Friday, November 14, 2008

Can't Trust the Papers to Report on Trust, even

The survey found that eight times more British people trust judges to tell the truth than trust tabloid journalists to do so. Sadly, but not at all surprisingly, this finding went almost wholly unreported. Lucky, privileged Dacre.

I say this finding went unreported, which it did. However, other parts of the research from which it came - a survey of attitudes towards conduct in public life commissioned by the independent committee on standards - were vigorously covered. One part of the report in particular caught the media eye. Many papers carried stories about the low esteem in which the public holds government ministers and MPs - "Get your snouts out of the trough" (Daily Mail), "Trust in MPs at new low" (the Sun), "Sleaze tsar slams greedy MPs" (the Mirror). There was nothing in any of these reports, however, about public attitudes to the media.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian.

Some of us did.

James Murdoch May be going Shopping

Murdoch called the Sun the UK’s largest short-break holiday company and said it is making tens of millions of pounds a year from its online bingo game.

From PaidContent.

The Man Who would be King Blogger?

And because of his exalted position, he can say what he likes, within reason, and few will disagree. In fact, a senior member of his household told me that his boss could be the most arrogant and petty person on earth, but that one could not really blame him because nobody had ever said “No” to his face.

He added that Charles can also be the most kind and considerate of men on occasion – and that he cries very easily.

This man should be blogging.

But where his opinions were seen in the early days as those of a pampered eccentric, who talked to his plants, today he has emerged as a man who has taken the long view and who is seen by many as the voice of reason in an increasingly insane world.

In other words a true Prince for the 21st century.

From the Western Mail and WalesOnline.

Google Goes into Apple Voice

We are almost at Star Trek 1967, at long last.

Users of the free application, which Apple is expected to make available as soon as Friday through its iTunes store, can place the phone to their ear and ask virtually any question, like “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” or “How tall is Mount Everest?” The sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google’s servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine.

From the NYT.

Dial a Picture (Frame)

T-Mobile USA will get into the picture frame business. Specifically, the carrier will be offering a digital picture frame, dubbed the T-Mobile Cameo, that comes with its own phone number.

Handy for cash-strapped galleries too, I'd imagine.

Chat: social networking style boost for online magazines?

Can group chat keep fickle web readers on this publisher's web pages? We suspect that it could work well, but the first implementation we've seen left a lot to be desired.

Powered by fast-growing web IM platform Meebo, these new chat widgets can be accompanied by multimedia that chat users can view together. In a world where the magazine industry has to be feeling some pain from sites like MySpace and Facebook, maybe magazines have to put a little MySpace on their own websites.

From ReadWriteWeb.

Trust & Thomas Friedman

But to have been so completely and fundamentally wrong about so huge a disaster as what we have done to Iraq — and ourselves — is outrageous enough to prove that people like me have no business posing as wise men, and, more importantly, that The New York Times has no business continuing to provide me with a national platform.

In any case, I have made a decision: as of today, I will no longer write in this or any other newspaper. I will immediately desist from writing any more books about how it’s time for everyone to climb on board the globalization high-speed monorail to the future. I will keep my opinions to myself. (My wife suggested that I try not to even form opinions, but I think she might have another agenda.)

Check the date of Friedman's NYT piece.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Life

One day...

Plant a Video, Make Money For Google (take five)

In an attempt to capitalize on traffic that happens off the main site, YouTube today announced a monetization program for embedded videos at the NewTeeVee conference in San Francisco.

From Read, Write, Web.

When the day is

“I'm not upset that you lied to me, I'm upset that from now on I can't believe you”
Friedrich Nietzsche.

Update to WOW - 11 million can't be wrong

From Wired.

The Facebook Phone: of course...

Already dubbed the Facebook phone, the INQ is positioned as a ‘live contact book’, with friends’ online status and Facebook profile pictures displayed against their contact details. Early reviews suggest this phone will go a long way to helping newbs realise the potential of mobile social media networking.

From Techcrunch.

Objectivity: Poynter Dean not a believer in its myth...

...which is quite a complex thought.

Others claim the reporter's rule of remaining objective has never really been the case, and for newspapers to pretend to "hold on" to it in the growing age of online opinions and fast-moving facts only holds them back. "I'm not a believer in the myth of objectivity to begin with — what we are talking about is fairness," says Keith Woods, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute. "We may aspire to [objectivity], but we have not come close to achieving it."

Anyway, Joe Strupp at E&P explores that ole subjective, objectivity.

Meanwhile, this is the second & third paragraph of a more challenging essay (in progress) I was was just sent by Andrew Calcutt, from the University of East London & Philip Hammond, of London South Bank University. This weekend I'm giving the essay a good read. I saw them present this last month: now it's time to think about it.

We subjects first make the world our object; then we make it again, this time as the object of our subjectivity. Objectivity arises from the collective application of subjectivity in the contentious process of producing mental objects – knowledge, designed to capture that material object – the external world, which we subjects have previously made. Objectivity is the condition of those mental objects which are the further objectification of the objective world – the world made into their object by human subjects.

In that journalism is a form of knowledge, it is a particular mental object produced by a specific, designated subject – the journalist. As reporters, journalists apply their subjectivity to that which has already been produced by human subjects. The reporter’s job is to identify the primary object resulting from the actions of human subjects – the event, and make it into a secondary object – the story. By a process of mental production, materialised as words, sound, pictures and the arrangement (design) of these elements, journalists transform an object produced by some subjects (actors whose have actions have resulted in an event) into another object for the cognition of other subjects (readers, listeners, viewers and users).

