Tuesday March 6, 2007

It's all the readers' fault

Carl Hiaasen says and Bob Norman agrees. That the Anna Nicole Smith incident is revealing some sort of new low in our culture. “But this is the new New Journalism, which is steered by a core belief that people would rather be smothered by seedy gossip about dead ex-Playmate junkies than be bothered with the details of North Korea’s nuclear program.”

I call bullshit. That people are more interested in trivial gossip than weighty news is as old as humanity. I see no evidence that the internet is intensifying this whatsoever — 30 million people mentioned Anna Nicole Smith. Big deal — most of those hits were probably from blogs mentioning her in passing (like I just did). She’s an interesting celebrity, and she just died — what does Hiaasen expect?

This is just a newspaper guy frustrated by the fact that his industry is dying and blaming it on readers’ alleged preferences. The truth is that readers skim the Smith article and then they skim the North Korea article, and they know the difference. The real problem is the newspapers. I picked one up yesterday (the NYTimes, actually), and boy was it a disaster. The content is great, but the delivery system stinks. A big heavy clump of wood pulp gets dropped on your lawn every morning, and you’re expected to flip through hundreds of huge flimsy pages, skimming articles to try to find what’s of interest to you. Stories jump around from page to page, making you unfold, flip, refold, and generally wrestle with the stupid thing.

And newspapers’ web sites are no better — the Herald’s front page gives you a hint of what’s behind the link for exactly two stories. For anything else you have to navigate to sub-pages or guess from short cryptic headlines. Navigable archive pages are non-existent, searching is rudimentary, and all articles disappear behind a paywall after a few months. The Herald has a mess of blogs that don’t integrate with its regular site, and many are on Blogspot. I’ve repetedly implored the Herald to look for new ways to use the internet, and it’s just not happening. The NY Times has a new state-of-th-art website, but it’s chosen to put its columnists behind a paywall, so I’m not sure how much of a leader they’ll be.

Look, there’ll always be a demand for serious news, and there’ll always be news organizations to meet the demand. The only question is whether today’s newspapers are smart enough to make the changes to become those organizations. But their blaming their audience for their troubles suggests they are not.

Update: In the comments, Dan Sweeney just proved that Hiaasen isn’t just wrong about his conclusion, he’s wrong about his facts, too. Herewith, a series of graphs demonstrating that Anna Nicole Smith wasn’t the biggest news story the week she died by a long shot.

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  1. Wilder    Tue Mar 6, 09:15 AM #  

    Any serious discussion of the so-called New Journalism can’t happen if we keep mixing up what is pushed on television with what is reported in newspapers (thus, online).

    There’s a big, big, BIG difference. What we see, what we think of first, when it comes to news is on the boob tube. But to get a snapshot of what is going on in a community … that’s what the paper is for.

    Changes in how papers are? I’d have to strongly disagree if you mean format/layout, unless you mean more break-out boxes and side bars.

    Story wise? More reporters at city hall, county commission, etc. etc.etc. Papers need to go back strong to the role of the fourth estate and add corporate watchdogging to that work.

  2. Wilder    Tue Mar 6, 09:20 AM #  

    Ah, and one other thing … The NYTimes a disaster? Seriously? Please DON’t talk to anyone about change the Times. They might listen to you and ruin it for the many rest-of-us. There’s nothing better than spending a few hours lost inside a NYTimes. I love folding back newsprint, ripping out something of interest, rolling a section and sticking it in my back pocket.

    Newspapers are old school, and loved. The Internets exists for you folks wanting to find what you want to learn. I want to learn things I would have never have gone looking for … and that’s why I read newspapers.

  3. alesh    Tue Mar 6, 10:45 AM #  


    The print NYTimes is on its way out sooner or later. I wish I had a few hours every day to spend with it, and I’m glad YOU do, but recognize that that puts you in a rapidly dying category. Catering to your preferences will do nothing but hasten the print edition’s death.

