Posts from January 17, 2005

Assignment desk: The Iraqi vote

Assignment desk: The Iraqi vote

: Craig Newmark said it well:

Folks, no matter how you feel about the war, people are risking their lives to vote.

If you’re in one of the cities where expat Iraqis are going to register to vote, why not go and talk to them and hear what they say about the vote: report and blog.

Jeff’s List: A job in Jersey

Jeff’s List: A job in Jersey

: There’s a project job opening at my day-job company that may interest one or two of you.

First, though a big, honking, neon caveat: I won’t be replying to your emails and applications. So please don’t think I’m rude. Think I’m disorganized, that’s fine. But not rude. I will merely collect the inquiries and put them in the right place. So please don’t email me followups wondering why I have not replied. And don’t think I’m going to get into a discussion in the comments about it. Cuz I won’t. Think of this is a classified ad. Jeff’s List.

Having now made that warm and inviting introduction, let me tell you about the gig:

Advance Internet, which includes,, and other fine local sites, is about to create a half-dozen town blogs in those markets — new, group blogs (using iUpload) to which any neighbor can contribute. These will live alongside the many individuals’ blogs, local forums, newspaper headlines, blogs outside the services (and their RSS feeds), and more. The idea is that — as in and NorthwestVoices — people may not want to start their own blog but they have plenty of news to contribute to their communities: opinions, news updates, sports reports, photos, calendar items, and so on. The hope is also that once we have a critical mass of content in a town from all these sources, a critical mass of audience is sure to follow. This means, we hope, that we can target ads down to the town level and automate them, saving the cost of sales and production, and price them in such a way that we can serve local advertisers who heretofore could not afford to market in big papers. That, I emphasize is the hope — untested, unproven. Testing that is the job.

This person would work on a project basis for a year running this from both an edit and a business perspective. This person would recruit uberbloggers for towns and help them beat the bushes to find more bloggers. He or she would supervise them and come up with procedures for how they should work. He or she would work with the ad department to create appropriate avails and set up the production means of accepting ads. And he or she would work with marketing department to find inexpensive and efficient ways to get the message out to audience and advertisers.

Interested? Send a persuasive email with experience to the address on the right — with “hyperlocal project” in the subject line, please — and I’ll pass it on. Thanks.

An attack on Christianity

An attack on Christianity

: The Catholic archbishop of Mosul has been kidnapped. The Vatican called it an act of terrorism. I wondered whether they have called the attacks on others there terrorism — they have.

Tag me

Tag me

: Much buzz about Technorati’s cool new tags from David Weinberger, Ross Mayfield, Mary Hodder.

So I’ve been thinking: Why stop at tagging text and photos.

It’s time to tag people.

This comes out of David Galbraith’s one-line bio and out of arguments I’ve made over time that the real future of classifieds is a generation beyond Craig and Monster: It’s a distributed world where resumes and jobs (or men seeking women and women seeking men) live anywhere and they are found and matched by some specialized successor to Google that uses tags (e.g., work status, education, location, languages…. or smoker, nonsmoker, single, divorced, great personality). In that world, in essence, people, ads, and content are all tagged.

This also fits into the discussion below about the ethic of exhibitionism — finding a way to exhibit key facts about our perspective so our public can judge what we say in that context.

So I started to wonder how I’d be tagged. Would I tag myself? Would the crowd tag me? Would a machine (based on my content and the links to it)? Would it be some Frankensteiny combination?

Would tags go to war with each other? Would the Democrats for whom I’m not conservative enough slap the Repubicans for whom I’m too liberal or would it all average out to centrist?

Would the tagee have the right to modify tags (like a credit report) or would that be self-promotion?

In the end, it needs to be a way for people to find people as well as content and comment and communities.

So how would I tag myself? Here’s a try: media man… blog boy… tall… fast-talking… parent… Howard Stern… Entertainment Weekly… TV Guide… New York… New Jersey… Iraq… Iran… FCC… centrist… shaky Congregationalist… exploding TV…

I would ask how you’d tag me. But I don’t have the guts. So how would you tag yourself?

: Note also how Micah Sifry is adding tags (instead of categories) to his posts using brother Dave Sifry’s new tagging convention.

I want a plug-in that lets me add tags to posts as easily as I add the less flexible categories. Better yet, I’d love a smart plug-in tied into a network of Technorati/Flickr tags that suggests tags to me.

The Committee to Protect Bloggers

The Committee to Protect Bloggers

: Sadly, a Committee to Protect Bloggers is an idea whose time has come, given what is happening to our colleague bloggers in Iran, China, and elsewhere. Its goals:

: We are concerned primarily, though not exclusively, with the well-being of the bloggers themselves. Press freedom is extremely valuable and will be agitated for, but our primary concern is keeping bloggers alive and free.

: We are concerned for them as bloggers, even if some are also journalists or activists.

: We are a group of bloggers, communicating via blogs, about other bloggers. We have some understanding of our fellows that other groups, no matter how well-meaning, cannot. We also have immediate access to the communications power of the blogosphere.

I know nothing about who’s behind this; heard about it on Global Voices; eager to hear more.

Economics and change in news II — Questions

Economics and change in news II — Questions

: This is the second of two posts (the first is below) with my prep notes for a session I’m emceeing at this week’s Harvard conference on economic pressures on the news business. This is a list of broad strategic questions for the news business raised by the issues listed in the post below.

