Ms. Language Person Talks Newspapers

My favorite humorist, Dave Barry, who used to work for the Miami Herald, along with hundreds of other people who now used to work for the Miami Herald, used to devote a column from time to time to questions from readers to Mr. Language Person.  I would give you examples, but I’m prohibited from doing so.  You have to subscribe to the Miami Herald yourself and look it up. 

I know this because I subscribe to the Miami Herald myself, and the latest subscriber update I received from them informed me that if I violated any of their policies, they were going to rebuild the Bastille,  build an extra-deep dungeon (possible due to state-of-the-art technology unavailable in 1370), place me in a cell and feed me boiled cockroach soup for the rest of my natural but short life. 

Okay, here is what they really said:  You may not reproduce any part of this content, blah, blah, blah.  It was so Draconian I was afraid to even quote anyone, which seemed to Fakename to be a sort of self-defeating policy on their part.  What about, “I read it in the Miami Herald” would be bad?  Especially since subscribing is free…oh wait.  No more. 

So far they haven’t billed me, but it’s now $1.99 per month. 

Now the good news is, I know for a fact that they do not have an army of researchers combing other newspapers or Internet sites, or for that matter, combing their hair for instances of plagiarism or (politely speaking) unattributed quotes.  So I could possibly get away with calling myself Ms. Language Person and not get sued.  But Fakename is not into stealing intellectual property.  She IS into having the freedom to quote people and to playing on words.

We are in that interim period where newspapers on paper are indeed dying.  No more smell of newsprint, holding it in your hands in the morning over a cup of coffee.  I get that.  But I am kind of an interim person.  I’m willing to give up the newspaper, as long as you don’t  mess with the library and the paper books.   I’ll have to go all Fahrenheit 451 on you if that happens.

5 responses to “Ms. Language Person Talks Newspapers

  1. I centainly don’t agree with everything that Rupert Murdoch says, but I do agree with him that if a newspaper has valuable and unique content, then people will be willing to pay for the content. It’s really no different from people’s willingness to pay for cable tv. Some people are happy with free-over-the-air tv — whereas many others are willing to pay substantial sums for cable/satellite.

    But apart from that, once people get used to something for “free,” it’s very difficult to change behavior.

    I (sadly) fear for the future of old fashioned libraries. Once the kindle and its successors become ubiquitous, I expect printed books will eventually go the way of the LP record…but it will be environmentally friendly. 😉

  2. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t pay people first to get that valuable and unique content, then you end up with whatever they can give you in the time and space allowed. Then what you get is how many people Tiger Woods has um, been with. It takes depth and craft to investigate. We should all want that. Free press…

  3. And furthermore (Fakename is unable to leave well enough alone), I hope you’re wrong about printed books but fear you are probably right. I have seen absolutely no research to support what I’m about to say and wonder if there is any (this seems like a tailormade research project for Rocky Humbert!) but I do a lot of reading online. Chiefly, the New York Times. And as we all know, I read a lot of books, and it just FEELS different. As if a different part of my brain is engaged. I don’t know if that’s in part due to the physical differences between the two (holding the book, turning the pages, etc., vs. clicking “Next Page”) and the visual differences (viewing a lighted screen vs. ambient light in the room) but I think that must have something to do with it.

  4. Being an old fogey myself and growing up across the street from the same library that Fakename has mentioned in the past, I find that curling up with my laptop just doesn’t give me the same escape from reality that curling up with a good book does. No matter that they are the same words. I’ve not been tempted by Kindle and clones. Yet.

    I am able to download audio books onto my iPod from the local public library. An interesting experiment, good entertainment for the treadmill, but nothing like reading it myself. The only audio books I have really enjoyed were “dramatized” rather than “read”, with multiple readers and a narrator and some artistic license taken with the actual printed text.

    I can’t imagine getting a science book like “The Sexual Paradox” by Susan Pinker, to name a current example, as an audio book and getting the same feeling of learning and accomplishment that I do by reading it. Going by my previous forays into fiction audio books, that is.

    This may be a generational thing. Our successors, familiar from childhood with electronic media, may have a very different opinion.

  5. I think the question is *who* pays. Printed newspaper (and even many magazines) model is that advertisers pay most of the cost; the subscriber pays a token. I used to subscribe to the Tallahicky Demagogue for $1 a week but quit when they started running the paper like I did when I was Editor of my campus paper. 😉 I don’t even read the “free” on-line version now.

    Although the economy is undermining advertising revenue, at some point will come back. So even on-line content can be paid for by advertising, and Google is a big example of this.

    Between TV and Internet, I believe that print newspaper as it existed is dead. By the time you read the “news” in print, it is stale. I do subscribe to Newsweek, because it focuses on analysis, something which only a few large newspapers are capable of.

    I regularly bamboozled the Gainesville paper’s “government” reporter when he was looking for a story because journalism school did not prepare him for how to analyze a budget. He could have had a lot of stories if he knew how to look at a budget. It wasn’t my job to give him a story.

    Well, I did give him a story of sorts…lol! I never lied, but I made sure to answer in a way that would deflect the question to a ‘safe” topic and he never realized what I was doing. He baited and I switched!

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