Posts from May 11, 2005

Blogvision

Blogvision

: Jon Stewart lampoons the blog segments on cable news (Crooks & Liars has the video) and, as always, he’s right. There’s plenty to make fun of:

Wow. By reading the blogs on TV, the 24-hour cable channels have combined the visual pizzazz of a text file with the deep insight of a 90-second cable segment.

And about the blogcasts I’m so proud of (and I’m not sure what to think about them showing Ed Cone instead of me… jealousy or relief):

Wow. That’s the same cutting-edge technology that powers VoyeurDorm.com.

And on giving their show hosts blogs:

Kudos to MSNBC for finally using blogs to give voice to the already-voiced.

Can’t argue with any of it. Can only laugh.

So why are the cable news networks embracing the blogs? Rob Corddry says it’s because of terror of this new animal in the jungle…. and besides, those CNN blog chicks are hot. (Well, he thinks they are.)

But seriously, folks… If you’re going to try to jump on the — Stewart wink — blogwagon, how should you do it? Should you do it?

CNN has the chicks reading the geeks. MSNBC started by having bloggers actually on the air and I thought that was good (being one of them). Last week, they switched format, it seems, to have producer and nice guy Tony Maciulis do the reports: He’s good at it. Everybody’s reading text off a screen and, yes, it does make for a straight line.

So what’s the point? Well, sure, TV wants to get the geek-cool ruboff of this blog thing. But I think it’s good that they’re also promoting these new voices: The more the better. Have they found the right way to do it? Not yet.

MSNBC has talked about having a blog reporter and then having bloggers on to have actual opinions. I think may end up being a good way to go.

This week, MSNBC’s Connected had me on not do the blog report — I’ll miss that question: ‘What’s happening in the blogosphere, BlogDaddy?’ — but instead to have actual opinions about the news media and the internet.

I think we’ll end up with a hybrid: Blog reports do give a fresh breeze of vox pop on the air. Bloggers as guests get to bring new perspectives and voices to TV (and radio and print). And what I still want to see is citizens creating their own reports and commentary — vlogs, podcasts, whatever — and getting those on the air.

: Ed Cone comments here… without the cam.

How to speak

How to speak

: Kit Seelye reports Harvard’s Nieman Center is teaching the Chinese government how to deal with the press and this caused burps among Neiman alums appalled at the notion of working for a repressive regime. If they’re teaching the Chinese how to spin, that’s bad. If they’re teaching them that transparency must come even to China, that’s good.

Free speech is free speech

Free speech is free speech

: The Center for Creative Voices and I are allies in the fight against censorship and government regulation of speech but we part over government regulation of the business of media. Creative Voices just released its media bill of rights. We agree at the start:

A free and vibrant media, full of diverse and competing voices, is the lifeblood of Americaís democracy and culture, as well as an engine of growth for its economy.

They believe that corporate consolidation is ruining that. I believe that the internet is solving that and corporate consolidation is about the dinosaurs huddling together for warmth as their ice age approaches. I believe the market and technology are giving us incredible control and diversity.

At Freedom to Connect, Susan Crawford told us that we should not ask for regulation where we want it or we will get it where we don’t want it: Witness the PBS kerfluffle.

Creative Voices wants regulation on ownership of media — of the press, regulation on diversity of hiring in media; regulation mandating content on the airwaves:

Electoral and civic, childrenís, educational, independently produced, local and community programming, as well as programming that serves Americans with disabilities and underserved communities.

Media that reflect the presence and voices of people of color, women, labor, immigrants, Americans with disabilities, and other communities often underrepresented.

But if you ask for that kind of regulation to give you the programming you think the world should have, you open the door to regulation to give the other side the programming they think the world should have. You want shows about people of color and women and immigrants. They want shows with God and no sex.

The only answer is the First Amendment as it applies to speech, content, regulation, and ownership:

Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…

(And, yes, I now believe this holds for political speech as well.)

: CORRECTION: Jon Rintels, head of Creative Voices, corrects me in the comments: Creative Voices signed the bill of rights with others and did not release it on its own. He urges you to read the bill. So do I. We disagree about some things and agree about others so have at it.

Is Google the next AOL?

Is Google the next AOL?

: Fred Wilson doesn’t quite say that — or even ask that — in his good post contemplating the state of Google. So I’ll ask it: Could Google pull an AOL?

Perhaps not. They don’t charge. They don’t have horrible customer service people putting you on hold. They didn’t ruin my f-you money Time Warner stock (sorry, that’s my problem, not yours). But it’s raining on the honeymoon.

It is the peril of size: You grow too big. You separate yourself from your public. Happened to Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, journalism, GM, Walmart…. How big is too big? If you have to ask, it’s probably too late.

Mind you, all those companies are huge and successful (mostly). But they’re not beloved anymore.

But nevermind that emotional view of things. Who needs to be loved when you’re rich?

The better analysis is to ask where Google is vulnerable, where newcomers can play the mouse to Google’s elephant (or, as Fred says, Joe to Starbucks). I think there are opportunities to create better specialized searches (jobs, blogs, multimedia, local, cars, homes….), better ad networks (with more and better data and higher value for marketers and publishers), and so on.

I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again: I love Google and what it has done organizing the world’s information and valuing links and taking the cooties off of citizens’ media and changing the culture. But is it time to start fearing Google (with its caching and its opaque ad policy and its opaque news policy) or mock Google (as Fred does, for reverting to banner ads)? Just asking.

The better question may be: Is it time to start competing with Google? Just wondering.

