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February 11, 2006
Yawning at Yon in LA?By Greyhawk
Armed Liberal presents two must-reads inspired by the LA Times recent front page sneer-piece on Michael Yon.
It's only fair to note that if the mainstream media holds Yon in any contempt, the feeling is not mutual.
My thoughts on all that later. There's much to discuss.
Update one: From the LA Times piece:
But Carl Prine of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a National Guardsman and former Marine, saw platitudes, thin reporting and a lack of context in Yon's work.Those comments are from several months ago - for a more in-depth examination see Chap's response.
Prine's real problem with Yon is that he's not a mainstream journalist - he explains in some detail why he thinks the work of the NY Times reporters is much better. But his critiques are somewhat contradictory:
He’s not a very good writer. He doesn’t understand, yet, that not every detail needs to go into a dispatch. Not everything is relevant.Is followed closely by:
He’s not a good reporter. He misses things that should immediately trick up some imagination. Here’s something he wrote the other day:In other words - too much detail I don't want, and not enough detail I want - "I" being the key word. And yes, the headlines and focus in a media story about a mission would likely be on the gear that failed, so we must credit Prine with having the "nose for news" that distinguishes today's successful mainstream journalist from guys like Yon. What he misses is that this is exactly why readers find Yon appealing.
But this quote is even more revealing:
I’m not sure who is “raving” about Yon. Nor am I exactly sure how Yon can continue to do what he’s doing and make money. He seems to be scraping by on donations.Actually he did much better than "scraping by". Prine's "marketplace" is "what mainstream media wants" - the market Yon tapped is what people want. That those markets aren't one and the same is but one of many reasons why so many old-guard media producers are seeing plummeting ratings and sales.
Update 2: By the Numbers
More from the Times:
Although the profusion of links gives an indication of Yon's growing popularity, the blogger has yet to draw an audience as large as many traditional news outlets, which measure their traffic in millions. His blog has not hit the threshold of 360,000 distinct monthly users to be tracked by Nielsen/NetRatings.There's a reason the LA Times obsesses over this fact. Their own numbers, while significantly greater than Yon's, are disturbing. Here's a quick calendar year in review:
Circulation revenue at The Los Angeles Times fell in the first quarter, according to Tribune Co.'s first-quarter results.2Q and 3Q
For the six months ended Sept. 30, 2005, the Los Angeles Times reported a six-day Monday-Saturday average circulation of 869,819, a decline of 3.6 percent from the prior year, and Sunday circulation of 1,247,569, a decline of 3.5 percent from the prior year, according to figures filed with the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).The fourth quarter - could they finish strong? No.
Fourth-quarter earnings tumbled 38 percent at Tribune Co....LA Times/Tribune Co. folks will acknowledge some reasons for declining circulation - one is the competition they face from their own online version of their paper - and their competitors'. Long accustomed to being the only game in town, major metropolitan newspapers now struggle to come to terms with business models shifting at the speed of thought. On the internet they now find themselves competing for a share of online readers from around the globe - a huge potential audience - but local car dealers and other businesses have little incentive to advertise to folks from the other side of the Mississippi (or the Pacific, for that matter). And local readers unhappy with the local paper are free to click elsewhere.
A subscription fee for reading the online version won't work with so many other options available for casual news consumers, nor will it drive those people back to the print edition. If such a fee was adopted the resulting decline in online readership will bring reduced ad revenues there, offsetting the subscription income.
And of course it's those ad revenues that support the newspaper business, not the profit from subscriptions or newsstand sales. No paper has ever been so highly regarded that it could survive purely on its sales - because never in history has a public been willing to actually consider a newspaper so indispensable that they would be willing to pay enough for it that it could be sustained independent of corporate sponsorship in the form of ads.
And if you're thinking ahead of me you've already realized the underlying reason for the Time's obsession with Mike Yon's readership numbers, and the jealousy underlying it. While the LA Times may boast a large ("millions") number of people willing to read their output as long as they don't have to pay for it (and a dwindling number of people willing to part with a few pennies a week for the actual paper) Mike Yon enjoys a smaller readership (thousands) willing to underwrite his efforts to the point that he needs no corporate sponsorship, or "success" on the terms defined by media dinosaurs.
By himself, Yon represents no threat to the LA Times. He doesn't have the inside scoop on the Lakers, offers no clue as to whether his readers will need an umbrella tomorrow, and offers no advice whatsoever for the lovelorn.
