I’ve had a leasehold on davidsimon.com for years now. People smarter than I am told me that even if I had no sense of its use at present, I should throw a few shekels down in case. But until recently, I saw no reason to do much of anything with the site.
My ambivalence rests on a couple basic ideas:
- I’m a writer, and while I’m overpaid to write television at present, the truth is that the prose world from which I crawled — newsprint and books — is beset by a new economic model in which the value of content is being reduced in direct proportion to the availability of free stuff on the web. In short, for newspapers and book publishers, it has lately been an e-race to the bottom, and I have no desire to contribute to that new economy by writing for free in any format. Not that what is posted here has much prolonged value -— or in the case of previously published prose, hasn’t soured some beyond its expiration — but the principle, in which I genuinely believe, holds: Writers everywhere do this to make a living, and some are doing fine work and barely getting by for their labor. Anything that says content should be free makes it hard for all writers, everywhere. If at any point in the future, this site offers more than a compendium of old prose work and the odd comment or two on recent events — if it grows in purpose or improves in execution— I might try to toss up a small monthly charge in support of one of the 501c3 charities listed in the Worthy Causes section. And yes, I know that doing so will lose a good many readers; but to me, anyway, the principle matters. A free internet is wonderful for democratized, unresearched commentary, and it works well as a library of sorts for content that no longer requires a defense of its copyright. But journalism, literature, film, music— these endeavors need people operating at the highest professional level and they need to make a living wage. Copyright matters. Content costs.
- This stuff takes time. And those who know me understand that while it is refreshing to meet people with no opinions, I am not that fellow. I like to argue. I don’t take the argument itself personally — and I am often amazed at so much outsized commentary that assumes otherwise — but rather I delight in pursuing a good, ranging argument. It’s why I value a writer’s room so much. It’s why I used to love a healthy newsroom, which I have described as a magical place where everyone disagrees with everything all of the time. Arguments make the work better; when people stop arguing, or at least arguing intelligently, absent the usual half-assed, rhetorical cheating, the work invariably suffers. So, for me, any dialectic is a temptation. And I may find that given so much work I owe already, even a brief sortie into an issue or two or a stray comment on current events will sound as a siren song. I may want to shut this venue down three weeks after anyone finds it, if they do. I may, forgive me, find that I need to disable the comments and simply use the blog to highlight stuff and then run like hell. Apologies in advance if it comes to that.
On the positive side of the ledger:
- Every now and then, over breakfast, or in the office, or late at night, I read something or hear something that impresses or infuriates or amuses, or that provokes an interesting back-and-forth between family members or colleagues. An argument or discussion gets good, a joke ripens nicely. It’s stuff that isn’t going into a script or into any shard of published prose, and its shelf-life is often short. Maybe that’s what a blog is for.
- It’s nice to have a small billboard with which one can highlight and link to the work of others we admire, to simply recommend the good stuff. And, similarly, it helps to highlight the non-profit affiliations supported by the projects that we’re working on in Baltimore and New Orleans. Maybe a bit more good comes from such.
- In these later years, I’ve come to discover that from time to time, media folk call me to ask a question or two. Being exactly who the hell I am, I actually haven’t done much until now to filter my answers. I speak bluntly, but speaking, alas, isn’t writing, and very recently, I had to waste half a weekend swimming through some foment of my own creation. For lack of clarity, I managed to say something that I not only don’t believe, but that is contradicted by every other interview that precedes it. The fault was largely my own, but a remedy, I realized, was problematic.
Calling back the reporter who had used what I thought was a specific critique in the most general and absurd way, I found that I was either obliged to continue working through him to correct the record — and trusting in a dynamic that had failed already, or alternatively, I had to offer myself up in another interview to a reporter who I knew for certain would endeavor to deliver my answers in context, but who was more interested in other topics than the one which concerned me.
And in the middle of this, my wife — who uses both words and the internet better than I do — reminded me of the long fallow field of davidsimon.com. If that thing was up and running, she pointed out, you could simply say, in your own words, precisely and carefully what you intended to say in the first place, without having to rely on a filter. This is the grand triumph of the internet, after all; there’s no arguing with the democratization inherent. You could, she told me, simply say what you meant and have that on the record. The simplicity of this had considerable appeal.
So here goes.
Don’t send screenplays, or manuscripts for quotes, or actor glossies. Please. There are professional venues for such and if stuff comes to me correct, I do the best I can. Promise. If it comes at me through this venue, I won’t — can’t — respond. Counterarguments and counterprovocations on any given issue — let’s say that again, issue — are entirely welcome, whether I have time to respond or not. Ad hominem rage, flattery and posted links for cheap timeshares, naked photographs of your ex-girlfriend at a small monthly fee and invitations to a larger penis in just weeks are politely discouraged.
Mr. Simon. I am a huge, huge fan of your work. From the “Homicide” book all the way to “Treme.” The societal issues and inequities your creations tackle and reveal to the public, the truths they disclose about the modern America and the downfalls of its current social, or political or what-have-you construction are absolutely necessary for any individual to lean and recognise and study.
You have opened my eyes about the disastrous “drug war,” about the inner-city ghettos, the lives of ordinary hard-working homicide detectives, the war in Iraq, the culture of New Orleans and the resilience of its people… ALL OF THIS is what should be taught and discussed in schools/colleagues/universities and spotlit and worked on by politicians. If only the majority of the populace took their time to identify and study these subjects…
I admire your fortitude, your stance beside your beliefs and firm principles. I salute, and applaud them! That’s exactly how it should be done. The hypocritical, backstabbing, detached from the true world and bullshitting politicians, vanity-stuffed newsroom editors or short-sighted army officers, anyone: there should be no compromise when dealing with those ignorant dim-witted specimens that litter our world and taint it with their destructive actions or commentary.
