Thursday, December 17, 2009

Snarky Aughties defined by Gawker?

The lowest common denominator is how to dominate the media, no? From Mediaite, (not to be confused with meditate...) learn why this past decade will be known as the Gawker Years.
A remarkable 400,000,000 page views in November left editors gobsmacked...but also keep in mind the following

* The snarky, bomb-throwing editorial voice on which Gawker prides itself could be its biggest liability. If the success of hackneyed puppet comedian Jeff Dunham has taught us anything, it’s that a New York/LA sensibility ≠ the pulse of America. People who read blogs right now aren’t the pulse of America either, but that’s changing. A more upbeat sensibility like OnSugar’s, which the New York Times described as “short, light and sarcasm-free, with big photos and headlines,” could carry the day.

That said, Gawker broadened its focus and brightened its hues a few years ago to anticipate this; the snark factor has significantly dropped since the days of editors Jesse Oxfeld and Jessica Coen. The Nick Denton myth is occasionally overblown, but he does have a knack for foreseeing the big trends.

* Older powers, which still have the most resources at their disposal, can reemerge. In Hearst’s early days, the New York Times was seen as a dusty old has-been, with a circulation of only 25,000; look at what happened. Given its bulk and age, the Times has done a remarkable job of evolving with the web. Most recently, it has built up a commanding presence in social media, thanks, in part, to digital partnership and social media whiz Soraya Darabi, who is soon to depart the paper for And the upward trending of its blogs — the more than seventy of which the Times is thankfully pruning this year — is further proof of the Times‘ willingness to experiment and innovate.

Ironically, Gawker has been moving in the opposite direction by hiring experienced reporters. Actual reporting, done in an opinionated but informed voice, may be the key to the successful blogging — or is it web publishing? — of the next decade.

* Cheeky upstarts can materialize, seemingly from nowhere, and shake everything up in short order with new models previously undreamt. Old habits may die hard, but free habits — like which online publications you read — die easier and are reborn easier. Recall that Gawker was founded only in 2002.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stop the press. Literally.

Some 15,000 journalists have lost their jobs in 2009 so far, according to media industry watcher News Cycle, recycled in the Huffington Post where most of the deluded bloggers work for free exposure, accelerating the demise of newspapers.)

News Cycle blog calculates that, so far this year, "15,093 people have received their pink slips or have [opted] into a buyout package in the newspaper industry."

And December has a couple more weeks to run. The blog notes that more layoffs are expected at the Los Angeles Times this month, and New York Times layoffs loom as too few employees accepted voluntary buyout offers.

News Cycle breaks down the job losses by month:

November -- 293 people.
October -- 375 people.
September -- 347 people.
August -- 425 people.
July -- 2,505 people.
June -- 318 people.
May -- 1,084 people.
April -- 1,350 people.
March -- 3,943 people.
February -- 1,492 people.
January -- 2,256 people.

HuffPo adds that Ground Report's Rachel Sterne is able to find a silver lining in these numbers: since July, she notes, layoffs have slowed.

"Based on the News Cycle figures," Sterne writes, "the end of the first and second quarters in 2009 saw the most bloodshed. From August onward, numbers dropped significantly, and the rate of layoffs stayed flat."

And then there's next year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Boudreaux to Go

Another outstanding journalist is leaving the Los Angeles Times, which continues to whittle coverage down so much that it is becoming unrecognizable. Richard Boudreaux, the energetic foreign correspondent who reported from more than 50 countries, winds down his two-decade career at the LA Times this month. His take on the news will be sorely missed in LA. The Louisiana-born newshound was admired by colleagues the worl round.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Big Fat Lie reported around the Globe

That horrendous tale about a Peruvian gang which murdered people for their fat was widely reported last month. A grisly photograph of "evidence" - four jars of human dripping from corpses plus a detached head - was circulated in most mainstream media outlets. Scientists were dubious about the existence of a black market for human lard, but still these arrest reports made the rounds, thanks to the Associated Press.

A closer look shows that story proved to be blatantly untrue, or as the Beeb put it, a "big fat lie." The top cop who circulated the story was sacked after hundreds of journalists were duped by his mix of horror and legend. Here's how.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Remains found in hunt for missing journalist

A forensics team searching for the body of a British journalist kidnapped by Palestinian militants more than 20 years ago recovered human remains in Lebanon, the Foreign Office said today.

British experts excavating a site in the Bekaa Valley reportedly dug up two bodies, one of which is undergoing DNA testing to determine if it is Alec Collett, who was abducted in 1985 during the civil war in Lebanon.

The other body is said to be that of an unidentified man who was first discovered during an earlier attempt to find Mr Collett.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm that unidentified human remains have been recovered. The operation is continuing."

Mr Collett, then 64, was on assignment in Palestinian refugee camps for the UN Relief and Works Agency when he was snatched at gunpoint in Beirut.

The following year the Abu Nidal Organisation (ANO), a militant arm of the Palestinian Fatah Movement, claimed to have killed him in retaliation for US air raids on Libya.

A video was released showing the hanging of a hooded figure said to be Mr Collett but the victim was never officially identified.

A spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said: "There is new forensic information. New remains have been found and are being identified. We are in touch with the family and they will be the first to know if there are any new developments. "UNRWA and the entire UN family remember Alec Collett, paying homage to him every year at UN Headquarters in New York on the day of solidarity for detained and missing humanitarian workers."

Hat tip to Rosamond Hutt, Press Association

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Margaret Moth - true tale of a shooter, gunmen, and the ultimate killer

The cable news channel CNN celebrates Margaret Moth, a fearless camerawoman from New Zealand who, fifteen years ago, was hit by a sniper in Sarajevo and nearly lost her life. She was wounded beyond recognition but her work was unmistakable. Moth embodies the Frank Capra mantra that you cannot get too close to the action. A hard-living lady whose story shows her indominatable spirit. "I would have liked to go out with a little more flair," she says. Click here for two video segments.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Huffington Post headlines get the popularity test

Something devilishly brilliant: Huffington Post readers are randomly shown one of two headlines for the same story. After five minutes, which is enough time for such a high-traffic site, the version with the most clicks becomes the one that everyone sees.

Nieman labs analyses this latest twist in real time A/B testing.
Headlines have always played the most promotional role in news, charged with selling readers on the articles they adorn, so it only makes sense to apply the best tools of market research to their crafting. Think of it as a more rigorous version of magazines adjusting their covers based on newsstand sales.

Paul Berry, chief technology officer at The Huffington Post, spoke briefly about their real-time headline testing on a panel at the Online News Association conference in San Francisco earlier this month. When I talked to him afterwards, Berry said the system was created inhouse, but he wouldn’t disclose much else about how or how often it’s done. He did say Huffington Post editors have found that placing the author’s name above a headline almost always leads to more clicks than omitting it.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Blue-haired Marge Simpson takes it off for Playboy spread

SOft-porn is taking to cartoons, as Playboy mag reaches out to a 'toon demographic. The BBC got word that the shots are "very, very racy"...but this may not be surpsising after Bart Simpson's full frontal in the movie.
Cowabunga. These are different times

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Waiting to Inhale

Wanna-be cannabis critics have been keen to share samples of their writing with Coloradan editor Patricia Calhoun, who is sifting through them to find the perfect journalist to assess medical marijuana dispensaries for her rag, Westword, in "the Mile-high City." She recounts how

...the staffer who'd been posting "Mile High and Low" reviews every week for the past month under the name Mae Coleman (an homage to Reefer Madness) was ready to get back to his day job. Still, since the number of people seeking medical marijuana cards is growing even faster than the number of dispensaries in this state, we knew that not only was there a need for critical information, but that we'd have no shortage of qualified applicants. Not in the Mile High City. So we published a post asking would-be dispensary critics to write a brief essay on "What Marijuana Means to Me."

