Thursday, March 12, 2009

Is It All Going to Hell?

How bad is the economic disaster? Here's one key indicator: I have a natural tendency to become very calm in the face of danger. I have been very calm lately. My calmness indicates that we are in quite a dangerous situation.

The panic reaction, conversely, is only useful when things are going well. In fact, if you're having a good day today, you might start jumping and shouting and getting your co-workers to join you in a Chinese Fire Drill run around the building.

The panic reaction, done rightly, is actually the party reaction. Get that nervous energy out of your system, and be prepared to face danger calmly.

LOCATION: THE ZEITGEIST CAFE, PIONEER SQUARE, SEATTLE. At the meeting of Emerging Media Alternatives, the topic was the end of newspapers and journalism as we know it. It is a sad thing and a big change, but it is not wrong. I realized this last night. The banking system has collapsed -- a much greater problem -- because of the greed and carelessness of our financial leaders who took extreme risks with other people's money and who should have known better. The bankers are rightly accused and deserve judgment, and those individuals who are proven wrong will face punishment.

But the media situation is completely different -- the emerging world of digital media is an innocent venture. The inventors of Craigs List had no intention to destroy the classified advertising industry which was a mainstay of newspaper income. Craigs List is a marvelous product, we use it all the time, and yet it has caused the loss of thousands of jobs in the newspaper industry -- Elizabeth Jorgenson, that lady you used to call, to place an ad for your garage sale, she is either unemployed or working someplace else now.

Elizabeth liked her job and it supported her family, but no one wants to resurrect the classified ad department. Life goes on. She will survive.

Print journalists, who work for the same company as Ms. Jorgenson, are mistaken if they think they are more special than she is. "But we are professionals, we have a calling," they may cry. Not so. It is good to dignify your work, but it is not good to pull rank on somebody else. It is wrong to say, "For you it's just a job, but for me, it's a way of life."

We discussed all this at the meeting of Emerging Alternative Media. We discussed new standards of objectivity. That has always been a difficult word. Objectivity is the Truth without religious overtones. Objectivity is the courage to put a little distance between yourself and the people who pay you. Objectivity is always colored by your context and tarnished by your experience but it is still a strong and useful means of communication.

And finally, objectivity is not the exclusive property of print journalists.
Okay, we established that. Then we moved to a hazier topic -- Confidence. There it is lacking -- We are a bunch of nerds and geeks and tweets and wannabes, with day jobs and silly dreams. The newspapers are falling apart, and we are frankly not ready to take over because we're scared of how hard it will be.

Well, that's a start. Claim your fears and go from there.
I hope this all makes sense. The sun is shining, I'm going out to the garden in a little bit for spring cleanup -- starting with some branches that Pat pruned last Fall, still laying in a heap by the basement door.

The Frog Hospital subscription drive continues. The mailing list is private, never shared or traded. All Frog Hospital readers are encouraged to forward this newsletter as much as possible -- Spread the Joy. You may also post it on your blog if you give credit.
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An appropriate saying here, as the world of media changes, is that Information Wants to be Free, but Somehow Groceries want to be Paid For.

Make a check for $25 to Fred Owens and mail it to

Fred Owens
Box 1292
LaConner, WA 98257

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