I highly recommend your work to anyone I know, my DVDs of “The Wire” are constantly lent to somebody. Your blog is now my Nr. 1 bookmark, I am extremely excited to learn tidbits of your operations and read your occasional commentary.
On the subject of charged articles on the internet, I absolutely agree. No quality can ever be expected out of anything without investing in it (paying, in this instance).
I can only wish the best of luck to you on any of your future endeavors, sir! Do know that there are fans out there addicted to and craving your work as feverishly as crack fiends looking to commit their necessary, daily mischievous capers. Thank you and stay ever strong, Mr. Simon!
[…] quote from David Simon (The Wire, Treme, Homicide) struck a chord with me: I’m a writer, and while I’m overpaid to […]
What are you thoughts on this? It seems to run directly against the criticism of the “numbers games” heavily present in the last 3 seasons of The Wire. Their anecdote about the success of the CompStat system in Baltimore seems to directly contradict some of your criticism/commentary of the Police Institution in Baltimore. (I don’t necessarily agree, just interested in your reaction.)
Words will fail me in any attempt to describe how these stat systems were ultimately used in Baltimore to make an actual lack of progress appear as progress.
You want an actual stat from Baltimore city? How about this one? In 2009, about 150 persons were charged with homicide. In 2020, about 140 defendants faced charges for murder or manslaughter. Last year, there were 70 defendants charged with murder. And no, while there has been a decline in homicides over those years, that decline is not 50 percent.
In short, for all the vaunted Compstat accountability, the Baltimore Police Department is now solving half as many murders as it did even a couple years ago, and if you compare that to the pre-Compstat era, when the Homicide clearance rate was in the high-60 percent range, the department is solving about a third of the homicides it once did. Of all the things for which a police department might want to make itself accountable — whether through Compstat or any other managerial framework — you would think that arresting those who kill would be the highest priority.
In New York and elsewhere, Compstat has led to arrest quotas, to cover-your-ass mass street arrests, and to falsified reporting by commanders. In Baltimore, it led to rapes being declared unfounded and uninvestigated, and to robberies being downgraded to larcenies, and aggravated assaults being redefined as common assaults.
Create any statistical measure of progress and make it your paradigm for progress — eschewing all quality-based assessments and actual case-by-case study of the matter — and down in the basement, a dozen guys will be figuring out how to make that stat show progress when no progress exists.
From what I know in Baltimore, this reporter, in my opinion, was far too credulous.
It seems like the original idea of “Compstat”, in the “charts of the future” idea was sound and successful to a certain degree. Use statistics to map crime trends, and then deploy resources to counter those trends. Simple idea, but it appears to have worked. The problem is the bastardization of this concept from a “crime reduction” took to an “accountability” tool. It’s no longer about the solving or reduction in violent crime, its now solely focused on accountability. Police Departments are focusing on statistics as a measure of success. The idea of “leadership development”, now prevalent in law enforcement is a redefinition of the idea of having officers produce numbers. Supervisors have no interest in supporting the “old school” cop who “knows his beat”. Yes, he may know who is out of place in a neighborhood, or who a likely suspect should be for a homicide or robbery, but this kind of intelligence gathering does not produce statistics for the individual officer. So in the compstat world, this example of a cop is considered a “worse” police officer than the officer who writes 30 “urination in public” citations a month, because one officers work can be quantified and an others can not.
I approve. As long as this doesn’t interfere with getting a Treme – Soundtrack 2, sometime soon. If you put out a Soul Apostles record too, I’d be much obligin’
Treme Season Two Soundtrack is available in stores and online as of last week.
[…] Wire creator David Simon has a new blog, The Audacity of Despair, which he introduces by describing his longstanding ambivalence about […]
I only have one question.
What did Schopenhauer do to make a living?
He had rich parents.
I know this because I read it on Wikipedia.
It seems to me there are two forces at work in your observation about the devaluation of content.
One is technology and theft – the ability to pinch music, photographs, words without repercussion – but also, the failure of the content industry to work out simple, secure, reliable methods of payment.
The other is a generation that understands technology better than it understands sales. To sell something, you must convince people that there is an underlying value worthy of x payment. When you give something away – say, an online newspaper – you are telling your audience is has no value. When you make the physical newspaper smaller, you diminish the experience for readers and advertisers alike.
I’m in the advertising business and I’ve watched it happen. You can only sell something if people think it’s worth buying. Who insists on paying for something that is consistently given away gratis?
Just saw your “war on drugs” interview with The Guardian – watched it several times, in fact, and recommended it to many.
I couldn’t agree more with you.
Your view has been called ‘bleak’ but it seems well observed and well reasoned to me.
Thank you, people _are_ listening and what you’re saying is – ultimately – a very constructive message.
I have a simple suggestion for you Mr. Simon: Denounce your American citizenship and move to Canada, or Mexico, or Costa Rica. Just leave. Its that simple. If you are such a great writer, you should have no problem finding work in any other country. Good luck.
Renounce. You want me to renounce my American citizenship, because I denounced the verdict in Florida and said that what happened to Trayvon Martin is un-American. It can be confusing, but to denounce something or someone is to be critical, to renounce something is to give it up.
