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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2009 @ 10:36pm

    I find the tone and tenor of this article concerning Ms. Dowd's comments to be downright arrogant and condescending; a cherry-picking, if you will, of snipets that present her comments in a deliberately unflattering light and wholly out of context.

    She does make some quite valid points that do deserve thoughtful consideration, something that is oftentimes missing in techdirt articles and the posted comments to the articles.

    The benefits of internet search engines is manifesly clear, though I would be remiss if I did not note that many of the results are merely a website repeating almost verbatim the contents of another website that in turn engages in the same activity. It is particularly frustrating to try and locate both sides of a story, only to discover that diversity of opinion is oftentimes missing in the repetive regurgiation of the same information.

    People decry the NYT, calling it a dinosaur, and yet its news reporting is far more varied than what can be found on subject specific websites, more professionally presented, and much more insightful...if only one takes the time to read it and not use much of the tripe appearing on internet sites that somehow believe a very short summary is more than sufficient to timely, comprehensive, and highly informative news. Candidly, I find most of these sites to provide little more than what I consider to be largely useless information.

    Now, I am not prepared to call Google a leach. I believe this would be unfair. However, it is not at all difficult to understand why so many of what I term "professional journalists" feel as they do. At the same time, however, I do believe that Google does serve up information to true leeches...sites that do little more than copy news articles for their own economic gain.

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