Friday, May 20, 2011

Internet will never be secure, Sony CEO says

In case you had any doubts, Sony's CEO says the Internet will never be safe. Coming off the huge security breach, Howard Stringer said, basically, that there will always be holes in Internet security, and we will always need to be vigilant. " It's not a brave new world; it's a bad new world," Stringer is quoted as saying.

Unfortunately, I can't disagree.

Google drops newspaper digitalization project

Google is dropping plans to digitize the world's newspaper archives. The company says it's going to use its resources elsewhere. The good thing, for those of us who use newspaper archives, is that there are a lot of other places to go. Sure, I'd like to see more digitized archives, but I'm not all that sure that having one company control them is the best way to make the past available.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Censorship, courts and students

Journalists tend to talk a lot about the first amendment to the Constitution in ways that nonjournalists often seen as condescending or elitist. Why should newspapers have special privileges, journalists get asked.

Part of the reason is the slippery slope argument. Limiting my free speech leads to limiting your free speech. An example from this week. A federal appeals court upheld censorship of an independent student newspaper at a high school in New York. The case involves a stick figure that a school district objected to when it was proposed to be in the high school newspaper. So the students created their own, independent newspapers. The school board objected and a court upheld them. Now an appeals court has ruled that, even though the new newspaper was not part of the high school, it could be censored.

It's only protecting our kids, right? The problem is that the law protecting students in high school by censorship has been extended to students outside of high school. Who says the next thing won't be personal blogs? Facebook pages?

And if you are going to censor, why stop with high school student productions. Can't students read my blog? Yours? What if I decided to run the objectionable stick figure. Couldn't students see it? This way lies madness . . . or at least fascism.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Who are newspapers' real customers?

The headline is "The Rebirth of Newspapers," and the column by Tom Matlack in the Huffington Post is a paean to journalism. Matlack believes newspapers are born again because advertisers have fled elsewhere so they are becoming more responsive to their readers -- their true customers.

I used to argue that point with officials at Journal Communications when I was a section editor. To this day, I can't understand why the comics section -- the second-best-read section to sports in the Sunday newspaper -- is frequently covered by an advertisement. When newspapers were flying high a century ago, the comics were wrapped on the outside of the Sunday papers. And content was king.

May Matlack be right, and content win out.

Old and new media face off

An interesting charge and counter-charge has the editor of the New York Times on one side versus nearly the entire new media world on the other.

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller kicked things off with a column attacking much of the new media universe, especially Twitter and news aggregators. The response was quick, complete and rough. This FishbowlNY report sums up much of the anti-Keller arguments, including lots of links. Basically, Keller repeats a basic argument accepted by many that relying on social media for your information can mean you're missing a lot, and that aggregators like the Huffington Post or Google News aren't creating anything. He's right, and I think the overwhelming attacks on his argument support his position.

That doesn't mean that social media, including Twitter, are not valid news sources. Much of the information about what's happening with the radical changes in Wisconsin government comes not from newspapers or television but from blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Frankly, they -- in total -- are doing a better job than the Journal Sentinel, which has only so much space, reporters, and some political issues to overcome. By going through the 43 blogs I look at on a regular basis (they span the political spectrum), I am learning a lot that the JS isn't reporting.

The flap reminds me of an observation a couple of years ago. An acquaintance who is a computer engineer and whose news consumption is primarily online and on television, asked a simple question: "Was there a controversy over the 2000 presidential election?" He was serious. Somehow, he had missed the millions of words and stories about that election. Studies have shown that learning comes in many ways, but reading something is one of the best. I can't imagine that a newspaper reader wouldn't know of the 2000 election controversy. You need to get information from a lot of places these days, and at least one of them should have original reporting.

Arab media forum shows strengths, weaknesses of today's youth

Evidence of both young people's grasp of media and some of their total lack of understanding came through loud and clear in a session at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai.

One student said that "traditional media vehicles will have to adapt their formats if they are to engage the young audience."First of all it takes too long to get to what you want to know," she said of "old media." "Second of all because of the way of delivery.... Sometimes they beat around the bush so much, to a point where I'd rather read two lines on Twitter and I understand the whole article."

That's the dilemma facing media, old and new, today. Clearly some young people want their news in snapshots, but they also believe they can "understand the whole article" in two lines. Of course, that's what headlines do, but they only draw us into stories. Experienced readers know they need more than 140 characters to understand the whole story.

