Monday, March 27, 2006

"Wisdom of Crowds" author says newspapers should focus on local news

James Suroweicki, a writer for The New Yorker magazine who usually focuses on business topics, gained fame in 2004 with his book, "The Wisdom of Crowds," which argued that the collected intelligence of the masses, now
easily and quickly compiled and analyzed with Internet technology, generally reaches better decisions than small groups of experts. Now he's giving some advice to the newspaper industry, in a short "Talk of the Town" column in the current New Yorker. He argues newspapers, still fabulously profitable despite gradual readership loss, can extend their life by reinvesting in quality local-news reporting and dispensing with things like stock tables and wire-service reports.


In case that doesn't work, here is the text:

by James Surowiecki
Issue of 2006-04-03
Posted 2006-03-27

Two weeks ago, when the newspaper publisher McClatchy announced that it
was buying the venerable Knight Ridder chain, for the lowball price of
$6.5 billion, McClatchy.s C.E.O., Gary Pruitt, called the deal .a vote of
confidence in the newspaper industry.. But few people bought Pruitt.s
pitch (or his stock.McClatchy.s shares have dropped nine per cent since
the deal was announced). And why would they? At this point, everyone knows
that newspapers are doomed. Lumbering apatosauruses reliant on old
technology and a creaking business model, papers are losing readers.the
Washington Post saw its circulation drop four per cent, to less than seven
hundred thousand, last year.and losing ad dollars. The Internet has
demolished the economics of the industry, allowing people to read, free,
news from many sources, and providing a cheaper platform for classified
ads. Habit may keep readers around a while longer, but spending billions
on a collection of newspapers now looks like the proverbial shuffling of
deck chairs on the Titanic.

But McClatchy.s gamble depends on a simple, if often overlooked, fact:
newspapers remain a surprisingly robust business and generate tremendous
amounts of cash every year. Most of them have profit margins that dwarf
those of the average company; McClatchy.s operating margin last year was
twenty-eight per cent, while ExxonMobil.s was around sixteen per cent, and
the typical supermarket.s is around four per cent. The reach of newspapers
remains huge. Daily circulation is around fifty-five million (not
including online readers), giving the industry more customers than any
other traditional media outlet. And those customers have the kind of
demographics that advertisers like; even as circulation has dropped,
revenue from print ads has stayed healthy, to the tune of more than
forty-seven billion dollars last year. Newspapers are classic cash cows:
solidly profitable businesses in a stagnant industry.

So why are newspapers everyone.s least favorite enterprise? One reason is
that Wall Street tends to love growth stocks, and to underplay the value
of steady cash generation. And no one likes to be in a business that.s
losing customers. Still, there.s a big difference between an industry
whose customers are fleeing en masse (camera film, say) and one in which
the decline is steady but slow; despite the current sense of panic, the
popularity of papers is decreasing only gradually. Readership fell faster
between 1970 and fifteen per cent.than it has since, and even this
audience drop-off is considerably less than what network news has endured
in recent decades. Furthermore, a good deal of the decline can be chalked
up to the life-style changes that killed the evening paper: since 1980,
the circulation of morning papers has actually risen by almost sixty per

Meanwhile, newspapers have minimized the damage by getting better at
making money off the readers kept. Some papers, such as the San
Francisco Chronicle and the Des Moines Register, have deliberately reduced
their circulation.usually by eliminating promotions and order
to trim costs and improve their demographics. Consolidation has reduced
competition to the point where there are now few multiple-newspaper
cities. And newspaper chains have become relentless in their pursuit of
cost-cutting. Although much of this has been bad for the art of
journalism, it has been very good for the bottom line.

In some sense, the newspaper industry has succumbed to a speculative rush
to judgment. People have looked at emerging trends.declining numbers of
young newspaper readers, the boom in news and advertising on the Net.and
decided that the future is already here. Yet, even in the age of
Craigslist, newspapers benefit from the so-called .network effect.. Since
lots of potential buyers read the classifieds, potential sellers are more
likely to list there, which, in turn, makes potential buyers more likely
to keep reading. That.s why seventeen billion dollars was spent on
newspaper classifieds last year. And, while the Net has eroded newspapers.
advantage in disseminating news, it has expanded their reach and
influence. The Washinton Post, despite its drop in circulation, attracted
more than eight million readers to its Web site in February, an increase
of nearly three million over the same time last year. Papers may not have
figured out how to maximize the monetary potential of this shift, but
online advertising already earns them two billion dollars a year.

The real danger is that the popular conviction that papers are doomed may
cause owners and shareholders to prefer the cash-cow approach, accepting
eventual oblivion while continuing to harvest billions of dollars in
profits, largely through cost-cutting. Settling for a tolerable short-term
future, newspapers could end up writing themselves out of the long-term
one. Yet it.s also clear that this moment of supposed doom represents a
sizable opportunity for newspapers, a chance to reinvigorate their product
and, eventually, improve the economics of their business. Seizing that
opportunity is going to require new investment, not penny-pinching.
Established, the movies, television.haven.t vanished when new
forms have come along. adapted by playing to their distinctive
strengths. (For most newspapers, this will mean abandoning things that are
ubiquitous on the Internet, like stock tables and wire stories, and
investing in content they can own, like serious local coverage and
in-depth reporting.) Newspapers, thanks to the efficiency with which managed themselves in recent years, still have the time and money
to save themselves. Instead of slowly sinking, why not steer around the

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.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

INTERVIEW: "Baghdad Blogger" says he's baffled, amused by reception to his work

From the March 22-28, 2006 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly

The Report From Baghdad: Salam Pax, the 'Baghdad Blogger,' says he is 'baffled and amused' by the reception to his work.

The Blog of War

SJSU becomes the first university to embrace blogging in a literary series when Salam Pax arrives March 23. Meet the Baghdad Blogger.

By Vrinda Normand

THE blogging phenomenon is no longer the sole property of web junkiesÿÿnow it's pushing into university classes and literary circles, as well. Professors who once assigned Ernest Hemingway as an example of the classic war novel are now directing their students to follow the Iraq War via the refreshingly bare, unassuming online diary of one man: Salam Pax, otherwise known as the "Baghdad Blogger."

The 32-year-old Iraqi architect attracted an international following when he started posting informal reports in 2002 about the coming war, the bombs that rattled Baghdad and the American occupation. Though the traffic on his website caused server shutdowns, the outspoken and openly gay Pax continued to type, nervously evading Iraqi authorities monitoring the Internet. His vivid accounts, laced with snarky comments and humor, gave the outside world a peek into the mind of an ordinary person dealing with the fallout of war.

"What is bringing on this rant," he wrote once, "is the question that has been bugging me for days now: how could'Support democracy in Iraq' come to mean 'Bomb the hell out of Iraq?' Nobody minded an undemocratic Iraq for a very long time. Now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! How thoughtful." San Jose State University students are poring over passages like this, thanks to creative writing professor Mitch Berman. "Salam is presenting himself as himself at all times," Berman says, "I think his blog is the most outstanding writing anywhere on Iraq."

As the director of SJSU's Center for Literary Arts, Berman is featuring Pax in a literary series this month (the firstfor any blogger at an American university). On Thursday, March 23, Pax will appear at the King Library in downtown San Jose at noon and the San Jose City Council chambers at 7:30pm. He spoke to Metro from London about blogging, the war and what it's like to be "the Iraqi."

METRO: The Western world has obviously become fascinated with your account of the Iraq war. What do Iraqis think? What kind of reaction do you get at home?

SALAM PAX: Not much of a reaction, really. Very few Iraqis in Iraq know about the blog and Salam Pax, which is just as good. Who I am and the views I express will not go down nicely with many Iraqis today. I really can't see a heretic homosexual making headlines in Iraq or the Arab world, unless it is news about my arrest. What will you be talking about in San Jose?

I have to admit I am not really sure. I have not done this sort of thing before, and I'd much rather be hiding behind a computer screen than having to give speeches. That is exactly the thing I did not want to be doing, and look at me now, it feels as if my profession has become "The Iraqi." I think people would be interested in some sort of a progress report from the ground by someone who has no other agenda than living peacefully in his country. I guess whoever will come will get some of that.

