Friday, February 27, 2009

More Paper Problems

Coinciding with the final day of the Rocky Mountain News, the American Society of Newspaper Editors have canceled their convention. Plenty of news on this, but here's one of the extra hooks -- ASNE is considering dropping the "paper" from its title and begin accepting on-line only entities.

Better approach than French President Sarkozy's bizarre $700-million US-plus proposed bailout of the French newspaper industry.

More Fun with Hulu

Daniel Lyons' column this week Newsweek adds more to the Hulu story, including some interesting traffic numbers. It is a great read, but to me, the best line is the pull quote/kicker head:

The moral: better content wins.

Where have we heard that before.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Will TV Do When They Come For You?

As the newspapers fold their tents, don't kid yourselves that the traditional television networks aren't next. The clue is found in the dirty secret of Nielson ratings and advertising rates.

Hulu alternatively is the anti-Christ and savior of the television industry as more and more of the prime demographic watch their video content at a keyboard devise rather than a 4x3 cathode tube.

The networks behind Hulu -- principally NBC but also Fox -- have embraced the horror with their very clever Alec Baldwin promo commercial.

Unfortunately, the bean counters do not. The advertising rates at this time for impressions given are dangerously out of balance.

Dare we say, Fannie Mae-like in their inflation of value.

Oh, not for Hulu. Click through is click through -- extremely quantifiable.

For the teleo-cable industrial complex. Nielsons and other ratings are interpretations of an audience based upon a sample, then transmogrified into huge audiences.

Like the value of that San Francisco walk-up, it's only worth a million if everyone agrees to suspend belief and say it's worth a million.

And there's really 28 million watching that program, because we all -- advertising industry, media, content providers, producers -- want to believe they 28 million sets of eyeballs are there. Unless the cable boxes and TiVo feedback penetration is much greater than we have all been led to believe -- they really are watching what your watching, whether you permissioned it or not -- then this formula continues to require a suspension of disbelieve to continue.

So the same show getting 100,000 Hulu click views is given far less value -- and revenue -- to NBC than the same show that gets a 1.2 share in the ratings.

If this bubble bursts, this crash will be dramatic; it will be catastrophic and make the collapse of legacy newspaper publishing look like a graceful departure from the stage. See, newspaper really began to hurt when the classifieds went, followed by display advertising and off we go with the whole whale-and-plankton analogy. It takes a lot of money to operate television in its legacy mode.

The value of television advertising may prove to be a Potemkin Village. If that ad stream dries up, or jumps down-scale to IPTV, there is nothing, nothing standing in the way of Chapter 7 for the over-the-air legacy stations and networks. Like newspapers, at least cable outlets can gain some money from subscribers.

Of course, this all may continue for some time. Sort of like the value of a dollar bill. It's worth is only what we all agree it is worth; intrensically, only the faith we have in it.

Pannapacker on Mediocrity

W. A. Pannapacker's essay on How to Procrastinate Like Leonardo di Vinci in The Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Productive mediocrity requires discipline of an ordinary kind. It is safe and threatens no one. Nothing will be changed by mediocrity; mediocrity is completely predictable. It doesn't make the powerful and self-satisfied feel insecure. It doesn't require freedom, because it doesn't do anything unexpected. Mediocrity is the opposite of what we call "genius." Mediocrity gets perfectly mundane things done on time. But genius is uncontrolled and uncontrollable. You cannot produce a work of genius according to a schedule or an outline. As Leonardo knew, it happens through random insights resulting from unforeseen combinations. Genius is inherently outside the realm of known disciplines and linear career paths. Mediocrity does exactly what it's told, like the docile factory workers envisioned by Frederick Winslow Taylor.


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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Gray Lady On The Iceburg

Hearst Corp. drops the bomb that not unlike the Seattle P-I, the San Francisco Chronicle is headed to shutdown or sale.

"Our current situation dictates that we accomplish these cost savings quickly," Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega wrote in a memo to the staff. "Business as usual is no longer an option."

Not the best of news. Comes on the heels locally of the admission that cuts are on for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Crossfire Generation

I've made the assertion that the digital natives grew up with a different than the Woodward and Bernstein antiseptic objectivity.

They matured with the polemic of Pat Buchanan and Michael Kinsley duking it out on either side of a news maker. They revel in Obermann and O'Reilly. They like their news Crossfire-style.

Don't think it's taking over? White House press secretary Robert Gibbs unloaded day before yesterday on CNBC's Rick Santelli for being highly opinionated and highly critical of the Obama administration in a "rant" on the cable news network.

Not sure what the tipping point in this story is. Is it that CNBC now considers solid news coverage a rant? Is it that the White House decided to return fire with its own snarky statement? Or, at the end of the day, that the news coverage became the he said, she said, tet-a-tet?

