“Rather draw than withdraw” IamCharlie


“Rather draw than withdraw”


My second contribution to the Charlie Hebdo Massacre. #iamcharlie Iamcharlie

To all the cartoonists who bring to life the issues and challenge of our daily existence.

Here is my first one: “It’s a pen I want, not Le pen”

The future of Mainstream Media in today’s world of citizen journalism…

Why the decline of traditional Main Stream Media?

Down Arrow - The Downward Spiral of Mainstream MediaWhy the decline of Mainstream Media? This question has been argued and tossed around in many a media organization’s board room over the course of the last five years. Clearly, for news organizations in particular, time is running out to find a solution that will allow the economics to work.

From a supply perspective, the proliferation of choice and the democratization of media Masses of Dots -- the proliferation of media outletsplatforms have rendered the “space” extremely congested. There is a niche for everything and, unfortunately, one could argue that the objectivity of “serious” and researched news is becoming a niche as well. The ability for serious news organizations such as NPR, the BBC or CNN to maintain worldwide coverage, much less afford overseas news bureaus, is virtually a luxury of the past. Consequently, the number of in-depth investigations has been declining in quantity and in quality.

From the perspective of the consumer, over the course of the last 20-30 years, the sources of information have been corrupted either by overt financial concerns and objectives, or by the lowest common denominator style salesmanship (epitomized by the ‘entertainment’ of News of the World and other such rags). This 2001 article from LA Times offers a good recap [proof enough that the subject has been around].

So what are the main issues?

Certainly, the internet has played a role in unfurling the problem. The democratization of journalism is, to my mind, just a reaction to the lack of the right offer. Consumers, pressured for time, have largely rejected standard hour programming. In virtually Don't Trust Corporate Mediaevery household, the television is competing against the computer, much less the IPOD — although the radio seems to be holding its own. In the realm of news, consumers today are looking for customized information, in byte sizes. For many, the relationship of a consumer with his or her local news team is visceral. The consumer is looking for some form of connection – because the news is feeding the psyche, helping to rationalize events around him or herself. There is, in this relationship, an inherent wish to believe it is truthful — i.e. that the news is authentic. And I would argue that the problem of news organizations can be quickly related to the problem of established brands: how to stay authentic, flexible, customized and in touch with its [mass] consumer? As Noam Chomsky says in his article “What makes Mainstream Mainstream?“, media organizations have typically relegated the consumer to be passive. He writes, the consumers’ “…job is to be ‘spectators,’ not ‘participants.'” So, too, say many brands.

For news organizations, it strikes me that the main question is: What is news for?

Local Culture. Today, it seems that news has reduced itself in large part to a form of entertainment, completely hamstrung by viewer ratings. By extension, news is feeding water cooler talk: sports results, weather forecasts (hardly news) and local sensational events. News organizations are intrinsically local and their bias on news reports is strongly linked to the local point of view such that, with a worldwide satellite dish in your home, you can find two widely different sides to many of the international stories [when/if they are covered, that is].

Learning. If encouraging reading (and writing) were part of the objective of news and printed media, then why has the standard of Reading & Writingwriting plummeted (you can find English mistakes on the front page of any major reputable newspaper, including the Financial Times virtually daily).

Advancement. If, more nobly, the goal of news is the advancement of society, then it would seem that the mass majority of people are tuning out. The case is still made that, by having the coverage of certain genocidal regimes, enough international outcry will mobilize an international intervention. In this regard, from a western standpoint, “serious” news is more or less a portal of democracy.

Ted Turner said, in one of his typically brazen interviews, that such information and news is important. Unfortunately, he used weather as the perfect example (and not only is weather not news, it is highly speculative) since, with this information you can know whether to wear a raincoat, etc. Not exactly newsworthy news or 100% accurate.

Turner also cited in this video (which I will endeavour to post when I find it on YouTube), that news coverage helped to uncover Hitler. However, news neither uncovered Hitler, nor helped to sway or stop him. And, news coverage has not helped the continuing carnage and tyranny in many African countries. Propaganda, on the other hand, plays a whole other role in this type of context.

No doubt that Turner is a great philanthropist and was a business titan. Where Turner’s vision has taken on a whole new meaning today, he said back in this late 1970s interview, that “we all can learn from each other.” This notion of collaboration is highly interesting in today’s context of citizen journalism and web 2.0. Maybe we just have to learn from each other.

