Shock and Awe Cubed (robertflink) Wed 9 Feb 11 08:16
>Too much information? Certainly not! No such thing. Only inadequate filtering.< Gosh! I thought we could rely on journalists or the church or Fox or NYT, or Focus on the Family, or Democracy Now or etc.. to filter for us. Do you mean we have to do our own filtering? Who is to tell us how? Wow! a whole new dimension of self-reliance. Can I cope? Help!!!
Kevin Anderson (kevinanderson) Wed 9 Feb 11 20:39
Peter Richardson (to clarify from Peter Lewis) when you say public support for political reporting, do you mean public funding or more support from the public? If you mean public funding, why for political journalism rather than broader categories of journalism? I ask both from a clarification point and also from the point that I can't see in the current political climate when there are calls (again) to defund public service media in the US how this might happen. Not to be Socratic, but how would you build support for more public funding of journalism? I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm curious to hear how you would turn the debate. As for the subject of filters, I actually see a big opportunity here. I think the success of social filters, first with things like recommendations in Facebook or Twitter and now with more advanced applications such as FlipBook, paper.li and Tweeted Times, there is definitely a hunger for this. Washington Post, NYTimes and Gannett have plowed $12m into a new paid social aggregator Ongo. This is very 1.0 at the moment, or maybe even just outta beta. I'm quite keen how not only social filters but also semantic technology can help journalists and help audiences.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 10 Feb 11 06:50
The Texas Tribune (http://texastribune.org) is organized as a nonprofit and gets (sometimes rabidly) enthusiastic support from donors small and large. They started with floor-deep pockets (a large initial donation) and worked smart from there. They cover only political news, feeling that political coverage has diminished in other news orgs - there's an increasingly larger gap to fill, and I think that's what <richardsonpete> and the others he mentions are concerned about. Why is there a gap? The average for-profit news org is depending more and more on infotainment, and committing fewer resources to hard political reporting. Doing what it takes to sell, not papers, but bits.
Peter Richardson (richardsonpete) Thu 10 Feb 11 08:48
Yes, I meant public funding for political journalism. Steve Coll's idea is to expand the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, whose budget in real terms has risen only 5% since 1982. That budget (about $425 million) is one third of what we sent to Egypt last year. On a per capita basis, Canada spends about 20 times more, and the U.K. spends 50 times more. I focus on political journalism because it alone qualifies as a public good in the way that economists use that term. And other forms of journalism (business, sports, entertainment) seem to be doing OK. Yes, the GOP is once again trying to zero out the CPB contribution. That's exactly why we need to discuss/defend/expand it. In Coll's scenario, the money would come from spectrum user fees. I'm not against markets in general, but we know that they fail to produce the right quality and quantity of public goods--defense, infrastructure, education, law enforcement, and (I would argue) health care. No one asks the army to be profitable, but we (alone?) seem to think that the lifeblood of our democracy should rise and fall on that basis. The founders had no such illusion.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 11 Feb 11 06:18
How should the Corporation for Public Broadcasting change in a post-broadcast world? While expansion of the CPB budget is an (unlikely, right now) option, I would think a reconsideration of budget allocation makes sense, and maybe a name change given the evolution of the media ecology from top-down mass broadcast to bottom-up networks of niches. The CPB mission still works: "to facilitate the development of, and ensure universal access to, non-commercial high-quality programming and telecommunications services." But development and access have changed radically since CPB was created in 1967.
Andrew Haeg (andrewhaeg) Fri 11 Feb 11 14:37
The House is set to take up a continuing resolution next week that includes a zeroing out CPB funds, which could mean the loss of $440 million in funding for public broadcasting. Folks who have fended off threats to the CPB for many years say this year feels more dangerous and more real than any other. Even so, I think it's critical for us in public broadcasting to be laser-focused on the market failure we were created to fill. In other words, what kinds of information or services are the commercial media failing to provide at scale, and what are the acute information needs of the public? I have some ideas, but I'd like to throw that question to this group. What's missing from journalism today that public broadcasting should be providing?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 11 Feb 11 23:09
The Texas Tribune just hired away the woman who's been doing the weekly Idaho legislative reports on public television here. Thanh Tan, and she looks like she should be hanging on a charm bracelet, but she's a dynamo.
Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Sat 12 Feb 11 21:59
I'm really sorry that I've contributed so little here--crazy week--but lucky me, I get to catch up on a great discussion. Here are some notes and responses. Tony said in 24: "Because media organizations have less control of information flow today, they can no longer insist that readers 'should' consider different viewpoints." The thing is, they never really *could* insist this. Didn't stop them, but really, if someone isn't interested in considering a different viewpoint, the urging of a columnist or an editorialist is hardly going to make a difference. We've always had echo chambers, but echo chambers in the broadcast world -- Fox being the most successful -- are far more dangerous than echo chambers online, because they're broadcast: you can't talk back to them in their own medium. But I don't think the gatekeepers of media power have ever felt that the central purpose of their "control of information flow" was to make sure that partisans had to confront opposing views. Instead, this control has always been deployed in service of agenda-setting and boundary-drawing: saying "this is what's important now" and "this isn't a story." The Net really does alter this dynamic, and I think that's on balance a good thing. Look at how this just worked in Egypt. The Egyptian state media wanted to make Tahrir Square a non-story. Maybe the protests would stop if state TV didn't tell the world about them. Well, the Net bollixed that plan, and by the time Mubarak pulled the plug on the Net it was too late. Ah, but the US press doesn't work that way. Or does it? Sometimes the US media have been highly effective at declaring certain points of view so far out of bounds that they become nearly invisible. The online channel means they can't be totally stifled, but they can be cordoned off from the national debate and the public consciousness. The most pernicious example of this in recent history was, of course, the runup to the Iraq War, when antiwar perspectives were written out of the public dialogue, and most of our media establishment -- including some of its most important pillars -- became propaganda organs of the government. When the media lose their power of boundary-drawing, of course, it also means that loonies and lies can be heard more readily. Which is why I think the idea of "media literacy" education touched on here will, in fact, I think, become a growth industry. The radical transformation of our media diet is central to our politics today -- both its hopeful aspects and its pathologies -- and people increasingly understand that their children need to learn to think critically about it. To Ed Ward's point, it doesn't have to be seen as a liberal conspiracy. Conservatives need to be media literate too. Many of them already are! I'm glad that Kevin mentioned Dan Gillmor's new book "Mediactive." It's a wonderful primer and guide to many of the topics this discussion has touched on. On the perennial "Who is a journalist" theme, rather than rehash something I've been talking about for years, I'll point you to a talk I gave at Stanford Law last year, "No more bouncers at the journalism club door." I argued that we should stop worrying about "who is a journalist," throw away the convention of the press card, and instead think about laws and institutions that protect *acts of journalism*: http://www.wordyard.com/2010/05/03/no-more-bouncers-at-the-journalism-club-doo r/ Tiffany asked about whether the Net opens more room for voices that have been traditionally less well represented in the media, and that remains an important question. The spectrum of voices that can speak and be heard online *is* wider in important ways, I think. But the online media that have evolved on the Net -- the new institutions of journalism -- remain just as demographically unrepresentative as the old media. Much more work to do. As for the McChesney/Nichols/Coll call to boost public-funded media, it seems to me that it is impractical/implausible in today's Beltway, where we'll be fighting to save NPR, not to expand it. Even more important, the campaign is, to me, fundamentally backward-looking. It's about replacing dollars, not rethinking journalism. So when Andrew asks, "What's missing from public broadcasting?" I answer: a vision of public service journalism that is *not* broadcasting. Public media isn't defined by radio and TV platforms, it's defined by a set of ideals about public service, fairness, civic value, and access. We need to find ways to carry forward those ideals into an era when broadcasting is going to gradually vanish and niche media, conversational media, personalized media will dominate.