Read here, consider the answer for yourself.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sourcing vs. Brand

If I tell you a story about something that happened at the University of Arkansas, depending on the story, you might believe me. I would be a source, and perhaps a credible one because I work at the University of Arkansas.

If you read the same story on a local blog, say Fayetteville Flyer, would you believe it?

If you read the same story on a local message board, say WooPig or Hogville, would you believe it?

If you read the same story at net media website like Arkansas360, would you believe it?

If you read the same story in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette or Morning News of Northwest Arkansas, would you then believe it?

This is the stamp of Brand in the media market -- if an established name plate or call sign reports a story, it must be true. We invest belief in news brands, and our prejudices and predilections drive our selection of those brands. Don't think so? Why I wouldn't believe that trash from Fox News/MSNBC because they're a bunch of conservative/liberal pigs. See the point?

But you believed me because you knew me, and you knew where I worked. Would you then believe the same story told on the university's official website -- or

This imprimatur of news brand is fascinating stuff because decades ago, it really didn't matter. You dealt with the reality presented to you by your local media, and in many cases it was a chamber of commerce Potemkin Village portrayal of your world. That didn't mean people didn't know the real story, and trade in the real story. It just didn't get into the history books.

What in the hell does any of that have to do with the title?

Your patience with the lengthy set-up shall now be rewarded (call it a test of the digital native's attention span).

The next great wave of creative destruction is upon us, and it is all about source vs. brand. Quickly to one of the hottest fronts in the war -- Hollywood. Here is an industry that lives, thrives, on insider information, gossip and innuendo -- college football recruiting only thinks it has this problem when compared to the alternate realities of the movie industry.

Reporting is at the heart of the beast, and having the best sources is the only way to compete. So the old legacy brands like Variety and The Hollywood Reporter are reduced to PR organs and transactions of the day loggers as net media types like Nikki Finke and Deadline Hollywood Daily become the pulse of the industry. The Financial Times has an outstanding recap of the ensuing battle between the established Finke and two new upstart net media productions, Big Hollywood and The Wrap.

The lesson in it all for journalists is like her or not, Finke is the new age net journalist. She's networked. She's connected. She's social. And she knows your inner most secrets and is willing to publish them five minutes after she's confident they are true.

Plus, she gives us a new brutally honest assessment of what works in net media:

“People [in Hollywood] want you to tell them what they don’t already know,” she adds. “That’s what my site is all about."

How did I -- a flack in the college athletic world -- know about the story? Drudge Report. The ultimate net media mash-up -- nothing but links, nothing but breaking, nothing but the edge (of course, as defined by Matt Drudge). Like rock breaks scissors, sourcing trumps brand.

FT's reporter Matthew Garrahan gets the payoff line at the close of his article:

The media industry, at least in Hollywood, is thriving online.

I'll close with my own Hollywood dialog homage.

I want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Yes sir?

Are you listening?

Yes I am.


How exactly do you mean?

There's a great future in sources. Think about it. Will you think about it?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Call Me Cynical

Yes, Facebook backed away from its infamous we own you forever change today.

Here's a key quote from CNN's story:

Schnitt said the company is in the process of rewording its Terms of Use in "simple language that defines Facebook's rights much more specifically."

Never said they weren't going to do it.

Here's a new twist, in some way, we should praise Facebook for being up front -- the ubiquitous THEY owns everything you post on-line, it's all harvest-able, it's all somewhat permanent.

At least Zuckerberg was being up front -- which is the way we as a society do not want our bad news -- that they were harvesting, even after you leave.

Let me riff off of the Chris Walters' Consumerist post referenced in the CNN story: Make sure you never upload anything you don't feel comfortable giving away forever. There's no need to add the rest of Walters' quote ". . . because it's Facebook's now."

That's because Google already has cached it.

Novel, But Not Unreasonable, Defense

They say the best phishing comes from the best social engineering; that the most identity theft comes physical, not digital, means.

That's Tony Harris' defense -- his girl friend used his password to frame him with a lewd Facebook post. Now Harris is suspended from Calvin College.

If he can document it, I'll believe him. Privacy is a fickle thing on Facebook. The new TOS changes certainly reinforce it. I've regaled CoSIDA with tales of friends turned enemies who outed photos and copy, notably the walk-on player who walked-off and exposed all the Facebook pages of one team in a BCS conference.

The Chroncle has the story today, and it's a read worth your time. Almost without exception, the schools that are getting away with Facebook-based discipline are faith-based; however, if you say something suitably embarrassing -- particularly athletes -- you can at least get tossed from the team.

