Posts from June 20, 2005

I, reporter

I, reporter

: Amy Gahran says she’s starting a site on citizen journalism called I, Reporter.

All this to kill a tree

All this to kill a tree

: David Weinberger tells you about the agonizing process of selling a book. Happy ending: It’s sold (to Jay Rosen’s editor, by the way). Can’t wait to read it. So get writing, Weinberger.

Not here


Not here

: A coalition of 9/11 families’ groups held a press conference at the World Trade Center today to call for exactly what I hoped they would when I spoke with Debra Burlingame last week: Do not build the International Freedom Center here. Do not distract from the 9/11 memorial and bring politics and polemics to this place. Let the memorial speak for itself.

I went into the city to attend the event. As I got there, Debra and other organizers were strategizing about the Port Authority, which had tried to move the group off World Trade Center property under the argument that the PA does not allow PA systems on its land. In other words, it doesn’t allow speech. Now that’s a fine lesson for an International Freedom Center, isn’t it. But the leaders decided that they would go ahead — let them kick us off in front of the TV cameras, a few said — and Debra brought out a small, portable speaker and microphone from her purse. She’s amazing.

The families, always with the pictures of their lost loved ones, began changing: “9/11 memorial only” and “take back the memorial.” And then a few family members spoke.

One appealed to the American people to join with them and take back the memorial. Anther said that lessons of a freedom center would be fine, “but not here, not on sacred ground.”

“Nobody is coming to this place to learn about Ukranian democracy and be inspired by the courage of Tibetan monks,” he said.

Another spoke for many when he said that the remains of his family member were never found. “We have no place to go,” he said, “we have no place to grieve” — other than this place.

The sister of a firefighter pointed to her 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter and asked whether the lesson of what is to be built at the World Trade Center will be that “9/11 is something to be ashamed of.”

“We will make sure this site is not violated a second, time,” she said.

Another warned that the Freedom Center will make the site a “magnet for protesters.”

“The IFC msut go elsewhere,” he said.

Edie Lutnick, sister of the head of Cantor Fitzgerald and of one of the victims of 9/11, said she was not comfortable speaking and the first time she did so was at her brother’s funeral. But she was most eloquent here, thanking Americans for their shows of support — their children’s letters, their flags, their quilts — and said this was not the families’ tragedy but our tragedy.

“Now we have another tragedy — forgetfulness. 9/11 is being buried underground.”

The event did what it was supposed to do: It brought out the press and made the International Freedom Center an issue.

: On the way back home, I heard Mayor Bloomberg dismiss the concerns expressed there. Tonedeaf, that man is tonedeaf.

: The New York Post today:

Burlingame, a director of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, specifically charged that Tofel and others are planning to host exhibits at Ground Zero devoted to such wholly off-topic issues as the alleged “genocide” of Americans Indians, the fight against slavery, the Holocaust and the Soviet Gulag.

Worthy subjects for study, each and every one ó but not at Ground Zero.

Tofel, for his part, insists that the controversy is all about nothing.

But when Cavuto asked, specifically, whether the museum would feature “atrocities Americans have committed,” Tofel repeatedly refused a direct answer.

“Atrocities is such a loaded word,” he stammered, the weasel.

Tofel needed to say ó unequivocally ó that the museum will not impugn or disparage America in any way, shape, form or manner.

End of discussion.

But that probably would have been a lie. In fact, the IFC seems destined precisely to become a multimillion-dollar bash-America palace.

Real Americans, after all, have no trouble recalling that Ground Zero is the site of an unspeakable atrocity committed against them. They’ll wonder by what perverted logic is it appropriate to use the spot to dredge up shameful, painful episodes in American history that have nothing to do with 9/11.

Yet that is transparently Tofel’s plan.

Slavery in America, for example, “probably” would be focused on, he said, because a key goal is to “inspire an end to hatred, ignorance and intolerance.”

Let’s be clear: America did nothing to deserve 9/11. Indeed, the fanatics ó infused with “hatred, ignorance and intolerance ó targeted the United States precisely because it stands as a monument to freedom and the material prosperity it produces.

The Islamists hate freedom because it threatens their power and underscores their failures.

And they hate material prosperity because it has eluded their culture; thus they must deny it to everyone.