    I don’t want to rush into telling the NYTimes specifically what they should do, but they need to make their great content more accessible. Why not make the whole thing a tabloid? Why not put a table of contents with a sentence or two from each article on the cover in a sidebar?

    There are smart people out there, and somebody needs to get a few of them together in a room and get them brainstorming, and fast.

  4. MiamianLawStudent    Tue Mar 6, 11:42 AM #  

    I wonder, do you feel the same way about John Stewart and Steven Colbert’s episodes dedicated to making fun of the Ana Nicole Smith coverage? They may be delivering their point in a comical tone but make no mistake, they’re arguing the same point as Hiaasen.

    As for newspapers obsolescence due to their remarkably slow method of delivering information, I call bull. You say you don’t have time to turn pages and scroll up and down pages. You’re kidding right? In the time it takes to start up your computer and wait for pages to load you could just as well turn pages. The truth is you don’t prioritize your time and you’re simply not entertained by something bright and shiny like the internet. I’m not holding that against you; I prefer online news to print. All I’m saying is that its a stupid argument.

    As for the format changes you suggest (e.g., summarizing the whole paper on the front page so that you don’t need to turn pages), the NYtimes and other papers can’t do that because they depend on page-turning for their ad revenues.

    Tabloids seem to manage just fine doing so but they don’t offer nearly the same amount of content as a major paper and, more importantly (and supportive of Hiaasen’s point) they depend on sensationalizing everything to get readers turning pages and looking at their ads.

  5. riotbaby    Tue Mar 6, 12:32 PM #  

    I wish Hiaasen took a look at the paper he writes for — the same paper that has printed AT LEAST three stories about Anna Nicole on their cover. Newspapers are just as guilty as the Internet of choosing tabloid gossip over real news. If Hiaasen really had balls, he would call out the Herald for being a poor excuse for a “news” outlet. Then again, why would he bite the hand that feeds him six figures for a phoned in opinion piece whenever he feels like writing?

  6. alesh    Tue Mar 6, 01:19 PM #  


    Good points, but you’re missing a couple of things:

    Stewart and Colbert satirize a few particular tabloid TV shows. Hiaasen is criticizing our entire culture. I think that’s a worthwhile distinction.

    I don’t have to turn my computer on, because it’s already on. Make no mistake: the problem is not with my and my unwillingness to “make time to read the newspaper.” That’s for 60+ year olds. Today we get our news fast, in small chunks (with the whole 600 page document a click away if we want the details), and usually off the internet. The onus is on the newspapers to adapt.

    The internet isn’t just something bright and shiny — it’s how we’re living. But the sad fact is that most newspapers haven’t learned to use the internet properly, either (and haven’t even tried) — that’s the point I was trying to make. Scrolling wouldn’t be so bad, but what they make you do is click, click back, click the next thing, click back again, etc. It’s ridiculous. It’s a stupid argument if you’re old and you hate the way the world is changing.

    I don’t quite understand the page-turning/ad-revenue/page-size issue, nor do I care — they’re getting paid the big bucks, and my job extends to telling them THEY need to figure it out. If they want to bring me on as a consultant I’d be glad to try to help, but they should probably try to find someone smarter then me.


    Yep. Maybe the Herald is just another symptom to him, but he’s too chicken to name it by name?

  7. MiamianLawStudent    Tue Mar 6, 02:47 PM #  

    I don’t know that Stewart and Colbert are focusing on just the CNNs, FOXNews, and MSNBCs of the world. They seem equally concerned about the culture that allows CNNs, FOXNews, and MSNBC’s to exist. The difference between Hiaasen, Stewart, and Colbert is that the later don’t scold the underlying culture or attack it directly; they humor it instead.

  8. I was there    Tue Mar 6, 03:07 PM #  

    New York Times “on line” Is Good and Free and I don’t pay for anything. I especially enjoy Mark Bittman’s cooking videos and the art section.

    I start my day with criticalmiami and the NY Times.

    New York Times “newspaper” too Expensive and it clutters up the house.

    Miami Herald “on line” Good for nothing.
    Miami Herald “newspaper” less than useless, unless I’m in it!