Hoax Newsers: still exist, still telling us what we want to hear

News in the Future?

Eisenstadt's "work" had been quoted and debunked before. The Huffington Post said it had cited Eisenstadt in July on a story regarding the Hilton family and McCain.

Among the other victims were political blogs for the Los Angeles Times and The New Republic, each of which referenced false material from Eisenstadt's blog.

And in July, Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones magazine blogged an item about Eisenstadt speaking on Iraqi television about a casino in Baghdad's "Green Zone."

Stein later realized he'd been had.

"Kudos to the inventor of this whole thing," Stein wrote. "My only consolation is that if I had as much time on my hands as he clearly does, I probably would have figured this out and saved myself a fair amount of embarrassment."

Future of American Newspapers Resolved Today - it's official

The American Press Institute (API) will host an invitation-only, closed-door "summit conference" Nov. 13 in which 50 CEO-level executives will ponder ways to revive the newspaper business.

The one-day conference at API's Reston, Va., headquarters will be "a facilitated discussion of concrete steps the industry can take to reverse its declines in revenue, profit and shareholder value."

From E&P. There will be a full report.

Gawker: news you can recyle

Anyway Jarvis is pretty sure the way to "save journalism" is to turn it over to "the market," which is always right, and in practical terms obviously that means a world where positioning your content to make the front page of Digg is more or less the goal, so listicles and tits are seeming like probably the model we're going to be dealing with, in this wonderful future.

Of course there is no right answer to this question, and cranky old Ron Rosenbaum doesn't have a better idea, he just feels bad for people who write ten-part newspaper serieses on police torture and then their newspapers fold. We're sure there's room for your ten-part series on police torture at The Huffington Post, friend! Or, at least, they might have an intern link to it. Which is just as good.

Gawker goes for Pulitzer prize on the future of newspapers.

Ron Rosenbaum's piece.

Digitally Divided; thinking about the "Internet For Everyone"

When the web got going, and Wired was the Bible, there was a lot of revolutionary talk. But few of the revolutions were exactly about equality; they were about empowerment as long as you owned a $2000 laptop. In 1994 I sat in his office and asked Nicholas Negroponte what I would need - as an internet savvy journalist - to come and study at his MIT Media Lab, and in particular the Lab's News in the Future group. He listed a series of programming languages, and nothing at all about media: he offered little hope that I'd ever get it, ever understand the future of media. I felt deflated. But not as deflated as when trying to convince old school journalists back at home about the impact the web, and the wired world, was going to have on media, music, politics, pornography (both, all) name it the web was going to change it, I said.

Yeah, right.

The traditional journalists I spoke to thought: geek; the Geeks (who already got it, and had the programming languages) thought wannabee geek, and the nascent muscular technocracy best symbolised by Wired co-founder, John Battelle, treated us confused but enthusiastic in the middle folks with the kind of contempt last seen at the Battle of Saratoga. Here's Battelle, now a super-online publishing grise, in action on his blog last week, it's always been like this:

The part that people don't yet fully understand [this week] is that "vertical ad networks," at the end of the day, are still ad networks. Ad networks are a vital part of the online media ecosystem. They provide publishers with additional revenue on inventory that isn't otherwise fulfilling higher CPM sponsorship programs, and they provide direct-response marketers with additional reach at cost-efficient rates. Vertical ad networks offer a bit better targeting because they focus on a smaller set of sites.

While vertical ad networks may improve efficiency for direct-response advertisers, who determine success based on some variation of cost-per-click, they are not solving the needs of brand advertisers. Ultimately, vertical ad networks serve advertisers and will compete with everyone else who serves DR advertisers, from Google to the other ad networks. The excitement over "vertical" ad networks will erode as CPMs on those networks chase the DR metrics.

My point is that even at the dawn of the web, it had the capacity (as practical medium, and evolutionary metaphor) to divide us all. We atomised. We personalised. We dived in...or we stood by the shore...or we closed our eyes. We invented new language, and we stayed ten minutes ahead or five years (but usually neither) That process of atomisation is now so marked that almost any analysis of the the digital world becomes an immediate argument. There's almost nothing we can agree on - not blogging, twitter, the future of search, libraries, journalism or privacy.

Times change: everyone gets it now (this is irony, of course): we are at best a series of social networks. The Google Generation doesn't know anything else. But somewhere in the middle of this huge shift (it's a kind of digital Long March - now there's a online game to build) in just about every facet of life (from phone communication to the way we make friends, or a living; education, politics & travel) we have uncovered massive flaws in our social assumptions. Our old social networks have eviscerated - largely because our belief systems are now so personal - patchworks of ideas and ideologies based on our relationship to education, work, technology, gaming, books, place...we trust very little but ourselves these days.

I was going to blog about this, the "Internet For Everyone" project, launched yesterday in the USA. The objectives are interesting:

Survey after survey shows American broadband quality and access falling perilously behind countries in Europe and Asia. Getting everyone connected to an open Internet should be a national priority. Click on your state below to learn more about Internet access in your area.

America is the birthplace of the Internet, and home to many of its greatest ideas and innovators. But since Internet access became publicly available, we have failed to deliver its tremendous benefits to everyone. As a result, millions of Americans still stand on the wrong side of the "digital divide." And the damages -- economic, social and political -- are beginning to show.

