Posts from September 2003


: Uh-oh, Glenn Reynolds is going to get in trouble. He keeps answering Mark Glaser’s questions on his blog.


: Since I’m a newspaperman (and magazineman and mediaman) myself, I would be wise to recuse myself from the discussion about the Sacramento Bee blogger who now has a minder (see the Mickey Kaus manifesto). But nobody ever called me wise.

And I have a bigger point to make here.

First, a few observations:

: I would not be the first to predict that blogging would cause newspaper people stomach upset. Amy Langfield long ago said papers would worry about libel and copy editing and control. She’s right. They do worry about such things, for they are protecting their reputations and brands; they are protecting their real asset, credibility. But…

: I sat today with a certain blog queen who’s about to start blogging for a certain major metro magazine and suggested that they should post-edit her. Otherwise, if she has to wait for a copy editor to dot her i’s, her blog will be robbed of its immediacy, and immediacy — freshness, currency, newsiness, life — is a blog’s major asset. So what if there’s a typo? Correct it later and the world’s none the worse. Blog readers are used to that (well, here they are).

: Note in the Sacramento Bee ombudsman column a considerable hostility (not to mention a certain snotty attitude) from (a) print news to online and (b) print news to opinion. Sometimes, it’s just about turf. The Bee has some issues with turf, it would seem.

But now (at last) to my real point:

: What’s just as disturbing as the last half of the Bee ombudsman’s column — about saddling the Bee blogger with a minder — is the first half, in which the ombudsman tears a new a-hole into the online operation for running a press release about a new power plant.

Now it was terribly dumb for a reporter to reprint the press release under his or her byline. But an “ethical lapse”? No, that misses the point.

News organizations have to start looking at information in new ways. I started making this point the other day when I suggested that just for a moment, we should drop the term “news” with all its heavy baggage and instead look on our job in terms of imparting information. (That same day, I had a long lunch on this topic with Jay Rosen, chair of NYU’s journalism school and a blogger himself; he gets it.)

When you do that, when you see yourself as a leader in the information business, then minders and copy editors become just a little less important. The value of information to the audience becomes more important.

A press release is information. No, a reporter should never put a byline atop a press release. But that doesn’t mean the Bee’s online service shouldn’t have run the release (without expending the effort and expense of rewriting it when they can’t afford to). It’s information.

A weblog is information. Maybe a typo — or even an opinion — will sneak through but if we’re clear with the audience about the immediacy of weblogs, if we correct mistakes when they’re brought to our attention — even by the audience — then they will understand what kind of information it is.

A forum is filled with information. Look at a kids’ sports forum on a news site and you’ll see tons of scores and game reports. It’s information from the audience. OK, it’s not journalism. But it is still information.

: So here’s my real point in all of this:

I fear that sometimes we lose sight of the fact that even more than being in the news business, we are in the information business.

Oh, that’s not all we do. We in journalism are also watchdogs (but so are citizens) and experts (but many are more expert than we are) and commentators (though everybody has an opinion).

But first and foremost, if we do not impart information, we are useless.

And so we cut off sources of information at our peril. So we shouldn’t be scared of weblogs or forums or even press releases so long as we label them carefully and make sure the audience is never confused about their source. It’s information. Information wants to be free (of minders). And often, information is free (which is good news in this age when the news business is under financial pressure). Information is what it’s all about.

: Update: Just as I blogged this, I saw the Mark Glaser asked Glenn Reynolds about whether he has a minder at MSNBC. No, he has something far worse: a content management system (cue scream).

And the winner is… oh, nevermind

And the winner is… oh, nevermind
: A big confession from a former TV critic: I didn’t watch the Emmys last night. I was curious instead to see whether I could figure out whether I liked Carnivale (it was a hung jury; now it’s a hanging jury). I figured I’d watch the Emmys on tape. But reading the lists of the reputed winners in today’s paper, I don’t think I’ll bother because in our ever-more-nichefied media world, the Emmys are a mass-market, three-networks-fits-all holdover. They are ever-more irrelvant. Well, of course, all awards are essentially irrelevant, but the Emmys are moreso simply because with my remote control and personal recording device, every night is an awards show at my house. And the Emmys don’t account for Trading Spaces or Queer Eye or Howard Stern or certainly FoxNews. Prime time just isn’t prime time anymore.

Tech headaches

Tech headaches
: Unbeknownst to me, my host moved servers on me last night and because I set up MT wrong in the first place (with an IP address instead of a name … long story), my a.m. post and your comments since last night were lost. I restored a post and a few of the comments; can’t get to the others. Apologizes.

I am the post child for the Little Knowledge is a Dangerous Thing Foundation.

: HELP: I still can’t get the comments to remember me or anyone else. My MT.cfg now lists the domain (not the IP address) for the CGI path; that’s what I thought would fix it. Doesn’t. Any advice? Thanks!

Kathy’s trying to help me in the comments but it’s still not working.

Bring back wooden type!

Blog reporting

Blog reporting
: Tung Yin, a blogger, has lunch with Wesley Clark and reports, in detail. [via Scalzi]

The future of the World Trade Center

The future of the World Trade Center
: Felix Salmon has a super post reviewing recent changes in the plans for the World Trade Center site:

With the departure of Westfield America and the clear determination to take control of the Deutsche Bank site, this plan really looks as though it is actually going to get built….

But even ignorant of what’s going to go in the middle [in the memorial], it’s clear that New York is going to have a vibrant new downtown, complete with a set of new skyscrapers which actually work

9/11, by the numbers

9/11, by the numbers
: I got the call last night, as expected, from the World Trade Center Health Registry. I’m now one of a few hundred thousand people who were there that day or who worked at the site afterwards and whose health is being tracked for the next 20 years.

This was the call to collect data about me: where I was, what happened to me that day, what happened afterwards. It’s all data now.

They did a very good job with the script the woman from North Carolina read to me. Some of these questions may be upsetting, she said; you can quit anytime and come back later. If you want to talk to somebody, they’ll give me a name. If you don’t want to answer any of the questions, you don’t have to. She has a tough job. I stayed as cheery as I could.

We went through all the basics: age, address, all that.

They asked about my health following 9/11. Coughing? Yes. Shortness of breath? Yes. Wheezing? Yes. Skin irritation? Yes. Eye irritation? Yes. Changes in hearing? Yes. Diagnosed conditions? Pneumonia… Arrhythmia… Tinnitus…

They asked about my mood. Nightmares? No. Depression? Well, of course. Trouble concentrating? Yes….

And then came the questions about that day. Their simplicity, their evenness, their scripted rhythm of question and response turned this into an odd poetry of tragedy.

Did you witness a plane hitting the World Trade Center? Yes.

Did you witness people running away from the World Trade Center? Yes.

Did you witness one of the towers collapse? Yes.

Did you witness people dying or falling? [Long pause] Uh-huh.

What is it with these French?

What is it with these French?
: If I were a book publisher, I’d look at weblogs to see what’s creating buzz, what’s clicking with the audience.

I’m surprised sometimes to see what causes the most comment.

For example, anything that mentions the French gets the dander flying.

So if I were a book publisher, I’d go out and commission a book called, What Is It With These French?