Peter Richardson (richardsonpete) Sun 13 Feb 11 10:49
I'm not sure there's anything about public support that's limited to television and radio. I also doubt those media will vanish.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 14 Feb 11 09:14
Will the future of media and journalism be built on the backs of "serfs" working for free? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/business/media/14carr.html?_r=1&hp The Times article really gets to the heart of a rather hairy issue for career journalists (and those hoping to build a career in the profession): "The Huffington Post, social networks and traditional media may all seem like different animals, but as advertising, the mothers milk of all media, flows toward social and amateur media, low-cost and no-cost content is becoming the norm....For those of us who make a living typing, its all very scary, of course. Its less about the diminution of authority and expertise, although there is that, and more about the growing perception that content is a commodity, and one that can be had for the price of zero."
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Mon 14 Feb 11 11:26
THe HuffPo debacle is only the most egregious example of this trend toward paying writers in "exposure." Which is certainly a kind of currency, particularly in a celebrity=obsessed culture, but it sure as hell doesn't get you very far at the local Stop and Shop. On the other hand, selling what she got in return for providing that exposure will buy Arianna a great deal of caviar. An interesting, if boutique-y approach to part of this problem is The Atavist <www.atavist.com>, which tries to preserve the values of magazine journalism--fact-checking, deep reporting, nice design--while using a digital platform, and all the toys that enables, and still charging money for the privilege of reading it. Myself, I'm glad for two things. One, that I never tried to make a living this way, so it's been more like butter-and-egg money for me, and two, that I sank part of the only big advance I ever got into a house in Nicaragua, where I could probably afford to live on a freelancer's pay if I decided to try.
Ed Ward (captward) Mon 14 Feb 11 11:42
Not very encouraging to someone who made a living for 45 years at this game and is desperately trying to fit into the new landscape -- and who has no desire whatever to live in Nicaragua. So do we just wait out this new! shiny! approach to journalism and wait for the return of content we can get paid for and hope we don't starve to death in the meanwhile? Or is there a more proactive approach?
Gary Greenberg (gberg) Mon 14 Feb 11 11:52
Well, we could start by not providing content for free. And making sure that the people who solicit it understand that's why we're not saying yes. (I'll see if I can dig up a recent exchange between me and a shiny! perky! editor at Psychology Today onn this very subject.) But that's mostly for self-respect. I also do really annoying things that are probably ineffective and self-defeating and mark me as an outdated curmudgeon to boot. Like when I put something up on my website about a magazine article I've written, I suggest, not without a certain amount of guilt-infliction, that people subscribe to the magazine rather than link to the online article. (After a few months, I do put a pdf up on my site, or link to it if the magazine provides it for free--which other than Harper's, which is, not coincidentally, circling the drain at this very moment, they all do.) As for the return of content--seems to me that the idea of what's worthwhile to read (and write) has changed immensely, which means that it's unlikely to return. And much as I like to think that when there's nothing left but bloggers blogging about blogs, people will finally come to their senses, I'm sure I'm wrong about that.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 14 Feb 11 12:43
"I suggest, not without a certain amount of guilt-infliction, that people subscribe to the magazine rather than link to the online article." Magazines are supported by ads and so are websites. When you buy the magazine at the counter, that money's eaten by overhead - probably by distribution overhead - so it's not clear that the publisher makes more money from the sale of paper with ads than from your eyeballs on the website with ads, which is much cheaper to distribute. I'd also note that when I was in the magazine business, the distributors were not good about floating the money from magazine sales back our way (but that might not be a universal problem). So I don't think you should feel bad about sending them to the website. Some websites do very well with ad revenues - boing boing, HuffPo, DailyKos, and Gawker (actually a media network) I'm certain have done well. I also have the unverified impression that NY Times had better revenues from ads after opening its content up than with subscriptions when it was locked down. Of those, I think most pay writers, though not all of them. HuffPo has had both paid and free writing, boing boing's bloggers share in its profits... I'm less sure about Kos and Gawker. I think Kos can be thought of as more of a community system but without the many diaries, and the many more readers reading them, Markos would never have had the eyeballs to justify serious ad sales. These are just some observations. I know that plenty of writers are being paid for writing online. I've been paid for it, myself, though I've done a lot more for free. My time is so overcommitted now I have to charge for most of what I do, and my blog is suffering for it. (It also needs an editor, that's another story...) I've watched with interest as Texas Tribune has done increasingly well with its nonprofit model, wondering if that's a big part of the future of journalism...?