Our first applicant replied within five minutes — fast work for a stoner. Our first media response came a few minutes later — really fast work for a journalist.

A week later, our quest has been captured by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to the New York Times, and the essays continue to pour in — some silly, some actually spelled correctly (many potheads don't seem to care for punctuation), some very sincere. A sampling:

From an engineer who started with the great line "Hey, Joe, whatcha doin with that doob in your hand...What Mary Jane means to me: As a 'burner' of more than 14 years, I have spent many an hour pondering the importance of herb in my life... among other things. Recently, however, I have realized a new herbal importance to my overall quality of life. I am an outdoor sporting enthusiast and have experienced my share of injuries throughout the years, as many of us do. As I have aged (elegantly, damnit!), I have developed a couple of recurring conditions that have allowed me to legally indulge myself as an alternative to prescribed narcotics and the dangerous longterm effects. Long story short... (TOO LATE!) I have been frequenting many of our local dispensaries with mixed experiences. Most places are kind and professional. Others, though, are simply drug dealers that check your ID. I think that you have a great idea — a service, rather, that will help your readers make educated decisions and enjoy their 'medication' experience to the fullest..."
read more

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

High response to newspaper ad for Medical Marijuana critic

With journalist jobs increasingly cut, the response was predictably high for a new position as a critic of medical marijuana at a local Colorado paper which covers the cannabis depositories around the mile high cities of the Rockies. And after the NY Times came lately to cover this media story, interest just kept rolling. The editor, Patricia Calhoun, responds to the extra attention, and points out that it's no joke.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Convention on unconventional news in Silicon Valley

New media and old school hacks mingled at a conference sponsored by UC Berkeley over the hill in Silicon Valley. They sized each other up and attempted to sort out what lies ahead, acc to the Los Angeles Times columnist James Rainey, who was on the scene.
John Temple, the former editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News, which closed in February after 150 years in business. "I feel like a cadaver being asked by the funeral director, 'How did you like the flowers?' " Temple said, before offering his autopsy on the paper.

Temple said the much-celebrated Rocky and other papers have been so worried about their printed product (which brings in the vast majority of the ad revenue) they've given short shrift to expanding Web opportunities.

The favorite buzzwords at this convention: aggregated mega-data, the whuffie factor, and the social stream. Some old pros walked away puzzled, convinced that reporters were needed ould have to cut through the blizzard of factoids and news babble out in cyberspace

Monday, September 28, 2009

Oops. AP publishes sketchy notes about pedophile celeb instead of article

Life is not going swimmingly for the director and persona-non-grata Roman Polanski.
To be first with the news requires a little oversight, and the Associated Press embarrassed itself when the initial notes between two wire reporters covering Roman Polanski's latest arrest in Switzerland were published instead of a more polished article. The mistake was rectified, but not before these speculative notes ran online and on the googlenews portal, due to aggregate 'bot feeds. It could have been worse, though. No egregious f-bombs were sent into cyberspace.
Click the BBC tech website for a matter-of-fact report. Would Reuters or AFP have gloated more ?

Friday, September 25, 2009

Newspaper runs apology for Palin headline

"A broad in Asia". Would you read bother to read that piece? A Fairbanks Alaska newspaper, which ran that headline over a short report about the ex-governor Sarah Palin's speaking jaunt to Honk Kong, had second thoughts about the misogynistic overtones of the word "broad". It was punning , not cunning. And not even current slang. See their apology here. Hat tip to Politics Daily for the link.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Controversial Covers

Back when people actually cared about the covers of magazines, a certain buzz arose when editors offended public decency and needed to be put a notorious cover under brown paper wraps because of complaints at the news stand or checkout counter.
Click here for a glimpse of the ten which raised the most eyebrows and lifted the profiles of the daring magazine issue.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Numbers Game - do the math, hacks!

The big brouhaha over the number of anti-Obama rally-goers in Washington on 9/12, with media estimates varying from "tens of thousands" up to "a couple million", is worth examining. Particularly because these days tweets can repeat and recycle erroneous estimates and the real number of aggrieved folks who attended these tea-parties gets lost in cyber-cobwebs of misinformation. The result is hysterical, not historical, statistics. Experienced reporters know that organizers tend to overestimate the turnout, while officials often underestimate crowds, at least at unticketed events.

Consider this Journalism 101 hint from the Slate website:
How do you measure a crowd?
Basic arithmetic. Estimates depend on three variables: the area of the available space, the proportion of the space that's occupied, and the crowd's density. While the first measurement is objective, and the second fairly easily determined with aerial photography, the third is a little trickier. It's customary to assume that in a very crowded place (like a commuter train during peak hours) people occupy 2.5 square feet, whereas in a looser gathering each person takes up more like 5 square feet.

For better accuracy, you also ought to consider how long the event lasted, because not every protestor stays for the duration. And a separate estimate for the security presence is helpful.
For example, at a Gay Pride march in Jerusalem in 2006, police outnumbered marchers almost two to one.

Moonbats and wingnuts exchanged vitriol and snark over the disparate numbers last weekend. Most amusing was blogger Nate Silver's assessment (picked up by the Columbia Journalism Review:
There is a big difference, obviously, between 70,000 and 2,000,000. That’s not a twofold or threefold exaggeration — it’s roughly a thirtyfold exaggeration.”
The way this false estimate came into being is relatively simple: Matt Kibbe, the president of FreedomWorks, lied, claiming that ABC News had reported numbers of between 1.0 and 1.5 million when they never did anything of the sort. A few tweets later, the numbers had been exaggerated still further to 2 million. Kibbe wasn’t “in error”, as Malkin gently puts it [in her update to her 9/12 tea party post]. He lied. He did the equivalent of telling people that his penis is 53 inches long.

Well that last statement is also hyberbole, one assumes. To reach that figure, the male apparatus under discussion would measure 1.7 inches!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Murder of 2 Wire Reporters recounted

How the military targeted two Reuters reporters and killed them in Baghdad is outlined in a new book, according to today's Washington Post. The book presents
a graphic, second-by-second description of the U.S. military's 2007 killing of two Reuters journalists in Baghdad, an incident that the news organization says it cannot investigate fully because ...the Pentagon has withheld key records of the event.
Chilling stuff. The photo shows Reuters reporters following a strafing of them in Gaza by the Israeli Air Force three years ago. No deaths resulted, but there was little publicity over the outrage, which injured two journalists

Monday, September 14, 2009

Robohack's dilemma due to multi-tasking?

Colleagues are wondering about Stephen Farrell,pictured left in Jerusalem,sans beard and Pashto cap. The abducted NY Times reporter wwas recently freed by a controversial paratroopers' raid that left at least 4 dead, including his late right-hand man, Sultan Munadi.