If, as some say, news is the first day of writing history… sports and weather have no place in that frame. The important notion for news organizations to grasp is that they need to provide meaning. News should be able to connect and interact with its audience. Of course, news needs to be pertinent and researched. But, above all, news should have sense. Sense to help progress our society. Sense, such that its viewers learn and grow. The BBC (and NPR) have this component in their genes — but typical
ly have been too stand-off to interface with its audience. So, the big news agencies are going to have to learn to lose some control, engage with their audience (i.e. work with citizen journalists) and in the meantime focus on providing a meaningful message. Over time, what will matter is not the quantity of people watching the BBC (although that is a critical part of the economic equation today), but on the quality of the people watching: the opinion leaders, the community heads, the bloggers and godfathers of viral messages… Clearly, the new media department at the BBC is making headway and, once the dust settles, hopefully, they and enough of the “serious” stations can find their place in providing meaningful, sensible and objective news for what is, now, a worldwide audience.

Croc of Shot

Crocodile attackYou’re a croc of shot…an expression reminiscent of my youth. According to this BBC report, a man in Australia was first ravaged by a crocodile then shot by his saviour. I don’t know if any other newspapers captured the same corny headline, but sometimes I need to live out my journalistic instinct vicariously in this blog. Apparently, the man is in stable condition recovering from both wounds. I have a feeling the “thank you for saving me” will be an interesting moment when the victim and saviour-cum-assailant meet again.

Reporting from Paris, this is your roving correspondent, Minter “Crocker” Dial

News media being remodeled…as we speak

The two-second news spot?

As if the 24-second spot weren’t condensed enough (thanks CNN), we now seem to be moving into nano-news era. On top of that, via services such as blogs, Twitter, wikipedia and others, the proliferation of news services and sources seems to be accelerating. And, the reliability is being hurt in equal parts by non-professionals and a desperate rush to be the first one out. For example, if you receive BREAKINGNEWSON from Twitter, you can find yourself bombarded at times in the day (evidently according to when Breakingnewson is awake AND, as Breakingnewson warns, when there are BIG stories) with micro bulletins that, at worst, are free flowing “unconfirmed” reports. But, to be fair, breakingnewson does seem to be quite on the ball and attempts to be clear in the headlines. For now, I will keep on following.

If you take the time to read the entire The Onion article, passed on to me by my father and the reason I decided on this post, you may be as perplexed as I am over the this quote at the end of the article:

“While the changes have brought higher ratings and ad revenues to televised news, print newspapers have suffered greatly, due to the high cost of printing and distributing a new edition every 24 seconds.” 

How many newspapers are being reprinted every 24 seconds? Perhaps, this is merely a point in case of a journalist that had to crush out this report without really double checking the thoughts? Last I checked, Internet stories didn’t need to be printed out and “distributed” either.



News on the [twitter] fly

Well, just as time is money, getting the news out there first is gold (at least for news media). I was fascinated by the time line on the breaking of the news about the death of US House of Representative from Washington, Jennifer Dunn. As you can read in this Seattle PI Blog, Live on Wikipedia, the news evidently came to be posted on Wikipedia, via this twitter, before the news was broadcast by Seattle PI (see here). What’s interesting to note is the vying for credibility and accuracy. First, the news was posted without any source citation and then, after a few corrections, finally got some “grounding.” But the timeline (assuming everyone was careful to use the same NASA or Greenwich Mean Time standard) clearly gave wikipedia the nod. Will Wikipedia (much less twitter) diverge into a news station?

Here, by the way, was the original wiki posting at 9:12 am on Sept 5, 2007 — before the updates and corrections.

Putin at it again…stomping out the BBC?

Technical complications? Bad luck? Bad press? It would appear that the BBC’s difficulties to be on the air (both on AM and FM) in Russia are more evidence of President Putin’s shutting down of the free press. As the IHT reports, these BBC problems come on the heels of many other more or less covert clamp downs, including Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America. The IHT article reports that the “German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has also had problems with its German and Russian-language medium-wave radio programs in the past.” All told, it just doesn’t bode well. The unspeak, double talk and lack of transparency seems to be growing at leaps and bounds. The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be anybody (perhaps other than the Brits) putting up any resistance. What’s to be done? Insofar as the internet is terribly difficult to control, I don’t see how Putin will manage to shut down all the non-favorable commentary. What is he preparing that he doesn’t want anyone to talk about? His next Presidency? I found this post and the follow-up comments from Swedish expert, Vilhelm Konnander, plentiful.

When a blog becomes institutional

iblog doesn’t stand for institutional blog

I have been a fan of the freakonomics blog for quite some time — a testament to the power of a good book (now available for $17 on amazon, down from $28 list price!) going on line per se. However, the very notion of a blog is up for grabs at this point as this lunch over ip article points out. Freakonomics is an institutional blog, an anathema to blogging as considered in the blogging world of the [recent] past.

