Saturday, January 07, 2006

QUOTES: Time for new "stewardship" in newspaper executive ranks?

QUOTES: Time for new "stewardship" in newspaper executive ranks?

An expert on the newspaper industry says its time for management to take
seriously the concept of "stewardship" to the public. And another says
papers may be better able to transition from print to web than some
businesses faced with changing technology.

Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at The Poynter Institute, and Tom
Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and vice
chairman of the Committee of Concerned Jounalists, spoke Jan. 5, 2006 on
the public-radio program, On Point, with host Tom Ashbrook. The 10
a.m.-noon weekday show is produced at WBUR Radio in Boston, where Ashbrook
formerly was an assistant managing editor at The Boston Globe.


Ashbrook described the situation as "crunch-time for America's newspapers"
in the windup for his interview with Clark, Rosenstiel and Peter Bahtia,
executive editor of The Oregonian, the Portland, Ore., daily.

"One of the words I've grown up hearing in church is the word stewardship,"
said Clark, a former English professor and feature writer for The St.
Petersburg Times who is now a senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, the
"think tank" for the newspaper-industry. He added: "I think it's time to sart
using that word in talking aout the ownership and leadership of news

Clark said he often is asked in interviewed about individual reporters or
columnists who have committed ethical breaches. He continued: "Discussion about
ethics almost always focuses on these renegade individuals who hurt the
credibility of news organizations. Isn't it time that we started not just
accepting as a sort of a justification for cutting news resources adherence to
the standards of Wall Street or the fiduciary responsibility to stockholders?
What about the stewardship of a news organization as a kind of a public trust?"

Rosenstiel belives its an open question whether information will be
delivered on paper in 10 or 15 years. He says newspaper companies need to
realize the soul of their operation "is monitoring a community on behalf
of citizens." The companies, he said, "need to persuade Wall Street and
others, private bankers and others, that this is what their business is
and they will continue to do that."

Rosenstiel cited the example of buggy-whip manufacturers as an industry
which was not equipped to transition to providing resources for the
automobile industry. But newspapers, he said, may not be in that
situation, he told Ashbrook.

"Newspapers are in many ways the best equipped organizationally in terms of
news gathering to make the transition to the online age," said Rosensteil.
"What is not clear is whether they have the wherewithall psychically and
creatively to make the transition and persuade Wall Street that they are the
ones who should do it."

Dr. Roy Peter Clark
Vice President and Senior Scholar
Poynter Institute
801 Third Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
United States
Phone: 727-821-9494
Fax: 727-821-0583

Tom Rosenstiel, Director
Project for Excellence in Journalism, Washington, DC
1850 K Street NW -- #850
Washington, DC 20006
Work: 202-293-7394

NETWORK NEUTRALITY: WSJ says BellSouth seeking broadband toll



Report: Bells to push for Web fees
Phone companies want Internet content providers to pay for data moving
over networks, paper says.

January 6, 2006: 7:14 AM EST

NEW YORK ( - Large phone companies are seeking payments from
Internet companies for high-quality delivery of music, movies and other
content that will move over their telecommunications networks, according
to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal reported the push by telephone companies could set
the stage for the next big battle in the ever-changing telecommunications

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Movielink LLC, a joint venture of five major movie studios that offers
movies to consumers over the Internet, said it has discussed the issue of
payments with BellSouth (Research), the newspaper reported, while
BellSouth said it is in early talks with Internet movie companies and at
least one gaming company over reaching agreements on some kind of

The Journal also reports executives at AT&T (Research) expressed support
for charging companies to ensure that their content gets priority delivery
over its network, while Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications,
said he might favor reaching deals with companies to do the same.

"We have to make sure they don't sit on our network and chew up our
capacity," Seidenberg told reporters Thursday.

But the paper reports that the Internet companies are likely to fight the
demands for payments from the phone companies, arguing that making them
pay for priority delivery of their content amounts to holding them ransom,
thus hurting competition and, ultimately, the consumer.

"They want to charge us for the bandwidth the customer has already paid
for," said Jeffrey Citron, CEO of Vonage, a leading provider of telephone
service over the Internet "The customer has to pay twice. That's crazy."

The newspaper reports that executives at large Internet companies such as
Google (Research) worry that broadband providers will exert too much power
over content that travels on their networks if they start charging
providers for delivery. And it reports that smaller companies say they may
not be able to afford paying for premium network access.

But one Internet company, Movielink, said it is open to such a fee
arrangement, according to the report, because its executives believe it
could benefit from high-quality delivery of its products.

"Movielink is certainly interested in increasing the quality of service to
customers," said CEO Jim Ramo. "We're willing to explore a commercial
relationship where we can get that done." But he added that his company's
talks with BellSouth are still in the conceptual stage.

Until recently, phone companies were required to treat all data sent
across their high-speed networks equally and without discrimination,
according to the newspaper. But last year, a Supreme Court decision opened
the door for the Federal Communications Commission to deregulate Internet
services, which it promptly did. The Journal reported the change allows
the type of pricing plans now being proposed by the local phone companies.

William Smith, chief technology officer of BellSouth, told the newspaper
he envisions charging content providers a fee based on the volume of
material they send over BellSouth's network, as well as the bandwidth the
content takes up. He compared his model to that used by Google, which
charges advertisers more for ads with better display. BellSouth intends to
neither to restrict consumer access nor block providers, the paper


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Thursday, January 05, 2006

ISSUE: Do readers really care about serious issues?

