Posts from January 21, 2005

Harvard: the econ session

Harvard: the econ session

: The session I’m Oprahing is up in an hour or so. I’m going to start not by blathering (because I do that all the time) but by asking the assembled smart folks how we can and should change journalism and the journalism business. Links to my prep documents, as background:

1. The economic pressure on the news business.

2. Strategic questions about changing the news business.

3. The ethics imputed in the community of citizens’ journalism and institutional journalism.

Michael Powell out

Michael Powell out

: Michael Powell is resigning as FCC chairman.

I fear that the future will be only worse. As critical as I have been — justifiably — of Powell, I know that in his soul of souls, Powell understands the value of the First Amendment. His successor may not. I fear that the White House and Congress — from, yes, both parties — will only amplify the looney voice of a few who would continue to limit our free speech on our airwaves.

Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s assessment of his tenure.

: I just did a quickie interview on ABC Radio New on Powell.

: Just got email from Jon Bonne at MSNBCi (four chairs to my left):

isn’t it amazing that the Powell news broke on the WSJ ed page? the WSJ ed page folks are certainly intrepid journalists in their own right, but i interpret this as a signal from the Bush corps that breaking news can easily be routed around the newsroom and straight to their fellow ideological counterparts. not quite as much as breaking it on a blog, but this has a very different (though not entirely so) resonance as the Juanita Broaddrick episode.

Harvard starts

Harvard starts

: I’ll be blogging the confab as long as my sanity holds out.

: Alex Jones says that one (unfortunate) lesson that mainstream journalism can teach blogging is that credibility is fragile and mainstream journalism has lost too much of it in recent years.

: Jay Rosen is presenting his paper. He said the “war should be over between bloggers and journalists, the cartoon dialogue… Even though it makes for good feature stories and great blog posts, bloggers vs. journalists doesn’t help us much.” He said the tension between them will go on and its necessary and inevitable. But the tsunami story makes it “obvious that blogs have a role in journalism.”

Dave Winer said this morning that I was Jay’s Frankenstein. Jay said it’s the opposite. Jay’s right. He has made me think about media (read: my life) in new ways.

After summarizing his paper, he quotes Rebecca Blood saying that part of the reason for conflict is that blogging and journalism are in a “shared media space.” That is the reason the war is over because no one is leaving that space.

Jay is making a point he made on Brian Lehrer’s show a few weeks ago: that this not about the “media” but about the “press” and the press is now owned by the people. That is the real shift of power. “They have to share the press with the public.”

Isn’t that precisely the problem with CBS? Dan et al could not bear to share the press with the public. But the public demanded it. The public won that battle.

Jay says that journalists have been slow to recognize the debt they owe blogging and that is because this new medium — this new press — was not developed by them. The people who understand this new press — the ethic of the link, the art of conversation — are bloggers.

Jay recalls his first Bloggercon when Len Apcar, editor of NY Times digital, said that in 2002 a majority of NY Times readers are online yet even today a majority of the journalists at The Times think they work for the print product. “Actually, they’re working for an online newspaper that has a print edition.” Great line.

: Winer responds. He says there was never a war. “It’s hard to say we’re against anything.” He says we’re zealots, we’re optimists. What unites us, “the bond we share,” is our passion.

He says the boundaries are not easy to find anymore.

Exactly. It’s not us and them. That is what I said in my print days: An editor must believe he or she is part of the public the publication serves. If you separate yourself from that public, you fail.

Dave also says that too many of the stories in the press have been about bloggers vs. journalists and because journalists do — wrongly or rightly — feel threatened by bloggers, then when they write those stories, they are engaging in a conflict of interest.

I said that I agreed that there was no war and a war is destructive. But the tension is also beneficial: Each pushes both to be better. We shouldn’t just hug and call it over quite yet. We need to improve each other.

Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet and American Life Project — whose research on the size of this is invaluable to the medium — says the change is happening faster than we know.

: Jan Schaffer says we should be concentrating on how to serve the public: It’s not a platform question but a design question.

: John Hinderaker of Powerline puts in a plug for objectivity. It’s what he expects from The New York Times (but not of his Powerline, of course). He said the problem with the NY Times, CBS News, et al is that they lack “diversity” — that is, they’re liberals.

I don’t think that adding token conservatives to liberal publications is the answer.

The way to get diversity is for the entirety of media to find diversity and balance.

That is what is new: In the past, you had a one-size-fits-all, one-newspaper town. Now you have access to all the media of the world. That is what brings you diversity.

: I said I was having a flashback to the ’70s — and that’s not cool, maaaan — to my least favorite class in journalism school: the seminar about objectivity. ARRRGHHHH! Can’t we drop this boring argument? Jon Bonne of MSNBCi says he hates the argument. Jay Rosen whispers next to me, “not as much as I do.”

