Nov 7, 2007

Writing in the 21st century

As a reporter, I am fascinated with the issues swirling at the heart of the Writers Guild strike.

This line in today's Los Angeles Times story especially resonates: "This is an industry based on talent, and to break relations with the most talented people in town is not a very good business plan."

Long ago, the managers of most newspaper conglomerates decided their industry is not one based on talent but is instead based on an emerging franchise system, with interchangeable and one-size-fits-all content being served by interchangeable assembly line-workers to a fast-food consumer. McFacts, mixed in with anything else that will attract a roaming eye.

Ironically, greedy Hollywood producers are more likely to support talent.

The fixation with "online content" and "platforms" has overshadowed discussion of purpose, mission and principle. One rarely hears editors or publishers articulating a vision for using the Internet to enhance the news. Instead, they look past the newsroom and focus instead on how unique hits, new non-news content and advertising bundles will enhance profit.

They have their heads buried too deep in Excel spreadsheets to see the talent wants to embrace online as much or more than they do. Unfortunately, I see very little evidence that the owners and managers want to make common cause with the reporting staff.

I can only assume a similar myopia exists in Hollywood studios. But even though they just want to entertain, I feel they will do a better job of finding their way together again.

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