Don’t bother talking to Douglas Bailey. First of all, he’s smarter than you, so he doesn’t care what you say. Second, because you’re not working for a dying industry that can’t figure out how to save itself, you are not worthy to share your opinion. Third, since he has no control over his own actions, you need to change how you want to use the web.
Douglas Bailey took the time to write an editorial at the Boston Globe’s website called, Got a comment? Keep it to yourself. It is the heart of everything that is currently wrong with the online newspaper business.
He goes about reminding us of how hard the reporters work to get the story, the long hours of digging, triple checking the facts, editorial reviews, fights with their editors over a paragraph or two that might cause a problem. Now on top of that, says Bailey, the reporter has to put up with the indignity of actually having to see the unwashed masses comment on his pristine work.
This is insane. We know that newspapers made a mistake and devalued their product by giving it away for free on the Internet. Some rebuilding could begin by removing these reader forums and restoring journalism’s dignity.
Newspapers didn’t make a mistake by putting their product online and not charging for it, newspapers are making a mistake by believing that nothing has changed in the last 20 years and they should still be able to do whatever they want and get paid top-dollar for it. I have some hard news for Douglas and his friends still holding on by their fingertips at The Boston Globe – you’re not as important as you think, in fact, everyday you are becoming less important because you continue to look down your nose at the very people you want to influence.
He reminds me of Spaulding in Caddyshack who upon seeing Danny Noonan all dressed up at Judge Smails club greets him with, “Ahoy Paloy”.
People like Douglas Bailey remind me of Clay Shirky’s chapter in Here Comes Everybody where he talks about the Abbott of Sponheim coming to the defense of the pre-printing press scribes. In 1492, the Abbot of Sponheim wrote a tract called In Defence of Scribes urging that the scribal tradition be maintained because the very act of handcopying sacred texts brought spiritual enlightenment. One problem: the abbot had his book set in movable type so his argument could be spread quickly and cheaply.
Bailey finishes off his argument by sticking his fingers in his ears, closing his eyes and singing loudly while walking back to his house:
By the way, don’t bother posting any comments directed to me when this article appears on the Web. I won’t see them. Instead, go start your own website or blog or buy a legitimate newspaper, or write a letter to the editor, or an op-ed (and sign your own name to it). If you really have something interesting to say, I’ll find you.
Well, I for one, don’t believe him. I think Douglas Bailey is a coward. I think he’s afraid of the future and is unable to keep up with the changes that are re-shaping the once insulated world he was once involved with.
Kathy Vetter says
I agree with everything you say Phil. And I understand that you are aiming for the larger point. But I think it’s also important to note that this guy says he’s a “media consultant.” He doesn’t work for a newspaper. I’m not sure it’s fair to call him “a newspaper guy” as you did in your Tweet leading to this post. (And god, I hope we don’t start using “newspaper guy” as a pejorative. That’s pretty arrogant in its own right.)
Believe me, I understand that arrogance and head-in-the-sand stubbornness are among the newspaper industry’s biggest problems. But I think there are some very smart people trying to change all that, from inside the industry. “Media consultants” are just that, for better or for worse. This guy clearly won’t be in the media consultant business much longer with views like his. But he’s not a newspaper guy, either. He’s an independent businessman.
Kathy, you’re right. He is a former writer/editor for the Boston Globe.
He may now be a consultant, but he is obviously living in the past, when he was working for the Globe.
Angela Connor says
A better idea would be to promote civil discourse in the comments area and hire a team of moderators to make it happen. Comments can be highly valuable to a news organization and reporters can actually benefit from reading them and make connections about the story that could lead to great follow-ups. I have a team of moderators who do it everyday. Embracing user-generated content and leveraging all that it can offer is a big step, but it’s an important step for journalists. I can say this because I am a journalist. Newspapers need a strategy for dealing with comments. Shutting them down isn’t the answer.
Author, “18 Rules of Community Engagement: A Guide for Building Relationships and Connecting With Customers Online“