Thursday, March 29, 2007

SF CHRONICLE: Listing some of the volunteers changing news media landscape
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Volunteers changing news media landscape

By Vanessa Hua
San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer

While South Korea's OhmyNews has been the most successful citizen journalism effort so far, online startups in the Bay Area and elsewhere, as well as old-line media, are getting into the game. seeks to create "open source" reporting, via the Internet, with volunteer writers and professional editors collaborating on stories.

"We don't know how it will work yet but we don't have to know," said Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University who heads up the project. "It's a fruitful hybrid of the discipline of professional journalists and the animation of volunteer participants. We think it will be productive." NewAssignment is backed by a $10,000 contribution from the Sunlight Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to open government and community site guru Craig Newmark of San Francisco's Craigslist, as well as $100,000 from Reuters. More than 450 volunteer reporters have signed up so far, and the project is seeking professional editors to donate seven or more hours per week.

Citizen journalism is attracting attention not only because it engages consumers of information in new ways, but also because much of the content comes cheap, or free, in an industry faced with declining readerships, less advertising and cost cutting. "There are a lot more people willing to write for not much money than there are places to pay," said Dan Gillmor, a citizen journalism evangelist and former tech columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. That's not to say success is guaranteed. Gillmor's citizen journalism startup, Bayosphere, received an "underwhelming" response, as he puts it. In April 2006, Backfence -- a startup in suburban Virginia with $3 million in funding -- took over the site. In January, Backfence's chief executive quit, and the company's staff shrank from 30 to single digits.

Among the more recent examples of citizen journalism:

-- Yahoo's You Witness, begun in December, invites people to submit photos and video for a chance to appear in Yahoo News. More than a thousand people have submitted, mostly driven by the desire to share, to get an "ego boost" or to advocate political issues, said Neil Budde, editor in chief of Yahoo News.

He's working on a partnership with Reuters in which people whose submissions are picked up by the wire service will receive payment. User submissions could also become a bigger part of Yahoo's local news, he said.

-- Started in July 2005, London's Scoopt acts as a middleman, selling submissions of photos, video and blog articles to publications such Rolling Stone, Newsday and People magazine.

Breaking news and celebrity photos are in the most demand, commanding $100 to several thousand dollars. Blog sales are slow, but the site plans to expand its efforts. Scoopt has about 13,000 members in 100 countries, about half in the United Kingdom and one-fifth in the United States. "We verify the content as much as we can. If there's a picture of Paris Hilton doing something extraordinary we have to stop and look with journalistic cynicism. We either just walk away from it or get in touch to ask what are the circumstances or have them sign a contract -- this is genuine and they own the copyright," said Kyle MacRae, Scoopt founder and chief executive.

-- Palo Alto's, begun in 2002, provides users the ability to
find targeted news on the Internet, organizing information by locale. Gannett, McClatchy Co. and Tribune Co are backers. The site took off a little over a year ago -- doubling in monthly unique visitors, to 10 million -- after it began allowing people to comment online. Each day, the site logs 35,000 posts, with people offering first-person accounts of traffic accidents, hurricanes, and their reaction to the news.

-- Virginia's Gannett is rolling out plans to involve more readers in news gathering. "We have to enlist the help of communities to cover communities. We have to establish a conversation," said spokeswoman Tara Connell. Last summer, the chain's News-Press in Fort Myers, Fla., called on readers to pitch into an investigation into the high prices charged to connect water and sewer lines to new homes. Readers analyzed documents, the paper's Web traffic soared -- and ultimately, the city cut its utility fees by more than 30 percent. Called crowd-sourcing, the technique is being
tested at other Gannett papers.

© 2007 Hearst Communications Inc.


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 18, 2007

LATIMES: How the TPM blog scooped mainstream media on attorneys general story

Blogs can top the presses
PUBLISHED: March 17, 2007

ORIGINAL URL:,0,6042727.story?coll=ktla-news-1

Talking Points Memo drove the U.S. attorrneys story, proof that
Web writers with input from devoted readers can reshape journalism.