Ed Ward (captward) Mon 14 Feb 11 12:46
I just did a piece for the Oxford American's music issue, and the understanding was I'd get the same fee for publication on the Web, since they didn't have room for the article in the paper edition. We'll see: queries have gone unanswered so far, and the magazine's been out a couple of months.
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Mon 14 Feb 11 17:47
I'd like to second (third, fourth, fifth, whatever) the recommendation of Dan Gillmor's excellent new project, Mediactive. I was about to call it a book, but that's so analog. The digital versions of Mediactive include links and include a companion website where Dan updates things regularly. So far I've not discovered any use of augmented reality, 3D data visualization or other non-bookish embellishments, but perhaps he's saving those for a subsequent edition. How do we find trustworthy information online? Dan argues that we get it the old-fashioned way ... we earn it. We firm up our flabby crap-detection muscles (tip o the hat to Howard Rheingold), revel in skepticism and suspicion, use judgment, investigate different and opposing news sources, ignore anonymous and unsigned commentary, investigate a writer's background and prior work, visit snopes.com, employ whois, view sourcecode, make sure the advertisements match the content of the website, check regrettheerror and other error-monitoring sites, assume the fresher the news is the less trustworthy it is, support startups like Fabrice Florian's NewsTrust ... and a lot of other stuff. Damn! That's hard work. Gillmor argues that it's only going to get harder with the shift from the 1,440-minute news cycle to the 86,400-second news cycle, with Twitter and other real-time-web news tools. The message is we'll get trustworthy news only if we demand it and work for it. We need to hold the New York Times and Fox News and other paragons of media accountable for their failures with the run-up to the Iraq war and the financial collapse of 2008 and the coverage of global climate change. We need to question potential conflicts of interests now that anyone can write for a global audience on influential sites like HuffPAol. As for Government financing of news coverage... historians, help me out. When the Government awarded television and radio spectrum to private corporations, licenses worth untold billions of dollars, didn't they require the broadcasters to set aside significant airtime for news, public service and education? And how well did that turn out? The tax codes already support news organizations and non-profit news organizations. Suppose the GOP allowed just one new tax ... a broadband tax, collected from every Internet and digital cable subscriber, to finance quality journalism. How long before the fighting starts on who gets the funds? Who runs the new news operations? How they hire reporters? The subjects they cover? I don't see how it could possibly work, and I don't know many (actually, any) journalists besides McChesney and Nichols who would accept direct Government funding.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 14 Feb 11 22:52
I hadn't thought about direct government funding for journalism, seems that would be a strange beast without legs. The nonprofit, non-government model makes a lot of sense, though. I've wondered how the New Yorker's doing, putting so much of its content online. Expensive content: clearly a lot of time and care goes into writing those long investigative pieces. I just read Lawrence Wright's excellent piece on Paul Haggis and Scientology (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/02/14/110214fa_fact_wright?currentPage =1), published online the day it showed up in print, complete with embedded cartoons. I admire the way a really good journalist will blast clusters of contradictory facts and let the reader find the most credible path. I've tried to write that way in the past, but it takes time to capture the multiple perspectives and flesh 'em out.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 15 Feb 11 06:21
Hey guys, been a bit occupied and haven't been able to keep up with this,so glad it will be archived. What I loved most about the WELL back in the '90's was the ability to dialog with many of the people who later published in the media. Many times it seemed as if I was days ahead of the news. That's been taking place still, but mostly it happens for me now on Twitter. I imagine you all have your own PLN's there with rich resources and conversations. Mediactive is a good example of some of the new things that are developing, with more coming daily. It's all so new. My point is that this whole shift to a new way of doing journalism includes a new way of sourcing and connecting and we all haven't found each other yet or learned how best to use all these tools. So there is a bit of lag time and learning curve involved. There are so many ways now to create our Networks, with so many ways to focus on particular data streams. Wondering if most of your skills and methods are transferable to it all, or if you are finding you have to learn some new tricks? And also if there isn't a sense of "this is a whole new day, with whole new ways" that no one really understands yet?