Since 2001, the United States has fallen from fourth in the world in broadband penetration to 15th in the world today. While American consumers face high prices and few choices, many of our European and Asian counterparts have achieved the goals of universal deployment and competitive markets. Returning to the top of international rankings would translate into millions of new jobs and hundreds of billions of dollars in increased economic activity for the United States.

What I'm grasping at is the layer-caking of our views. I'm trying to juggle a world in which Paul Dacre is humbugging for timeless values while others call for the British Regional Press to be subsidised; Obama has an e-mail mailing list of 10 million and the co-founder of Blogger is post-blogging, almost.

I think the British Museum's decision to hold an exhibition about Babylon and - in particular - the Tower of Babel, makes perfect sense. But how do we make sense of the disparities between people? More to the point how do we create social networks that bridge the vast epistemological divides between people that once would have agreed on most things. This really is the democratising of doubt.

Rome: first the mini series, now the Google Remix

More here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blogging at risk from Twitter?

From Evan Williams, the boss at Twitter, formerly the co-founder of Blogger.

I still blog on occasion when I have something I can’t squeeze into 140 characters, but that’s rare, and for many people Twitter (or something else) will suffice nicely on its own. However, does that mean they’re not blogging? We’ve never labeled Twitter a “micro-blogging” service, but that’s certainly one of the primary use cases.

All from Andreas Kluth's Hanibal blog.

Thinking at Risk from Twitter?

"It's becoming harder and harder to step back and reflect, as journalism has shattered into a food fight" that values attitude over opinion, said Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman. The capacity to think is so at risk now with blogs and Tweets that reporters often have to react without time to absorb information. "The ability to think through something," she said, "hasn't sped up."

From Poynter.

Attitude over opinion? How about fact over opinion? Or analysis over fact?

The 'food fight' ? I'm going to write about that later.

books, the internet & the how we think thing

A lot of the ideas suddenly breaking out are interesting because they reflect the slow but sure realisation among those who work in any form of communication (as journalists, editors, educators, strategists, politicians, PR) that things have changed forever - and the certain empirical knowledge that the internet is the ultimate brutal, unsubsidized, marketplace. Perhaps it took the Obama election win (and the superb digital strategy); perhaps it is newspapers visibly withering on the vine (and newspaper editors and proprietors increasingly whiney response to the market); perhaps it is the shift from the textural to the visual, from wiki to youtube....Below is one such new exchange. You should read all the pieces.

"On or about December, 1910," Virginia Woolf once wrote, "the world changed." Sometime during the early aughts of this century, it changed again. The Internet leveled our cultural landscape. There was an epistemological free-for-all, a paradigm shift. The pyramid of media hierarchy flipped - top down became bottom up - and people-powered content started to change the way we think.

Beau Friedlander in the LA Times.

Books require a different sort of communion with one's subject than the Internet. They foster a different sort of memory - more tactile, more participatory. I know more or less where, folio-wise, Eliot gets nasty about the Jews in his infamous 1933 lecture series "After Strange Gods," but I always have to read around a bit to find the exact quote, and the time spent softens the bite of his anti-Semitism because the hateful remarks were made amid smart ones. For literary works, books are still, and most likely always will be, indispensable.

Nicholas Carr gets involved.

For all its convenience, Google's snippet-view of information flattens knowledge, erasing context. Sometimes truth lies not in the needle but in the haystack.

And here's a response to Nicholas Carr:

That's part of a very messed up serious of re-defining that the net has been bringing us. "Privacy" means preference settings in a central database that's regularly mined for views of the private. "Friend" means a database entry that control various database access features. It also means a "point" in a scoring game. "Reputation" means database entries where people rate you from 1-5 or similar. "Collaboration" means enriching a corporate entity, along with other customers, by contributing free labor. "Freedom" means your right and duty to do so. "Production" means using investment to gather up "collaborators" and sell their accounts to Google or Microsoft.

I guess it's just natural that "knowledge" should be re-defined as "that which can be obtained from Google nearly instantaneously."

by Tom Lord.

Pitch the story, Find the story funder - Citizen Journalism hits the market

This is the pitch for, what appears to be an amazing - and radical - exercise in citizen journalism.

Spot.Us is a nonprofit project of the Center for Media Change. We are an open source project, to pioneer “community funded reporting.” Through Spot.Us the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories. All donations are tax deductible and if a news organization buys exclusive rights to the content, your donation will be reimbursed. Otherwise, all content is made available to all through a Creative Commons license. It’s a marketplace where independent reporters, community members and news organizations can come together and collaborate.

Spot.Us - Community Funded Reporting Intro from Digidave on Vimeo. is here.

Public Interest or Sense of Entitlement:?

Here’s the bitter truth — the feared loss of civic value is not the basis for a BUSINESS.

The problem with the newspaper industry, as with the music industry before it, is the sense of ENTITLEMENT. What we do is valuable. Therefore we have the right to make money.

Nobody has the right to a business model.

Ask not what the market can do for you, but what you can do for the market.

Sorry about the capital letters, but Scott Karp quoting Seth Godin got carried away. The short piece is worth a read though: it asks the right questions about the future of newspapers - for a change.

What Does Happen to the Collector in the Era of Mass Replication?