Go read Fred’s post and contemplate the future of Google … and the world –aren’t they the same already? (Just joking.)

: UPDATE: John Battelle, who wrote the (upcoming) book on Google, adds:

It’s hard to be the de factor leader in the tech/media space, and Google is clearly not entirely prepped for the role, at least not yet. But given its success and its stock price, it has no choice. We’re expecting the company to act how we want it to act. The problem, of course, is that we all have different expectations, and we all think we’re right about what the company should do next.

The only thing a company can do in such a spot, it seems to me, is lead. Lead on issues of policy, transparency, open APIs, IP/DRM, and the like. How to do that? Have a clear and consistent voice and vision about where you think the web is going, and what kind of web you want to see built. That requires a confidence and certainty, characteristics which I sense exist in spades at the company, but have not really come out in a full throated way. There seems to be a lot of reacting going on at this moment – reactions to critics, to competitors, to PR flare ups.

It’s scary to lead, to declare where you are going and then head there. It’s even scarier to admit that as a leader you’ve made a mistake. But that’s what we expect of our leaders – that they head somewhere, so we can either follow, or plot our next move to outsmart them and take their place. For now, it seems Google is a reluctant leader – it does not want to declare where it’s going, or what it’s plans are when it gets there. That’s causing consternation and second guessing like Fred and Jeff and Dan’s posts.

: Roger L. Simon joins in and finds a good excuse to plug Pamama Media as an ad alternative.

Exploding TV: one-man bands

Exploding TV: one-man bands

: Lost Remote reports that KRON-TV in San Francisco is the first major market news operation to switch to one-person TV crews (following some local cable news operations). The Remoters then wonder about what the audience will think of less-than-perfect video. A few observations:

: As audiences shrink, the way to maintain profitability — for now — will be to cut costs. Expect to see a lot more of this.

: I believe the audience cares more about a good story than a rock-steady camera. I’ve told the story already how I tried to convince a FoxNews exec that webcams would come to cable news and he got all huffy about backhaul quality and all that… and then I started broadcasting via webcam on MSNBC and they love it. It’s real, they said, it’s immediate. Rougher video will turn from being an economic move to a news fad.

: At one of the Harvard confabs, podcasters said that NPR gets obsessive about audio quality and that’s a way to keep the people off the airwaves. The same is true of TV — and, for that matter, print journalism: It’s overcomplicated to keep the club closed and exclusive. But we all know how easy it is to write and publish if you have something to say. It’s getting just as easy to broadcast and distribute.

: I’ll be we’ll quickly see local TV news — and radio and newspapers — follow the leads of Current.TV, blogcasts on MSNBC, YOURadio, and the podcast show on Sirius: You’ll see just folks recording and reporting in any medium.

You tell ’em, Bernie

You tell ’em, Bernie

: Bernie Sanders — the independent congressman who fought the good fight for free speech on Maher’s show the other night — writes more on the cause:

Since his inauguration address, President Bush and his right-wing colleagues in Congress have launched a full-scale effort to limit and control the programming Americans are able to see and hear over the airwaves and the Internet. In short, theyíre going after your computer, your radio and your remote control.

I wish it were only the right-wing. But it’s not. [via SpeakSpeak]

: SpeakSpeak also sends us to a CafePress store with clever T-shirts — “Shut the FCC up!” — to support Creative Voices.

Stung

Stung

: A few weeks ago, I slapped down a journalism student who tried to sting Gawker with a false report. I said this violated the prime directive of journalism: Tell the truth. Don’t lie.

Now that the Spokane Spokesman-Review has stung the town’s mayor with someone acting like a studlette online to entrap the politiican. And Editor & Publisher asked a lot of newspapaper editors whether they approve of such deception. They don’t.

In this age of transparency, acting like someone you’re not and lying is not the way to get the news.

Imagine if every blogger out there tried to run a sting operation on anyone else and published it on the internet. It’s wrong and it’s dangerous.

Is it ever OK to be less than transparent at every stage? Sure. A restaurant critic doesn’t reveal her identity when making a reservation. A consumer reporter can report an experience as a consumer without wearing a press badge. I don’t tell everyone that I’m going to blog what I blog.

In a legendary investigation by the Sun-Times in Chicago, reporters opened a bar called the Mirage and waited for city officials to demand bribes, which they did, of course. What’s the difference between that and what the Spokane sting? Well, the Mirage really was a bar, with real booze and real drunks. Is it different from what Spokane did? I’m still not sure. If they’d merely recorded everything that happened at someone else’s bar, would that have been different?

The lines get a bit fuzzy. But I do believe that entrapment, deception, and lying are not the best ways to get the news.

: UPDATE: Len Witt, subbing on PressThink, has an IM interview with Spokesman-Review Editor Steve Smith:

Witt: Okay. So letís put the journalists and ethicists aside for a moment. Do you think a story like this, and the way you did it, builds or hurts the publicís trust in the media?

Smith: Based on what we’re hearing from readers, it has built trust in our readers and Spokane citizens. They know what we wrote is true. Feedback is running 10- maybe 15-1 in our favor and those who don’t like what we did rarely reference the computer expert.

I think our credibility with journalists is hurt. But I think this may be a sign of how disconnected some editors are from the sensibilities of citizens who want their newspapers to watchdog government and do it aggressively.

Let me add quickly. I think the knee jerk reaction of journalists is “we don’t lie.” I agree. But all of our ethics codes, SPJ for example, and even the Poynter’s ethics specialists, allow for exceptions when there is no other way to get the info and the story is important enough. The feds are going after our mayor on official corruption charges as a result of our work.