Friday, February 25, 2005

Another dinosaur bellows

Yesterday, I called the editors in the MSM who sneer at citizen journalism 'dinosaurs.' I have just discovered that the term is more widely applicable than I first thought. It seems that librarians, or at least the president-elect of the American Library Association, also fall into that category.

As evidence, let me present a poorly written and illogical 'essay' recently scrawled by said president-elect, one Michael Gorman. It has got to be one of the most arrogant, condescending, and wrong-headed bits of scribbled flotsam I have ever had the displeasure of reading.

I tried to pick out a few quotes to illustrate the inanity of the piece, but the whole thing reeks of holier-than-thouness. Lest you doubt my analysis, here's one tidbit:

Given the quality of the writing in the blogs I have seen, I doubt that many of the Blog People are in the habit of sustained reading of complex texts.

To borrow a phrase from Monty Python, say no more, say no more.

Here's what really bothers me about Mr. Gorman. He seems to believe that anyone who does not have a degree in Library Science is incapable of conducting any sort of research on their own. He seems to see librarians as the keepers of all knowledge who need to protect the rest of the world from their own ignorance. Sound like anyone else you know?

What really frightens me is that, his protests to the contrary, I think Mr. Gorman would really like to see Web access restricted to an info-priestly class for the good of humanity. Thankfully, he doesn't have much say in the matter.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Brave bloggers of Nepal

In some cases, citizen journalism is the only journalism. Bloggers in Nepal have become the only source of information for the rest of the world since King Gyandendra took power Feb. 1 from the country's prime minister and began censoring the press.

Hmmm, I wonder if Steve Lovelady thinks these bloggers are 'salivating morons?'

OJR: Nepalese bloggers, journalists defy media clampdown by king

Speaking to the dinosaurs

Steve Outing has written a wonderfully clear and comprehensive explanation of why citizen journalism is "where journalism is heading." Even better, he's published it on Editor & Publisher's website, the venue where it's most likely to be seen by editors in the MSM (I only wish it was being included in the print edition.)

Unfortunately, his desire for MSM to "Go fast (this time)" is unlikely to be heeded by 80% of his audience. The mainstream media is simply too entrenched to see beyond their established customs and norms. I've seen this too often in newsrooms, corporations, and academic settings. If you need proof, look at the RIAA and MPAA's approach to 'piracy.' While some media organizations will adapt, many will go the way of the dinosaur. Luckily, that doesn't mean anything for the future of journalism except that the next generation of news leaders will have different names than the ones we've known for the past 50 years.

Monday, February 21, 2005

RIP -- Hunter S. Thompson, 1937-2005

Hunter S. Thompson has apparently committed suicide. Although many have expressed surprise, I am not. It seems to me that someone who could live as independently and with apparent disregard for convention might want to control the moment of his death. Maybe he was tired of coping with age-related illnesses. Maybe he couldn't stomach reading the news anymore. Maybe he just figured he had done everything he wanted to do.

In any case, the world has lost a great writer. If you haven't read them, run, don't walk to the nearest bookstore or library and get Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Rum Diaries. I haven't read all of this books, but those are two of the best books I have ever read.

There have been hundreds of stories written about his death already, but here's one with my favorite headline so far: Hunter S. Thompson writes his own ending.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Are bloggers after the mainstream media?

Jack Shafer's column on Slate points to two essays whose authors argue that bloggers are out to get the mainstream media.

On the National Journal's website, Bill Powers writes thusly:

Blogs aren't mainly about money, not yet. They're about taking power and control away from the old brand names, tipping the bloated sacred cows off their pedestals. Just as establishment media outlets have always dreamed about bringing down presidents, bloggers dream about bringing down editors-in-chief and news anchors.

Shafer's column then points to a post on Mark Cuban's blog entitled Political Bloggers - the new paparazzi. According to Cuban, " I don’t know the number of political bloggers, or the number of pages posted, but I can tell you this, every single one of them with any aspirations of popularity is looking for a way to stand out. The way that happens is to knock one of the gatekeepers off their perch."