One of the key quotes:

However, Mr. de Haan said, reprimanding students for unbecoming use of social media is not unusual at Calvin. The college’s "Policy on Responsible Use of Technology" forbids “any use of Web life (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) that is contradictory to the principles of the college codes of conduct.”

That's a good policy line that others might want to consider. In the policy I'd drafted three years ago for the women's athletic department -- used as a template by numerous other schools -- the heart of the disciplinary part essentially was extending team rules on-line. If you can't do it in real life, why do think it's OK in Second Life?

More and more, the lines blur between what is virtual and what is reality. Wild Palms, anybody?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Remember, You Gave it to Them

From the jump, I've warned users, students, student-athletes and anyone who would listen that you were voluntarily giving up way, way to much data to Facebook.

For those that might have missed it, Facebook changed its Terms of Service last week to make it painfully clear that what was yours, is theirs.

Key quote here from today's WOMMA Word:

This month, when Facebook updated its terms, it deleted a provision that said users could remove their content at any time, at which time the license would expire. Further, it added new language that said Facebook would retain users' content and licenses after an account was terminated.

That's right, even after you leave Facebook, they still own you. And as I have repeatedly tried to get clear to student-athletes regarding copyright issues -- Facebook owns your photos, owns your content. When a rights holder comes after Facebook, they will pass it straight through to the end user for copyright violations.

That will be the one case where what's theirs is really yours -- as in the subpeona.

Monday, February 16, 2009

True Enough

Late to the party on this polemic from last year, but quick scan reveals a similar feel toward where information management is heading.

Farhad Manjoo is the author, and if nothing else, I like the subtitle: "Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society."

Catchy, but I think he may be overplaying. It's not that we live in a post-fact society. Far from it. It's more that we live in the multiple truth society.

Or, as Adam Savage aptly said, "I reject your reality, and substitute my own."

More as I parse.

Teaching the Digital Natives

We need to recognize that we teach the front edge of the networked generation. Our freshman grew up with the rapidly maturing internet, and from this point forward, they will be the digital natives. Their world is the one without time or space; they have lived their lives with the answers to questions at their fingertips. They bring a more cosmopolitan view to college. We must respect them as thinkers and meet them where they are. There is no awe in the classroom. That access to information makes them both smarter, and more vulnerable. We must recognize that the low barrier to entry into Networked Media is open to all – the journalist, the honest advocate, the provocateur and the propagandist.

Multiple platforms lead to multiple personas among journalists; a rise of the punditry class. The generation that grew up with the Crossfire school of polarized debate doesn’t understand the studied objectivity of Woodward and Bernstein. The blogger generation sees objectivity achieved simply through transparency. As long as all the cards are on the table, it is an honest game. They don’t see that revealing ones bias or connections to a story does not always equal fairness. The blogosphere contends that to say Woodward and Bernstein were objective is to overlook the obvious – they were convinced of the guilt of Nixon; as surely as the New York Times staff today was toward the Bush administration and Iraq foreign policy. What they were was scrupulously fair and meticulous in their attempt to get the story right.

Is this to say that we abandon traditional objectivity because it is no longer the fashion of the day? Let me be clear – no. At the same time, we would not be preparing our students for the sliding scale of personality that exists in the Networked Media if we don’t address it. Future employers require straight news coverage, but also request opinionated blog entries. A journalist who covers the state capital turns around and appears as a part of an opinion panel in another medium.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Step Three: Think Exo-Cartonic

As an omage to Dennis Miller and the exo-cartonic . . .

Saying that I encourage students to be exo-cartonic is important. Anyone can think outside of the box. This is a time of innovation, and we must be open to being early adopters. How long before mobile bandwidth and battery capacity overcomes the hurdles to hand-held streaming video? If we have invested our time into the revival of the written word presented to us by the rise of the web site, what happens if they become the static repositories of information? Usurped by a Twittering world, mobile app’ed to the latest news feeds. However, one can’t get outside the box until they know how the crate was built, and in fact, built a few boxes themselves.

Certainly, building a resume and quality experience is important. Making mistakes and reflecting upon them are even more so. When I taught the sports public relations course, one of the standing tasks for the students were the weekly mock press conferences. Some relished the chance to command the room; some squirmed at the thought. They made mistakes. They said things they regretted. But far better to make and learn from those mistakes in a classroom.

The other change we need to bring to the classroom is an understanding of the impact of social networking upon the news industry. The crowd is in control. More and more, they will vote with their browsers for what they find important. There is a fine balance between the information they want and the journalism they need.

We must be ready to relate with the audience. The essence of Web 2.0 is the interaction. Freedom of speech is fully enabled by the Net. The result is the rise of the people formerly known as the audience. They will add information to stories. They will provide feedback. They are no longer just subscribers; they are now part of the process. More and more, they seek to have dialog with the media. And, the more Participatory Media grows, the more they trust it.