ORIGINAL URL (links to all stories)
POSTED: December 30, 2005 at CyberJournalist.NET

Horse sex and fluff are online hits

Seattle Times editors published a list of the most clicked online stories
of the year and found that the top story -- and five of the top 20 -- were
about a man who died from a perforated colon while having sex with a horse.

"I don't know whether to ignore this alarming factoid or to embrace it,"
says Seattle Times Columnist Danny Westneat. "It's not just the horse sex.
The rest of the top 20 people's-choice list is eye-opening, as well....

"A lot of the stories on the list are what we serious-minded media
professionals would imperiously call "soft." There's an article on a
vanity license plate that showed the chemical formula for meth. A judge
deciding a cat's life is worth exactly $45,480. Congressman Jim McDermott
being featured in the book "100 People Who Are Screwing Up America."

"There's not much on the so-called "issues" we're always implored to focus
on, such as transportation or education. Nothing on the big campaign
topics of the year, such as the monorail or gas tax. And nothing on this
paper's major investigations or in-depth series....

"There's got to be a lesson in all this. Maybe the Web favors shorter,
more emotional stories, and all you paying subscribers are happily wading
through my columns on transit policy or our three-part projects.

"Or, maybe, some of us are not giving readers enough of what you really

The Seattle Times' Top 20

Below are the most read local news stories for 2005 as measured by online
traffic at The list doesn't include national news or
sports stories:

1. Enumclaw-area animal-sex case investigated
2. Couple's final photos "an echo from the grave"
3. Trespassing charged in horse-sex case
4. Election trial dispatches
5. Vanity plate shows drug formula
6. Videotapes show bestiality, Enumclaw police say
7. Fast-food shop owner takes off, employees take over
8. McDermott makes list of author's 100 worst Americans
9. Mall shooter: "World will feel my anger"
10. Tempest brews over quotes on Starbucks cups
11. Defense hawk Dicks says he now sees war as a mistake
12. Did local vice cops cross the line?
13. Hey, no cutting in line!
14. Details we can't quite comprehend
Nicole Brodeur column on horse sex.
15. Judge awards $45,480 in cat's death
16. New error found in vote tally
17. One high school . 44 valedictorians
18. Huge I-90 rockslide smashes car, kills 3 women
19. Charge filed in connection with man who died having sex with horse
20. Why state chose not to commit violent molester

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

NEWSPAPERS: Ex-magazine editor suggests newspapers take the high road -- but to oblivion?



Author Joseph Epstein was born and educated in Chicago. He was a lecturer
in English and writing at Northwestern University from 1974 to 2002 and
editor of the Phi Beta Kappa society magazine American Scholar from 1975
to 1997. He has published numerous books of essays and short fiction. is
work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper.s Magazine, the Atlantic
Monthly. He lives in Chicago.

He writes, "My own preference would be for a few serious newspapers to
take the high road: to smarten up instead of dumbing down, to honor the
principles of integrity and impartiality in their coverage, and to become
institutions that even those who disagreed with them would have to respect
for the reasoned cogency of their editorial positions. I imagine such
papers directed by editors who could choose for me -- as neither the
Internet nor I on my own can doÿÿthe serious issues, questions, and
problems of the day and, with the aid of intelligence born of concern,
give each the emphasis it deserves.

Are Newspapers Doomed?

Joseph Epstein

ÿÿClearly,ÿÿ said Adam to Eve as they departed the Garden of Eden, ÿÿweÿÿre living in an age of transition.ÿÿ A joke, of courseÿÿbut also not quite a joke, because when has the history of the world been anything other than one damned transition after another? Yet sometimes, in certain realms, transitions seem to stand out with utter distinctiveness, and this seems to be the case with the fortune of printed newspapers at the present moment. As a medium and as an institution, the newspaper is going through an age of transition in excelsis, and nobody can confidently say how it will and or what will come next.

To begin with familiar facts, statistics on readership have been pointing downward, significantly downward, for some time now. Four-fifths of Americans once read newspapers; today, apparently fewer than half do. Among adults, in the decade 1990-2000, daily readership fell from 52.6 percent to 37.5 percent. Among the young, things are much worse: in one study, only 19 percent of those between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four reported consulting a daily paper, and only 9 percent trusted the information purveyed there; a mere 8 percent found newspapers helpful, while 4 percent thought them entertaining.

From 1999 to 2004, according to the Newspaper Association of America, general circulation dropped by another 1.3 million. Reflecting both that fact and the ferocious competition for classified ads from free online bulletin boards like, advertising revenue has been stagnant at best, while printing and productions costs have gone
remorselessly upward. As a result, the New York Times Company has cut some 700 jobs from its various papers. The
Baltimore Sun, owned by the Chicago Tribune, is closing down its five international bureaus. Second papers in many cities have locked their doors.