When the music of the twentieth century fits on a hard drive? And the Kindle makes one paperback into 800?
The collector is forever nostalgic because the collector’s ethos is the consciousness of finitude. The collector wants to give commodities their aesthetic, artistic, sensory value back. Mass capitalism deprives objects from the experience of uniqueness; the collector wants to restore that lost unicity. In a way the collector is a ghost-hunter, forever immersed in the phatasmagoria of his imaginary and of the small shops that, unseen by the masses, are, as it were, only there for the collector.

From Never Neutral.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Director of Global News BBC: it's just like 1976

The BBC I-Player team think about Paul Dacre's ideas on Blogging.

It seems to me the known knowns will be a continued need for information about an ever more interconnected world; an appetite for storytelling in a way that engages interest, a need for analysis and explanation and an opportunity to debate and discuss. But these things will increasingly be delivered through an internet that is more tailored and personalised thanks to data-driven services, video-rich and live (in the way we can now take video comments on some issues for example) and more open networks of people and information rather than closed systems offering limited and pre-determined choices.

Richard Sambrook romps from Howard Beale to, er, what do we do now, Captain Mainwaring?

If the web is a sea, social networks are air

I'm a great believer in the value of online community-building, and in many ways it's encouraging to see that traditional media are learning from online social networks.

But the more I watch the evolution of social networks on the Web, the more a couple of things seem clear:

1. No one wants to be part of more than a few online social networks.

2. Increasingly, social networks are becoming separate from Web sites - or, put another way, social networks can have an impact on your experience on multiple sites beyond the social-networking site itself (such as Facebook or MySpace).

Earlier this year, Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li made a public presentation (and blog post) arguing that in the future, social networks would be "like air." At the time, I had some trouble imagining what that would actually mean. But now I'm getting a clearer picture.

Rich Gordon is Associate Professor and Director of Digital Technology in Education at Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Eloquence also returns: Obama and Language

Among other triumphs, last Tuesday night was a very good night for the English language. A movement in American politics hostile to the possession and the possibility of words—it had repeatedly disparaged Barack Obama as “just a person of words” —was not only defeated but embarrassed by a victory speech eloquent in echo, allusion, and counterpoint. No doubt many of us would have watched in tears if President-elect Obama had only thanked his campaign staff and shuffled off to bed; but his midnight address was written in a language with roots, and stirred in his audience a correspondingly deep emotion.

James Wood in the New Yorker.

Tower of Babel is Back

The story of the Tower of Babel stands at the heart of how we imagine architecture. This myth hovers over every tall building; behind all criticism of skyscrapers lurks the spectre of Babel, smote for its hubris. It is a great myth but the British Museum's show reveals it is a true story.

Jonathan Jones on the new British Museum show.

Paul Dacre: Lover or a Fighter? How Will We Ever Know?

Private faces in public places
are wiser and nicer
than public faces in private places
W.H Auden

..the more editors think they are public figures and the more they become speaking heads on TV chat shows the more their newspapers decline and they do not last very long in their jobs. That is my experience. My job is to edit my newspaper, to have a relationship with my readers, to reflect my readers' views and to defend their interest. It is not to offer myself up to you or television or radio interviewers.

Select Committee on Public Administration Minutes of Evidence Paul Dacre's response to Q147, 25 March 2004. [Retrieved on 25 May 2007]. From Wikipedia.

So, Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre gives a speech in which he attacks what he calls the "wretched" Human Rights Act - which is in effect an "imposed" privacy law. He singles out one man, Mr Justice Eady, for his "amoral" rulings - Eady was the judge in the Max Mosley case. Dacre said:

“The judge found for Max Mosley because he had not engaged in a “sick Nazi orgy” as the News of the World contested, though for the life of me that seems an almost surreally pedantic logic as some of the participants were dressed in military-style uniform. Mosley was issuing commands in German while one prostitute pretended to pick lice from his hair, a second fellated him and a third caned his backside until blood was drawn. Now most people would consider such activities to be perverted, depraved, the very abrogation of civilised behaviour of which the law is supposed to be the safeguard. Not Justice Eady. To him such behaviour was merely unconventional”.

In response to the entire speech Charlie Beckett writes in his Polis blog:

Dacre has a point about the way that this issue is being dealt with. You should either have a privacy law or not. At the moment we have one creeping in without proper consideration. It’s certainly not good enough to say that ‘it will all come out on the Internet anyway”. Firstly, not everything does come out on the Internet. Secondly, the Internet should not be above ethical scrutiny either. Thirdly, why should newspapers be more restricted than a blog or a website?

There are ways that you can delineate privacy. Children should be protected from publicity. Your own home and holiday should be privileged spaces. But there will always be exceptions which is why judges will always be involved. Where I agree with Dacre is that Eady appears to be showing too much sympathy for the rights of wealthy celebs. He is not balancing that with the fact that those who make their living out of their public personae can’t always use the right to privacy as a way of keeping unsavoury aspects of their lives out of the media.

Now here we move to a more seismic shift even than the Daily Mail's (or the Yorkshire Post's) right or not to doorstep a celebrity or a Formula One honcho, or both. Whilst it may not be "good enough" to say that it "will all come out on the internet" it is nevertheless the case that it often will. The internet is changing the nature of privacy. How long, for example, before celebrity gossip follows the bankers offshore? Who to sue then? The ISPs? The readers who download the "libel"? Or share it on Digg?