METRO: Is there a downside to being famous as 'the Iraqi'? Do you feel tokenized or trivialized by this perception?

The problem with becoming the token Iraqi is that you have to make generalizations based on your point of view. People ask you questions and when you answer it is like "the Iraqis say." That is not the case at all. It is me who thinks this or that, and now I have to constantly qualify and clarify what I say because I don't want what I say to be taken as something all Iraqis feel or believe. In the last three years it feels like I have become part of a small Iraqi minority, one that believes that religion and state should be separated and that we should try hard to keep this entity we call Iraq together and not break it up. You want to hear what Iraqis really think you need to go talk to the people on the street. I am too Westernized for their tastes and too liberal.

Q: Do you feel caught between two worlds, writing about your native land in a nonnative tongue?

Part of the big Muslim dilemma and the trouble in the Mideast is the fact that much of the younger generation feels like it has fallen in a gap. My cultural heritage refuses to yield so that I can accommodate the changing world around me and I am stuck with a worldview that is very unsatisfying. Sometimes the weblog felt like it was there to bridge that gap. Many of us feel like we are caught between two worlds. At one point I think I decided there is little my own cultural heritage and religion can offer me and I embraced the ways of the "wicked West," but I feel guilty for abandoning who I am. So I try and do something to reconcile myself to that heritage only to be reminded of why I feel there is nothing in it for me. I am not happy with what my heritage offers me, and I will never be accepted as part of "the other" no matter how hard I try. I tell you the whole idea of a Global Village came shattering down on my head when I came to that realization. If you are from t!
he Middle East, you don't become a "world citizen" you just lose all cultural ties and become uprooted.

Q: This will be the first time a university literary series has invited a blogger. How do you feel about being regarded as a literary figure?

I feel really, really awkward about this. You put a label like "literary work" on something and you come with certain expectations, and I feel that I have to apologize every time this is mentioned. Whenever I get emails from students around the world telling me they have been assigned to read my book [a collection of his blog entries] in class I usually answer, "I'm really sorry you have to do that." I mean, here you have someone who really was just bored at the office and started writing in a language that is not his mother tongue, using idioms and words he picked up from movies and songs, and someone puts it on a school curriculum! I am baffled and amused by what happened to the blog, book, and to Salam Pax.

Q: Are you saying the blogosphere has become overhyped?

I am not saying that blogs do not offer content that is worth the "literary" title. There are many amazing blogs and webjournals that make amazing reading. I started my own because of a couple of really great blogs I tried to emulate. I generally read more journals online than news blogs. They are such a fascinating window into people's lives, and when this is coupled with a gift for writing it can be as gripping as some of the best novels. What makes it even more exciting is that you have to wait until the author feels she/he is ready to give you the next installment. I think today I spend as much time reading personal blogs as I spend reading books. There is no argument that they are a new literary genre which is fresh and exciting because of its immediacy. You don't have to wait for it long to be published and world or local events that influence the writers are not time shifted but they are now.

Q: I understand you're working with the BBC in London? What's it been like stepping over to the journalism world?

When someone suggested I do video blogs, a program on BBC2 [Newsnight] offered to give it a try, and we have been doing these for them for the last year and a half. I have to admit that the v-blogs are almost more fun than the blogs online. Just as in my own online blog I am not bound by any sort of editorial policy or TV constraints, and we played with the format. And they accepted my amateurish camera work after some initial grumbling. One of the editors who worked on a couple of the blogs used to say that when working on a Salam Pax piece you have to "embrace the wobble"ÿÿthat's my shoddy camera work. I haven't really become a journalist. I have a press pass because I don't want to be thrown in prison if coalition soldiers or Iraq Army catch me filming convoys, but other than that I don't use the J-word. I wouldn't even describe myself as a freelance journalist, and I don't buy into the whole bloggers-killed-the-journalism-star argument. Apples and apple pie is what I!
say -- related but not really the same.

Q: Your previous career was architecture; will you ever go back to it? What do you want to accomplish as the Baghdad Blogger? Will you ultimately leave Iraq for good?

I have not left the country through all this. I do get to travel more often these days, which is nice, and it gives me a break from the madness, but there was never a moment my family and I thought we wanted to leave. This might change now with the feeling that we are on the brink of a civil war. And I guess I will take the blog as far as it goes. I do know that Salam Pax serves a particular purpose, and when that time is gone we will just put him back under the bed and I go on with my life, which hopefully will be in Baghdad and not in an enforced exile, running away from civil war.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to
From the March 22-28, 2006 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.
Copyright © 2006 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

This 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.

GREEN / Green Blogs: The Green revolution moves online


Here's an example of an area where blogdom has changed the way advocacy
works. Is this an aspect of new journalism?

-- bill

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

In 2003, Alex Steffen started Worldchanging, the most-rea... Graham Hill, the hunky blogger behind Treehugger, started...
Sustainablog's Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, who blogs in his ...

By Gregory Dicum
Special to SF Gate

Gregory Dicum, author of Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air,
writes about the natural world from San Francisco. A forester by training,
Gregory has worked at the front lines of some of the world's most urgent
environmental crises. For more of his work, see

I'd like to think the reason so many people have been asking me if I have a blog is because they love my writing so much
they just can't get enough. But it's more likely just another sign of how influential the form is becoming, particularly
in the environmental world. Still, it has made me wonder if it's time for me to get on the bandwagon and start blogging.

"Don't do it, man, it's a time suck," David Roberts wrote me in an instant message. Roberts should know: He's the
founding editor of Gristmill, one of the most prominent of the emerging green blogs.

With just a couple of years of continuous publication under their belts, the biggest green blogs now routinely attract
more readers than most environmentally oriented print magazines. The free-form exchange among these bloggers and their
readers has become an important part of the public dialog on environmental matters.

"There's been a little bit of a perfect storm here," says Alex Steffen, founder of Worldchanging, one of the most widely
read green blogs. "At the same time that blogging has taken off, we've also had a real zeitgeist shift where suddenly the
idea of living in a green and prosperous way is really hot. Climate change has become a big issue. A lot of people are
interested in green building, green fashion, green product design."

Steffen, whose site has about 20 regular contributors and gets 800,000 visits each month, likens green blogs to an
ecosystem. "There are 40 or 50 sites which are really excellent," he says, citing favorites like Inhabitant and Next
Billion, adding that "there are a whole bunch more that are more like personal sites that routinely do good stuff."

Technorati, the most authoritative blog index, lists more than 700 environmental blogs. They include big, magazinelike
group blogs like Worldchanging and Gristmill, popular personal sites like City Hippy, offshoots of mainstream
organizations like Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope's blog, forums for little-heard perspectives like
Environmental Republican and shopping blogs like Greatgreengoods.

"Sustainability is reaching a tipping point in the culture at large," says Nick Aster, the blogger behind Triple Pundit,
a site devoted to the theory and practice of green business. Aster is also a contributor to Treehugger, a popular green
lifestyle blog that, along with Worldchanging, was one of two green blogs nominated for an award at the prestigious SXSWi
conference in Austin last week.

The green blogosphere is filling a gap in mainstream media, says Worldchanging's Steffen, who is a journalist by
training. "In the interest of 'fairness,'" he says, "journalists are obliged to give somebody who is doing something
awful, or who holds a distinctly minority scientific opinion, a voice equal to that of those who are trying to alert
people to a problem purely out of public interest." On Worldchanging, Steffen is free of that constraint.

Bloggers like Steffen and Roberts acknowledge that the editing and fact-checking process mainstream media offerings go
through does have an important role, particularly in investigative efforts. But they add that the immediacy and
flexibility of blogging allow active debate and collaborative consensus building over a wide range of topics in a way
that is not possible in traditional media.

If old-media offerings have some claim to authoritativeness -- think of the New York Times' century-old motto "All the
News That's Fit to Print" -- blogs are more about process. They put out information and opinions with the goal of
generating discussion and providing the space for people to test their own ideas.

Indeed, Roberts says that when he was starting Gristmill he was concerned about the blog's alternative journalistic
standards. But he found that readers themselves asked the questions that editors and fact checkers might at a magazine.

"Having thousands of readers bird-dogging you keeps you pretty honest," he IMs, likening green blogging to the
pamphleteering tradition of early American journalism 200 years ago. Anyone can say anything, but it has to stand up to
the scrutiny of an involved readership to get much traction.