This bleeding phenomenon is not restricted to the United States, and no bets should be placed on the likely success of
steps taken by papers to stanch the flow. The Wall Street Journal, in an effort to save money on production costs, is
trimming the width of its pages, from 15 to 12 inches. In England, the once venerable Guardian, in a mad scramble to retain its older readers and find younger ones, has radically redesigned itself by becoming smaller. Londonÿÿs Independent has gone tabloid, and so has the once revered Times, its publisher preferring the euphemism ÿÿcompact.ÿÿ

For those of us who grew up with newspapers in our daily regimen, sometimes with not one but two newspapers in our homes, it is all a bit difficult to take in. As early as 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville noted that even frontier families in upper Michigan had a weekly paper delivered. A.J. Liebling, the New Yorkerÿÿs writer on the press, used to say that he judged any new city he visited by the taste of its water and the quality of its newspapers.

The paper to which you subscribed, or that your father brought home from work, told a good deal about your family: its social class, its level of education, its politics. Among the five major dailies in the Chicago of my early boyhood, my father preferred the Daily News, an afternoon paper reputed to have excellent foreign correspondents. Democratic in its general political affiliation, though not aggressively so, the Daily News was considered the intelligent Chicagoanÿÿs paper.

My father certainly took it seriously. I remember asking him in 1952, as a boy of fifteen, about whom he intended to vote for in the presidential election between Dwight Eisenhower and Adlai Stevenson. ÿÿIÿÿm not sure,ÿÿ he said. ÿÿI think Iÿÿll wait to see which way Lippmann is going.ÿÿ

The degree of respect then accorded the syndicated columnist Walter Lippmann is hard to imagine in our own time. In good part, his cachet derived from his readersÿÿ belief not only in his intelligence but in his impartiality. Lippmann, it was thought, cared about what was best for the country; he wasnÿÿt already lined up; you couldnÿÿt be certain which way he would go.

Of the two candidates in 1952, Stevenson, the intellectually cultivated Democrat, was without a doubt the man Lippmann would have preferred to have lunch with. But in the end he went for Eisenhowerÿÿhis reason being, as I recall, that the country needed a strong leader with a large majority behind him, a man who, among other things, could face down the obstreperous Red-baiting of Senator Joseph McCarthy. My father, a lifelong Democrat, followed Lippmann and crossed over to vote for Eisenhower.

My father took his paper seriously in another way, too. He read it after dinner and ingested it, like that dinner,
slowly, treating it as a kind of second dessert: something at once nutritive and entertaining. He was in no great hurry to finish.

Today, his son reads no Chicago newspaper whatsoever. A serial killer could be living in my apartment building, and I would be unaware of it until informed by my neighbors. As for the power of the press to shape and even change my mind, I am in the condition of George Santayana, who wrote to his sister in 1915 that he was too old to ÿÿbe influenced by newspaper argument. When I read them I form perhaps a new opinion of the newspaper but seldom a new opinion on the subject discussed.ÿÿ

I do subscribe to the New York Times, which I read without a scintilla of glee. I feel I need it, chiefly to discover who
in my cultural world has died, or been honored (probably unjustly), or has turned out some new piece of work that I ought to be aware of. I rarely give the daily Times more than a half-hour, if that. I begin with the obituaries. Next, I check the op-ed page, mostly to see if anyone has hit upon a novel way of denigrating President Bush; the answer is invariably no, though they seem never to tire of trying. I glimpse the letters to the editor in hopes of finding someone after my own heart. I almost never read the editorials, following the advice of the journalist Jack Germond who once compared the writing of a newspaper editorial to wetting oneself in a dark-blue serge suit: ÿÿIt gives you a nice warm feeling, but nobody notices.ÿÿ

The arts section, which in the Times is increasingly less about the arts and more about television, rock ÿÿnÿÿ roll, and celebrity, does not detain me long. Sports is another matter, for I do have the sports disease in a chronic and soon to be terminal stage; I run my eyes over these pages, turning in spring, summer, and fall to see who is pitching in that dayÿÿs Cubs and White Sox games. And I always check the business section, where some of the better writing in the Times appears and where the reporting, because so much is at stake, tends to be more trustworthy.

Finallyÿÿquickly, very quicklyÿÿI run through the so-called hard news, taking in most of it at the headline level. I seem able to sleep perfectly soundly these days without knowing the names of the current presidents or prime ministers of Peru, India, Japan, and Poland. For the rest, the point of view that permeates the news coverage in the Times is by now so yawningly predictable that I spare myself the effort of absorbing the facts that seem to serve as so much tedious filler.

Am I typical in my casual disregard? I suspect so. Everyone agrees that print newspapers are in trouble today, and almost everyone agrees on the reasons. Foremost among them is the vast improvement in the technology of delivering information, which has combined in lethal ways with a serious change in the national temperament.

The technological change has to do with the increase in the number of television cable channels and the astonishing
amount of news floating around in cyberspace. As Richard A. Posner has written, ÿÿThe publicÿÿs consumption of news and opinion used to be like sucking on a straw; now itÿÿs like being sprayed by a fire hose.ÿÿ

The temperamental change has to do with the national attention span. The critic Walter Benjamin said, as long ago as the 1930ÿÿs, that the chief emotion generated by reading the newspapers is impatience. His remark is all the more pertinent today, when the very definition of what constitutes important information is up for grabs. More and more, in a shift that cuts across age, social class, and even educational lines, important information means information that matters to me, now.

And this is where the two changes intersect. Not only are we acquiring our information from new places but we are taking it pretty much on our own terms. The magazine Wired recently defined the word ÿÿegocastingÿÿ as ÿÿthe consumption of on-demand music, movies, television, and other media that cater to individual and not mass-market tastes.ÿÿ The news, too, is now getting to be on-demand.