When Prince Harry fought in Afghanistan for his remake photo shoot he was allowed to do so "privately", the British media complied with Royal Wishes. His story was first broken in a German paper and an Australian magazine - both online, and both ignored in Britain. Is this not "too much sympathy for the rights of wealthy celebs"? Anyway, online the idea of privacy is a different beast. Go look at a Facebook news feed. Read what 15 year-olds post on their public walls. We are all slowly but surely leaving our private persona behind us as we swim in the digital seas. And not just because cookies are working out what adverts to show us. Recently a parent of teenagers said to me:

It's not the losing of the virginity that worries me, it's the first posting of a sex tape online.

The digital times are changing. What is perhaps interesting in all this is the high levels of trust that Facebook users have of their own social networks. In contrast they have little trust, and less time, for newspapers - look at the circulations, ask how old the average readers are. Wonder about the future.

The answer to Dacre's Privacy concerns is very simple: as ever it is one of trust. If we trusted the press to always act in the public interest - and we don't - then perhaps its arguments about "privacy" would receive a more positive response.

In Onora O'Neill's Reith Lecture of 2002 about "trust" she singled out the press for being long outside the tent of accountability:
Meanwhile, some powerful institutions and professions have managed to avoid not only the excessive but the sensible aspects of the revolutions in accountability and transparency. Most evidently, the media, in particular the print media-while deeply preoccupied with others' untrustworthiness-have escaped demands for accountability (that is, apart from the financial disciplines set by company law and accounting practices). This is less true of the terrestrial broadcasting media, which are subject to legislation and regulation. The BBC (I thought I had better mention that, given where I am!) also has its Charter, Agreement and Producers' Guidelines 2, and those include commitments to impartiality, accuracy, fairness, giving a full view, editorial independence, respect for privacy, standards of taste and decency - I am not claiming that compliance is perfect.

Newspaper editors and journalists are not held accountable in these ways. Outstanding reporting and accurate writing mingle with editing and reporting that smears, sneers and jeers, names, shames and blames. Some reporting 'covers' (or should I say 'uncovers'?) dementing amounts of trivia, some misrepresents, some denigrates, some teeters on the brink of defamation. In this curious world, commitments to trustworthy reporting are erratic: there is no shame in writing on matters beyond a reporter's competence, in coining misleading headlines, in omitting matters of public interest or importance, or in recirculating others' speculations as supposed 'news'. Above all there is no requirement to make evidence accessible to readers.

For all of us who have to place trust with care in a complex world, reporting that we cannot assess is a disaster. If we can't trust what the press report, how can we tell whether to trust those on whom they report? An erratically reliable or unassessable press might not matter for privileged people with other sources of information. They can tell which stories are near the mark and which are confused, vicious or simply false; but for most citizens it matters. How can we tell whether newspapers, web sites and publications that claim to be 'independent' are not, in fact, promoting some agenda? How can we tell whether and when we are on the receiving end of hype and spin, of misinformation and disinformation? There is plenty of more or less accurate reporting, but this is very small comfort if readers who can't tell which are the reliable bits. What we need is reporting that we can assess and check: what we get often can't be assessed or checked by non-experts. If the media mislead, or if readers cannot assess their reporting, the wells of public discourse and public life are poisoned. The new information technologies may be anti-authoritarian, but curiously they are often used in ways that are also anti-democratic. They undermine our capacities to judge others' claims and to place our trust.

So if we want to address the supposed 'crisis of trust' it will not be enough to discipline government, business or the professions- or all of them. We will also need to develop a more robust public culture, in which publishing misinformation and disinformation, and writing in ways that others cannot hope to check, is limited and penalised. Yet can we do so and keep a free press?

We may use twenty-first century communication technologies, but we still cherish nineteenth century views of freedom of the press, above all those of John Stuart Mill. The wonderful image of a free press speaking truth to power and that of investigative journalists as tribunes of the people belong to those more dangerous and heroic times. In democracies the image is obsolescent: journalists face little danger (except on overseas assignments) and the press do not risk being closed down. On the contrary, the press has acquired unaccountable power that others cannot match.

Here is one suggestion to aid O'Neill's wish to develop a "more robust public culture". The press should concede what we all know, that it is at the centre of public debate and for we the people, and Mr Justice Eady the judge, to believe in newspaper editors and journalists - to trust them to take appropriate action when dealing with issues of privacy - we need to know a lot more about them.

The Press is uniquely un-transparent as far as public life goes - and yet it is part of our public life as the Ross/Brand affair proved recently. Yesterday there were calls for publically funded regional newspapers. Ok: let's set the same standards of privacy/transparency for the producers of the news (owners and editors and journalists), as the subjects and objects of the news.

If the Dacre argument is that celebrities have unfair rights to privacy, then surely to balance this the unfair rights of journalists (who are they, what is their "moral compass"?) must equally be questioned. If we knew who was criticising Ross/Brand (who in the sense of knowing about their lives, their attitudes to a range of issues such as, say, intrusion, harassment and comedy ) then this would be good for the industry: we would trust it more.

Yesterday's report from the Committee for Standards in Public Life on "trust" was - as usual - not good for journalism. In a generation (let's call it the Google Generation) journalism could be so trust-busted as to be irrelevant. This must not happen. We the public need to see the private faces of editors and journalists in public - it might just be the salvation of print media.