  9. Manola Blablablanik    Tue Mar 6, 03:37 PM #  

    I must say that I do agree with Alesh on the point that people hankering for celebrity buzz isn’t anything new, it’s just that now, it’s so much more easily disseminated, especially since the rise of visual media.

    Back in the day it was royalty that people were interested in not just for gossip but political reasons. No one discussed Britney’s vagina, but if one of Henry the VIII’s wife shared hers, people heard about it and there were consequences.

  10. alesh    Tue Mar 6, 03:38 PM #  

    Well, I’m not sure I agree; my understanding is that Colbert’s whole shtick is aping Bill O’Reiley, for instance. But even to the extent that they do cultural criticism in general, that’s a far cry from “they’re arguing the same point as Hiaasen.”

    They’re poking at certain over-the-top aspects of our culture. Compare that to this”

    Don’t make the mistake of dismissing the Smith story as an anomaly; it’s a media watershed. If the death of a hapless, doped-up ex-model can knock two wars out of the headlines, there’s no end to the squalid possibilities.

    We have seen the future, and it’s in the gutter.

    That’s some hyperventilating, over-the-top stuff, pretty damn different from the ultimately optimistic shows you mentioned.

  11. alesh    Tue Mar 6, 03:41 PM #  

    oops sorry that was directed @ MLS.

    I was there~

    the NYT charges for their columnists – it’s called “Times Select.” For me that’s the best part of the newspaper. Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, et al.


    Exactly right. Those are the tastes that Shakespeare pandered to, and ironically we now consider him high art.

  12. Verticus    Tue Mar 6, 03:43 PM #  

    Daily newspapers are on their last legs. I grew up reading the Miami Herald and still do. I feel something is missing in my day if I haven’t read the paper. My college age kids who grew up in a house where somebody read the newspaper aren’t the least bit interested in it. They get all their news from the net and TV. Still, I’ve adapted to the paper’s website. It’s not perfect, but it has its plusses which a home delivered newspaper can’t meet. I think the economics of publishing old school newspapers will be their demise and that they will become part of the digital ether with an assortment of delivery systems.

  13. alesh    Tue Mar 6, 04:43 PM #  

    It has some plusses, but come on! Organizations 1/10th the size of the Herald do the web 100 times better.

    Whatabout the articles that run with images in print but without them online? What about the anti-user flash “galleries”? What about the Entertainment page, where the events listings have disappeared a few weeks ago? Look at this page and tell me how I can get to Elisa Turner’s (note that they spell her name two different ways) latest article. What about the RSS feeds that spit each article four or five times minimum, apparently as the editors make changes after taking them live (I tweak CM articles after publishing sometimes and don’t have that problem)? What about Larry Lebowitz’s column, that has his name like 5 times in different places on the template?

    Hey, I read the Herald online SPORADICALLY, and this is a list off the top of my head, of stuff that’s OBVIOUSLY BROKEN. I’m not even touching on the innovations they should be trying and are not. For example, you can flip through the print edition, glance at the covers of each section, and get an overview of everything in the paper that day in maybe 30 seconds. Getting the same sense online is possibly impossible, and certainly takes much much longer and involves frustrating clicking around.

  14. Wilder    Tue Mar 6, 11:23 PM #  


    ~ Respectfully, I must strongly disagree.

    I’m sure you know how a “news hole” works. The NYTimes would never be that big and bulky if there wasn’t enough ad revenue to justify the number of pages.

    And speaking of revenue, what exactly do you think the margins are at papers? I’m pretty sure you know. (Average has always been around 20%. Some chains push 40 %. A “bad” paper hits around 9 to 10 %. There’s many a company that would love those kinds of numbers).

    Rumors of newspapers’ demise are greatly exaggerated. But I guess we will have to wait for time to tell which of us is correct.

    Without newspapers, there’d be little online and television content. Online news sites are just another way of delivering stories generated by print reporters. Most television news reports are ripped off from local newspapers and national wires.

    Again: the Internet provides you with news you are looking for, while papers give you the news you might not realize you need to know.

