About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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July 04, 2005

Experiments in Newspaper/Blog Hybrids

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The New York Times has a good summary of the many changes that are ongoing and coming up at the News & Record daily newspaper (Why Newspapers Are Betting on Audience Participation).

In this world, "Get me rewrite" will in effect be a menu option, a way for unhappy readers to go online and offer their own versions of articles they do not like. Their hope is to convert the paper, through its Web site,, into a virtual town square, where citizens have a say in the news and where every reader is a reporter.

This feature, part of a planned overhaul of The News & Record's Web site that is to begin next week, is a potent symbol of a transformation taking place across the country, where top-down, voice-of-God journalism is being challenged by what is called participatory journalism, or civic or citizen journalism.

It is interesting that the NY Times doesn't mention its baby steps in covering blogs, but I especially like this story of sources "scooping" the News & Record.
Yet there is fierce competition with bloggers. Several local politicians blog, including Sandy Carmany, a member of the City Council, who blogs in near-real time, and who scooped The News & Record recently on the city budget. Last week, when a News & Record reporter called Tom Phillips, another councilman, for comment on the paper's exclusive information that Wal-Mart was coming to town, Mr. Phillips turned around and broke the news on his own blog.
I hardly think a council member informing their constituents what is happening on the city council should be considered a "scoop." In any case, is the budget that is the news, or is analysis of what it means the news? What's the real "scoop"? And, should a politician wait to inform citizens of news that will affect them until a newspaper has had a chance to publish a story on it?

Read the whole thing and then check out Citizen Paine's take: NYT's take on Greensboro News-Record.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

June 29, 2005

June 25, 2005

WKRN-TV Gets It, They Really Get It

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Lostremote is reporting from Gnomedex about the future of media and Terry Heaton talks about what WKRN in Nashville is doing (The WKRN-TV 'Breakthrough'). Read the whole thing, but this really caught my attention:

On July 17th, WKRN's chief photographer will host a video workshop for bloggers -- which will become a monthly event. Twenty bloggers or so are signed up to learn tricks of the trade so they can become better photographers.
By the end of the summer, Heaton says WKRN will offer portions of raw news video online that fall under Creative Commons (this is a first for a local TV station). The crowd applauded. "[We're] involving the citizenry of Nashville in producing our news," he said.
Now that is really something. Teaching and sharing. That is the future of news.

Related news also from lostremote, WKRN-TV to Switch to VJs.

The Nashville ABC affiliate is expected to announce on Monday that the station is switching to the video journalist (VJ) model of news -- reporters who shoot and edit their own video.

Viewfinder Blues, an actual VJ, discusses how this change is being taken by various of his colleagues, and what it might portend for TV news (The Age of Convergence (Part 2)).

Imagine a TV newsroom where even the top anchor schleps gear, thus tarnishing the artifice of suave superiority inherent in the dapper newsreader model. While that’s not likely to happen, one aspect of the changing times does excite me: the gradual transformation of local correspondents from overdressed poseurs to blue-collar news gatherers. Blasphemy you say? Perhaps, but a newscast focused more on stories than storytellers is one even I might watch. Might.

But I digress. What will most probably transpire is an amalgamation of the fears and concerns wafting over the internet right now. Depth and aesthetics WILL suffer, at least until practitioners of these new methods get the formula right. Even then, TV news won’t be the same. Higher story counts will be delivered with far cruder execution. Smaller, lighter lenses will open up new frontiers, but it will be a bumpy, often out-of-focus ride. Reporters will still go live(!) for no apparent reason, but they may be a little more out of breath from shooting and editing their own stuff. Legions of reporters and photogs opposed to cross-training will leave the fold, making room for a new generation of loners with lenses who will merrily take their place. Not so long from now, this group of 21st century newsies will sit around their magic laptops, wi-fi wristbands and sat-dish jetpacks, and wonder what all the fuss was about.

