(This is the post that disappeared. My mistake.)

Sobering news – my company is laying off 600 people. And I’m one of them.

I volunteered to take a buyout because I just can’t take it anymore.

No, not the dwindling prospects for a long career in the print business (and no, not the endless assignments to follow celebrities around the city); but the company’s and the industry’s extraordinarily high faith in the Internet as the only route to profits.

Look. I get it. Advertisers are pulling back and trying to refocus their efforts on blogs and websites. Even The Christian Science Monitor is shredding its daily print edition. Isn’t that a sign that the proverbial sky is falling?

Actually, no. This rush to the ‘net for real news (not celebrity news) will not last forever (maybe 5 more years) and I’m sure of it. What the publishing industry needs to do now is focus on re-creating a product that held intrinsic value, and finding and re-acclimating their core readership instead of alienating those people by focusing on 24-7 celebrity coverage (this is for you, Associated Press).

Because if you look deeply, you’ll see that the “advertising on blogs” idea is a fad that’s a) predicated on nothing but fear, eschewing real numbers and profits (pretty much exactly like our current stock market volatility) and b) paradoxically both way overdue and incoherently rushed.

The titans of media who oversee the biggest conglomerates are about 10 years late and $2,000 short, with regard to putting the bulk of their product online (this should have happened circa 1998), and monetizing said online product ($20 for 1,000 impressions? Are you insane? Why not give it away?)

Too afraid to take risks on the ‘net when it was young, newspapers and magazines instead had to follow a trail blazed by seedy amateur writers flocking to free websites peddling their over-leveraged, snarky opinions. But the corporate journalists could never be that bold! It was a race they were doomed to lose.

Similar short-sightedness and lack of creativity is why those same companies will never reap the same revenue online as they have with their print products. They have consistently refused to charge what it’s worth for advertisers to their web magazines AND as a result, out of precedent, they’ll never be able to charge what it’s really worth for advertisers to their web magazines. They have also dumbed-down their product.

Online readers are not willing to knowingly “be advertised to” in the sort of data-mining, giving up their address and income information to a company. This is a different breed of “consumer.” This is the type of “consumer” who hates that label. For that reason, and more, you simply can’t account for readers online the way you can with a tangible magazine or newspaper, and once advertisers realize nobody clicks on their ads anyway, they will pull back from the Internet as well.

And at a certain point, our economy might get so bad that people will stop paying for wireless and cable, which will be the final death blow to television (BTW, people aren’t completely thrilled about the government mandating that they get an DTV if they want to ever watch tv again).

The Internet is a great tool. It should not be the future of journalism (There are still too many questions and variables)…but…

So, why is print still dead? Because nobody is offering anything of substance!

People enjoyed watching Britney Spears slowly almost kill herself over and over and over again for a while. They enjoyed watching it on the Internet, and truthfully, that’s the right place for such a story. There is no reason the AP should have hired 20 reporters to follow her around Hollywood, to file news wires to send to reputable news agencies on her downward spiral. Ick.

When our country enters the Depression 2.0, people will actually start to crave real news again. I do believe there is a way to put real news on the Internet without sacrificing its believability at the altar of the blogosphere, but we’re not there yet. We’re not nearly there.

At the point that we’ll need real news again, all the media agencies will be suffering from a dearth of cash, as well as talent. They will have laid off all of the intelligent, thoughtful, analytical reporters in exchange for cheap college grads ready and willing to give up their personal lives for a byline, but with nothing of value to offer an organization. You won’t be able to adequately report on anything of substance.

This is why readers have been slowly leaving print for the past 10 years or more! But big media companies don’t get it. Their relentless pursuit of the bottom-of-the-barrel readership (opportunistic, as it is) has alienated the only dedicated loyal readers they had.

Those “professional readers” if you will allow me that much, are now getting their news in the form of direct analysis from research agencies and foreign news services. They know that the American public is being led into an information bubble, and they don’t want to take it anymore.