    And I gotta echo MiamianLawStudent’s call of bull.

    You can’t be bothered to flip through a paper? C’mon. That’s the whole point. You turn pages and scan. You read what catches your eye. If you don’t want to bother, fine – but that’s your sideshow that you are projecting. Newspapers are an industry that has survived for centuries.

    Let’s see them dip into the red before we start planning the funeral.

  15. alesh    Wed Mar 7, 12:16 AM #  


    It’s my fault, because I didn’t link to this directly in this post. The sad fact is that revenue isn’t the determining factor at newspapers anymore. This is the new world, and the only thing that matters is increase in stock price, which may be stagnant even with healthy revenue/profit margins. Witness the recent debacle that almost imploded the LA Times.

    The thing is that you only THINK you disagree with me. In fact, you’re on my side. Check it:

    The baby-boomers are the last generation that has a mass-market attachment to newspapers. What happens when they start dying off? The newspapers will either adapt or die with them. But the newspapers that begin adapting now have the best chance of emerging viable. What it comes down to is that a newspaper is two things: a newsgathering agency and an information-delivery agency. Newspapers will be successful to the extent that they can fortify the former while ditching the latter. And there are organizations that already have the former (down PAT!) and never had to bother with the latter (check Slate.com).

    You can’t be bothered to flip through a paper? C’mon. That’s the whole point. You turn pages and scan.

    You’re missing the point. This isn’t about me, it’s about the future, and kids in the future are just not goin to deal with that shit (not to mention it’s pathetically bad for the environment). News agencies will either get with the program or die.

  16. alesh    Wed Mar 7, 12:31 AM #  

    the Internet provides you with news you are looking for, while papers give you the news you might not realize you need to know.

    I can dismiss this one without any worry, because over the last 5 years I’ve seen it happen to the music record labels. The majors start missing steps, and the indies come in with stuff that’s different, but ultimately much much much much better.

    Covering the local government? Keeping an eye on local businesses? If there’s a cliff let’s push the Herald off it if it can’t do what we need, because experience has shown that independent journalists (at various levels of professionalism — check me) will fill the gap quite nicely.

    Especially when money gets involved. My one crappy Google ad hauls in a modest payment. But if the Herald folded, demand for independent journalism increased, and that income increased ten-fold, I’d be making enough to make a living of it (with a pay cut). A full-time blogging/journalisting Alesh could do a fuck of a lot more then I’m doing now, and there’d be more where that came from. Would it be better then the current state of affairs? Well, the answer to that question will depend on your perspective, but I’d point out that support the the status-quo requires a philosophical support of a communist-like centralized management system.

    A couple dozen citizen journalists like me out there trying to out-do each other? You’d have to be silly not to see the appeal of that in terms of bringing information to the public in the long term.

  17. Franklin    Wed Mar 7, 09:39 AM #  

    In his annual letter to his company’s shareholders, Warren E. Buffett— the world’s second-richest person and the largest shareholder of The Washington Post Co. — wrote that “fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry” and warned that “the skid will almost certainly continue.”

    I agree with Warren and Alesh here.

  18. Steve    Wed Mar 7, 10:07 AM #  

    I’ve read the New York Times 7 days a week for about 30 years; subscribed for the last 20. I’ve found no substitute anyplace else for its depth, integrity, thoroughness, quality of writing, and sheer enjoyment.

    I also read the Miami Hurled 7 days per week, and the Scum Sentinel on Sundays. They’re shitty, both the cause and the effect of newspapers’ decline.

    Yeah I’m an old fart (but not a New Yorker and never lived there). And I agree with Alesh here and others elsewhere that newspapers are on their way down the toilet. I suspect that their demise and young people’s disinterest in them are a major reason that there’s such focus on non-news like Anna Nicole Smith’s tits I mean death, and why younger people today are so less informed about the world than young people 25 years ago, despite the explosion of access to information.

    Bah. Time for my Geritol.