I hope I’ve been helpful here.
David, this is just a quick note to you (& also to Gordon, who also responded kindly to my first comment on here. I am 5 weeks clean – I haven’t used heroin (or indeed any drug) since June 18th. No meetings, no rehab, just quietly had enough on my own. I have been to meetings in the past & feel that whilst great in some ways, they allow me to indulge my thoughts, memories & feelings about drugs & using. For now, at this early stage, I find that dwelling on it puts it forefront in my mind & I end up craving it more as a result. And at this early stage I can’t afford to do that. Maybe eventually, with a little more distance, I’ll be able to ignore the temptations & take advantage of the support. Anyway, I have no idea how this will turn out, but to put it in perspective, I have never managed more than 3weeks of consecutive clean time since I started using 16 years ago. And even then it’s usually been when I’ve been staying with my parents, or abroad or something. This time, I am alone, in my own home, & still managing this somehow. It’s very early days, but it’s a start, & I wanted to let you know in order to thank you for your words a few weeks ago. X
I’m gonna raise a glass to you tonight, Anna. (Coke zero, in keeping with your spirit)
Very proud of you. Tomorrow, another day.
“Unless your ex-girlfriend is notably hot, of course.”
None of the recent exes (wife or girlfriend) are porn-worthy, not even on YouPorn.
The present and final Mrs. Winter is hot. I can point you to some pictures of Marylin Monroe for reference since she won’t let me share photos of her for profit.
Thank you for the Wire, probably the best show which taught us that not only black people are not all the same, but the whole social painting of different world as politic, gangs, labour, journalism, education, the way they are all linked, on the same wire of impotence.
Thank you for Treme, an incredible journey into a city of pain and so much happyness. The music is just.. woaou,
Excuse my english, I’m frenchman fond of your work.
More on the rampant undercheesing of the information world:
As far as what it means for writers and poets, the death of the paying gig is only the half of it. These days, if you are in the part of the writing underclass that has to stand in the slush pile soup lines to get your work read, it’s pay-to-play. You pay a fee to submit, and in the less-than-0.02% chance you get published, they pay you with two free copies of the issue you’re in. One for you, one for you to sign and give to your mom, I guess.
Never mind being able to make a living at this. The chances of even making non-zero revenue at all are almost negligible, and if you do make any, the likelihood that it will begin to compensate for all the fees you paid for form rejections is pretty much nil.
I’m just glad my techie day job pays well and doesn’t require me to think about writing. Kids today get their MFAs and then get paid $1500 per class per semester as an adjunct to teach writing at the community college, and when they’re done grading essays the last thing they want to do is write, they just want to drink. Can’t say I blame them.
First of all, though you have heard this plenty, Mr Simon you are an American hero. As for solutions, I think two would help: first, public financing of elections, and second, public financing of the media. I would be happy to have part of my tax dollars go to real media, ie sending people to iraq like you say. on the other hand you’ll never stop piracy. indeed, there should be some way to work out a donation or even tax base to media generators based on their worthiness. Even better, how much choice or control over the matter the average citizen has, could rely on a competency test (ie if you think global warming is a communist lie, you lose a maximum percentage of your income and you get a minimal level of control over where it goes).
sad. lucky more and more people think sharing what they love and are good at for free is a beautiful thing to do, if more did we would all need less money and have more time to do what we love
and more importantly be better educated, if all music literature jurnalism comes at a price then a big chunk of the population has no access to music literature journalism,
this changes and thatnk god for that
Just wanted to say that your shows and storys are some of the greatest things to keep me from being home sick ….i grew up in park heights baltimore and joined the coast guard moved to new orleans and lost everything in the lower 9th ward. Im a chef by choice… not a writer so excuse my grammer. But thank for the shows the books and the giant debates i get into at work over treme and the wire and the corner …hell even homicide gets tossed in there…please dont stop following my life lol in a weird sence it feels like that thank you
Mr. Simon, It is good to see that you have a blog, and it is now on my favorite list. I am a longtime fan, going back to your first book (and the subsequent television series).
i guess you don’t like being told that
your wife is smarter than you are! :+)
oh well, it was friendly advice, meant
for you, so if you don’t want to share it,
i can live with your decision, which is
good, because i don’t have any choice!
Actually, I just didn’t think the post quite made sense. I’m happy to know that I married far above my station. But you initially said I should have taken my wife’s advice, and in fact, my wife’s advice was followed in full. So I simply didn’t get it. I thought your initial comment didn’t track. But I am not at all sensitive to the notion that my wife is the wise one. She is.
Surely it’s time that Stewart brand’s quote about information wanting to be free is put into proper context. The full quote is:
“On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other.”
To my knowledge Brand has stayed quiet on the partial quoting, but to me it’s indicative he put the ‘information wants money’ part first.
Samuel Johnston was right. And only idiots think that authors (in any media) shouldn’t be paid.
I can’t help but morph you into Creighton Bernette regarding the audacity of despair. At the same time, this haven of a blog shows promise of providing a much appreciated antidote.
Sparring with you would be a pleasure, but that can’t happen until I disagree and have a solid position of my own. In the meantime, I’m as finicky about bloggage as I am about friendship. They both demand a high cost in time and attention. I try to keep my choices whittled down enough so that I’m always willing and able to pay. In this case, even on a bare-bones budget, I’d be happy to pay a (hopefully modest) subscription fee. Not only because I strongly believe in putting what money I have on words I value, but because contributing to a worthy cause is pro-active response to outrage…a counteragent to despair.