This isn’t some X-Files, government conspiracy, the truth is out there rant; people believe those they know more. The faceless byline that brings them information is not as effective as a member of the community.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Step Two: Being a Craftsman

“A poor craftsman blames his tools” is a phrase that I repeat to colleagues and students – and myself – and it reflects the repetition, the drill, the hard work that separates the journalist from the diarist, the casual blogger, the citizen media. The person whose living, whose craft, is not dependent on the quality of the product can shrug and blame the computer. In a world where content is king, and the amount of value added to that basic content is vital, it will be our job to instill an ability to utilize the latest technology. Ironically, here is where I see only journalism, not new media. Journalism education will separate the true communicators from the articulate programmer.

Clear, concise prose is written to suit the medium in question. The future journalist must be as comfortable with the crafting of prose for paper and phosphor, composing scripts for podcast and broadcast, capturing images both still and moving. There will always be a place for specialists, but the future belongs to the Networked – the digital Renaissance man.

Accuracy in the smallest detail remains the highest risk for any author. Misspell a source’s name, and you take a chunk out of your reputation. Misstate quote a document, and the laziness shows. No one believes the higher thinking if the basics are flawed. Sports is filled with examples. Will the reader trust your analysis of the event if the scoring of the box score is incorrect?

This is not to say that mistakes do not happen, but the flexibility of the Networked Media presents unique challenges to how they are corrected. There are standard conventions of for correcting the error. The transparency of the UPDATE, correcting a mistake, is accepted. The practice of scrubbing – replacing an error without notation – will do more to violate a reputation. Remember, once posted a digital account is always there, cached by the great Googleplex waiting to be revealed upon comparison. Don’t be Nixonian – it isn’t the mistake, it is the cover-up of the mistake.

What follows the basics is the difference in Net Media. A reporter did not have to consider interact with the customers on a daily basis. Being an editor did not require a technical knowledge of the printing press. These were the tasks of the publisher. They rapidly moving from need to requirement to compete in the information market place.

Tagging, placement, indexing, comment management, harnessing digital assets, management of information sharing relationships – these are the new advanced techniques for content production. Over time, understanding the basic technology will fade to insignificance, but these internet skills are the key to carrying a message to the community or bobbing in the middle of the digital ocean like a message a bottle, hoping to wash up on shore.

Johnson in The Long Tail made it clear that the difference between success and failure of the on-line enterprise is being found. Creating information is great, but it is must be easily accessed and properly indexed.

How many spent quality time learning to count headlines? Finding that right nine-character word to fit? Today it is fashioning the right key words, tagging the right subject labels.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Step One: The Basics are Still the Key

It starts with the basics: Consistency, clear thinking and accuracy. At the increasing speeds at which journalists are commanded to perform, there isn’t time to Google, to get on line and search. Drilling on the style book of your respective organization or field to insure consistency, and it starts in the introduction class and continues to graduate school.

This is the point where the basics become crucial to our mission. The four Ws and one H applied to the story. Clear, concise composition of the narrative. Good, old fashioned sourcing from two or more fully independent sources. Weeding out the opinions. These become the touchstones.

The techniques to achieve them are increasingly different, but their value to the end product remain the same.

Alongside the time-tested skills of Reporting 101, more than ever, critical thinking skills to vet and verify the veracity of sources in all forms is a basic skill. In the past, interviews and direct experience served as coverage. The Networked Media adds extra dimensions. The crowd’s participation steers the interest in stories. The bloggers and citizen journalists become a force multiplier for the ever-shrinking manpower of the mainstream newsroom. Why is so much time spent by journalists chasing blogger leads – because at the end of the day, people still put faith in the trained professional journalist.

In the end, it’s all about the story, and the ability to be an honest broker. Message is the key to content; content is the coin of the network realm. For some time, repurposing of content was seen as the key to new media. There is great economy in a capture once, use multiple approach.

The best methods recognize the differences in multiple platforms and the knitting together of content in its four forms: Written – Oral – Visual – Data.

My New Favorite Quote

"News is what somebody, somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising”

This is not the paranoid ranting of a new media think tank, it is the classic statement of turn of the 20th century British journalist, Lord Northcliffe. Journalism’s role as honest broker becomes more pronounced in a world filled with strategic communication and brand management. The “straight” news story as a point of departure for the age of opinion is vital.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

CBS Gets It

Hey, did you see Letterman last night? You've got to see Joaquin Phoenix. It's on YouTube.

After seeing a couple of stories, I figured, you know, got a few minutes before tip, let's see what the fuss is about.

YouTube clip pops right up, posted 16 hours ago, about 16,000 views -- which seems low. Click on the clip and bam -- this copyright material has been removed at the request of CBS Television.