"The cream still rises to the top," says Joel Makower, a contributor to Worldchanging as well as his own widely read
blog, Two Steps Forward. Makower is a Bay Area-based journalist who has been writing about green business for more than
20 years.

"One of the realities of our day and age is that as communication and media flourish," he says, "discourse is happening
in a lot more places. And good ideas flourish no matter where they come from."

Blogs provide a way for readers to examine environmental issues more completely and to form their own positions on the
matters of the day. A perfect example is the way that climate change has been treated in the green blogosphere.

Green blogs let readers go beyond the headlines by hearing directly from climate scientists as well as the dwindling
breed of climate skeptics. They are places to discuss the best ways to advocate for climate action and even to learn
about completely different takes on the situation.

"A good thoughtful debate attracts a cyber crowd, and people want to weigh in," says Makower. "It's a democracy, and
people are voting with their computer mice."

Still, the community behind the green blogs is relatively narrow. Most of the people at the biggest green blogs are
highly educated, and most are men with a tendency toward wonkiness. (One notable exception is GreenLAGirl, an informative
site that not only presents the viewpoint of an environmentally engaged young woman, but is an introduction to the
often-overlooked world of environmental consciousness in Los Angeles.)

At a minimum, blog participation requires basic computer literacy and access, and the medium appeals most to people who
communicate via the written word, so part of this limited -- for now -- scope is perhaps inevitable. (Although that
doesn't explain why so many green bloggers are men, especially considering the pervasive presence of women in both the
blogosphere and the environmental movement.)

There are geographical limits on the world of green blogs as well. "It's the Seattle-Brooklyn-San Francisco triad," says
Steffen, who is based in Seattle. (Contributors to the Worldchanging site are concentrated in these areas, but some are
also in Toronto, Paris, Mumbai and elsewhere.) "I think part of it is that the new environmentalism is very culture
conscious and those are three of the leading cities in America for people who are future-forward. All three are also tech

This ferment has helped raise the profile of green issues more generally. Stories that have been incubating on green
blogs are starting to make their way into mainstream media.

"I know for a fact that a great number of our readers are journalists and academics and NGO people," says Steffen.

"We have seen with some regularity stuff that we have pushed hard on starting to become much more mainstream. The fact
that journalists are out there paying attention to blogs now and using blogs as a research tool means that if they see
something done well, explained well and frequently mentioned, they're much more likely to pick it up and run with it."

And the blogs themselves are starting to enter the territory of old media: A few green blogs are even providing jobs for
their creators. Gristmill is the blog adjunct of Grist, the respected online environmental magazine (I write for Grist
from time to time), so Roberts is technically an employee of the magazine, although he says he has complete editorial

Worldchanging, which was incorporated as a nonprofit just a year ago so it could accept foundation grants, now pays key
staff like Steffen, although writers are not (yet) paid. And later this year, green blogs will take an even more
definitive step into the world of mainstream media: A collection of essays on sustainable solutions from Worldchanging
contributors will be published as a book, on actual paper.

But for most of the green bloggers, blogging is its own reward. Sustainablog's Jeff McIntire-Strasburg, for example, is
the epitome of the noble Jeffersonian citizen-blogger: a concerned individual with something to say and a knack for
saying it just the right way. The former English professor lives in Saint Louis and writes his highly regarded blog in
his spare time. Even Treehugger, considered by many bloggers to be the Web's premier guide to stylish green living, is
funded by founder Hill's successful Web and design businesses.

So do I need a blog? This column already has certain bloglike elements: It appears only online and has an RSS feed, even
though it's carefully scheduled and edited on the tried-and-true old-media model. Many of the topics covered here are
exactly the things you might find on Worldchanging or Gristmill. It's a crowded field, and as the lines continue to blur,
maybe that's the wrong question to ask. Maybe the right question is, How long before it becomes a blog?

Gregory Dicum, author of Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air, writes about the natural world from San
Francisco. A forester by training, Gregory has worked at the front lines of some of the world's most urgent environmental
crises. For more of his work, see

Monday, March 20, 2006

BOOK: "Crashing the Gate" by bloggers Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Jerome Armstrong

Here's a review of a new book -- publication date is March 27, 2006 -- by two darlings of the progressive Democratic blogging movement: Markos Moulitsas Zuniga of and Jerome Armstrong of

The review author is Rob Williams, an historian and professor at Champlain College, in Burlington, Vt., and president of the Action Coalition for Media Education.


BOOK REVIEW: Crashing The Gate - Netroots, Grassroots and the Rise
of People-Powered Politics

Reviewed by Rob Williams

Crashing The Gate: The Trade-Offs Of "Netizen-ship"

What do you get when you cross two high-powered progressively-minded citizen activists with the "information superhighway"?

The answer: a new book called Crashing The Gate: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered Politics. Co-authored by liberal blogmeister Markos Moulitas Zuniga of and founder Jerome Armstrong (two of the most popular progressive bloggers in the country), the book makes a compelling and occasionally frustrating case for re-tooling the brain-dead (some say) Democratic Party for the Internet Age.

Wait a second, you may be thinking. Stop right there. Please speak in English. What's a "blog," for starters?

Back up twenty years. Like any other new communications technology (think the telegraph, the radio, or the television), the Internet's arrival during the 1980s brought with it the usual mix of hyperbole and hot air that accompanies the invention of the same. And, of course, during the first two decades (so far) of development, the Internet has moved from being a promising public forum for cutting edge electronic community discussion to an orgiastic corporate commercial sales vehicle. Anyone who uses e-mail or surfs the web is now confronted with the latest and greatest in pop up and banner ads touting everything from online porn pictures to penis enlargement procedures, while electronic "cookies" keep track of our every mouse click. Surveillance society indeed.

But Armstrong and Zuniga belong to that heady group of citizen activists who effectively have used the Internet to tap into Americans' frustration with politics as usual. "Fueled by the new technologies -" the web, blogging tools, Google -" this new generation of activists helped spark some life into the Democratic Party establishment," they write, "and the online medium allowed a level of participation nonexistent in traditional media." To answer the question above: A "blog" (short for "web log)is an electronic journal, of sorts, that creates an online arena for conversation -" individuals log in to a blog site, read people's posts, respond with thoughts of their own, and voila -" first an extended conversation, then a community, then a movement is born.

Or so the argument goes in "Crashing The Gate." And make no mistake -" this is not a book about policy-making. (In fact, some reviewers have suggested the book might benefit from a more wonky flavor, though I disagree with this assessment). Instead, the authors have written a slim and accessible book about the process by which citizens engage in politics using the Internet, and Zuniga and Armstrong are our tour guides intimately familiar with the progressive e-landscape, having played central roles in shaping it.

After setting the stage by emphasizing the problems associated with the traditional Democratic Party approach to politics (at once too centralized, hierarchical and unfocused) and related fears about a well-funded and well-organized Republican Party machine, Armstrong and Zuniga recount their various battles with Establishment Democrats, and the successes they've had in creating electronic communities of like-minded progressive activists. "A whole new generation of reformers -" from the online world of the netroots, to new multi-issue groups, to new labor, to new big-dollar donors -" is engaged in a two front war," they observe, "battling to knock Republicans off their perch while jostling for control of the Democratic Party."

And this "insider's perspective" makes for fascinating reading.

Perhaps the best piece of advice Zuniga and Armstrong give is the need to build a progressive infrastructure -" not the "sexiest topic," as they say -" but vital to the long-term success of any political effort. And complicated by the fact that your average American, hustling to work several jobs in an effort to "put food on the family" (to quote the White House's current occupant) doesn't necessarily have the time, energy, money, resources, or interest in entering the "blogosphere" for extended conversations about how to "take back our country."

The e-alternative -" the weekly bombardment of e-mail missives urging action on specific issues from the likes of such groups as (now with 3 million members) -" has some utility in alerting and organizing citizens around certain issues -" but, paradoxically enough, feels exhausting after a while.

While Zuniga and Armstrong have written a vital book about the high-tech promise of "people powered politics," we all might do well to remember the words of famed Boston Democrat "Tip" O"Neill: "all politics is local." The face-to-face conversation and organizing efforts that take place in pubs, schools, churches and communities have never been more important in an age where relationships are continually mediated. While "Crashing The Gate" offers a useful roadmap, then, it is but one part of a much larger 21st century political story all of us are authoring.

