Dear Jon Letter: The Other 98 Cents

The SF Chronicle Two Cents column that is being held in a statis field like most good newspaper ideas.

A letter of response to Jon Carroll’s column today in the Chronicle and on Read it first for good stuff and context.

Dear Jon,

Good article today…online.

Some of what you say resonates to be sure. I love newspapers. There is a certain irrational, near magical, love for print that probably started when many of us were kids and spent a week using stamp pads to produce seven copies of our cul-de-sac’s new “newspaper.”

I remember when the newspapers of the Bay Area were great and fat. Now only the Chronicle has really survived. In Sacramento, where I was editor of many small and doomed community newspapers (and an alternative weekly before the SN&R showed up with an actual budget), the Sacramento Bee was actually damned fine in the mid-80s starting with Pete Dexter on page 2.

Now it sucks big time.

I watched the demise and it was not the Internet. It was bad writing and allowing the publication to become basically a Macy’s ad with filler copy. Cowing to advertisers and lowering the bar for great writing. And when Pete Dexter became famous, he moved to an island and started to suck as well.

I hope you are right about more than the “news aggregate” thing…you are right about that. I may get all my news from the Internet, but is my first stop even before or Google. Excellent point.

The key is content. I realized 10 years ago when I switched (sold out) from print media to Internet that “Content is King”.

Okay, so I was 7-8 years early. It was fun working at a grocery store for awhile.

But now it is obvious. Content is King, and one of the best things I get to do daily is help people get the best content to draw and sustain a new and healthy audience. It is precisely because people expect free content that it must be provided.

The Internet is great for content because great writers can publish without running into short-sighted folk who disagree with some minor point or are afraid to offend some imaginary person somewhere. I publish four times a day minimum in a variety of areas I have expertise in. I don’t get the usual Old School approach that are sinking newspapers left and right.

You don’t like it? Fire me…of that’s right, you can’t. All you can do is argue with me in a public forum via comment, or stop reading.

I like my odds.

The real question of the ever-illusive paying model goes a little deeper.

I’m not gonna give away the store here, but here is a small example of a misstep by the Chronicle. The Two Cents column is gone or on hold right?


Your point about opinion is right…except for reaching readers and how they can provide you with good content. Learn from the viral and relational aspect of the Internet and your paper will be stronger.

I was a (pre-screened) Two Cents column guy. As such, I got to ask questions or make points that are being missed by your newspaper. I went four-for-four on questions in 2007 before they shut it down. The best one is in the attached art. “A question the candidates have not been asked?” My answer was simple but I have never seen the substantial answer to it covered in your paper.

But Two Cents is just that. What about the rest of the buck?

For example: Why hasn’t someone sat down this week and done an in-depth interview with Mac Sutherlin and Duane Martinez who not only were two the of the three who scaled the Golden Gate Bridge with protest signs this week, but were arrested and then released a year ago in Nepal for planning a Protest of the Olympics on Mt Everest?

Gee… that would not be interesting to readers would it? Who would want to read about an inside scoop like that in the Bay Area?

Now Jon, I know you would take that interview. So I assume this letter should really land on your editor’ desk. To miss the obvious only reinforces your point about newspapers committing suicide.

Because here is the deal. You are the news aggregator. But if you guys don’t get real and smell the espresso I’m gonna go and find that story first and post it on the Internet and get a gazillion hits by posting it virally.

Get it?

The core philosophical point for newspapers is that they are passive (not the writers…the medium). We have shifted from a word based culture to an image based culture (newspapers did the same) and now are moving back to word-based…or at least some balance…but it is now active, not passive.

It is active not passive.

Have Phil Bronstein call my people, er…me and he can stop calling “emergency meetings”.

Seriously Jon, good column. I have enjoyed it for many years.

And there is a hint there too.

Oh…and I’m gonna point people from my online daily frontpage blog to your column as my lead story today. If you read it and comment that gets a short dialogue going that is public. People prefer that and it goes deeper because new questions come forward. You cannot do that in print in a timely fashion but you could do it as a “best of” weekly, taking such exchanges and printing them. Another thing I like is I can do my own art in seconds and it really works. I also don’t miss web press checks at 3 a.m.

Make your case but this letter and the artwork will be up at in about 25 minutes max. Probably before you get and read this email.

Let me know next time you are in San Anselmo and we’ll have coffee if you like.


Christopher (“Mac”) MacDonald
Azotus Consulting
San Anselmo, California
Online Content Management
SideDoor Marketing
Digital Media & Web Design
415-785-8672 (new number)