Is the reason they "stayed too long" at the riverside because Farrell isn't really adept yet at working with a camera? That's a rookie's mistake and Farrell isn't a rookie--at least at being a war correspondent. But he is rather new to the all-in-one videographer-cum-investigative reporter schtick which the NY Times is promoting. Farrell underwent initial tech training in the summer, to prepare him for filing video and audio files to the At War Blog (notes from the front lines). Robohack has earned a reputation as a relentless Gearhead who can move quickly.

Although a veteran reporter, he's not like a TV news cameraman who's been doing it for is likely that Steve is trying to get too much, and work like a print journalist to get more facts, despite all the extra attention that camera equipment

The art of being a good broadcast journalist is knowing how little you
actually need, ie when you have enough to wrap and get out of there... doing tv and radio together, even tho they are similar, slows you down considerably. Patrick Cockburn's wonderful war reporter's diary talks about his modus operandi in Baghdad, staying in places no more than 10 minutes, which won't work if you must get the pics and tape the interviews too.

Jon Swain, a notable Times of London correspondent, examines the incident too., as does ex-Observer editor Donald Trelford, who still is haunted by risktaking after one of his foreign correspondents got beheaded in Iraq. It's distressing to see that the Times has cropped the late fixer/interpreter, Sultan Munadi, completely out of the photo!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pictures of war can carry more moral meaning than thousands of words

Pictures of war can carry more moral meaning than thousands of words | Ben Macintyre - Times Online

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Publishing the controversial photo of the dying Lance Corporal Joshua Bernard, aged 21, over the objections of his family drew widespread condemnaiton of the Associated Press as well as a tongue lashing from Alaska's ex-governor, Sarah Palin, on her Facebook page. OMG. The thoughtful article referenced above puts this photograph into perspective.

Did friendly fire kill brave translator?

Pix credit- NY Times
Steve Farrell, Irish/British dual citizen and NY Times reporter, wears a local hat on the left. Photo snapped with his translator at his side the day before their abduction.

Negotiations were reportedly underway between the International Red Cross and the kidnappers, yet a rescue raid by Special Forces on the fourth day of captivity led to a shoot out and the death of NY Times reporter Stephen Farrell's local fixer/interpreter, a paratrooper and a civilian. This is a troubling incident, fueling Afghan anger at Nato troops, particularly because two warnings were ignored by the gung-ho journalist, who had briefly been kidnapped outside Baghdad. The slain body of the interpreter was left at the scene by the rescuers, who mistook him for an insurgent. Questions are being raised about the British raid and the muzzling of the mainstream media.

Sultan Munadi, the Afghan translator and fixer who agreed to work with Stephen Farrell, was in his early 30s. According to the Associated Press, he
was employed by The New York Times starting in 2002... He left the company a few years later to work for a local radio station.
He left Afghanistan last year to study for a master's degree in Germany. He came back to Kabul last month for a holiday over Ramadan and to see his family, and agreed to accompany Farrell to Kunduz on a freelance basis. He was married and had two young sons.

Rest In Peace, Sultan.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Progressive Cyber-site Truthout joins online journalists' union

Instead of sending out its typical emails begging for further donations to support the site, which gathers and disseminates overlooked articles, this left-of- center American aggregator made some news itself last month. Organizing a journalist union in cyberspace, what Truthout labels an "historic act", is no small achievement. Kudos Here's the full story:. Will it make a difference?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Israeli soldiers fire on Al Jazeera correspondent - 04 Sep 09

Jacky Rowland dodges tear gas cannisters fired directly at her by teenage Israeli troops at the 'security barrier' in the West Bank town of Bilin. Grace under pressure.

Friday, September 4, 2009

That's one giant misstep for Bangladesh news!

Ooops. It's not rocket science, but short-staffed newspapers sometimes run stories verbatim without checking original sources these days, as they feed the gaping maw of the 24 hour international news cycle. The problem is that sometimes humor doesn't translate. Bangladeshi newspapers ran a Moon landing denial piece printed by the satirical site, The Onion, not realizing that the tone indicated tongue in cheek.
According to the BBC:
The article said Mr Armstrong had told a news conference he had been "forced to reconsider every single detail of the monumental journey after watching a few persuasive YouTube videos and reading several blog posts" by a conspiracy theorist.

The truth is that Neil Armstrong never gave such an interview. It was made up
Daily Manab Zamin

"It took only a few hastily written paragraphs published by this passionate denier of mankind's so-called 'greatest technological achievement' for me to realise I had been living a lie," the fake article "quoted" Mr Armstrong as saying.

The made-up quote went on to say that although the journey had felt real, in fact "the entire thing was filmed on a sound stage, most likely in New Mexico".

Six Months on, Most Laid-off staffers Rocky Mountain News earn less

TEMPLE TALK: Reflections from Rocky Mountain News reporters, photographers, artists, videographers and cartoonists six months after the paper's final edition

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hack hostages released by North Korea tell why they risked imprisonment

In today's Los Angeles Times, read true tales from the Hermit Kingdom on the perils of chasing human traffickers, and why readers need to pay more attention to the story journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee were chasing than the story in which they unwittingly took part. To protect their sources before Bubba Clinton came to their rescue, these reporters swallowed their notes and ruined their tapes.
One conservative talk jock got their names mixed up with a pair of breeding pandas in the zoo. The indignities of hackdom!

Undercover reporters 'fess up on NPR. Weighing Deceit vs a 'bigger truth'

Click above to listen to NPR's recent broadcast of clandestine justifications and special pleadings.
Who do you trust? Apologies to Nelly Bly, but in this day and age, this technique resembles a set-up or a stunt rather than real reporting. Think Borat and Bruno. Shudder: not on the level and rather laughable. For many Boomer-era editors, this sort of reportage smacks of Candid Camera, not serious journalism. Fun to do, though. A typica foreign correspondent wheeze is to purchase a girl for sale from, say, a brothel in Nepal or Cambodia, then get her story and set her free. The catch 22 is that you still are paying her pimp/ madam, and it feeds into human trafficking. Hmmmm

Classic Photography in Lego - The Daily Beast

British photographer Mike Stimpson playfully reimagines iconic images from Alfred Eisenstadt, W. Eugene Smith, Robert Capa, Eddie Adams, and other 20th-century masters.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hey, Lego of my penis! Tale of tall tail reporting gaffe on the wires

LONDON - It was a typical silly season yarn. Reuters last week published a story on the repeated theft of the 30cm long Lego penis from the model giraffe found at the entrance to the Legoland Discovery Centre in Berlin.

The penis, which was made of 15,000 Lego bricks, had apparently been stolen four times and replaced at a cost of £2,600 on each occassion.
So problematic had the thefts become, the Centre was reported to be constructing a barrier to protect the animal’s plastic phallus from souvenir seekers.
Great story. If only it were true.

Reuters yesterday corrected the story (hattip: Correct the Error) saying each theft had related to something far less titilating. Rather than the giraffe’s pride and joy, punters had been making off with the giraffe’s tail.
Maybe something had been lost in translation.

The full correction:

09:23 25Aug09 RTRS-CORRECTED-German Lego giraffe tail repeatedly stolen
(Correcting to ‘tail’ from ‘penis’)

BERLIN, Aug 25 (Reuters) – Visitors to a tourist attraction in Berlin have been making off with an unusual memento — the 30 cm long tail of a Lego giraffe.
The Lego tail belongs to a six metre tall model that has stood outside the entrance to the Legoland Discovery Centre on Potsdamer Platz since 2007.
“It’s a popular souvenir,” a spokeswoman for the centre said on Tuesday. “It’s been stolen four times now …”
The tail is made out of 15,000 Lego bricks. It takes model workers about one week to restore it at a cost of 3,000 euros ($4,300), the spokeswoman said.

