Sunday, December 04, 2005

QUOTES: from Columbia Journalism School event

Here are some excerpts from comments at a Columbia Journalism School one-day
conferenc Oct. 5, 2005, called: "The Changing Media Landscape, 2005."


Hosted by Sree Sreenivasan
Columbia Dean of Students & Poynter Visiting Prof
Sreenath Sreenivasan <>


Len Apcar, editor in chief,
Andrea Panciera, editor,
Jeff Gralnick, NBC News special consultant
James Taranto, editor of
Craig Newmark, CSR/founder Craig's List


"Maybe we've accelerated this unintentionally. My gut tells me that is good.
Maybe we see some investigative reporters being laid off. And this is really
serious because the news business is a community service and we need a lot of
people digging into and speaking truth to power.

And if you don't have something like that happening, sometimes bad things
happen, like you get into vanity wars for a served up purpose and a lot of
people dying because of the president's vision that hasn't happened in a long
time. This is a really big, important issue."

"Journalism really is the first draft of history and the biggest thing we're
seeing right now is the news business is becoming very decentralized. I don't
think citizen journalism is going to replace professional journalism. There is
no substitute for fact-checkers, for people who do copyediting, proofing, just
figuring out what the news. But I do think we're going to see professional and
citizen or even amateur journalism merged and that is going to change things a
lot and that is going to be the environment that you are dealing with. That's
something that maybe everyone here has to get used to . . . .

"I'm getting interested in what I can actually do myself. Not Craig's List, but
myself becuase the only way the good guys win is when good people try to do the
right thing. I am getting involved in some non-profits, trying to figure out
what's going on in journalism; trying to accelerate that. Because if you get
through an economic dislocation faster, you preserve jobs. And that seems to be
the history of the industrial revolution. That's a big deal. Because I feel a
very personal responsibility along those lines. Even if I may not have a moral
responsibility. There are people and venture capitalists who are funding
efforts involved in sight switch, figuring out what the big stories, the
important stories, and what are the most trustworthy versions of them? And I'm
actually involved in one such startup which is still in stealth mode."

He says he's talking to the Center for Public Integrity and the Center for
Investigative Reporting.

"You may have to deal with sources that are purposely disinformation. Now
journalists have to deal with PR flaks, but you guys may have to deal with this
on a routine basis -- dis-information campaigns with a fictional kind of thing.
Someone named Carl may send you a fake memo regarding someone named George
intending to embarass you. That may become a way of life."


"No plans right now. Honestly. We're not even discussing that kind of thing.
Maybe the best thing we can do is help other people do the job right and stick
with what we do well."


In the month after Lady Diana died, Aug. 31, 1997, ABC.COM did 5 million pages.
In Sept., 2005, it did 750 million pages around Katrina, including 26 million
unique users in one month.

"That's the future, that something could grow that fast in that short a period
of time. ... those are the numbers publishers hate. Are newspapers dead? I
don't know, but maybe. If we don't adapt, if we don't evolve, we're going to

"What we need to do as we develop this space is figure out what's crap and
figure out what's a business model. Are blogs the flavor of the month? Maybe?
Are iPods the flavor of the month? Maybe. But the most important word there is

Apcar, about decison to charge:

"This is the kind of internal debate that permeates every media company. I was
shocked as I went around today -- I've had two visitors this week . . .
"EVeryone's watching us." "Who knows, maybe there's a moment here where
people will say, will only recognize not only a source of information but they
are willing to pay for quality information."

"Rates on the rest of the site have not gone down. Which allows us do something
which nobody thought we would be able to do -- which is to have our cake and
eat it, too."

Pancierra: Under what circumstances would they charge?

"It bothers her that people think they might get it for free, especially with
all the customer service. "I think there should be some kind of financial
return for all of this work. Whether they are ready to cough it up, I don't
know. But I tell you, if you can pay a buck or two bucks or three bucks for
ring tones to personalize your cell phone, I think you can pay a buck or two or
three bucks to visit my website."

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