  19. skipvancel    Wed Mar 7, 10:51 AM #  

    The only person who was happy with the Anna Nicole media blitz was the Diaper Clad Astronaut.Anna Nicole’s death knocked her off the front page, however, a new news cycle ghas begun and the DCA story is regaining some footing.The DCA’s only hope is that Britney Spears knocks off’s K-Fed.

  20. Dan    Wed Mar 7, 11:50 AM #  

    Hammering newspapers over the ridiculous overplay of Anna Nicole coverage is terribly unfair. And that’s not just my opinion. Check out these graphs

    Comparing the top 5 new stories online, on network news, on cable news, on radio and in newspapers, there is only one medium in which the name Anna Nicole Smith does not appear — newspapers.

    If you want to blame someone for the idiocy of tabloid jmournalism, check out the cable news graph. I think it’s pretty obvious where their priorities lie.

  21. alesh    Wed Mar 7, 12:49 PM #  

    Holy crap — Dan Sweeney just proved Carl Hiaasen wrong with a series of bar-graphs! I’m appending that shit to the post. Get down with your bad self, Mr. Sweeney!

    (The graphs also indirectly support my interpretation that the Daily Show and Colbert report are primarily spoofing a selected cable programs.)

  22. Guv    Wed Mar 7, 02:00 PM #  

    A related observation: Stories like Anna Nicole do make people think about “real” issues, and the law. Probate of wills, paternity, guardianship, minors, trusts, civil procedure. As an attorney, I had friends asking me legal questions about inheritance and testamentary intent to understand the story better.

    I hate to disagree with the venerable Mr. Hiaasen (who I regarded as a sort of literary rock star as a wee youngster) but without defending the fluff-circus, there are societal implications to stories like the Smith saga. As an example, someone who cares about being buried in a particular location might draft up a document to clarify their wishes.

    Hiassen likened the case to OJ Simpson. One thing the recent Smith court battle had in common with OJ Simpson is a judge who, like California’s Judge Ito, allowed the cameras in to the courtroom and apparently did little to discourage the superfluous wackiness that surrounded the proceedings.

  23. Dan    Wed Mar 7, 03:25 PM #  

    What can I say? Hiaasen’s old and soft and lives in Vero Beach. Ha!

    Kidding aside (Hiaasen’s a hero of mine, for the record), don’t thank me, alesh. Thank the PEJ. They’re the ones who put together a weekly index of media coverage, and this isn’t the first time I’ve found it helpful.

  24. Wilder    Wed Mar 7, 05:21 PM #  


    You make good points and almost win me over with this ~> “(not to mention it’s pathetically bad for the environment)”

    but … but, I don’t think this is true ~> “kids in the future are just not goin to deal with that shit.” I’m Gen-X and not only are the bulk of my pals newspaper readers, they are all magazine junkies.

    A monitor/ipod will not replace newsprint. Radio didn’t. TV didn’t. They all co-exist.

    And a recent trip to Boston with a few hours on !!mass!! !!transportation!! only underscores my belief that papers will live on. Most folks on the train were reading, and a chunk of that was the local rag.

  25. Wilder    Wed Mar 7, 05:25 PM #  

    Thanks Dan. That site is great. Take a look at these numbers

  26. MiamianLawStudent    Thu Mar 8, 12:15 AM #  


    Dan Sweeney just proved Carl Hiaasen wrong with a series of bar-graphs!

    You’re kidding right?

    The graphs don’t contradict a thing that Carl Hiaasen said. Hiaasen’s bitching about the fact that we’re obsessing about Ana Nicole at all. He’s not bitching about Ana Nicole being the top story of the year or even the 10th most talked about story. He’s bitching about the fact that it reached any prominence whatsoever. He’s bitching about the fact that because it reached that prominence other stories were pushed aside.