The evolution of blogging

Now that we have more than 70 million blogs (per techorati), it may well be time to add some marketing muscle to the very term of a blog (beyond splog). As Bruno Giussani points out, the blog concept is migrating and, with it, the ways of communicating. Blogging is even entering into an evil phase as this IHT article points out. Incentive enough to make sure that I have a comment policy (see below).

I take note of Joe Jaffe experimenting with the interface of his jaffe juice blog, facebook, twitter, itunes podcasting, and potentially so many more (netvibes, bloglines, myspace, linkedin, plaxo. flickr…). Same idea over at Twist Image, with Mitch Joel, where we are looking at ways to concentrate the multiple [social] media avenues to grow your on-line community. And it’s true that agglomeration is the new buzz word which is going to be a major part of the near-term evolution of the net, not just blogging. The web has cast a wide reach with a whole host of new opportunities, but managing the tangle of [even one’s own] links and gaining critical mass will be the name of the game in the future. By the way, I do love the new Google blog search which is helping to clear up the confounded blog search.

Anyway, as far as blogs are concerned, we might consider creating subcategories of blogs. I propose that we create a new list of definitions for what we have broadly been calling blogs. That list could go something like this:

  • persoblog for those personal life blogs, shortened to plog
  • communiblog for community blogs, shortened to cubelog polyblog for multiple author blogs, polyblog (like it as is)
  • musiclog for the music aficionado, mclog
  • marklog for marketing blogs, as is
  • medialog (aside from the issue of the company of the name), for news blogs
  • shoplog for shopping addicts, as is
  • institulog for institutional blogs (ban the idea!), i-blog (perish the thought twisted)

and final idea (for today that is):

  • noblog for not only bullshit logs…

The question will become: who is capable of setting the pace and giving these names? Us, the community of bloggers… but that’s a whole of people to galvanize. Probably will need the New York Times or Herald Tribune to pick up a piece like this one and then, kapow, it’s off to the races.

Aggregating Blogs as new form of Journalism

My posting on the Tour de France was picked up by this “Bloggers looking for the straight dope” article in Slate, an online magazine, owned by The Washington Post Company. Again, this is a new form of journalism — picking up on the beat on the ‘net. I’m flattered to have been tagged on this site. In the meantime {and, if you can believe me, irrespective of my quote} Slate is an interesting place to go pick up interesting viewpoints and analysis.

Clean Slate

Cyber journalism may be taking on a new slant… What if [new age] journalists just spent their time outing the silly things people say and do, behind the slim veil of anonymity, on the net. Take this most recent outing revealed by Lucy Caldwell on Slate via a Facebook entry, in which Rudy Giuliani’s daughter, Caroline, apparently joined Barak Obama’s Group. Caroline was apparently not hiding her identity. I once saw a person [unnamed] reveal on Facebook that he had just been given a promotion; however, the promotion had not been officially released within the company. Sounds like a little pre-release if you ask me. One has to be careful about spilling one’s beans. The edge of the allowable content is awfully tricky to navigate, especially if you have a higher than average level of visibility, or even if you are working in higher executive positions. In any event, for those of us on the net, such new cyber journalism sounds like Big Brother in your home.

Russia’s History Revision

There is surely a lot that can be said about American history books, so right off the cuff, I want to suggest that ‘our’ kitchen may not be clean. However, when you combine Putin’s call for greater patriotism and national pride, the recent psychiatric ‘hospitalization’ of the outspoken journalist Larissa Arap, along with the apparent and accelerating revision of modern day Russian history books, it does not make me breathe easily about Russia. The Figaro’s headlining article, 2 August 2007, entitled “Moscou réhabilite l’ère soviétique” is either an example of European media playing the role of scare monger (to help justify an increase French military budgets?) or is just plain scary. That there are positive things to say about Russia’s role, under Stalin, against the Germans in the WWII, there is no doubt. But, anything suggesting that Stalin himself be rehabilitated is an outrage. The inside article on page 2 refers to the banning of Professor Doloutski’s history books which refer to the liberal politician Iavlinski or worse yet the “shameful war with the Chechnya”. While I can understand the need to be proud, the need for freedom of press and intellectual criticism is vital — a lesson the US must heed as well. It would seem that the liberals and intellectuals in Russia are sending clear warning signals.

The Figaro article suggests that Putin is trying to increase his legitimacy by invoking a positive picture of the USSR Communist era. In light of the many changes happening in geo-politics, Putin’s actions speak of a move away from the West. To what extent the West continues to let Putin act freely will surely have a major influence on the outcome of the Middle Eastern imbroglio.