Posts about creditcrunch

Winners and losers in crisis coverage

NPR’s Planet Money podcast and blog is just great, almost as good as Adam Davidson’s and Alex Blumberg’s shows explaining our mess on This American Life. They’re now doing it daily. Highly recommended. (This American Life has another episode with more on the crisis but I can’t listen to it on my iPod until Monday because, presumably, they want people to happen to be near a radio when it happens to be on a local station. That’s no way to treat urgent news, folks.)

The latest episode of the amazing Peter Day’s In Business on BBC4 was also a special edition, recorded life (and podcast immediately). I wish they’d have him doing it daily now, too.

It strikes me that cable news is caught empty-handed in this crisis. They just don’t know how to cover a story like this – a story with depth. They know how to repeat over and over that the storm is coming or that the white girl is missing or that the politicians are sniping. But they don’t know how to understand and get us to understand as NPR and BBC4 are doing. They also can’t adapt to covering another story just as their favorite story, the horserace, is loping toward the finish line. Cable news is a big loser in the financial crisis.

The Wall Street Journal is a natural winner but now I wonder whether its strategy of breaking out past business news might be a loser. I never buy the physical Journal but I am now because other news outlets – notably TV – are giving me too little.

The Times is doing a decent job. I’m going to international sources – my Guardian, the Telegraph, the other Times, German sites I try to understand – to get more perspective. But so far, the winner in keeping me up to date is NPR because it fearlessly broke its own formats. This American Life is the last show that you’d think would be great at explaining complex news – until they do it. Radio should be the last medium at letting us get depth when we need it – until they start a podcast and blog.

If only I could buy shares in NPR.

We’re history

The Museum of Financial History is selling bear stickpins for $60. I think I’ll buy one and just keep sticking myself with it. In more flush times (a week ago) I might have been tempted by this money doily for $800 but soon, money will come on rolls.

Shop before we drop

I bought Apple stock today (and, of course, dark touch that I have, it immediately went down a dollar). I figure it’s the patriotic thing to do. George Bush told us to go shopping after 9/11. Now it’s time to call the broker. (I called mine and, boy, did he sound depressed.)

Replacing the article

Matt Thompson creates one part of what I suggested the other day should be the new fundamental unit of news coverage, replacing the article.

MoneyMeltDown is a well-curated aggregation of links to the best coverage.

To recap, I think the new unit of coverage needs to include:

1. Curated aggreagtion. Do what you do best, link to the rest. Here’s the best of the rest. See: MoneyMeltDown.

2. A blog that treats the story as a process, not a product, with continuing coverage and conversation, asking and answering questions, giving updates, filling in gaps: a reporter showing her work. Have you seen a good example? CalculatedRisk is more of an annotated aggregation and that’s valuable but I think it fits better in No. 1 above. The Christian Science Monitor credit crisis blog looks more like a collection of articles. From an industry perspective, the Inman blog is another annotated aggregation. Can anyone point me to a reporter or expert who is using a blog to both report and discover?

3. A wiki that give us a snapshot of current knowledge. Where else would we find that but Wikipedia?

4. Discussion. Where do you think the best – most intelligent and illuminating – discussion is going on?

The rise of the third estate

No one’s in charge. I didn’t think that’d be worse than having the bozos we had in charge. But it is.

You’d think the one thing our politicians would be competent at is politics. But they couldn’t even count votes.

We knew the White House was a vacuum. Congress is a vacuum. Wall Street is lie. Detroit and the era it represents is dust. Journalism is sinking like a wet witch.

Who’s in charge? It’s falling to us, the people. We’re in charge. Problem is, we’re not ready. We’ve used the internet so far to organize some knowledge and yell at each other. We are just beginning to create the tools to organize ourselves. If only the meltdown of every authority structure could have waited a few years. Then again, necessity is the mother of organization. New structures don’t replace old structures while they’re still in place. New structures fill voids. And, boy, do we have some voids to fill.

Two paragraphs from the end of my book:

Whatever causes they take up, Generation G will be able to organize without organizations, as Clay Shirky wrote in Here Comes Everybody. That ability to coalesce will have a profound destabilizing impact on organizations. We can organize bypassing governments, borders, political parties, companies, academic institutions, religious groups, and ethnic groups, inevitably reducing their power and hold on our lives. In an essay in Foreign Affairs in 2008, Richard Haass argued that the world structure is moving from bi- and unipolarity (i.e., the Cold War and its aftermath) to nonpolarity (i.e., no one’s in charge). We are in an open marketplace of influence. Google makes it possible to broadcast our interests and find, organize, and act in concert with others. One need no longer control institutions to control agendas.

Haass chronicles the dilution of governments. Bloggers Umair Haque and Fred Wilson have written about the fall of the firm, and earlier I examined the idea that networks are becoming more efficient than corporations. In my blog, I follow the crumbling of the power of the fourth estate, the press. One could debate the stature and power of the first estate, the church. What’s left? The internet is fueling the rise of the third estate—the rise of the people. That might bode anarchy except that the internet also brings the power to organize.

Our organization is ad hoc. We can find and take action with people of like interest, need, opinion, taste, background, and worldview anywhere in the world. I hope this could lead to a new growth in individual leadership: Online, you can accomplish what you want alone and you can gather a group to collaborate. Being out of power need not be an excuse or a bar from seeking power. That may encourage more involvement in communities and nations—witness the youth armies that gathered in Facebook around Barack Obama, a powerful lesson for a generation to have learned.

But in the pinch and crunch, we still haven’t managed to elect candidates truly of the people: the first politician to emerge from the web. We haven’t created financial networks of scale; is cute but it’s not the next BofA. We are only beginning to organize the new infrastructure of information and news; Wikipedia and Digg are fast and big but shallow.

I’m reminded of Bob Garfield’s chaos scenario for advertising, in which he argued that the old media world would crumble before the new media world was ready for marketers and advertising dollars would fall into the crevice between. That is what is happening with our political and financial and industrial and journalistic leadership. The old is crumbling fast — and angry voters yesterday helped push it over the cliff. But what now?