Can we grasp the sorry scheme of things entire? (robertflink) Tue 15 Feb 11 09:05
Interesting to contemplate the idea that those who watch and report on the changing world may find changes in their own field disconcerting. Perhaps we all have trouble seeing what is right under our noses.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 15 Feb 11 09:30
Yup...also it's just plain hard to "see" right now
Tiffany Lee Brown (magdalen) Tue 15 Feb 11 22:54
the "bloggers blogging about blogs" comment rings true. if we get to the point where no one is actually reporting on anything --- or everyone is reporting on everything --- there will be no canonical knowledge and no definitive sources. maybe we should think about past media revolutions, small and large, and see how industries weathered them. TV didn't kill radio. the desktop publishing revolution didn't kill the mainstream magazine industry (quite the contrary). i suppose Gutenberg didn't do the illuminated manuscript cartel any favors, though. and cable, plus internet, has wreaked havoc on network/broadcast television. it's wonderful to make everyone a content generator. so democratic. but it does pull the plug on some of our moneymaking activities. i am paid about 25% of what i'd have made for the equivalent work in the 1995-2000 era, to write a blog for Syfy now. and then several compatriots told me i'm actually getting paid very well for it compared to similar gigs they've gotten recently. this is.... scary.
Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Wed 16 Feb 11 01:17
In 2007 I freelanced a piece for the inaugural issue of the short-lived Conde Nast Portfolio (known around the water cooler as Fort Polio). I was paid $2 per word for a 1,000-word piece that was eventually cut until nothing remained but picture captions. Michael Lewis (no relation) also freelanced a piece for that issue. He was paid $10 per word. That's less than the $12 per word Tom Wolfe got. I believe that must have been the high-water mark for spending for freelance journalism, but I could be wrong. Now we're in an era where good writers who used to command a buck or two per word are happy to get 25 cents. One editor tells me he pays writers "a penny per click." Not long ago Forbes offered me the opportunity to write a regular blog for forbes.com. Pay? Zip. "It's good exposure," they said. Sixty gazillion blogs are created every month (number is estimated). Most are self-financed. HuffPo just sold itself to AOL for north of $300 million, more than 10X its annual revenue. HuffPo has a few staff writers who are paid decently, but the vast majority of pieces on HuffPo are written by writers who aren't paid a dime. (Not a dime per word; not a dime per article. They write for free.) A leaked document reveals that AOL expects its staff writers to produce five to 10 stories per day. Demand Media pays its freelancers $10, $15 or $20 per article. There are still some print journalists who get paid handsomely. I know a few who command around half a million dollars a year. I know some writing stars whose six-figure salaries from leading publications merely cover the taxes on their income from speaking fees. The business manager of the not-for-profit Bay Citizen is paid $400K. The editor of the not-for-profit Texas Tribune is paid north of a quarter-million per year. The top editor of non-profit ProPublica tops half a million. But those lucky ones are exceedingly rare. The harsh reality is that the pay scale for the average freelance journalist is reverting to zip. It's a textbook case of supply and demand. Supply is soaring faster than demand. These days, nearly every company is a media company, and nearly every sentient being with a computer is a content producer. Demand Media: IPO Valuation $1.5 billion. Business model: Selling ads based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $15 per 500-word article (certainly below minimum wage). HuffPo: Valuation $315 million. Business model: Selling ads based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0. Twitter: Best-guess Valuation $8 billion. Business model: Selling ads based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0. FaceBook: Best-guess Valuation $50 billion. Business model: Selling ads based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0. Groupon: Best guess Valuation $15 billion. Business model: Selling ads based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0. You can bet that other media companies see the trend. When a content factory like Demand Media has a higher valuation on Wall Street than The New York Times, something is seriously upscrewed in the way quality journalism is valued. Whaddaya think?
Ed Ward (captward) Wed 16 Feb 11 02:06
Dunno if you've had your snot quotient today, but I got enraged about four paragraphs into this. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/10/huffington-post-bloggers_n_821446.htm l> Time to take these folks down a peg, I think.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 16 Feb 11 05:48
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 16 Feb 11 10:01
Someone recently pointed out to me that the arc of history for media brought about by the digital revolution has replaced the Gutenberg printing area and brought us back to the oral tradition. This all seems to be some of the fallout from that.
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