Read the whole thing.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

June 24, 2005

June 22, 2005

June 21, 2005

June 20, 2005

Wikitorial Post Mortem

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The LA Times's 'wikitorial' experiment lasted but a few short hours. It was launched Friday morning (LA Times Wikitorial Experiment Begins). Was quite active for about two days (LA Times Wikitorials - One Day Later). And then was shut down abruptly on Sunday morning (LA Times Wikitorial Has Left the Building (For Now)).

Editor and Publisher runs an AP wirestory on the debacle ('L.A Times' Explains End of its 'Wiki'). ZDNET News cites a couple of letters to the editor (L.A. Times Sshuts Reader-Editorial). The NY Times weighs in (Postings of Obscene Photos End Free-Form Editorial Experiment). And, finally, the LA Times itself ('Wikitorial' Pulled After Vandalism).

All of these articles talk about why the 'wikitorial' was shut down: a profusion of pornographic images. In particular.

But none of these articles bother to address whether the experiment was working up to the point of the vandalism. Sure the wikitorial was forked into a pro and con side, but were either of them any good? The LA Times introduced its wikitorial with an editorial (A Wiki for Your Thoughts).

Do you see fatuous reasoning, a selective reading of the facts, a lack of poetry? Well, what are you going to do about it? You could send us an e-mail (or even write us a letter, if you can find a stamp). But today you have a new option: Rewrite the editorial yourself, using a Web page known as a "wiki," at
Here are a few questions: were any of the revisions less fatuous? Was there less selective reading of facts or more? Were the revisions sufficiently poetic? (I don't think that changing the title from War and Consequences to Dreams About War and Consequences is particularly poetic, but it certainly is fatuous.)

Reporting that the wiki has been shut down is the easy part. Letting people know whether the experiment was otherwise successful is the hard part, and no one in the traditional press seems eager to confront it.

Welcome Insta-readers!
Jeff Jarvis provides a much better post mortem than the traditional press has: Wiki Cooties and the Death of Editorials.

Well now the LA Times has given wikis cooties. The New York Times and other media outlets have covered the collapse of its wikitorial project and I've heard more than one old-media person say, well, I see LA tried wikis and it's dangerous.
It is bad enough that many in the traditional media don't understand how wikis can succeed - they can be exceedingly useful and productive. It'll be worse if they don't understand how wikis can fail.

The Observer Blog from the Guardian has a good summation (Wikitorials. Must Have Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time):

The LA Times probably thought it was inviting the internet to join it on the anti-establishment barricades. In fact it was throwing open the doors to the Winter Palace. That the mob went on the rampage is not all that surprising.

A commentor claims to be behind the vandalism: Son of Goatse.

Comments (16) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

June 19, 2005

LA Times Wikitorial Has Left the Building (For Now)

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Posted by Ernest Miller

So I decided to see how the LA Times' "wikitorial" experiment was going this morning, but currently the only thing on the website is: "The Los Angeles Times Wiki is currently closed" (LAT Wiki). Vandalism perhaps? System maintenance? It would be nice to have a little more information.

In any case, Ross Mayfield thinks that the forked Wiki might have worked (Wikitorial Fork). On some topics, perhaps, you can have a single fork. But these are relatively rare. Do the two expressed opinions of the political parties cover the range of opinion? Rather than foster many voices and an exhaustive range of opinion, doesn't a forked wiki simply encourage false left/right dichotomies? You could have many forks, but why then a Wiki?

Perhaps the slashdotting had an effect (Slashdot | Editorial Wiki Debuts At LA Times).

I'm sure the instalanche wouldn't help: Instapundit | Slasdot Readers Comment on the Los Angeles Times' Wikitorial Experiment

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

June 18, 2005

LA Times Wikitorials - One Day Later

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Well, its has been more that 24 hours since the LA Times Wikitorial went live. Has it been a success? The answer is a resounding "Yes!" That is, if you're interested in left-wing banalities. The editorial has forked, as I thought it might. The left-wing version is a bloated, rather less temperate version of the original editorial. A couple of snapshots (and why is the title now "Dreams About"?) (Dreams About War and Retribution) :

We propose an international peace conference to promote peace, democracy, and reconstruction in Iraq. To this end, we have asked the Senate and House of Representatives to pass a resolution demanding this administration to immediately request the UN Security Council to convene such a conference. If you support this proposal, please write to your senators and congressmen. We, the American people, have the power to facilitate the process of ending this war and to create a just peace in a morally responsible manner.
There is also Dreams About War and Retribution - Hank Reamy's Rewrite. We need a wikitorial for this? Why not simply slap a Creative Commons license on the editorial and encourage people to rewrite on their own blog.