So destroying the iconic evidence of the fruits of U.S. freedom ó the Twin Towers ó was vital to sustaining their credibility.

Which is why it would be outrageous for the IFC to entertain even the possibility that America somehow deserved what it got on 9/11. And yet that seems to be exactly what is going on.

:Sign the Take Back the Memorial petition here.

Saving public broadcasting

Saving public broadcasting

: I have a humble suggestion for how to save public broadcasting:

Make it truly public broadcasting, supported by its public instead of by government.

The hooha going on over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is precisely the danger of taking government money: It’s taking political money. It is a worse compromise than taking advertisers’ money, for advertisers’ agendas are clear — selling things, making money — while politicians’ agendas are far more slippery. So I say it’s time to take the bull by the horns:

1. Get Howard Dean’s fundraising geniuses to get out a bat and start a combative fundraising campaign: For every dollar the politicians try to cut, you vow to raise two dollars (as when, in the Dean blog, every troll attack brought in more contributions).

2. Use that money to underwrite just the kinds of programs the conservative opponents of public broadcasting will hate most: Alan Alda narrating a five-part series on the wonders of stem-cell research…. Sex education, the series…. Probing televangelists…. An investigation of America’s health-care crisis….

3. Get celebrities signed up. Guarantees free publicity. Might even get you in their wills.

4. Send the stars — and Jesse Jackson — into companies to get them to pay up, concentrating on the companies of new media that are upsetting the old. Hey, Google, if you’re getting into the news business, why not start supporting the content you so love to link to? Hey, Apple, if you really want to support education, pay for Sesame Street? Hey, Bill Gates, if you want to improve public health, throw some money to PBS for an informative series on AIDS? Yahoo, you want content for online, why not underwrite a broadcast series and tie it to online presentation?

5. As the money is raised, get PBS supporters in Congress to go along with the cuts in CBP budgeting on one condition: Every dollar that leaves public broadcasting goes into education.

In addition, PBS especially needs to get smarter about new media. Follow the BBC’s example and start putting all programming up online for free distribution (with underwrwiters’ and pledge messages included): If your mission is to serve the public, then serve them where and how they want to be served. And:

: Involve the public more in the creation of programming. I won’t replay that sermon here.

: Reexamine the mission of public broadcasting in an era when the public can broadcast.

: Reexamine the mission of public broadcasting and when cable provides so much more value, like historical and educational programming (and I’m sorry that 11 percent of the country don’t get TV via cable but, hey,

: Here’s the tough one: Try to raise money based on quality programming, not on John Tesh specials. Get rid of those named touchy-feely cultish self-improvement bullshit shows. Have some pride in quality again.

This is the long-term strategy public broadcasting must follow if it is going to avoid complete politicization. Yes, we can argue that it’s a shame that the government does not support public broadcasting. But taking money from politicians gets you politics.

: AMEN: See Doc Searls.

: Ernie Miller says:

We really should reexamine the mission of public broadcasting, not only in the context of cable, but in the context of the internet and the coming of broadcatching. Perhaps we may want to figure out how to democratize distribution, rather than subsidize flawed distribution schemes.

Blog anything

Blog anything

: The irrepressible Marc Canter proposes a universal blog-this button at If I’m getting this right, he will create a routing system that will send any post’s permalink to any blogging tool (and, I assume, the same could work for subscribing to any RSS feed via any RSS reader… something we need). Marc’s email announcement:

With end-users will be able to click on a ëReBlogí button and send a piece of micro-content or microformat to their favorite tool for editing, annotating or just plain prettying up. End-users would specify what is their favorite tool at a simple web service or in a MIME handler that they downloaded and run on their own machine.

Even though itís been possible for years, most of todayís aggregators and tools do not support the notion of displaying a button to easily allow end-users to ìBlog Thisî particular post or article. Sure some aggregators enable plug-ins to kludge this option, but in general most bloggers are forced to ëcutí the source of a post and ëpasteí it into their favorite tool. With each tool or environment comes a different kludge or hack, with its own rules and gotchas to contend with…. would enable end-users to register their favorite tool of choice so that wherever they traveled on the web, by simply clicking on the ëReBlgí button ñ they could easily send that post to their favorite tool. If the end-user doesnít want to rely upon our web service, then they can simply download a MIME handler to do that routing for them.