Wednesday, July 7, 2010

MediaNews Hastening Fall from Newspaper to Fish Wrap


Dean Singleton dictates what most of the East Bay reads everyday. At least, those few who still subscribe to the rapidly shrinking Daily Review, Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and once-mighty San Jose Mercury News. Singleton is the most reviled newspaperman in the Bay Area. Just ask any long-time journo in the area and brace yourself for 30 minutes of fiery invective on the man who they say is killing their craft. "Satan's Scribe," as one former Chronicle reporters calls him also owns a considerable amount of the newsstands in the Denver and his empire in the Rockies is as rickety as the one here.

A media group including Singleton's MediaNews sent a cease and desist order to the editors of ColoradoPols.com, a news site devoted to the state's political news. Much like The Citizen, the site is laid out like a blog and sometimes posts stories based on links to other stories, but mainly does its own reporting. The letter sent to coloradopols.com asked the site to refrain from posting links and quoting from articles produced by the media companies, including the Denver Post, which Singleton owns.

Coloradopols.com responded on their site questioning how they could "steal" something that is free and proceeded to basically describe the simple function of a blog.

Not only are we posting only a few paragraphs from stories THAT ARE ALREADY FREE FOR EVERYONE ONLINE, we have gone out of our way to name the publication, highlight the author in particular, and provide a clear link to the story. Legally speaking, we don't actually need to do any of this, but we've always tried to be symbiotic Internet purveyors and give credit where credit is due (incidentally, the Post almost never links to us or even mentions Colorado Pols when we have a story before they do, which happens all the time, but we don't go all "attack of the killer attorneys" on them). What's more, the case law this letter cites pertains to some obscure spam site that was republishing AP news stories in their entirety without attribution. After the efforts we have always made to properly credit the cited publication as well as the story's author in boldface, such a comparison is insulting in the extreme.

The key point here is blogs are not required to provide a link to referenced materials so long as attribution is given as you do with any academic writing, but doing so violates the unwritten code of the Link Economy that fuels everything on the web. Jeff Jarvis of the influential media blog BuzzMachine has long scratched his head on the inability of big media companies to understand how sites like Google and aggregators like The Huffington Post are beneficial to their bottom lines and not "stealing" content. According to Jarvis, cutting out sites like coloradopols.com and search engines will decrease traffic to MediaNews-owned sites like InsideBayArea.com (sorry, no link included) by between one-third and, in some cases, one-half. Singleton and his group have it backwards, according to Jarvis.

In the link economy - instead of the outmoded content economy in which you operate - Google and aggregators and bloggers are bringing value to you; they should be charging you for the value they bring. You should rise up today and give Mr. Schmidt a big thank you for not charging you. But you won’t, because you’ve refused to understand this new business reality.
Some of this might be just media mumbo-jumbo, but here's Singleton's ambivalence to the realities of the future of journalism in common practice. Readers of The Citizen may notice links or attribution to the Daily Review and Oakland Tribune are rarely given. It is not necessarily because I have a low opinion of their reporting, but I don't wish to provide eyeballs to what I consider my competition. Both MediaNews papers are almost always two days or more behind on stories already posted on The Citizen.

This is the Link Economy in its basic form and why Singleton and others like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal who wish to put their content behind paywalls don't seem to understand.  In addition, the editors of coloradopols.com are correct, the big legacy papers never provide links to other sites who have broken news. The San Francisco Chronicle's Matier & Ross did not give attribution to The Citizen or East Bay Express for the story of State Treasurer Bill Lockyer's previous relationship with Liz Figueroa, who is now running for Alameda County Supervisor against Lockyer's wife, Nadia. Neither did the Los Angeles Times.

Separating the MediaNews from the rest of the blogosphere is not good business and suicidal and ignores the basics of a free market enterprise. The best product will rise to the top. Just pick up the Daily Review and enjoy the coupons. Even their commercials admit its the papers best selling point.
PHOTO: Dean Singleton, owner of MediaNews, which owns every major daily in the East Bay, and not likely a future employer of the author of this posting.


Well written and a thorough summary of the beginning. A short bit of relational history may well be in order. Yellow Journalism of the Guilded Age, Tabloid Journalism, Gonzo and Blogs today are all examples of expression seeking validation and acceptance. Way too soon to know how it will all turn out. When SCOTUS figures out that Zenger and Bloggers are not the same, we can begin to see the erosion of individual freedom in a Cloud World.

ANG newspapers are void of local content/stories and lack interesting or provacative journalism, they just are not good newspapers. It is a shame what Media News Group has done to the local papers.

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