Posts from April 14, 2004

One for our side?

One for our side?
: The Telegraph says al-Sadr has cried uncle.

The fiery radical at the heart of Iraq’s Shia revolt sued for peace yesterday, buckling under the twin pressures of a massive build-up of American forces near his base and demands for moderation from the country’s ayatollahs.

Moqtada al-Sadr, who raised the standard of anti-American revolt 12 days ago, sent out envoys from the holy city of Najaf carrying his peace terms. Barely 13 miles from his hideout, United States tanks and heavy artillery began to enforce an “exclusion zone”, apparently a first step towards an assault.

So much for civil war this weekend.

Political S&M

Political S&M
: Woody Allen always said in his movies that he had anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure. It also seems to be the ailment of European liberals. Here’s someone in the Guardian beating herself up for flying because it’s ruining the environment, she insists: “It’s time to call time on our cheap flight hypocrisy,” says the headline. As if cheap is the problem.

Air America off air

Air America off air
: Air America went off the air in Chicago and L.A. Drudge says the Chicago Tribune will report a cash-flow crisis. Air America’s statement.

A week ago, I noted a lack of paid ads.

The Daily Stern: Afternoon edition

The Daily Stern: Afternoon edition

: DO YOU REMEMBER SEX? In Salon, Dan Savage (sometimes described, he says, as the gay Howard Stern) is upset about Howard Stern:

No, what distresses me about Stern’s predicament is that civil libertarians, lefties and sex radicals aren’t furious and distressed, too, and that they’re not rallying to his side — and they should be….

Perhaps this is a “First they came for Howard Stern …” piece. And it’s time for those of us who value the freedom of adults to speak in public, and value the idea that not everything on radio or television (or the Internet) has to be suitable for children, to speak up.

He says that because of the AIDS pandemic, we had to get used to discussing details of sex that weren’t discussed before. But now the nannies are trying to get rid of all that talk, forcing everyone back into one closet or another.

So now Howard Stern is in trouble for talking about sex like an adult, for using humor, and for doing it on the radio — something he’s been doing for more than a decade, something he was celebrated for doing until very recently. Stern didn’t say or do anything obscene — not by the standards of the communities where his show is aired, and certainly not by the standards of the people who tune in to his program.

: COMMUNITY STANDARDS? BUT WHAT COMMUNITY? That quote raises a fascinating issue I danced around the other day: What is our community? Is it New Jersey, for me? Or is it the Internet? Or is it Howard Stern fans? Or is it my blogroll?

It matters.

The other day, I linked to a Boston Globe story on John (Boobs Not Bombs) Ashcroft’s war against pornography that said the Justice Department ordered a porn tape made in California from another market just so it could be tried before a, presumably, more prudish jury. And in that story, the question came up: Which community standards will be used to judge this? California’s? Ohio’s? The Internet’s?

In this day and age, the concept of “community” as a geography is utterly out-of-date. Thus community standards should mean my community, whatever it is. In the gay community, you’ll hear different talk about sex than in the straight community. In the hip-hop community, you’ll hear different reaction to the n-word than in the KKK community. And the could all be just blocks apart.

Community standards is outmoded. Free speech is not.

Add your two cents to the Blogs as Business wiki

Add your two cents to the Blogs as Business wiki
: I realized last night that I probably should have explained that you — yes, you! — can add to and change the wiki I put up to capture all your ideas (and issues) regarding making money with blogs.

We get caught up in our jargon hereabouts and I forgot to explain how to use the wiki.

It’s deceptively simple:

Just go here and on the left-hand column you see a link to “edit.” This allows you to go in and add great ideas.

So please, please do go it. We’ve already had some good additions. More, please.

What is journalism? II

What is journalism? II
: Now we’re getting to the important issues: In the Wall Street Journal today, there’s a heated debate over journalism:

Bonnie Fuller’s Star changed the color of Demi Moore’s dress and Martha Nelson of People huffs:

“We would never do that,” she said. “We come from a company that is based on the highest principles of journalism.”

What would you have asked the Pres?

What would you have asked the Pres?

: If you’d been invited to the Pres conference last night, what would you have asked the Pres?

