Category Archives: media

A little media blogging on the fly . . .

I do want to return to blogging a bit more substantively about many of the topics I’m linking to below. But I’m trying to launch a site and grapple with some serious server meltdown issues that are preventing this from happening. The life of a Web entrepreneur is a glamorous one, I tell you. What I offer here I do so without comment or elaboration — for now:

Newspapers Not Evolving Enough for Digital Demand:

“I have wanted to work for a forward-leaning digital company for a long time. Part of this is recognition that newspapers have limited resources, they are saddled with legitimate legacy businesses that they have to focus on first. I am a digital guy and the digital world is evolving rapidly. I don’t want to have to wait for the traditional news industry to catch up.”

We Need ‘Philosophy of Journalism:”

“Every journalism student should be required to take a course in ‘Philosophy of Journalism,’ to develop the intellectual instincts and reflexes that will make the approach to truth of both practices a permanent part of his or her intellectual makeup. Imagine a world in which every column about the Obama administration’s battle with Fox News came with profound context about the large issues involved. A sweet, rather than tweet, thought.”

Does Political Journalism Focus on the Trivial?

“In the 60s journalism was a craft, not a profession, and more identified with ordinary people. Now, we’ve lost some of our idealism. The media and politicians are going down together in terms of cynicism.”

‘The Daily Show’ crew serious about media criticism:

“Too often, King said, journalists’ political coverage — and that of media critics — ends up being sanitized and nothing but a perfunctory he said/she said exchange. ‘If you were going to talk about whether the earth is flat, and 99 percent of scientists are saying it’s round, and 1 percent are saying it’s flat, you wouldn’t bring on the 1 percent guy. That viewpoint is factually inaccurate and they shouldn’t bring him on just to give the illusion of balance.’ “

Fertile Ground for Startups:

“Startups are playing an increasingly important role in American business, and they may play a central role in any recovery. As of the end of 2008, companies infused with venture capital were responsible for generating 12 million jobs and 20% of U.S. gross domestic product, according to a recent survey published by the National Venture Capital Assn.”

The War for the Web:

“It could be that everyone will figure out how to play nicely with each other, and we’ll see a continuation of the interoperable web model we’ve enjoyed for the past two decades. But I’m betting that things are going to get ugly. We’re heading into a war for control of the web. And in the end, it’s more than that, it’s a war against the web as an interoperable platform. Instead, we’re facing the prospect of Facebook as the platform, Apple as the platform, Google as the platform, Amazon as the platform, where big companies slug it out until one is king of the hill.”

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Some evolving redefinitions of journalism

Rounding up some items that have caught my attention recently on journalism, media and the Web. Here are a good half-dozen links, with a few addressing the fluid role of a journalist, and what it means to be doing the news, during this time of great change:

Why the mainstream media is dying:

“What really cracks me up is how often I still hear people say that bloggers are mere ‘aggregators’ and the ‘real journalism’ gets done at places like the Times. Because time after time, blogs are simply beating the shit out of the newspapers. They’re the ones who still dare to go for the throat, while their counterparts at big newspapers just keep reaching for the shrimp cocktail.”

Top 50 Journalism Blogs:

“If you are a seasoned journalist, you may have become disillusioned in how this field has changed over the past decade. With the changes wrought by online venues and phones that can report instant messages and photographs, many amateur and professional journalists alike are asking, ‘What is a journalist, and where is this field headed?’ ”

A Shield for Bloggers: Just who is a journalist today?:

“I think at the end of the day if you’re an online journalist working for a company or on your own and you on a regular basis report and distribute the news, you’ll be covered. I don’t know what the language will look like, but that’s the objective. There are modern-day pamphleteers here that you should be able to get covered.”

Don’t Save Journalism — Save Honest Communication:

“Journalism as a word is loaded because of the ministry it invokes. The profession that, since Watergate, has laid claim to it. That ministry is now a diaspora. Much like after the Gutenberg revolution the ministry lost its authority in interpreting the bible. Martin Luther showed us how. In reaction many journalists cling even tighter to that word. But the word needs to be redefined.

A Blog is a Better Social Media Hub Than Twitter:

“The most influential people on Twitter are either already celebrities, create their own content, or both. Who do you see most often retweeted? Major news outlets like CNN, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Mashable. Guy Kawasaki. Robert Scoble. Of course there are many reasons these people are influential, but a very basic reason is that they are creating original content somewhere other than Twitter. They are most often using Twitter as a super-news-feed, and as a way to drive people back to their blog, web site, etc.”