    If anything the graphs support Hiaasen a great deal. They show that Ana Nicole who’s death will have no foreseeable impact on the course of human history or the average person’s emotional, spiritual, mental, or material wellbeing, made it to NUMBER THREE OVERALL! Hiaasen doesn’t focus on any kind of journalism (broadcast or print). But his paper does talk an awful lot about cameras and, sure enough, the graphs also show that Ana Nicole’s death was the most shown on Cable TV. (which I seem to vaguely remember hearing is the most depended on source for new but I can’t say so with any certainty—someone please correct me if you know better)

    I think most of the participants in this conversation are missing part of Hiaasen’s point. He’s mad that this happened at all. Yes, he’s blaming the readers, and the listeners, and the viewers. But he’s also complaining about the underlying culture that let it happened. He’s also complaining about the journalistic editors and powers that be (and the “reporters”) that he perceives as responding and feeding into that culture.

    He’s not complaining about the state of journalism in terms of its style of delivery. That’s Alesh’s contribution to the conversation. And he’s not complaining that readers don’t read more important material because they won’t read watch or listen to it. He’s complaining that they don’t do so because its barely offered.

    He states:

    But this is the new New Journalism, which is steered by a core belief that people would rather be smothered by seedy gossip about dead ex-Playmate junkies than be bothered with the details of North Korea’s nuclear program.

    He’s saying new NEW Journalism believes the worst about people. He is NOT saying the belief is supported by the public’s true feelings.

    Now, he does go on to say:

    Debate all you wish about whether the public’s interest is fueling the Anna Nicole overkill, or the overkill is inflating the public’s interest. The fact is, lots of people are hungry for the story — and not because they care one bit about this poor woman, or her child.

    But note: He’s not saying everyone is hungry for the story. He’s saying “lots of people are hungry for the story FOR THE WRONG REASON, namely, necrotainment. And he’s pissed that the “new journalism” is happy to supply them with necrotainment as opposed, say, a story about Condoleezza Rice.

    That said, Alesh is right to call “bullshit” when Hiaasen says this is a “new low.” Obsessing about trivial shit IS as old as humanity. You don’t even need to look that far back to find such instances (see, e.g., the O.J. trial, Princess Diana, a girl’s sports team wearing flip flops to visit the president, the crazy astronaut). Alesh is also right to say that the Herald and other newspapers needs to shape up their papers and their websites.

    HOWEVER, Alesh, you’re dead wrong to dismiss Hiaasen as “just a newspaper guy frustrated by the fact that his industry is dying and blaming it on readers’ alleged preferences.” You’ve provided absolutely no evidence in Hiaasen’s article to support your judgment of him (and I can find none). Hell the article talks a lot of cameras but it includes print journalists just the same:

    As soon as Smith’s death became known, a small army of PRINT and broadcast reporters swarmed to Fort Lauderdale.

    Alesh, your points about journalism are well taken but they have NOTHING to do with Hiaasen’s point. Please read his article yet again.

    On a separate note, this whole talk reminds me of a favorite poem of mine by Frank O’Hara. I think it’s very appropriate:

    _Lana Turner has collapsed!
    I was trotting along and suddenly
    it started raining and snowing
    and you said it was hailing
    but hailing hits you on the head
    hard so it was really snowing and
    raining and I was in such a hurry
    to meet you but the traffic
    was acting exactly like the sky
    and suddenly I see a headline
    there is no snow in Hollywood
    there is no rain in California
    I have been to lots of parties
    and acted perfectly disgraceful
    but I never actually collapsed
    oh Lana Turner we love you get up_

  27. j-j    Thu Mar 8, 12:33 AM #  

    wow! miamilawstudent: thank you for your thoughts, you always know how to bring reason back to a discussion . I think you will make a great lawyer!

  28. alesh    Thu Mar 8, 08:04 AM #  


    Take a look at the Sony Reader. Now add color, firefox support, wireless, a 20gig hard drive, the ability to synchronize with websites, and a thriving e-book market; BAM: the migration away from paper begins instantly, and is at 75% in 5 to 10 years. And when will such a device exist? Soon, my friend, soon.


    Hiaasen’s bitching about the fact that we’re obsessing about Ana Nicole at all.