To balance things out, if by balanced you mean a pathetically lame counter argument, there is Counterpoint to Dreams About War and Retribution.

I hope that the LA Times is paying Jimbo Wales, since he seems to be putting in the most effort to correct the vandalism and keep the wikitorial at least somewhat on track.

I'm all for experiments, but there are better ways to bring the community into the paper.

The LA Voice live blogged the wikitorial (Dogs & Cats, Living Together: Times Launches Wikitorials).

Editor and Publisher (whose webpage - or more likely, some stupid ad - does something nasty to my browser - Firefox - and runs the CPU at 100%) talks to LA Times Editorial and Opinion Editor Michael Kinsley, the man behind the changes, on how it is going so far ('Wiki' Era Dawns at 'L.A. Times': Chaotic, But Kinsley is 'Loving It').

My original comments on the concept: Wikitorials: A Dubious Idea from the LA Times.

Question Technology: The First Wikitorial:

It looks like it's evolving into a pamphlet of everyone's favorite lefty anti-war screeds rather than a concise editorial. (Most of which screeds I agree with, just for the record.)

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

June 17, 2005

June 13, 2005

June 12, 2005

Wikitorials: A Dubious Idea from the LA Times

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Posted by Ernest Miller

I'm all for newspaper experimentation and I wish the LA Times well with its coming revamp of the editorial pages, but one idea sure sounds dubious (Editor's Note: To Our Readers).

Watch next week for the introduction of "wikitorials" — an online feature that will empower you to rewrite Los Angeles Times editorials.
Now this doesn't provide a whole lot of information on what they have planned, but I'm trying hard to imagine how they intend to make this work. Won't they simply be inviting their partisan readers to engage in an "Edit War"? After all, editorials are supposed to have a point of view, with which many readers will undoubtedly and inevitably disagree.

Furthermore, aren't editorials supposed to have a "voice"? How do you accomplish this, do you want to accomplish this, in a "wikitorial"?

They almost certainly won't be trying to embrace Wikipedia's Neutral Point of View policy, which would be pretty boring, if they could get it to work for things that are supposed to have point of views.

Perhaps they'll have forking? One (or two?) base editorials, point/counterpoint style? One base editorial, many forks? Not exactly a wiki then, really.

Well, I guess we'll have to find out next week.

via Dan Gillmor

Ross Mayfield has some thoughts on the subject (Wikitorials).

Teleread is more excited than I (Wikitorials Coming from the Los Angeles Times—But, Wait, How About Wikens?).

Political Animal has even more on this (The Future of Editorials?). Quoting the New York Times (Upheaval on Los Angeles Times Editorial Pages):

This week, the newspaper, will introduce an online feature called "wikitorials," as a way for readers to engage in an online dialogue with the paper. The model is based on "Wikipedia," the Web's free-content encyclopedia that is edited by online contributors.

"We'll have some editorials where you can go online and edit an editorial to your satisfaction," Mr. Martinez said. "We are going to do that with selected editorials initially. We don't know how this is going to turn out. It's all about finding new ways to allow readers to interact with us in the age of the Web."

Hmmm... I'm not sure they get it. When you edit a Wiki you're not really editing it to your satisfaction, you're editing it to the satisfaction of everyone who reads the Wiki subsequently. Cuz if you don't, they'll edit it to their satisfaction.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

June 11, 2005

Citizen of Nowhere

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Once again, Jay Rosen has a thought provoking essay about modern journalism ("When I’m Reporting, I am a Citizen of the World."). The quote in the title of the essay is from Bob Franken, a national correspondent for CNN and an embedded journalist during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. It was during his time in Iraq that he uttered the quote. [Correction: The quote was in reply to a question.]