My initial impulse was to disagree with both Powers and Cuban. After all, before Rathergate, didn't everyone accuse bloggers of being partisan attack dogs whose goal was to disparage opposing political beliefs and those who hold them?

While the following isn't exactly a scientific survey, I thought I'd test the penchant of the blogosphere to write about media types vs. politicos. Here's what I found:

Search Posts on Posts on
Term Feedster Technorati
Eason Jordan 1,638 5,084
Howard Dean 2,583 30,801
John Negroponte 1,164 1,445
Michael Moore 2,994 55,238
Alberto Gonzalez 252 1,298
Hillary Clinton 2,205 17,432
Condoleeza Rice 51 478

FWIW, I believe this shows two things:

1. Bloggers are at least equally likely to write about (some) politicos as media types.
2. The conventional wisdom that conservatives/Republicans are more prevalent in the blogosphere than liberals/Democrats is true, assuming that bloggers write more often about the opposition.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Yelvington: The enemy of newspapers is apathy

While commenting on what he calls the recent "bonehead blunder" by the Tulsa World, Steve Yelvington made an important point about why newspaper companies should embrace bloggers:

The real enemy of newspapers is apathy. Newspapers need people to care about what they cover. Blogs can help with that. Newspapers should be working with blogs, not trying to silence them.

Unfortunately, newspaper executives would have to be willing to take a risk to pursue this strategy, something most corporate execs are surprisingly unwilling to do. As I've said before, some newspapers are getting the message. My fear is that this could be the exception that proves the rule.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Prominent blogger shines light on New York Times anti-blog bias

In the wake of the New York Times' article about bloggers and the Eason Jordan story, prominent blogger Jeff Jarvis has written a scathing analysis of the article. His conclusion: "The Times has blog issues."

At the end of the essay, Jarvis invites Times editor Bill Keller to meet with bloggers. If he were really interested in setting up such a meeting, Jarvis probably should have steered away from comments like this in his invitation:

The problem, Mr. Keller, is that many of your reporters and editors hold citizens' media in obvious disdain that has become all too public in your pages.

I have to say I'm not as shocked as Jarvis at the Times' attitude toward bloggers. Traditional journalists are proud of their role as gatekeepers and guard the position jealously. To paraphrase John Gilmore, bloggers perceive the gatekeepers as an obstacle and are in the process of routing around it. MSM needs to come to terms with the fact that once such a process has started, there's almost no way to stop it.

Maybe instead of meeting with the bloggers as requested by Jarvis, the editors at the Times need to get together with the RIAA and opponents of open source software (read: Microsoft) to figure out how they can avoid becoming the buggy whip manufacturers of the 21st century.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Bloggers: 'Salivating morons' or ruthless truthseekers?

The New York Times' story on Eason Jordan's resignation succintly summarizes the two prevailing views of the bloggers who propelled his downfall.

On the one hand, some believe the bloggers are mob vigilantes. To represent this camp, the article quotes Steve Lovelady, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal and now managing editor the Columbia Journalism Review's website:

"The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail," he lamented online after Mr. Jordan's resignation. He said that Mr. Jordan cared deeply about the reporters he had sent into battle and was "haunted by the fact that not all of them came back."

On the other hand, others see bloggers as watchdogs, pointing out the excesses and errors of those who dominate the public sphere. The article quotes Mark Coffey from his Decision '08 blog:

His own conclusion is that the mainstream media "is being held to account as never before by the strong force of individual citizens who won't settle for sloppy research and inflammatory comments without foundation, particularly from those with a wide national reach, such as Rather and Eason."

For my part, I tend to side with Coffey. While I have previously voiced fears that the blogosphere could become a senseless echo chamber, I hold out hope that it can jar the arrogant individuals who feel that their professional qualifications grant them infallibility out of their self-satisfied reveries.

Besides, it's unfair to condemn bloggers for their excesses when they're still trying to find the boundaries of their power.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Doc Searls commentary on newspapers and RSS

In his commentary on Josh Hallett's piece on newspapers & RSS, Doc Searls echoes the argument I've been making to my Online Newswriting class:

I think news-org aggregators will succeed if they're run by editorial people, not by advertising people. Readers come to papers for editorial, not advertising. And the editorial folks could add enormous, and unique, value to the news stream that flows in from the blogosphere.