Update 3: Conservative estimates
If you're a reader here I don't need to tell you who Yon is, but the Times recognized they would have to define him for the majority of their readers:
Michael Yon may not be a household name, but he emerged last year as the reporter of choice for many conservatives and supporters of the war.But is "conservatives and supporters of the war" an apt description of his readership?
An interesting question.
Yon was working on another story when he learned that two friends had been killed in Iraq. As the Times reports,
The deaths galvanized Yon. He contacted an Army officer he'd known in high school, who in turn put Yon in touch with a commander in Iraq. That got him a ticket to Baqubah.The Times doesn't point this out, but the deaths of friends doesn’t motivate one to become a champion for an unjust war in which they died (this same fact applies to all milbloggers). And Yon did not become that champion - even if the Times would have us believe otherwise. In-country he simply reported what he saw, told the story of the war without the filter of a major corporation and a league of editors re-writing his accounts to fit available space in column inches and the box defined by their own distant view of events - shaped by whatever forces that may be.
Thus Yon's dispatches became a valuable source of information for those wanting a full picture of what was going on in Iraq - people whose quest for knowledge didn't stop with what the local paper had to say - or worse, the two-minute soundbite on the TV news. Those who do limit their knowledge to those sources comprise a large number of Americans. It's odd (Orwellian, if you give it any consideration at all) that the Times labels the rest of us - those who seek information from all possible sources - as "conservative". I'd speculate that those same people who read Yon, this site, or any other MilBlog are also familiar with the efforts of Michael Moore. That they are nonetheless "supporters of the war" speaks volumes to their ability to decide for themselves. Bottom line: "conservative supporters of the war"? The Times was half right.
I've noticed that same mislabeling phenomenon here. Whereas hundreds of thousands of visitors have found this site via links from center-to-right wing weblogs, the Left avoids this site - and other military blogs - like the plague. (Perhaps due in no small part to the fact that they can't dismiss us with the "chickenhawk" label - the most powerful - albeit lame - argument they can muster against those who support the war.) But this site thus gained a reputation as being politically "right wing" and "conservative", in spite of the fact that I don't wade into issues of Supreme Court appointments, border security, homosexual marriage, and a host of other topics unrelated to what we're about - authentic "boots on the ground" coverage of the war - from those wearing the boots.
So if you're still here, I've got some news you might not appreciate: you are probably a liberal. While others shy away and deny themselves a robust view of the state of the world today you are looking for the complete picture. An we'd like to think we offer that, or as close as we can - in our daily Dawn Patrol and in the weekly Meanwhile back at the Front. There we'll present as many sides of the story that we can, from the front-line GIs and citizens in Iraq to the editors in New York, LA, London, and all points between.
We're confident that you'll draw your own conclusions.
After all, isn't that what being liberal is all about?
Soldier's Dad, in comments below:
"...no Media organization, obsessed with advertising revenue, would hire Yon. The purpose of a newspaper, is to get people to read the Advertisements, not the news.Touché. Read this too.
(First posted: 2006-02-10 17:37:52)
Posted by Greyhawk / February 11, 2006 1:05 PM | Permalink
When the LA Times wrote, Lone Gun In War Reporting, about Michael Yon I knew it could get ugly. It didn't use the title I did, but mine is more accurate in terms of how the piece reads. It begins: Michael Yon's blog made him a hero among ... Read More
But the Times sure does do a good job of showing itself to be nothing more than a bunch of 4 year olds in terms of their maturity. And that, I believe, is almost insulting to my 4 year old. Read More
I'm too tired to do it justice but do not miss Greyhawk's post here. Be sure to follow the links, especially to Armed Liberal's post here. (You know, for a liberal AL's really not a bad guy at all.) Read More
Check out this post over at Mudville Gazette. I was amazed that the LA Times was bothering to comment on Michael Yon--he must be getting under some MSM skins. Which is all to the good--since when do journalists have a Read More
Dear Mr. Rainey, Your LA Times article includes a quote by reporter and veteran Carl Prine. But Carl Prine of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a National Guardsman and former Marine, saw platitudes, thin reporting and a lack of context in Yon’... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
Furthermore, I will occasionally use satire or parody herein. The bottom line: it's my house.
I like having visitors to my house. I hope you are entertained. I fight for your right to free speech, and am thrilled when you exercise said rights here. Comments and e-mails are welcome, but all such communication is to be assumed to be 1)the original work of any who initiate said communication and 2)the property of the Mudville Gazette, with free use granted thereto for publication in electronic or written form. If you do NOT wish to have your message posted, write "CONFIDENTIAL" in the subject line of your email.
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