Hmm. I wonder . . .

Not only does have the clip, it's the featured first clip on the front of the website. That's where the traffic is now, not YouTube. Talk about playing to strengths. Be the one to tell your story and protect your copyright material from others.

Oh, and if you haven't seen it either.

Creative Destruction in Journalism School

What does it mean to J-School? The most important thing is we need to become intensely digital and promote our relevance.

For all the smug comfort I can muster from the past toward today’s media market, the one area we cannot overlook is the relative short life span of J-School providing a significant role in American journalism. The rise of the Penny Press required no special studies.

The construction of the great Pulitzer and Hearst empires needed no MFAs. And the Golden Age of Radio, then Television, saw little impact from collegians. A little time spent on-line reveals a considerable doubt among the digital natives about the value of journalism school.

Of all the parts of that once relatively stable institution of American journalism, if we are not careful, the J-School could prove to be the most disposable. Our Golden Age – the post-Watergate boom – has faded away.

We must promote our strength. The knowledge base a broad-based liberal arts education provides. A blend of the best practices of the past with an opportunity to experiment with the front edge of communication technique.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Phelps Learns the Hard Photo Lesson

Call this the start of the celebrity privacy backlash. It was going to take an "all-American" type like Michael Phelps.

From Seth Myers weigh in on SNL this week with one of his Really?!? rants to our areas state-wide paper columnist Wally Hall, there is a somewhat consistant theme: what did he do wrong?

If we take the whole marijuana is illegal part aside, why does Phelps get a pass where Ben Rothlesburger, Matt Leinart and other haven't?

Because we like Michael. Because he's his mother's boy. And he's beaten the French in dramatic fashion. And you know, he's a 23-year-old and he's gonna party like a rock star.

It is a bit of good news for the celebrity class, who should get a chance to have some space, that perhaps the idea that the anonymous photo taker is getting called out as much as Phelps.

At the end of the day, Michael, you might make sure all the cell phones go into the check bag the next time you want to cut loose. Of course, you've got three months time to work that system out.

Gillmor Strikes Again

Followers of the blog know the high regard here for Center for Citizen Media and its chief thinker, Dan Gillmor. This week, Dan recapped the appearance of Robert McNeil at Arizona State with some ideas on the future of journalism school. Gillmor has done a position paper on the need for broader education -- the user and non-user -- for media. I've cast it as having a wine tasting class -- you don't know how to tell the difference in quality until you're shown.

Gillmor has a quick check list for the things that such a course of action need:

For media consumers:

• Be Skeptical
• Exercise Judgement
• Open Your Mind
• Keep Asking Questions
• Learn Media Techniques

For media creators (after incorporating the above):

• Be Thorough
• Get it Right
• Insist on Fairness
• Think Independently
• Be Transparent, Demand Transparency

Read the post here.

More on Net Media

Continuing a series of posts on "new" media

A more appropriate name for this era is Networked or Net Media. Until the computer network reached a maturity and capacity with the tools accessible to the masses to allow for the massive concurrency of real time, the “new media” was just experimental media, which often failed. We now see the emergence of information systems that are significantly robust and tools for dissemination that have little or no cost. As a result, not since the invention of written communication has the barrier to mass communications been lower in human history.

Net Media defeats both time and space. While technologists speak of going from Kitty Hawk to the moon in less than a century, society has gone from journalists repackaging events for consumption to living in real time as if we were there.

Consider Mumbai. Fifty years ago, we would have received dispatches two or three days later, perhaps a newsreel in a month. At 25 years ago, some satellite clips and a radio broadcast from the event. Today, you could participate in the attack with real-time Twitter text, streaming audio and video.

Each step along that time-line, we could have said there was a new media change. What has changed, what is truly new, is the methods of dissemination. The 24/7 cable news channel was nothing but a gateway to the era of networked journalism. The mesh, the grid, the network becomes the medium and it is open to all.

The new, once again, isn’t so new. Television was to kill radio; cable to destroy broadcast; now the internet to crush newspapers. We’ve had participatory media for decades – it was called letters to the editor. That said, it does not mean that profound changes aren’t happening. On AM radio, the music has indeed died, becoming the medium of choice for opinion – both political and religious. The age of the Big Three is over but the rise of the cable network in their place.

But Rupert Murdoch said it best in his Boyer Lectures in his native Australia in December – a time of creative destruction.

Along with the change of time and space, the networked age brings us the ability through digital assets for almost infinite supply. Chris Johnson called it The Long Tail, and it has reorganized the music industry, is working on traditional publishing and certainly hastens the demise of brick-and-mortar news groups like the Tribune Company and the New York Times.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This Just In

In a discussion yesterday with the Lemke Journalism School, I said that one of the areas that we need more quantitative research into regarding Net Media is the impact of brand.

