They are in the midst of trying to move their subcriber base away from the paper and toward a subscription based internet only publication. It is an ongoing project and I do wish them well, but…
I am of a demographic that is a shrinking part of their customer base. I actually get the paper delivered to my home. My wife and I still read the paper in the morning. Reading the paper is how I like, in particular, to start my Saturday and Sunday mornings. I know that I’m going to have to adjust over time and that eventually I’m going to have to find a device that provides the same experience as reading the paper in my favorite chair. I’ll have to have more than one of these devices as taking turns with an ipad is not the same as swapping the Metro section for the front page with my wife. I know technology firms will eventually provide something I find acceptable, but the ipad (at least not yet) is not it.
(If I were writing a typical essay, I would need to put down some sort of thesis about here. But this is not a typical essay, it’s more of a whispered rant.)
The Dallas Morning News is the local newspaper monopoly and acts in a manner that I, someone of a Classical Liberal bent, find annoying. The paper’s editorial position is best defined as being in favor of which ever way the wind is blowing. It is not particularly liberal (in the current usage of the word), nor is it conservative. The Dallas Morning News is in favor of whatever they deem to be good for Dallas. They are always in favor of Big Government, broadly defined. They like fancy bridges and new arenas. They were disappointed the taxpayers weren’t given the opportunity to support a new football stadium. They are very easy on the cronyism between local government and “developers.” I point to their coverage of DART as a primary example. There has to be a Pulitzer Prize in the story they are passing on that would cover the crazy route of the Orange Line from downtown to the airport. I could go on…
So this morning, while reading the paper, I come across three editorials (here, here, and here) on education. I thought I would put down the paper, step from the old world to the new as I removed myself from the comfy chair and went to the computer, and then go to the website to possibly comment on these editorials. I have strong opinions on the mess that is our education system. I think I express those opinions in a calm and courteous manner. I’ll even admit I saw an opportunity to drive a little traffic to this here humble blog. But the log in mess that is the dallasnews.com website is what prompted this rant.
Typical of organizations like The Dallas Morning News and Belo, which I characterize as a very mainstream media company, they want to control the way information flows across their website. Hey, it’s their website and they can do what they want, but I found the process to be difficult to navigate and pointless in the extreme:
To comment you have to create a profile. This profile has to have a name. It has to be a unique name. If you happened to be named Mike, Bill, Mary or Susan, you are out of luck as your name is already taken. It doesn’t matter that you already have logged in with a unique e-mail address and password. The Morning News clearly doesn’t want me to confuse one Joe with another Joe or Jane. They have decided I am incapable of realizing that one John I may disagree with in a comment thread is not the same John that I also disagree with, as that sort of thing never happens in real life. Writing styles and avatars, or no avatars, are not sufficiently distinguishing. Some people may want to build a virtual relationship with other commenters and create a profile. Other users may just want to hit and run with a pithy comment. Belo does not allow that choice.
There is also the problem of one user profile per account. This is probably the worst thing about the website. We currently have a sign for one of the mayoral candidates in our front yard. My wife put it there. I’m not so sure about the guy. So if my wife and I both get active in commenting on the mayoral race you would see my profile in support of this candidate and also see the profile expressing doubt about the guy. Does the Morning News not realize that the addresses to which they deliver the paper may have more than one person living there?
I imagine that the people that make these decisions downtown are very concerned that the comment sections of their articles will be over run by racists and cranks. I understand that concern, but having such rigid credentialing also dampens enthusiasm on the part of the audience (customer base).
The Dallas Morning News will continue to suffer decreases in revenue as long as it treats its subscriber base like a bunch of people incapable of handling themselves well in a public forum. I, and others, will just go elsewhere for our news and b
Update: So the Lurker points out that I didn’t finish my thought. I can’t remember what my thought was at the time of writing the post. Probably something about going off elsewhere for our virtual communities and online discussions. But I don’t know what that “b” is about.