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Below is a comment I sent to NPR’s All Things Considered in response to a pretty hilarious commentary section on their Tuesday, April 14 show:

I consider myself a person of the left. I’d like to think I’m more open to a wider variety of “crazy” political opinions than many other Americans. But listening to your commentator’s piece on Somalian piracy Tuesday afternoon I found my jaw dropping on the ride home.

What got to me was the suggestion that Jihadists are worthy of more respect than Somali pirates because at “least they are fighting for something they believe in,” rather than cynical self-enrichment. Really, NPR? Really?

I still struggle to figure out why I should hate these raiders from Somalia, this razor edge of Third World capitalism, where no business transaction can exist without at least one sucker; they disrupt the commerce of radical Saudi and Iranian Islamic governments, they are against shariah law and they rarely ever harm their hostages, although that could now be over after the Navy SEALs’ sniper rifle escapade.

What they are doing is unsavory, yes, and no one can begrudge the hostages’ families wanting their captors dead or captured, but I find myself more willing to root for apolitical, anti-fundamentalist and imminently practical pirates who attempt to, as 50 Cent would put it, Get Rich or Die Trying.

After eight years of nightmarish political and religious ideology driving multiple nations, and with the current economic tailspin, a breath of cynical, realist practicality is one of fresh air. If I were Obama, I would be funding these pirates to continue raiding the commerce of America’s real future foes in Central Asia: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

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I can’t say I agree with the central thesis of the rant, but a number of the lamentations are spot on, fist-pumping true. Namely:

“I am convinced these monopolists loaded up journalism schools with operatives to teach students one thing: that journalists should not expect high wages. Then, drape the profession in the flag and a noble patina and inculcate students with the expectation of low pay.

The monopolists installed these operatives at places like Columbia and Northwestern who charge how much for a degree? What other profession trains their workers never to expect to be successful? Why should any worker providing a valuable service to millions of customers not expect to become wealthy?”

It’s highly doubtful that the grand conspiracy has played out in this literal fashion (I still maintain I received a quality education, however out of vogue it may be to say so), but the frustration and disgust associated with the described outcome is all too true. Go, Anonymous.

The San Francisco Chronicle could be dead by the end of the year if it doesn’t find a buyer.

Personally, I don’t think the Chronicle is expecting to actually shutter this year (planning on it is another story). The SF daily has too much name recognition value and local prestige for prospective buyers to let something so traumatic as a total annihilation scenario play out.

I imagine a lot of media speculators and bullshitters (such as myself) in Colorado smugly rattled off the same assumption earlier this year, though. Ouch.

If anything, the Chronicle will face conglomeration, the subsequent mass downsizing (down from its already-sliced numbers) and a slow-to-gradual slide into conglomerated obscurity/passivity, such as MediaNews’ San Jose Mercury News, a formerly world-famous newspaper.

Speaking of things related to the Merc, Dean Singleton might be one of the buyers in the running to pick up the Chronicle and the bills picking it up will entail. A connection inside the MediaNews fold recently told me that Singleton is the only feasible candidate for the SF paper, since the guy already has a number of East and South Bay papers in his pocket under the MediaNews imprint. All these papers share editorial content and their sales staffs can sell space in each others’ papers (a fact that said connections tells me causes innumerable bureaucratic headaches, especially regarding the Mercury News). Is the future a South Bay Super Daily under several assumed names? My question would be “where do I apply?”

Of course, this is all somewhat out of character for me. A pessimist has the satisfaction of being right most of the time and pleasantly surprised the rest of the time.

Sarkozy pumps €600 million into French newspaper business

I’m sorry. They’re gripped by a rough lot of Communist labor unions, the quality of reportage is probably not that hot (I can’t say definitively, I don’t read French and bookstores barely stock U.S. papers, much less Euro papers that are probably run by anarchists and s-s-s-socialists) and French readership and circulation continues to dip as it does across the rest of most of the First World, but I all but stood on my chair applauding this move.

‘Sarkozy likened the press to any other industry in need of aid, such as the automobile sector.’

‘Sarkozy’s measures included a year’s free, state-subsidised newspaper subscription for all teenagers from their 18th birthday. He said: “The habit of reading a daily paper takes root at a very young age.”‘

A dangerous precedent, sure, a danger to the almighty First World freedom of the press, maybe. But red turns to black by way of green. “Freedom isn’t free,” as the American motto goes.

Mark I. Pinksy of The New Republic has beaten me to the draw with my own hypothesis for the future of journalism: a government-subsidized central trust, with a strong preservationist/legacy bent to render appearances more benign, around which the surviving private enterprises all orbit, picking up/freely exchanging information and aspiring talent along the way.

WNYC’s On the Media program interviewed Pinsky and profiled the Federal Writers Project. The latter was treated rather fondly–Pinsky’s reception was somewhat harsher. Fair enough, there are legitimate concerns and risks associated with the state funding of any industry previously the sole domain of private enterprise.

Honestly though, I’ve sensed a knee-jerk reaction in not just the brass, but much of journalism’s rank-and-file against the idea of BBC-style “journalism handouts.” An assumption, absolute in its faith, that integrity can only be maintained in the trade through the continued existence of the fiscal wing of the office building as a private entity.

It never ceases to amaze me how eager modern journalists are to help out the blades sawing at their own wrists and jugulars.

Having already been beaten to the chase by Pinsky on one front, I will preempt the other and declare myself what the journalists described above would be wont to call me if I mattered: “Defeatist Journalist.” I won’t give them the satisfaction of having coined that term.

