Unrequired Reading {8.1.09}

January 9, 2009

Unrequired Reading

These are some of the things that have caught my atten­tion lately. It’s a more eclectic mix than just the news busi­ness, but then so’s life:

  • Trend­watch: Can Upper Class Journ­al­ists Cover the Fall of the Rich? | Gawker — Watch­ing the Wall Street titans lose everything in the Great Depres­sion, for example, cer­tainly inspired a lot of schaden­freude, egged on by the yel­low journ­al­ists, which were the style of the day. But back then, journ­al­ism was a decidedly blue col­lar pro­fes­sion. The fall of the rich was a story told from the out­side, to your peers, with just the nat­ural amount of “take that, richie” thrown in.

    Today things are dif­fer­ent. People in the top-level media have become just as fancy as those they cover! Busi­ness report­ers for the WSJ, TV report­ers for CNBC, and, you know, wealthy magazine writers like Michael Lewis (for example) have far more in com­mon with the ruined Wall Streeters than they do with the far-flung masses who were already poor to begin with.

  • I’m Eagerly Await­ing ‘What Would Google Do?’ | Munir Umrani — I’ve fol­lowed Jar­vis’ work for years, and I’ve learned at lot from him. One thing I really like about him is that he will admit when he is wrong. He was wrong about Iraq, and admit­ted it. See “The Iraq war and me.”  He’s what I con­sider a true Inter­net intel­lec­tual. His motives and suc­cess have been ques­tioned and lauded, at times, but the cri­ti­cism doesn’t dimin­ish his con­tri­bu­tion to new ways of think­ing about media and busi­ness one bit.
  • The Upside of Dis­ap­pear­ing News­pa­per Advert­ising | The Media Busi­ness — When I read the Boston Globe on Tues­day (Janu­ary 7), it essen­tially had 2 pages of ads in the 10-page A sec­tion, 3 pages of ads in the 16-page B sec­tion, and 1 page in the 8-page C sec­tion. It had no ads on page 1 (although it has been announced they will start doing so soon) and the daily clas­si­fied sec­tion is no longer being pub­lished on week­days. What was left was edit­or­ial con­tent. Unfor­tu­nately, what was there wasn’t pretty.

    In read­ing the paper I real­ized that about half the stor­ies were from news agen­cies and ser­vices and that I had read many of them day before on Yahoo! News and the New York Times and Wash­ing­ton Post web­sites. A num­ber of the paper’s local stor­ies were on the Boston.com site or other Boston sites before they appeared in print. I am an avid news con­sumer and love the paper format, but the paucity of ori­ginal and novel con­tent left me won­der “Why am I still pay­ing for the paper, espe­cially when I have to call at least once a week because of deliv­ery problems.”

  • Help plug leak­ers of army secrets, Israelis urged | Reu­ters — Inform­a­tion on the now nearly two-week-old offens­ive in Gaza has been stage-managed for both the domestic and for­eign press.

    Sol­diers have had cell­phones con­fis­cated to pre­vent them send­ing SMS mes­sages about com­bat losses or troop deploy­ments as they advance on Hamas and other Palestinian guer­ril­las in Gaza.

    Mil­it­ary cen­sors, who avoid nos­ing around routine news cov­er­age, now show their teeth. Two Israeli freel­an­cers were arres­ted on sus­pi­cion they gave an Ira­nian TV sta­tion details about the Gaza sweep that was not cleared for publication.

    In terms of inform­a­tion secur­ity, we def­in­itely learned our les­sons from the last war,” said Cap­tain Ben­jamin Rut­land, a mil­it­ary spokesman.

    Alon Ben-David, a cor­res­pond­ent for Israel’s Chan­nel Ten tele­vi­sion and Jane’s Defence Weekly, said the mil­it­ary had trans­formed itself into a “media bunker” since the 2006 war.

  • FoI request by Daily Echo exposes police news black­out on ser­i­ous crime reports | Jon Slat­tery — The Echo says Dor­set Police released details of: 12 cases of viol­ence against the per­son – com­pared with 800 recor­ded that month; No sexual offences – when 70 were recor­ded; Five rob­ber­ies – com­pared with 26 recor­ded.
    Bob Satch­well, exec­ut­ive dir­ector of the Soci­ety of Edit­ors, told the Echo: “It just beg­gars belief that the police are with­hold­ing inform­a­tion on this scale.…I’m sure there’s a feel­ing in some quar­ters that releas­ing inform­a­tion increases the fear of crime. It’s just ridicu­lous.”
    The Echo repor­ted that Dor­set Police spends £500,000 on PR and employs around a dozen full-time pub­lic rela­tions staff — none of whom it says were avail­able to com­ment on the story.
  • Urgent Dead­line for News­pa­pers: Find a New Busi­ness Plan before You Van­ish | Knowledge@Wharton — “It’s fair to say that news­pa­pers will dis­ap­pear and I don’t think we should shed that big a tear for them,” says Whar­ton mar­ket­ing pro­fessor Peter Fader, co-director of the Whar­ton Inter­act­ive Media Ini­ti­at­ive. And unlike the trau­mas of auto­mo­biles or real estate, the change is fun­da­mental, not cyc­lical. A down eco­nomy may have sped it along, but the busi­ness model itself would have been troubled any­way. “My kids can’t ima­gine why any­one would read the news­pa­per,” Fader notes.
  • My Soda with Radovan | Opinio Juris — I can offer a few com­ments about what Dr. Karad­zic is like.  None of the fol­low­ing is spin, although read­ers are cer­tainly entitled to be skeptical.