Hat tip to Patrick Moser for this revelation. I'm surprised the reuters report did not confuse the tail with the brain.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Journalists' recent work examined before embeds | Stars and Stripes

Vetting the clips of foreign correspondents before okaying an embed assignment has become standard practice. Unsurprisingly, positive spin for the military is the mission.

According to a piece in Stars and Stripes, not a hypercritical medium, American public affairs officials in Afghanistan admit that reporters are scrutinized before getting a goahead.”Journalists' recent work examined before embeds | Stars and Stripes

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fishy tale about Israeli mermaid swamps cybersurfers on the net!

Have you seen something curious in the water? Huffington Post apparently took the bait and linked to a cute ABC news online filler piece about how Israeli officials are offering a million bucks...or four million shekels...for a verifiable snap of an Israeli mermaid. This certainly is not the typical siren that concerns Israelis in places like Sderot --- and this sea creature supposedly was spotted off the coast of Haifa. This certainly is not the typical siren that concerns Israelis in places like Sderot --- and this sea creature supposedly was spotted off the coast of Haifa. Multiple sightings, according to Murdoch's SKY News.
"Many people are telling us they are sure they've seen a mermaid and they are all independent of each other. People say it is half girl, half fish, jumping like a dolphin"
Hmmm. Good score for the tourist board. Some snide commentators suggest that photoshoppers will be working overtime and that a Jewish siren would be known as Ethel Merman! Even though mummified mermaid remains have proven to be a hoax, it's remotely possible that a Mediterranean version of a Stellar Sea Cow or dugong,
has surfaced. But the whole thing is, er, fishy -- so it must be August Silly Season!

(crossposted from Israelity Bites. Hat-tip, or tail flip, to Izzy Bee)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Idiot wind- Jersey cops arrest Bob Dylan as vagrant

Look familar, officer?

This Associated Press lede and its inescapable kicker are priceless.

Rock legend Bob Dylan was treated like a complete unknown by police in a New Jersey shore community when a resident called to report someone wandering around the neighborhood.....
How does it feel?

Plus consider the timing, 4 decades after woodstock! No surprise that the young cops didn't recognise his famous name, face or voice. But aren't Dylan lyrics taught as poetry in high school classes these days?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Murdoch to charge for online news

The writing is on the (pay) wall. Rupert Murdoch, innovator, news hound and mega-businessman, is contemplating charging for online news. There's no such thing as a free launch.Ken Doctor of Content Bridges notes that a "pay wall stretching from the Manhattan's New York Post to London's Times to Sydney's Australian to Suva's Fiji Times and back to Bill O'Reilly Central" is unlikely--like a unilateral disarmamnet. One to watch. That means you, Arianna and Tina.
And Flash: The Financial Times is about to charge per article, using iTunes as a business model. That extraordinary salmon-coloured paper!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Whiny WashPost Reporter Makes His Point: Respect the Genuine Article

Aggregator websites that cherry-pick the best quotes from newspaper articles and then sell ads on the back of this minimal effort have enraged a reporter, Ian Shapira. But this only happened after his initial rush of ego fuelled by an extra 9000 clicks online through a Gawker link. His post about having his story on business angst counselling ripped off by the Gawker snarkmeisters garnered 254 comments on the WashPo website. Is it linking or larceny? asks Time mag. Rachel Sklar, a media analyst, acknowledges that it was a ripoff."Generational Consultant Holds America's Fakest Job" is an attention-grabbing headline, so hats off to Gawker.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Breaking News, Breaking Down

Sometimes the news reporters can become the focus, without a whiff of self indulgence. A new doco explores what happens when the reporters get caught up in events. Click here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Horror Story- the Future of Journalism

To read some sensible assessments about the End of Fortress Journalism, the Death of the Story, and other dismal trends in the field of reporting, it's worth downloading this sober report from the BBC.
Just click here .

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Extra, extra - old media keeps reporter on for 49 consecutive years

Hard-boiled reporters still exist. There's another legendary newspaper hack named Pyle, not Ernie but Richard, who was a mainstay of the Associated Press and is due to retire at age 75 before the ultimate deadline. Half a century of service, minus a year and four days! It's worth reading Dana Kennedy's Q/A with this veteran reporter, over on the blog-heavy Huffington Post. Irascible, gruff newsmen like him are getting scarce. The guy doesn't tweet, apparently

Friday, July 17, 2009

Good night and good luck! "And that's the way it is."

Legendary news broadcaster and anchorman Walter Cronkite passed away at age 92. The iconic journalist, who touched the lives of millions through his nightly national news roundups on the network before retirement in 1981 is mourned.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tongue Thai'd Foreign Hacks may be jailed for releasing 'anti-King' dvd in Bangkok

Internal politics in Thailand can be rather baffling, with its shirts of different hues and passionate protestors with the polysyllabic names. The latest twist, after a big Red Shirt rally in support of the ousted populist leader Thaksin Shinawatra, lashes out at foreign correspondents. A broad reading of the lese majeste law, which bans criticism of the monarchy, may put thirteen board members of the press club (FCCT) in jail after they released a dvd with a rousing speech given on the club's premises two years ago. A disgruntled translator on the tape reportedly took it to the police station at Lumpini, initiating the complaint. Amnesty International has come out against the Thai judiciary's decision to hold a similar trial behind closed doors after charges were pressed again Daranee Charn-cherngsilpakul for a speech in the park. See Nirmal Gosh's recent piece. Now it's time for Reporters Without Borders to back up the volunteer club officers.

Under threat are Jonathan Head, of the BBC, plus a dozen other foreign correspondents from high profile news outlets like the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. They ciould spend fifteen years in jail. Head got in trouble last year for moderating a panel on "Coup, Capital and Crown", but the case was dropped. This looks almost like double jeopardy, reviving the accusations in different guise.
Hat tip to Richard Ehrlich for this post.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Whacko Obit watch - I'll be there!

USA Today's front page looked like a poster for the now-cancelled Jacko comeback concerts in London. Comedian Rob Corddry, the former Daily Show correspondent, joked: "I wish it had been Michael Jackson that broke the story of TMZ dying." So did alot of hacks. The AOL-owned TMZ claims a Demerol overdose caused the singer's heart to fail, quoting his family.
Despite the twitterati fest, it took the LA Times to do the "heavy lifting" and get a confirmation of details of the death, followed by the Associated Press, before many people believed it. "The last piece of Michael Jackson has expired!" the Onion headlined; Meanwhile, meanspirited blogger Perez Hilton, known for the premature announcement of Fidel Castro's demise, initially labelled the 911 call a "dubious stunt" and had to pull his snarky blogpost (of which a screen-capture is posted here. Magazines are "crashing" commemorative issues of the weird and tragic life of the otherwordly pop star, with images and tributes from celeb friends.

Jackson was 50, and had been in the public eye for four decades, ever since the Jackson 5 released their first hit I Want You Back. USA Today said
Jackson died after going into cardiac arrest at his rented home in Los Angeles, where he was preparing for 50 sold-out concerts at London's O2 Arena. When paramedics arrived at his home, Jackson's personal physician was performing CPR. They treated him for almost 45 minutes at his house but was in a coma when he arrived at the UCLA Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m. The Los Angeles Police Department said it would launch an investigation into the death, but cautioned that this is simply standard procedure for someone who was so famous and they have no reason to believe any foul play was involved.