When a story is reported from Participatory Media, at what point does it become "real"? I argue that for all the speed of Twitter, it won't flash over until a Legacy or highly respected Net Media outlet manned by journalists verifies. What we have is a tipster-confirmation system.

Well, didn't take 24 hours to get a test case. Twitter feed is the first reports of a significant layoff at the Mothership in Bentonville. First Tweets, they're just rumor until one of the Tweeters posts the official memo. Shortly thereafter, Arkansas Business enters the fray -- interestingly on the Twitter platform, Tiny URL'ing to their website.

About eight hours later, the regular media started to jump in with conventional reports. But the local Fayetteville Flyer had the jump about an hour after the Tweets began.

So again, at what point was it real? For the digital natives, the moment it started moving on the Participatory Media; if not, when it hit their local blog. Obviously as it migrates quickly into the Legacy Media at 10 p.m., it is out there.

Thinking of the force multiplier effect, did the Tweets and rumors alert our local media and send them into action, or was it the arrival of the WMT presser.

Speaking of the Legacy, the Morning News of NWA, who has had a post when ready policy, posted their latest update rewrite to their lead story at 7:31 p.m. tonight. Judging from comments, they hit the story on-line around 11:30 a.m. They've had time to build the business community reaction piece, which dropped around 6:21 p.m.

Contrasting philosophy, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette moved a brief on its website at 4:41 p.m., but referenced:

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Thank you for coming to the Web site of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. We're working to keep you informed with the latest breaking news.

The second line is an interesting detail -- to be honest, I haven't checked lately to see if there's been a policy change, or was this short story a one-off because of the significance of the cuts.

Oh, and by the way, for those out there in America -- Walmart with all its solid profits during a downturn laying off people at the HQ. With absolutely no pun intended, that should be taken as a sign of an economic apocolypse.

Here close to the epicenter, we would have considered Walmart bullet proof, or at least recession proof.

Now, who will you believe? In many comments and Tweets, people are opining that this is just Walmart doing some adjustment. Part of the change is pulling home to Bentonville some jobs that have been remote from the headquarters.

As they say, developing . . .

Barack Gets It

The President's trip to Fort Myers, Fla., was live-blogged today on the White House's home page. This is a bit of a breakthrough for the stodgy federal bureaucracy. This month's Wired details the hurdles ahead as Obama's team tries to transition from the free-wheeling free market world of the campaign to the government.

Everything Old is New Again

After a weekend spent pondering my navel in anticipation of a presentation yesterday, I've come up with a different label for what we do. I've been a little bothered with "New" Media from about 15 minutes after the jump. Berkman Center has its own ID set, and really like Legacy Media and Participatory Media (I'll drop my own B&B [boards and blogs] for that one), but Web-Native doesn't do it for me.

I'm settling on Net Media, and more posts to come on that. Among the reasons to be posted, what comes after New Media. New and Improved Media? Sort of the same end English and other liberal arts got into with Modern and Post-Modern. Post-Post-Modern? Right Now Modern?

Anyway, something I forgot in the talk about how JOUR 101 is different in a Net Media world was this example. One of my three points was it really still is about the basics, but we have new skills to replace old skills. If you can't write clear prose, do good sourcing, etc., doesn't matter if you're new, old, modern, what -- you won't do good journalism.

As I violate that first point -- to the point. When many of us came up, you had to learn how to count characters for headlines. A fine skill. I was great at it. Figuring out that synonym for what you want to say in the last nine characters was an art. However, desktop publishing solves that. That doesn't mean a similar art doesn't exist today -- tagging your stories requires the same thoughtfulness about what is the essense of this story in four or five words or key terms.

And some days, particularly with the front-end editor we use for, you better still count your characters in the headline. Or you get the dreaded elipsis.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Automatic for the People, Indeed

Weaver D's is an Athens, Ga., legend, made famous by the local band REM. In dozens of trips, I've never made the stop.

That won't be the case again.

The man himself manned the counter, handing out the end-of-the-day specials I'd read about. Since I wanted the white meat, I'll not get the discount; but my radio partner Kyle Kellams opts for the dark meat.

The atmosphere was exactly what we expected, and Weaver was a hoot. There was only one couple in the joint when we walked in.

I worried about the veg, only because I'm not much of a veg person. Kellams, however, I sensed was in hog heaven. Lacking many options, I go for double rice and gravy -- a very thin, turkey and gibblets looking gravy. Well, at least the chicken looks nice.

Oh, I was wrong. Oh so very wrong. The gravy was tasty, and gave the rice a gumbo-esque flavor. The chicken was unlike anything I'd had since my childhood.