Because with trust comes a sense of reliability, and perhaps even revenue. We won't be lectured by politicians any more, so why journalists - they are unelected, and, says Paul Dacre, often live in an unreal world where they write for each other.

Toby Young wrote about the journalist's world, and he ended up being played in a Hollywood film by Simon Pegg. I am almost certain that somewhere in the body of British journalists's private lives we can find a few more winning love stories like Toby Young's. Paul Dacre this is your chance to tell us about you. Are you a lover or a fighter?

Or even a blogger?

Trust and the Post Office

In the letter to Gordon Brown dated October 30 - sent less than a month after he rejoined the government - the business secretary [Peter Mandelson] says: "We should examine the prospects for POL [Post Office Ltd] becoming a much more significant player in financial services - offering a wider range of attractive products within easy reach of the whole population, available from an institution they can trust."

An interesting idea at a time in which the high street banks and building societies have lost swathes of our trust. But does the Post Office's semi-ubiquity denote trust? Does it have the same trust qualities of, say, a Starbucks? Once again the mental map of Britain seems stuck in 1973, the time before branding.

The universal library - and legal too

Launched jointly by the 12-university consortium known as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) and the 11 university libraries of the University of California system, the HathiTrust leverages the time-honored commitment to preservation and access to information that university libraries have valued for centuries. UC’s participation will be coordinated by the California Digital Library (CDL), which brings its deep and innovative experience in digital curation and online scholarship to the HathiTrust.

HathiTrust - a "shared digital future."

And a commentary from John Wilkin's blog:

In short, HathiTrust is an effort born of libraries, working to bring the lasting contributions of libraries to bear on the growing body of digital materials available to students and researchers. Much has been said and written about the silo effect of digital libraries, the way that our early technological efforts balkanized content and failed to capitalize on economies of scale. With the creation of HathiTrust, many of the world's great research libraries will work together to create a single, comprehensive library without walls. Our partners will work to coordinate their investments both in curating content and in building services, to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Did you know there was a website entitled: Magazine Death Pool?

It's creator, aka The Grim Reaper (a magazine insider, then?), was interviewed this week by Media Life.

Which magazine death over the past month has been the most surprising?

None. At this stage of the game, there aren't that many surprising magazines shutdowns.

Every one that has shut down didn't shock anybody because of their dubious status. Without rock-solid fundamentals to withstand a terrible economy, coupled with the migration of consumers getting news and entertainment from the web, there is a lot of toast out there.

Magazine Death Pool.

November 20: Europe's cultural heritage gets connected

Europeana – the European digital library, museum and archive – is a 2-year project that began in July 2007. It will produce a prototype website giving users direct access to some 2 million digital objects, including film material, photos, paintings, sounds, maps, manuscripts, books, newspapers and archival papers. The prototype will be launched in November 2008 by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media.

The digital content will be selected from that which is already digitised and available in Europe’s museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. The prototype aims to have representative content from all four of these cultural heritage domains, and also to have a broad range of content from across Europe.

The interface will be multilingual. Initially, this may mean that it is available in French, English and German, but the intention is to develop the number of languages available following the launch.


Trusting & Sharing, Facebook Founder has "new law"

New Kinds of Trust...

Mr. Zuckerberg pinned his optimism on a change in behavior among Internet users: that they are ever more willing to tell others what they are doing, who their friends are, and even what they look like as they crawl home from the fraternity party.

“I would expect that next year, people will share twice as much information as they share this year, and next year, they will be sharing twice as much as they did the year before,” he said. “That means that people are using Facebook, and the applications and the ecosystem, more and more.”

Call it Zuckerberg’s Law.

From the NYT.

"Unfair" follows "rotten timing" and "bad luck"

Websites themselves are still failing to make money. Media institutions nationally are only taking 20 per cent of advertising compared with Google, which alone takes 40 per cent. Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger said: "There is something intrinsically unfair about the advantage that Google has by taking the lion's share of the advertising, but I think at the moment Google by and large are helping us all."

Ms. McCall [chief executive of the Guardian Media Group] said: "We are partners with Google. We do make some money from them."

Reporting from the Society of Editors, on the "big issue".

How does this work, the intrinsically unfair? Classified Jobs Advertising, anyone? Now who has a monopoly on that?

Trust: this year's "X" Factor - 2

I wonder if the Interweb will feature in the thinking? Do hope so. Social networks & all that...

The Committee on Standards in Public Life today announced that the subject of its twelfth inquiry is to be ‘Local Leadership and Public Trust: Accountability and Transparency in London and Local Government’.

Announcing the inquiry, Sir Christopher Kelly, Chair of the Committee, said:

“We are keen to look at the new structures put in place at the start of the decade to see whether they have achieved their goals of promoting better leadership, greater accountability, raising standards and improving public trust. As well as looking at the Mayoral system in London, we will be looking at the other twelve directly elected Mayor models, the Cabinet system within some local councils, and the Committee structure found in others, to see how they work within the constitutional and ethical landscape.

“It seems to us that this is the right time to take a look after eight years to see how decisions are made, scrutinised and explained to people. We will want to assess how well local government structures reflect, both in theory and in practice, the Seven Principles of Public Life.

The Committee on Standards in Public Life press office.

Trust: this year's "X" Factor

I found out about this on Order Order, so here is the link.

And here is the full report in PDF from the Committee for Standards in Public Life.

As Paul Dacre, Editor-in-chief of the Mail Group titles, said yesterday:
...some values are timeless.