Instead of beginning their day with coffee and the newspaper, there to read what editors have selected for their
enlightenment, people, and young people in particular, wait for a free moment to go online. No longer need they wade through thickets of stories and features of no interest to them, and least of all need they do so on the websites of
newspapers, where the owners are hoping to regain the readers lost to print. Instead, they go to more specialized
purveyors of information, including instant-messaging providers, targeted news sites, blogs, and online ÿÿzines.ÿÿ

Much cogitation has been devoted to the question of young peopleÿÿs lack of interest in traditional news. According to one theory, which is by now an entrenched cliché, the young, having grown up with television and computers as their constant companions, are ÿÿvisual-minded,ÿÿ and hence averse to print. Another theory holds that young people do not feel themselves implicated in the larger world; for them, news of that world isnÿÿt where the action is. A more flattering corollary of this is that grown-up journalism strikes the young as hopelessly out of date. All that solemn good-guy/bad-guy reporting, the taking seriously of opéra-bouffe characters like Jesse Jackson or Al Gore or Tom DeLay, the false complexity of ÿÿin-depthÿÿ television reporting à la 60 Minutesÿÿthis, for them, is so much hot air. They prefer to watch Jon Stewartÿÿs The Daily Show on the Comedy Central cable channel, where traditional news is mocked and pilloried as obvious nonsense.

Whatever the validity of this theorizing, it is also beside the point. For as the grim statistics confirm, the young are
hardly alone in turning away from newspapers. Nor are they alone responsible for the dizzying growth of the so-called blogosphere, said to be increasing by 70,000 sites a day (according to the search portal In the first half of this year alone, the number of new blogs grew from 7.8 to 14.2 million. And if the numbers are dizzying, the sheer amount of information floating around is enough to give a person a serious case of Newsheimers.

Astonishing results are reported when news is passed from one blog to another: scores if not hundreds of thousands of
hits, and, on sites that post readersÿÿ reactions, responses that can often be more impressive in research and reasoning than anything likely to turn up in print. Newspaper journalists themselves often get their stories from blogs, and bloggers have been extremely useful in verifying or refuting the erroneous reportage of mainstream journalists. The only place to get a reasonably straight account of news about Israel and the Palestinians, according to Stephanie Gutmann, author of The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Struggle for Media Supremacy, is in the blogosphere.

The trouble with blogs and Internet news sites, it has been said, is that they merely reinforce the readerÿÿs already
established interests and views, thereby contributing to our much-lamented national polarization of opinion. A newspaper, by contrast, at least compels one to acknowledge the existence of other subjects and issues, and reading it can alert one to affecting or important matters that one would never encounter if left to oneÿÿs own devices, and in particular to that primary device of our day, the computer. Whether or not that is so, the argument has already been won, and not by the papers.

Another argument appears to have been won, too, and again to the detriment of the papers. This is the argument over politics, which the newspapers brought upon themselves and which, in my view, they richly deserved to lose.

One could put together an impressive little anthology of utterances by famous Americans on the transcendent importance of the press as a guardian watchdog of the state. Perhaps the most emphatic was that of Thomas Jefferson, who held that freedom of the press, right up there with freedom of religion and freedom of the person under the rights of habeas corpus and trial by jury, was among ÿÿthe principles [that] form the bright constellation which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation.ÿÿ Even today, not many people would disagree with this in theory; but like the character in a Tom Stoppard play, many would add: ÿÿIÿÿm with you on the free press. Itÿÿs the damned newspapers I canÿÿt stand.ÿÿ

The self-proclaimed goal of newsmen used to be to report, in a clear and factual way, on the important events of the day, on subjects of greater or lesser parochialism. It is no longer so. Here is Dan Rather, quoting with approval someone he does not name who defines news as ÿÿwhat somebody doesnÿÿt want you to know. All the rest is advertising.ÿÿ

ÿÿWhat somebody doesnÿÿt want you to knowÿÿÿÿit would be hard to come up with a more concise definition of the target of the ÿÿinvestigative journalismÿÿ that has been the pride of the nationÿÿs newspapers for the past three decades. Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, Seymour Hersh, and many others have built their reputations on telling us things that Presidents and Senators and generals and CEOÿÿs have not wanted us to know.

Besides making for a strictly adversarial relationship between government and the press, there is no denying that
investigative journalism, whatever (very mixed) accomplishments it can claim to its credit, has put in place among us a tone and temper of agitation and paranoia. Every day, we are asked to regard the people we elect to office as,
essentially, our enemiesÿÿthieves, thugs, and megalomaniacs whose vicious secret deeds it is the chief function of the press to uncover and whose persons to bring down in a glare of publicity.

All this might have been to the good if what the journalists discovered were invariably trueÿÿand if the nature and the implications of that truth were left for others to puzzle out. Frequently, neither has been the case.

Much of contemporary journalism functions through leaksÿÿinformation passed to journalists by unidentified individuals telling those things that someone supposedly doesnÿÿt want us to know. Since these sources cannot be checked or cross-examined, readers are in no position to assess the leakersÿÿ motives for leaking, let alone the agenda of the journalists who rely on them. To state the obvious: a journalist fervently against the U.S. presence in Iraq is unlikely to pursue leaks providing evidence that the war has been going reasonably well.

