Want To Know Why Newspapers Are Dying? Maureen Dowd Shows Us

from the physician-heal-thyself dept

In her recent New York Times op-ed, Maureen Dowd takes aim at Google, blaming it for the sorry state of the newspaper industry. Perhaps in hopes of winning people over to the newspapers' side in the argument over how much Google should be profiting from their content, Dowd spends a lot of the article attempting to make the reader fear Google, trying to paint the company as anti-privacy and bent on "world domination."
But there is a vaguely ominous Big Brother wall in the lobby of the headquarters here that scrolls real-time Google searches -- porn queries are edited out -- from people around the world. You could probably see your own name if you stayed long enough. In one minute of watching, I saw the Washington association where my sister works, the Delaware beach town where my brother vacations, some Dave Matthews lyrics, calories Panera, females feet, soaps in depth and Douglas Mangum, whoever he is.
The uselessness of this statement is hard to overstate. If you stayed long enough you'd see your name? She saw the names of places where her sister works and her brother vacations? Ever look at a phone book or a map, Maureen? All she was seeing was evidence that people are looking for information.

And that is where Google adds value: it helps to connect people with the information they want. If Dowd would just pause the dramatics long enough, maybe she would recognize that this concept sounds very familiar. Just like newspapers have always done, Google tries to find information that its users want, and deliver it to them in a way that is useful -- and news stories are just one example of what people want Google to find for them. Dowd quotes Rupert Murdoch calling what Google does "stealing." But, Google is no more "stealing" the information to which it links than newspapers steal the events on which they report. It does not take much thinking to see the parallels. But hey, why take time to think when you can engage in some juicy fear-mongering and hyperbole?

Like many others, Dowd also makes the mistake of equating the decline of newspapers with the end of journalism, ignoring the evidence that says this is simply not true. We've already pointed out examples of how journalism can not only survive but thrive apart from physical newspapers. Newspapers were valuable when they were the most convenient, useful way to deliver the news. The content itself was always practically free. But the value of the content was used draw eyeballs to ads -- to give advertisers paid access to the community of readers. With the newspaper format now dying, entrepreneurs will find new ways to leverage the still-existent value of the free content to sell something scarce.

Fear-mongering, making misleading statements, ignoring evidence, not understanding your own business -- it's ironic that, while attempting to blame others for the woes of her own industry, Dowd makes so many of the mistakes that are really contributing to its decline.

Filed Under: blame, journalism, maureen dowd, newspapers
Companies: google

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  1. icon
    Derek Kerton (profile), 15 Apr 2009 @ 6:24pm

    The Papers Are Abusing Their Soapbox

    In terms of propaganda, and unfairly biasing public opinion, these journalists seem quite proficient. When will these journalists do the job they were actually TRAINED to do - that is, report both sides of an issue.

    Please enjoy the irony of them failing at their mission of fair, unbiased reporting - even as they complain that they are the only ones qualified to do so.

    What we are reading and seeing on talk shows is repeated editorializing against Google, but also articles, and "news" about the downfall of Journalism, and Google's supposed role. This is blatant propaganda. They are painting an ugly picture of Google, and posting it on every wall even though it is a Big Lie (is it Godwin's Law if I invoke the memory of Goebbels instead of Hitler or Nazis?) Controlling the press is a nice way of demonizing the opposition.

    OK, it's obvious they're not evil like the Nazis. They are just people who are threatened by the influx of some new competition in the arena. The new entrants have a different way of doing business, and a different culture. The papers are suffering some upsetting defeats, and forces outside their control have invoked some tough situations on them. They aren't comfortable with the rapid pace of change, and the tough economic times they are facing, and so they are picking scapegoats out of whatever group seems to be doing well in these troubled times. "Surely if they are doing well, it is at our expense!" But as I said, nothing like the Nazis...but a little like Goebbels.

    Really, though, control of the press is power. Power corrupts, and they are abusing that tool to the limit. Shame on them.

    In all of this self-aggrandizing whining, there is no rebuttal. The users of content aren't given our chance to sing the praises of the tool that helps us find gems in the Internet dogpile; but most lacking from the discussion is Google. In what edition of the NYT should I look for the space that the editors have offered to Google to state their case? I mean, since the journalists are so clearly unable to offer an unbiased PoV, shouldn't good journalism allow the opposition to reply?

    Google, for its part, remains surprisingly silent in this debate. I guess they are busy serving their customers, inventing new tools to improve their offerings, and giving them away for free with advertising to support the business. Bastards!

    I know a lot of great journalists, and I wish I could state my opinion without pissing them off. They will surely continue to find a market for their work, because it is of a quality that can compete in an open market. Techdirt writers, for example, can earn money without working for a paper. I can't tell each journalist how they will get paid, or what the model will be. But I can tell you that the journalists that are whining the loudest are fighting the times, the trends, the progress of technology, basic economics, and the will of the people. It won't be a pleasant decade for them.

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