I think the tendency for the popular media, and media consumers, to see things in the light of personal conflicts–as if any kind of public discourse is a playground fight, with picking sides, chanting, hair-pulling, etc–is that we’re as obsessed as ever with the personal narrative or the personal conflict. Everything is about a politician’s personal story, about some imagined narrative, instead of the real issues involved, and the real motivations involved. In direct opposition to this, “entertainers” aren’t supposed to have any opinions at all. You’re guilty of violating what I’d call the dancing bear principal–no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the context of the interview or the content of the questions, you’re supposed to, at all times, be a grateful and happy performer who’s just pleased as punch to have been temporarily let out of his cage to have a turn about the boards. Always ready to spin another circle, if required.
That’s my take, anyway.
Delighted to find your blog yesterday, and so pleased you decided to take your wife’s advice.
Fantastic letter, Mr. Simon. So many now believe themselves to be writers when in essence they can only write.
I’m sure you’ll balk at this, but you could throw a simple ad on the site (from a smaller, unobtrusive network like The Deck) and make much more for charity than a monthly fee would. (I don’t work for The Deck, just was a thought for an alternative… you can see their ads at places like http://kottke.org or http://marco.org.)
Thank you. For this blog. For your candid journalistic nature. For what you’ve done for New Orleans. For listening to your wife. For the depth of your words. For making everything alright tonight. Now, tomorrow? Well that’s another story. LOL! Keep writing and I’ll keep reading.
I couldn’t agree more with your ambivalence toward blogging, and giving away words for free. I’d also like to thank you profusely for your Worthy Causes links on this site and all that you’ve done to promote great music and the welfare of the musicians themselves. While the (paid and) published word that we value so much may, indeed, be at a point of no return, I’d like to think there will always be an audience for live jazz (and r&b and gospel). Thank you for doing so much to preserve and present it all within different media. And I’m looking forward to laughing, pointing at the screen and shouting “Oh my God, that’s my man!” during the next season of “Treme” (even if my wife has gotten tired of me doing that).
Reviews Editor, DownBeat
“No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money”
– Samuel Johnson
david, as i’ve commented elsewhere and written about on both my personal FB and book fan page, any professional writer who gives away their work is complicit in the kind of content farm — ie/ huffpost — that has devalued our profession and put so many of our friends out of work. i took a buyout at the new york times after 29 years, crated a blog for them on contract and then wrote a book. it is degrading enough, in the past 4 years, to write for a newspaper that was home for most of my adult life for anywhere from 40 cents to $1 a word depending on what section………then be asked to cut it and spend my time losing pennies for each word cut. but the NYT is, alas, like family to me and they at least don’t expect people to give away what they have spent a lifetime learning to do well. when offered te “oportunity” to write for free for any of the content farms, my answer is always the same: I would rather clean houses or drive a cab. what would happen if everyone just said “no”?
I found your post compelling. As a newbie (my first book being published this month) I will take your advice to heart and be very careful about what I might “give away” in my enthusiasm to “get attention”.
Further, I have often wondered why “free e-books” are now all the rage. Why would authors (or writers) write books and then give them away? And what is the difference now between a writer and an author? Somewhat rhetorical, but still…
Thanks David, for the discussion.
One way to lessen the amount of writing for free that you do is to simply write short posts. You needn’t feel obligated to give the Web audience 1,000 words at a time. Think of it as a scene instead of a complete story. We’ll read it, and talk about it.
If you’re more comfortable writing longer form, go right ahead, but don’t worry about writing less. Sometimes it’s satisfying just to make your Z and get out (thank you, George Hamilton).
I don’t think that self-preservation is a good enough reason to take the side you’ve taken. Yes the economic model needs resructuring, but it might not be a restructuring that results in anything recognizable. Everything for free would have upsides and downsides. It’s the opposite, and trending, side of the coin that people are fighting against so that they can keep making money. I’d be happy to come up with some upsides and I think that progress is a good thing while clinging to our old ways in te prevailing winds of change is a global issue that holds back our potential.
Copyright attorney/literary agent (coincidentally my first job out of law school was with an old DC friend of yours named Ron G) here: you are spot on.
Copyright covers all original authorship and creation from writing to fine art to film and ease of access to work in whatever medium is not the same as having the right to said work. I lecture all the time to BFA and MFA students and the very concept of copyright has been seriously eroded in our society. It is one thing to recognize changing industries and delivery models and quite another to see the very idea of intellectual property ownership change. Its a long hard fight but nice to see others standing up too.
Thank you for taking the time to communicate directly through this medium with those of us who are interested in hearing what you have to say. It is appreciated and I look forward to reading what you wish to share.
Please take heart in knowing that although this avenue to your work may be free, it is a reminder to the public of the quality of your work that I believe will have a positive impact on the sale of your published works.
I wish you much success.
When the Internet was new, free content was an exciting development. Newspapers, magazines, opinion pieces from all over the world, free. Well, at that time free if you could find something, you had enough computing power to access the pages, and you hadn’t used up your 30 minutes of free AOL time. Now everybody and his cousin are spouting opinions on the Internet, some of it drivel and some of it quite exciting and fresh. Twitter is wonderful for discovering, well, everything, including new writers. Most recently, though, I have seen the limits of free and started a subscription (as in paying money) to maintain access to the New York Times, sadly, also to the Baltimore Sun because there was no other way to get local news. Well, maybe without a police scanner…
You had my respect until the last line about the hot g/f. Is it possible to write serious prose without undressing Barbie or otherwise objectifying women? Your opinion doesn’t need that gratuitous twaddle.