And you can be sure that those of us in the peaceable secession effort -" frustrated conservatives, progressives, libertarians, Greens, and liberals alike -" will remember this moving forward.


This 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.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Jarvis/A wake-up call to end teaching and learning media silos

Follow the link below. It's a recent post from Jeff Jarvis, new-media entrepreneur, formerly TV Guide critic and Newshouse/Advance new-media director, now about to enter journalism teaching at CUNY. It's another reminder that if we're interested in media, we have to stop thinking of print, broadcast, web, etc. as different silos. An exciting challenge, 'though hard, too.

Jarvis quotes from a post by Paul Conley, found at:

Friday, March 17, 2006

Editor's weblog: Is the role of editors more or less important in the digital age?

Friday, March 17, 2006

Posted by John Burke on March 17, 2006 at 05:41 PM

Is the role of editors more or less important in the digital age?

There is a serious predicament facing that century-tested bastion of journalism, the people who decide what the public should know, the ultimate conventional gatekeepers; news editors. Some believe that editors are more necessary than ever in sifting through the plethora of information on the Internet. Others feel that online interactivity could replace traditional editors with peer-to-peer suggestions. In these respects, the question is,in the digital world, will editors thrive or will they die?

Former president of CBS News, Andrew Heyward, recently touched upon this topic in a speech at the Poynter Institute. "My view," he opined, is that this complicated world is an even bigger market for editors and journalists who can make sense of it all."

Indeed, in Heyward's opinion, the massive amounts of information at any Internet user's fingertips accompanied by the burgeoning citizen journalism movement has created chaos, a chaos that will be a permanent fixture of the information world: "Side by side, you're going to have professional journalism and citizen-created journalism. Order vs. chaos -- this is a world that is chaotic compared to what we're used to. It's not neat. Get used to it. Chaos is going to co-exist with order in the media world."

In a similar vein, last year new media journalist for the PBS blog MediaShift, Mark Glaser proposed what could become a permanent fixture of newsrooms; the citizen media editor (CME). The roll of the CME, which some purport is already established in several newsrooms (at least in function if not in title), is to pick out the contributions from readers and viewers that are most worthy for public view. In the end, this saves the reader lots of time instead of having to browse through tens or hundreds of contributions before finding one that pleases them. At the same time, this also contradicts the idea of choice that Internet newsreaders so cherish.

This is where the threat to editors from online interactivity comes into play. One facet of this interactivity is "the buzz"; what people are talking about, what theyÿÿre listening to, what they're reading. The problem that some see with the traditional editor in the interactive world is that it's only one person who is deciding what stories get researched and eventually published. Obviously, the decision of one person is not going to appeal to everyone.

But collective decisions, according to some netizens, surely do. Take the blossoming site,, which describes itself as a "website that employs non-hierarchical editorial control." Digg is composed of stories submitted by registered users. These stories are then voted on by the registered community. Those that prove popular are bumped up to the front page in a dynamic process that continually changes the articles on the homepage. And of course there is an internal search engine to find stories of more personal, specific interest, stories that have also been voted on so the reader can gauge their popularity with people of like minds.

As of now, Digg focuses on technology. But don't be surprised if in the very near future offshoots emerge on various topics like politics, economics, or dare I say, the future of traditional media.

Topic specific versions of Digg would avoid situations such as that which happened with a newspaper website in Chile where readers were invited to vote on the stories they wanted the paper to follow. The site quickly turned into a celebrity and gossip tabloid. Other newspapers implement such collective opinion tools such as the ever-present most emailed stories sidebar. Or the wikitorial, which may not have lasted long at the Los Angeles Times but is already being revived in South Dakota.

Also, a few newspapers that blog have citizens censor comments and vote on those they feel feed the discussion, pushing those comments to the top. This comment censoring is also seen in other online communities such as Craigslist, where users can flag any postings that may include offensive content. And letÿÿs not forget about the user-edited encyclopedia, Wikipedia. So it seems that the traditional editor has some major competition on the Web in deciding what the public should and shouldnÿÿt see. But even if the interactive collective opinion should triumph over the choice of one editor, other aspects of an editorÿÿs job description become more important: fact checking and the actual editing.

If choice is left up to the masses, the masses are going to seek out the most well-investigated, well-verified, well-written and overall best stories to pass on to their peers. Here in, the job of the editor in guiding the production of quality journalism will be more crucial than ever.

Sources: Poynter,


This 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.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

EDUCATION: Teaching better journalism through video games?

ORIGINAL LINK (who graphic):

Better journalism through video games?
Instead of slaying monsters, players must tackle sources

Updated: 10:40 p.m. ET March 9, 2006

By Peter Svensson
Associated Press Writer

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- Being a rookie journalist can be intimidating. But what if your editor is an ogre?

To teach fact-finding skills, professors at the University of Minnesota have turned the fantasy computer game "Neverwinter Nights" into a tool for journalism students. Instead of slaying monsters and gathering gold, the players tackle sources and gather information. "When we initially did the game, it still had lava pits, the editor looked like an ogre . stuff like that. The librarian had breastplates," said Nora Paul, director of the university's Institute for New Media Studies.

The team, which includes game designer Matt Taylor and journalism professor Kathleen Hansen, have now modified the game graphics to look like a modern town, the fictional Harperville. A train has derailed, spilling toxic ammonia, and the players are sent out to cover the story. They dig up information by going to the library, government offices or talking to a retired train engineer at the bar.

For each step of a conversation, the players have four choices of what to tell to the interview subjects, ranging in attitude from assertive to tentative. If players are too brash, the interview subjects will say "Excuse me, I don't like your attitude," and end the conversation.

The goals of the game are not only to reinforce the thinking process behind information gathering and distinguishing between different types of sources, but also to teach etiquette, Paul says. The team had initially planned to have a crowd of game characters milling about the accident scene, but the game wasn't amenable to that. A bug in the program meant that any time a player approached a group of people, he was immediately attacked and killed.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.


Nora Paul
Director, Institute for New Media Studies
University of Minnesota
313 Murphy Hall
200 Church Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455


(Professor Kathleen Hansen and Institute for New Media Studies Director Nora Paul were awarded a $16,000 grant from the College of Liberal Arts to develop an interactive simulation using an off-the-shelf game system called .NeverWinter Nights.. The simulation is being developed as a way to teach students the information strategy process through a realistic scenario in which the students play the role of a reporter covering a community emergency.)

at the University of Minnesota:
February 16, 2006

J-School students play games to learn

Journalism students will use a game this semester to develop research skills.

By Jeannine Aquino

This just in: A train derailed in the city of Harperville and spilled its load of anhydrous ammonia, a highly irritating gas with a sharp, suffocating odor. The story is assigned to a rookie reporter at the Harperville Gazette. He has only a few hours to get information, find people to talk to and figure out an angle for his story.

These are just a few challenges working journalists face every day. Now, through innovative use of the commercial computer game .Neverwinter Nights," University journalism students will have the opportunity to take on these challenges virtually.

This semester, in the Information for Mass Communication honors section, 25 students will perform the role of the rookie reporter. Each student will have to research, report and eventually write a 1,000-word article about the virtual spill in hypothetical Harperville.Journalism professor Kathleen Hansen teaches the class. She said there are a lot of skills the course is designed to give students that they might not necessarily be able to practice.

"Part of what we are doing with this game is to give students the opportunity to practice these techniques without having to go out in the physical world," she said. Hansen, along with Nora Paul, director of the Institute of New Media Studies, decided to use computer games because they were interested in whether the games would enhance a student.s comprehension of the information-gathering process.

"It's one thing for people to read something in a book," Hansen said. "It's another thing to have a game that simulates that process and forces you to put it together."

Similar to real-world reporting, the game allows players to do a little research before heading out for a virtual interview. Reporters can go to a news library stocked with hundreds of pages of documents and sources from online sites. The reporter even has the option of looking up a potential source.s address and making a few calls to prepare for an interview.

