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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