By Terry McDermott
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

New York -- In a third-floor Flower District walkup with bare wooden floors, plain white walls and an excitable toy poodle named Simon, six guys dressed mainly in T-shirts and jeans sit all day in front of computer screens at desks arranged around the oblong room's perimeter, pecking away at their keyboards and, bit by bit, at the media establishment. The world headquarters of TPM Media is pretty much like any small newsroom, anywhere, except for the shirts. And the dog. And the quiet. Most newsrooms are notably noisy places, full of shrill phones and quacking reporters. Here there is mainly quiet, except for the clacking keyboards.

It's 20 or so blocks up town to the heart of the media establishment, the Midtown towers that house the big newspaper, magazine and book publishers. And yet it was here in a neighborhood of bodegas and floral wholesalers that, over the last two months, one of the biggest news stories in the country ÿÿ the Bush administration's firing of a group of U.S. attorneys ÿÿ was pieced together by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo.

The bloggers used the usual tools of good journalists everywhere ÿÿ determination, insight, ingenuity ÿÿ plus a powerful new force that was not available to reporters until blogging came along: the ability to communicate almost instantaneously with readers via the Internet and to deputize those readers as editorial researchers, in effect multiplying the reporting power by an order of magnitude.

In December, Josh Marshall, who owns and runs TPM , posted a short item linking to a news report in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette about the firing of the U.S. attorney for that state. Marshall later followed up, adding that several U.S. attorneys were apparently being replaced and asked his 100,000 or so daily readers to write in if they knew anything about U.S. attorneys being fired in their areas. For the two months that followed, Talking Points Memo and one of its sister sites, TPM Muckraker, accumulated evidence from around the country on who the axed prosecutors were, and why politics might be behind the firings. The cause was taken up among Democrats in Congress. One senior Justice Department official has resigned, and Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales is now in the media crosshairs.

This isn't the first time Marshall and Talking Points have led coverage on national issues. In 2002, the site was the first to devote more than just passing mention to then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's claim that the country would have been better off had the segregationist 1948 presidential campaign of Sen. Strom Thurmond succeeded. The subsequent furor cost Lott his leadership position. Similarly, the TPM sites were leaders in chronicling the various scandals associated with Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

All of this from an enterprise whose annual budget probably wouldn't cover the janitorial costs incurred by a metropolitan daily newspaper.

"Hundreds of people out there send clips and other tips," Marshall said. "There is some real information out there, some real expertise. If you're not in politics and you know something, you're not going to call David Broder. With the blog, you develop an intimacy with people. Some of it is perceived, but some of it is real." Marshall's use of his readers to gather information takes advantage of the interactivity that is at the heart of the Internet revolution. The amount of discourse between writers and readers on the Web makes traditional journalists look like hermetic monks.

Duncan Black, an economist who writes as Atrios on his website, Eschaton, receives hundreds of comments for almost anything he posts. Thursday morning, he posted a short note saying he would not be writing much that day as he was going to be traveling. Within the hour, 492 people posted comments on that. A political reporter at a metropolitan daily might not get that much reader response in a year. "With Abramoff, I was getting a lot more tips than I could handle," Marshall said. "I thought if I hire two people, pay them, marry them with these tips, what could we do then?" That led to the creation of TPM Muckraker, which has two full-time, salaried reporter-bloggers and is where many of the stories on the U.S. attorneys were originally published.

In much of its work, TPM exhibits a clearly identified political agenda. In this, it is no different from dozens of other blogs across the political spectrum. It distinguishes itself by mixing liberal opinion with original reporting by its own staff and actively seeking information from its readers. This was most apparent in 2004-05 when Marshall turned the site's focus to President Bush's proposed privatization of Social Security. Marshall asked readers to survey their own members of Congress on the issue. This distributed reporting helped TPM compile rosters of where every member of Congress stood on the proposal, something no newspaper attempted. By making apparent the lack of enthusiasm for the plan, TPM helped kill it.