You might consider that comment as being a self-aware reflection on the debased and corrupted nature of men, and the onanistic uses to which we have put the internet, rather than a comment that is intended to reflect on women in any way. In any event, you still have my respect.
Oh cmon, it was a pretty harmless joke, and my stridently feminist social worker wife laughed at it… a female writer could have easily said the same thing with boyfriend (or lesbian said the exact same thing).
If you’re going to jump on every joke that that has some sort of vaguely objectifying tone, this joint is going to be no fun at all.
You’re probably about to get a lot of shaming replies about how you’re taking a teensy joke way too seriously or you’re not being a good sport or hey, a woman I know laughed therefore you’re wrong to take umbrage or that you’re being uppity and need to calm down or no no, it was a joke meant to reflect on how men are pigs and not on women and their bodies (but only when they’re attractive) or — etc, etc, etc, — but you are quite correct. It was gratuitous and it was twaddle and it brought me up short, too.
Just thought you might like to get one reply that didn’t tell you how wrong you are.
Gotta agree with Telzey and Angel on this one. I care less about the joke — I trust that Mr. Simon is not actually trolling for pics of people’s ex’s nonnies — or at least I hope so — but the sleazy idiots of the world won’t get it, and will see it as encouragement for their crimes and shenanigans.
I see some dolt is already apologizing above that he doesn’t have “porn-worthy” ex-pics to send over…ew.
Unfortunately there is too much genuine sleaze of this nature on the Internet for it to be successfully lampoonable. Mr. Simon, with respect, if you stick with the blogging, you’ll figure that out soon enough. I just hope you haven’t already received any shame-inducing eye-scorching hoo-ha shots in your inbox from the not-inconsiderable number of cuckold fetishists lurking about in the blogosphere with one hand on their babymaker and the other on the “Send” button, who also “didn’t get the joke”.
At the risk of totally undermining my deservedly slim street cred by quoting John Hughes where Simon can read it, might I refer you to Duckie in Pretty In Pink.”It’s a sense of humor…you should get one, they’re nice.”
I agree- one high horse so quickly unshod.
What a great phrase “the internet is our salon” (one of the other posters said that above).
Mr. Simon – I really enjoy both your art and your commentary. However, I do have a long standing beef with you. Namely this nostalgia for an allegedly”braver, stronger, healthier” America of 20-50 years ago, that stands in stark contrast to our currently debased culture and country.
I find such notions not only inaccurate, but unfair. In particular, they are unfair to the next generation that is coming up. In my opinion, a drumbeat of “things are so much more screwed up now”, particularly in areas like social justice and inclusion (where they are blatantly false, from any reasonably informed perspective) do no favors to our sons, daughters, nephews and nieces. I think such notions fosters bitterness and cynicsym and despair among our youth (and perhaps, a monastic fervor in a dedicated minority). But overall, it doesn’t really reflect the wisdom that “sort of rich” white middle aged guys are supposed to be passing on, before they pass on.
That said, if you think I’m being a jerk just say so and I’ll stop coming here.
David, just a quick word on your current show Treme – I think it’s another masterpiece and given time will have cult following ala the Wire – looking forward to the new series. Your work is incredibly respected and admired in the UK.
BTW, my mother got you to sign the back of a seating name card at a Barmitzvah in Baltimore a few months ago for me – so thanks 🙂
Well, while you keep asserting that your criticism was toward the media, a rational person would presume that you are also criticizing those who consumed and enjoyed that media. Certainly my feelings were about “a television show,” but your comment seems to treat that as something not serious enough to be worthy of emotion, while your earlier comments in the media criticized people for not taking it seriously enough. So which is it, exactly? Is it ok to care deeply about a television show or not?
The message you sent seemed to be that anybody who enjoyed treating the show as a work of entertainment, or anybody who enjoyed analyzing the show’s characters, or anybody who enjoyed analyzing individual episodes, or anybody who enjoyed just having fun with the show were somehow incapable of simultaneously grasping the holistic message of the show or of treating the show with respect. So substantively, I think that’s simply inaccurate. People are multifaceted and can operate with varying, even conflicting, attitudes toward the same object. It’s possible to laugh at President Obama on Jimmy Fallon and still treat the outcome of American politics with the gravity its life-or-death consequences demand.
As far as my personal feelings go, I guess that’s probably an irrational reaction. I’ve just had so much admiration for you and The Wire over the years, and it’s been such a big influence on my career path, that I was probably overly sensitive to the idea that you didn’t countenance that admiration with gratitude. I’m guessing many of your fans felt similarly.
But thank you for your response, and I’ll shut up about it now. I look forward to reading more from this blog in the future, and refraining from going out of my way to criticize a famous person I’ve never met.
“. I’ve just had so much admiration for you and The Wire over the years, and it’s been such a big influence on my career path, that I was probably overly sensitive to the idea that you didn’t countenance that admiration with gratitude.”
Have you read the great Paul Theroux short story (almost surely based at least in part in truth).
In the story, a middle aged banker who is a huge fun of Anthony Burgess has dinner with both Theroux (the semi-fictionalized Theroux) and Burgess. Theroux is a long time friend of each, and engineers the dinner as a gift to his banker friend.