Obama has email list of TEN million, used as collateral

"He's going to be the first president to be connected in this way, directly, with millions of Americans," Trippi said.

The nucleus of that effort is an e-mail database of more than 10 million supporters. The list is considered so valuable that the Obama camp briefly offered it as collateral during a cash-flow crunch late in the campaign, though it wound up never needing the loan, senior aides said. At least 3.1 million people on the list donated money to Obama.

From the Washington Post.

Life on Mars was not retro chic, it was Sci-fi

...local newspaper owners and editors fear the BBC is about to muscle in on their territory, with the kind of budgets they can only dream of, snuffing out their ability to transform themselves (albeit rather belatedly in some cases) from print businesses to multimedia news providers.

Is there anything that can be done, rather urgently, to stem this confluence of bad luck, rotten timing and inexorable technical change - with all its devastating consequences for local news?

Bad luck? Rotten timing? Or just unfair?

The interesting thing here is a very basic question, far beyond the many arguments for saving the regional press: why does any community need to be informed about itself? The "sometimes humdrum" news does not interest the Google Generation. Perhaps the local news about a gig, a restaurant opening, a rugby league match, or surfing conditions might - but these types of news come straight to the cell phone, if not now, then very soon. They come from citizen journalists and listing companies, Yahoo & Google.

What is it that we need to know? The content of London Lite (a free daily local newspaper) suggests we need to know about Mayfair nightclubs, celebrity divorces, sports stories (but no scoops, they're all online), and holiday destinations - TV listings, music reviews and diets. Is this the knowledge product we want to save?

The web changes our relationship to space, the spatial, and time - and the very process of information seeking. A news story from Capetown is - if it is presented and told well - as interesting as one from, say, Leeds. The web is "viewed" as much as it is read. Is it local news we should fight for, or - say - investigative reporting? Or a new kind of more transparent political reporting? In education terms should we be subsidizing translations of other countries' news? Shouldn't we be learning how others see us?

And if the shift in print journalism is anyway from exclusive story to angled analysis do we want state-subsidized regional columnists?

Is there any reason why local newspapers - whether in print, on broadband or broadcast - shouldn't compete with the broadcasters for some form of subsidy in return for providing the public service of keeping a community informed about itself?

If you had asked that question a year or two ago most editors and owners would have been united in dismissing it out of hand. They would have argued that the press in Britain has been free of any kind of state subsidy for the best part of 200 years or more. They would have swiftly rejected the kind of regulatory strings that might be attached to a requirement to produce so-called public service content.

But now? Who is to say that Channel 4 (not to mention some aspects of the BBC output) is any more deserving of state funding than those responsible for the sometimes humdrum, but essential, task of keeping people informed about what their local councils, courts, police, health and fire services are up to? If there's going to be a digital switchover surplus shouldn't local newspapers be in with a shout, rather than shuffling the money around a limited pool of broadcasters - who are, in any event, rather urgently re-inventing themselves as digital content providers?

From the Society of Editors conference.

Real World Suffers Population Losses as Privileged Elite Evolve in Subsidised Environment

Obama was an Elitist too, right?

Today, I worry that too many journalists write only for other journalists. Columnists who have never really lived in the real world let alone knocked on hundreds of doors, write columns only for their friends. Large parts of the media are increasingly populated by a privileged elite of top university graduates who, too often, have only ever operated in subsidised environments, and are impervious to what the great majority of people are thinking, removed as they are from the commercial imperative of actually connecting with enough readers to make their papers financially viable.

Some of you here tonight, I suspect, may sneer at the kind of family-values paper I’ve just described – that almost comic obsession with the letters page. Those values, you’ll argue, belong to another era. Well, maybe. My own view is that some values are timeless.

Those "elites" again.

And for the BBC-bashing bit.

Wikipedia (via Roy Greenslade) reveals that the author of the quote was:

... educated at University College School, a private fee-paying school in Hampstead, on a state scholarship... In his school holidays, [he] worked as a messenger at the Sunday Express [his father, Peter... was a prominent journalist on the Sunday Express] and during his pre-university gap year as a trainee in the Daily Express. From 1967 he read English at Leeds University...

So no privilege there, then? Just real world.

Digital Natives Prepare for Premature Middle Age of Revolution, Engagement and Transparency

At least it will be full of ideas.

The research paints a generally encouraging picture. Those in the 12- to 30-year-old cohort prize freedom of choice, like to customize everything they do, collaborate, value integrity, and can live more easily than their parents with information overload and constant innovation. Mr. Tapscott argues that in contrast to earlier generations that took in information passively, such as through television, this generation "has been flooded with information, and learning to access, sort, categorize and remember it all has enhanced their intelligence." They "have had to search for, rather than simply look at, information."

Don Tapscott via the Wall Street Journal.

...young people's expectations also reflect digital values, which can include fast rejection of anything that smacks of spin or hypocrisy. "Obama understood the intersection of demographics and technology and promised engagement and interaction," Mr. Tapscott said in an interview. "But if he now says to young people, 'Thanks, now go passive for four years until my re-election,' there will be outrage. It will make the reaction of the 1960s generation look like kid stuff."

A new Photographic Agency for Climate Change

Our second goal is to explore new funding sources as a group. There is a lot of interest in climate change right now but organizations looking to create projects involving photography don't have a resource to handle the photography. We want to help them build the projects from the ground up and secure new sources of funding.