Paul and then-Dunwoody College of Technology instructor Matt Taylor approached Hansen about the possibility of using computer games almost two years ago. Hansen and Paul provided the journalistic content while Taylor worked on the actual development of the game. Taylor updated the original medieval content of .Neverwinter Nights" into a more modern setting for journalism students.

"We don't want students to be able to hit someone with a club," he said, referring to the commercial games ability to allow players to fight a multitude of fantasy characters. Hansen introduced the team's first working version of the game to honors students last semester. The version had several bugs that needed to be fixed, including an actual battle between the newspaper editor and reporter near the end of the game, Hansen said. "You might have arguments with an editor, but they don.t usually try to kill you," she said jokingly.The bugs have since been fixed and a more refined version of the game will be available for students to use in March, said Ted Whelan, a child psychology junior who was hired last week to help make the game more realistic.

Hansen said the game was not intended to replace the actual class. "It's another way we're trying to convey some of the ideas and concepts in the class," she said. "You can almost think of it as an enhancement." The use of computer-assisted instruction is a significant change from thinking of games purely for entertainment purposes.

"Games can indeed be useful and not just frivolous or dangerous," Whelan said. "I think that games as educational or research tools hold a lot of promise."

Barbara Garrity is a sophomore journalism student in the course's current honors section and soon will use the game."It could be more beneficial than reading because you actually have to interact with it," she said. "Like, with reading, I kind of zone out."


The articles above are 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.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

MOVIE: Analysis of "Good Night, Good Luck"

We will be viewing the film "Good Night, Good Luck" as soon as the DVD
becomes available -- probably in mid-April. Try to watch or listen to this
interview with George Clooney and David Strathairn.

-- bill densmore

Summary: On Dec. 15, 2006, journalism Prof. <a
href=" ">Marcia Rock</a> at New
York University hosted an hour-long discussion on the Academy
Award-nominated film on Edward R. Murrow, Good Night and Good Luck, with
director, writer, and actor George Clooney, producer and co-writer Grant
Heslov and the actor playing Murrow, David Strathairn. The discussion is
available as a 55-minute <a
href=" ">VIDEO
STREAM</a> or a 25MB <a
href=" ">MP3
download</a>. NYU journalism graduate Nicole Lyn Pesce's website also
reviews Clooney's visit.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

News is a Conversation: Do you trust blogs?

at the blogsite of the Spokane, Wash., Spokesman-Review
(daily newspaper)

Go to the original URL to check on updated responses to this post. The S-R
has taken the lead more than any other MSM daily paper in the United
States to involve readers in its daily news decisions. See: As part of the family-owned paper's effort to increase transparency in journalism, The Spokesman-Review has invited eight readers to talk about our news coverage and content on a daily basis: what they like, what they don't like, and what they'd like to see more of. The newspaper's inside bloggers articipate, but the readers lead the conversation.


Below Posted by Ken Paulman | 9 Mar 10:30 AM
(Paulman is employed by the paper as an inside blogger)

An interesting, if a bit esoteric, discussion has been bouncing around the newsroom the last couple of days. In Sunday's paper, we ran a news brief about a candidacy announcement that was attributed to Dave Oliveria's Huckleberries Online blog. Oliveria got the tip from a good source on background, posted it to his blog, and notified the newsroom. The reporter, who was already working his tail off to file two stories for Sunday's paper, wrote the brief using the blog as a source to meet editors' demands to get the story into the paper quickly.

Of course, we can't use ourselves as a source for a story. The conclusion was that we should have called the candidate for confirmation, and Oliveria acknowledges he should have included some information on the blog about how he heard the news. Bottom line: We hold all news to the same standards, regardless of whether it's online or in print. But that raises a question - do readers hold information they read on the Internet to a different standard? Do you trust a story more because it's in black-and-white on a sheet of newsprint, or does it make a difference? What about things like typos and grammatical errors?

There are 3 comments on this post.


This is a great question. I think the trust bestowed in blog information depends on two things-----the reader and the blog author. As a trained journalist, I look at who's doing the writing and what motivation they have to write it. In the case of Oliveria, I'm fairly familiar with his biases and with his journalistic professionalism. So, I find it easy to weed out the factual news from the obvious commentary.

If he presented news as fact on his blog, I'd probably trust the information because I would assume it had been verified. But then again, as a high school journalism instructor, I always taught never to ASSUME. When we approach blogs for information, we should approach them similarly to our approach to the TV talking heads. Most are representing a specific school of thought, so most may present specific information they want us to hear. In my own case, I have a blog that mixes facts with commentary. My journalistic training obliges me to make corrections if I find that I've provided inaccurate information. I want to maintain a sense of credibility for my readers. My pride as a journalist supersedes my passion for inflicting my opinions on others.

Now that I've talked about my approach to reading and writing blogs, I have to separate myself from the everyday reader/writer who may not have any journalistic training. Do they read the material on their favorite blogs with a sense of skepticism? Do they fastidiously research information before putting it on their blog. I do wonder about both. In a nutshell, the dissemination and digestion of information can be easily skewed by writer's professionalism and the reader's willingness to accept everything at its face value.

Posted by Mariannel | 9 Mar 11:33 AM


I'd love to know more about what drives reader trust. In poll after poll, TV news is named the most trusted information source. Is that because it is more in-depth, more diligent about sourcing, better about running corrections? I donÿÿt think so. Perhaps, podcasting would increase the credibility of papers and blogs, because the only explanation I can think of for why TV news is so trusted is that you can see the person delivering the information. They're like your friend (and their promotions play up that angle), and everyone trusts their friends, right?

So is being extra-diligent about sourcing a key to being trusted? TV news often gets information from newspapers without sourcing it. Doesn't appear to hurt their credibility.

Posted by Gary Crooks, associate editor | 10 Mar 10:48 AM


My general rule is that if the information appears in an accredited mode (i.e. newpaper, government website etc.) I will accept it as verified information. However, I do not trust information I receive from general websites and blogs because the author most likely has nobody to answer to other than him/herself. When the blog is contained within a source I trust (as in this blog), I still do not accept the information as fact unless the newspaper staff validates it somehow. Just printing it is not enough.

Posted by phil Bergin | 10 Mar 5:15 PM


This 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.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

FYI ONLY: A reading from an early practitioner of "citizen journalism"


The post below is from Jill Lang, the former editor of,
the online news community in Camden, Maine, which we profile at She offers thoughts about the state of journalism.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 8 Mar 2006 19:00:26 -0500
From: Jill Lang <>
To: Bill Densmore <>
Subject: Re: Citizen Journalism discussion

The more I think about this, the more I go back to the way I saw my work in the
early days at VillageSoup: We were rewriting the rules about producing local
news and interacting with the community and everyone else had a lot of catching
up to do. I think they're not rewriting the rules so much now at the Soup as
trying, desperately, to make money. But everyone still has catching up to do,
at least with the philosophy we operated by.

I also believe the focus of commentary about CitJ -- the focus on the 'big
boys' -- the big metro dailies -- is the wrong focus. The revolution is at the
local level. It's happening now, and gaining steam, though it's hard to say how
much steam (simply because from my perch here in Hope, Maine, I don't know for
sure). It won't take as long as it took to get from Ben Franklin to the
Internet, but it might take a little longer than it's taken to get from 1998,
say, to now. Even still, it's the community bulletin board-type places where
Citizens link up now and will continue to link up. I'm not into hero workship,
but I have to say: Newmark is the Man. Or maybe it's man with a lower-case
letter, because the revolution wouldn't have it the other way.

What else? Randomly: There's too much emphasis on trying to define community
instead of simply celebrating that it exists. (Is this Pollyanna? I don't
care.) There's too much thinking about what's journalism and what's not. Label
what's produced by the professionals on the payroll. Label the other stuff.
Just label it accurately and without bias.

Newspapers, large and small, should follow Battelle's example and use their
websites to become aggregators of community news, blogs, etc. and then let the
readers decide what they want to look at. And what they want to discuss.
Letting 'the people' decide what they want to read and what they want to
discuss is hard for many in the Profession of Journalism, where they're used to
being the arbiters of taste and politics. Let the people decide. The kind of
thing Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson would love. A printing press on every
desktop, in every laptop. Everywhere. A new kind of free press.