The Social Security campaign was straightforward political activism, with strict advocacy for a well-defined position. "For me, that was sort of a little beyond my comfort zone," Marshall said. "But the underlying issue seemed important enough to do it. There are still a lot of lines I don't cross because of, for lack of a better word, the kind of institution we are. We do opinion journalism, we're not campaign adjuncts."

BLOGGING has famously unleashed the opinions of multitudes. There are, by very rough count, 60 million bloggers around the world today. Some projections have that number nearly doubling again this year. Depending on which side of a vitriolic divide you fall ÿÿ that is, whether you think this is good or bad ÿÿ this represents either the end of civilization or the rise of true democracy. There are blogs for baseball teams, for fast food, for God and for Satan; there are lots of blogs on politics and Hollywood and at least one that deals exclusively with pharmaceutical industry research. There are hundreds of blogs on Iraq and more than you would imagine in Mongolia.

Though the numbers and breadth of blogging are indeed astonishing, it's not at all clear what the numbers mean, if they mean anything at all. Much of what constitutes the phenomenon of blogging is apt to be inconsequential for the simple but powerful fact that nobody reads most of them. That is, aside from their authors, literally nobody. Most of these blogs are the creations of individuals who have a passion to write, usually about a single subject, that subject often being themselves. Some of them are truly horrible and, thankfully, short-lived. The passion burns out. Others, though, are remarkably good. There are sports blogs devoted to single teams that are far more acute in their analysis than mainstream media (MSM) covering the same sport. This is particularly true in baseball, where statistically driven analysis has been adopted wholesale in the blogosphere while the MSM has been slow to recognize its value.

The blogs that have captured the most attention are those that devote themselves mainly to politics and public affairs. These are almost always run by partisans of one side or the other. In that, they are nearly the opposite of the sort of coverage presented in traditional media, whose coverage at least attempts to be neutral on questions of policy. This neutrality is a favorite target of bloggers who say that mainstream journalism objectivity disguises hidden biases of the form, if not the writer. The bloggers contend that these biases can render neutrality into bland, even neuteredeporting that rewards those intent on manipulating it.

Many critiques from both sides of the blogging-MSM divide are accurate, if sometimes misplaced. The chief criticisms of blogging from defenders of the MSM are, one, the pajama charge ÿÿ that is, bloggers are not professional journalists and don't do much reporting (thus the image of them sitting at home in their pajamas) ÿÿ and, two, the incivility charge, that many bloggers use impolite language. Most bloggers, in fact, are not journalists and do little if any reporting. But most bloggers don't claim to be journalists. They're bloggers. The incivility charge is true too. Many bloggers use bad language, but so occasionally does the New Yorker, and no one accuses it of lacking manners.

"I'm familiar with the critique," Marshall said. "I don't feel it has a great deal to do with us, what we are doing. There's a ton of stuff out there, and a lot of it is screechy and angry and undisciplined. I don't have a problem with it, but it's not stuff I'm particularly interested in reading. "It's totally in the tradition of political pamphleteering. ÿÿ Individually, I think some of it isn't necessarily that pretty, but I think the whole thing altogether is a great thing."

Neither side in the blog-MSM debate seems to have great appreciation for what the other brings to the party. Simply put, while mainstream media does the heavy lifting of careful, day-to-day and occasional in-depth reporting, bloggers have revivified political commentary, mainly through their exuberance. IF the traditional media see their roles as delivering lectures on the news of the day, blogs are more of a backyard conversation, friendlier, more convivial. Bloggers publish in variable lengths at uncertain and unscheduled times. Blogs tend to be informal, cheap to produce, free to consume, fast, heavily referential, self-referential and vain because of it; profane, accident-prone yet self-correcting.