I wouldn’t have asked what the press did. I wouldn’t have kept harping for an apology, a confession of failure, a mea culpa, a begging for forgiveness, a rendition of Feelings with feeling. That’s not news. That’s not policy. That’s meaningless. It’s spin.

Right now on the FoxNews afternoon talk show, they’re replaying the questions reporters asked last night and asking the audience whether they are — of course — “fair and balanced.” You can guess the answers.

I’d ask instead whether they were good questions. Too many weren’t.

Also below, I suggest that the White House press office — or any flack in power — would be wise to ask bloggers to a press conference to do what reporters are supposed to do: Ask the questions that we, the people, would ask if we’d been invited.

So what would you ask the Pres?

What is journalism?

What is journalism?
: Getting ready for BloggerCon (and a drink with Jay Rosen later today), I reread Jay’s essay setting the table for the session that asks, “What is journalism?” I recommend it highly.

By “journalism” we ought to mean the practice of it, not the profession of it. Journalism can happen on any platform. It is independent of its many delivery devices. This also means that journalism is not the same thing–at all–as “the media.” The media, or Big Media as some call it, does not own journalism, and cannot dispose of it on a whim….

But what most identifies the practice of journalism is not power, profit, or free expression in itself. It’s the idea of addressing, engaging and freely informing a “public” about events in its world.

The discussion that ensues is amazing and has built into a freeze-dried conference round-table (at which everyone actually has a chance to say something). It’s even longer than a Rosen post but I recommend it; worth the time.

: I couldn’t help joining in the conversation and added this:

I come at this with three abstract questions:

1. What is the relationship of journalism to its public now?

That relationship has radically changed thanks to the links of the Web. We can link to news stories; they can (but still don’t) link to us; we can link to sources; we can link to opinions; the linking can add up to better information. The links turn news into a conversation. And as a result, the relationship of “journalist” to “public” when the become, often, one and the same.

Similarly, the relationships of “news source” and “journalist” and “public” and “citizen” are quite the game of 52-card pickup. Those in power can now speak to their publics bypassing the press. But shouldn’t citizens also be able to address those in power just as journalists have? It’s about accredidation: Who has the right to sit in the White House and question the President on behalf of all of us? Who has the right to get in the mayor’s face and ask what happened to our money? Who has the right to stop us?

2. What are the standards of journalism (if any)?

Oh, gawd, I don’t want to end up with a debate on journalistic objectivity or white-glove pickiness either. But I’m not sure old, assumed (and often unwritten) standards are valid anymore. So perhaps it’s better to ask what the standards (if any) should be. Do we need standards? Is that what the “professional” journalists are best equipped to share with the “citizen” journalists? Or, instead, should journalists share access (see #1) and tricks (e.g., Freedom of Information requests) and let the marketplace do what it will (and we, the readers will — as we already do — decide whom we do and don’t believe and trust). Credibility is the only standard that matters. Do we need standards to support that?

3. What are the expectations of journalism?

This is so closely related to #2 that it may be the same question. But I think that big media have lost sight of what its public wants of it. Evidence: the disparity between what ends up high on a Technorati or Blogdex list of buzzed-about topics vs. what lands on Page One of your paper. Evidence: The popularity of FoxNews in a country that was supposed to cherish objective journalism devoid of opinion. Evidence: Circulation and ratings. One of the most important lessons this new world imparts is that it captures what people actually care about instead of what the old, editorial “we” thought the old consumer “they” should care about. So what are the expectations of journalism today in any form? Reliability? Credibility? Honesty? Transparency? Frequency? Completeness? Links? Conversation? Opinion? Speed? What does our public want of us? Doesn’t that really define what the mission of journalism should be?

: UPDATE: The Christian Science Monitor says:

The past year has been the most miserable in the history of modern American journalism.

: And The Boston Globe says:

At a time when public distrust of the news media appears to be at a dangerously high level, there is evidence of a deep and fundamental disagreement between those who produce news and those who consume it.

Although most journalists believe quality and values are vital elements of their work and see themselves as providing an important civic function, the reading and viewing public seems to think of journalism as a bottom-line-driven enterprise populated by the ethically challenged.

: The Globe also says Hollywood is looking at the news business as a laughingstock [read: sitcom fodder.] [update links via IWantMedia]