We’re rapidly entering a period in which the 4th Estate will cease to exist. Everyone’s blaming the Internet. But it’s not their fault. Instead, newspapers and magazines attempted to compete with the internet, entering a race with bloggers which by definition could not be won except by giving up their self-worth. They stopped breaking news. They stopped caring about expertise. They underestimated their consumers.

And that is why print is dead.

Apparently, it bears repeating that fact-checking is still necessary more necessary now than ever.

Case in point: Martin Eisenstadt.

He’s the McCain advisor who doesn’t exist, but who nonetheless was quoted by journalists at Mother Jones, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times, MSNBC and some other MSM outlets. Eisenstadt was most recently said to be the source of the startling pronouncement that Sarah Palin doesn’t know Africa is a continent (this is not true, and still no one knows who is responsible for that little gem).

Eisenstadt is worse than the fake memoir girl because at least she’s a real flesh-and-blood person, but there is no Eisenstadt, and there is no “institute” that he runs. He’s just an unemployed actor.

Now, as a fact-checker, I can say unequivocally that there is no excuse for being taken in by someone such as the pranksters who created the character Martin Eisenstadt. The reason is, everyone learns in Journalism 101 that you never rely on one source for a story (unless that source is only talking about himself or herself, and even then, you interview other people who know them).

Everyone’s blaming this on the rush, in the 24-7-365 news cycle, to get the story first. That is just the symptom of the problem. The problem is that we have foregone accuracy in favor of speed, and that many of the people producing news either never learned how to fact-check, or never necessarily benefited from getting it right.

A simple call to someone in the McCain campaign to verify Eisenstadt’s position on the team would have put rest to this long ago.

Similarly, an Accurint on Martin Eisenstadt that matches the name and date of birth that the man said belonged to him would have let you know that he does not, in fact, exist.

This is what I mean by “our product is not good enough.” Every day there are apologies for very, very large mistakes; mistakes that tend to wear away at reader confidence and mistakes that tend to further erode the respectability of the profession.

Turns out, rightly, that the guys behind the hoax actually sought to discredit the news media. Kudos to them for having the cojones to go up against that kind of legal heft.

Mr. Gorlin and Mr. Mirvish say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere.

“With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish, 40.

Mr. Gorlin, 39, argued that Eisenstadt was no more of a joke than half the bloggers or political commentators on the Internet or television.

I question whether Gorlin actually said this, and whether the Times writer doesn’t have a bias that’s showing. Whoever actually blames the blogosphere for this seems to have forgotten that it was a who blogger blew the whistle on Eisenstadt, not a member of the MSM.

For all those who think bloggers are “not real journalists” or who would blame the blogs for the rushed news cycle, this must feel like a cold slap-in-the-face.

And then there is William K. Wolfrum, a blogger who has played Javert to Eisenstadt’s Valjean, tracking the hoaxster across cyberspace and repeatedly debunking his claims. Mr. Gorlin and Mr. Mirvish praised his tenacity, adding that the news media could learn something from him.”

In all honesty…

(Sigh) I wrote this in response to this former magazine big-wig feud (yikes!) that emerged today in which one former Entertainment Weekly founder and another ex-in-the-trenches journalist argued over 1) the former’s gloating that journalists need to suck it up and accept their pink slips because the internet is, like, “the new big” (or something like that) and 2) the latter’s arguing that the former’s blame was misplaced while he histrionically fusses about the wonderful tactile sensation of newsprint.

Geez, guys, calm the hell down. The answer is, nobody and everybody is to blame, but arguing about it over the internet is not going to help.

Here’s the problem. Every existing form of printed matter is losing readers. In turn, they are losing advertisers. In turn, people take the product to the internet where they charge less for ads, so they get more ads, but where they don’t know a damn about who’s reading what they’re writing. Then, they wake up and realize that, in turn, they all became broke.

Two necessary solutions: Charge more money now. Create better products now.

On the first point, to be sure, any pragmatic person will see that with regard to monetizing subscriptions, news business managers put the cart before the horse by offering their milk for free. It will be hard to convince readers to accept the concept that news cannot be free because it costs money to make it. However, I would gladly pay, say, $20/3 months (even more, I’ll admit) for a newspaper or magazine that I really, really can’t live without, if they did not at the same time offer any of the content for free. If they offer any of the content for free, I will not pay. This was the problem with TimesSelect and others (okay, that, and the fact that the content in the TimesSelect was actually much, much worse in terms of real value than anything they offered for free).

