Posts from June 13, 2005

Brother, can you spare a scoop?

Brother, can you spare a scoop?

: Updating this post as the day goes on, below.

: I’m at an Annenberg event in Philadelphia bringing together mostly journalism academics and others to talk about the role of the press in a democracy. I’ll blog it occasionally.

Tonight, Chuck Lewis, who founded the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit source for investigative journalism, argued in favor of a nonprofit model for reporting, saying that an organization such as the CPI can dog stories and spend money news companies often can’t.

I do believe that nonprofit reporting will have a growing role. NPR is invoked by many, with contributions and foundations supporting quality and growing journalism (though it’s interesting to me that many newspapers have larger staffs covering one town than NPR has covering the nation and the world, according to the numbers I heard tonight)

The questions after his talk raised interesting issues. A few (I among them) cautioned that foundations, too, have agendas and when they pay for reporting that’s just another means of using money to control journalism.

Others pushed for hybrid models. One academic suggested the need for an Associated Press of investigative journalism and I like that: such an AP doesn’t handle commodity news but real reporting… if news organizations can give up their addictions to scoops. Someone who has run a nonprofit journalistic organization for years said that when alternative newspapers goosed the news business a few decades ago, none of them thought for a second of running their businesses on contributions; they supported themselves the old-fashioned way — with profits — and ethnic journalism is doing the same thing today. I also, predictably, raised the prospect of individually supported reporting: witness Hoder going to Iran, Josh Marshall going to New Hampshire.

: After the wine and before the food, the room introduced itself and there were some interesting moments in that: One academic said, “get rid of objectivity”(I stopped myself from applauding). Another academic argued for the British model of journalism. One TV producer said, “the economic models are hopeless broken.” An alternative journalism vet says there should be profit caps on media companies (I stopped myself from hooting). A dean said we need to stop serving “the porridge of journalism, forcing it down people’s throats.” A newspaperman said we must “stop thinking of our readers as stupid because they don’t want us… We must abandon our core products.” These were the soundbites I want to hear more about.

: LATER: Jim Naughton, former head of Poynter and a nostalgic former editor on the Philadelphia Inquirer, just pushed a proposition that newspapers should advertise the value of journalism to the public: Wearing a Darth mask, he said, “We must go to the dark side, we must market.”

Arrrrgh. Merrill Brown said what needed to be said (and what I wanted to say) — that that is moving the deck chairs, that this is a dying industry that should be spending money on changing the product and then we should advertise that.

: I’m surprised — but shouldn’t be — at how much I hear in this crowd of academics and editors disdain for corporations and profits.

I, on the other hand, believe that the marketplace is journalism’s best hope.

: Case in point: Claude-Jean Bertrand, professor emeritus from the University of Paris, says: “A free market is indispensible but it cannot create good media as is evidenced right now in this country.”

Arrrgh II. This displays an essential mistrust of the public the press tries to serve. What are we all but the marketplace?

He puts forward a list of more than 80 “media accountability systems.”

I’d counter that with three notions that cover it as far as I’m concerned: conscience, good sense, and transparency.

: They talk about news councils and such. I blurt out that we have a million press critics and they are our readers and former readers. We have to read them.

: Dave Winer would have a screaming fit at an event such as this: One person takes the mike for 40 minutes; one person responds; a few people get to raise their hands in what passes for discussion. In this kind of crowd, the Bloggercon nonconference model would work best: capture the wisdom of the crowd via discussion and a meritocracy of ideas. Rather than have people present papers and propositions, it would be better to present, read, and react to them beforehand online so we can arrive for the center of the discussion rather than the prelude.

And, yes, I wish Winer were here. What these journalism confabs always miss on the invitation list is the public they should be serving and hearing.

Sticki wiki

Sticki wiki

: Via Dan Gillmor at Bayosphere, I see that the LA Time is planning to start wikitorials — wikified editorials that can be rewritten by readers, one of many interesting changes in the paper’s opinion pages.

Sounds like a cool idea… but I think it goes up against the essential nature of wikis and probably won’t work.

Wikipedia brags about its NPOV (neutral point of view) enforced by the wisdom of the crowd and the desire to get the facts right and maintain a valuable resource.

An editorial is, of course, not neutral. And so what you’ll likely find is a never-ending wikiwar: yes he did, no he didn’t, he did, no he didn’t, yes he did, no he didn’t, nya, nya, nya…

Besides, I think this does what papers do too much: It tries to make the paper the center of the discussion. Turn around, guys, and look outside the newsroom and see what everybody else is saying.

: Here’s editorial page editor Michael Kinsley on the changes, quoted in the NY Times:

“It may be a complete mess but it’s going to be interesting to try,” he said. “Wikitorials may be one of those things that within six months will be standard. It’s the ultimate in reader participation.”

Mr. Kinsley also started an experimental feature, “Thinking Out Loud,” where readers, op-ed and editorial writers hash out tough issues like immigration and traffic. “We hope within a year that we will have a solid, consistent, intelligent and correct position on these two issues and it will result from a process that is not only transparent but readers will participate,” Mr. Kinsley said.

: Ross Mayfield says that wikis work best not when the public is offered something baked but something unbaked.

: Ernie Miller is also dubious.

You know, the best, most open, most bloggy and webby way to do this might have been to post a note saying, “I’m thinking about doing this… what do you think?” And then the best minds online — Ross and Ernie among them — would have been happy to share their reaction and wisdom.

Jump out of the stream

Jump out of the stream

: Lost Remote reports that MSNBC served 30 million streams last month. That’s great. But I guarantee you that they’d serve many times that if:

1. The site allowed you to download and subscribe to video (especially come the days of portable, unwired video).

2. The network put up all its stories and segments online so you can watch what you want to watch when you want to watch it.

Sex sells, news doesn’t

Sex sells, news doesn’t

: Steve Baker of Business Week has a theory explaining why I didn’t get many comments on the new newsroom post:

Either commenters are taking the weekend off, or they’re far more interested in airbrushed nipples than the future of journalism.

Where in the world

Where in the world

: Poynter’s Larry Larsen wants news orgs to post GPS coordinates for their stories. Yes, that’d be great, along with tags and more metadata. But I can tell you, having spent years trying to get newsrooms to put stories online, that it’s hard enough to get a sports story in the sports section.