I always thought Andy Rooney looked sort of alike a muppet. It was the eyebrows, I think. And I always kind of got a kick out of his cranky-pants rants, even when I disagreed with him. I hadn't seen many of his broadcasts lately but I always knew he was there, like the irascible uncle at the family reunion who knows all the best stories if only he can be coaxed into focusing on them and not on the shortcomings of the rest of the relatives.
And now Andy Rooney is dead at 92.
I used to be a reporter and I came of age at a time when "reporter" meant people who reported the news for print and broadcast, not people who chronicle celebrity gossip, keep track of movie box office figures, and indulge in public speculation about the sex lives of strangers while creating a cult of personality around their own "brand."
Yes, I know. I sound cranky-pants too. But I've been thinking about this a lot lately, especially in terms of Arianna Huffington's stance on freelance writers.
I have, as they say, "skin in the game."
HuffPost grew into the media power house it became through freelancers, a number of them reporters. Last year, Huffington sold HuffPost to aol for a cool $315 million and was given oversight of aol, including their micro-news sites, collectively known as patch.com. Almost immediately after the sale, Huffington moved to eliminate the few paid writers on HuffPost and began relying on the contributions of freelancers who were free. A month ago, she turned her attention to the patch sites.
Her logic seems to be:
All reporters are writers.
All bloggers are writers.
Therefore, all bloggers are reporters.
But you know what? All bloggers are not reporters and some bloggers aren't even writers. (And seriously, every blogging template out there has a spell-check function. Would it be too much to ask that bloggers use it?)
What does this have to do with me? In October, Mark Satchwill and I were told that freelancers would no longer be paid for their work on patch.com. That meant we wouldn't be paid for our NoHo Noir stories and illos on the North Hollywood/Toluca Lake site. (And believe me when I tell you we weren't being paid much.)
We were invited to continue the stories for free but although we love our editor, we have chosen to break out on our own with the material.
\We'll be setting up a NoHo Noir blog soon to host the new stories and we'll also (pending approval from America Online's lawyers who have been sitting on the matter for four months) be bundling the first volume into an illustrated novel.
And what does this have to do with Andy Rooney?
Nothing much except that it feels like his death marks the end of an era when reporters were valued for their work and paid for it and respected; when stories were researched and objective and fact-checked and edited for spelling and clarity. And most of all, the end of a time when "news" meant what was going on in the nation and the world at large and not which Kardashian spent how much on her wedding.