The dinner is a disaster, with the Burgess getting drunk and rebuffing all of the bankers fawning overtures. The low point perhaps being when Burgess the multi-talented lover of music condesceningly explains to the tone-deaf banker that “music is the key to all my work, and the musically illiterate can never understand what I am doing”.
At any rate, “fan” and “fanatic” have a common etymology, no? It is perhaps not best to “meet” your favorite artist – or, at least if you, not to anticipate anything like mutual admiration.
@ Emily I don’t think David intended to exclude anyone with that comment. At least that’s not how I understood it.
As a struggling female writer, myself, doors are closing all around for many reasons. It often comes as a surprise when one doesn’t meet with an obstacle due mostly or in part to some form of discrimination, straight forward or reverse.
In this case, however, I think the main reason David mentioned “naked ex-girlfriends” as opposed to “naked ex-boyfriends”, and he can correct me if I’m wrong, was due to the fact that so few women have resorted to posting naked photos of exes on his site as shameless ploys for attention.
Additionally, I get the feeling that men just don’t do it for him. To each his/her own! 😉
I’m in favor of any argument in support of living wages for all, especially me!
Those three points on the plus side make for an excellent manifesto for blogging, especially for those who have fans already. But for those who don’t have them to start, writing for free on blogs has proven a good way to get the fans whose interest can be monetized later in other ways. It’s worth pointing out, though, that the percentage of people whose blogs lead to money versus those whose blogs don’t is likely equal to those see novels their published and those who don’t.
I really enjoyed reading your rant and your thoughts. Thanks for sharing on your blog. Good luck with it. I am from New Orleans and have been so moved by Treme. I haven’t been back to NoLa since before Katrina. So, I hope to come for a long visit this summer. Take care!
“Content producers,” (what reporters are sadly labeled these days) apparently won’t have to worry about copyright infringement after robots take over their jobs in the future, as the following story discusses:
I’m appalled at this, and I assume that you would be, too. But I thought I’d offer you the opportunity to comment — something I’m not so sure robotic reporters would be able to do.
Reporting was one of the hardest and most nuanced jobs I’ve ever had. As with anything, I guess, people don’t know what they don’t know.
It’s easy to act dismayed by news like this, but it isn’t like you couldn’t write a stock analysis or basketball recap with your eyes closed, hands on your back if you didn’t need them for typing.
They haven’t, and probably wil not for a long time, invented Hard Hitting Journalism Bot.
Hi David, the last line of your piece suggests you’ve got only bro readers in mind. Women love your work too, and also have thoughts about the content revolution! Commenting on this because I would like be able to focus on the substance of what you write, not whether or not this blog is meant as a boys’ club.
When I worked with our friend Dave Mills he would read my blog and wonder why I would write for free. I encouraged him to give it a try because as a previous commenter stated, there is a freedom in just writing down ideas or observations that inspire or intrigue you. When he wrote on Under Cover Blackman I loved the conversations he curated. I loved that it was like being in a room listening to him talk. Now that he’s gone I really love that I can go back there and read and remember him.
I would’ve loved to have been around in Paris in the 20s when creative people, thinkers, writers, etc would gather together at Gertrude’s and have expansive and free ranging discussions about the world, ideas, culture, etc. having passionate affairs fueled by morphine and absinthe, but in this day and age people rarely come together to sit in rooms just to hang out and talk.
This internet is our modern day salon and I for one will be interested to read your opinions and observations of this life in these times, in your own words.
And I will continue to pay to watch the shows you write as long as they continue to be great.
Wishing you the best no matter what you do.
I miss that man. I’m sure you do, too.
Yes…are you starting to feel like the Jessica Fletcher of crime TV now?(Because, you know, or maybe you don’t, being that you were a grown-ass reporter in the eighties and not home with your mom on Sunday nights, every time Aunt Jessica showed up somewhere, the bodies dropped. We used to joke that we’d never invite her anywhere, ever.) in all seriousness, the viewing landscape is impoverished without him. And the brilliant Mr. Colesberry of course…I still find it criminally unfair that Cheney lives and Colesberry does not.
And I have to post this, now, while I still have the nerve, although I’m under no illusion that it will make you feel better on any but the most transitory level, but I wanted to post this to show that Wirefiends aren’t all shallow idiots.
Blessings on your house, sir.
After reading this I sat and thought for a good 9 or 10 minutes. Can’t tell you when the last time something on a blog made me do that. Score one for you.
Love the blog! Why don’t you add a sign up so I can remember to come here in the future? I’m not much on rss feeds.
We’ve updated the RSS feed to work with feedburner, which is a lot easier to read and offers some subscription abilities, including adding the content to a Google homepage or reader page. Hope that helps; thanks for your comment, Cathleen!
Webmistress. Awesome. Got an avatar?
If you want to keep faith with your principle of not writing for free (which I applaud and adhere to) why not meter your blog using Press+?
Hi David, An important adjunct to this discussion is the need to educate both readers and buyers of the written word that there are many categories of writing, and that each should be handled differently and priced accordingly.
For example, many non-fiction works (that are based on extensive, in-person interviews; original research; thoroughly fact-checked; etc.) take years to create — even with time-saving technology — and should not be compared to and priced the same as work that merely cribs a few factoids from Wikipedia.
