Wikipedia Founder's 'Moronic' Idea: Fire Columnists

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Jimmy Wales and Paul Carr are Web gurus with fiercely conflicting views of how journalism should adapt. Wales, the co-founder of Wikipedia, started things off when he said newspaper editors should fire their opinion columnists:

There are things communities do better than the traditional model ... The best of the political bloggers are easily the equal of the opinion columnists at the New York Times. I don’t see the added value there and question whether a newspaper should be paying large sums of money for that anymore. The traditional newspaper publishing cycle doesn’t really work that well online. In the newspaper business, we’re selling the stale bread, which is the print paper, and giving away the fresh bread for free (online).

This logic really incensed Carr, a blogger for TechCrunch and author of Bringing Nothing to the Party: True Confessions of a New Media Whore. He began his rejoinder by calling Wales's idea "tracheotomy-cravingly moronic" and attacking his credibility on the subject:

For a start, let’s consider what Wales actually does for a living. Or rather what he doesn’t do. He doesn’t own, operate or edit a newspaper. He doesn’t employ any journalists, has never sold an advertisement and he doesn’t have a single customer who pays to read the content he relies on volunteers to produce.

Next he argued that columnists—far from being expendable—are crucial to the survival of newspapers:

Rival papers, and bloggers and Twitterers may summarise and rewrite your news scoops, depriving you of readers, but they can’t do the same with your columnists. Personality is simply not reproducible – there’s only one Maureen Dowd and there will only ever be one Glenn Beck (inshallah) so if readers want to hear what they have to say, they have to go to the source. Moreover, while news ages rapidly, opinion doesn’t. A story published online by the New York Times is dated the moment it appears and people begin tweeting out the key facts, but a well-crafted opinion column has an infinite shelf life.

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