My grandmother always encouraged me to "polish the bones," and her fried chicken made that easy. Let's just say there wasn't a lot of debris left on the plate as I gleefully sucked the bones clean.

And when Weaver drifted by our table to ask how the meal was, I started to say "fanta --", but before I could get out the "tic", he shouted out "AUTOMATIC!".

Automatic, Indeed.

Bridging the Gap

One reason why I enjoy teaching the second half of U.S. history at our nearby junior college is the chance to be that bridge between old and new. There are some real constants.

In fashions -- both political and haberdashery -- everything old really will become new again. Let me be clear -- I'm not one of those history WILL repeat itself people. It will loop back through similar circumstances, but it never rolls the same.

So as I look forward on new media in particular, I see a tremendous amount of the past in our future.

Last Hit on Phelps

It has become so routine, it's hardly worth comment anymore. High profile athlete goes to party. High profile athlete gets photographed:
A) drunk
B) stoned
C) groping
D) all of the above

And the pundit-sphere has run the gamut from arrest him to leave the kid alone. On the one hand, he's a kid getting paid big money to play a kid's game. On the other, half a century ago at 23, he'd be an officer leading men to their .

This is the part I found interesting. The party was three months ago. There's the abject lesson for college athletes and their administrators. This stuff never goes away. It took a long time for the images to wind their away around the internet to a traditional media outlet that would use them. When they did, Team Phelps allegedly offered all sorts of "incentives" for the British paper to not publish.

I suppose if I were the publicist involved, I'd be throwing everything at the paper to protect my client. To me, the disturbing part is the newspaper may have been listening.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Broadening the Audience for Quality

John Cleese famously advanced the wine world with a how-to DVD a couple of years ago, Wine for the Confused. As we consider the future of journalism school, we might take a page from the vineyard. Educating our consumers to the nuances, the nutty undertones, the need for some sources to breath -- tell me the concept doesn't transfer?

Granted, there is a fine line between elevating the debate and returning to the command role of the editor (we'll decide what is news for you) to the group formerly known as the audience.

Such a lecture (or even short course) serves two goals. The obvious is to bring to the non-journalist, non-news junkie a new skill set to properly assess the web. Sort of a bit of civics to maintain that ever-so-important societal value in a democracy -- an education populace. The second is a bit more evangelical. If we are to trust the people, trust the judgment of the mob, we should take a little time to show them the basics to good journalism.

After all, as the crowd increasingly becomes the source, it would be nice if they had a touch of the 5Ws and H.

It's Called a Lack of Taste

In some Claude Rains moment (I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here), the traditional and digital media are taken aback by the use of the Obama brand to sell merchandise. Blake Rutherford's blog provides the pointer to a Bloomberg report on how White House lawyers are looking into limiting usage of the President's visage. It contains this money quote:

“I can’t remember this ever happening to an active politician before, as a spokesperson or as an image for a brand,” said Brad Adgate, director of research for Horizon Media Inc., a New York-based advertising agency.

Um. Does anyone remember pillbox hats? Jackie Kennedy styles? Perhaps the difference is today we are a lot more shameless in the exploitation of public personalities for profit. Thinking back to the style-setting Kennedys, maybe we're a little more transparent about it today.

And for those lawyers -- welcome to the public domain, baby. Kind of like trying to trademark the American flag.

This Just In

President Obama is proud of the new legislation that will cap executive compensation at $500,000 for any financial firm that accepts a government bailout.

That's less than any head football coach in the SEC. Less than I think all the men's basketball coaches. Less than 2/3rds of the women's basketball coaches in the Big 12.

$500,000 can get you an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator -- but not a defensive coordinator -- at Tennessee.

I'm not really sure what this says for America. An attempt at retroactive vengeance for a bunch of Bonfire of the Vanities-types puts the federal government in the wage and price controls business. (FYI -- The bill should have been called the Lawyers Employment Act; good luck in court. See: NCAA vs. restricted earnings coaches.)

Meanwhile, a market-driven escalation of coaching salaries the past few years threatens to cripple athletic departments, and in turn, injure the bottom line of some of our most important public institutions.

Then again, Urban Meyer did have a better year than A.I.G.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Deresiewicz is Right

Technology is terribly isolating. I notice this while sitting in the surgery waiting room this past week. I'm the only person with an iPod, and the only one who is not engaged in the nervous community that comes from these kind of places.

Perhaps it's a product of growing up in a hospital -- my father battled through a series of chronic illnesses, and as a child and teenager, I knew were all the best vending machines were hidden in the back corners of St. Francis -- but I'm just not much for that any more. Too much time spent also sleeping in ICU waiting with my mother's cancer.

So the gift of podcast allows me to escape. At least, I'm self-aware of my retreat from the community.