The Internet and Well-being: Flogging a Dead Horse:

“For anywhere from 2-12 of the population, the Internet can produce compulsive behavior, ranging from constant online gaming to online shopping addiction. But for most, the paradox is that there really isn’t a paradox.  The Internet destroys time and space and allows us to remain connected with those we already share an offline relationship as well as to meet others who can present us with different life outlooks and perspectives.”

Some light posting on the horizon

A major deadline looms for a sports media project that is nearing fruition after months of discussion and planning.

While I like to post something here most weekdays, I won’t be able to meet that frequency for the next several weeks.

Examining issues relating to media professionals and how our work and careers are changing is an important and ongoing topic. I consider it a vital exercise in professional development.

Now I’m putting much of that new training, education and understanding into practice like never before.

So please stay tuned.

Readings: The Web at 40, and how we’re still kids

I’ll admit it: I’m looking forward to a good long Labor Day respite, and so are you. So I’ll post some really good links here on a Thursday that I usually save for weekend reading. Will return on Tuesday after I get off the griddle for a few days (and I really mean it this time).

The first connection between two computers in September 1969 was a quiet event, eclipsed by such events as Woodstock. Now, some of my fellow aging Baby Boomers are trying to come to grips with the Web and all that it has wrought before we head for the rocking chairs.

What has become a major life-changing event for many of us in the media fields took place right after Richie Havens played his bongos on an upstate New York farm, Richard Nixon summoned the silent majority to speak up, a car careened off a bridge on Chappaquiddick and two men walked on the moon. There was a lot going on.

Various overview thoughts on the Web at early middle age here, here, and here, plus some goodies about the Web and digital life below that have many of us feeling like rebellious teenagers in the face of it all:

The Web Does Not Equal More Civic Engagement: “The impact of these new tools on the future of online political involvement depends in large part upon what happens as this younger cohort of ‘digital natives’ gets older. Are we witnessing a generational change or a life-cycle phenomenon that will change as these younger users age? Will the civic divide close, or will rapidly evolving technologies continue to leave behind those with lower levels of education and income?”

Bill would give President emergency control of Internet: “Rockefeller’s revised legislation seeks to reshuffle the way the federal government addresses the topic. It requires a ‘cybersecurity workforce plan’ from every federal agency, a ‘dashboard’ pilot project, measurements of hiring effectiveness, and the implementation of a ‘comprehensive national cybersecurity strategy’ in six months–even though its mandatory legal review will take a year to complete.”

The erosion of privacy in the Internet era: “Do we want to live in a society where the government can—regardless of whether they use the power or not—have access to all of our communications? So that they can, if they feel the need, drill down and find us?”

Multitaskers beware: your divided attention comes at a price: “Heavy multitaskers tended to be more readily distracted by extraneous information than their more focused peers. That doesn’t mean that multitasking is a total loss, as there may be benefits that weren’t tested in this study, but it does make the case that heavy multitaskers might want to consider the limits of their habits.”

Why Studies About Multitasking Are Missing The Point: “I reject the notion that media is a stream of soulless ‘content’ that I am ‘consuming’. As a result, I read differently than than someone who simply wants to scan the headlines. An article may cause me to look something up, and I read that, and I need to let some inchoate idea at the back of my mind bubble for a day before taking any measurable action.”

Sentiment Analysis Takes the Pulse of the Internet: “Social media used to be this cute project for 25-year-old consultants. Now, top executives are recognizing it as an incredibly rich vein of market intelligence.”

‘Social Networking’; Give me a break: “Granted, there are people spending too much time on social media, just as others 10 years ago spent too much time surfing the Web, or using AIM. I’m old enough to remember people who spent the entire morning pouring over every word in a newspaper sports section, or checking their stocks. Those who are non-productive in the workplace are obvious, whether they are addicted to Twitter or online puzzles. Why should companies spoil it for everyone else?”

How Twitter saved my career . . . and my life: “Over the course of my unemployment, my Twitter account grew from roughly 2,000 followers to more than 5,000, and it was undoubtedly these impressive numbers and a demonstrated knowledge of the power of social media that played a role in my hiring and differentiated me from others with similar skills.”

A history of blogging, and why it matters: “I am now one of them, although, like half of registered bloggers, I rarely update. As such, I can attest it’s possible to accept blogging with neither cynicism nor Rosenberg’s unequivocal enthusiasm. Blogging is time-consuming no matter what your profession, and if you happen to be in the business of selling your intellectual and creative capital, giving it away free can be a mystifying and maddening expectation.”

Race to Be an Early Adopter Goes Mainstream: “There’s really no group out of the tech loop. America is becoming a digital nation. Technology adoption continues to roll along, picking up more and more mainstream consumers every year.”