Administrations have of course used leaks for their own purposes, and leaks have also become a time-tested method for playing out intramural government disputes. Thus, it is widely and no doubt correctly believed that forces at the CIA and in the State Department have leaked information to the New York Times and the Washington Post to weaken positions taken by the White House they serve, thereby availing themselves of a mechanism of sabotage from within. But this, too, is not part of the truth we are likely to learn from investigative journalists, who not only purvey slanted information as if it were simply true but then take it upon themselves to try, judge, and condemn those they have designated as political enemies. So glaring has this problem become that the Times, beginning in June, felt compelled to introduce a new policy, designed, in the words of its ombudsman, to make ÿÿthe use of anonymous sources the ÿÿexceptionÿÿ rather than ÿÿroutine.ÿÿÿÿ

No wonder, then, that the prestige of mainstream journalism, which reached perhaps an all-time high in the early 1970ÿÿs at the time of Watergate, has now badly slipped. According to most studies of the question, journalists tend more and more to be regarded by Americans as unaccountable kibitzers whose self-appointed job is to spread dissension, increase pressure on everyone, make troubleÿÿand preach the gospel of present-day liberalism. Aiding this deserved fall in reputation has been a series of well-publicized scandals like the rise and fall of the reporter Jayson Blair at the New York Times.

The politicization of contemporary journalists surely has a lot to do with the fact that almost all of them today are
university-trained. In Newspaper Days, H.L. Mencken recounts that in 1898, at the age of eighteen, he had a choice of going to college, there to be taught by German professors and on weekends to sit in a raccoon coat watching football games, or of getting a job on a newspaper, which would allow him to zip off to fires, whorehouse raids, executions, and other such festivities. As Mencken observes, it was no contest.

Most contemporary journalists, by contrast, attend schools of journalism or study the humanities and social sciences. Here the reigning politics are liberal, and along with their degrees, and their sense of enlightened virtue, they emerge with locked-in political views. According to Jim A. Kuypers in Press Bias and Politics, 76 percent of journalists who admit to having a politics describe themselves as liberal. The consequences are predictable: even as they employ their politics to tilt their stories, such journalists sincerely believe they are (a) merely telling the truth and (b) doing good in the world.

Pre-university-educated journalists did not, I suspect, feel that the papers they worked for existed as vehicles through which to advance their own political ideas. Some among them might have hated corruption, or the standard lies told by politicians; from time to time they might even have felt a stab of idealism or sentimentality. But they subsisted chiefly on cynicism, heavy boozing, and an admiration for craft. They did not treat the newsÿÿand editors of that day would not have permitted them to treat the newsÿÿas a trampoline off which to bounce their own tendentious politics.

To the degree that papers like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times have contributed to the political polarization of the country, they much deserve their fate of being taken less and less seriously by fewer and fewer people. One can say this even while acknowledging that the cure, in the form of on-demand news, can sometimes seem as bad as the disease, tending often only to confirm users, whether liberal or conservative or anything else, in the opinions they already hold. But at least the curious or the bored can, at a click, turn elsewhere on the Internet for variety or reliefÿÿwhich is more than can be said for newspaper readers.

Nor, in a dumbed-down world, do our papers of record offer an oasis of taste. There were always a large number of
newspapers in America whose sole standard was scandal and entertainment. (The crossword puzzle first appeared in Joseph Pulitzerÿÿs New York World.) But there were also some that were dedicated to bringing their readers up to a high or at least a middling mark. Among these were the New York Times, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Washington Post, the Milwaukee Journal, the Wall Street Journal, the now long defunct New York Herald-Tribune, and the Chicago Daily News.

These newspapers did not mind telling readers what they felt they ought to know, even at the risk of boring the pajamas off them. The Times, for instance, used to run the full text of important political speeches, which could sometimes fill two full pages of photograph-less type. But now that the college-educated are writing for the college-educated, neither party seems to care. And with circulation numbers dwindling and the strategy in place of whoring after the uninterested young, anything goes.

What used to be considered the serious press in America has become increasingly frivolous. The scandal-and-entertainment aspect more and more replaces what once used to be called ÿÿhard news.ÿÿ In this, the serious papers would seem to be imitating the one undisputed print success of recent decades, USA Today, whose guiding principle has been to make things brief, fast-paced, and entertaining. Or, more hopelessly still, they are imitating television talk shows or the Internet itself, often mindlessly copying some of their dopier and more destructive innovations.

The editor of the London Independent has talked of creating, in place of a newspaper, a ÿÿviewspaper,ÿÿ one that can be viewed like a television or a computer. The Los Angeles Times has made efforts to turn itself interactive, including by allowing website readers to change the paperÿÿs editorials to reflect their own views (only to give up on this initiative when readers posted pornography on the page). In his technology column for the New York Times, David Carr speaks of newspapers needing ÿÿa podcast moment,ÿÿ by which I take him to mean that the printed press must come up with a self-selecting format for presenting on-demand news akin to the way the iPod presents a listenerÿÿs favorite programming exactly as and when he wants it.

In our multitasking nation, we already read during television commercials, talk on the cell-phone while driving, listen to music while working on the computer, and much else besides. Some in the press seem in their panic to think that the worst problem they face is that you cannot do other things while reading a newspaper except smoke, which in most places is outlawed anyway. Their problems go much deeper.