In his essay, Jay is mildly fascinated by this quote as an expression of "newsroom religion." And if this is "newsroom religion," he asks of the Big Journalism Deans: "if schools like yours are supposed to spread the gospel, how do they know they have the religion right?"

I'm mildly fascinated by that quote too.

Why the, "When I am reporting ..." qualification? Citizenship is a series of duties and rights. Citizenship is not something you turn on and off like a light switch. It isn't a coat you take off when it is too warm and put on when it grows cold. What an odd notion of citizenship Franken must have.

What the heck does "citizen of the world" mean? It's a nice phrase, sounds rather high-minded. But what does it really mean?

Citizenship means being a member of a sovereign political community. I hate to break it to Franken, but we have no world-wide sovereign political community.

Citizenship implies duties as well as rights. And though Franken may feel a self-imposed duty to "the world," there is certainly no legal obligation, nor is it clear what such a duty would entail. As for rights, much of the world couldn't care less for Franken's claimed supra-national citizenship.

Franken is claiming to be a citizen of the world, a citizen of everywhere.

Instead, he is a citizen of nowhere.

Of course, if you feel you have a duty to the world, we might call that humanitarianism. Franken might have said, "when I report, I am a humanitarian." But he didn't. And the reason is that calling oneself a humanitarian doesn't quite say what Franken wants to say.

Rejecting Citizenship in the United States

When Franken claims to be a citizen of the world, he is not simply taking on the mantle of humanitarian, he is implicitly rejecting his citizenship in the United States.

In so doing he rejects the US Constitution, and the sovereign political community formed by it. He is claiming to no longer share a common civic identity with other American citizens. He is setting himself outside the polity, a sort of self-imposed exile, if you will. Such a person has no more duty and responsibility towards the US Constitution and the people organized under it than any non-citizen.

It is very odd for a member of a trade that so loudly proclaims the benefits of the First Amendment to reject allegiance to it when engaged in that trade.

Here in the United States, as a practical matter, rejecting citizenship isn't such a big deal. While mere inhabitants can't vote, serve on juries or take certain political offices, they retain all the other rights granted by our Constitution. Overseas, however, it would be another story. (Of course, this shows the vacuity of the statement. If Franken got into trouble "when reporting" overseas, the first thing he would be screaming for would be the US Embassy.)

As noted, a very important part of citizenship is a responsibility for and duty towards the polity. A citizen of the United States has a duty and a responsibility to criticize and correct her government when it is wrong. A citizen of nowhere has no such responsibility. A citizen of the United States has a duty to his other citizens, to protect and defend their rights. A citizen of nowhere has no such duty. A citizen of the United States has an obligation of loyalty. A citizen of nowhere is not so obligated.

Franken would likely object to this characterization:

"What I said and what I meant is you can be a patriot and a journalist. My point was and is that we exhibit our patriotism by being journalists — that is, skeptics…
In other words, as a reporter, he would say that he is exercising his civic responsibilities; he is not rejecting his American citizenship, he is embracing it.

Why then call himself a "citizen of the world"? Such a position is logically incoherent.

Perhaps, because if he didn't, some viewers might think he embraced and believed in our Constitution and the democratic values it expresses; that he is biased towards democracy and liberal rights like freedom of expression. Some viewers might be offended by that. Some viewers might have the odd notion that citizenship means support for government policy. Wouldn't want to confuse them with the fact that republican citizenship implies no such thing.

Wouldn't it better and more honest to say, "When I'm reporting, I am fulfilling my duties as a citizen of the United States"?