The former must be behind a pay wall (or legitimate content creators will simply not make the effort). As for the latter, the marketplace has already decided what it’s worth. Nothing. Cora
Yes, we have met the enemy and it goes by several names: aggregators, content farms, etc. They take the work of others, rewrite as much as they think they can get away with, and perhaps throw in a link. They build an economic model on the foundation of using the work of others – work for which they have not paid. And my favorite part: they are often run by large journalism enterprises, e.g. The New York Times. Sometimes these places grow, add journalists and even win a Pulitzer Prize, but their core business is still largely dependent on the free replication of the work of other people. Fair Use was never intended to be this type of shield.
Working in the digital world today –especially the entertainment news part — there is a sense that virtually no original reporting or copy exists anymore, just a numbing sense of deja vu as site after site simply repurposes material from others. Generate a news story and you quickly lose control over it, as sites big and small immediately consume it.
That is the new generation of news and it does not bode well for writers, reporters or anyone but parasites.
Anyway, it’s nice to see you have your own Web forum and as far as your recent “correcting the record” with a reporter you know the first rule of journalism is Never Talk to a Reporter!
Greetings from one old Diamondbacker to another. And yes, it is good to see the O’s flirting with .500 as late as the end of April. Can the playoffs be more than a decade off at this point?
We used to be reporters. I like reporters. It is a hard habit to break. But a few of them — or the current 3.0 version of the pixel-stained wretch — are working my last nerves, yeah.
Hope you’re well.
If ones writing online is indeed in the pursuit of making an actual career of it; I do agree that it must be protected. These indivisuals should be smart in how they operate. There are those; however, that write for their own pure enjoyment and welcome the opportunity to have an outlet where hopefully someone else might enjoy what they write as well, or at the minimum spur conversation. We should be careful not to turn the phrase ‘a penny for your thoughts’ into a 100% literal thing. It’s not sustainable.
A simple thanks for all your work over the years. If I was to lie on couch a la Woody Allen in Manhattan and list the things that make life worth living, make it worthwhile- your work would most certainly be included in that- so thanks so much.
A request for this site if your time permits: Could you perhaps include some books you’ve come across that have been influential for you over the years? Tally’s Corner was a great read after The Corner and would love to hear some other recommendations. Let us Now Praise Famous Men is in the queue.
Though far from a perfect man to hold up as an example when it comes to media companies, Sumner Redstone has some similar quotes to your statements “Copyright matters. Content costs.”
“The time and effort spent creating and the months spent producing, marketing and distributing content is an investment; it is not intended to be a donation.”
“If content is king, copyright is its castle,” he said. “Copyright compels creativity, it furnishes the incentive to innovate. If you limit the protection of copyright, you stifle the expression of self.”
But I think a majority of media companies especially in the U.S. have never respected copyright. If you look at newspapers they created the cooperative Associated Press in order to share and to get content from members automatically, and for close to free. The AP and other wire services have also written some of the worst rights-grabbing contracts for freelancers.
Before there was the Internet, there were wire services. The AP content-sharing service is akin to the file-sharing service, Napster, where users joined the service and shared content for free. But unlike Napster, the AP and other wire services had high membership fees and there were huge costs including expensive equipment to share the content in the days before home computers. The only way to share the content with the public back then was to publish it on the printed page or to it read aloud on an expensive broadcast network. This content-sharing business model worked for newspapers for about 150 years and for broadcast for about 50 years.
But when the personal computer and the Internet came around it removed the high entry fee and need for expense equipment to share content. So now AP’s content and that of other wire services can be shared everywhere, and there are almost no paywalls to protect it. And the public now has as much as access to content as the media companies have had for the past 150 years.
Contrast this with Japan where newspapers share very little online. The top newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, has over 10 million in circulation, almost 10 times the NY Times and 5 times that of USA Today and the Wall Street Journal. Though Japan is equally if not more so technologically advanced than the U.S., the consumers there understand they must pay for content, and that they won’t get it on their iPhone or PC, but in print. Though print is not a perfect eco-friendly medium, it does something that computers can’t do very well, it retains the exclusivity of content for a time before it can be copy and pasted Ad infinitum on the Internet.
Really it’s a simple matter of not sharing content for free and holding onto exclusive content.
Unfortunately most of the heads of media companies in the U.S. are still stuck in the past having come up the media ranks in the time of the wire service content-sharing business model. They are sticking to what they know from the past, but not realizing the change in the market and don’t understand they need to stop sharing and protect content more than ever. Further many of the media companies own multiple newspapers, broadcast TV, websites, and other media outlets in many cities, so they see content-sharing as a way to cut costs between the various media divisions. But all they are doing is making multiple sites for the consumer / public to get content for free.
Instead of hiring more MBAs to “cut costs” they should hire intellectually property lawyers to sue news aggregators and bloggers that steal content, stop sharing content, and let employees and freelancers retain copyright, because as Redstone stated “Copyright compels creativity . . .You cannot make it as a musician, you can’t make it as a filmmaker or a writer without … effective and enforced copyright legislation.”
Have to disagree with you about the way Japan’s handled online content. As you probably know, Japanese newspaper circulation figures are inflated (and no good journalism in Japan is in daily newspapers) but that’s not the main point: the point is that the really restrictive tack on online stuff and intellectual property has hurt the quality of journalism and media as a whole there. Look at OhMyNews–they basically overthrew the government in South Korea and then in Japan they failed in a couple months because nobody had any expectations for online media by that point. It’s been reduced to cell-phone compatible advertisements for part-time jobs digging ditches and photos of cats. There was some revival of interest during the Fukushima disaster because the TV media coverage was so bad, but it’s not clear it’s going to last.
