO. Or, pay a government for reporting their activities, NO. How about a famous entertainer going to dinner or buying a new mansion, maybe.

    Point is, I like knowing that there is a unbiased public record of the served community and THAT is the local newspapers responsibility.

     

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    Russ, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 3:26pm

    Pay the newsmakers

    Im not to sure that paying people for their story would be a good thing, people will do some crazy things for money. compact refrigerator

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 5:54pm

    Re: IT wishlist

    But if someone at the same IP address reads the same news article say 10 times, look at ways to convert that person to a paying customer.

    You seem to be confused as to how the internet works. IP addresses do not correspond to individuals. Those 10 "reads" could have been the 10 different people. Or it could have been an automated system updating a cache. Or several other things.

    Before proposing ways of doing things on the Internet it would be good to first learn how it works.

     

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  30.  
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    vince, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 6:53pm

    Why Exploit People They Cover...

    Since MSM has long since quit actual reporting of facts and truth...

    They have only exploitation of either the 'things' they actually cover, or the users of their services.

    Since the users are leaving them in droves, wanting something more substantial such as truth or facts...

    They can only exploit that which is left...

    The ones they are foisting on the world. (Totally unqualified as they are i.e. either the people they cover or THEM)

     

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  31.  
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    David Orozco, Apr 19th, 2009 @ 9:57pm

    Re: 'journalists'

    I've been reading several posts relating to journalism on this site and I think Google is unduly praised. If it were not for the DMCA Google and ISP's would be in very hot water with copyright infringement (regardless of what you believe copyright should be). Given that legal safe harbor provided to Google and ISP's they have free rein to re-distribute content and make a killing in the process. Journalists (the reporters) are hard working people who are trying to report the facts and truth. It's not their fault that the journalism model has faltered. The business of journalism has failed because print newspaper management has failed to innovate and give honest relevant facts demanded by their core markets. Many readers in particular segments have been neglected in favor of a mass homogeneous market that is now being gobbled up by Google and the like!
    Prof. Orozco

     

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  32.  
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    Mike (profile), Apr 20th, 2009 @ 1:33am

    Re: Re: 'journalists'

    If it were not for the DMCA Google and ISP's would be in very hot water with copyright infringement (regardless of what you believe copyright should be). Given that legal safe harbor provided to Google and ISP's they have free rein to re-distribute content and make a killing in the process

    You don't seem to understand either the purpose nor the specifics of the DMCA harbors, because everything you write above is untrue.

    First, the purpose of the DMCA safe harbors is straight forward and should be common sense: it says that a service provider shouldn't be liable for the actions of a user of that service. That seems perfectly reasonable. No one should be liable for the actions of others.

    The DMCA safe harbors DO NOT protect you from infringement that the site does itself.

    Now, for the specifics, you claim (incorrectly) that Google has "free rein to redistribute content." This is not true. Google does not have the freedom to do that at all. They do have the freedom to LINK to content elsewhere, and to include a short snippet so you know what's there. But that's quite different, and clearly covered by fair use (which has nothing to do with safe harbors).

    Journalists (the reporters) are hard working people who are trying to report the facts and truth. It's not their fault that the journalism model has faltered.

    Nor was it the fault of the buggy whip makers that their business went to hell. But that doesn't mean they have the right to legally go after automakers.

    The business of journalism has failed because print newspaper management has failed to innovate and give honest relevant facts demanded by their core markets.

    Indeed. So why are you falsely blaming Google?

    Prof. Orozco

    Whoa. You're an intellectual property professor? I'm confused how that can be, when you don't seem all that familiar with the role and the specifics of the DMCA or what Google is doing. That's quite troubling, actually.

    I'd like to give you the benefit of the doubt as someone who should know this stuff... so perhaps I misread what you wrote?

     

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    Amanda Walton, Apr 20th, 2009 @ 5:07am

    Re: Journalist or Pundant

    I agree 100 percent with you. Such a difference between 'journalists' in the mainstream media and 'bloggers' in new media. Bloggers tend to tell it like it is without it becoming tainted. Sure bloggers gain their opinions from many mainstream media stories but who owns the news. News is public and is posted or broadcasted everywhere so who do you pay for the 'news'. If I see a news conference on t.v. or watch Question Period on CPAC can I not write what I hear or does someone own the copyright to conferences. If it's aired or printed on every mainstream media do I pay all mainstream media?

    I tend to have seen many of the mainstream media very threatened by bloggers and have tried to bring us down in some way by saying the news belongs to them. Quotes and maybe some investigative reporting can be given to a specified journalist but that doesn't happen often anymore. Most mainstream media get their news from the Associated Press, Canadian Press or Reuters yet complain new media snag their stories. This is a complete hypocritical statement. Besides if something in the news is important enough to report shouldn't it be common sense to pass it along or circulate it, isn't that the media's first and foremost concern in their job, or is it just awards for their journalistic reporting their concerned about?