Searls' comment also makes reference to the recursive flow of news between the MSM and the blogosphere. Once again, there is an optimistic and a pessimistic way to look at this:

Optimistic: By constantly filtering and evaluating each other, the MSM and the blogosphere will distill truth from the ocean of information they generate.

Pessimistic: By constantly filtering and evaluating each other, the MSM and the blogosphere will create an echo chamber, which will further establish mob journalism as the dominant force in the news media.

Power of blogs becoming indisputable

Trent Lott. Dan Rather. And now Eason Jordan, CNN's chief news executive, has been taken down by the blogosphere. What's interesting this time is that the story barely made it into the mainstream media before Jordan resigned. Given that he was part of the MSM, maybe Jordan saw the writing on the wall. Nevertheless, it seems that blogs are increasingly bypassing the MSM.

Two of my favorite quotes from the coverage (so far):

"The lesson: Bloggers are forcing truth to prevail." (

"Freedom of the press is the best disinfectant for public corruption. Bloggers are doing their duty." (

Friday, February 11, 2005

I was all excited, until I got to the end

I thought I had an unmitigatedly positive piece of news to report, but things never work out quite that smoothly. It seems that Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has introduced a bill that would provide journalists with "an absolute privilege for protecting the identities of confidential sources, meaning the right cannot be overcome by demonstrating competing interests."

Sounds great, right? that's what I thought until I got to the last line of the report on The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press site:

The shield provision would cover publishers, broadcasters and wire services and those who work for them. The definition would include freelance journalists who are working for a publisher or broadcaster, but not those without contracts or those who publish solely on the Web.

Umm, why the hell not?

Tangentially, this is my first post in several days after a rather hectic week at work. I'm learning how difficult it is to keep up with the blog every day, and the lesson increases my respect for those who manage to do so.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

More evidence that they're getting it

The beginning of Doc Searls' latest Suitwatch post is exciting:

Two friends called me within minutes of each other, each reporting the same thing. Here's roughly the way the conversations went:

"It's happening."


"They're getting it."

"Getting what?"

"Getting the Web. Blogs. Podcasting. Citizen power. DIY. Open source. The demand side supplying itself. All that Cluetrain junk you've been talking about for ten years."

"Who are 'they'?"

"The big media. Newspapers. TV networks. I don't know what happened, but a bit got flipped in a bunch of them. They're seeing the light".

Read the rest of the piece to learn what Searls thinks this means for the mainstream media.

I think it means that's there's cause for cautious optimism.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Some mainstream media companies get it

Howard Owens, Director of New Media at the Ventura County Star, recently sent the following message to The Poynter Institute's online news mailing list:

Our online editor, Alicia Hoffman, will be adding the role of citizen journalism/user-content specialist to her duties.

We see blogs, forums, photo blogs and other forms of citizen journalism as a significant part of the online news world. Our readers want to be part of the process of sharing the news and shaping the news. Technology is giving them the tools to do it, and as Dan Gillmor has pointed out, our readers often know more than we do. They can also be more places than we can.
And, they also know what interests them and what news they want in ways that traditional, top-down journalism might miss. We need to give appropriate attention to this growing facet of our business.

Alicia's primary duties as online editor do not change, but the focus of her job will be different. She will pay close attention to how we're interacting with our readers and the content and business opportunities that emerge, and help to shape our evolving strategy. She will guide us in the world of "journalism as a conversation" as we develop as
the online community center for Ventura County. Our current plan is to grow organically in this area rather than push any one big initiative. We have blogs, forums and photo blogs now. We will work to grow these and help promote citizen journalism in Ventura County.

The Ventura County Star is a 90,000+ circulation daily newspaper that covers six towns just north of LA. It is owned by the E.W. Scripps Co., an old-time newspaper company if such a thing can still be said to exist (the company was founded in 1878.)

It's nice to see a company that's willing to jump on a technology-driven trend rather than fight it tooth and nail.