Enough rambling for now,


Reuters chief Tom Glocer: "Old media must embrace the amateur"

Published March 7, 2006 in The Financial Times of London

HEADLINE: Old media must embrace the amateur

By Tom Glocer
Chief Executive, Reuters PLC

In these pages a year ago I argued that it was high time that the media got personal. Consumers had demanded, and technology was allowing, media companies to broadcast multiple streams of desired content, not just a single feed. Consumers were now editors, making decisions about what news they received and when and how they received it.

Twelve months on, the picture has changed again. While media companies are catching up with this demand for .personalisation., our audiences have moved on dramatically. Now they are consuming, creating, sharing and publishing their own content online.

There were indications last year that a significant shift in the balance of power between professional content companies and home-based creators lay ahead. After all, we had just experienced the first US presidential race in which blogging had played a big part in shaping and leading opinion. Since then, we have seen an explosion of creativity. Conservative estimates suggest 80,000 new blogging sites are launched every week. David Miliband will soon be the first British cabinet minister to have his own blog site.

But it is not just bloggers . it is citizen journalists armed with their 1.3 megapixel camera phones, people .mashing. together music and images to create new music videos, kids making their own movies and posting them on sites such as or In fact, Rupert Murdoch.s acquisition of, one of the most popular of the online forums, is probably the best indication yet that home-made content has made it to the boardroom decision-makers.

It is important to understand what has changed. Bloggers, after all, have always been a part of history . read Daniel Defoe, Samuel Pepys or James Boswell. The same is true for citizen journalists: just check out first-hand accounts of any big historical event. The difference now is the scale of distribution and the ability to search. Because of this, we in the media industry face a profound challenge, as significant and transformational as Internet 1.0. So how should we respond to and control content fragmentation in this era of two-way flow?

First, media companies need to be .seeders of clouds.. To have access to high-value new content, we need to attract a community around us. To achieve that we have to produce high-quality content ourselves, then display it and let people interact with it. If you attract an audience to your content and build a brand, people will want to join your community. This is as true for traditional .letters to the editor. as for

Second, we need to be .the provider of tools.. This means promoting open standards and interoperability, which will allow a diverse set of consumer-creators to combine disparate types of content. Third, we must improve on our skills as the .filter and editor.. Media have always had these functions. The world will always need editing: consumers place value in others making decisions about what is good and what is not.

After all, just because everyone now has the ability to publish their own work does not make them the next Salam Pax, the pseudonymous blogger at the time of the invasion of Iraq. It is our job as media companies to find that new content gold in the pan of dust and dirt and give it a mass audience.

In the news industry, professional and .amateur. content combined creates a better product. It tells the story at a deeper level. Take the tragic Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. For the first 24 hours the best and only photos and video came from tourists. By day two, professional news organisations got to the scene and captured the horror of the aftermath, influencing the international response by capturing the sheer scale of the disaster. A pro-am co-operation meant telling the story at another level . the horror of the wave strike and the tragedy of the aftermath.

You have to be open to both amateur and professional content to tell the story completely. I believe that professional articles and photographs, if available, will generally be authoritative. But, in the first instance, they can be complemented by content created by amateurs.

We are now at our crossroads. Old media . and I now would include the first wave of online publishing . have a choice: integrate the new world or risk becoming less relevant. Our industry must not fall into the old protectionist strategies that defined the first phase of the internet. The internet was not invented just to show a replica of yesterday.s newspaper with a few banner advertisements. We cannot be the choke-hold, blocking the new creators in a bid to protect our legacy businesses.

There is no doubt that our businesses will be stronger if we employ a more collective and open-minded approach to content. The media world is changing again. It is becoming far more exciting for the consumer but posing challenges for media businesses. We all now have access to a rich world of new content creators. The trick is how we use that opportunity.


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.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ex-daily reporter at Capitol Hill Blue gives finger to Patriot Act demand

Capitol Hill Blue, an independent website which covers Congress, is
reporting that " . . . the National Security Agency is wiretapping
reporters' phones, following journalists on a daily basis, searching their
homes and offices under a USA Patriot Act provision that allows "secret
and undisclosed searches" and pouring over financial and travel records of
hundreds of Washington-based reporters". Doug Thompson, a former daily
newspaper reporter and government worker who is the website's
owner/publisher, says he received a National Security letter (authorized
under the USA Patriot Act) asking for records and he responded with a
two-word expletive in what he termed an exercise of his First Amendment


Doug Thompson
220 Parkway Lane South, Suite 2
Floyd VA 24091

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Naples, Fla., daily launches daily 15-minute news video TV and podcast - Naples Daily News - Naples, Florida
Sunday, March 5, 2006 | Updated at 2:05 a.m.

By Tim Richardson (Contact)
Naples (Fla.) Daily News

The pioneering days of cable television in Collier County featured a
newscast catering to local residents. Two decades later, another program is
about to fill that void.

And thatÿÿs where the similarities end.

Collier and south Lee County residents who feel slighted by broadcast
television coverage from Fort Myers-based stations are about to get a
program of their own. And industry experts said the public has never seen
anything like it.

The Daily News will launch a 15-minute program next month that will make its
Internet and television debut April 3. The program, called ÿÿStudio 55,ÿÿ will
give viewers the top local news, sports and entertainment headlines ÿÿ but
with a twist not seen on local broadcast news, said Rob Curley, new media
director for the Daily News.

The Daily News has offered news and sports podcasts for several months.
Curley said the ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ vodcast, or video podcast, was a natural

ÿÿOur reasons for doing this are so simple,ÿÿ he said. ÿÿNaples needs its own
newscast, and if you were going to grow a newscast from scratch, you might
not do it the way itÿÿs been done for decades because you can take into
account that the technology has changed and will continue to evolve.ÿÿ
Denise Spidle is producer and anchorwoman of the upcoming Daily News
newscast, "Studio 55," which will air on Comcast channel 35 at 4, 4:15, 6
and 6:15 p.m., as well as on and

Photo by Garrett Hubbard / Naples Daily News

Denise Spidle is producer and anchorwoman of the upcoming Daily News
newscast, "Studio 55," which will air on Comcast channel 35 at 4, 4:15, 6
and 6:15 p.m., as well as on and

Curley said the ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ vodcast ÿÿ so named because the Daily Newsÿÿ newly
constructed studio is located at 55 12th St. N. ÿÿ wonÿÿt be a traditional
local newscast. He said the production value will be on par with programming
from national networks, a feat accomplished by bringing a team of graphic
artists, producers and journalists from around the country to Southwest
Florida. The show will be anchored by multimedia journalist Denise Spidle.

Visitors to or can view ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ online
each weekday at 4 p.m.

The show also will be available four times each day on Comcast Channel 35.

The first show will air at 4 p.m., then repeat at 4:15 p.m. The program will
be available again at 6 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. with updated local news coverage.

ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ is also portable. Viewers will have the ability to watch the
program on their video iPods, Sony PSPs or other mobile media devices.

The program also will be available online for viewing at anytime and each
episode will be archived at Even before the launch of the
vodcast, ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ has received national attention from USA Today,, Red Herring, and Editor and Publisher magazine.

John Fish, publisher of Naples Daily News and Bonita Daily News, said the
program will use the news-gathering strengths of the Daily News to tell the
stories of Southwest Floridians in a new platform.

ÿÿI believe ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ represents one of the most innovative newspaper
projects in the country,ÿÿ he said. ÿÿThe show will introduce a new type of
newscast on the Internet and a unique partnership with Comcast. We are also
very excited because ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ will provide more news and content about
Collier County through video than any other source in our region.ÿÿ

Larry Schweber, vice president and general manager of Comcast in Southwest
Florida, said the cable company created Channel 35 last year after hearing
customers report a lack of local programming on the cable lineup. He said
his companyÿÿs partnership with the Daily News is the first of its kind in
Southwest Florida.

ÿÿI think itÿÿs going to be wonderful for the folks in Naples to be able to
turn their TV on and be able to get up-to-date news specific to where they
live,ÿÿ he said. ÿÿI think thatÿÿs phenomenal.ÿÿ

Daily features on ÿÿStudio 55ÿÿ will include traffic, news, weather and sports
from the programÿÿs videographers and Daily News reporters.

James Gentry, a University of Kansas journalism professor and
internationally known converged journalism expert who focuses on altering
media company strategies that involve cross-media platforms, said the Daily
News is taking a leap that few other newspapers have crossed.