Slate noted:

so many people turned to the Internet to confirm rumors of his death that Google's computers interpreted all the simultaneous searches for "Michael Jackson" as an automated attack. In a story inside, the LAT notes that the first to report the star's death was the gossip site TMZ, which announced it at 2:44 p.m. But it became clear that many outlets around the world weren't comfortable taking the site's word for such an important piece of news and, instead, credited the LAT, which bannered the death at 2:51 p.m. Interestingly enough, even though TMZ and CNN are both owned by Time Warner, the news channel didn't confirm the death until almost two hours later.

Jackson's death overshadows the passing of 70s icon, Farrah Fawcett. The LAT is alone in fronting the news that the Charlie's Angels star died yesterday of anal cancer, which she had been fighting since 2006. She was 62.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Most painful topical pun of 2009, so far

"How do you solve a problem like Korea?" -- Rupert Murdoch's Sky TV parses the Sound of Music when contemplating the nuclear testing in Asia. Their answer? "Possibly you don't."

Monday, May 25, 2009

A freelance print journo's foray into telly

Freelancer reporter Graham Johnson's travails with Zig Zag productions in London, trying to provide shock tv for hardmen without deep pockets, seems to be a lesson in schlock tv reporting for (hardly) men. Here's an excerpt from "Strong-arm tactics", Johnson's Guardian piece about the visual media's darkside:
The first thing you learn about TV folk is that they've got no stories. I'm generalising here. When I say TV folk, I mean some TV documentary makers, as opposed to the (slightly) more honourable breed of TV news reporters and execs.

The second thing you learn is that they haven't got any money to pay for stories. This brings me on to the third thing you learn about TV people - if they can't afford to buy stories, then they will try to take them from you... Many down-trodden print journalists look at TV as being the promised land, which will one day make them famous, give them the credit they deserve and free them from the pressure of tough news execs.

Memo to careworn, overworked print journalists: the magic of TV. It's all a blag. It's an illusion. Stay where you are.

Click here to read the complete article.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Roxana back in the US of A - land of the free press

Oops, this journalist in the spotlight did blunder by obtaining a classified document, an Iranian assessment of US combat in Iraq, and keeping it. Did not publish it, either. After she tripped over to Israel, the Iranian authorities thought this dual citizen may have divulged its contents to "enemies". Hence a kafkaesque trial was held behind closed doors and a judge imposed an 8 year sentence. The reporter attempted a hunger strike protest inside. But Ms. Saberi says to get her through the night in the Tehran prison cell, in her darkest hour, she'd belt out the American national anthem, the "Star Spangled Banner."
"Corny, I know,: says the former Fargo-born Miss North Dakota. "It's good to be back in the 'land of the free and the home of the brave,' " she beamed. Roxana's unusual Japanese/Iranian features are extremely attractive and I envision a hot career for this freelance newscaster.

See the BBC file here

Addendum: She's already won a prize at the Cannes Film Fest!
According to the Associated Press:
A film co-scripted by U.S.-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi won a prize in one of the Cannes Film Festival competitions on Saturday.

"No One Knows About Persian Cats" won a special jury prize in the festival's Un Certain Regard competition.

The film is a lively look at Tehran's underground music scene and the risk of censorship and jail faced by Iranian musicians.

Saberi shares a screenplay credit on the film, which was directed and-co-written by her romantic partner, Bahman Ghobadi.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hacks get low pay for low value product, says CSM

The Christian Science Monitor (available only online and not in reading rooms, folks)
runs a piece , rather against the grain, on why journalists don't deserve high pay. I think the self-recrimination pieces are turning readers off, too

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pope-arazzi scrum in the Holy Land

A Papal Scrum and a clear case of a government flack manhandling a tough Jewess shooter at the sacred Dome of the Rock are featured in Julian Rake's post on the Reuters' Axis Mundi blog. Herding cats is a cinch compared to security gorillas' heavy-handed attempts to control the pope-arazzi and the local press on this historic visit, which required 80,000 security troops plus a popemobile and was codenamed "Operation White Cloak"!
Dion Nissenbaum at Checkpoint Jerusalem dubbed it Media Smackdown, round one, and perhaps there may have been a foreboding sense of a potential Vatican Celebrity Death Match in this volatile place. Ask Hedi Levine, of Sipa photo agency, aka the shovee.

It takes all kinds: A journalist named Jeff Israely on the Vatican pool and a cameraman named Tony Gentile were following the octogenarian German Pope B-16 - he da bomb! - whose Italian handler protested had never, never, never been in der Hitler Youth; oops, the Pope had detailed this youthful interlude in his official autobiography and in speeches at Auschwitz and Cologne. Whatever. Some of the pool journalists were gestured just to "talk to the hand" during these scuffles. Watch the professional comportment in this very controlled and accredited venue. The helipad from Hell!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Video from the Grave accuses Guatemalan President

This brave correspondent puts the dead in deadline. Talk about from Guatemala to "Guate-peor! [from GuateBad to GuateWorse]. A noted journalist recorded this accusatory video, which has been released by his lawyers after his brutal assassination. The resulting
political storm threatens to bring down the president.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Roxana free at last

The jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxena Saberi has left her cell in Tehran and is with her parents.Her suspended sentence allows her to leave Iran, and she will return to the US within the next four days, they said.
click here to see the latest wire reports on her freedom. Her lawyer implied that spying charges were based on the fact that she had downloaded a secret document onto her computer after translating it for an employer in Iran.
Meanwhile, another much longer- term political prisoner, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, is languishing in Burma. Doctors were summoned to see her in the lakeside residence where she has been imprisoned.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

London QualityStreet Freelancers check out commissions on US newspapers

qualitystreet, a cooperative of london freelancers with an online self-help group, recently turned their attention to freelancing in the States, and mentioned the McClatchy stalwart, The Sacramento Bee. This text is excerpted from one of their threads, and the paper's little mascot (right) was penned by Walt Disney himself.

Hey, the Bee is a rather venerable newspaper, publishing non-stop
since 1857 and winner of five Pulitzer prizes. There's a Fresno Bee
and Modesto Bee, too, and all are owned now by the McClatchy
company. Disney designed their logo back in 1943. If you imagine
that a newspaper office is a hive of activity, meant to create buzz
and stinging commentary, it's not such a weird name. (I came from
California to the UK, hence the nostalgia for the Bee)

Consider these names: The Unterrified Democrat (Linn, Missouri), The
Daily Boomerang (Laramie, Wyoming), the Birmingham Eccentric, the
Bloomington-Normal (Illinois) Pantagraph , The New Orleans Times-

Freelancing for smaller US papers can be problematical...section
editors of community papers sometimes commission outsiders, but most
recycle wire copy or increasingly get outsourced to India (where
content providers reportedly earn just $7.50 or three quid per 1000
words!) Not all are accustomed to wiring payments, and can be
daunted by exchange rates and time differences. Beware the pre-dawn calls from Yankee intern factcheckers!)
Syndication of previously published features or analysis is probably
more feasible, especially with a bridging site like "Featurewell".

As for these contract clauses... Marie Claire used to make
surrendering all your syndication rights part of endorsing the
payment cheque. They refused to wire money into an account for that
reason. One problem with this is if a writer wants to gather up
farflung articles and publish a collection, all the rights must be
sorted out first. Very aggravating!