In a speech given this past April to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the international publisher Rupert
Murdoch catalogued the drastic diminution of readership for the traditional press and then went on to rally the troops by telling them that they must do better. Not different, but better: going deeper in their coverage, listening more intently to the desires of their readers, assimilating and where possible imitating the digital culture so popular among the young. A man immensely successful and usually well anchored in reality, Murdoch here sounded distressingly like a man without a plan.

Not that I have one of my own. Best to study history, it is said, because the present is too complicated and no one knows anything about the future. The time of transition we are currently going through, with the interest in traditional newspapers beginning to fade and news on the computer still a vast confusion, can be likened to a great city banishing horses from its streets before anyone has yet perfected the automobile.

Nevertheless, if I had to prophesy, my guess would be that newspapers will hobble along, getting ever more desperate and ever more vulgar. More of them will attempt the complicated mental acrobatic of further dumbing down while straining to keep up, relentlessly exerting themselves to sustain the mighty cataract of inessential information that threatens to drown us all. Those of us who grew up with newspapers will continue to read them, with ever less trust and interest, while younger readers, soon enough grown into middle age, will ignore them.

My own preference would be for a few serious newspapers to take the high road: to smarten up instead of dumbing down, to honor the principles of integrity and impartiality in their coverage, and to become institutions that even those who disagreed with them would have to respect for the reasoned cogency of their editorial positions. I imagine such papers directed by editors who could choose for meÿÿas neither the Internet nor I on my own can doÿÿthe serious issues, questions, and problems of the day and, with the aid of intelligence born of concern, give each the emphasis it deserves.

In all likelihood a newspaper taking this route would go under; but at least it would do so in a cloud of glory, guns
blazing. And at least its loss would be a genuine subtraction. About our newspapers as they now stand, little more can be said in their favor than that they do not require batteries to operate, you can swat flies with them, and they can still be used to wrap fish.

Joseph Epstein contributed ÿÿForgetting Edmund Wilsonÿÿ to last monthÿÿs Commentary. His new book, Friendship, An Exposé, will be published by Houghton Mifflin in July.

Copyright 2006 Commentary

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POLITICS: Governments, politicians experiment with podcasting to reach citizens

Posted on Sun, Jan. 01, 2006


Savvy leaders say hi to tech

Some politicians are using podcasts -- audio recordings posted on the Internet -- to carry their message directly to

The Miami Herald

Davie Mayor Tom Truex is more likely to be seen listening to an eight-track tape than jamming to an iPod. He thinks they're too expensive.

But that hasn't stopped Truex from joining the growing number of government officials who use the new technology to broadcast their ideals and philosophies along with updates on what their agencies are doing. The new phenomenon -- called podcasting -- is available to just about anyone with a computer and a little time on their hands. A podcast is an Internet audio program that can be downloaded onto an iPod or other MP3 player, or listened to on a computer.

Podcasting joins government-access TV channels, city-owned radio stations and newsletters, and elected officials' weblogs among the new ways leaders are trying to communicate directly to the public -- without the news media serving as a middleman. With the iPod being one of the hottest gifts this Christmas, a larger audience is opening up for tech-savvy politicians. The list of podcasters includes President Bush and popular U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, both of whom air weekly podcasts, along with a handful of mayors and governors around the country.


In September, the Broward County School Board debuted a 20-minute podcast on happenings in the district. Truex posted his first podcast on Dec. 12, apparently making him the first local official to do it in South Florida. He said the 90-second podcasts were a natural progression from his weblog, or blog, which is a text-and-pictures newsletter updated several times a week on the Internet. ''It's just another way to communicate some of my philosophies about government in general and talk about things that are going on in town,'' Truex said. ``It's the new wave of the future.''


But officials should not consider podcasting and other self-produced programs a substitute for talking with the mainstream news media, said Michael Abrams, journalism professor at Florida A&M University. Abrams said some politicians might rush to podcasts to avoid answering tough questioning by the media or other critics, which could mislead the public. ''I would hope that people in politics would still face the press,'' Abrams said.

But Hollywood Mayor Mara Giulianti said city-produced programming allows officials to be sure that the public receives all of the information the government considers important. In contrast, she said, the press will pick and choose what to include in articles and may leave out what she considers crucial facts. Giulianti recently began hosting her own talk show A New Day in Hollywood. She also writes a column in Horizons, a quarterly newsletter the city mails to about 76,000 residents. The 30-minute shows began airing two months ago on the city's cable-access channel and have touched on the city's redevelopment efforts and beach renourishment program.

The show, the idea for which came from city administrators, helps to get out the city's point of view, which can sometimes be misconstrued in the press, Giulianti said. What's not clear is how many people pay attention to government publications and programs. While some televised city commission meetings have developed small followings, political podcasts don't seem to have caught on yet.


Truex said ''not too many'' people have listened to his podcasts, but he notes he has only posted seven segments so far. Although his podcasts don't ask for votes, Truex pays for them through his campaign contributions and attaches a disclaimer to all that his program is a paid political advertisement. Some of Truex's postings have little to do with government, such as his most recent postings, which offered holiday greetings and talked about life in his household. Still, he has several three-minute speeches explaining his positions on development and particular Town Council decisions.