Joshua Wolfe & GHG Photos, from the Digital Journalist.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Golden Notebook Experiment: Starts Officially Tomorrow

This is a really interesting experiment in collective reading and annotated texts online. In fact I am now reading offline in a rather nice Harper Perennial version. First time with Lessing - thanks to this project. Tomorrow I'm interviewing one of the creators, Bob Stein, of the Institute for the Future of the Book. First impressions? I cannot believe this book is 46 years old.

Check out page 44 of the English version:

‘What would they do, these men, without their stupid wives?’ sighed out Anna.

And the people that built the site.

The Rapture (part 2) - P.J. O'Rourke sees the Light

Let us bend over and kiss our ass goodbye. Our 28-year conservative opportunity to fix the moral and practical boundaries of government is gone- gone with the bear market and the Bear Stearns and the bear that's headed off to do you-know-what in the woods on our philosophy.

P.J. O'Rourke in the Weekly Standard.

Post Obama: pathetic, empty lives

Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

From The Onion.

The Death of Memory: 'USA 08'

When I said Terrorist I meant to say...

The presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin said she was hard-pressed to find a similar moment when the tone had changed so drastically, and so quickly, among so many people of such prominence.

“I don’t think that’s happened very often,” Ms. Goodwin said. “The best answer I can give you is they don’t want to be on the wrong side of history, and they recognize how the country saw this election, and how people feel that they’re living in a time of great historic moment.”

Others in the professional political class were not so sure. Some wondered whether simple pragmatism was the explanation.

Pragmatism or the 'wrong side of history'? Make your mind up here at the NYT.

Bi-sexual, androgynous...anything but all men: the future of innovation

The BI researcher’s study shows that the optimal innovation climate is characterised by an emotional tone that is open, trusting, accepting, free of tensions and with respect for differences and disagreements.

“In a good innovation climate, everyone feels secure enough to take part in discussion, they know what the aims of the group are, they stick to the subject and support one another’s ideas,” says Ms. Solberg.

When will they remake that "I belong to the (beat) blank generation" song as "I belong to the Google Generation?" Some good stuff here:

It is claimed that an even distribution of men and women means greater efficiency because they are different and because, together, they are more innovative. The interaction between men and women will lead to better decisions: for example new perspectives, new products, new customers or other ways or working.

It has been an ugly decade, hasn't it?

Objectivity, the New Yorker trial

By the time the case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991, the key issue was whether [Janet] Malcolm’s changes in the wording of Masson’s quotations rendered her story knowingly false — the standard that Masson, a public figure, would need to prove to win his libel suit.

In extending latitude to writers, the court found that “deliberate alteration of the words ... does not equate with knowledge of falsity ... unless the alteration results in a material change in the meaning conveyed by the statement.”

While the case was important because it helped to further clarify libel law, its significance was further felt in unveiling the tension between traditional, fact-bound reporting and the kind of literary journalism that had been popularized in magazines like the New Yorker.

Although Masson v. New Yorker was a defamation case, it also was a trial of literary versus traditional journalism. As Kathy Roberts Forde suggests in her compelling book, the struggle between the two forms has a history that long pre-dates the Supreme Court case.

Objectivity as a tenet of journalism was a natural extension of the growth of “pure science” — relying “on observation and measurement to explain the world” — that solidified in the late 1800s at universities across the country and soon spilled over into the social sciences. As Forde points out, “[b]y the 1920s, journalism had turned toward the social sciences.”

Robert D. Richards on "Literary Journalism on Trial", by Kathy Roberts Forde.

Who is our Soul of the Age? AKA the Golden Triangle

From a review of Jonathan Bate's new Shakespeare book...

One could pleasurably read it as a collection of brief essays, in the freewheeling, interrogative sense of the word associated with the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne, whose Essais were translated into richly flavoured prose by John Florio in 1603, and whose name crops up frequently in these pages because of his demonstrable influence on Shakespeare.

One of the benefits of this approach is that it permits a cheerful agnosticism where a more linear narrative would require a decisive act of faith. There are the 'lost years', for instance, of Shakespeare's mid-twenties – a period of unknown activity between 1585 (when his twins Hamnet and Judith were baptised in Stratford) and 1592 (when he is first recorded as an actor and dramatist in London). Was he a 'schoolmaster in the country', or a lawyer's clerk, or a fugitive from justice after a poaching incident on the estates of Sir Thomas Lucy – all of which were canvassed by early biographers? Or was he that mysterious player called Shakeshaft who is documented in a Catholic household in Lancashire?

Charles Nicholl on Jonathan Bate's new Shakespeare, ah, non-fiction.

Review of Nicholl's The Lodger here.

Review of reviewer's Shakespeare by...Jonathan Bate....

All's well that ends well.

Al Gore & the Existential Threat

In other words, Web 2.0 should be used to fight global warming. He didn’t say exactly how, but that didn’t stop the audience from giving two standing ovations to the Oscar-winning movie director, venture capitalist, money manager, book author, cable television mogul and Nobel laureate.

Mr. Gore said that he feared that his advocacy work, spearheaded by his documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” has not done its job. “I feel, in a sense, I’ve failed badly,” he said. “Because even though there’s a greater sense of awareness, there is not anything anywhere close to an appropriate sense of urgency. This is an existential threat.”

Inconvenient Truth man puts his green chips on Web 2.0 and onwards.