Roughedge Krap Policy
To: About the papers formerly known as broadsheets

1) Well there is the Sacramento Bee which is a weird name for a local

My favourite - though UK not US - is still the Keswick Reminder.

Shock Jock Too Savage for UK airwaves

He's suing Blighty!
What a weiner.
Reuters notes:

The UK has been able to ban people who promote hatred, terrorist violence or serious criminal activity since 2005, but the list was only made public for the first time this week.

Hamas MP Yunis Al-Astal and Jewish extremist Mike Guzovsky are among the 16 named people by the Home Office as being excluded.

Also excluded are two leaders of a violent Russian skinhead gang, the ex-Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Stephen 'Don' Black and neo-Nazi Erich Gliebe.

The remaining six have not been named, as doing so would not be in the public interest, the government said.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Swine Flu Soundslide show gets thumbs up

Click here to see how swine flu creates echoes in empty Mexican churches shown in this Guardian sound slideshow. Prayer is not as available to Mexicans in this current health crisis and the church's tactics are discussed. Is this the future of feature news coverage? It's podcast + pix, and is easy to download.
Something about the reporter's Irish lilt and the surreal wire photos coalesce to make this a sensitive report about a possible pandemic. Especially on Cinco de Mayo. The Mexican tourists trapped in China have just got an airlift back home. Ole.

and, according to Harper's magazine (another future avatar of the aggregate news roundup):

Egypt, which has no cases of the flu, ordered all
its pigs killed, especially slum pigs; police at Manshiyat
Nasr slum fired tear gas and rubber bullets at rioting
Coptic Christian pig farmers.
Geneticists continued to
sequence the flu's genes. "Atgaaggcaa tactagtagt
," read the opening line of the segment-four
hemagglutinin gene. "Acatttgcaa ccgcaaatgc agacacatta."

And the latest fad in the midst of "Parmageddon" and Aporkalypso?
"Pimp your mask, man."

Extra, extra- White House won't bail out newspapers

It's official: No bailout for our industry, and few journalists were expecting one for the Fourth Estate.
Click here for the details:

The White House on Monday expressed "concern" and "sadness" over the state of the ailing US newspaper industry, but made clear that a government bailout was not in the cards.

"I don't know what, in all honesty, government can do about it," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs told reporters. "That might be a bit of a tricky area to get into given the differing roles.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Film director writes public love letter about fiancee, jailed journo Roxana Saberi

Iran's prize-winning filmmaker, Bahman Ghobadi, who has won international recognition after awards in Berlin and Cannes, today has released a heart-wrenching letter which gives the important backstory on the imprisoned Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi (pictured above with former leader of Iran.)

Iran sentenced journalist Roxana Saberi to eight years in prison on charges of espionage after a brief closed door trial. She had been living in Iran and working as a reporter and researcher, although the government claimed her press credentials are now invalid. Her harsh sentence has generated a global outcry. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have called for her release. Amnesty International is demanding that the flaws of the original trial be addressed and for Roxana to be released immediately on bail. Speculation about the nefarious motives for her arrest are rife.

The Iranian government knows that all eyes are on them and there is mounting pressure for a fair trial. Both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Head of the Judiciary Shahroudi have urged Tehran's chief prosecutor to investigate the case. Shahroudi said, "a fair examination of the case, especially at the appeal stage, is the defendant's right." This case comes at a critical time; President Obama has offered to start a dialogue with Iran and break a 30-year diplomatic deadlock.

The Iranian government has not released any evidence against Roxana and reports indicate she was pressured into making statements that were used against her in the legal proceedings. It seems she has become a pawn in the political maneuvering that is unfolding in Iran's relations with the United States.

Her harsh prison sentence is yet another example of the increasingly severe crackdown on those exercising their rights to peaceful freedom of expression and association in Iran. The government of Iran has recently imprisoned and persecuted numerous bloggers, journalists, labor activists, students and members of religious minorities.

Here is the full text of the love letter, as cited in the London Independent.

What the letter said (AFP translation)

"If I kept quiet until now, it was for her sake. If today I speak, it is for her sake. She is my friend, my fiancée, and my companion, an intelligent and talented young woman I have always admired.

It was the 31st of January. The day of my birthday. That morning, she called to say she would pick me up so we would go out together. She never came. I called her mobile but it was off and for two to three days, I had no idea what had happened to her. I went to her apartment and since we had each other's keys, I went in, but she wasn't there. Two days later, she called and said: "Forgive me my dear, I had to go to Zahedan." I got angry: why hadn't she said anything to me? I told her I didn't believe her and again she said: 'Forgive me my dear, I had to go.' And the line was cut. I waited for her to call back. But she didn't.

I left for Zahedan. I looked for her in every hotel, but nobody had ever heard her name. For 10 days, thousands of wild thoughts came to mind, until I learnt through her father that she had been arrested. I thought it was a joke. I thought it was a misunderstanding, that she would be released after two or three days. But days went by and I had no news. I started to worry and knocked on every door for help, until I understood what had happened.

It is with tears in my eyes that I say she is innocent and guiltless. It is me, who has known her for years, and shared every moment with her, who declares it. She was always busy reading and doing her research. Nothing else. During all these years I've known her, she wouldn't go anywhere without letting me know... To her friends, her family, everyone that surrounded her, she had given no signs of unreasonable behaviour.

How come someone who would spend days without going out of her apartment, except to see me; someone who, like a Japanese lady, would carefully spend her money, and had sometimes trouble making a living; someone who was looking for a sponsor to get in contact with a local publisher so her book would be printed here [in Iran] now be charged with a spying accusation?! We all know – no, we have all seen in movies – that spies are malicious and sneaky, that they peep around for information, and that they are very well paid. And now my heart is full of sorrow. Because it is me who incited her to stay here. And now I can't do anything for her. Roxana wanted to leave Iran. I kept her from it.

At the beginning of our relationship, she wanted to go back to the United States. She would have liked us to go together. But I insisted for her to stay until my new film was over... And now I am devastated, for it is because of me she has been subject to these events. These past years, I have been subject to a serious depression. Why? Because my movie had been banned, and released on the black market. My next movie was not given an authorisation, and I was forced to stay at home. If I've been able to stand it until today, it is thanks to the help that she provided me with.

... She is the one who took care of me while I was depressed. Then I convinced her to stay, I wanted her to write the book she had started in her head... She was absorbed by her book, to the point that she could stay and bear it all, until my film would be finished, and we would leave together.

Roxana's book was a praise to Iran. The manuscripts exist, and it will certainly be published one day, and all will see it. But why have they said nothing? All those who have talked, worked and sat with her, and who know how guiltless she is.

I am writing this letter for I am worried about her. I am worried about her health. I heard she was depressed and cried all the time. She is very sensitive. To the point she refuses to touch her food. My letter is a desperate call to all statesmen, and to all those who can do something to help.

From the other side of the ocean, the Americans have protested against her imprisonment, because she is an American citizen. But I say no, she is Iranian, and she loves Iran. I beg you, let her go! I beg you not to throw her in the midst of your political games! She is too weak and too pure to take part in your games.

Let me be present at her trial, to sit next to her wise father and gentle mother and testify she is without guilt or reproach. I am optimistic about her release and I hope the verdict will be cancelled in the next stage of the trial. My Iranian girl with Japanese eyes and an American ID, is in jail. Shame on me! Shame on us!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Condi mutates into sports reporter?