If you can bear more blather from me on the future of media, here’s a Q&A at Corante and a presentation I made at the Aspen Institute.

As with the post below, please add more questions and issues about journalism and blogging in this new era. Thanks.

Strategic questions

: In an era of consumer control, how do we give control to our consumers? How do we give up control ourselves, when that is antithetical to newsroom culture? How do we make news a conversation? A partnership? We must start by listening instead of lecturing.

: In age of transparency, how do we become fully transparent to regain our credibility and trust? Let’s reveal our full interviews (see Jay Rosen’s and my posts). Let’s reveal our process, our news judgment, the backgrounds and perspectives (and voting records) of reporters and editors. At the Aspen Institute discussion of transparency, some said we should be judged by our product, not our process. I say we need to be judged by both.

: The internet creates new relationships. What is our relationship with our public? What should it be? How do we change it? How do we increase the respect we give to the public (and the public to us)? How do we regain the humility and humanity of journalism, taking us down off the pedestals we built so we can report the news eye-to-eye? How do we tear down the walls of the newsroom to build familiarity? How can we bring reporters and the public in direct contact (e.g., MeetUps)? Can we still stand at the center of the public square (where blogger Hugh MacLeod says we should think of products not as a “thing” but as a “place” — a community).

: How do we serve a mass of niches instead of the mass audience? How do we afford to do that? How do we assure we do not ghettoize and marginalize those publics?

: How can we take advantage of this diverse new medium to enhance the diversity of our own news products and organizations?

: Are we in the news media — along with leaders in politics — dividing the nation into red and blue when, instead, we should be building bridges?

: In this new, distributed world — where the value of the marketplace and distribution is diminished, where the internet is the network no one owns — how do we take advantage of the distribution our audience can bring us? Shouldn’t we find ways to encourage P2P distribution? Shouldn’t we consider copyright (creative commons) licensing that allows the audience to do this? Would we not benefit from the added distribution, branding, and marketing? Can we give up that much control?

On citizens’ media

: How do we use citizens to help us get news, information, and diverse viewpoints? We cannot afford to grow our newsrooms. We should gather news from citizens who can now report it thanks to new tools for gathering news (e.g., cameraphones) and distributing it (weblogs). What issues of vetting and credibility does this raise? (See hyperlocal citizens’ media projects:, NorthwestVoices, Backfence.)

: How can we enable the growth of citizens’ media (after agreeing that’s both a good and inevitable fate)?

> How can we — journalists and journalism educators — train citizen journalists in the standards of professionalism (and how they can train us in openness)?

> How can we promote them and highlight their coverage?

> How can we underwrite them? Should we create ad networks (which also increase our reach)? Once we find this can be profitable, we should not exploit them only for our benefit.

> Shouldn’t we push to afford citizen journalists the protections and rights journalists have (helping to defend them in appropriate libel cases, making sure they get shield protection, getting them access and credentials)? To exclude them from these protections and privileges sets precedents that are dangerous for professional journalists as well.

On change and training

: We should train the public to judge the news differently, to become:

> Skeptical of the first reports (the fog of war).

> Adept at judging news according to the perspective of its source (reporter, bloggers, newsmakers).

> Adept at judging news from us (and helping us correct it; see Rather).

: How do we break newsrooms out of the ego of the container and serve news to citizens wherever and however they want it served (online, via mobile, via search, via RSS, via audio or video, via blogs)? [It isn’t easy!]

: We need to retrain newsrooms in multimedia and interactivity. How should news organizations and colleges do that?

Financial questions

: How do we continue to financially support quality newsgathering? How do we find new efficiencies? How do we maintain quality? [Cue Dan Gillmor on news industry margins.]

: How do we deemphasize — and spend less resource on — commodity news the audience already knows so we can concentrate on what we do best and our greatest value: reporting, local news, and so on?

: Can we consolidate but maintain localness and quality and responsiveness?

On perspective

: How do we incorporate commentary and reporting?

: Can we regain the brave voice of journalism?

Economics and change in news I — Financial pressures on news

Economics and change in news I — Financial pressures on news

: At this week’s Harvard conference on journalism, citizens’ media, and credibilty, I’m emceeing, Oprahlike, a session on economic pressures on news and the issues that result. The official word from the conference is “ethics” but I’m not convinced that’s quite the right word. Here are some notes in preparation. This first post wants to be a catalogue of the economic pressures on the news business brought on by the internet, citizens’ media, issues of credibility, and more. I don’t plan to discuss this much, but I thought it was important to start with this background and perspective. As I said to someone about their company lately, “You need a chief reality officer.” This is an attempt to issue an economic reality check. Please add in more factors — or correct the ones I have here — in the comments. The second part of these notes, on the strategic and ethical issues all this raises — is the next post, above.

Strategic issues

: Thanks to the internet – and the consumer control and choice it enables – the mass market is dying, replaced by a mass of niches. See The Massless Mediain this month’s Atlantic (it’s not online; I’ll post quotes soon). See my First Law of Media: Give the people control of media, they will use it. The corollary: Don’t give the people control of media, and you will lose.

: All established news media face strong new competition for audience, attention, and ad dollars from the internet, cable, satellite radio and TV, and games.

: All established news media face growing competition for stories and attention from new sources of news, led by citizens’ media. These new competitors can serve niche markets large media cannot serve.

: The value of controlling distribution – printing presses, broadcast towers, cables – is torn apart by the internet. The internet is the network no one owns.

: Thus