To say that traditional media were slow to appreciate the power of this form is to belabor the obvious. Even bloggers were slow to appreciate the import of what they were doing. The phenomenon appeared in its embryonic form in the mid-1990s. The term "blog," a mash-up of "Web log," was coined in 1997. By 1999, blogging software was widely available, and free, and the first political blogs appeared. By that time, Marshall, a 38-year-old who has a PhD from Brown University in American colonial history, had become a freelance journalist, selling pieces mainly to small opinion journals. He wrote his first blog post in November 2000, commenting on the role of GOP lawyer Theodore Olson in Florida's Bush-Gore recount. "It just seemed natural. I liked the informality of the writing. The freedom of it appealed to me," Marshall said. "It just looked like fun. I saw it as a loss leader for my journalism." Once he started, however, he never stopped. He continued to freelance, but gr!
adually moved more and more of his attention to the blog, living in near poverty as a result. When he needed money to do something for the blog, he asked his readers for it. Remarkably, they gave it to him.

His economic turning point came in 2003 when he received a phone call from a man named Henry Copeland, who had an idea for selling advertising on blogs. Copeland saw a way to aggregate blogs and broker advertising to them. Essentially, he created a remote back office and a revenue stream for the mainly sole proprietors who blogged. "He had the concept of Blogads, which turned out to be the funding mechanism for what I was doing. Within six months it was supporting me," Marshall said. It wasn't until Copeland came along that anyone seriously contemplated making a career as a blogger. Since then, advertising has grown to such an extent that dozens of blogs are now profitable enterprises. They are also major sources of information for thousands of readers.

Copeland said the relatively small world of left-of-center political blogs now receives an estimated 160 million page views a month, in the same ballpark as some major newspapers and far more than any opinion magazine. This professionalization of the blogosphere has been abetted by mainstream media's increasing practice of hiring independent bloggers or deploying staffers to blog duty. No one in the blogosphere seems particularly worried about the competition. Copeland, for one, doubts that the MSM will be able to stem the blogging tide, or even swim very far in it. "We're big believers that the Internet's rule is 'the outside is the new inside.' That means that bloggers, with low overheads and nimble structures, can outmaneuver everyone elseÿÿ.

"A newspaper is a boat, a highly evolved mechanism designed and built to float in water. Blogs are bikes, built to cruise in another environment. Now, you can pull a bunch of planking off a boat and add wheels and pedals, but that won't make it as light and maneuverable as a bike."

Copyright © 2007 Tribune Interactive


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.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Can Boston support four daily newspapers? Stay tuned April 17


Is NOW time for Hub free paper? New daily will use bloggers, videos as draw

By Jesse Noyes
Boston Herald Business Reporter

Thursday, March 15, 2007 - Updated: 09:20 AM EST

On April 17 another free daily will hit the streets of Boston.

And Boston NOW, the latest product coming from serial publisher
Russell Pergament, is aiming for the attention of the city.s 20 and
30-somethings - a group not well-known for carrying around newspapers.

Launching with a circulation of about 150,000, the new daily will swim
in a Hub sea of papers, including the Herald, The Boston Globe and the
Boston Metro. Then there.s the young-minded alternative weeklies the
Boston Phoenix and the Boston Weekly Dig.

With that much competition, media experts predict it will be tough for
Boston NOW to survive.

But Pergament thinks he knows how to make Boston Now work, even in a
crowded market with only so many ad dollars available.

Pergament, who helped start the Boston Metro and ran freebie daily AM
New York, said he plans to give readers an .unprecedented. amount of
access to the paper.s editorial content.

Editors are seeking out area bloggers to contribute content.
Compensation hasn.t been fully worked out, but contributors shouldn.t
expect big paychecks.

Pergament says Boston NOW.s Web site will have forums, polls, and a
video-sharing section called NOW Tribe, which is intended to be a
localized YouTube for Bostonians to post their clips.

