Posts from May 2004

The future of news

The future of news

: The Editors Weblog is blogging a worldwide confab of newspaper editors in Turkey (to which I wish I’d managed to finagle an invite). A report on the future of news by Andrew Nachison and Dale Peskin of the American Press Institute, who propose three new models for news:

The first is called the “know-trust network” — a personal community where informal networks are exchanging news, information and conversation. “They are becoming the principle means of learning and discovery,” said Mr. Peskin and they could eclipse traditional media.

The second is referred to a digital everything. “All news and information will need to be virtual, digital and mobile,” he said.

And the third proposition is the power of an individual person. “The individual — not large institutions, will exert unprecedented power,” he said.

Not sure what it all means. I’ll wait for the PowerPoint.

: Meanwhile, Australian media man Brandan Hopkins responded to Warren Buffett’s pessimistic outlook on the newspaper biz:

“Buffett said, ‘the economics of newspapers in the United States are very close to certain to deteriorate over the next 10 to 20 years.’ This would be due to increased competition for advertising dollars from other media. Now, you ignore Warren Buffett at your peril. But I think it is relevant that he singled out United States newspapers, which in general have not kept pace with the product developments being seen elsewhere in the world. US

newspaper houses must innovate to survive.”

More, please.

: And Dean Wright, editor of MSNBC.com and Jean-Louis Cebri

Spirit of America

Spirit of America

: Please go and read Dan Gillmor’s wonderful column on Spirit of America. I’m going to have much more to say about this tomorrow…..

Unmasked

Unmasked

: Two once-anonymous bloggers have taken off their masks.

Patterico – the guy who got the LA Times to cover stories they should be covering — let Mark Glaser print his real name in the story about bloggers’ influence on big media. He’s Patrick Frey. There, that didn’t hurt, did it?

Armed Liberal just revealed himself to be Marc Danziger, who just signed onto be COO of Spirit of America (more on that shortly). Danziger said that as we discussed the need for transparency in this endeavor (and, see below, in media and business and government) it was time to come out.

A few weeks ago, I speculated that Atrios, now unemployed, would take off his mask and he left a comment saying he just might. And he should.

I know we’ve had this debate on anonymity many times over. But I say again that in this new medium that values and demands transparency, openness, and honesty from government, politics, journalism, business, and the academe, it’s hypocritical to hide behind a chicken’s mask of anonymity.

And in this medium whose greatest liability is the conversational terrorism of comment trolls, it’s dangerous to give them cover by demanding cover yourself.

I have much more respect for writers who are willing to put their monikers where their mouths are. I have no respect whatsoever for trolls who snipe and run into their rat holes of anonymity.

The excuses for not revealing your identify are — let’s be honest — rare. If you have the courage of your convictions, then follow the examples of Danziger and Frey. Reveal yourselves.

I can stop anytime, really

I can stop anytime, really

: Fred Wilson reacts to the NY Times story on blogging as an addiction:

The basic gist of the article is that blogging is an addiction and the people who do it are nuts. At least that’s what I took from the piece.

It’s not surprising that the New York Times would take this tack on blogging. I remember when the Internet was new on the scene back in the mid-90s and the New York Times was constantly talking about all the sex fiends trying to pick up kids on the Internet. The idea that there are new forms of media that they don’t understand is inherently terrifying to the people who run the large newspapers. And so their coverage of new forms of media are inherently biased negatively.

And Scoble, the most addicted blogger I know, also responds:

My response? I’m addicted. But let’s compare addictions:

Blogging vs. Illegal Drugs. Drugs are illegal, so you can get thrown in jail. So far blogging has remained legal in the US (if you’re blogging in countries like Iran or China, though, watch out). Drugs make you feel good. Blogging makes me feel good. Drugs eventually reduce your brain size. Blogs make your brain bigger. Drugs make you feel crappy the next day. Blogging doesn’t have a hangover, unless you count all the comments and email that a good blog generates. Drugs cost lots of money and you have to visit substandard neighborhoods to get them. Blogs are free (or almost so).