    I as a blogger will always post a link where I get my information whether it's through my own research or a news story from the media. I'm tired though of hearing journalists own the news, that's ridiculous.

     

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  34.  
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    Carey, Apr 20th, 2009 @ 5:39am

    Newspaper value

    I am stunned that people do not understand the value of journalists and newspapers.

    First, newspapers offer one of the only organizations with the resources to monitor, investigate and print information that newsmakers may not want printed. We want papers to print about corruption at city hall or connect the massive layoffs of Tuesday with the exorbitant executive bonus of Wednesday.

    Newspapers do this on a local and national basis. What other organization will do so? The many online services provide little of this. They primarily act to repeat press releases and do puff pieces. They cannot afford to do any actual reporting. Google and Huffington and the like don't report, they repeat. People do not realize the cost of the loss of local papers.

    Unfortunately, as newspapers have been purchased by larger companies, much of their benefits have been lost. They have taken on the roll of press release repetition.

    I am less saddened that I am in the last newspaper generation. I am more saddened that those who come next will have fewer ways to learn that the powerful are screwing them on purpose.

     

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    Leanne Goebel, Apr 20th, 2009 @ 6:54am

    Journalists, Newsmakers and Google

    Personally, as a journalist, I think everyone needs to stop complaining, embrace the challenge and move on into creating what will be the next thing.

    However, I must say that without journalists, there would be no news and journalists have actually made the newsmakers what they are today. Perhaps journalists have created so much news and hype around that news that we have created ourselves out of the jobs we know. But without journalists telling the stories, the newsmakers would not be making news. Today, the newsmakers can go direct to the audience. Just like cars could be sold direct to the buyer, but no one is willing to undo a century-old model called the auto industry either.

     

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  36.  
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    Scott, Apr 20th, 2009 @ 6:56am

    Couch theorist

    This is a great thought experiment, you know, like a freshman philosophy class. Not much to do with reality but a lotta fun to talk about.

    You know, criminals should start charging cops, judges, jailers and those guys. Without criminals, the bloated justice industry wouldn't have jobs. Totally unfair, don't you think?

    And patients, they should start charging doctors for treatment. You know, without your ailments, aches and pains, what's the doctor going to do? Get a hobby I guess.

    And hey, next time you go get a haircut, tell the stylist to pay you. Without your hair growing, you know, she'd be out of a job. She needs to spread the wealth a bit.

     

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  37.  
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    Neale Adams, Apr 20th, 2009 @ 10:07am

    RE: courch theorist

    Scott, I just read the item you posted, and will soon be sending you my $0.5 cent microfee for doing so.

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 20th, 2009 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Couch theorist

    This is a great thought experiment, you know, like a freshman philosophy class. Not much to do with reality but a lotta fun to talk about.

    You know, criminals should start charging cops, judges, jailers and those guys. Without criminals, the bloated justice industry wouldn't have jobs. Totally unfair, don't you think?

    And patients, they should start charging doctors for treatment. You know, without your ailments, aches and pains, what's the doctor going to do? Get a hobby I guess.

    And hey, next time you go get a haircut, tell the stylist to pay you. Without your hair growing, you know, she'd be out of a job. She needs to spread the wealth a bit.


    Yup. And if you agree with all of those (and I assume you're being sarcastic, as I was in the original post) then you should obviously see the ridiculousness of the logic behind saying Google should pay people for aggregating news and sending them traffic.

     

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    Amanda Vaill, Apr 21st, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Journalists and their subjects

    And Lisa Gherardini (aka the Mona Lisa) deserves all the credit for the painting of her hanging in the Louvre -- not the artist, Leonardo da Vinci.

    Give me a break.

     

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    Mike (profile), Apr 21st, 2009 @ 11:42am

    Re: Journalists and their subjects

    And Lisa Gherardini (aka the Mona Lisa) deserves all the credit for the painting of her hanging in the Louvre -- not the artist, Leonardo da Vinci.

    Here, let me help you:

    http://ggl.to/define:satire

    Now go back and reread the original post.

     

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    identicon
    Robert, Aug 12th, 2010 @ 8:40pm

    Journalists and their subjects

    Get paid! I can't get the reprint rights to the story the paper wrote about what was happening to me? I called the paper, I took the reporter around, introduced to friends and family who I convinced to talk to the reporter, was quoted in the story. Now I have no apparent right to reprint my own story on a non-commercial web site for public education. Newspapers should not be allow to own the news or hold it hostage for $250 a year reprint fees.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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