Re: "A Letter From the Editor," January 8
Actually, control of Time Out Chicago is not up for bids. Thank you for the shout-out, though.
Reader editor Alison True replies:
The Times Online reported on December 3: "Also for sale is Time Out New York's share of the Chicago title, meaning that any buyer would take control of the brand in the United States. The three New York shareholders own half that business, with Joe Mansueto, the founder of investment research group Morningstar, owning the rest."
If controlling the Time Out brand in the U.S. should not be equated with controlling the Chicago outlet, I apologize for the error.
The Reader's Sweet Spot
Great job, Reader, in hitting upon what finally feels like the perfect balance of substance and content. I have read the Reader every week for 20 years and for the first time in a long time—with this revised print edition—read through the entire paper, from front to back, enjoying every page. Whether due to economic forces, editorial decisions, or by Design—the "not insignificant" choices that were made, I feel, significantly improve the flow and readability of the paper. Perhaps most importantly, despite the change in size and form, it feels like the Reader again. By focusing on what is happening now, today, this week, the Reader is perhaps living more in the moment. And somehow this feels very true to the paper's original roots. However you did it, you successfully hit on the Reader's sweet spot—and it feels great to know that I can look forward to another 20 years with you.
A Case Against Change
As a regular reader for the last 7 years, I am urging your editorial board to reconsider the changes I have seen in the recent issue with regard to the Theater and Performance listings [Editor's note: We're printing listing for shows that are opening or in previews, each week's new reviews, and a list of all titles we've recommended.]
Limiting the printing of only those shows which have recently opened is a terrible idea. I, and I am sure many others, have utilized the Reader's Theater listings to get a comprehensive overview of the performance options for the week. If the weekend was approaching, all I'd need to do is pick up a Reader and I could peruse everything Chicago and the suburbs were offering, see which shows had the "R" recommendation, and look at the capsule reviews to see whether the show was something I cared to see.
This resource is particularly necessary in a town such as Chicago where Theater (with a capital T) is such a vital part of what makes living here so great and makes up for the subzero days we've been having lately.
The option that I know you will recommend to me is to refer to the Reader's website for the complete theater listings. That suggestion, however, is not satisfactory, and I will tell you why. As the website is currently designed, clicking on to the Theater listings will take the user to a search page. Fine as good as it goes. But if I want to see everything that is currently playing, I'm out of luck because the listing page only shows the first 15 listings, and then the user has to navigate to the next page for the next 15, and then the next 15, etc. There is no option to display all listings in one page.
This is particularly frustrating because when visitors come into town, I had previously either provided them with a Reader newspaper for listings, or would like to provide a printout of everything that is available so they could choose. Ironically, your old web site theater listing page was designed so I could indeed print out all shows that were playing. But when it was redesigned a few months ago, I couldn't do that anymore.
I know the economy is in shambles and print media are particularly hard-hit, but all the modifications that the Reader has made in the last few years have been one bad change after another. I pretty much grit my teeth and dealt with it. But this last measure is really going too far. To not have Theater Listings in Chicago of all places, is an affront to what this city is all about (sorry about the hyperbole, but I'm really steamed!).
At the very least, please adjust your Web Page so that all theater listings can be shown on one page.
Here's hoping the Reader will still be a part of Chicago cultural life for a long time to come, and that the recent measures that have been taken to keep it alive do not in fact hasten its demise.
Talk to Me
I think the Reader is great and I applaud you for taking steps to survive and thrive.
I place great value on your reviews. I care far more about the events you single out for attention than the ten zillion lesser happenings. Keep 'em coming.
I think your commentators should figure out ways to carry the conversations they instigate in the print edition into ongoing blog conversations. I, for one, promise to participate, and not just be a passive "lurker"!
Richard Yates's Educational Philosophy
Re: Out of the Wreckage: Richard Yates knew enough sorrow to fill a bookshelf. At the end of his life, when I knew him, he was still working on it," by J.R. Jones, published November 14, 2003, and reposted at the release of the film Revolutionary Road
I took some classes from Dick Yates (nobody called him "Richard") at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in 1968 or '69. I can't remember when. He was a delightful but sad guy who was always drunk when I saw him outside of class... or working on it. We were supposed to have a final in one of the classes and I saw him at the Airliner Bar and asked him "What about the final?" He held up his scotch glass and laughed, then bellowed out "F**k the final" and pointed at his glass and said, "Here's the f**king final, baby." Unfortunately, that's what I remember most about him. That incident. But Vonnegut and Wm. Price Fox talked about him like he was God.
The Huffpo Conundrum
Re: "Why Would a Pro Write for Huffpo?" January 15
What was that Dr. Johnson said, according to Boswell: "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money"?
OK, Mike, you owe me a dollar.
You're setting up HuffPo as a straw man stand-in for the "future of journalism." It's the mainstream way of setting up the "blogs bad," "gumshoe journalists good" dichotomy. In this very article we see that HuffPo (a) provides a great opportunity for the amateur writer to have a well-trafficked space to speak to and (b) allows an established writer to drum up support for an upcoming book (which results in more money) and build a following. That one site can accomplish both is not the "future of journalism" (indeed, HuffPo really damaged its credibility with the Reader issue) but it's a future slightly better than what we're looking at now.
Andrew Sargus Klein
Agreed, but I think Miner's addressing the straw man argument, made in the Atlantic, the NY'er and similar places, more than making it.
Does anyone still read the HuffPo?
I gave up on the silly thing, all sound and fury, signifying nothing. If I want to listen to some know-nothing gasbag opine, I'll go bother the drunk down at the end of the bar.
Even as a lifelong Democrat, the HuffPo bores me to tears.