UK considers loosening privacy laws

New media prompts Great Britain to consider revamping its privacy laws. Actually, a report calls for loosening them -- the opposite of what is urged in America -- because UK laws prohibit much of the satire we are accustomed to here. For example, the "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" couldn't be copied in Britain.

Mobile media, email, and viewers

As I said in an earlier post, my students have brought me into the 21st century pointing out that their media is what we call new media, and that their alternative media is newspapers, magazines and other print devices.

Along the same thread, I find myself using more and more mobile media. Since I won't buy an iPad until they add at least one USB port, it's strictly a iPhone. But I am using it for more than I thought I would. Specifically, I'm using it for email, which puts me in line with this study showing mobile is gaining greatly among email users. I also use desktops (the majority of my time) and a laptop.

All this becomes important to the media business because it shows an increasing comfort level with mobile devices, and media must be aware of how its product is being delivered.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Van Susteren attacks Mediaite over a report

And speaking of Mediaite, the website is at the heart of a battle between its owner, Dan Abrams, and Fox' Greta van Susteren, FishbowlNY reports. An aside: nowhere in my previous long media career did I think I'd be reporting on the likes of Mediaite or FishbownNY. Back to serious news: the battle appears to be over reporting of van Susteren's viewer numbers by FishbowlNY.

Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly square off

In the 1970s, I used to play in a softball league composed of mostly reporters and editors from The Milwaukee Journal. It was called "The Synthetic Conflict League," named in honor of a line used by former Milwaukee Mayor Henry Maier who accused The Journal of creating "synthetic conflicts," all of which attacked him, he believed.

That came to mind in watching snippets of The O'Reilly Factor where Jon Stewart, who is turning into quite a media critic, took on host Bill O'Reilly, accusing Fox News of creating "a selective outrage machine here at Fox." You can read about the confrontation and watch clips on Mediaite.

To me, the point isn't whether Fox creates a "selective outrage machine" -- clearly it does, as anyone who views its coverage of the "war on Christmas" or any of its other phony issue attacks on Democrats -- the point is that what Fox is doing isn't new. Media have been creating "synthetic conflicts" (or at least being accused of it) for years. Frankly, I find the Fox stuff mostly entertaining (except for the apocalyptic rhetoric and downright lies), but wish Fox would admit its bias and move on.

I remember watching a debate during the Bush administration where one of my favorite commentators, Pat Buchanan, was arguing a point. After Buchanan made a particularly outrageous statement, the host interrupted: "Pat, you don't believe that! You know that's not true!" Buchanan couldn't help himself. A sly smile spread across his face, and he didn't bother to defend his clearly-false statement. That's one of the things I like about him. He fights hard, but doesn't try to claim he isn't biased. I don't hear that from Fox or its people. Fox will claim that the bias is only in its nighttime "commentators'" shows, but the same synthetic conflicts -- like the current flap over the rapper Common -- get repeated all day by its allegedly journalistic hosts.

Anyway, enjoy the clip. It was fun.

Post rejects report on Drudge driving viewers

A day after the New York Times said that the Drudge Report was driving traffic to the Washington Post, the Post replied that it wasn't true. A nice Huffington Post story on the flap gets into the methodologies involved.

Monday, May 16, 2011

More evidence of the importance of content

Interesting New York Times piece on how the Drudge Report drives more viewers to top news sites than even the vaunted Facebook. What makes it interesting is the reason: Drudge, according to the story, is "the best wire edit0r on the planet." In other words, it's the site's content.

There's a lot more. He keeps the site simple. He links liberally. His stories are not "sticky," in other words they give you enough that you want to read more (kinda what I try for; I want you to read the stories I link to). So go do it already.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Why newspapers? Democracy, that's why

Oklahoma newspaper editor voices the best arguments for newspapers -- their role in democracy.

Meanwhile in Australia (I love saying that), newspaper circulation is off again, but publishers are optimistic because the slippage is only a bit (0.2 percent for broadsheets), and trend lines are strong for regional papers.

To blog or to tweet? That is the question

Very interesting debate on All Twitter about whether one should post breaking news first on Twitter or on a blog. The thinking seems to be that: "If you have breaking news and you share it on Twitter first, your competitors are more likely to scoop it and write their own articles about the story. It also undermines the real value of social media, which is to drive traffic to blogs and websites."

The blog's author, Lauren Dugen, suggests writing a story -- which doesn't have to be complete -- first, then tweet about it. She uses sportswriters who have been live Tweeting as an example of journalists losing their stories to competitors.

She does end with some suggestions about what should and shouldn't be done with new media. Frankly, its biggest advantage is that there are no shoulds or shouldn'ts.