Readings: On brawny work, memory and Google, social media misuse and serendipity-doo-dah

Lots of good long-form and think pieces about journalism, the media and the digital realm are served up here for your weekend reading. There’s plenty to choose from here, so enjoy:

But it feels like the first time: Slate’s Jack Shafer says the print-Web wars have nothing on the way the newspaper industry faced its first competitive threat, at a time when it was in much better health:

“Some print journalists and industry leaders claimed that radio content was inaccurate, skimpy, sensationalist, and trivial and that its practitioners were amateurs. When radio news was accurate, they asserted, it was either a bunch of headlines from a newspaper or a story directly pilfered from one. Does any of this sound familiar?”

AP’s copyright cluelessness: Erik Sherman at BNET lets the news collective have it over its threat to sue sites merely linking to its content. “Idiots” and “pinheads” are among his kinder epithets:

I’m not someone who buys into the whole ‘information wants to be free’ ethos. I make a living off my intellectual property of writing and have a lot of sympathy for print publications, where much of my work appears. However, you can’t run a business on how you wish the world operated. Instead, you must find a model that operates within reality. And that’s why the AP, and other media companies that long for the good old days, are doomed.”

Going down with the ship?: Ex-Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reporter Michael Sokolove talks to Brian Tierney, publisher of both papers and who unapologetically defends the print-and-ink process:

“The Web efforts, they add something. I congratulate them. Let a thousand flowers bloom. But if somebody thinks in any short term, or even medium term, that the answers are those things, they’re kidding themselves. I know I sound like a heretic in that I won’t come out and say, ‘They’re the future.’ But they’re not. The brawny work is what we’re doing, and the brawny vehicle to carry it is the printed product.”

Murdoch’s big paywall gamble: Shane Richmond at The Daily Telegraph says the media mogul is serving up a big gift to his competitors, which include, er, The Daily Telegraph, although not in this particular sentence:

“This is a great opportunity for the Mirror, The Daily Star and, I suppose, producers of pictures of topless women, to hoover up those Sun readers who aren’t sure whether they want to pay.”

Drinking from a firehose: Danielle Maestretti at the Utne Reader is looking for a few good people who know how to help the masses navigate their way around the Web:

“All of this fretting over the death of reading might sound more genuine if it wasn’t usually articulated by and for people who’ve staked their lives and careers on traditional media models—authors, academics, journalists, publishers, and the like. More importantly, it’s often beside the point. The debate over how we read, perpetuated largely by media insiders, is starting to seem like little more than a distraction from the real problem: We have access to more information than ever, yet we do not know what to do with it. We are desperately information-illiterate.”

What was that again?: Librarian Emily Walshe isn’t exactly hand-wringing, and she isn’t the first to worry about how cognition is being altered because of the ease of the search engine:

“With so many of us slave to tin can memory, our human capacity for identification is jeopardized. Because when we commit things to mind, we become the authors of experience. When we choose to remember, we relate to our most fundamental resource and, in so doing, achieve a unique and perfect balance between representation and meaning.”

Commodify your Tweets: Before Twitter’s denial of service attack on Thursday, Jasmin Tragas did a Google search on a topic that’s been bugging her and came up with a question directed at novelist Rick Moody. It confirmed her suspicions about the exploitation of social media:

“Have we gotten to a point where the commodification of personality has become so overbearing that it’s impossible for us to separate self-promotion from expression?”

A very fine wine: Along those same lines, British freelancer David Lloyd takes a dim view of Web wine impresario Gary Vaynerchuk’s yammering about personal branding:

“The blogs I visit most aren’t written to be ‘monetised’. They’re written because their owners have something to say. Or they want to offer a service, or advice, or, maybe, they just want to write. And isn’t that where all the best sites originated anyway? Money might follow. It might not. Really, Gary, don’t sweat it.”

How many years of blogs? David Silversmith argues that given the 500-year head start by the printed word, it’s far too soon to determine the longevity of blogs. But he predicts they won’t be very egalitarian and could end up being dominated by blogging Darwinians. I think that’s already the case:

The world can’t support 184 million blogs. . . . The few, the mighty and the strong blogs will survive and thrive – but the age of blogging offering everybody a voice will fade away.”

(via Amy Vernon)

Serendipity-doo-dah: New York Times technology editor Damon Darlin ignited a firestorm over his assertion that the digital age isn’t good for information meandering:

Ah, the techies say, no worries. We have Facebook and Twitter, spewing a stream of suggestions about what to read, hear, see and do. . . . But that isn’t serendipity. It’s really group-think. Everything we need to know comes filtered and vetted. We are discovering what everyone else is learning, and usually from people we have selected because they share our tastes.”

