Monday, July 28, 2008
No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money
Call me a blockhead.
And while there's exquisite truth to Sam Johnson's words, there's an internet full of blogging blockheads, like me.
But in a Comment exchange with Connecticut Bob, one of those very blogheads, I asked a question that needs to be asked: Is the Hartford Courant exploiting bloggers when it uses excerpts from their blogs without pay?
As CT Bob recognizes, the Courant is in the midst of the biggest layoff of writers ever, and they are cherrypicking blog posts to fill their opinion pages. Bob is justifiably gratified with the attention, and with the ability to get his progressive opinions out in the world to a larger audience. And while Bob does not consider himself a professional writer (he doesn't currently accept advertising on his site), he, and bloggers like him, are arguably the future of political, social and cultural communication. His perspective is valuable and unique, his columns logical, interesting and clear. His writing is as good as anything the newspaper offers, and he's often closer to the ground than a lot of reporters can be. He was skewering Senator Lieberman (that stairwell video is a classic) when the Courant was giving the creepy lawmaker a pass (hell, they even endorsed him).
Newspapers which haven't figured out how to use the web are so John McCain. Re-printing blogposts with ink and paper, isn't "conquering the web." It's more like the folks who need to print the attachment to read it, because they can't read a Word doc on line.
Aside from Letters to the Editor, the Courant pays for every other word of editorial copy it prints. Shouldn't the paper at least pay a nominal fee to bloggers whose words they excerpt? The blogger who wants to remain pure can give permission to print without a fee, but the very idea that the Courant hasn't made the offer is exploitative.
They've been in the business for a long time, and they must surely understand that while the web is extraordinarily freewheeling when it comes to sharing and borrowing information, if you are a major media outlet, who makes money for your newspaper/website, then "borrowing" without pay is impolite, if not immoral.
Finally, the Courant edits the blogs without an approval. As if they know better than the person who wrote the damn thing.
There is a solution. A little © on your site will probably mean the Courant won't come calling, but it will assure you that if they want to use your stuff, they'll have to ask permission.
Speaking of blockeheads, here are some of the originals.