    No. He’s bitching about the sea change he sees going on. I believe he refers to a “watershed” event. He cites the Condoleezza Rice example in an (intellectually dishonest, as we now realize) attempt to make us think Anna Nicole Smith is being discussed 10 times as much as more important matters. He contemptuously fumes about all this as if people’s interest in gossip was anything new. I’d argue that it goes back to the beginning of humanity, and it’s part of the same part of our brain that makes us read Hiaasen’s books.

    Look, I can’t prove that Hiaasen’s motivation for writing the article was that he’s pissed off that his industry’s dying any more then he can prove why people are interested in the ANS story. We’re both speculating.

    Hiaasen is saying two things: that the level of interest in ANS (1) is something new in journalism and (2) it’s something contemptible.

    You seem to already disagree with #1. As for #2, I’m simply arguing that a thirst for gossipy news is part of our DNA, and in any case that Hiaasen’s intellectually dishonest (or kidding himself) in his arguments.

    Thanks for sharing the poem!


    Sometimes it’s hard to know if you’re being sarcastic.

  29. MiamianLawStudent    Thu Mar 8, 12:04 PM #  

    Did you read my post?

    You say,

    You seem to already disagree with #1. As for #2, I’m simply arguing that a thirst for gossipy news is part of our DNA, and in any case that Hiaasen’s intellectually dishonest (or kidding himself) in his arguments.

    NO NO NO. I agreed with you that it’s NOT new. Yes, it’s part of our DNA. I can buy that. Second, I also agree with you that the journalists are simply feeding that thirst. AND to the extent that Hiaasen says it’s a watershed, then yes, I disagree with him.

    BUT, I don’t have to (dis)agree with all or none of Hiaasen’s (or your arguments). I’m saying Hiaasen’s wrong to say its a watershed. I’m also saying you’re wrong to say that Hiaasen’s JUST COMPLAINING ABOUT or BECAUSE HIS INDUSTRY IS DYING.

    You know, at some level, for many people, deceit, betrayal, raping, murdering, and pilaging are a part of our DNA. There’s a “thirst” for it for those people. But we condemn anyone or any institution (or any media) who promotes those values (Al-Jazeera puts a special twist on that). Yes there is a thirst for gossip and “necrotainment” but that doesn’t mean is should be satisfied. Some things should not be encourage (albeit not repressed either).

    You, Alesh, are intellectually dishonest (or at least sloppy). You parsed Hiaasen’s argument, took what you needed to make your point about how newpapers must “get with the times according to Alesh,” and dismissed the rest of what he had to say and dismissed him as an authority on anything.

    So he’s wrong about Ana Nicole being a watershed. Fine. That’s OUR opinion. That doesn’t mean his other points are wrong or that his general message is wrong. Or that his mistakes support your claims about the need for journalism to get with the times. (by the way, I agree with you that news papers have work to do)

    You say:

    I can’t prove that Hiaasen’s motivation for writing the article

    I call BULL once again. No one can ever “prove” any author or any artist’s motivation without asking him themselves. (If you really want to get ontological, there’s a good argument to be made that they themselves don’t know every bit of motivation that drove them.)

    BUT, even if you can’t know an author’s motivation with any certainty, you can make a pretty damn good argument by looking at what he’s said. Don’t cop-out by now claiming you can’t possibly “know.” You can’t “know” but you can take a pretty damn good guess by reading the article as a whole, within its context, and drawing lines between your conclusions and the evidence at hand.

    If you can’t possibly “know” now after someone’s contested your point, why were you able to do so when you first wrote this post? Why didn’t you say so then? Why didn’t you temper your claims rather than jump to a conclusion? THAT, Alesh, is intellectual dishonesty (or at least sloppiness—you’d better pick b/c I can’t possibly know your motivation).

    SIDE NOTE: Yes, I think Hiaasen’s going a bit far by saying ANS is a watershed BUT, you know, he does say that this is a problem with the NEW NEW Journalism. Why does he repeat “new?” It may be that he’s saying this journalism is worse than the journalism that produced the celebrity gossip and necrotainment of yore (from stories about royal families to O.J. Simpson). I wouldn’t agree that ANS marks some new line but its his prerogative to say so. And my saying so doesn’t make his overall point (that the news shouldn’t offer necrotainment) any less valid.

