Wednesday, October 12, 2005

CLASS NOTES: Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005 -- the "climate of readership"

Class opened today with a brief discussion of the Level 3-Covent dispute and the implications for "balkanization" of the web if such business disputes proliferate. Rep. Markey is said to be working on legislation.


Densmore posed the question: What happens if a content provider's only means of delivery (once physical presses fade from use) is not owned by he content provider, but is, instead, a digital pipe such as the Internet.
Now what if the "pipe" provider gets into a business dispute with the content provider? There's an old saying: "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." If we ultimately are all sending our bits and bytes
across "pipes" owned by a handful of major telecommunications companies -- are they now the only people with "freedom of the press"? And how much easier would it be, then, for government to pressure a handful of "press owners" rather than thousands?

We next discussed the Cole Campbell piece: "Journalism and the Public: Three steps, three leaps of faith." Campbell, a former St. Louis Post-Dispatch editor and now dean of the University of Nevada-Reno
j-school, argues that journalists should "sustain inquiry that can lead to action" rather than just serve as a source of information. And he says journalists should include the general public as a reporting source. We
asked: "Is it OK to just be a passive listener?" We commented that some citizens don't have time to engage in civic affairs and may want to be passive. Is this a flaw in Campbell's argument, or is it just the case
that only some citizens will want to be engaged.

Two of us commented that Campbell might be naive to thing that all readers want to be called to action -- they may have neither the time nor the inclination to be active citizens. How does participatory democracy accomodate the passive participant? We introduced a new concept: "Climate of readership" to describe a process by which the journalist must stay in touch with a reader, viewer or user's interests and needs. This was viewed as a step toward the kind of connectedness to readers which Campbell says is the central failing of modern journalists.

We then turned to a WGBH-TV, Channel 2, Boston telecast of an interview with international media and blog expert Rebecca MacKinnon, a former CNN correspondent in China who is now at the Berkman Center for Law and Technology at Harvard University. A key issue discussed: Blogging is so easy, what does that mean for credibility and journalism? We need professional journalism, she says, but now ordinary citizens can
participate. Specialist blogs are proliferating . . . global voices . . . and niche voices . . . the professionals have lost control . . . anybody can create media. Her website is

The streaming video of the interview is linked from:

And a transcript is at:

Finally, we listened to a five-minute segment of a Media Giraffe Project
interview with Robin Sloan, co-creator of the EPIC multimedia presentation
on the future of news:


A reading of pages 1-137 of the McChesney text was
assigned for a class discussion on Tues., Oct. 18.

We also distributed a handout of Tyler Resch's paper on the Anthony Haswell Sedition Act prosecution of 1799 in Bennington, Vt. It's online at:

Tyler Resch will speak to us on Thurs., Oct. 13, at 8:30 a.m.

And to preview the history of the First Amendment in preparation for the Haswell discuss, we distributed a copy of Chapter 3 of the book: "The Troubles of Journalism: A critical look at what's right and wrong with the press," by William A. Hatchen, c2005, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers. the chapter: "Freedom of the Press: Theory and Values."

Absent: KT
Bill Densmore, Visiting Lecturer
Berkshire Towers Room A71-L / Tue/Thu 9:20-9:50 a.m. / and by appt.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
North Adams MA 01247
413-663-5483 / CELL: 413-458-8001

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