I think we underestimate the number of people who would pay to help us produce the news (ie. the number of intellectual and literary types that still live and breathe in America).

Now, it stands to reason that any attempt to enhance the revenue stream for online products from the advertising side will meet with scoffs and rebuffs from big-box-company execs who are used to paying $20 per 1,000 hits/impressions. That was another ill-thought-out concept that should have died during the first dot-com boom.

Yes, advertisers will initially walk run away from your product. But! When you figure out how to get solid demographic information and a dedicated readership (which will only come through a much, much better product than we’ve been putting out for the past, oh, say, 15 years), you will have the upper hand.

Then, when you finally and unequivocally kill your print product, advertisers will have no choice but to accept the prices you’re charging for the ‘net based ads.

Now, to the second point, I may be “just a kid” in the world but yes, I do have the audacity to say that journos haven’t been putting out a good enough product during the time of print’s decline. I know it as a reader, and a writer, and as a person who does 10-page interviews that routinely get boiled down to 50-word sound-bite “boxes” that offer little insight into anything. I know that we can do better, especially with regard to the entertainment media, of which I am a part.

I welcome the idea of getting together with like-minded folks at conferences to try and figure out how to monetize the internet. It also seems like those are happening, but where are the results?

Everyone, now including Gawker honcho Nick Denton is about to be struck with the revelation that “the internet isn’t making any money anymore because the world is ending.”

The simple answer to this is, the world will stop ending one day, and at that point, we need to have a plan. Recessions and even Great Depressions can do a lot to diminish egotism and make people work together for change (not to recall Obama here. Does he have a copyright on that word now? Hmmm.).

If there is anything that needs to find a new way, if there is anything that needs to pave a new road, it is journalism. It is the 4th Estate. It hasn’t been living up to its potential for some time now, and it’s suffering because of it. We need to strengthen the foundations, buck up, reduce overhead, learn to think like nonprofit executives, and keep it moving.

Oh, and we also need to teach the White House Press Corps to use Twitter. Can you imagine what that would do to journalism?

Some Gawker commenter wrote the best and most instructive paragraph about the idiocy of the media/publishing industry that I have read to date. And said it more concisely than I ever dreamed possible. This is what I’ve been thinking for, like, EVER!

From ValentinaLabarixair

All these “stunt” books, e.g. celebrity tell-alls, famous-person brownie recipes, etc., are the equivalent of couponing as a marketing tool–where you temporarily offer people $.20 off your brand of tuna, for example. Rather than reaching out to your core consumer, you cater to opportunistic shoppers who will go directly back to their customary shopping patterns once your coupon expires. The publishing industry expends far too much money and effort in luring people who don’t actually love books into bookstores–with promises of celebrity secrets or trendy blogs-cum-“books.” Meantime, they alienate their core consumer of people who genuinely enjoy reading–a consumer who can be reached less expensively and can also generally be prevailed upon to buy more than one book at a time. And having alienated this core, more lucrative, consumer through neglect, publishers ensure that they have to keep spending more money and more effort to attract the opportunistic consumer base that was never that enthusiastic about the product–i.e. books–in the first place.

Damn!

More TK (in journo-speak, this means “To Come”) but can someone please explain to me why a Gawker blogger and her experiences with sharing TMI on the internet is the cover story of the New York Times Magazine this week?!

I say “can” you explain it because I mean that – is it even possible to find a valid, justifiable reason for this? Now I have no questions as to why “journalism” is failing. People like to be entertained, but people do not enjoy masturbatory drivel written by 26-year-old wannabe writers.

It could be said that my blog is also masturbatory drivel written by a 26-year-old wannabe writer. I concede your point, but at least I’m aware that what I write here may be nothing more than worthless ramblings.

