In which I return and go linkblogging

So it turns out that moving to a new city tends to take time away from blogging. Who knew?

Over the past few weeks I’ve traded sunny Florida for tornado-filled (maybe) Washington D.C. and the familiarity of daily newspaper journalism for the unpredictable excitement of journalism startups. And while there seems to be a distinct lack of manatees here, living in the city is already awesome. (Anyone else have a pastry chef for a neighbor?)

But the blogging hiatus can’t last forever, so I’m going to ease back into things with some good old linkblogging. Here are some good stories I’ve been reading lately:

  • Whilst responding to two worthreading posts by Megan McArdle about why journalism is healthy even if newspapers aren’t, Doug Fisher makes an interesting point that I’ve never heard before: that one of modern newspapers’ main functions has been to “aggregate social costs.” Fisher writes:

The Colonial and even the Civil War-era press had been an unruly thing, prone to vicious attack. The practical matter, however, was that it was largely impractical to sue individual small publishers for sullying your reputation. The resources were not there

As the newspaper and its news organization evolved, they also developed the necessary deep pockets to right social wrongs their journalists might cause.

The rise of the large media company also provided a central place for legal action, promoting efficiency. In return, it made an implicit social contract (too often violated, but still) that it would strive to meet a certain level of professionalism, both to society (by providing a legal and managerial collar around unruly journalists, for instance) and to the journalists (by providing a living wage and decent benefits, ease of production and distribution, and a certain modicum of legal protection in most cases).

  • In previous posts I’ve wondered why newspapers don’t try to take on Craigslist’s free classifieds. Bob Wyman (also via Doug Fisher) argues that doing so at this point would be the equivalent of trying to start a small internet service provider to take on Comcast and Verizon. In other words, that ship has sailed and taken newspapers’ ad revenue with it.
  • At Hitsville, Bill Wyman (not to be confused with Bob Wyman or that Bill Wyman) makes the case that there’s still such a thing as selling out — and that rock musicians shouldn’t do it. Discuss.
  • I hope to one day win the New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest. And with these tips from recent winner Patrick House, I hope to soon enter for the first time and be just not-funny enough to achieve my dream.
  • The New Yorker and the New Republic have simultaneous stories about the revolt against terrorism by former al-Qaida members and other former jihadis, include influential figures whose past writings provided ideological and religious justifications for Islamic terrorism. The New Yorker story is one of Lawrence Wright’s deeply reported tours de force (see here for another); the New Republic piece, by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank, is more of a reported essay (as is TNR’s wont). Both are must reads for anyone interested in the future of the Middle East — and the future in general.
  • Steven Pinker has a terrific New Republic essay on the danger and idiocy of conservative fearmongering about bioethics.

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