Like most people, I have a fear of getting really old. You know how sometimes you see an old, grey lady in the supermarket grumbling about the price of milk and scowling at the clerk who tries to help her? I don’t want to be her one day. Other times, I see a woman of the same, grey age on the street with a cooler handbag than I currently do, tweeting her way down 6th Avenue with friend and think, ‘there you go! That’s how I’m going to be!’
The New York Times is both of these grey ladies, all of the time.
By asking Scrollkit to take down their replica and reference to ‘Snow Fall,’ the Times looks a little cranky. I’m no Lawrence Lessig, but like Cody Brown, I can see how his video ‘could be’ fair use. Asking him to cease and desist using any mention of the Times on their site? That’s a little draconian. But what do I know.
Cool Grey Lady: Experimentation
On the wave of ‘Snow Fall,’ I was starting to really admire how the paper went from documentaries lamenting the internet to starting to embrace the digital sphere, from content to advertisements. Not every story needs a ‘Snow Fall’ treatment, and it’s not so innovative that it’s going to save journalism, as Choire Sicha of The Awl points out here. But it’s a big step – if the Times can adapt, anyone can. That’s why ‘Snowfall’ is worthy of conversation.
Bad Grey Lady: Being a Jerk
But it’s not the future of anything. I don’t think we should be forced to hold it up as a beacon of light in the digital age. There are lots of great organizations doing new, interesting things with content and advertisements. That’s the world we work in: it’s in flux, and no one has figured out how it’s going to work or exactly how amazing and new it’s going to be. We don’t have to have a crystal ball. So until they do consistently innovative work, like ‘Snow Fall,’ let’s stop throwing it around as an example of change.
And quit being cranky. The legal department at any paper, or any corporation, has its duties. And a little cease and desist isn’t going to kill their brand. But come on. Brown is right to point out that most newsrooms don’t have the resources to snow fall every week, and his digital tool helps journalists in those situations. Sure, he’s using the success of ‘Snow Fall’ to promote his product. In that case, the Times should rent out their Ideas Lab to freelancers. Otherwise, they’re just going to have to admit that in the digital world, anything they can do, anyone else can do better.
Photo courtesy of Medium.com