At Park Slope used bookstore. I love all things ephemeral. Found: First run edition of an obscure gay studies book, Sappho was a Right-On Woman. Holla!

Without meaning to, I assure you.

The signs: I’m highly excited about beer now, and it occurred to me that this is a sign of being a true gay girl – you not only drink beer in order to get up the courage to talk to or dance with a woman in a bar (or in my case to tell your parents that you like like girls, in that way)…you start drinking it for fun, like on weekend trips to French bistros in Brooklyn (Ommegang, please?)

The signs: You live in New York and buy a used bicycle to ride around the city, to make you more authentically “anti-establishment.” (Some “straight” girls do this too…more on that below).

The signs: You begin growing your own vegetables so that you do not have to shop in corporate-owned chain supermarkets or even in faux-co-ops that still carry corporate-owned “fair trade” brands.

The signs: You refuse to throw out a really disgustingly dirty pair of Tretorns that you’ve worn for five years, because they’re the most comfortable shoes. And you wear comfortable shoes like all the time because who can stand the pain of wearing heels? (Unless it’s a kinky gift for your girlfriend for the holidays, [this does not mean that I have done this, Dad. I just know people who have done this. Friends…um…yeah, friends.]).

The signs: You start thinking every girl you know is a closet lesbian, because how can anyone really like men, like, like like them? (please, dudes, do not get offended. This is humor!)

I think maybe I should start a “stuff gay girls like” blog to compete with “stuff white people like.”

Please note: I purposely used the word “like” a lot. I do not actually talk this way. Well, okay, sometimes I do. But not at work.

Just a thought to ponder. Recently I used a can of genuine American Coca-Cola to clean my bathtub…and it rubbed off like 200 years of dirt (that’s an obscene exaggeration because my building has only been around for about 100 years, give or take).

There were skin cells from people who wrote books during the Harlem Renaissance that finally were liberated by a Coca-Cola bath (you’re welcome, Zora Neale-Hurston! Rest in Peace down the drain.)

In all seriousness, though, I was told that to kill weeds, a can of Pepsi or Coke’ll do it (I don’t think the same holds for generic store brands of cola, so save your money).

The same works for the tub.

So, my question is, what happens in our stomachs when we drink it?

Any doctors with answers, please let me know. Comments please!

Writing a blog has its benefits. For a writer who’s used to editors dictating what prints and what gets deleted, it’s freeing to be able to decide your own fate. You get an audience, and increasingly people are getting book deals from their blogs. (That can go either way – sometimes what’s funny on the screen is not funny on the page.)

Obviously things in life come in pairs – so there’s a downside to blogging too. This is the teaching of Swami Vivekananda, a lecturer from the late 1800’s who I greatly admire. Hence, the drawbacks – anyone can read your blog. ANYONE.

So, my dad read my blog.

My blog is all about being gay, and I’ve only recently come out to my parents, and they’re not completely accepting yet. So him reading my fierce blog about how awesome it is to love girls was kind of frightening. I got this “comment” on my blog that said “cool blog – Dad” and I sort of freaked for a minute. I didn’t know what to do. Call him? Explain myself? Pretend it’s not really my blog? It took all of three minutes after seeing this comment in my email for me to receive a lengthier email response from him.

The essence of this response was “We love that you are so proud, and we are so proud of you too!”

It’s weird coming out on the internet. This is why I wanted to do it – there’s no unique way to come out anymore. It’s like, the world understands that there’s this “coming out process” and that it’s “Oh, so painful! Pitiful!” etc. etc. Well, if there’s anything I want in life it’s not to be pitiful and full of pain, and also not to be ordinary. This is why I wanted to blog about my “coming out process.” It’s a work in progress.

I wanted to come out in a very strong way, and to chronicle it. And the journal of yesteryear is the blog of today. My mom won’t be reading my little flowery journal from 6th grade anymore – she’ll Google my name and come up with “Orange Coat Girl” (this is also how she got wind of a vaguely risque-in-a-Miley-Cyrus-way photo shoot that I did with an ex-boyfriend, the photos were posted on Facebook, and my dad joined Facebook).

