I went to Barnes & Noble the other day and bought a copy of “The Gun” by C. J. Chivers.
I could have waited to buy it used, or borrowed a copy, but I felt it was important to buy one because I want Chivers to get some money from me for his efforts.
Chivers’ book is good — a history of the Kalashnikov Rifle — but why I admire his work, and want him to prosper from it, is more because of his work as a reporter for the New York Times.
Chivers is the Times’ battlefield correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan. His reporting is brilliant. There’s no other word for it. He works with the troops, takes fire with the troops, and reports amazingly afterwards.
If one story summarizes his work it is this one (click!) in which he covers the aftermath of a sniper incident in which a soldier was shot in the head. The story is all about the medic who worked on the soldier.
Brilliant doesn’t describe it. “Better than Ernie Pyle” comes close. When people ask me what good journalism is like, I show them this story.
But the Times can’t pay Chivers to do this kind of work if we don’t buy the Times’ paper. That’s why I subscribe. Not just because when I read the paper I always find something Iwouldn’t have if I read it on line. Not just because I’m an old fart who likes a printed page.
But because the Times is a system, an infrastructure, that provides us information that we wouldn’t get otherwise, that bloggers can’t duplicate, that “new media” don’t do. Chivers’ work could be run on the Internet only, but then it would be one of a hundred million or so web site that nobody would see. Yeah, sure, maybe it would go viral, but what are the odds?
In the Times printed paper, millions see it today. Not thousands.
The Times is part of a larger infrastructure of newspapers and paid news gatherers around this country that is rapidly going away as advertisers dry up, free web sites take newspapers’ news and siphon off our customers, and reporters positions disappear. One of the Las Vegas papers has hired a company to chase after news accumulation web sites and force them to pay, and I think all newspapers, including mine, ought to be doing that.
Chivers isn’t a blogger. He’s a reporter who does a hell of a job. He deserves to be paid. If you read his stuff, you should pay him. Unless you are OK with the people who buy what your produces not paying your boss. How long would Larry Miller stay in business if nobody paid to watch movies in his theaters or paid for the cars they drive off his lots?
And, no, you can’t borrow my book. Go buy one.
And when the Times goes to paid access to their web site, sign up and pay. Better yet, subscribe now. I guarantee, not a day won’t go by you don’t find something in the paper worth the cost.
And, no, nobody at the Times paid me to write this, but if they ever make it possible for me to tell Chivers how much I admire his work, I’ll take it.