The Dream for Susan Boyle

By now almost everyone has seen the clip of Susan Boyle. If you haven’t, go to the link before reading on. You can read this stuff anytime. You shouldn’t wait another second before seeing her.

A piece by Lisa Schwarzbaum at Entertainment Weekly encapsulates well why this video resonates, even brings tears to my eyes.

In our pop-minded culture so slavishly obsessed with packaging — the right face, the right clothes, the right attitudes, the right Facebook posts — the unpackaged artistic power of the unstyled, un-hip, un-kissed Ms. Boyle let me feel, for the duration of one blazing showstopping ballad, the meaning of human grace.

Schwarzbaum writes more that I would have included, except that it would have made it almost unnecessary for you to go to the EW site, and I’m sensitive that her work should be seen where it was originally posted, giving EW another penny and a half because you stopped by.

The scene causes me to wonder about Boyle’s 47 years. She lives with her cat. She’s never been married or even kissed. Somehow in anonymity she walked out on stage without a lick of style or an ounce of pretense. She was who she was, convinced that her voice would overcome what she lacked in appearance, or naive to the fact that often the giftwrap matters more than the gift. Maybe that was her strength. She lowered our expectations and then blew us away.

My prayer for Boyle is that this moment launches her into a better 47 years than the ones she’s had. She is revered now. My hope is she never arrives at a place in which she’s despised for her success, as so many who achieve loftiness are. I hope this story is as amazing as it seems right now, that I can always point to her performance as one that rocked us all on our heels and woke us up, that Susan Boyle forever becomes the definition of happily ever after.

My Idea for Saving Newspapers

news dudeYears ago a friend had a sandwich shop and the idea sparked my thoughts about what I thought would be a great concept for one. The only problem was I had no interest in running that kind of business. So I offer the idea to anyone willing to give it a go. You have to have it in a politically conscious area. You’d name it something like “Capitol Sandwich,” or something far more clever. The real cleverness would be the names of the sandwiches. On the list would be the “pork barrell,” which would have all kinds of, you know, pork. Then you could have the “conservative,” which would be something simple like peanut butter and jelly. Filibuster style would be extra long. You get the idea. Run with it.

For my next business idea, though, this does have real relevance to me, since it involves the industry I work in. I received an e-mail at work today about former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporters trying to start a publication using the donation route and they’re asking for contributions of $20 a month. They’re calling the new outfit the Seattle PostGlobe. By the time you read the site might actually be at the address http://seattlepostglobe.org.

Here’s why I don’t think the idea might not have long-term legs. Years ago I was used to the idea of getting one newspaper. I’d pay for it and hope that it had all the news I needed.

Now, though, I regularly read newspaper sites from all over the country, and I don’t want to give that up. I want the local content, such as the stuff seattlepostglobe might offer, but I also want the news written far away. So give me something that perhaps will make me pay, but will let me have both local and national content.

If this idea has been tried or there are obvious reasons why it would not work, I’m all ears. Let me have it, or them.

My idea is that since we’re getting much of our news from the Internet, we could pay for it from where we get our Internet service. U.S. newspapers would have to work cooperatively on a plan that would have customers pay for news content, but they would not pay for it like a subscription to the print product they do now. You wouldn’t go to www.kitsapsun.com to subscribe to the online version of the Kitsap Sun. Instead, you’d go to your Internet provider. When you subscribe to the Kitsap Sun, you also get access to the Baltimore Sun, the New York Times, the Washington Post and every Herald,Tribune and Gazette in the country.

Such an arrangement might only solve part of the problem, the money papers have lost from shrinking circulation. However, smarter business minds than mine might be able to start with this idea and find a price point that works, perhaps even enough to pick up some of the lost classified and display advertising revenue.

This idea presents a lot of obstacles, more than I can imagine in one sitting. But I can’t imagine that they couldn’t be overcome. The big one would be getting readers to pay for it, even if you’re making it as painless as possible. I think, however, people would, or enough would to make it worth it to cut off those who wouldn’t.

In some cases it might create markets we don’t have now. Colleges could make the subscription part of the regular fees it charges. Businesses, those that wouldn’t have a policy against employees looking up news sites from work, could have the news at every computer.

The biggest challenge is that it would take virtually every print news organization cooperating to make it work. It would take agreeing on how revenues would be distributed. Would subscribers in Multnomah County in Oregon automatically see their fees go to the Oregonian? What about areas with two or more publications? What if a new publication wanted to start up and buy in? Would that suck revenue away from the established dailies?

These are all questions I again leave to those with bigger business brains than mine.

Run with it.

Unrecognized Anonymous Genius Alert

When I read that I was about to enter the mother of all anti-MSM rants I got a bit excited, expecting to laugh and then ultimately quit halfway through, tired of illogic and profanity. That’s what rants, especially written on the Internet by the anonymous, usually are. I was somewhat disappointed.

For starters, the writer made some sense. For enders, I leave the column feeling like it was written by someone who is little but bitter. So it’s hard for me to mingle the lot that made sense with the fact that the sense was put forth by someone who has been sucking on sour grapes for some time.

The parts that make sense to me, generally, are that much of the whining about the state of the newspaper business relies on some good-natured philanthropist or a large number of unwitting taxpayers coming in to save us. The philanthropy part could work, I suppose, but the idea that we need to be saved out of some sort of sympathy is appalling to me. I think people, despite all the bile they spew about us, appreciate what we do, especially when we do it well. To have a consistent operation that keeps government and others in check there needs to be a financial incentive, because while reporters accept low pay, they won’t do it for free. Somehow, someone’s going to find an economic model that works. Or maybe one model will work in one market and another will work in another. I don’t know that I’ll be involved in that news gathering when the new model arises, but I trust someone will be. Some entrepreneur, or a few of them, will hit on something.

I also liked the part about the idea that journalism schools are kind of a waste. I went to a good school and through a good journalism program. In the end, though, I think I would have been better off minoring in journalism and majoring in something else like political science or history. I also appreciated the thought that journalists kind of accept the low pay without much argument. I don’t do my job for the money, but I couldn’t afford to do it if it didn’t pay enough to meet our basic needs. The reason we’re in the Pacific Northwest, aside from the breathtaking landscape, is the news business pays better here than elsewhere. It does for now, anyway, because of the businesslike negotiating unions did up here.

What made me dislike the anonymous piece was pretty much at the end, when the writer revealed the self to be a former reporter. I got the sense this was someone whose genius wasn’t recognized, as one commenter wrote, and left bitter because of it. Frankly, that was me for a while, for the while that I was out of the business. So that person can rejoice at the news of newspapers dying for some legitimate reasons, but ultimately I believe the anonymous writer will never return, because that writer’s genius will never be recognized as much as the writer believes it should be.