Big Digerati Dog Steven Johnson got the logrolling going emphatically:

“Do these people actually use the Web?”

More pushback here and here. Even some of Darlin’s fans are scratching their heads. But he does have some defenders on this point.

And of course, there has to be some over-the-top snark for good measure.

I revel in all forms of serendipity, though I lean toward Darlin’s point that “group-think” could be a negative consequence of too much, or the wrong kind, of filtering. (What I compile here each Friday is a combination of serendipity and filtering by others, both in print and on the Web.)

During that testy interview with Der Spiegel last week, Chris Anderson admitted he really doesn’t do serendipity:

“I figure by the time something gets to me it’s been vetted by those I trust. So the stupid stuff that doesn’t matter is not going to get to me.”

Sports world needs to get realistic grip on Twitter

When I was blogging from an NFL team’s preseason training camp several years ago, another reporter stopped me as we walked to the practice fields:

“Gotta turn your cell phone off. It’s not allowed to be on out here.”

And placing it on silent or vibrate mode wasn’t good enough. My device had to be turned off completely. So I complied, sheepishly. I wasn’t there to write about formations, nickel packages or who was in the training room. The kinds of details that Pattonesque NFL coaches are convinced will ruin their entire seasons if divulged.

I wasn’t spying for Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Honest. I was there to write “scene” blog posts, talk to fans and spot the unusual (like a noted local sports personality watching the festivities in lime green Crocs).

I thought about that a lot yesterday when I read a Tweet from an NFL team’s Web site staffer who said he wasn’t allowed to post anything from an open practice session. Nothing at all. But that was just the start of what turned out to be a bizarre day for sports and Twitter.

A while later, word came down that San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie was fined $2,500 for a Tweet in which he complained about the food at training camp. Yes, loose Tweets sink ships. Their season is toast, and they haven’t played an exhibition game. Let’s bring in the Marines.

Here’s the explanation from Gen. Norv Turner, the Chargers coach:

“We’re trying to be open and give the fans a look at what we’re doing, but certainly we’re not going to go out of our way to give our opponents a competitive advantage or give them something that we feel should stay in our building. So that’s been our approach with any forms of media that we’re involved with.”

The Chargers aren’t alone in clamping down on Tweets from players and team officials, especially if they’re uncomplimentary about their employers. At least a dozen teams have banned Tweeting altogether during training camp. Even by journalists.

No wonder Steve Spurrier dubbed the professional ranks — where he spent two miserable seasons — the “No Fun League.” The league is working on a game-day Twitter policy to be lumped into an existing banishment of all forms of digital communications during games. Is the “No Twitter League” upon us?

Later in the day, the Bristol Behemoth, aka ESPN, issued a social media policy to employees with a tone that read like it was written in Pyongyang, especially the provision that Tweets from staff accounts be only about the company.

Naturally, some immediate reactions in the Web world were mockingingly incredulous and typically arid from the mainstream media.”Modules?” Those are space ships, not ways of linking social media postings. Why parrot this corporate-speak gobbledygook?

ESPN’s response to the criticism wasn’t as defensive as the initial memo, and I’m all for establishing standards for using social media and other forms of digital media. The sports cable giant’s clarification and rationale sounds reasonable enough. So why start out so bossy?

But was this really a bad day for Twitter? I don’t think so. Instead, this Twitter Tuesday revealed an insulated, “image-obsessed” sports culture led by paranoid coaches and executives who are accustomed to exerting ironclad control over their enterprises.

The sports world isn’t alone in trying to figure out how to best project itself in this social media environment. The corporate realm is struggling with this everywhere. But the initial reactions from the NFL and ESPN about Twitter illustrate entities that have been caught a little flat-footed, at the very least, by a technology that’s eluded their grasp.

Update: On Wednesday, Sports Business Daily conducted this Q and A with ESPN.com editor-in-chief Rob King:

“It’s an important opportunity to reiterate to folks that this technology is the equivalent of a live microphone. In that respect, it should be treated with some measure of awareness about how it represents those individuals who are forward-facing talent and how it represents how ESPN wants to connect with the audience. There’s a lot of education that goes along with it. Anyone who’s ever had a tweet re-tweeted to an audience knows that it can be presented in ways that you might never have understood or intended when you originally articulated those 140 characters.”

Readings: Massing, nichepapers, “Free” bashing

On Fridays I like to serve up some long-form material on digital media, suitable for weekend reading. As always, journalism on the Web is a hot topic, and particularly Chris Anderson’s snippy interview this week that has even a few online evangelists a bit incredulous.