ÿÿYou are one of very few, if not the only one, doing this,ÿÿ he said.

Rob Runett, director of electronic media communications for the Newspaper
Association of America, said the Daily News is among a growing number of
newspapers striving to be the primary news provider in their market
regardless of medium, such as print, online and television.

He said other newspapers have created brief newscasts that appeared on their
Web sites or formed partnerships with television stations in their market.
The Daily News/Comcast relationship is more progressive, he said.

ÿÿThis, to me, is impressive,ÿÿ he said. ÿÿItÿÿs a really strong message that
you are sending not just to other local media companies in the area, but
also to advertisers who are saying, ÿÿWhat is this company going to look like
in the future?ÿÿ It shows them that you guys are going to be a place where
they can turn to for all kinds of content assets.ÿÿ


©2006 Naples Daily News. All rights reserved. Published in Naples, Florida,
USA by the E.W. Scripps Co..

This 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.

THREAD: Defining citizen journalism: YourHub and the Rocky Mountain News

As we transition into thinking about the future of journalism, please at some point sit down and step throught these links. There's a lot of food for thought

Knight Ridder's Lasseter stays in Iraq: "Hell, I don't know."


Kristina Borjesson interviews Lasserter in "Feet to the Fire." Read near
the end of this story, the section about the gunner at Samarra. How does
it make you feel? What do you want to do about it?

-- bill

Why Tom Lasseter Stays Behind in Iraq

The longtime Knight Ridder correspondent in Baghdad was supposed to return
to the U.S. in January but he remains in harm's way in the war zone. Why?
"In looking at the year ahead," he tells me, "I realized that I am not
done reporting here."

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher

(March 02, 2006) -- Two weeks ago, I wrote a column alerting readers to a
report by Knight Ridder's longtime Baghdad correspondent Tom Lasseter. He
had returned from an embed mission to little-visited Samarra and, in his
usual way, offered a remarkably frank look at a city that was taken by the
U.S. last year but never really pacified.

Well, timing is everything. A few days later, insurgents blew the top off
the main mosque there and a near-civil war has raged since, with hundreds

Lasseter's mid-Februrary dispatch proved prescient, but what surprised me
most of all was that he was still out there risking his life. When last we
heard from him last autumn, he was planning to wind up his long,
award-winning stint in Iraq in January 2006, and move to Washington, D.C.,
to work for the KR bureau there.

So what was he doing in mid-February, still in Iraq, filing another
wrenching dispatch, embedded with U.S. troops in Samarra? What's with this
guy? And how does he manage to get all of these stories, and revealing
quotes, from military personnel when few others can?

E&P has covered Lasseter several times in the past two years. His
assignment in Samarra caused me to ask him how it came about.

From Baghdad, he replied that he had been curious about Samarra for quite
some time. Was it indeed pacified last year, as claimed by the U.S., or
more like still-boiling Ramadi? After expressing his interest to the
public affairs chief for the 101st Airborne, he got the OK to hitch a ride
in a helicopter to the city in January.

Lasseter wrote in this e-mail that he was "pretty surprised by the level
of destruction in the town." Its population of over 200,000 had been cut
in half. Despite being surrounded by a seven-mile-long security wall, it
was beset by an increasing number of explosions set off by insurgents.

An officer mentioned to him that a platoon of soldiers was living in an
abandoned schoolhouse in the middle of the city. Lasseter told him that's
where he wanted to go. "I always try to get as close to the ground as
possible; it gives me a feel for the place that is hard to get while
staying at larger, more comfortable bases," he told me.

After hitching a ride to the schoolhouse, or Patrol Base Uvanni, Lasseter
spent about a week and a half living with the guys "and going out with
them in Samarra on foot or in Humvee. I find it really helpful, especially
at the beginning of an embed, to accompany troops on every patrol mission
possible. I want to see what they're seeing as they see it and hear what
they have to say. It also shows them, in a quiet way, that I'm willing to
go wherever they go and not ask for any special accommodations.

"I eat what they eat," Lasseter continued, "sleep when they sleep and when
they wake up in the middle of the night, grab their flak vests and rush
out the door, I do the same. Sometimes that means sitting in a Humvee and
doing absolutely nothing and returning to pass out without getting much in
the way of notes. And sometimes that means a big gunfight or a soldier
saying something profound about his experience in Iraq.

"It's hard to tell the way things will work; big raids can produce very
little, and a walk down the street can lead you into something big. My
approach is to almost always just go out the door with the soldiers and
find out." He calls this "getting down in the dirt with them."

So what did he find out in his Samarra stay? "Bloodshed is destroying the
city and driving a wedge between the Iraqis who live there and the U.S.
troops who are trying to keep order," he reported. In one of those
brutally honest quotes Lasseter inevitably seems to gather, Maj. Curtis
Strange said, "It's apocalyptic out there. Life has definitely gotten
worse. You see Samarra and you almost want to build a new city and move
all these people there."

After much more in this vein, Lasseter described in vivid detail how a
.50-caliber machine gun, manned by a 21-year-old Texan name Michael Pena
on the roof of the schoolhouse, blasted an unarmed civilian on the street
into oblivion. Horrified soldiers rushed to the Iraqi, or what was left of
him--his organs were now slithering out--and watched him die, as he
praised God and muttered, "Why? Why?"

"Haji, I don't know," an American soldier replied, with Lasseter right
there. A few days later, Lasseter found the gunner, Pena, still manning
the machine gun on the same roof. "No one told me why I'm putting my life
on the line in Samarra, and you know why they didn't?" Pena asked.
"Because there is no f------ reason."

So we now know how Lasseter got that story. But how much longer will he
continue to risk life, limb, and sanity in the war zone?

"I'm not sure," he wrote to me. "I was supposed to leave late last year,
but in looking at the year ahead I realized that I am not done reporting
here. I would like to devote some time to embedding with U.S. units as the
debate continues about troop drawdown in Iraq. This has been true the
whole time I've been here, but it really does feel like a critical moment
in the American experience in Iraq."

He added, "I think that you have to be there to know it."

Greg Mitchell ( is editor of E&P.


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Saturday, March 04, 2006

FOR DISCUSSION: Is "star" coverage journalism? We need to consider


As we consider the future of journalism, we can't ignore the impact of
star coverage, well documented by this Wall Street Journal story:

Saturday, March 4, 2006; Page A1

Caught in the Act: How Hollywood's bold-faced names

secretly steer the celebrity news machine.

The Wall Street Journal

At tomorrow night's Academy Awards, celebrities will smile and turn as they parade down the red carpet before a phalanx of cameras. Behind the flashbulbs, a delicate new game is under way between the stars and the vast gossip industry of TV shows, magazines and Web sites that feeds upon them.It has always been a relationship built upon animosity and mutual need. But tensions have grown with the explosion of media running paparazzi photos of stars canoodling or emerging from coffee shops in frumpy track suits.

Now many stars including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Jessica Simpson are fighting back. They are hiring their own photographers to capture supposedly private rendezvous, tipping off reporters to their whereabouts and developing relationships of mutual back-scratching with magazine editors.The result is the flowering of a genre: fake paparazzi journalism, or the staging of "unstaged" moments. It is an art form that benefits both stars and the press. Stars get to participate in the framing of their image and magazines appear to give readers a glimpse of the real celebrity untouched by public-relations varnish.

When Ms. Paltrow gave birth in 2004, she knew there would be a high bounty on the first photo of her newborn daughter. A staple of the celebrity press, the actress and her husband, Chris Martin, leader of the band coldplay, decided to take matters into their own hands and tip off a photographer they knew, Steve Sands.Mr. Sands took what appeared to be surprise shots of the two emerging from the hospital in London with the baby and sold them to People for $125,000, according to a person familiar with the arrangement. Larry Hackett, managing editor of People, says he knew that Mr. Sands had been tipped off by Ms. Paltrow. But he didn't see the need to inform readers about it. "I just don't know how illuminating it is," he says.

Stephen Huvane, a publicist at public-relations firm PMK/HBH who handles Ms. Paltrow, confirms Mr. Sands's account. "You'll see a lot more of that happening," says Mr. Huvane.