If the snarky comments are any indication, the former secretary of state Condi Rice has raised some hackles with her latest effort for Tina Brown's Daily Beast, particularly from leftists who have contempt for Meghan McCain's ramblings and little patience for Republicans in general. But actually, the odd golf article was rather above par, especially considering what a newcomer Rice is to the game. (Last summer she admitted to the WashPo how gripped she is by the National and with Tigerrrrr. Freelance hackdom is a pretty tight playing field, and one wonders if RIce has resorted to gratis citizen journalism.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Booty call? Not really

Hacks hoping to speak with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about a NATO gathering were accidentally directed by the White House to call a phone-sex line. What's the real message here? Go F*ck yourselves?
Journalists who sought on "on-the-record briefing call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones to discuss the NATO summit" missed out, apparently. Fox news gloated about the contrast between "Shrillary" and the breathy voice recording that answered the pay-per-dial, and the White House just hrrumphed .

How to Feed the RSS

It's called real simple syndication, and this is a real simple explanation for non-techie journos.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cabinet photo undergoes double digital sex change. Not unorthodox, ultra-Orthodox

Now you see em; now you don't!
Altered reality has stopped coming as a surprise on the streets of Israel. It's a given in this city of high sects' appeal. Can you find the distaff ministers in the group shot of Bibi Netanyahu's new administration? Aha

Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers have touched up an official photo of the new Israeli cabinet, removing two female ministers from the "bloated committee", in order to adhere to their communities' devout behavioural standards.

Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver were snapped with the rest of the 30-member cabinet for their inaugural photo.

But Yated Neeman newspaper digitally changed the picture by replacing them with two men. The Shaa Tova newspaper blacked out the females.

Publishing pictures of women is viewed by many ultra-orthodox Jews as a violation of female modesty.

Other Israeli papers jokingly reprinted the altered images next to the original photos, with one headlining it "Find the lady".

The ultra-Orthodox community keeps apart from mainstream society through its arcane religious practices and prescribed clothing. Black hats, coats and sidelocks are required for the men and long skirts, snoods and sleeves for the women.

Restrictions include using only "Kosher" telephones, only carrying items outside the home on the Sabbath if walking under Rabbinically approved wires called eruv, and, of course, not accessing websites with content deemed inappropriate.
(crossposted by Izzy Bee)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Twittering to replace Guardian hardcopy? tweet

• Newspaper to be available only on messaging service
• Experts say any story can be told in 140 characters

The Guardian, Wednesday 1 April 2009

Printing presses will fall silent in brave new Twitter-based future.
by Rio Palof

Twitter switch for Guardian, after 188 years of ink

Consolidating its position at the cutting edge of new media technology, the Guardian today announces that it will become the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter, the sensationally popular social networking service that has transformed online communication.

The move, described as "epochal" by media commentators, will see all Guardian content tailored to fit the format of Twitter's brief text messages, known as "tweets", which are limited to 140 characters each. Boosted by the involvement of celebrity "twitterers", such as Madonna, Britney Spears and Stephen Fry, Twitter's profile has surged in recent months, attracting more than 5m users who send, read and reply to tweets via the web or their mobile phones.

As a Twitter-only publication, the Guardian will be able to harness the unprecedented newsgathering power of the service, demonstrated recently when a passenger on a plane that crashed outside Denver was able to send real-time updates on the story as it developed, as did those witnessing an emergency landing on New York's Hudson River. It has also radically democratised news publishing, enabling anyone with an internet connection to tell the world when they are feeling sad, or thinking about having a cup of tea.

"[Celebrated Guardian editor] CP Scott would have warmly endorsed this - his well-known observation 'Comment is free but facts are sacred' is only 36 characters long," a spokesman said in a tweet that was itself only 135 characters long.

A mammoth project is also under way to rewrite the whole of the newspaper's archive, stretching back to 1821, in the form of tweets. Major stories already completed include "1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!"; "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see for more"; and "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"

Sceptics have expressed concerns that 140 characters may be insufficient to capture the full breadth of meaningful human activity, but social media experts say the spread of Twitter encourages brevity, and that it ought to be possible to convey the gist of any message in a tweet.

For example, Martin Luther King's legendary 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln memorial appears in the Guardian's Twitterised archive as "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by", eliminating the waffle and bluster of the original.

At a time of unprecedented challenge for all print media, many publications have rushed to embrace social networking technologies. Most now offer Twitter feeds of major breaking news headlines, while the Daily Mail recently pioneered an iPhone application providing users with a one-click facility for reporting suspicious behaviour by migrants or gays. "In the new media environment, readers want short and punchy coverage, while the interactive possibilities of Twitter promise to transform th," the online media guru Jeff Jarvis said in a tweet yesterday, before reaching his 140-character limit, which includes spaces. According to subsequent reports, he is thinking about going to the theatre tonight, but it is raining :(.

A unique collaboration between The Guardian and Twitter will also see the launch of Gutter, an experimental service designed to filter noteworthy liberal opinion from the cacophony of Twitter updates. Gutter members will be able to use the service to comment on liberal blogs around the web via a new tool, specially developed with the blogging platform WordPress, entitled GutterPress.

Currently, 17.8% of all Twitter traffic in the United Kingdom consists of status updates from Stephen Fry, whose reliably jolly tone, whether trapped in a lift or eating a scrumptious tart, has won him thousands of fans. A further 11% is made up of his 363,000 followers replying "@stephenfry LOL!", "@stephenfry EXACTLY the same thing happened to me", and "@stephenfry Meanwhile, I am making myself an omelette! Delicious!"

According to unconfirmed rumours, Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, will next month announce plans for a new system of telepathy-based social networking that is expected to render Twitter obsolete within weeks.

Er, check out the date... april foolery (for now)

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Superman vs the Newspaper Apocalypse

Hmmm...this cartoon is the last gasp from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's David Horsey, before it all went down. The moral, folks: even Superman gets the no news blues and he writes for a fictional newspaper, the Daily Planet!

Friday, March 27, 2009

No Hard copy? After 101 years, Christian Science Monitor goes online only

Karen Tumulty blogs over at about the demise of the Christian Science Monitor. The powers that be have taken it off life support and now there is only a cyber-edition of this plain-speaking paper. (I always enjoyed overhearing the explanations its foreign correspondents used to devise for government press officers who erroneously believed it to be some obscure church newspaper. And the paper broke some worthwhile scoops over the years. It did not tend to exaggerate, and many stringers got their chops reporting for the CSM. Do they still have Christian Science Reading Rooms? If so, they better install wi-fi.

Just over a century ago, in 1908, an 86-year-old woman looked at the dismal state of journalism around her and decided to do something to fix it. Mary Baker Eddy (pictured below) started the Christian Science Monitor not to further the doctrine of the church that she had founded, but because there was a need, as her first city editor John L. Wright put it, for a daily paper that would "place principle before dividends, and that will be fair, frank and honest with the people on all subjects and under whatever pressure — a truly independent voice not controlled by commercial and political monopolists."