I found the right answer to my wife as she launched an intervention. I explained that just because the laptop was on my lap, that didn’t mean I was blogging. This is how I read the paper. It’s the same as her sitting on the couch reading a magazine.

It worked.

You’re welcome.

Joi’s love letter

Joi’s love letter

: The AP writes a most admiring feature on Joi Ito.

Democracy sprouts

Democracy sprouts
: Zeyad observes the growing pains of democracy in Iraq:

We had an interesting meeting at the clinic a few days ago. The director asked all employees to her room where we were politely asked to be seated by two people who mentioned that they were from the governorate office, but I suspect they work for the CPA. A middle-aged woman in Hijab and a tall skinny fellow wearing thick glasses.

They were supposed to gather information and our opinions on several issues regarding the future Iraqi government, they were touring hospitals, schools, and clinics to meet with people. I don’t know why but the situation felt rather awkward and funny, apparently I wasn’t the only one because I noticed that everyone else was smiling. They asked us a few questions about democracy, federalism, the form of the government, etc. I also felt that the two people who were lecturing us were in bad need themselves for someone to lecture and explain a couple of things to them. Toward the end of the meeting, the woman in Hijab progressed more and more into fiery talk until it was all reduced to recycled common rhetoric, that was when I started yawning occasionally glancing at my watch. As soon as I heard her mention “Sayyid Sistani (Allah preserve him)”, I began to think that discussion was futile.

It was nice however to watch the other employees talk, the discussion went something like this:

“How do you see the future of Iraq?” the woman asked us.

“There’s no use in anything” our biologist whined morbidly, “Iraqis don’t deserve a democracy. We need a firm ruler to prevent chaos, anything else is useless”.

“Yes, a firm and just leader” the registrar added, “We don’t want any new mass graves”.

“So you are already quite hopeless?” the woman asked them.

My boss was having a hard time trying to conceal her giggles. I was grinning from ear to ear as well.

“Excuse me, but I think what Iraq needs at the moment is martial laws” ,this was one of my colleagues. “Every nation implements martial laws at such times, it might sound violent at first, but there have to be some firm steps taken to put an end to the lawlessness and anarchy”.

“But don’t you think some innocents would also be caught up in it?” the man in glasses asked her.

“Not quite.. ” a medical aide chimed in. “When you catch someone guilty like a looter or a bandit I say HANG HIM on the spot!”. The evident glee in which he pronounced the words ‘hang him’ made me a bit uneasy.

“So what do you think about federalism?”

“No federalism”, “No no”, “Of course not” seemed to echo from all around the room.

“Do you understand what federalism is?” the fellow in glasses asked them, “Do you think it’s a ploy to divide Iraq?” he offered (it looked like that was what he thought).

“Yes yes”, the others replied in unison.

This was where I had to enter the discussion. “Do you actually believe the Kurds are going to agree to anything less than federalism?”, everyone remained silent. “I mean they have been virtually independent for 13 years. Why would they give that up?”. Some of them nodded in agreement.

“Yes, but Dr., they just want to seperate from Iraq” the medical aide said.

“They didn’t say so, even though they have that right. The Kurdish leaders have stated on many occasions that they aren’t interested in seperation, they just don’t want to be second class citizens”. This seemed to have convinced them and they let it go at that.

“So what do you think about the Transitional Adminstrative Law? Is it appropriate for the new Iraq? Has anyone read it?”.

No one had read it of course. I gave them a brief explanation about the rights and freedoms granted by the document, they seemed impressed but they objected to the article stating that two thirds of the population of any three governorates could annul the permanent constitution. Some heated discussion followed and we agreed in the end that the law was temporary and could be modified by a future sovereign government and that overall it was a very progressive constitution, while keeping in mind that constitutions are merely ink on paper and that Iraq had some good constitutions in the past, but that proper enforcement of the constitution was the most important issue.

: And eavesdrop on this conversation reported by blogger Ali about a picture of Sadr hanging in his hospital:

-Now how am I supposed to have my dinner with this person pointing at me!? Do you really think this is a picture that should be put in a cafeteria??

My friend smiled and said,

-Shh, lower your voice! I

The audience is dead. Long live the audience.

The audience is dead. Long live the audience.