The only appropriate response to my dad’s email of approval was tears, excitement, relief, overarching joy. I called all my friends. I said “they’re ready!” My parents are finally going to be able to get to know all of me.

The reason for this blog post? It opens up a new door. I haven’t written a post in a while, but that’s not for lack of contemplation. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I also didn’t have a lot to say. There were a lot of thoughts, but none appropriate for the whole world to see, until now.

You know how your parents tell you they will always love you no matter what? No kid really believes that. But now, I do.

Outside of work last week, all that I could talk about with my friends was the fake memoir of gang life survival written by one Margaret Seltzer, and the new blog phenomenon Stuff White People Like.

I have to say I was quite surprised at the whole fake memoir fiasco. I’d have thought folks at the big publishing houses like Penguin Group had learned something from the Oprah-smashing of James Frey a couple of years ago. I mean, if you had never employed fact-checkers before then, shouldn’t it now be a mandate?

But apart from the audacity of her untruths, the idiocy of the editor who didn’t even bother to meet Ms. Seltzer during the entire three years that she edited the manuscript, and the fact that The New York Times clearly violated the most basic and classic rules against conflicts of interest, I have one last thing to say about Ms. Margaret Seltzer.

Peggy, dear, you need me to be your publicist right now.

If I were Margaret Seltzer’s publicist, she would be on every talk show, writing editorials for major newspapers, and coming out the winner out of this whole thing. Because if I were in charge of the cleanup-PR campaign, I would have Margaret Seltzer say something like this:

“Yeah, I lied. And it’s all your fault. All of you in the publishing business, in the media business and all of the people who were so eager to read my book. I lied to expose not only the ease with which any random white girl can profit off of her ‘misery,’ but also the ridiculousness of the people who are so eager to experience said ‘misery’ vicariously through a book about teen gang violence, death, and the wilds of inner-city life as lived by out-of-control black men. I did it to make you all feel just a little bit guilty about fawning over those experiences only when they are written about by a pitiful little white girl who ‘survived.’ I did it because you all know you were going to ignore this other Bloods gang memoir that’s being published in April, that was written by a black man. Oh, what? You say you just can’t ‘relate’ to his story? Gee, why do you think that is?

“I lied, I lied well, and I even spoke Ebonics. I did it all to expose your liberalism for what it is – a sad state in which you have so little experience with urban black people and with poverty that you will believe any insane story about gang life without even doing very basic fact-checking, because this is how you really think life is for these people.

“Now that you know my memoir is a lie, are you going to buy DaShaun Jiwe Morris‘ book? Are you still interested in reading about being a former Blood, even if his house wasn’t photographed for The New York Times?”

But, sadly, I think Margaret Seltzer is just a crazy-head who writes really well.

On another note, I was really enjoying the Stuff White People Like blog. But now I’m over it (the blogs about shorts and The Wire killed it for me). Anyway, Christian Lander, who started the blog, has a witty, snarky tone that’s perfect for blogging. I just hope he doesn’t get a book deal out of it, because, I mean, it’s not worth all that. And we all know what happens when people start throwing around book deals!

But the commenters! Oh the commenters! They are what make SWPL so incredibly popular (more than 11 million hits popular).

But what makes SWPL so nice, is that it’s making a lot of white people really uncomfortable with racism, all of a sudden!

One of my more liberal white friends was visibly uncomfortable, dare I say angry, as I looked through the blog and read some of the funnier parts of the posts out loud. She knew that it was racist, but how do you tell a black person that a blog about white people liking vintage t-shirts and using them as status symbols is racist? After all, it’s not like they can’t get a job because their name is Shaniqua.

This quote from NPR sums it all up: “Critics charge that the list is racist, stereotypical, and conflates race with economic status.”

Duh! Oh my gosh, my whole life people have equated my race with my economic status! But, see, I’m not upset about it!

Seriously, though, the reason I write about SWPL is that I have a blog crush on one of the blog commenters. Mango Girl! She just gets it. She gets it soooooo well. She gets it better than the blog’s creator gets it. Mango Girl, I heart you!

On that note, I’m out.

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