The Washington Post used to have a great advertising slogan: "If you don't get it, you don't get it." Over time, for many of us at The Post and in the Washington area, "If you don't get it..." (said with a weary tone) became shorthand to describe folks that, well, just don't get it. And in the technology industry, you either "get it"--or you're toast.
Which brings me to several tidbits this week that make me wonder if how many people in the newspaper business really "get it."
* My friends Alan Jacobson and (echoing Alan) Alan Mutter have done marvelous jobs demolishing the newspaper industry's latest study of how people allegedly read newspapers and Web sites, EyeTrack07. This, um, groundbreaking work reveals--are you sitting down?--that readers pretty much select what they want to read based on what they're interested in, and then, well, read it. This sort of pseudoscience really can't be doing anybody any good, except maybe the people getting paid to conduct it. What's next? Phrenology? Actually, the most interesting tidbit in the study, which seems counterintuitive to a lot of print people: people seem to read more text in online stories than they do print stories. Hmmm.
* Speaking of demolishing, Robert Niles does a number on the oft-repeated criticism that blogs don't break news (following up on his equally good debunking of the notion that blogs are parasitic). The dead-tree types may not want to believe that blogs are doing original reporting, but I see plenty of examples every day of news being broken by blogs in such areas as business, sports and technology (PaidContent.org, anyone?), and Niles lists even more mainstream examples. This is just the tip of the iceberg. We'll see the blogging equivalent of I.F. Stone, probably in multiple iterations, before too long. As Niles says to the denizens of mainstream media, "quit whining."
* And finally, the great Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal got off a glib but unfortunate one-liner today, likening citizen journalism to "citizen surgery." That's a funny line, but I worry that his humor went over the heads of his audience, the old-school editors at the ASNE convention. No doubt most of them were nodding their heads in agreement and relief, when they really should be thinking hard about how they can be empowering their readers to contribute to the conversation. Once again: If you don't get it, you don't get it.
And you know what? Even if people in the industry get it, the bigger question is, do they know what to do about it?