(Thanks for letting me post this, Howard.)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

No one is going to believe this one

A new study indicates that journalists score significantly higher than the population as a whole on a standardized test designed to measure reactions to ethical dilemmas. Only seminarians and philosophers, medical students, and practicing physicians scored higher.

Why don't I think most non-journalists will believe the results?

Speaking of ethical dilemmas, I'm struggling to find the correct way to refer to the sources of the articles I link to. For example, the article about this study appeared in USA Today. I read about it first on JD Lasica's Media Musings blog. But JD didn't add any commentary in his post, just a link to the USA Today article, and a pointer to I Want Media, where HE first saw the story.

So who do I credit? Ultimately, it was Peter Johnson, the USA Today writer, who made the information about the study available. But I wouldn't have known about it if I didn't read JD's blog. And JD didn't know about it until he visited I Want Media's website. It seems like overkill to link to all three. Furthermore, I could have gone to the researcher's site and linked to their study directly.

I think I will link to the source where I found the information and to the information itself. That way, I credit my source while still giving readers direct access to the information. Any of my readers who choose to click through to my source will see where they got the information. This solution acknowledges the inevitable interrelated chain of links between information on the Net.

If there's a better solution, I'd love to hear about it.

I knew it!

This is off topic, but I couldn't resist. From a New Scientist article about a recent study of the stock market:

"A model that assumes stock market traders have zero intelligence has been found to mimic the behaviour of the London Stock Exchange very closely."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Is it just me, or is this ironic?

A few sites picked up an AP story announcing the venerable organization's new blog, entitled Bad Language. It sounds really interesting:

"From inside our cardboard box at the AP World Headquarters, we'll do stuff like fill you in on Bad News, tell you about the latest Bad Habits, ask stupid questions in Bad Interviews, bitch during Bad Reviews, chase celebrities on Bad Trips, and present anything and everything we deem Just Plain Bad."

I thought it might be worth a looksee. But then I noticed: no URL in the article! No information about a launch date! I searched Google, went to -- nothing.

Listen up, people -- this is NOT the way to develop a good rapport with your readers. Do you think I'm going to remember to keep checking back on (not that I was told where to look for more info) to see if the thing has launched?


How to identify a new media journalist

BusinessWeek online has posted a piece (I hesitate to describe it more specifically) entitled, "Should journalists link their work to their bios?"

IMHO, the key statement is this: "If we all embrace our biases, than the entire universe of news will turn into nothing but opinion. Is that the future we want?"

That is the fundamental question dividing 'traditional' journalists from those who embrace the growing influence of blogging on the media. I'm not saying that all journalists can be easily categorized into one of two groups, but almost any journalist worth his or her salt gets a consternated look on their face when asking how they feel about it (assuming they haven't already made up their minds...)

Via JD Lasica's New Media Musings.

First Amendment survey update

I just came across a post on that adds some context to the horrifying survey of high school students' attitudes about the First Amendment. Jim Stovall points out that surveys of the American population as a whole show similar results. So it seems the country as a whole doesn't understand the importance of the First Amendment. That makes me feel... a whole lot worse.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A sign of the coming apocalypse

I'm cringing as I write this. From a Jan. 31 AP story:

"...when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories."

The worst part is that I'm not sure who to blame for this: parents, the schools, the media, or all of the above. If there is one undeniable indicator of America's decline, this is it. We've done a lot of stupid things as a country during the last 215 years, but we could always consider ourselves enlightened (no I'm not being sarcastic, I really mean this) because we have the Bill of Rights. The US ranks behind European countries on many measures of civilization, but no other country can rival our protection of freedom of speech. If the next generation doesn't understand its importance, we are truly doomed.

I have always said that focusing on education is the one step I am sure we can take to improve our society and the lives of the people in it. Now that I am aware of this flagrant misconception, I pledge to shout the First Amendment from the rooftops and explain its importance to allcomers. So let me start here, in case you don't remember the exact wording:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I'm going to post this on my office door. I'm going to hand it out to all my students. I'm going to find other ways to educate as many people as I can about the importance of the First Amendment. I'd love to hear any ideas you might have. If you're looking for more information, check out the First Amendment Center.

I hope this trend can be reversed, for all of our sakes.