See chicagoreader.com for the complete text of these and other letters.
Call It a Feeling
Re: "The Race to Replace Rahm" by Ben Joravsky, February 19
Wow, nothing like letting your Democrat party bias shine through—dismissing the Republicans and Greens entirely? Can anyone say "backlash" of the deepening Democrat party scandal? It's also possible that the ultimate Democrat party nominee will be smeared by the federal indictment of Blago that is due April 3—just 4 days before the election. Anything can happen!
Re: "Anticipate the Cheese" by Michael Miner, February 19
Unfortunately, I'm not as sanguine as Mike Miner about the long-term future of newspapers. My reason can be found in one of Miner's own statements:
"[Contemporary designers] think today's newspapers must shimmer with the excitement of a Yahoo home page," Miner writes, "but it's their function of consolidation and reflection that makes them, to many of us, still [worthwhile]. The Internet pelts us with news; a good newspaper arranges it in our heads."
But that's the problem, not the key to a solution. Does anyone believe that modern-day mainstream Americans want (or are capable of comprehending) ideas "arranged in their heads?" Does anyone believe that "reflection" is anything but an anachronism in a hyper-stimulated, gizmo-saturated world? Just as Americans have become dumbed-down and had their attention spans shortened by 24/7 television, we're now seeing their ability to summon ideas, images, and beauty from their imaginations threatened, if not annihilated, by the relentless "pelting" that is the very essence of the modern-day info-tech onslaught. If it doesn't tweet, beep, flash, and shimmer, it's boring; if it takes time, reflection, or silent contemplation, then it's not worth pursuing.
Like an addictive drug, the new technology contains within itself the means of creating dependency in its users. Quietly perusing words laid out in an orderly fashion on a silent sea of off-white newsprint cannot compete with the flash-bang-bling of being assaulted by shimmering images emanating from a screen; unfolding a newspaper won't satiate the need to keep twitching fingertips busy the way a keyboard will.
Just as automobiles have rendered people too lazy to walk to the corner grocery store to buy a gallon of milk, new information technologies themselves will exacerbate their users' dependency on them, because they will render people incapable of utilizing anything else.
David G. Whiteis
If you want to continue the comparison with railroads, they might get the last laugh. Transportation gurus and environmentalists lament the dependence on trucks for shipping, and there's now quite a bit of money in the stimulus to expand our rail system. We may be hearing "I told you so"s from the graves of rail barons soon enough.
Hopefully the analogy will extend to journalism, too (says me from my desk at my internship).
I don't think the electronic models really play out, either.
Advertisers can then pay for view or pay for click, and the money generated at that scale doesn't rise up to pay very many $50,000 a year salaries.
Having large newspapers that can cover all of those events requires a large staff, so the more you try to be complete, the more you cost, the more you fall behind.
The world really might become smaller, micro papers, where reporters are very agile and maybe even paid per click on their own work. Put a bunch of those, staffed by professionals, together in loose electronic networks that become "newspapers" but are really designed by users (I want journalism news, news for Capistrano, Covina, Greece and Jeep owners) and then pay each a little more, micro percentages, for the traffic they generate. That might work.
Proper and proven collection and payout models exist in other media.
(1) Cable TV packages up hundreds of channels and sells them to you as a bundle. They pay fees to the producers. And you, you pay $100 a month to watch the same seven channels you always did—but you do pay for it and a lot of small "access fees" and other devilish fees as well.
(2) Music publishers are paid by ASCAP for public or licensed performances of copyrighted work.
What I am wondering is why nobody has built an ASCAP for professional editorial content and forced ISPs to collect a "content fee" from subscribers. ISPs are acting just like cable TV providers but have to pay nothing for high quality content. Build a Newspaper ASCAP that would force ISPs to collect a "media fee" and then pay out pro media organizations from that pool of money much in the same way that music publishers are paid now by ASCAP.
Course it would take an act of Congress to make this happen—but they seem to be able to move mountains these days.
Re: "Everyone's a Designer" by Deanna Isaacs, February 19
...A company is willing to pay $250 for a logo design and 87 designs were submitted for consideration. Considering the remote possibility that someone could design a decent logo in, say, under an hour or two—a truly impressive feat by the way—that's 87 to 174 hours of work. Do the math. CrowdSpring's customers are, essentially, paying $1.44 to $2.87 an hour for a collective work force they've employed...
What's amazing is how inefficient this makes humankind when 100s of parallel, wasted, hours of spec work is done on one project.... But hey, the design world is in "an uproar" at the 3rd or 4th iteration of this idea: threadless.com, elance.com. No, there is no uproar.
Since when is a design a product rather than a problem-solving discipline? It is appalling to think that a logo chosen from a bunch of designs that has no intended meaning or message from the client is deemed "good" design.
Sure things may look nice, but good design has always been about more than just form. Design firms don't charge people for an end product, they charge for the process of communicating a message in the most easy-to-understand (while visually appealing) way. I can certainly ask random people to do my taxes and then pay the one that I think did the best job, however it wouldn't exactly be practical considering the ramifications if a mistake was made.
The design profession, just like accounting is just that, a profession. If you're a serious business that wants to succeed, then you have to understand that design isn't a wave of the hand process and that, as with most things, you pay for what you get.