The above headline is a quote from A.P. chief Tom Curley during his rounds at the recent media goings-on in China, and I think it illustrates perhaps more than any other argument possible, exactly why these guys have no clue whatsoever.
They actually believe that just because they create something, no matter how useful or useless it is, that they are entitled to get paid for it. Have they really been out of the risk-reward loop for so long that they think this is how life really works? There have been many instances in my life where I deserved to be paid a helluva lot more than I was for work I’ve done. Hell, I’m settling for 40 cents on the dollar from what I used to get paid for the same work today. It sucks, but that’s life. It seems like Tom may need a lesson or two in reality-based economics.
Back when these guys were cranking out millions if not billions of dollars in profits, the writers whose work they were using unquestionably deserved to get paid significantly more than they were forking over, but somehow I don’t think the “deserve” argument would get anyone very far with them. What we get paid is often due to a combination of factors from scarcity of skills, need of employers, and circumstances under which employment is sought. Very rarely, if ever, does deserve factor into it. Most of us out here in the real world understand that. Tom Curley, on the other hand, apparently does not.
It’s interesting watching the Associated Press complain about people not paying for their work. For as long as I’ve been in this business, the single most common complaint I’ve heard about newspapers has been, “It’s filled with nothing but AP wire stuff.” To the average reader, A.P. material isn’t highly sought after content, but rather needless filler that is one of the main reasons why newspapers have been on the decline, in both reputation and value. To Curley, however, his organization’s material is irreplaceable and the public has an imperative to pay him for it. It’s a disconnect common amongst old-guard newspaper executives; over-valuing their material and importance and under-appreciating the new atmosphere of competition we all exist in now.
Curley and the A.P. would clearly rather return to the days where publishers held all the controls and paid him and his group. Readers never really were paying for A.P. material. Now that Curley has to appeal to readers for payment rather than publishers, he may find a less-than-enthused customer base who have long thought of A.P. content as filler. While Curley may believe he deserves to be paid, the average reader likely believes just the opposite. And whatever either side feels, the market itself will eventually dictate who gets paid and who doesn’t.
As Clint Eastwood said in the movie Unforgiven, just before shooting Gene Hackman in the face, “Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.” Right on, Clint.