Monthly Archives: April 2010

Journalism/Media/Web links for April 27

8 Ways for Entrepreneurial Journalists to Think Like Business People:

“Many, many businesses have failed where the income statement showed things were great, but they didn’t have cash. Cash flow is ‘the lifeblood of your business.’ ”

Bias Or Balance: Media Wrestle With Faltering Trust:

“Five or 10 years ago, the conversation about trust and the media would have triggered different results. But people no longer volunteer so many complaints about reporters making up stories, as they did in the wake of the scandals involving Jayson Blair at The New York Times and Jack Kelley at USA Today. And concern over how stories are slanted no longer comes just from conservatives. It comes from all quarters.”

72 Marietta — I Still Love You:

The Journal and Constitution hated each other then — a deep, healthy hatred that was a beautiful thing. The first time in history when the Constitution out-circulated the Journal was on Aug. 17, 1977, when the morning rag reported Elvis Presley’s death. I never forgave Elvis for dying on Constitution time.”

Terry Gross: What I Read:

“I really don’t keep up with bloggers. I suppose I should feel guilty about that but my goal in life is to get away from the computer. Time spent reading blogs takes away from the time I should be spending preparing for guests. It’s hard when you’re doing a show like Fresh Air and you’re talking to musicians, theater people, actors and experts on every subject. You have to make peace with the fact that you can’t keep up with everything. It’s more information than you can possibly absorb.”

Think Again: The Internet:

“Today’s Internet is a world where homophobic activists in Serbia are turning to Facebook to organize against gay rights, and where social conservatives in Saudi Arabia are setting up online equivalents of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. So much for the ‘freedom to connect’ lauded by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her much-ballyhooed speech on the Internet and human rights. Sadly enough, a networked world is not inherently a more just world.”

Facebook Further Reduces Your Control Over Personal Information:

“The new connections features benefit Facebook and its business partners, with little benefit to you. But what are you going to do about it? Facebook has consistently ignored demands from its users to create an easy ‘exit plan’ for migrating their personal data to another social networking website, even as it has continued — one small privacy policy update after another — to reduce its users’ control over their information.”

More adventures in media dog-paddling

I’ve expressed here before that the ubiquitous “follow your passion” enthusiasts don’t always acknowledge that not everyone can really follow their heart’s desire because, quite frankly, every desire doesn’t quite translate into ample revenue streams.

Web wine impresario Gary Vaynerchuk (read halfway down on that previous link) has expanded that mantra in a new book that explains his success and encourages others that they can enjoy the same.

Perhaps I’m suspending my skepticism a bit, but his easy-to-absorb, 142-page “Crush It!” fully outlines his case in ways that videos and short blog posts and online articles can’t. But Vaynerchuk is careful to point out that this isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme, and that using social media isn’t an end in itself. They’re tools to build and grow a business, just like traditional advertising and public relations, and not merely shiny new toys.

He leads the chapter “A Whole New World” with the upheavals in the news media, and how that can be a good thing for journalists with a passion to go beyond traditional newsroom limitations. Indeed, he states as simply and clearly and realistically as anything I’ve read on this subject the imperative for journalists to become news entrepreneurs:

“News has always been functioning under a communistic regime, but capitalism always wins. . . . The changes affecting the news business are permanent. . . . And, like it or not, many people’s respect for quality reporting has eroded. This upsets me as much as the next guy, but the fact is that it’s a trend that is having a huge impact on business and needs to be noticed and accepted. . . . I assure you, this is how things are going to roll.

“The only arguments I get in this debate, by the way, are from journalists and individuals with an emotional attachment to the idea of ink on paper and the romance of sipping a cup of coffee while reading the Sunday Times. Most business people know I’m right.”

That last sentence I think is as essential to keep in mind because it’s a point that most journalists are not accustomed to considering. We fret and get all sentimental about how newspapers aren’t what they used to be. But so many of us outside that world don’t consider the ways in which we can create news businesses of our own, as fledgling as most may be during a dramatic period of transformation.

In light of all this, I really needed to read such a level-headed refresher to think and act proactively, with no nostalgia or excuse-making attached:

“If the traditional platforms are sinking ships, then journalists are sailors who need to jump. If they’re not strong enough to get to the new ships, yes, they’re going to drown. But those who are great swimmers are going to sail very, very far. That is the way business has always played and always will.”

Discerning views about the digiterati

One of the biggest developments in the five-plus years since I first began my digital media education in a serious manner is learning how to better evaluate the claims of those I like to call the “digiterati” — especially when they sound absolutist.

I’m generally bullish on the Web, particularly as it applies to the journalism profession. Being among the tens of thousands of those having joined the print diaspora, I know the transformation will take years and decades, and may not save many of us who are mid-career journalists.

On other topics related to the Web, such as the evolution of open societies, for example, I cannot offer a more informed opinion. But that hasn’t stopped some in the digiterati from claiming that democracy is on the march. This is not the case everywhere, as Evgeny Morozov explained recently in “The Digital Dictatorship,” revealing a rather big hole in the ideology of those he has labeled the “techno-utopians:”

“. . . while the American public is actively engaged in a rich and provocative debate about the Internet’s impact on our own society — asking how new technologies affect our privacy or how they change the way we read and think — we gloss over such subtleties when talking about the Internet’s role in authoritarian countries. . . . While we fret about the Internet’s contribution to degrading the civic engagement of American kids, all teenagers in China or Iran are presumed to be committed and engaged global citizens who use the Web to acquaint themselves with human rights violations committed by their governments.”

I recalled Morozov’s argument this week when I was catching up on news about the release of iPad. There’s unhappiness within the techno-utopian set about what some have heatedly labeled a not-so-shiny new toy. All of which made Nick Carr, my favorite critic of the digiterati, rather gleeful:

“Progress may, for a time, intersect with one’s own personal ideology, and during that period one will become a gung-ho technological progressivist. But that’s just coincidence. In the end, progress doesn’t care about ideology. Those who think of themselves as great fans of progress, of technology’s inexorable march forward, will change their tune as soon as progress destroys something they care deeply about.”

Some like to accuse “old media” of getting too comfortable with their own value systems that blind them to what’s happening to the public they serve. Carr calls out the digiterati for the same offense.

Some of the “geek gods” — his term — have gotten so carried away with their own technological worldviews that they don’t consider that many outside of their realm may not want what they do from a new device.

Not everybody wants to be a content creator. Not all are constantly flushed with the compulsion to be all multimedia, all the time, and always, always, to be connected.

Sometimes we just want to sit back and be the audience for a while.

I don’t know what to make of the iPad because I haven’t held one in my hands and played with it. But this might be the invention that gets my 74-year-old mother to ditch her badly outdated WebTV (yes, she still has WebTV!) to surf and check e-mail more easily and conveniently.

Not everything that comes on the market is designed for the “thought leaders,” those so offended by what the iPad represents that in one instance shipping the “Bizarro Trojan Horse” back to Apple was the only appropriate thing to do.

Their certitude and bluster is no different than that of tough-minded literary and restaurant critics. Maybe they’ll be right about the iPad.

But I do find it ironic that those who like to snort at middle-brow technology users have given up on something before it’s been widely sold, or has undergone upgrades and improvements.

Perhaps I’ve been following the digiterati long enough to be better able to discern when they’re dispensing something of value and when they’re just full of hot air.

But when far too many of them sound like overgrown, impulsive, perpetually disappointed teenage boys — not many females here — I tend to think what what they’re serving up is more of the latter.