Today, you hear calls for the same improvements in the media, which has come to be dominated again by those "commercial and political monopolists." And even worse, by the unsentimental and value-free dictates of their share prices. That's why it is ironic and sad that this marks the final day that Eddy's newspaper will exist, at least in its daily print form, as a publication "to injure no man, but to bless all mankind." I have a copy of the final edition--at only 24 pages, a thin version of its former self--on my desk. (You can download it here, though it doesn't quite feel the same.) I think that if Mary Baker Eddy were here today, she would tell us that somewhere out there is a business model that can sustain quality journalism. We all wish the Monitor well as it seeks to find that model in its new online incarnation.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Did You Know?

Infotech tidbits for hacks and not just nerds!

Friday, March 20, 2009

10 little white lies you hear about the future of newspapers

Hat tip to invisible inkling, an astute blogger:

1. Print is dead.
2. Journalism is dying.
3. Paid online content will save newspapers.
4. No one will pay for online news.
5. You haven’t tried anything.
6. You should try everything.
7. We’ve tried everything.
8. We’ve certainly tried that before, and it didn’t work then, so it won’t work now.
9. This is all corporate media’s / Google’s / Craig’s / Bush’s / Obama’s / the economy’s / the Internet’s / journalists’ / management’s / education’s fault.
10. No one will miss newspapers when they’re gone.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Standards fall in celebrity reporting of Natasha Richardson's health crisis

The 'Ghost of Edward Murrow' scolded a NY publication for crass and premature obit of Natasha Richardson, 45 and just taken off life support, according to the Lost Boy blogger:
“Time Out’s credibility was declared brain dead today. The site suffered a horrific fall when rushing to get the scoop on the personal tragedy of a fine actress and her family, and according to anyone with a clue, will not recover.”

Fox News Network also got a tongue lashing for their intrusive coverage, which was hardly fair and balanced... ghoulish is more like it.
This Feral Beast doubts that the actress's brain damage was caused by "a freak ski accident" or could have been avoided by wearing a helmet on the bunny slope. Let's await professional medical opinion from a physician who has examined her, if the family chooses to make this public. It is possible that the fall on the slopes was caused by something like an aneurysm in the brain, which soon manifested as a severe headache and then coma.
Too sad.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hollywood Stunned as Murdoch Shakes Up His Fox Network

The Daily Beast's Kim Masters scoop on the surprise removal of Peter Liguori as chairman of Fox Broadcast—and his replacement with Peter Rice, the man behind Slumdog and Little Miss Sunshine ran on he Daily Beast.

It was a rare pleasure on Thursday to call some of Hollywood’s most plugged-in players and hear them express undisguised drop-dead shock at all the high-level changes that Rupert Murdoch has wrought in his News Corp. entertainment empire.
“Holy shit,” exclaimed the head of one of the biggest talent agencies upon learning of all the recent upheaval at the company. That pretty much summed up the sentiment all around town.
Sources say the long knives may also be out for entertainment president and ex-NBCer Kevin Reilly, who has apparently clashed with prickly Preston Beckman.
The recent departure of Murdoch’s number two, Peter Chernin, seems to have tipped the dominoes at the media giant. As predicted here last week, the two co-chairmen of Fox’s film studio, Jim Gianopulos and Tom Rothman, have been promoted to run all “Los Angeles based creative production units.” That means they add the company’s television-production operation to their portfolio.
But that’s not the stunner. On Thursday, Peter Liguori, the chairman of Fox Broadcasting, was unceremoniously axed after three years at the network. His surprise replacement is Peter Rice—the smooth and very successful head of the Fox Searchlight art-house label. The unexpected—and impressively unleaked—announcement took Hollywood by storm since Rice entirely lacks television experience (but not ambition).
Rice, 42, is a smart and well-regarded Brit who managed to turn out a string of massive hits—Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire—at a unit that was founded to make smaller movies for a specialized audience.
The fact that he was awarded the network job has led many of the industry’s best tea leaf readers to conclude that Rice is in line to ascend to even greater heights. He will have a chance to learn television before making the next upward move, which would follow the script written by Chernin during his long tenure at the company.
“Peter Rice is going to hunker down and learn a new business,” says a prominent producer. And then this observer, not normally given to hyperbole, adds, “He’s going to become rapidly the most powerful executive in Hollywood.”
That perception is shared by many inside the company. “Around here he’s called ‘The Chosen One,’” says one executive. “I’ve also heard ‘The Anointed.’”
Amazingly, even the most acid Hollywood observers have nothing bad to say about Rice (though if they did, you can be sure they’re not going to say it now). “There’s nobody with his record,” marvels a well-known producer, also not usually prone to hyperbole. His low-key style and impeccable manners hold obvious appeal for Murdoch, who is said to loathe Hollywood self-indulgence.
Former Fox studio chairman Bill Mechanic, who made no secret of his disdain for Chernin, has nothing but praise for Rice, who worked for him during his tenure at the studio. While Rice is now strongly associated with the “art-house” niche, Mechanic says he established himself as a strong executive in the main film division, where he was involved with such hits as X-Men and Moulin Rouge. “There was nothing niche-y” about that,” Mechanic says. He adds that when he put Rice in charge of Fox Searchlight, “I had to talk him into working in a niche.”
For the record, Mechanic believes the Hollywood chatterers are reading too much into Rice’s new job. Moving people around is not unusual for Murdoch. “He doesn’t think there’s anything that idiosyncratic about any business,” he says. But it's probable that the void left by Chernin's departure will make for interesting times at Fox for some time to come. Chernin presided over many executives who were good at their jobs but lacked diverse experience, observes a high-level insider, which “kept him very safe in his job and kept everybody from climbing all over each other.”
His departure leaves a void in the company. Obviously a number of other people have come out ahead in this reorganization, notably Gianopulos and Rothman; and Tony Vinciquerra, who will be Rice’s boss at the network (at least on paper). Vinciquerra is a numbers-cruncher who has been running the cable networks and has now added the broadcast network to his portfolio. He has no background as a creative executive though he might be tempted to try it out now.
Obviously, the biggest loser is Liguori, who was thrown to the curb by Fox. But sources say the long knives may also be out for entertainment president Kevin Reilly, who recently left his job at NBC after a long bout of internecine warfare. Apparently Reilly has clashed with prickly Preston Beckman, who runs the network’s scheduling and who Murdoch literally keeps on speed-dial. Another insider says Mike Darnell, the feisty and successful head of “alternative programming” (like American Idol and Hell’s Kitchen), has battled with Reilly as well.
“Kevin’s done a good job but he still hasn’t pulled out a ratings monster,” says a Fox insider. “Every development executive is only as good as the shows they develop. Dollhouse, (which Reilly had been a big supporter of) hasn’t done very well. Kevin was the one who wanted Joss Whedon.”
Reilly has held his job at Fox for only eighteen months, during which he had to contend with the writer’s strike. Nasty, brutish and short—that is the life of a network president.
While succession issues at News Corp. troubled Wall Street even before Chernin’s abrupt departure, the 78-year old Murdoch seems willing to leave the number two job at News Corp. vacant for the moment. Directly reporting to him now are Gianopulos and Rothman; Vinciquerra; Fox Interactive chief Peter Levinsohn; and Roger Ailes, who oversees the Fox News Channel and local Fox television stations across the country. And what of Murdoch's 36-year-old son James, currently overseeing operations in Europe and Asia? Rumors that he would be called in to take Chernin’s job have proved unfounded—at least for now. “I think Rupert’s going to keep him in Europe for a while,” says a well-placed Fox executive. “And I think James wants to stay there.”

Kim Masters is also the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everybody Else.