At the same time, the other half of my portable tech allows me to immediately become a part of a conversation with friends scattered by circumstance and ice storm. Texting gives me the sense of salon that I'm not going to have with the folks that have been randomly placed with me.

Once again, time and space are defeated by the digital age.

Here's the irony twist -- waiting in my mailbox was last week's Chronicle, in which William Deresiewicz opines the same concept in far more elegant prose. I give my highest recommendation to The End of Solitude.

There are some riveting points.

Technology is taking away our privacy and our concentration, but it is also taking away our ability to be alone.

Man may be a social animal, but solitude has traditionally been a societal value.

I particularly like this little ditty:

If Lionel Trilling was right, if the property that grounded the self, in Romanticism, was sincerity, in modernism it was authenticity, then in postmodernism it is visibility.

Deresiewicz gives us a lot to think about regarding the motivation of the digital natives, and their almost born instinct for notoriety and faux community.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

From the Ministry of Silly Walks

The Pythons get the internet. Give away a quality product, and you can reap return with premium content for pay. To that end, Monty Python now has its own YouTube channel with many of their best bits available to watch for free.

Oh, but they might not buy.

Oh, how wrong. Sales on-line are up dramatically since the channel launched with the typical Pythonesque attitude:

For 3 years you YouTubers have been ripping us off, taking tens of thousands of our videos and putting them on YouTube. Now the tables are turned. It's time for us to take matters into our own hands.

They close with the obvious:

But we want something in return. None of your driveling, mindless comments. Instead, we want you to click on the links, buy our movies & TV shows and soften our pain and disgust at being ripped off all these years.

It's here.

UPDATE: Heavens. It's the Ministry of SILLY Walks, not Funny.

Did I Mention I Hate Ice

Small look at Ice Station Fayetteville. In spite of the trees on the house, we were much more fortunate than our neighbors.

You Didn't Just Say That

"I heard it. That guy, he's a d***, man."


Open mike for one of the producers or directors, or was that one of the talent, of the local Fox affiliate. Little gap between the end of Fringe and the start of the news.

More J-School Notes

What separates the articulate programmer and the clever bystander from the journalist – journalism school.

The depth of knowledge that comes from a reflective liberal arts education is the crucial key.

It’s not the memorization of facts, and not simply the learning of key skills; not even the exercise of learning to learn.

I take this from my work teaching American history at NWACC. More than one instructor derides the teaching of "facts" as we can just google them. Unless, of course, one has no baseline of knowledge to work from, leading to over-reliance on on-line sources.

How does one judge the veracity of a Wikipedia entry? Or discern an advocate website from some strategic communication astro-turfing?

We are only as good as our sources -- whether human or digital.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Thoughts on J-School

In advance of a presentation next week on new media at UA's Lemke School, this is the first of a series of notes as I prep.

We can’t assume that we can’t live without journalism school. Creative destruction is a spectre that hangs over the hallowed halls just as it does the mass media.

America did just fine through the penny press period and the rise of the mass media. It was a vocational field, where young talent was brought up through a guild-like system.

In a digital age that can lead to the simultaneous deconstruction of the newsroom and the metastasis of news sources on-line, where are the editors, the columnists, the older beat reporters who can instruct. Here is where j-school steps into the breech.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Politicos Continue to Prove Fan First

While athletic departments continue to struggle with the idea of going direct to their supporters, politicians from Barak Obama to the speaker of the house here in the state of Arkansas. Robbie Wills is blogging the current session, including his "wall-like" side posts. His reports are picked up by other digital media in our state, and he certainly is setting his own agenda. Check his blog here, and some interesting words for Dick Armey.

Where For Art Thou, Jonah

Fayetteville's leading political blogger has disappeared.

Sorry for the Delay

This has been a very bad week. First of all, greetings from the now unthawed Ice Station Fayetteville (nod to Max Brantley). The damage here was, on a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 is no damage and 10 is total, was a strong five, maybe six. Along with almost all the trees taking potential lethal damage, I lost every antenna (something the fellow hams can relate to) and my generator got toasted. However, it is nowhere near what some neighbors (three roof punctures next door) got, so for that, I'm thankful.

I invoke the 0-10 scale as I've been hearing that a lot from nurses to my wife about her pain with surgery this week. Nothing like being in the hospital while all ice breaks loose around you.

So, my apologies to the followers. With any luck we'll get back on schedule. And for that one person who emailed asking about a project, well, you know, I was thinking about a new angle for that while riding shotgun in the ambulance carrying my wife back to the hospital on Friday, about 90 minutes after I got her home. Gosh, if all that house damage and that pesky 911 call hadn't gotten in the way. In the future, I will make sure to schedule our family emergencies around those deadlines. Thank you, in particular, for your kind thoughts.