Perhaps the most experimental aspect is the paper.s plan to webcast
its editorial meetings. While other newspapers have toyed with running
live video of their internal meetings on their Web sites, Boston NOW would
simultaneously host a message board allowing outsiders to chime in, pitch
story ideas and even volunteer their services, said John Wilpers, Boston
NOW.s editor in chief.

To keep from getting their top stories stolen by competitors the next
day.s lead article will likely not be mentioned during public meetings, he

Intriguing stuff. But will it turn online users into daily readers? seen no demonstrated connection, especially with a start-up, of
the kind of synergy that he.s looking for,. said Lou Ureneck, chairman of
Boston University.s journalism department.

Pergament said Boston NOW will churn out unique, local enterprise
stories every week from a small staff of reporters and let the wire
services cover the national news. It will carry a clean format, similiar
to AM New York, which Pergament said he.s emulating in several ways here.

He doesn.t plan to stop with the Hub. Pergament is chief executive of
a new entity called 365 Media USA, which plans to launch similar papers in
other markets.

With papers across the country struggling as ad revenues slip away
from print, and Boston taking a particularly hard hit, media experts
didn.t hold out much hope for the fledgling paper.

.I don.t think the prognosis is very good,. said Larry Grimes,
president of newspaper broker W.B. Grimes & Co.

But Pergament said the doom and gloom means it.s the perfect time to
strike. .We think Boston has hit bottom and it.s going to be coming back
strong,. he said.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In Western Massachusetts, citizen groups use the web to network government accountability


Citizen groups rise up as public watchdogs

POSTED: Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Staff writers
The [Springfield, Mass.] Republican

After Wilbraham voters approved, by a tiny margin of votes, a referendum to increase property taxes, a group of citizens vowed that their concerns would never go unheard again. Three years later, the Concerned Citizens of Wilbraham has more than 100 members. They attend nearly every governmental meeting and report what they learned at the organization's monthly meetings. They also post information on their Web site.

The Wilbraham group is among the most organized watchdogs in the region - but across Western Massachusetts, from Agawam to Amherst and Warren to Ware, hundreds of regular citizens serve as unofficial government overseers. They speak about their concerns at public meetings, lobby local representatives, demand public records and religiously attend meetings, no matter how dull. "We take it very seriously. Our job isn't to yell and scream at people. A lot of times it is to put things on the table," said Robert L. Page, chairman of the Wilbraham group. "The public has the right to know all of this."

The group formed after proponents of a Proposition 2½ override won by 61 votes, or less than 0.1 percent of the 4,789 ballots cast. Members mobilized mostly to oppose an override if one was proposed the next year, but has done far more, said Allan Kinney, vice chairman. "We didn't say we would never support an override," Page said. "We just said we would not support one to fund the town operating budget." Now the goal is to have as much transparency in government as possible and ensure all residents have financial information available.

Throughout Western Massachusetts, private citizens get involved in watchdog movements for many reasons. Some do so because of a specific issue, while others, such as Christine L. Pilch, of Ware, are trying to improve government in general.

Pilch joined with about two dozen other people to try to reform Ware's town government by writing the town's first charter. The process is complicated. Residents started by collecting enough signatures to put a referendum on charter change on the ballot. Since then, the nine elected charter commission members have spent countless hours writing a charter. The final version will go to voters on April 9, said Pilch, who serves as chairwoman of the charter commission.

After reading newspaper articles and hearing stories, Pilch said, she was frustrated that the town - which increased in population by 3 percent from 2000 to 2005 - still was being run by part-time selectmen and she was not confident that tax dollars were being spent efficiently. "Rather than standing on the sidelines, I got frustrated enough to get involved," she said. Pilch said she is not a professional politician and her work will be done after the charter vote.

