Posts from April 6, 2004

More information

More information
: See the posts below on Zeyad reporting what he saw and heard in Iraq — and what he concluded from it.

Zeyad gave us an eyewitness account of what was happening. From that frightening perspective, he concluded that there was a coup underway. He reported later that things had quieted down and pulled back from that dire view.

This illustrates a lot about the future of journalism.

Here was have a correspondent giving us a perspective on the evens in Iraq that we were not getting — and likely could not get — elsewhere. That makes it valuable. Period.

But it’s just one report from one perspective.

You could say that what was needed on top of this was an editor to give us context and confirmation and lots of good, journalistic values. Well, fine.

But what I really think we need is more information. If Zeyad — and we — had been able to go to a score of fellow bloggers’ posts from all over Iraq, we would have had a broader view of what was happening. We need more perspectives, more correspondents, more information, more weblogs.

And we all need to act as editors as we read these weblogs and judge them in their own context. When I read Zeyad’s post last night, I thought the word “coup” was overblown and I said so — but I still thought his report of the scene he could report on was well worth passing on to you. I knew it was written in the heat and fear of the moment — and, frankly, that is what made it all the more dramatic and important.

If I had reported from the World Trade Center as the attacks and aftermath, I would have been wondering whether a frigging nuclear bomb had landed in Manhattan; others wondered just that at the time. So my perspective would not have been the most reliable in the longrun. But if I had been able to publish what I saw and felt at that moment (as I could with the tools I have today) wouldn’t you have read it and considered it valuable? Wouldn’t you also have known to let other reports and time give it context? Of course. In the future of journalism, we can all be correspondents. We can all be editors.

: Update: Stuart Hughes, who has covered the war in Iraq, agrees: “Personally. I’d rather be second, third or even last and be 100% sure of my facts than be first and wrong — be it in my blog or my work for Big Media.” Yes, but I’m still damned glad to have the immediate witness of the Zeyads, so long as we put it in perspective.

Illu

Illu
: Sometimes, illustrations in print drive me nuts. The urge to prettify a page and break up verbosity often leads to nonsensical or even offensive images. When I got to run a magazine, assigning illustrations was the bane of my existence.

I was reading The Times’ science section today and saw a story about CPR often being improperly administered, causing some patients to lose their lives. Serious, sad stuff.

But the illustration (in the paper only) showed a guy being blown up by an air pump as if a balloon. Yuk, yuk. It was worse than uninformative; it was tasteless and offensive. I’m not sure what I would have done if I’d had the colored ink in my hand. If I were the editor, though, I hope I would have thought twice and thrown that illu in the garbage.

One thing I’ve learned online is that information doesn’t demand to be illustrated. When it’s useful — when the picture tells the story or the graphic explains the facts or the illustration sets the mood — that’s fine. But illustration for illustration’s sake is a waste of ink.

Do not remove label under penalty of law

Do not remove label under penalty of law
: A fabric-care label in apologizes in French for President Bush: “We are sorry that our President is an idiot. We didn’t vote for him.” [via Loic]

Iraq followup

Iraq followup
: When I posted Zeyad’s observations last night, I said that I thought “coup” was overblown and Zeyad acknowledges same:

Sorry for the depressing note. It seems like everything is back under control, at least from what I can see in my neighbourhood. There is an eerie silence outside, only dogs barking. Until about an hour ago, it sounded like a battlefield, and we had flashbacks of last April. I don’t know what happened, but there were large plumes of smoke from the direction of Adhamiya and Kadhimiya…

The vision thing

The vision thing
: After Prof. Eli Noam appeared at the WTF nonconferenceconference, continuing his “dystopian musings” about some impending information-industry implosion, host David Isenberg “gave him a pair of rose colored glasses in an attempt to correct his vision :-)”