Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hartford Courant's "Connecticut Online"

For the last four weeks or so, selected articles from my blog have been reproduced in the Hartford Courant's new opinion section, "Connecticut Online: Excerpts from State Blogs" The Courant has decided to start including these excerpts from various blogs in their Sunday opinion pages and in the new online section.

(Note: the link above might not be permanent, so if you can't get there, go to the Courant Op Ed page and look for the "Connecticut Online" link in the list of articles)

So far it's been an interesting experience. I've seen at least four of my articles (*) reprinted in the Courant, although they are edited for space and lacking the videos and pictures, which I think tends to detract from the impact of my admittedly sophomoric writing. Hey, I'll be the first to admit that I depend heavily on off-beat videos and interesting images to make my point, but for the most part the articles they reprint are clear enough.

The timing of the Courant's introduction of this program was a bit disturbing, since it was shortly followed with their announcement of layoffs of reporters and staff. There's no question that this may be seen by some as a way for them to get free content to replace the output of their formerly paid employees. Believe me, the last thing I ever want to do is take food off of someone's table.

But for the most part, the inclusion of the blog excerpts is more like the "Letters to the Editor" section, which is also "free content" culled from the "masses". None of the bloggers are being paid for their content as far as I know. At least, I'm not, that's for sure.

I'm not writing anything FOR the Courant. Since I write first and only for my blog, if the Courant wants to reprint my work for distribution and they agree not to twist my words, I'm fine with it. It helps get my progressive opinions out there for more people to read. There are plenty of Republican blogs who are taking advantage of this program, and unless we want to let this information pathway be completely dominated by them, it's necessary to participate.

The major drawbacks of this program are 1) they select and edit the articles without my input. When I see them appear, that's when I know what they selected, and 2) none of my awesome video or images included. I've retained the option of opting out of the program at any time for any reason, but so far I'm fairly satisfied with it. I do have to watch myself that I don't start editing my writing to reflect what they'll use (like, do I need to use those three "fucks", or can I make my point with two "hecks" and a "darn"?)

If I ever start doing that, as far as I'm concerned, I'm done!

I am somewhat grateful that the Hartford Courant isn't owned by the same media conglomerate as the Greenwich Time. Hell, I've showed up in photos taken at Jim Himes fund raisers! Considering what they did to Sarah Darer Littman, they'd probably SHOOT me for my progressive tendencies! Forget a lousy "meet & greet"; I've produced and posted VIDEOS featuring the candidate!

Thankfully, the Hartford Courant appears to still embrace the idea that OPINION is exactly that!

UPDATE: Ed McKeon over at Caterwauled has some thoughts on my participation in this thing. I'm enjoying the discussion.

* * * * * * * * * * *

(*) These are the articles I've seen so far:
"Why McCain is Dreading the Debates"
"A Noun, A Verb, and the word Partisan"
"Czeching the facts"
"Brillant Moves"


Anderson Scooper said...

Hey, where's the Himes video?

Just kidding. Great effing job!

CT Bob said...

You wants Himes videos? Hell, I got PLENTY of Himes videos! (well, except for the one I shot last week...I haven't transferred it from tape yet)


Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...

And I don't suppose they're paying you to run your writing. What do you call it when you write, and someone else publishes it, and sells ads based on the content you've produced? Not exactly slavery, but kind of like indentured servitude.

I'd advise them to print the "fuck" when you tell them to "fuck themselves" and start adding a copyright notice to your blogs.

Unless the increased readership is worth it to you.

CT Bob said...

Hi Ed. I really dig "Caterwauled".

Yeah, I mentioned I wasn't being paid for my writing in the article.

Believe me when I say that I really struggled with whether it was the right decision to agree to the project. Here's the thing: I'm not a writer in any professional sense of the word, nor do I strive to become one. Getting paid isn't the incentive I have for doing this. In fact, if I spent the same amount of time doing something else as I currently do blogging, I'd probably be able to speak Spanish, play the violin, and hit 8 out of 10 from the 3-point arc.