Statewide, private citizens file the vast majority of complaints with the Public Records Division of the Secretary of State's Office over denial of access to public records. Last year, it was 92 percent. Of the 319 complaints filed, 292 were from individual citizens, officials said. Complaints are wide-ranging, covering concerns about overcharging for public records, requests for executive session meeting minutes, petitions for credentials of public employees and even a few about e-mail. The Massachusetts City Solicitors and Town Counsel Association also receives a number of inquiries for information from private citizens.

It will not respond to a specific situation but will speak about laws, said James B. Lampke, executive director. "Our whole system of government is (predicated) on citizen participation, and having citizen involvement takes many forms," he said.

Northampton Mayor Mary Clare Higgins said she receives many e-mails and letters from residents who don't attend meetings but have concerns or want to voice opinions. "I think in order to have citizen involvement you have to have a responsible and diligent press," so people can be informed, she said. While input is welcome and many concerns are addressed, there are times when Higgins said she has referred residents to state or federal government. When people tell her they disagree with her positions, she explains her reasoning. "There are some people who I've had to say to them we have to agree to disagree," she said. "If you feel so strongly I didn't make the right decision, you shouldn't vote for me."

Chicopee residents Sandra A. Peret and Lisa L. Bienvenue, who are sisters, got involved in their city's government because of school busing problems, but continued to attend School Committee and Board of Aldermen meetings long after the issue was resolved. Their continuing interest was partly sparked by an alderman who advised them to return with a group and "raise a ruckus" about busing. "That irritated me. Every individual should have an impact on the government. It's cavalier to say that the politicians only have to react to a mass," Bienvenue said.

Because their children attend parochial school, the two women have no personal stake in public school issues. But subjects such as hiring a superintendent, graduation requirements and the attendance policy keep them returning, she said. "I feel like we all have a responsibility for our community. It is easy to say it is something that doesn't affect me personally. But if things go unchallenged, it affects everyone," she said.

Sometimes, Bienvenue said, she finds that the hardest people to deal with are some at her own City Hall. Using a variety of public access laws, Bienvenue and Peret have requested meeting minutes, contracts and budgets. They also discovered that the Board of Aldermen was only keeping minutes on audio tapes. They complained to the Hampden County District Attorney's Office, which ruled that written minutes must be kept.

Officials at the state Department of Education and the Public Records Division have provided good advice on how to proceed when seeking information, Bienvenue said. Plenty of information about public records laws is available the Internet, she said.

Many citizens get involved because of a single issue. Karl H. Stieg, of Agawam, was among hundreds of residents who joined Concerned Citizens and Businesses of Agawam and, starting in 1995, spent more than five years fighting construction of the Berkshire Power Co. plant that began generating electricity in 2001. The group filed several lawsuits, ousted politicians, placed a referendum on the ballot, petitioned the City Council for hearings and went to hundreds of meetings and hearings. "It is not always an easy task, but it can be done. If you are organized and you have a group of people it is easier, you can accomplish what you want," he said. Stieg said his role was "curator of knowledge." The group's first job was to learn local procedures, zoning laws and court rules. For those who can afford a lawyer, fighting city hall is easier, but most cannot, Stieg said.

In Warren, Peter H. Krawczyk learned the joys - and pains - of community activism in his five years with the Warren Taxpayer Association. A staunch opponent of government waste and corruption, and an advocate of the state's Open Meeting Law and the public's right to know, he was spurred to action several years ago by concern about school spending. His involvement in local education issues led to formation of the association. Krawczyk now attends one or two meetings a week, including sessions in surrounding towns, and knows many public officials. "Once you go (to one meeting), you're afraid if you don't go (to others)," he said, citing concerns about maintaining an open public process.

Being a government watchdog has taken a toll on his wallet, with the costs including fees to purchase public records. He also noted that his interest and inquiries sometimes have been less than welcome. In one instance, a public official threatened legal action, Krawczyk said. But he also has seen victories, and said that some government panels have become more welcoming. This year, he will try to join the government. He is running for public office for the first time, seeking a spot on the Warren Planning Board.