Good news about news on the Web: At The New York Review of Books, longtime political journalist Michael Massing offers a prodigious assessment of the evolution of news into a print/Web hybrid. He points out the Internet’s shortcomings — including it being “a hothouse for rumors, distortions, and fabrications.” But after examining the work of Andrew Sullivan and Talking Points Memo, among other pioneering political bloggers and news sites, Massing likes much of what he sees happening online:

“The practice of journalism, far from being leeched by the Web, is being reinvented there, with a variety of fascinating experiments in the gathering, presentation, and delivery of news. And unless the editors and executives at our top papers begin to take note, they will hasten their own demise.”

Massing admits all this is unsettling, and remains concerned about how good journalism will be funded. But his lucid, empirical argument is a refreshing alternative to the either/or shouting into caverns of the digital divide.

Niches as news institutions: Web media entrepreneur Umair Haique, writing on the Harvard Business School blog, goes beyond railing against old media tendencies to charge for online news. “The Nichepaper Manifesto” argues in favor of news structured into distinct, dynamic and inviting ways for readers to interact and respond — via a curating method he calls “commentage.” And he claims that the “superior economics” of this idealized model will be the foundation for the future of news:

“Nichepapers do meaningful stuff that matters the most. The great failing of 20th century news is that monopoly power became a substitute for meaningful value creation. At root, that’s the lesson that newspapers are learning the hard way.”

However, Haique doesn’t address the economics of how this news is to be created and which is at the root of the raging debate over “Free.”

Hate to interrupt your triumphalism: Blogging superstar Cory Doctorow’s takedown of “Free” is more devastating than Malcolm Gladwell’s. Doctorow’s not a defensive print journalist but an author who has posted his new science fiction novel online for free. Ultimately he can’t embrace Anderson’s thesis because of what he leaves out:

“Also missing in Free is the frank admission that for many of the practitioners threatened by digital technology, the future is bleak.

“For while it is true that Madonna and many other established artists have found a future that embraces copying, there will also be many writers, musicians, actors, directors, game designers and others for whom the internet will probably spell doom. And for every creator who loses her livelihood because she is unsuited to the digital future, there will be many more intermediaries – editors, executives, salespeople, clerks, engineers, teamsters and printers – who will also be rendered jobless by technology.

“It is possible to be compassionate about those peoples’ fortunes – just as it is possible to mourn the passing of mom-and-pop bookstores, the collapse of poetry as a viable commercial concern, the worldwide decline of radio serials, the waning of the knife-sharpening trade, and a million other bygone human activities – while still not apologising for the future.”

Come on, just say the “J” word: In a contentious interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, an annoyed Anderson insisted he doesn’t use the words “journalism” and “media” any more. The same for “news.” In fact, he proclaims that “the words of the last century don’t have meaning.” Because there’s no need to rely on time-honored sources or methods to find out what’s happening in the world:

“It comes to me, which is really quite common these days. More and more people are choosing social filters for their news rather than professional filters. We’re tuning out television news, we’re tuning out newspapers. And we still hear about the important stuff, it’s just that it’s not like this drumbeat of bad news. It’s news that matters. I figure by the time something gets to me it’s been vetted by those I trust. So the stupid stuff that doesn’t matter is not going to get to me.”

His “journalism as hobby” line naturally has some old print tribes up in arms. But general readers ripped into Anderson when he chirped about how much he gets his news from Twitter, and sounding like someone who thinks milk comes from the supermarket instead of the farm.

“Oh dear, Chris, get back on the planet:” Roy Greenslade, media writer of The Guardian, admonishes Anderson for his semantic stubbornness:

“I count myself as a passionate advocate for new ways of practising journalism. But I do believe there is something called journalism. I do believe we there is still something called news.”

After rave reviews of “The Long Tail” (which I read and liked), the response to “Free” has been mixed from the start. I think he’s largely correct in assessing how individuals are consuming and sharing news, and that journalism increasingly may be left to hobbyists. But I was surprised by his smugness and agitation when challenged to back up his claims. Then again, new media gurus aren’t used to having their views challenged.

I haven’t read Anderson’s new book (it’s not “Free,” but a hefty $26.99), so I’ll reserve a more complete critique for later. For now, he smacks of an old media pontificator who doesn’t like being upbraided, even in the slightest.

And Anderson’s embrace of a postmodernish verbal relativism — which goes beyond mere vocabulary — leaves me stone cold. Words do have meaning, and how they’re used matters even more.