Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Today's Quote

Today’s quote is a very versatile phrase, a pair of words we have all used many times: “Fuck you.”

Now, I can’t cover all the uses of this phrase, so I’m going to focus on just one. No, not the way Jon Stewart used it in his commentary on Mitt Romney’s withdrawal from the Republican Primary. The recent usage I want to highlight today was by Sam Zell.

Background: Sam Zell owns the Tribune Company, which means he owns the Chicago Tribune, WGN, the Chicago Cubs, and a bunch of other newspapers as well. One of those papers is the Orlando Tribune. Zell’s “fuck you” was directed at Sara Fajardo, a journalist who works for that paper, during a Q&A session with Orlando Tribune employees. Listen to the full, unexpurgated exchange here (lower of the two video clips).

Are newspapers about journalism, about “informing the community,” to quote Fajardo? Hell, no. They’re a business. They’re about making money. Just like TV, as I wrote a couple weeks ago in reply to a question from Übermilf about Katie Couric. The bottom line is, well, the bottom line. The news that’s fit to print is the news that people want to read and will pay for, whether that’s the situation in Iraq or where to find strip clubs in Los Angeles. Journalistic ethics? Maybe they’ll help the balance sheet if they mean journalists are willing to ply their noble trade for less pay.

Now you may not like this situation. You may prefer your newspaper to contain accurate, unbiased, and complete coverage of important news issues, with a thoughtful and reasoned editorial stance. But that’s not what Fajardo thinks you want. “What readers want are puppy dogs, we also need to inform the community” is the full quote. Some respect for newspaper readership she has. Journalism is something unwanted you have to shove down the throats of the consumer? Nice. Maybe there’d be a couple of words I’d say to you, Sara Fajardo, only I think Sam Zell already did.

Of course, she’s right. Newspapers, just like TV, are largely vehicles to convey entertainment content. The comics, sports scores, John McCain’s hot lobbyist friend, who won the Oscars. If people really wanted news first and foremost that’s what the papers would have, because that’s what would sell. But it’s not. Is that Sam Zell’s fault? Do you want Sam Zell to force-feed you hard news? (Or Katie Couric? Which is scarier?) Or is it everyone’s fault? Do we want crap because we’ve been sold crap, or do we want crap because that’s what we really like?

Let’s get back to “fuck you.” Did Fajardo deserve it, for what Zell called her “journalistic arrogance?” He did seem to get pissed off, and usually he treats his employees well. He let’s them watch porn online at work, and even asks them to him know when they find good sites! He likes women, he’s been quoted as saying, “Everyone likes pussy. It’s un-American not to like pussy.” So was Zell out of line? Before you answer, there’s something the video doesn’t show: Fajardo turning her back on Zell and walking out as he answered her question.

-- Satan

Have a question or want advice? Ask Satan is published irregularly as questions are received. Email Satan or post your question in the comments.


Übermilf said...

I will watch the video later, since I have little ones in the room.

But you pose an interesting question.

I find it interesting that people working within a medium like to blame the industry or its viewing/reading public for the rise of "soft" journalism or "info-tainment," yet they themselves are the ones creating it.

Striking people and whistle blowers and many other people face economic hardship in order to stand up for their principles; journalists can do the same.

I do believe information is vital in a democracy; how else are people to choose their leaders? But people need to be the good they want in the world, not expect someone to make it easy for them.

Am I making sense? I took an anti-histamine.

Übermilf said...

In that last paragraph? Journalists need to be the good they want to see in the world, not expect an ethically-neutral or profit-motivated owner to make it easier for them.

I still don't know if I'm making sense. My ears are clogged.

Satan said...

I actually think there's just as much demand for "hard" news as there ever was, if not more, and in fact the quality of information available is quite high. The big change, though, is where it can be found. In the past, there were fewer news sources - three networks, local newspapers and radio, and to a lesser extent the major newspapers with broader distributions (e.g. NYT, the Post). All the demand for "hard" news went to those mainstream sources because there weren't any alternatives. These days, there are far more sources of information, many of them very specialized, in particular on cable and on the internet. I think those media are satifying the demand for "hard" news, so the mainstream media see much less real demand. (And by "demand" here I don't mean complaints, I mean people buying papers and watching the TV news and ads.) At the same time, mainstream media is big business, and can make more money with "soft" news, so the economic realities shift the focus that way. Frankly, I think the whole thing is too strong for mainstream journalists to fight. I don't even see this trend as evil, really, it's just the way things are.

Then again, I don't watch TV news or read print newspapers.

Distributorcap said...

i would love to do a whole post on MSM/what is news/media/business, but working in a major newsroom prevents me from doing this since

eating and paying a mortgage are a tad more important right now

but that day will change

i dont even watch our own shit, since fires, car accidents and other assorted crime is not what i would consider "hard news"

Übermilf said...

Actually, this is more of a "return to" than a "departure from."

Although limited to print, people in the United States had a huge variety of news sources from which to choose. Many immigrant groups could find daily newspapers printed in their own languages, and every political slant was producing its own take on what was going on. Kinda like blogs, but on paper.

We had morning papers, afternoon papers, and evening papers.

I guess I was reacting to the journalist's complaint. Nobody's telling her she has to write the pablum. She just wants the bigger paycheck that comes from writing pablum. But since I read she's a photographer, I guess she's not writing anything at all.

Everyone else faces that dilemma, too. You make more money sucking from the corporate teat than forging your own trail.

FranIAm said...

Fascinating post and comments - distributorcap knows what he is talking about but cannot say much as he indicates. And the eternally wise Ubermilf makes some excellent points even with antihistimines running wild in her system.

(as an aside, did ubermilf not see that I think her blog is an E too? maybe she resents that you got it as well satan, i should have thought of that!)

I will watch the video later, after child heads off to school.

The chicken/egg equation is this- is news soft because that is what people want or is that what people want because that is whey they get?

The Blog Drifter said...

We all get the news from the same source, reuters. That is why you literally see or hear the same exact news verbatim. Laziness or purpose?

When they say "headline" news, that's all we receive, the headlines. It's not soft news, it's no news.

Satan said...

Drifter, that's a good point. Being able to read the same wire story in 30 venues is not the same thing as having a diversity of news sources. But not all all news comes down the wire (though it's more than we might like). Major events are covered by multiple primary reporters.

Of course, the catch is that the number of reporters is largely set by the major news organizations driven by profitability. So we can only get multiple independent accounts when they think it's worthwhile...

-- Satan