As the technology becomes available, Truex would be in favor of the city doing its own podcast. But don't expect him to rush out and buy an iPod. He bought a cheap off-brand MP3 player just to make sure he was recording his podcasts correctly. ''I'm not a slave to fashion or brand names,'' he said. ``I think I am doing a public service. It's a hobby with me and it's something I find relaxing.''


The article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Monday, January 02, 2006

FUTURE: Blog feedback goes on offensive, making MSM think more; MacKinnon quoted

Dan Kennedy writes: "Katharine Seelye has a good overview in today's New
York Times on how those covered by the media are using technology to put
their own version of reality before the public."

Here's the piece:


Published: January 2, 2006
Answering Back to the News Media, Using the Internet

The New York Times

Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, or so goes the
old saw. For decades, the famous and the infamous alike largely followed
this advice. Even when subjects of news stories felt they had been
misunderstood or badly treated, they were unlikely to take on reporters or
publishers, believing that the power of the press gave the press the final

The Internet, and especially the amplifying power of blogs, is changing
that. Unhappy subjects discovered a decade ago that they could use their
Web sites to correct the record or deconstruct articles to expose what
they perceived as a journalist's bias or wrongheaded narration.

But now they are going a step further. Subjects of newspaper articles and
news broadcasts now fight back with the same methods reporters use to
generate articles and broadcasts - taping interviews, gathering e-mail
exchanges, taking notes on phone conversations - and publish them on their
own Web sites. This new weapon in the media wars is shifting the center of
gravity in the way that news is gathered and presented, and it carries
implications for the future of journalism.

Just ask "Nightline," the ABC News program, which broadcast a segment in
August about intelligent design that the Discovery Institute, a
conservative clearinghouse for proponents of intelligent design, did not
like very much. The next day, the institute published on its Web site the
entire transcript of the nearly hourlong interview that "Nightline" had
conducted a few days earlier with one of the institute's leaders, not just
the brief quotes that had appeared on television.

The institute did not accuse "Nightline" of any errors. Rather, it urged
readers to examine the unedited interview because, it said, the transcript
would reveal "the predictable tone of some of the questions" by the staff
of "Nightline."

"Here's your chance to go behind the scenes with the gatekeepers of the
national media to see how they screen out viewpoints and information that
don't fit their stereotypes," Rob Crowther, the institute's spokesman,
wrote on the Web site.

The printing of transcripts, e-mail messages and conversations, and the
ability to pull up information from search engines like Google, have
empowered those whom Jay Rosen, a blogger and journalism professor at New
York University, calls "the people formerly known as the audience."

"In this new world, the audience and sources are publishers," Mr. Rosen
said. "They are now saying to journalists, 'We are producers, too. So the
interview lies midpoint between us. You produce things from it, and we do,
too.' From now on, in a potentially hostile interview situation, this will
be the norm."

All these developments have forced journalists to respond in a variety of
ways, including becoming more open about their methods and techniques and
perhaps more conscious of how they filter information.

"To the extent that you know there's someone monitoring every word, it
probably compels you to be even more careful, which is a good thing," said
Chris Bury, the "Nightline" correspondent whose interview was published by
the Discovery Institute. "But readers and viewers need to realize that one
interview is only one part of the story, that there are other interviews
and other research and that this is just a sliver of what goes into a
complete report."

Posting primary source material is becoming part of public relations
strategies for interest groups, businesses and government. The Pentagon
and State Department now post transcripts of interviews with top officials
on their Web sites or they e-mail them to reporters, as does Vice
President Dick Cheney's office.

An early example of turning the tables occurred in 2001, when David D.
Kirkpatrick, who then covered the publishing industry for The New York
Times, wrote an article about Dave Eggers, author of "A Heartbreaking Work
of Staggering Genius." Mr. Eggers posted a 10,000-word response on his Web
site complaining about the tone of the piece, and included their e-mail
exchanges, which Mr. Kirkpatrick had asked be kept private.

Individual newspapers and television stations generally reach a wider
audience than individual blogs, and Mr. Eggers touched on this
lopsidedness when he explained on his Web site why he was reprinting Mr.
Kirkpatrick's e-mail messages: "It's the only remedy commensurate with the
impact you enjoyed with your original piece."

But the power of blogs is exponential; blog posts can be linked and
replicated instantly across the Web, creating a snowball effect that often
breaks through to the mainstream media. Moreover, blogs have a longer
shelf life than most traditional news media articles. A newspaper
reporter's original article is likely to disappear from the free Web site
after a few days and become inaccessible unless purchased from the
newspaper's archives, while the blogger's version of events remains
available forever.

In another case involving The Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin, a business
reporter, interviewed Mark Cuban, the technology billionaire, via e-mail
last summer for a column about Mr. Cuban's investment in an Internet
company. Mr. Cuban was unhappy with the column and posted their e-mail
exchanges, touching off an extensive discussion on the Internet about,
among other things, the value of seeing a reporter's raw material.

Many bloggers said reporters should publish such material as a matter of
course; others questioned the need to be inundated with every scrap of
unorganized, unedited information and wondered where it would stop. (Just
two weeks ago, Mr. Cuban posted another e-mail exchange with Randall
Stross, another writer for The Times.)