Pictures such as the one of Ms. Paltrow help the stars stay in the limelight -- but on their terms. "When celebrities do this, it's a way for them to deliver news that they want delivered," says Bonnie Fuller, the editorial director of American Media Inc., which publishes Star and the National Enquirer. By strategically sating the demand for images, stars may be able to tame the paparazzi mob -- although in Ms. Paltrow's case, photographers continued to stake out her home for shots of her and the baby.

The current strategies hark back to the Hollywood of the 1940s and 1950s, when studios, movie stars and the press worked hand-in-hand to create and maintain screen icons for worshipful fans. Today, the coverage of the stars has exploded. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, circulation of US Weekly stood at an average of 1,662,000 in the six months ending in January of this year, up 12.7% from the same period a year earlier. Circulation at Bauer Publishing's InTouch climbed 15.5% to 1,178,000, and at Star rose 12.3% to 1,460,000.The magazines are lucrative. US Weekly sells a million copies a week on the newsstand at $3.49 apiece. The magazine turns an operating profit of $50 million a year, says a person familiar with its accounts. People, which has a circulation of 3.8 million, brings in by far the most revenue and profit of any of the 154 magazines owned by Time Inc., a division of Time Warner Inc.

Network TV programs like Access Hollywood, cable channels like E! Entertainment Television Inc. and Web sites have added to the coverage. All these outlets compete for photos documenting the daily lives of a small cast of celebrities. These stars, in turn, seek to control their images without appearing to, because doing so would ruin their mystique."All those dirty little secrets in Hollywood include tipping paparazzi off and playing games with them," says New York-based public-relations professional Ken Sunshine, whose clients include corporations and stars such as Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio. He says people might find that "unethical" if they knew about it, "but unfortunately it seems to be an accepted part of the business."

Magazines have generally played along. In 2003, Ms. Jolie tipped off US Weekly that she would appear in a park one afternoon with her adopted son, Maddox, according to two people familiar with the situation. The actress had recently divorced actor Billy Bob Thornton, a relationship which was portrayed as reckless and bizarre. These two people say US Weekly knew Ms. Jolie had green-lighted the photo, which softened her image by showing her maternal side. However, the magazine didn't tell readers about it. Repeated calls to Ms. Jolie's manager for comment were not returned. Mr. Hackett of People says Ms. Jolie, who does not have a publicist, is among the most sophisticated manipulators of the press. "She is totally, totally using it," he says. "I think that's brilliant."

Even images that are clearly taken with a star's consent may conceal deeper ties between the star and the media. Ms. Simpson, a pop singer, had a close relationship with US Weekly, but it became contentious after the magazine broke the news that she was breaking up with husband Nick Lachey, who starred with Ms. Simpson in a reality-TV show. Ms. Simpson formed a business relationship with OK! USA, a weekly published by London-based Northern & Shell PLC that sometimes pays celebrities for access and lets them approve magazine layouts. The deal with Ms. Simpson requires the star to appear in the magazine a certain number of times in exchange for payment, according to the magazine. A publicist for Ms. Simpson declined to comment.

In the old studio era, too, celebrities and the press were co-conspirators in crafting storylines that were often distant from reality. A famous instance was Rock Hudson, who despite being secretly gay was publicly married to Phyllis Gates. By the 1960s, when Marilyn Monroe's tragic life became a public drama and television dimmed the pre-eminence of Hollywood movies, the media grew beyond its role as a publicity mouthpiece. A raft of tabloids began publishing more sensational stories that claimed to get around the glossy images projected by the studios. These tabloids had titles like "Hollywood Confidential," "Hush-Hush," "Inside Story" and "The Lowdown."

People magazine, introduced in 1974, combined celebrity coverage with the journalistic heritage of parent Time Inc. For years People was the only publication of its kind and an essential tool for celebrities to promote their careers. "There was a lot more access then," says Susan Toepfer, a former deputy managing editor at People who is now editor in chief of Quick & Simple. "When I was writing about celebrities in the '70s and '80s, you could spend days with them." But magazines soon discovered that so-called write-arounds, stories written without the cooperation of the star and using anonymous sources, were more popular. The stories were juicier and the stars seemed more human. In 1991, for instance, People published stories such as "The Big Breakup!" detailing the relationship between Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland, and the next year the magazine did an expose called "Plastic Surgery Of The Stars."In response, the celebrities and their handlers circled the wagons. Pu!
blicists began forcing reporters to sign agreements to avoid certain topics or demanding approval over writers and cover layouts.

In 1992, the editors of People gathered in Aspen, Colo., to discuss what was working and what wasn't, recalls Jack Kelley, a former Los Angeles bureau chief for the magazine. Cover stories written with a celebrity's cooperation had a newsstand "sell-through" of 49.3%, meaning about half of the copies distributed to newsstands got sold. Write-arounds had a sell-through of 67.4%. "It was kind of a no-brainer," says Mr. Kelley. "At that point, we decided we weren't going to worry so much about cooperation. We were going to approach celebrity reporting like any reporting."

The arrival of Ms. Fuller at US Weekly in 2002 raised the tensions even higher. She pioneered the photography-heavy coverage popular today, and paid for paparazzi photos depicting the stars in an unflattering light. A recent example was the image of singer Britney Spears driving down a freeway with her baby in her lap. It appeared in Star magazine, which Ms. Fuller now supervises in her post at American Media.

A new generation of "stalkarazzi" has specialized in capturing awkward moments. Mr. Sunshine, the New York publicist, recalls one occasion when he went to the bathroom with a client. "We were about to go to the urinal," he says, "and someone pointed to a stall half-opened. I pushed the door open and there was a guy with a long lens in there about to take a photo." This year California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bill that attempts to crack down on stalkarazzi.The photographers' onslaught has put stars in a tough spot. If they ignore the magazines, they let such pictures define their public image. But sitting down for formulaic interviews and staged publicity shots won't necessarily satisfy the magazines' lust for juicy stories.The answer is manipulation so subtle it's hard to say if there's any manipulation at all. In January, when rumors swirled in the press that Ms. Jolie might be pregnant with the child of actor Brad Pitt, Ms. Jolie arranged for an employee of the!
charity Yéle Haiti to take a picture of her with her growing belly.

Ms. Jolie then let Yéle Haiti sell the picture to People, according to Mr. Hackett, the magazine's managing editor, and a representative for Mr. Pitt. A person familiar with the situation says People paid $400,000 for the picture. It appeared on the cover of the magazine with the headline: "Angelina Reveals: 'Yes, I'm Pregnant.' " (The incident was first reported by The New York Post.)By arranging the Haiti photo, Ms. Jolie reaped several benefits. She ensured the picture was flattering. In diverting the money to charity, she put a twist on a tactic used by celebrities in recent years in which they arrange to be paid for wedding or baby photos with the proceeds going to charity. And Ms. Jolie reminded fans of her devotion to humanitarian causes. She had taken a hit months earlier when she struck up a relationship with Mr. Pitt shortly after his marriage to actress Jennifer Aniston broke up.

In many cases, stars don't need to try that hard. When celebrities pick a location like the terrace at the Ivy restaurant in Beverly Hills, they know they're liable to appear in the glossies the next week. A bank of photographers regularly sits on the other side of the street with long-range lenses. Actor Tom Cruise was thus captured on film last year when he roared up to the Ivy on his motorcycle accompanied by then-new girlfriend Katie Holmes.Similarly, when speculation was mounting about Mr. Cruise's romance with actress Penelope Cruz after his breakup with Nicole Kidman, the new couple showed up for lunch at the Beverly Hills restaurant Spago. Photographer Steve Granitz, who has photographed Mr. Cruise regularly since 1981, says he got a tip about the couple's presence. When Mr. Granitz arrived with his camera, Mr. Cruise and Ms. Cruz emerged from the doorway, smiled and kissed. The images, which looked like standard-issue paparazzi shots, were published in nearly all th!
e celebrity magazines that week.

"I would probably say at least 50% of what you see in terms of Hollywood coverage is something that was not necessarily born organically," says Janice Min, editor in chief of US Weekly. "This is a totally symbiotic relationship. This is how celebrities survive."

Write to Joe Hagan at joe.hagan@wsj.com1 and Merissa Marr at

Copyright 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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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