Comments (19) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism

June 05, 2005

Journalism's Coming Age of Enlightenment

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Jay Rosen has written another of his insightful pieces on the state of modern journalism, today finding the connections between J-School reform and the press mythology of Watergate (Deep Throat, J-School and Newsroom Religion). Read the whole thing, but the following passage was particularly striking to me:

In his excellent book, Watergate and American Memory (1992, Basic) Michael Schudson distinguishes between the scandal, which didn't change the world very much, and the myth of Watergate in journalism. It did change journalism by giving the warrant of history (and the mandate of heaven) to the adversarial press and the Fourth Estate model, where the press is an essential check on government, a modern addition to the balance of powers.
In many ways, this gets to the heart of the problems with the ways that the mass institutional press views itself. The picture the mass institutional press has of itself is that of the Fourth Estate, another branch of the governing structure, albeit unelected. They are adversarial because they seek to check and balance the other powers, which, presumably, do not represent the interests of the people. The mass institutional press has arrogated unto itself the voice of the absent people.

Much of this comes, I think, from a fundamental misunderstanding of "freedom of speech, or of the press".

Let me make this clear:

The interests and purposes of the First Amendment are not identical with the interests and purposes of the mass institutional press. For the purposes of the First Amendment, the mass institutional press is sometimes a means, not an end.

Freedom of speech and of the press is the principle; the mass institutional press is merely one expression of this principle and, as we are learning, is a historically contingent and flawed one at that. The error has come in thinking that the mass institutional press is the only possible means for expressing this principle, and that what the mass institutional press expresses is also an expression of this principle.

This wouldn't be so bad, if the mass institutional press hadn't gotten the underlying principle so darn wrong.

Deans of Journalism, scribble a note: Investigative reporting, exposing public corruption, and carrying the mantle of the downtrodden were taught to McGrath not as political acts in themselves--which they are--and not as a continuation of the progressive movement of the 1920s, in which the cleansing light of publicity was a weapon of reform--which they are--but just as a way of being idealistic, a non-political truthteller in the job of journalist. (Which is bunk.) [emphasis in original]
These two means are expressions of the interests and purposes of the First Amendment, though I would not emphasize that the cleansing light of publicity is not only part of the progressive movement of the 1920s. Political is not synonymous with partisan.

There are other purposes of free speech, but clearly, one of the most important is that of persuasion in service to what we can know of truth. This is inevitably, if not definitionally political. However, the mass institutional press eschews persuasion for a recitation of facts and "he said, she said," in order to avoid persusasion and, thus they think, politics. But gathering and organizing facts is still a persuasive and political act. It is fairly explicit when exposing public corruption. And it exists even in "he said, she said" reporting when it gives one implausible argument greater weight through equal stature with the superior argument. This is particularly insidious in its effects upon the journalists themselves, who seek only arguments on both sides of an issue, rather than the persuasive arguments, and may thus eventually become blind to the difference.

The biggest blindness was, of course, to the reality that fact-gathering and reporting are inevitably political. And, thus,

This kind of instruction is guaranteed to leave future journalists baffled by the culture wars, and in fact the press has been baffled to find that it has political opponents. Well, jeez louise, so did the progressives of the 1920s! As far as the religion knows, none of this is happening. And J-schools--by passing the faith along but making little room for non-believers--are part of the problem.
And so, at least partly, the mass institutional press comes to its present crisis. And what is the solution?
But maybe it should be crashed. Maybe what we need is not funding for a new church, but a breakaway church, or two, or three of them. (And what is Fox News Channel, but that?)
Well, actually, Fox News is a bunch of recreants. They still worship in the church of objectivity, but that is only lip service.

But why new churches? Tear down the church and let a diversity of schools of thought bloom.


Jay Rosen has updated the paragraph I cited above. Here is the new version:

In his excellent book, Watergate and American Memory (1992, Basic) Michael Schudson distinguishes between the scandal, which didn't change the world very much, and the myth of Watergate in journalism. By giving the warrant of history, and the mandate of heaven, to the adversarial press, and the Fourth Estate model (where the press is an essential check on government, a modern addition to the balance of powers); by telling each new crop of journalists how to be heroes and how do good; by glamorizing the underworld of confidential sources, the mythos of Watergate had very definite effects in journalism.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Freedom of Expression | Journalism | Network Law

June 04, 2005

May 30, 2005

The Deer Have Guns and the Hunters Are Getting a Makeover

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Broadcasting & Cable's coverstory this week is on television newsroom consultants, "How consultants shape newscasts, from steering the coverage to choosing eyeliner" (News Svengalis at Work). The article is beyond parody. If you want to know why television news is circling the drain, read it. Lost remote has a succinct yet devastating critique (How Consultants Shape Newscasts):

Today's TV stations must innovate and leverage new technologies to cut through the clutter in an increasingly competitive digital marketplace. But the B&C story talked about the same old stuff: hairstyles, wardrobe and Doppler radar. Not very flattering for Magid [a consulting firm]; its new media arm wasn't even mentioned in the piece.