Not everyone who is involved in citizen watchdog activities wants to run for office. In Chicopee, Bienvenue said she is asked frequently why she hasn't. "A private citizen shouldn't have to run in order to be listened to," she said. "You have to participate in government by voting and you have to have people who are willing to speak up."

Staff writers Chris Hamel and Elizabeth Roman contributed to this report.

©2007 The Republican

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.

REUTERS: Google's YouTube faces mounting copyrightright challenges

Observer of the information and technologies industries have been
predicting an eventual clash over U.S. copyright law. A lawsuit filed by
the owner of MTV and the Comedy Channel against Google subsidiary YouTube
apears to have joined the battle. What are the likely consequences?


Tue Mar 13, 5:50 PM ET

Viacom in $1 billion copyright suit versus Google, YouTube

By Kenneth Li and Michele Gershberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. sued Google Inc. and
its Internet video-sharing site YouTube for more than $1 billion on
Tuesday in the biggest challenge yet to the Web search leader's strategy
to dominate the online video market.

The lawsuit accuses Google and its popular online video unit of "massive
intentional copyright infringement" for allowing users to upload popular
shows, threatening ambitions to make YouTube a major entertainment and
advertising outlet.

The legal challenge from Viacom, home to the MTV and Comedy Central
channels, also suggested a wider battle between traditional and Internet
media companies that now compete for audiences and advertising dollars.

"This is a seminal event in Media-Internet relations ... and how the value
of content will be clarified in the online medium," wrote UBS analyst
Aryeh Bourkoff in a client note.

Shares in Viacom slipped 9 cents to close at $39.48 on the New York
Stock Exchange and Google shares fell $11.72, or 2.6 percent, to $443.03
on Nasdaq.

Viacom has been the most vocal critic of YouTube during months of
negotiating over payment for use of its programming. The Sumner
Redstone-controlled company last month demanded YouTube pull over 100,000
video clips uploaded by users.

"YouTube's strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail
the infringement on its site, thus generating significant traffic and
revenues for itself while shifting the entire burden -- and high cost --
of monitoring YouTube on to the victims of its infringement," Viacom said.

YouTube does not prevent copyrighted content from being uploaded onto its
site, but will take material down at the request of copyright owners.

Google said it was confident that YouTube respects the copyrights at issue
in the Viacom case.

"We will certainly not let this suit become a distraction to the
continuing growth and strong performance of YouTube," Google said in a

General Electric Co.'s majority-owned NBC Universal and News Corp. have
also criticized YouTube's policies on copyright protection but stopped
short of legal action, testimony to the dilemma of media companies forced
to choose between embracing a fast-growing outlet for younger audiences
and trying to build competing Web vehicles themselves.

"We've dealt with YouTube on a case by case basis to have content taken
down," a News Corp. spokesman said, adding that the company supported
Viacom's right "to protect its own content in whatever way it needs to."

Viacom found another ally in Time Warner Inc.

"It is clear from this lawsuit that it is time for YouTube to remove
unauthorized material from its site," a Time Warner spokesman said. "We
are in talks and hopeful we can work together toward a solution that would
effectively identify and filter out unauthorized material and license
copyrighted works for an appropriate revenue share."

160,000 CLIPS

Viacom contends that almost 160,000 unauthorized clips -- from excerpts of
comedy talk show "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" to pieces of children's
programs like "SpongeBob SquarePants" -- have been uploaded on to
YouTube's site and viewed more than 1.5 billion times.

The decision to sue Google followed "a great deal of unproductive
negotiation," the company said.

Viacom filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District
of New York, seeking an injunction against further violations and damages.

Google bought YouTube last November for $1.65 billion, aiming to
capitalize on its explosive audience growth built from sharing both
homemade and professionally produced videos.