What I do is run this goofy little blog where I can rant freely about whatever happens to strike my fancy; in this case, politics. If, by some small miracle, I can help get us better leaders in government, then I feel I've contributed to something worthwhile. At heart I'm an activist; although by comparison to many of my friends, something of a slacker activist!

So having my progressive thoughts and opinions seen by a segment of the population who might not otherwise ever be aware of them is somewhat beneficial, I think. I don't really care about copyrighting this stuff right now, or getting paid for it at this point, as long as it gets seen.

I feel essentially the same about most of my video work, although I will accept a small payment for bits of it that might appear in a for-profit project. But most of it I post on Youtube and have seen quite a few segments picked up by regional and national news organizations. As long as I get credit for it, I'm usually happy with the exposure.

We'll see how it goes. Local print media is dealing with shrinking revenues and increased competition for readership from many sources; some of them online. The entire newspaper business is in flux. Who knows whether this will even be continued for another month?

Middletown Eye (Ed McKeon) said...


I appreciate your stance as an "amateur" writer, but as Anthony Burgess once pointed out, "amateur" means someone who loves something.

You do yourself a disservice to be so humble. You're a very good writer, and thinker. Your perspective is valued by many.

I understand the value of being read by a larger audience, but the question at least needs to be asked: how come the Courant isn't offering at least a tiny compensation for the words of someone they're printing? Except for letters to the editor, and ads, they pay for everything else that gets printed. It seems weird, and unfair to me.

You, my friend, and many like you are the future of political communications - the future or news, and for better or worse (I think worse) newspapers are dying a quickening death, and haven't figured out how to do what you've done so well.

Of course, the fact that they edit your posting is also questionable. WTF?

Anyway, maybe I'll ask the question, since my asking won't interfere with them running any more of my blog excerpts.

Keep up the great work. I read your stuff everyday, and thanks for checking out Caterwauled.

BTW, I'd like to invite you down next Tuesday, as a guest to see and hear Roy Zimmerman. I think you'd really enjoy him.


CT Bob said...

I appreciate your compliments Ed, but I'll only accept that my perspective is somewhat off-beat. My awful treatment of grammar and awkward style really embarrasses me sometimes.

Especially when I see it reprinted in the paper! In retrospect, I probably should have paid more attention in Mrs. Dumbrowski's english class. Who knew it would come in so handy?

There are two reasons beyond what I said above regarding why I don't really care about being paid right now. First, I'm not writing for the Courant, I'm writing for myself. If I was writing new content solely for the Courant, then I'd definitely insist on being paid.

Also, if I accepted payment for my work, I also feel I'd be agreeing to a certain amount of responsibility for my articles. It's one thing to post something as a "rank amateur", but it's another to be a "professional" writer. Do you catch my meaning here?

Additionally, I quote quite liberally from other sources, and being paid for that would certainly bring up issues related to copyrights and fair use. I don't want that hassle.

If all that seems like a giant load of bullshit rationalization, then let's just leave it at this:

I'm an ARTIST, maaaan! I don't want any dirty money in exchange for my ART!


I watched the Roy Zimmerman video on your blog and got a kick out of his music/commentary. I may take you up on the invite; I'll send you an email. Thanks.

Beau said...

Bob already knows where I stand on this, and although I disagree with his decision to give up his great content to the Courant for free, I can't fault him because I really am delighted to see CT Bob in my Sunday paper. Even if it is up to 6 days after I read the better version of his post online. So let me just add to the discussion with some of my thoughts on it.

Just because you don't put a price on your content, doesn't mean that it isn't valuable. If it weren't, the Courant wouldn't be asking for it.

Your commentary, bad grammar and all, is awesome. Your perspective is unique. You have been posting to this blog for over 2 years and 400,000 hits as a labor of love, but at least you had total control over your content. When you give some of that up, I think you should get something in return.

I'm glad that they brought the section online, so that contributing bloggers get a live link from the Courant, and I will be interested to see how much traffic it drums up.