Posts about News

Losing control of media

NBC News says they will not make the videos from the Virginia mass murderer fully public and this morning on Today, Matt Lauer promised that they would not constantly loop them on the air. NBC News President Steve Capus just said on the air that “it’s so twisted” and “there’s no way to watch it without being extremely disturbed.” There’s a debate going on in blogs about whether the tapes should be released online. Dave Winer and Doc Searls say that the video should be released: “It’s 2007,” says Dave, “and it’s a decentralized world. We should all get a chance to see what’s on those videos.” But Micah Sifry says the father in him doesn’t want his kids discovering this on the internet.

As a father, I understand Micah’s wish. But that horse is out of that barn. This is related to yesterday’s discussion about news coming from witnesses, live, to the internet without the opportunity to filter it.

The essential infrastructure of news and media has changed forever: There is no control point anymore. When anyone and everyone — witnesses, criminals, victims, commenters, officials, and journalists — can publish and broadcast as events happen, there is no longer any guarantee that news and society itself can be filtered, packaged, edited, sanitized, polished, secured.

Like it or not, that’s the way it is. But before we start wringing our hands over the unique, one-in-a-billion exception to all rules — the mass murderer with a camera — let’s make sure we remember that this openness is a great and good change. It enables us all have a voice and to hear new voices.

And let’s not presume that we all need NBC or anyone to protect us from life as it is. But we do need to make sure to educate our children to be media-wise in a new media world. They will need to judge who the bad people are in life just as they will online. They need to understand that media is no longer a pasteurized and packaged version of life but life itself, witih all its benefits and dangers.

And though I don’t want to watch the murderer’s videos myself, I do think there may be a benefit to these tapes being out there: The guy was clearly insane and dangerous and what’s most shocking about this story is that people around him knew it and tried to both get him help and stop him from doing something dangerous and yet our laws even prevented his parents from being notified because of overzealous laws governing privacy. Perhaps this will motivate us to change those laws and our attitude about insanity and its dangers. That may be an advantage of the public life.

This is not an easy transition. It challenges so many assumptions we have about a controlled media. Some of us celebrate the loss of control but others fear that loss.

Davos07: Gates, Wolfowitz, and the world

Next session is on scaling innovation in foreign aid with Bill Gates, Paul Wolfowitz, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman president elected in Africa, Bill Easterly ex of the World Bank, and Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, as moderator.

Gates says that the amount spent on invested in foreign aid over the last n years is equivalent to the amount invested by venture capital: about $500 billion. He talks about aid and charity from the perspective of investment. He says that that saved about 100 million lives and that works out to $23,000 per life. Is that a lot? We spend a lot more to save lives in the West, he says. He also says that revolutions save lives.

Wolfowitz says the VC model works in some areas but not others. He says a small percentage of that U.S. aid went to Mobutu in Zaire and did more than just failed as an investment; it destroyed the country. But education is an example of strong investment; he points to South Korea. He also says the best-practices of good use of aid is consistent with the VC model. Wolfowitz says there is good news in Africa that doesn’t make news: a third of countries with a third of the population growing economically at 4 percent a year, a rate Europe would envy. Zakaria adds that that’s because in part of of high commodity prices.

Easterly says that when VC companies screw up, they die. Aid agencies don’t die. He goes on to criticize aid effort.

Gates gives a wonderfully passionate screed against that, arguing that it is wrong to judge aid based on GDP. Saving lives may not raise GDP but Gates says that saving lives in itself is of value. Asked about a Foreign Affairs story that warned of attention going heavily to sexy diseases, Gates says he is delighted that these diseases have become sexy.

National crocodile tears

I’m sorry, but it’s absolutely ridiculous that financial markets and government services are being shut down in observance of Gerald Ford’s funeral. What, our mailmen and stockbrokers and garbagemen are all off crying over Ford? It’s a waste.

All Iraq, all the time

Eason Jordan, former president of CNN, has opened the curtains on his new venture, IraqSlogger. His description:

What’s the goal of IraqSlogger?
To be the world’s premier Iraq-focused information source. To provide original, exclusive reporting and analysis as well as links to, and critiques of, third party reporting and commentary. To be engaging, distinctive, candid. To provide stories and perspectives you cannot find elsewhere. On rare occasion, we’ll even provide humor. . . .

Who produces IraqSlogger?
The founding team includes Eason Jordan, Robert Young Pelton, Nir Rosen, Zeyad, Amer Mohsen, Anna Shen, and Christina Davidson. Our contributors include 50 Iraq-based correspondents, experts, and tipsters; and reporters and Iraq analysts in the U.S. and elsewhere.

It’s already an impressive resource. One might wonder how many people want more news about Iraq but right now, we need it.

Giving the President the thumb

BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson uses his Blackberry to liveblog a presidential press conference — about getting the presidential evil eye there — and Robin Hamman gives the backstory.

Reason No. 479 not to fly

Radioactive jets.

Blogging BBC exec Richard Sambrook finds himself on one of them.

The damned Thanksgiving eve stories

This is one of those mornings when I want to throw the TV out the window. The lead story is that the roads and airports will be crowded this morning. Now that’s news! And it’s team coverage everywhere as correspondents stand in airports and on road reporting absolutely nothing there but providing mere atmospherics as they recite meaningless statistics from various agencies: “…more Americans than ever are on the move this Thanksgiving…” They are telling us absolutely nothing we don’t already know. This is journalism?

And then comes Friday, when they will give us the big news: Stores will be crowded.

It’s the no-shit season on TV news.

O.J. OD

It’s hard to figure out what was going through everybodies’ heads in the O.J. deal. I don’t want to be inside Simpson’s head, thank you very much. Murdoch seemed to be protecting his brand by killing the TV and book deals. Judith Regan is a damned smart publisher with a finger on the pulse but in this case, she seems to have gone into afib. I got calls from two reporters trying to suss out the players this evening. I told the second one:

I think the publishing industry is desperate. It’s showing in what they’re chosing to publish. Regan had not only the O.J. deal but also Jenna Jameson telling you how to make love like a porn star and how to make money like a porn star. And I thought Harry Potter was tacky. Meanwhile, Simon & Schuster’s Touchstone is

Mind you, I’m the last person to be a snob; I worked for People and listen to Howard. But the desperation of uncontrolled change in media is making each medium progressively tackier or, in the case of O.J., just plain sleazier. But everyone has his limits.