: I made a crack about Hinderaker as a Republican talking about hiring and diversity and he didn’t crack a smile. Oh, well, I thought it was funny. But then, nobody cracked a smile at my crack about my ’70s flashback, either. Tough crowd, man. Anybody here from out of town?

: Dan Gillmor says the public will have to do a lot more work to get the news; it won’t just land on their doorstep; we need tools to help them with this.

: While on the hit parade of old arguments, we got the argument that bloggers are an echo chamber seeking only their own views. I said that’s a red herring. We link to that with which we disagree.

Lee Rainie said that Pew found that the 15-20 percent of adult Americans (online or not) who eagerly seek news and information are more informed about views other than their own.

: Jay at the close says Bill Buzenberg of Minn. Public Radio raised a most important point when he said his reporters are learning that the audience knows things. Jay said journalism used to be thought of as a service to tell people who didn’t know something something. Now it’s about turning into finding out what they know and getting that back to them.

“The quality of your information is deeply related to the quality of your connection to the people you are trying inform,” Jay says. Amen.

: Jonathan Zittrain of Berkman sums up. He is thinking about law and how the members of its power system, the lawyers, are there to challenge the system (on behalf of their clients and stands). But law has become mean.

It makes us wonder whether journalists should be better at thinking it is their job to challenge their system.

He also says that the law is not challenged by amatuers but journalism is.

He says that journalism, like the law, is “really ill right now.” He says it is not setting the agenda. It is not speaking the truth.

He says that for lawyers, arriving at the truth is an adversarial system. “The person with two watches is less sure of what time it is than the person who has one.” In blogs, he says, there are thousands of watches.

: Hoder says in the IRC:

- Journalists can only report things.

- Scholars can only study things.

- Bloggers do things.

Don’t know yet whether I agree but it’s interesting that bloggers are usually accused of just sitting there commenting. But, indeed, bloggers do swarm together to accomplish things. Maybe I do agree.

: AFTERNOON…

: Jill Abramson, an editor at the NY Times, and Dave Winer, get kerfluffling together and I can’t summarize it well. But I entered in when she went on about the expense of keeping journalists in Iraq — which is true and for which we are grateful. But I started telling the story of Zeyad taking his camera to cover an antiterrorism demonstration last December that The Times didn’t cover. As soon as I mention it, Abramson starts shaking her head and looking away.

: Abramson said that it is “completely contrary” to the histyry and standards of The Times to run content that they do not vet.

: David Weinberger made great suggestions for things he wants. He wants to see the comments people make on Times stories. He wants to see the metadata around stories. He wants to see drafts online.

: Rick Kaplan, the head of MSNBC — the biggest blogsmart media outlet there is — says he and his colleagues in journalism celebrate the growth of blogs and believe that the excitement blogs are stirring up will save news.

: Jimbo Wales, founder of Wikipedia, says that a few years ago, nobody could have predicted that a bunch of unpaid citizens could replace the Encyclopedia Brittanica with its budget of $350 million but it happened. He said that the business model of The New York Times is not sustainable. Abramson shudders, of course. Kaplan said Wales doesn’t know what he’s talking about; he has not been in a place like Baghdad and does not know the dififculty of getting information there and does not know how the existing system can be replaced.

:Hinderaker goes back to Bill Mitchell’s question from his presentation, in which he asked what tool we need to help build trust. Hinderaker says it would help to show us the material behind the story. The attitude bloggers have is — via the link: “See for yourself. Don’t take our word for it.”

: Chris Lydon gives us his best Emerson quote ever: “Do not destroy the mass media but liberate the individual from the mass.”

Free the bloggers

Free the bloggers

: The Committee to Protect Bloggers announces its first campaign to free two bloggers in prison in Iran. Read the details. Spread the word.

Sponge-bashing

Sponge-bashing

: I love it when religious nutjobs reveal themselves to be … religious nutjobs.

Today’s lesson from the gospel according to the looney is that SpongeBob is trying to seduce young people into the evils of homosexuality. An LA Times editorial summarizes the sermon:

Here’s how we learned about SpongeBob.

“Does anyone here know SpongeBob?” Dr. James Dobson asked darkly, addressing a black-tie audience at one of Tuesday’s inaugural events. Dobson is the founder of Focus on the Family, one of the nation’s most outspoken conservative Christian groups. SpongeBob holds hands with his starfish pal Patrick, and likes to watch the imaginary television show “The Adventures of Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy.” Evidence enough, to Dobson at any rate, that the guy’s a menace.

SpongeBob’s rep is that he’s a nice guy

Media on media

Media on media

: The Wall Street Journal talks to lots of bloggers leading up to today’s Harvard confab.