: I was listening to Studio 360 this weekend as Kurt Andersen and music blogger and critic Greg Sandow (the music critic I hired at Entertainment Weekly and a blogging colleague of Terry Teachout’s) talked about the iffy present and future of orchestras in America. Various orchestras are trying new programs and new buildings and others are sighing a lot.

And as I ran along (listening on my iPod), I thought that orchestras need to learn the lessons of community from online. Orchestras and others.

Why shouldn’t orchestras go to MeetUp and arrange get-togethers of fans with other like-minded fans (this community of interest can act like a community). Why not friends’ cocktail parties before the concert at the concert hall. And why shouldn’t orchestras start blogs and forums to let the audience know the performers and watch them particularly (Sandow said that one major symphony until not long ago had contracts requiring performers not to smile.

It’s just an extension of the Cluetrain. If markets are conversations, if news is a conversation, if companies should be conversations, if politics is finally starting to be a conversation, why shouldn’t the arts be conversations? If we in media are trying not to call the audience the audience, shouldn’t orchestras also find a new relationship with their audiences? That’s not to say that we can all be violinists. Of course, we can’t. Art — and talent — are a clearer separation than business or journalism or politics. Still, if orchestras want to reinvigorate themselves, perhaps they should start not with themselves but with their audiences.

Just a thought while running.

Can’t do

Can’t do

: I was thinking more about Chris Albritton’s post, linked below, about the difficulties of reporting in Iraq. The one thing I wish he’d done was think from the readers’ perspective and tell us the stories he thinks he should report and would report but, because of security and other difficulties, can’t.

In short: What is the effect of security issues in Iraq on the quality of coverage we are getting?

The New York Times and Washington Post and other major news organizations should write similar messages to their readers. I don’t want to hear about all their problems; I hate stories about not getting the story (“the mean mayor wouldn’t call me back”).

Instead, I want them to honestly tell us what we’re not getting in their coverage of Iraq: How they’re not able to tell us the mood of the street because they dare not venture onto the street, for example.

I’m not suggesting that reporters should take more risks for the story; I was very relieved this week, for example, when three NBC news employees who’d been held hostage were released. But I am suggesting that news organizations be transparent and open with us. They know the stories they should be delivering but can’t and they should tell us that.

: You see, not all communication with readers has to be in the form of post mortems and mea culpas. How much better it would be if a news organization would level with readers as the news and coverage goes on.

But post mortems are better than coverups and it is a new Times that has Dan Okrent dissecting the corpus journalism of WMD coverage:

The Times’s flawed journalism continued in the weeks after the war began, when writers might have broken free from the cloaked government sources who had insinuated themselves and their agendas into the prewar coverage. I use “journalism” rather than “reporting” because reporters do not put stories into the newspaper. Editors make assignments, accept articles for publication, pass them through various editing hands, place them on a schedule, determine where they will appear. Editors are also obliged to assign follow-up pieces when the facts remain mired in partisan quicksand.

The apparent flimsiness of “Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert,” by Judith Miller (April 21, 2003), was no less noticeable than its prominent front-page display; the ensuing sequence of articles on the same subject, when Miller was embedded with a military unit searching for W.M.D., constituted an ongoing minuet of startling assertion followed by understated contradiction. But pinning this on Miller alone is both inaccurate and unfair: in one story on May 4, editors placed the headline “U.S. Experts Find Radioactive Material in Iraq” over a Miller piece even though she wrote, right at the top, that the discovery was very unlikely to be related to weaponry.

The failure was not individual, but institutional.

How much less embarrassing this would be — and how much more respectful to the readers — if it had occurred months ago and not just in print but even in dialogue online.

When Len Apcar, editor of NYTimes.com, was at the first Bloggercon (he didn’t attend the second), he said he doubted the editors of The Times would want to be too transparent about their process. At the time, I’ll admit I pretty much bought that. But I don’t now. What’s the harm of letting your readers, your customers, your public know that you, too, debate and fret about the stories you can’t get or the stories that are resting on the stomach like bad kebabs? What’s wrong with transparency? It beats the hell out of opaqueness — especially for an industry that demands transparency of all others.