Op-ed vs. Ed

The first I heard about Mike Connell and his plane crash was in a tweet that pointed to Rove’s IT Guru Warned of Sabotage Before Fatal Plane Crash; Was Set to Testify, by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, in Truthout. The original is here at Alternet.

So I went looking for more at Google News. All I got were more blogs. Nearly every item currently on top in a Google News search for “Mike Connell” crash is a blog source. And all of it has a political axe to grind. The Facts are buried in there, but to find them you have to get past writers’ talk radio biases.

Why aren’t newspapers listed? Two reasons, near as I can guess. One is that the papers’ stories don’t get many inbound links, and fail at PageRank (which I presume plays a role at Google News). The other is that the stories are no longer there for the linking.

The crash happened near Akron. It also appears from an archive search that the Akron Beacon Journal had some plain-facts coverage of Connell’s plane crash,; but those are archived behind a paywall now. Not helpful. Searching the Cleveland Plain Dealer isn’t any help either.

Newspaper folks have a legitimate gripe against blogging: that it’s much more of a partisan op-ed practice than a reportorial one. (Hell, I’m op-eding right now.) But papers aren’t doing themselves any favors by continuing to hide one of their best weapons in the war against reader attrition: archives. Also called “morgues”, most of these deep and helpful resources are still “monetized” only by direct payment, and invisible to Google and other search engines.

Newspaper Archives/Indexes/Morgues is the Library of Congress’ listing of deep newspaper resources. The top item, U.S. News Archives on the Web, is maintained by the excellent Ibiblio.org, and details a depressing picture. Many papers are listed. “Cost” is a column heading, and many have entries such as “Searching is available to all for free, but only registered subscribers can retrieve articles” or “$2.95 per article with multiple-article pricing options available, articles published within the last seven days are available through the site’s search engine for free”. Many also say “free” (or the likes of “free registration is required to access the free archives”). But most still require registration, or are just plain lame.

But you can find some stuff. Here’s a first report on the Connell crash in the Kentucky Post. Cincinnati.com has this. There I found that Connell ran NewMedia Communications. Its index page (that last link) is now a memorial.

I’m not going to keep digging, because I have too much else to do. But my long-standing recommendation to papers still stands: open the archives. Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds. Leave bad money on the table and go for depth and relevance. Those are aces in your hand. And hell, sell advertising in the archives too. You’ll make far more money that way than by shaking down readers for $2.95 per item: a price that prevents far more demand than it satisfies.

Bonus link, just because Sheila’s first-rate as both a journalist and a blogger.

10 comments

  1. Shava Nerad’s avatar

    If the Wellstone crash had been during the blog era, you might have seen the same treatment. *sigh* Even if there is no evil plot, the sensitivities are so acute that the urge to tamp things down is going to be huge, and we’ll end up with the usual manufactured consent of not looking hysterical (and therefore, not looking).

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Yes, and in this case, you’ve got consent doing the manufacturing.

  3. John Kroll’s avatar

    Try “Michael Connell” at The Plain Dealer’s site.

  4. Doc Searls’s avatar

    That helps, John. But my point about archives stands. In time those stories will fall behind the paywall. Meanwhile click on “long term paid archives” under your link and see what happens.

  5. Marshall Kirkpatrick’s avatar

    I have the utmost trust in Amy Goodman but I agree that she should have included some links to mainstream news stories in her coverage in as much as available, just to show examples of coverage and offer a place to get more details. It appears though that this is essentially the transcript of an interview she did in video/radio and presumably one of her staffers turned it into a blog post. That’s another issue, I think, that the old guard of the left at least and the support staff they have working for them too often fails to take advantage of what new media offer. Blogging isn’t just another broadcast method – it’s an opportunity to link, send trackbacks, engage with comments and more. There are few people on earth I admire as much as Goodman, but I’m not sure her crew is really on top of new media as much as they could be. I think the technology available offers opportunities for greater communicative impact than they are currently taking advantage of.

  6. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I agree about Amy Goodman. I’ve liked and listened to Democracy Now for a long time. And your points about linking are correct as well. Even so, she and Democracy Now are gears in a partisan mill. Look here and you can see the mill at work.

    I don’t think Amy and crew are to blame here. My post is mostly about the failure of newspapers to play in a field where they have some very good ways of winning.

  7. Gus W’s avatar

    I don’t think you’re missing much looking in the pay section of “print media” websites. The coverage has pretty much been a wash since Connell’s death. CBSNews had a decent piece on their website (hoping for witnesses to come to 60 Minutes?) and the Guardian UK. NY Times reposted a VR piece, otherwise they’ve been strangely silent. Maddow and Olbermann have also disappointed thus far.

    The best sources for info have been Velvet Revolution, BradBlog, epluribusmedia and RawStory but an essential starting point if you haven’t already read it is here:

    http://rawstory.com/news/2008/Republican_IT_consultant_subpoenaed_in_case_0929.html

  8. John Kroll’s avatar

    Older content is behind a paid wall. But recent stories from The Plain Dealer are a hybrid. While an automated feed of our print stories still has an expiration date on each story, almost all of those stories (and many more articles) are also posted through blog software with permalinks, like this one for the Connell story.

  9. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, John. That’s a good piece.

    I think you’re saying that print stories follow two paths: one to an archive from which the stories are sold to readers, and one to blog posts where they persist and are freely available? Do I have that right? Just making sure.

    If so, I’m wondering how the paper makes sense of that.

    I’m also wondering if the paper would consider opening the archives. Do you see any hope for that?

  10. Sheila Lennon’s avatar

    Doc, news-archive software varies, of course. At the Providence Journal, newspaper stories published to the Web via CMS remain at the URL forever, but you need to know the URL to find them.

    If a blog or interested Web site posts a headline link, it’s out there for everyone. The archives front end throws up a pay wall, but at that point you’re paying to get the URL.

    Reporters and editors access a different, searchable set of library copies of stories that include fields for the newspaper pub date, section and page numbers.

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