One example of the sort of advice being touted:

Sometimes, the juxtaposition of image consulting and the sober aspects of news events can be jarring, as when Carey talks to Wiedemann about wardrobe selection. “Who would think that a terrible thing would happen in a small place like Oklahoma City, where they had all the bombing?” Carey [image consultant] says. “You have to ask yourself: If there was a terrible tragedy in my area and that footage went all around the country—which could very well happen—would you be embarrassed? Would you be ashamed? Would you say to yourself, Oh, my God, I wore the wrong thing that day?”
Let me see, there is a major bombing in Oklahoma City, hundreds die, and the reporter should be embarrassed by what they wore? And people wonder why journalism is losing respect. Like I said, these consultants are beyond parody.

These television stations should be getting advice from Terry Heaton, instead (TV News in a Postmodern World: Stations Must Embrace Personal Tools):

Web researcher Gordon Borrell says, "The deer now have guns," and he's right. With a PC, a $100 web camera, a $200 piece of real-time TV production software that includes a teleprompter, free blog software, FTP access to a server, a small digital camera, editing software, and an imagination, anybody can be a TV station, a newspaper or a multimedia news operation. In order to do so, however, the person running the enterprise needs to know how to do everything.
"The deer have guns" and the hunters are busy getting a makeover.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

May 27, 2005

The Opening of the Frontier

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Ben Compaine, author of Who Owns the Media?, analogizes citizens media to the frontier, as in Frederick Jackson Turner's The Frontier In American History (Peercasting as the New Western Frontier).

[I]n 1893 [Turner] presented his view that the key component to the unique American character of democracy was the settlement of the American West. That is, the availability of vast stretches of free land away from the initial settlements of the East Coast provided a safety value for those who were dissatisfied with their circumstances. The seemingly endless western frontier offered anyone an opportunity to acquire a farm and become an independent member of society. Free land thus tended to relieve poverty in the Eastern cities while on the frontier it fostered greater economic equality.

What does this have to do with the media? Here’s what: Though it may be a tad premature, in the equally unlimited expanses of information available through the Internet and its related ecosystem I see the makings of a similar safety value for expression and communication. Today it is Blogs, Live365 streaming radio and Podcasts. Tomorrow it is likely to be the video version of streaming radio and Vodcasting [PDF]. Better than a soapbox at Hyde Park Corner, reaching further than leaflets handed out in Times Square, more user-controlled than letters to the editor, “peercasting” may be for the Information Age what free land was for the late Agricultural/early Industrial Age....

Most Americans did not head West, though all knew that they could. The free land of the American West enabled those who were most motivated and most dissatisfied with the opportunities where they were to have hope. They did not see themselves as being stuck. Not every city slicker who headed West prospered. But it was the opportunity that helped shape them and the spirit of this country for over two centuries. And today’s dissatified or motivated knew that, for the first time, they too will be heard.

Blogging and podding and vodding or whatever else these formats might be called should not be viewed as a veneer or a Potemkin Village of phantom access to the world stage. The move to the Western frontier was real. Similarly this digital outlet that gives voice to the leafleteer, corner orator or anyone with a point of view or a story to be told is real and meaningful. We saw in Howard Dean’s meteoric rise the power of the Internet is getting the word out and in raising money. It happened for the most part under the radar of the mainstream media.

In the next decades peercasting will be become the norm to one degree or another. It will not replace mass media but will add a significant dimension to what and how the media is viewed. And, I believe, peercasting will have an overall positive effect on the American -- and no reason why not the rest of the world’s – experience with the expanded boundaries of this new frontier. I think that’s how Frederick Jackson Turner would describe it.