    I get the feeling you’ve parsed my arguments like you parsed Hiaasens. From reading other posts on this site, I think you do it alot. Are you writing your responses as your read each paragraph? If that’s the case. Stop. Slow down. Read the whole thing first. Understand that point the other guy’s making and only then respond.

  30. MiamianLawStudent    Thu Mar 8, 12:24 PM #  


    In a terrible twist of IRONY, I misread your post. You said I disagree with Hiaasen but I read you as saying I agree with Hiaasen. I apologize for the mistake.


    However, don’t dismiss the rest. I still think it’s valid and I still think you’re guilty of intellectual dishonest/sloppiness. (not to make any less of the fact that I was just sloppy)

    I also still think you’re missing the bigger point of Hiaasen’s article.

    Finally, I do take some offense at your suggesting that J-J must be being sarcastic if he agrees me. Maybe he is being sarcastic but you shouldn’t assume to know his motivation without showing some evidence. It’s intellectually dishonest. ;-)

  31. Guv    Thu Mar 8, 12:29 PM #  

    MLS, don’t you have a class to attend or something?


  32. j-j    Fri Mar 9, 04:00 PM #  

    Sorry, I was not being sarcastic, I do like what MiamilawStudent brings to the discussions. Intellectual honesty requires a person to be neutral to the subject being discussed. There shouldn’t be any bias or ulterior motives in a discussion. Reason and analysis are the two principal requirement of any intellectual discourse.

    So yes, I enjoy Miamilawstudent because he uses his intellect—not his passions—to respond to these comments…

    BTW: miamilawstudent, you should start your own blog, you are a very good writer!

  33. Wilder    Fri Mar 9, 07:31 PM #  

    For folks invested in this conversation, you might enjoy this read:

    The Walter Reed story is a reminder that in the solar system of journalism, newspapers are the sun, the source of energy around which everything else revolves.

    Also, while the Sony Reader is cool, it still cannot be written on nor folded into my pocket. I can’t clip it and include it in a letter or a scrapbook. I doubt that anyone would want to leave it on a coffee shop table, much less pass it around.

    And, there’s a great many people who will not be able to afford that. A paper you can get for spare change in the pocket or you can pick up a used one.

  34. MiamianLawStudent    Sat Mar 10, 01:13 PM #  


    Amen. To your comment and to the Walter Reed story.

    Also, amen to your mention (though brief) of differences in access to the internet and other technology. I’m really glad you brought it up.

    See Wilder’s comment regarding technology. And also see


    Here’s some weak anectodtal evidence: I worked at an office once with 8 attorneys. I would call only 3 of them computer literate. These attorneys were all in their 30s and 40s. I thought such a problem wouldn’t exist at a law school where everyone was required to have a laptop. I was wrong. Although the lions share of my classmates seem perfectly computer literate. I’m shocked by some of deficiencies. I’d say 5% maybe even more lack many fundamental skills (e.g. basic windows functions and slightly more complex functions on microsoft windows).

    Thank you very much for the compliment. That’s very sweet of you to say.

  35. Michael Emilio + Real Estate    Mon Mar 12, 05:01 PM #  

    In general, sensationalism does attract a higher amount of readership than stories with substance.

  36. alesh    Fri Apr 6, 02:40 PM #  

    I note this Slate article: In Defense of the Anna Nicole Feeding Frenzy:

    I’d be the last to deny the prurient appeal of the Smith story, or of the O.J. Simpson, Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, and runaway-bride stories that cable news capitalized on previously. But such stories captivate readers and viewers not just because they’re tawdry but because they’re complex. To stay on top of the Smith story once it got going, you really had to pay attention. Far from being useless pop entertainment, cable’s coverage taught viewers reams about civil procedure, pharmacology, and police work. I’ll admit that I learned a thing or two in the 30 minutes I watched.