This is all pure speculation.

[20:00] Sync: there’s only one forecast I have that I can say with utmost certainty

[20:00] Sync: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:00] _____: how is that even possible?

[20:00] _____: American media is already crap

[20:14] Sync: it’s possible

[20:14] Sync: man

[20:14] Sync: if that journalism outsourcing actually takes off soon

[20:14] Sync: Asia could stand to make a fucking killing in the next decade

[20:15] Sync: (as in killing me and my career)

[20:24] Sync: well, to refer back to the original point

[20:24] Sync: just look at the state of american journalism’s command structure as of right now

[20:25] Sync: the current aging dinosaur bosses and owners of media outlets seem to have little desire or initiative to change up and vastly overhaul the business model of modern journalism into something that will actually work

[20:25] Sync: and the next generation coming to replace them?

[20:27] Sync: They seem to be happy being eternally happy-go-lucky about blogging and the unfettered nature of the Internet, not bothering to be very concerned about how online journalists will make any money

[20:28] Sync: I’ve described them essentially as sitting there with their emo glasses and dumb grins on their faces more than happy as they stab themselves repeatedly in the belly

[20:28] Sync: slitting their own hamstrings

[20:28] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

[20:30] Sync: so there will be a gazillion free-to-access, free-to-work for online sources of reportage

[20:31] Sync: “staffed” almost entirely by part-time “citizen reporters,” ie: people already connected tenuously and questionably to the stories they have leads on in their local areas

[20:31] Sync: who almost certainly work other jobs totally unrelated to journalism to make a living and aren’t trained as professional journalists

[20:32] Sync: hence: the quality of American reportage will decline

[20:33] Sync: “BLOGGING IS THE FUTURE OF FREE PRESS!”

There’s irony somewhere in the fact that this is an article from a newspaper abolished in its country of origin. Yasha Levin wrote:

Six Apart, the company behind the popular TypePad blogging platform, just went Marie Antoinette on us all. With all the jobs being cut in the paper industry and increasing numbers of reporters stuck with nothing to do but moan, the company decided to help out. Introducing the “TypePad Journalist Bailout Program”: a free TypePad Pro blog account for every unemployed professional journalist! A media famine is afoot, journalists don’t have papers to work for. So…”Let them blog!” For free, of course. All of which helps Six Apart’s bottom line…

Watching ourselves go quietly into the night.

As a token unemployed American cub journalist, I’ll try to provide some constructive commentary about this MSNBC article and why articles of its sort pop up every so often.

The reality of the mainstream journalism industry in the U.S. today is that less and less staff writers are required to produce more and more stories on ever-shrinking deadlines. While I’m not sure of Alexander’s job status with MSNBC– “contributor” is a pretty vague term, contributing editor? Semi-regular freelancer?– it’s a reality that every mainstream journalist has a strict quota on how many articles they need to pump out. These “cultural” pieces are easy to do, usually sound really good and have pre-established sets of sources that you don’t even need to leave your desk to call up and interview. After that you can call it a day, easy bump to your story count. I know this for a fact, on my college newspaper we secreted fandom/subculture “Woah-check-this-out!” pieces all the time.

Secondly, since my assumption is that MSNBC essentially functions like a daily news source, I’m guessing there was little to zero fact checking that went into this article. Another American journalism reality: only monthly magazines and publications with longer production times have the luxury of dedicated fact-checking staff. A daily newspaper makes the assumption that the reporter will fact check his or her own article, on risk of losing reputation for not doing so and being outed. Ostensibly, when the department editor(s) and copy editor make their passes over the article they are supposed to be making checks for factual accuracy as well. But how many copy editors at MSNBC do you think are read up on the deep thematic undertones of Legend of the Overfiend and Gurren Lagaan?

In episode #72 of the Anime World Order podcast, Macias mentions that he offered to fact check the article for Alexander. Placed in the same situation I would have made the same offer, but I would never have expected any real response in the affirmative. As a rule of thumb, the journalist never, ever accepts any offers of checks from “the outside,” especially if that offer came from someone who is a source in the actual article. It’s a bias thing. Simply mentioning to your editor that such an offer was made to you would likely get you in trouble (you’re supposed to totally ignore them)– taking up the offer and telling your editor after the fact and/or not telling them at all is usually grounds for instant dismissal, should your editor find out.

Of course, I don’t think these points totally redeem Alexander’s article. The misconceptions put forth as fact in it are bad enough, but what really gets me is the simple sloppiness. It is blatantly obvious to anyone who has taken an introductory news writing class that Alexander used the absolute minimum amount of sources: three. None of this is a slag on Kinsella, Eng or Macias, obviously all three are valid sources despite whatever marring of voice may have been done via misquotation etc. The fact is, however, that three sources is pitifully few to provide a holistic, unbiased view of such an expansive subject. Where are the interviews with book sellers? With local, ground-level fan clubs and artists? The fact that Kinsella, an anthropologist, is quoted a grand total of once and in a fashion suggesting an interview, when the attribution clearly indicates all Alexander did was read part of a book, is particularly lame.

I understand Alexander may not be a true-blue reporter per se and that Sexploration is in the column format. I can point you to the long, dry media law briefs from the Supreme Court that clearly state that opinion-based columns in any mainstream journalistic venue are beholden to the same basic requirements of factuality and non defamation that straight news articles follow.

In case anyone is suspicious about my own familiarity with this subject, I’ll have you know I typed out this entire response listening to Silent Survivor from the Fist of the North Star OST on loop.