I've copied a significant chunk of Compaine's posting (go read the rest!) because I think he has really hit on something important. There is really a lot going on here, just as there was in Turner's original frontier thesis.

We've often heard the internet analogized to the Wild West, but I've never really liked the metaphor of place. In many ways, I think it is misleading. Here, I believe, is the better metaphor: frontier. A frontier isn't a place, it is a process. Ever-changing, ever-growing, never tamed, the frontier is always just at the edge of "civilization". You can't pin down the frontier because as soon as you do, it has moved on.

The American frontier shaped people and institutions; it formulated a unique American character. I think citizens media may do something similar, though this time it won't be as restricted geographically. What changes, if any, might this new frontier have on the American character? How might the concept of "frontier" impact other nations?

If the internet is a frontier, it is an incredibly fast moving one. Where parts of the American frontier took years to settle, internet frontiers are settled much quicker. What effect does this have on the frontier thesis?

By the time Turner wrote his famous thesis, the frontier had officially closed. Will an electronic frontier close? How might we seek to prevent it?

Does the open source movement also play a role in this frontier? I would think so, yes.

Lots of questions, I know, but I now have a lot to think about and chew over. I leave this post with a passage Turner quoted from Peck's New Guide to the West:

Generally, in all the western settlements, three classes, like the waves of the ocean, have rolled one after the other. First comes the pioneer, who depends for the subsistence of his family chiefly upon the natural growth of vegetation, called the "range," and the proceeds of hunting. His implements of agriculture are rude, chiefly of his own make, and his efforts directed mainly to a crop of corn and a "truck patch." The last is a rude garden for growing cabbage, beans, corn for roasting ears, cucumbers, and potatoes. A log cabin, and, occasionally, a stable and corn-crib, and a field of a dozen acres, the timber girdled or "deadened," and fenced, are enough for his occupancy. It is quite immaterial whether he ever becomes the owner of the soil. He is the occupant for the time being, pays no rent, and feels as independent as the " lord of the manor." With a horse, cow, and one or two breeders of swine, he strikes into the woods with his family, and becomes the founder of a new county, or perhaps state. He builds his cabin, gathers around him a few other families of similar tastes and habits, and occupies till the range is somewhat subdued, and hunting a little precarious, or, which is more frequently the case, till the neighbors crowd around, roads, bridges, and fields annoy him, and he lacks elbow room. The preëmption law enables him to dispose of his cabin and cornfield to the next class of emigrants; and, to employ his own figures, he "breaks for the high timber," "clears out for the New Purchase," or migrates to Arkansas or Texas, to work the same process over.

The next class of emigrants purchase the lands, add field to field, clear out the roads, throw rough bridges over the streams, put up hewn log houses with glass windows and brick or stone chimneys, occasionally plant orchards, build mills, school-houses, court-houses, etc., and exhibit the picture and forms of plain, frugal, civilized life.

Another wave rolls on. The men of capital and enterprise come. The settler is ready to sell out and take the advantage of the rise in property, push farther into the interior and become, himself, a man of capital and enterprise in turn. The small village rises to a spacious town or city; substantial edifices of brick, extensive fields, orchards, gardens, colleges, and churches are seen. Broad-cloths, silks, leghorns, crepes, and all the refinements, luxuries, elegancies, frivolities, and fashions are in vogue. Thus wave after wave is rolling westward; the real Eldorado is still farther on.

A portion of the two first classes remain stationary amidst the general movement, improve their habits and condition, and rise in the scale of society.


Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Broadcatching/Podcasting | Culture | Freedom of Expression | Internet | Journalism | Network Law

May 26, 2005

Three Questions for Kevin Drum: A Response From Me, Instead

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Posted by Ernest Miller

New Journalism guru Jay Rosen proposes three questions for Kevin Drum (Three Questions for Kevin Drum):

  • Is the press, properly understood, a political animal?
  • If so, what kind of politics should it have?
  • How do we know if the press has got the politics part right?
No one asked me, but I'll go ahead and give my answers anyway.

