Several quick hits before I go into a staff meeting ...
In my ongoing attempt to chart the decline of the fishwrap industry, I'll note this piece from yesterday's New York Times:
[S]ome media executives are growing concerned that the increasingly popular curators of the Web that are taking large pieces of the original work -- a practice sometimes called scraping -- are shaving away potential readers and profiting from the content ...
Copyright infringement lawsuits directed at bloggers and other online publishers seem to be on the rise.
The story's worth a look. Debates over "fair use" are much older than the internet, and as the story notes, there's no hard and fast rule about how much material you are allowed to excerpt. But the internet has made these problems much more pressing. And as I've argued in an incredibly tedious comment on this post, the question is whether we value content at all -- and if so, how we fix a price on it. At what point is a site like Huffington Post profiting by appropriating other people's hard work?
(On a personal note, I'd just say locally, I think bloggers do a really good job of excerpting in a responsible manner.)
This is the kind of decisiveness we need in Washington!
The P-G surmises that Toomey's candidacy "would be welcomed not just by conservatives, but by the many Democrats who covet the Specter seat for their party." The theory is that Specter will burn a lot of time and energy in a protracted primary battle, leaving him weak to a Democratic challenger in November.
I'm less enthusiastic. Basically, the U.S. Senate is currently being run by Specter and two moderate Republican Senators from Maine. Without them, it's not clear the Senate could ever have acted on Barack Obama's fiscal-stimulus package. If history is any guide, Specter will respond to a GOP challenger by tacking to his right ... which is really the last thing we need right now.
Finally, a brief word about City Paper's attempt to open courtroom proceedings in the Scaife divorce case. Last week I suggested that "it's well worth asking why it falls to us -- a humble weekly who can barely afford office coffee, let alone high-powered attorneys -- to challenge these closed-door proceedings. Usually our larger media brethren are the ones to demand this sort of access." I talked about that question with David Shribman, the Post-Gazette's executive editor. Shribman noted that the P-G had already done some heavy lifing on this matter -- by publishing records from the case that were apparently left unsealed on a county computer.
"We've fought this battle already, and are chary of fighting it again," Shribman told me.
It's true: The P-G has put itself out on a limb here, and should be commended for it. But I'm still surprised by the reticence of other media outlets to address this stuff. WTAE is apparently willing to demand the birthdates of Port Authority employees, but no one thinks their audience is interested in the Scaife divorce?
By contrast, the divorce of Scaife's ancestor, Andrew Mellon, was a major media event covered by the national press. Can it really be that reporters are less likely to question the wealthy now than they were in 1912 -- near the height of Gilded Age capitalism?