While the publication of raw material is often aimed at putting the
journalist in a bad light, it can sometimes boomerang on the source. The
Pentagon got into a dispute with Bob Woodward of The Washington Post in
2004 over quotations in his book "Plan of Attack" that were attributed to
Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld about the invasion of Iraq. The
quotations had not appeared in the Pentagon's official transcript of Mr.
Woodward's interview with Mr. Rumsfeld. But they appeared in full in Mr.
Woodward's transcript, and the Pentagon had to admit that it had deleted
those portions from its transcript.

Sometimes the subjects of news articles even post such material on the Web
in advance of an article or broadcast, scooping the reporter and getting
their version out first. Earlier this year, Edward Nawotka, a book critic
based in Austin, Tex., described in The Texas Observer an interview he had
conducted via e-mail with Ann Coulter, the conservative writer, a couple
of years ago. She sent him a 2,000-word response by e-mail, which he then
asked her to trim so he could include it in a daily e-mail newsletter -
only to discover that she had already posted her entire response on her
Web site.

Another example occurred in 1999, when "20/20," the ABC News program,
interviewed officials from a company called Metabolife International. The
company acquired footage of the interview and posted it on its Web site
before the program was shown. This was so unusual at the time that the
company bought advertisements in newspapers urging readers to watch the

"People do it all the time," said Rebecca MacKinnon, a former CNN
correspondent who is now a research fellow at the Berkman Center for
Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, where she studies the effect
of blogging on journalism.

Interview subjects are "annoyed that they're quoted out of context, or
they did a half-hour interview and only one sentence got used. Or
sometimes they're just flattered that a reporter called them," she said.
"If you're one of a growing number of people with a blog, you now have a
place where you can set the record straight."

Danny Schechter, executive editor of and a former
producer at ABC News and CNN, said that while the active participation by
so many readers was healthy for democracy and journalism, it had allowed
partisanship to mask itself as media criticism and had given rise to a new
level of vitriol.

"It's now O.K. to demonize the messenger," he said. "This has led to a
very uncivil discourse in which it seems to be O.K. to shout down,
discredit, delegitimize and denigrate the people who are reporting stories
and to pick at their methodology and ascribe motives to them that are
often unfair."

Thomas Kunkel, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the
University of Maryland, said reporting on reporters had created a kind of
"Wild West atmosphere" in cyberspace.

With reporters conducting interviews more frequently by e-mail, he said,
"You have to start thinking a couple of moves ahead because you're leaving
a paper trail. And the truth squad mentality of some bloggers means you
are apt to have your own questions thrown back at you."

Posting of original material may be somewhat less common in the corporate
world than among individuals representing themselves. Steven Rubenstein,
president of Rubenstein Communications, the New York public relations
firm, said that posting raw material was "another tool in the tool chest"
and that if a corporate client had been damaged, "you'll certainly want to
get something out that's Google-able."

But, he said, a corporation must also consider whether publishing such
material would alienate an influential beat reporter as well as an entire
news outlet and possibly reporters for other outlets. "You have to balance
the incident over the long-term relationship," he said. "But you can get
your side out in a benign way. It doesn't have to be antagonistic."

Reporters say that these developments are forcing them to change how they
do their jobs; some are asking themselves if they can justify how they are
filtering information. "We've got to be more transparent about the
news-gathering process," said Craig Crawford, a columnist for
Congressional Quarterly and author of "Attack the Messenger: How
Politicians Turn You Against the Media." "We've pretended to be like
priests turning water to wine, like it's a secret process. Those days are

Some news outlets are posting transcripts of their interviews with
newsmakers, and some reporters are posting their own material. Stephen
Baker, a senior writer at BusinessWeek, has posted not only transcripts
from his interviews but also his own notes on his Web site, saying he
likes to involve his readers in the journalistic process.

"Sometimes I say to my readers, Here's my interview. What story would you
have written?" said Mr. Baker, who writes about technology. Journalism, he
added, used to be a clear-cut "before and after process," much like making
a meal; the cooking was done privately in the kitchen and then the meal
was served. Now, he said, "every aspect of it is scrutinized."

And many journalists say they now expect that whatever they say or write
to a source, even trivial chit-chat, will be made public.

"I don't carry an expectation of privacy anymore," said Bill Toland, a
reporter for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who said his e-mail messages had
cropped up on various Web sites. "I think it's fair game, as long as
you're fair with the people you're dealing with."

While some say they are learning to accept the new interactivity, they
also worry that the view of many bloggers - that reporters should post
their raw material because they are filtering it through their own biases
- ignores the value of traditional journalistic functions, like casting a
wide net for information, coaxing it out of reluctant sources, condensing
it and presenting it in an orderly way.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN's senior correspondent at the Pentagon, said the
traditional skills of sifting through information and presenting it in
context were especially vital now because there were so many other sources
of information.

"With the Internet, with blogs, with text messages, with soldiers writing
their own accounts from the front lines, so many people are trying to
shape things into their own reality," he said. "I don't worry so much
anymore about finding out every little detail five minutes before someone
else. It's more important that we take that information and tell you what
it means."

Ms. MacKinnon predicted that traditional journalism and the art of
distilling information would not vanish. "Most people don't have hours and
hours every day to read the Web, and they want someone who can quickly and
succinctly tell you what you need to know," she said. "But it's great the
raw materials can be made available to those who have the time."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company


The article above is copyrighted material, the use of which may not have specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of political, economic, democracy, First Amendment, technology, journalism, community and justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' as provided by Section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Chapter 1, Section 107, the material above is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this blog for purposes beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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