    The first thing I noticed was how at peace he seemed to be.  I’ve sat across the table from enough accused crim­in­als to know when someone is put­ting on a show for me.  Dr. Karad­zic wasn’t.  He has no illu­sions about his situ­ation, but he emphas­ized again and again that he wants the trial to be about the facts and the law — not about him.  He has obvi­ously accep­ted the pos­sib­il­ity — indeed, the over­whelm­ing like­li­hood — that he will never again be a free man.  That can­not be a happy pro­spect, but he genu­inely seems okay with it.  As he said to us, he can read and write and think anywhere.

    I was also struck by Dr. Karadzic’s evid­ent intel­li­gence.  He speaks very good Eng­lish, is extremely well-read and artic­u­late, and has a keen interest in world politics…

  • How Well Does Fox News Mix with Real­ity? | Seek­ing Alpha — We can, in fact, expect that if journ­al­ism is going to be well-funded going for­ward, it may be as part of lar­ger, entertainment-oriented com­pan­ies, com­pan­ies that see that “con­tent” widely dis­trib­uted and over mul­tiple plat­forms can be prof­it­able. If that’s the case, then Fox’s little real­ity prob­lem becomes a big­ger one for journ­al­ism more gen­er­ally. We know that journ­al­ism is dif­fer­ent from the enter­tain­ment trades; without fear or favor is not a phrase you hear a lot in Hol­ly­wood. So, to the cur­rent mix of chal­lenges, add this one: how do journ­al­ists call out their work in some eas­ily notice­able way (espe­cially online) to dis­tin­guish it from… everything else?
  • News­pa­pers Broke My Heart. Will Cit­izen Journ­al­ism Heal It? | NewsTechZ­illa — I believe blog­gers, cit­izen journ­al­ists and non­tra­di­tional out­lets must take on the role of pub­lic watch­dog as news­pa­pers con­tinue to decline.

    That’s why a small team of journ­al­ists and I star­ted Texas Watch­dog. We’re a non­profit online news site – one of a few dozen that have popped up across the coun­try. We also provide invest­ig­at­ive tools and train­ing to blog­gers, act­iv­ists of any stripe and journ­al­ists at news­rooms with few resources.

    The Texas Watch­dog staff believes that the group’s work is one part of the solu­tion to the decline of invest­ig­at­ive journ­al­ism at news­pa­pers and TV sta­tions. We help train any­one on how to invest­ig­at­ive gov­ern­ment, make gov­ern­ment agen­cies more trans­par­ent and to keep “city hall” hon­est. Some of that train­ing includes craft­ing pub­lic records requests, effect­ive inter­view­ing, use­ful tools in dig­ging into the back­grounds of those run­ning for office, devel­op­ing sources, as well as other skills.

  • Will the Times Live? | The New Yorker — Try an RSS reader and cus­tom search: “It’s pos­sible, of course, that my skep­ti­cism about fore­casts of the impend­ing death of the Times is simply the product of wish­ful think­ing, since I am one of those dino­saurs who finds the idea of a morn­ing without the print edi­tion of the Times pretty much unima­gin­able. Just yes­ter­day morn­ing, in fact, I was quite power­fully struck by the tre­mend­ous vari­ety and detail of inform­a­tion that a single day’s edi­tion of the Times offers, and by the—clichéd, but non­ethe­less true—fact that read­ing, or at least skim­ming, the print edi­tion cover to cover guar­an­tees you’ll come across stor­ies that you may not have thought you were inter­ested in but in fact are fas­cin­ated by… And yes, the Inter­net offers these things as well, but, I have to say, noth­ing quite offers the unusual com­bin­a­tion of comprehensiveness.”
  • The MSM, Gaza and Paja­mas TV | Roger L. Simon — The New Journ­al­ism: “Who could blame the Israel gov­ern­ment for hav­ing had enough of the pro­pa­ganda wiles of the MSM? So that brings us to Paja­mas TV. We have decided to help right this imbal­ance in our small way by emphas­iz­ing cov­er­age from Israel as long as this crisis is going on. We have a live cam­era in Jer­u­s­alem and we are going to fea­ture the fol­low­ing tal­ent there, among oth­ers: Car­oline Glick of the Jer­u­s­alem Post, our own Middle East Editor Allison Kaplan Som­mer (a Tel Aviv res­id­ent), Richard Landes of Boston Uni­ver­sity and a part-time Jer­u­s­alem res­id­ent and Nit­sana Leit­ner of the Israeli Law Cen­ter. We admit we are biased in favor of Israel, in favor of the side we view as the good guys in a moral struggle. So bear that in mind when you tune in, but tune in every day for our Gaza Update.”

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