YouTube has reached licensing deals with major record labels, but still
faces the ire of major media companies. Google has promised new technology
to help identify pirated videos, but has not given a timetable for its

Any progress Viacom makes in its lawsuit could spur other companies to
consider legal action against YouTube and raise new questions about the
laws governing digital distribution.

"If there's anything central to Google's business model, it is being at
the center of everything," said Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey.
"This has the potential to put them on the periphery."

Viacom and peers like NBC Universal, in which France's Vivendi owns a
minority interest, are also investing heavily in their own Internet video
sites to benefit from the migration of television audiences to the Web.

"There is certainly an opportunity for YouTube to do a deal with Viacom,
but Viacom does not have to have a YouTube deal," said analyst Richard
Greenfield of Pali Capital.

Google's dominance in Web search has made it a magnet for lawsuits by
copyright and trademark holders.

The Silicon Valley company faces outstanding lawsuits in the United States
and Europe by major book, magazine and online news publishers as well as
small-time Web site operators.

Google has prevailed in high-profile suits against it by auto insurer
GEICO -- owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett's holding company
Berkshire Hathaway Inc. -- over trademark infringement, and in a demand by
the U.S. Justice Department for consumer Web search data.

(Additional reporting by Eric Auchard)


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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Robert Kuttner at CJR on saving newspapers

In a groundbreaking essay, Robert Kuttner attacks the conventional wisdom that
says dailies are dying, and envisions a bright future for newspapers as
print-digital hybrids. He doesn't see much hope that new ownerships or
charging for content will do it as much as patient innovation and advertising

The end-of-article note reads:

"Robert Kuttner is co-editor of The American Prospect , a columnist for The
Boston Globe , and the author of seven books. His past affiliations include
BusinessWeek , The Washington Post , and the late journalism review (More) .
His first real job was as I.F. Stone's assistant."




"The public is accustomed to getting nearly all of its Web content free, and
there is fierce opposition to a cable-TV model in which users would pay
different amounts for different levels of content. So neither of the deus ex
machina solutions to the newspapers. (somewhat exaggerated) financial
plight.different ownership structures, or more favorable revenue sharing with
search engines.seems likely. Rather, publishers need to work with what they
have, investing in people and technology to get through this transition to the
promised land of hybrid print-Web publishing."


"Today Slate, Salon, Huffington Post, and the rest [online], offer far more
comment than news, since talk is cheap and reportage isn't."


"In their modern classic, "The Elements of Journalism," Bill Kovach and Tom
Rosenstiel write that, "In the end, the discipline of verification is what
separates journalism from entertainment, propaganda, fiction, or art." Robert
Putnam's [book] "Bowling Alone", recounting a half-century's decline of civic
engagement (a decline that began long before the Internet), reports that
newspaper readers are more likely than nonreaders to participate in politics
and local public life. Cities and towns with newspapers have a more transparent
civic and public life than those without them.

"In effect, we deputize editors to be our proxies, delegating to them the task
of assigning reporters and deciding what news we need to know on a given day
and to certify its pertinence and accuracy. We trust them to do a more reliable
job than even our own Web-surfing. (As Chico Marx famously put it in Duck Soup,
.Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?.) But as readers, we no
longer have to make that either/or choice between newspapers and the wild Web.
We can have both the authoritative daily newspaper to aggregate and certify,
and the infinite medley of the Web -- all of which puts the traditional press
under salutary pressure to innovate and to excel."


"My reporting suggests that many big dailies have turned the corner, though
only barely and just in time, that newspapers have started down a financially
and journalistically viable path of becoming hybrids, without losing the
professional culture that makes them uniquely valuable.

"Assuming that most dailies survive the transition, my guess is that in
twenty-five years they will be mostly digital; that even people like me of the
pre-Internet generation will be largely won over by ingenious devices like
Times Reader, supplemented by news alerts, rss feeds, and God knows what else.
But whether newspapers are print or Web matters far less than whether they
maintain their historic calling."


The excerpts 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

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