That's "not our financial model," Ken Lerer, a HuffPo founder, once said about the old-fashioned idea of paying the people who do the work. "We offer them visibility, promotion, and distribution with a great company."
Well Ken, as a photographer who has had images ripped off by HuffPo more than once, I have to say I don't want, didn't ask for, and don't appreciate the visibility, promotion, and distribution you claim to offer! I'd be more than happy to license my copyrighted images for use on your site, but the idea that you think it's just groovy to steal my photographs and use them without payment is ridiculous. I can't pay my bills with your high & mighty talk of visibility, promotion, and distribution... my business model revolves around cold, hard cash, and if websites like HuffPo refuse to pay creative professionals like myself for the content we provide, I have zero use for them!
Lifting content from other sites and running it, not just pointing to it, isn't "poaching." It's theft. HuffPo waits for others to spend money, time, and energy to do work, and then makes money selling advertising posted around that work. What else can you call it but theft?
And there's an old saying among experienced freelance writers: You can die of exposure.
The most important point here is missed. Unrepresented writers naively sign work for hire and other copyright conveyance forms passed out by these new media entities. This means they no longer own their works, or any rights in them—HuffPo or the Daily Beast or Forbes.com or others do. Thus, if you want to write a book, or create a film, based on your own article, technically you would have to buy the rights from the now "owner" to do so or risk being sued for copyright infringement. And they might very well beat you to the punch. HuffPo has a deal with the New York Times Syndicate under which they and they alone collect 50% of any revenues from NYTS sales to print periodicals worldwide, without reporting any of these sales to the author, or paying you a dime. Writers who sign forms that today's venal media companies shove under their noses... are taking serious legal risks that they should not because they do not know, and are afraid to ask to be told on a regular basis, what revenue is going to be made on their backs—despite the fact that computers make accounting to authors today as easy as pie. Heed the behavior of the Worldcoms, Enrons, and entire rest of the financial world, writers, if you think that these new media companies will treat you with decency. They think they owe you NO fiduciary duty whatsoever and are free to cheat you. And, get an agent, preferably one with a JD and a specialization in intellectual property. Agents DO owe you fiduciary duties.
a literary agent
We live in a new world. Old business models are dying off, being replaced with new ones. Read up on Creative Commons, on file sharing, and how thousands of web sites are earning money while offering free content.
A smart writer will use the exposure of Huffpo and other big sites to promote their own brand. They will add links to their articles directing viewers to their own site which is monetized with ads or products (like the book they wrote).
Talk shows don't pay celebs to appear and hawk their movies. The celebs work the circuit to promote their product. It's free airtime. The future is now folks. Either adapt or don't lose your day job
"We tell them it's another way to get your work out there... instead of submitting articles for years before you get published."
Um. In the parlance of our generation: OMG, wtf?
HuffPo could be fertile turf for the Ann Coulters/Michael Moores of the future. Or "Joe the Plumber"s. That's all it offers the uninitiated. If professional writers can use it to get additional information out there, that's great.
But pitching it as journalistic launch pad? Please. "Instead of submitting articles, don't write any; just develop a really entertaining way to preach to the choir. Someday you, too, can have a book deal! (Pay no attention to publishing's current straits.)"
That woman... *rolls eyes, shakes head.*
Publicity only matters if you have something to sell. And most blog posts aren't worth the paper they're (not) printed on.
a literary agent
Interesting discussion—a few corrections. I, not The Huffington Post, own my 100+ posts on the 2008 Election. In my view, this ownership is a huge advantage to working for free. However, now that Off the Bus is finished, I won't be blogging at Huff Post often. I'm not interested in mere opinionating. Huff Post does have a paid political staff who work out of D.C. Sam Stein is the star reporter. I assume that he and Nico Pitney et al. are well-paid. Aside from the Huff Po's celebrity bloggers, Carol Felsenthal is representative of the other 2,000. She has something going on elsewhere; blogging at Huff Po rounds out her persona and keeps her work fresh. She is indeed promoting her brand. It will be interesting to follow the story of Huff Post's folding "citizen journalism" vertically into their various sections (World, Politics, Green, Chicago, etc). Will other unknowns (as I was) be able to create a body of work without the editorial support that Amanda Michel and Marc Cooper gave me?
I'm going to have to join Andrew and Kelley (and others) in echoing the sentiment essentially that it is a "brave new world," and unfortunately Mr. Miner is going to have forge ahead with no belief in the future. I'm not saying this is necessarily a good thing, but it is a reality that folks will have to adjust to.
I think the media landscape is in a pickle not unlike the real estate market; seemingly overnight, what was worth x is now worth y, and there's no shortage of discomfort for those who've been living their lives assuming their property was, and would continue to be, valued at a level it simply no longer is.
"A literary agent"'s last post is inadvertently telling; yes, "most" blog posts are not worth a hoot, but considering there are hundreds of thousands of blogs (to say nothing of posts) in the world, you're still talking about more content of quality, posted daily, for free, than the average reader can consume in the limited reading time spent in a day.
Now, the cat's out of the bag. Newspapers (and others) are giving away content, and they aren't recouping ad revenue to pay writers what they were once worth, much less print, distribute, etc. paper product. But until media companies recalibrate their business models, to think newspapers are suddenly going to start selling papers at the old clip, ad revenues are going to rise, and writers are going to be paid what they've always been is a pipe dream. There will always be a market for quality writing/journalism, but a perfect storm of a flooded market, a brand-new electronic medium, and a new generation of folks who haven't been raised reading newspapers and magazines has left a bunch of media folks with negative professional equity.
I certainly won't defend the HuffPo poaching/theft behavior, but to blame this woman for doing something she clearly enjoys, and arguably is a necessary adaptation to a changing landscape, seems to me to be sort of shooting the messenger.