I didn’t say web journalism didn’t have anything to say. But often the web journalism has very, very little to say.
As aside, you can probably say the numbers of USA Today, the WSJ, and NY TImes are inflated also, so it evens out with Japan’s inflated numbers.
But if you look seriously look at studies on where journalism comes from, you’ll find a nice study about the Baltimore Sun where Mr. Simon used to work. In it you will find a majority of news is generated by local newspapers and almost none of comes from online.
Here is a summary
“The study, which examined all the outlets that produced local news in Baltimore, Md., for one week, surveyed their output and then did a closer examination of six major narratives during the week, finds that much of the “news” people receive contains no original reporting. Fully eight out of ten stories studied simply repeated or repackaged previously published information.
And of the stories that did contain new information nearly all, 95%, came from traditional media—most of them newspapers [In this particular study it was the Baltimore Sun]. These stories then tended to set the narrative agenda for most other media outlets.
The local papers, however, are also offering less than they once did. For all of 2009, for instance, the Sun produced 32% fewer stories on any subject than it did in 1999, and 73% fewer stories than in 1991, when the company still published an evening and morning paper with competing newsrooms. And a comparison of one major story during the week studied—about state budget cuts—found newspapers in the area produced only one-third as many stories in 2009 as they did the last time the state made a similar round of budget cuts in 1991, and the Baltimore Sun one seventh as many. Yet the numbers suggest the addition of new media has not come close to making up the difference.”
So in summary the Internet doesn’t produce much, if any, actual news. Newspapers are producing less and less and online is not coming anywhere close to making up the difference. And when the newspapers are gone who will set the narrative agenda?
The study basically says most reporting starts at newspapers at the local level. So why are media companies / conglomerates allowing newspaper reporting to be stolen or copied over and over again? Why isn’t news being protected at the local level where it is actually produced?
Here’s why I found your recent comments, particularly your criticism of Grantland’s Wire character tournament, so absurdly off base.
There are 24 hours in a day. The fact that people use some of that time in frivolous pursuits does not prohibit them from doing productive work. In all likelihood, some degree of frivolity is actually necessary to remain sane enough to get anything done in the world.
I teach urban policy at a major state university. For the past two years, I have done my best to inform my students about the realities of urban politics, segregation, the ravages of the drug war, racialized poverty, employment discrimination, the myths and realities of youth gangs…in short, many of the the themes you tackle on your show.
In my spare time, I like to screw around on the internet and do silly, pointless things, one of which was enjoying Grantland’s Wire character tournament.
It’s possible to cut the hell out of your show, to treat it like entertainment for a portion of the day while still takings its message seriously. Your comments didn’t appear to recognize the possibility. That’s why I felt so insulted by them.
I regret that you feel insulted by my general comments about some of the media response to a television show. I can say that for my part, I was not insulted by that response, and further, that I find it quite hard to summon a feeling of personal insult when ideas or issues are the only things at stake. To produce a feeling of insult, I need to believe that someone has moved beyond the argument or critique at hand to attack the person making the argument — or his or her standing in making the argument.
Insult is a big word to me. I don’t use it merely because I disagree with someone on an issue, no matter how much that issue may matter to me.
Then there’s me. A good enough writer to land mid list publishing contracts with modest mid list advances in, as you say, publishing’s “e-race to the bottom.” I’m scared shitless that, as my reviews get better and better but my sales stay flatter and flatter, I’ll finally figure out how to really write, and my lack of a commercial hit will eventually freeze me out of publishing. As publicity budgets are pinched, I’m left to do more and more of my own marketing and promotion, writing for free or next to nothing for blogs. Essays, op-eds, even feature stories–all to get my name and my books out there. I’m sure this isn’t what you had in mind in your objection to providing free content. Or maybe it is. After all, I’m writing for free so that I can make a living wage with my writing. That almost makes sense to me.
Thank you for all of your wonderful work and insightful commentary. Given the recent interest of the leaders of the central and south american countries in rethinking the war on drugs, have you had an opportunity to reach out to them, perhaps film the war from their perspective?
Honestly one of the most well put arguments in favor of copyright I have read yet. I believe we are entering a generational shift where the younger generation (under 30) consumes media voraciously in all forms either through piracy of music, movies, video games, e books, or copy/pasting e-emailing articles etc.
The sense of it being a victimless crime is astounding. I think everything going “digital” make it even easier. To a generation where Napster or Limewire or more recently BitTorrent make copyrighted material available at the click of a mouse for free engrains them to think of content as just information to be traded.
I believe it could be the fact that because it is “digital”, this ethereal notion of the content not having a physical form makes it easier to reconcile that it is not theft.
In closing I support the writers, artists and other producers of content I enjoy. My deepest hope is the next generation learns to reward those who culturally enrich us and this is a 2 way street.
You can’t devour content without regard as eventually those producing it will have no incentive to continue creating it.
Enjoyed your insight, also many of your past works thank you many hours of engaging entertainment over the years.
It’s good that you treat the dilemma of free content with the gravity it deserves. Writers are dealing with a contradiction where their labor is in more demand than ever, but they’re able to sell it for less and less. I think the only way that antagonism can be resolved is through a fundamental restructuring of the economic model, because the current system is unsustainable by its very nature.