One caveat, I wouldn't phrase the questions as about "the press," but rather, about journalism. For me, "the press" means distributors of information. Entertainment is part of "the press." PR is part of "the press." The government is part of "the press." I know that "the press" and journalism are often used as synonyms, but I think it confuses things somewhat.

Is journalism, properly understood, a political animal?

Of course it is. How could it not be? That is sort of one of the main points of the First Amendment, is it not? When one reports on political issues, it is inevitable that the reporting will become part of the political cycle. At the very least there is an "observer effect". Carlyle attributed Edmund Burke with claiming that there were three estates in parliament and a fourth estate in the press gallery. The name "Fourth Estate" stuck, with good reason, as it is a fairly accurate depiction of the role journalism plays in government.

I think the most trouble comes when journalists try to deny this. See also, Instapundit

If so, what kind of politics should it have?

Almost any damn kind it pleases. Journalism isn't a single monolithic institution. It is a cacophony of voices.

In many ways it is part and parcel of democracy, which is political by definition, but doesn't have a particular "politics." Rather, democracy has particular processes (which exclude at some point certain forms of politics - anti-democratic ones). We may not agree on the ends in democracy, but we have a working consensus on the means.

Journalism is the same. Have whatever "politics" you desire, but adhere to a few process-oriented rules: transparency, accuracy, fairness, open access, etc. There will never be perfect agreement on what these entail, precisely, but we should be able to achieve a good working consensus, just as we have for democracy.

How do we know if journalism has got the politics part right?

We can't.

Journalism is a means and journey, not an end. Just as our understanding of democracy has developed and changed (universal sufferage, new constitutional rights), so will our understanding of the processes of journalism. Isn't blogging sort of like universal sufferage for journalism? The best we can try to do is figure out ways that journalism can be more transparent, more accurate, etc.


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May 24, 2005

Another Major Advertiser Demands Right to Preview Editorial Content

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Yesterday, I noted the abusive ad contracts Morgan Stanley is promulgating, requiring publications to notify the company of any negative editorial content (Morgan Stanley's Abusive Ad Contracts). Now, Ad Age (reg. req.) reports that British Petroleum is demanding the same (BP Institutes 'Ad-Pull' Policy for Print Publications). Journalists better get together and tell these companies to knock it the heck off. A boycott would be nice. via Spin of the Day


More from Hit and Run (Breaking News). I think Sanchez makes mostly good points, but I believe advertisers should simply make the decision whether to advertise in a particular magazine or not. If BP doesn't want to advertise in "Environmentalist's Monthly," fine. However, having made the decision to advertise, they shouldn't seek to act in any way that would compromise editorial integrity and publications shouldn't let them try.


Brother Michael O'Connor Clarke: BP "pulls" a Morgan Stanley)

The scope of this new policy is so outrageously broad -- insisting that the company's media buying agency be informed before a publication runs "any editorial that contains fuel, oil or energy news" -- it strikes me that any "ad-accepting" magazine or newpaper agreeing to these terms is accepting much more than BP's advertising.
Brother Dana Blankenhorn: No BP or Morgan Stanley Ads Here
Every ethical journalist-blogger on the planet is now on notice to look for negative stories about these companies, and seek out the names of companies with similar policies. Once such a story hits any blog it will be everywhere, instantly, thanks to the magic of RSS.
AdAge editorial: Shame on BP and Morgan Stanley Pull Policies
The primary reasons for advertisers to invest in any media product should be the bond that product has with its audience and the relevance of that audience as a marketing target. Such relationships are often based on trust and credibility. Tools such as ad-pull policies can damage that credibility. They make clear to editors and publishers that if they don't create an editorial environment friendly to a marketer's message, the money will go elsewhere.

Marketers should encourage media outlets to serve audiences first, not advertisers. Those that attract the right audience should get the ad dollars. Shame on anyone who believes otherwise.

ThinkProgress: All the News That’s Fit to Shill
The power that these firms are trying to wield is an affront to free press, one of the democratic ideals that we should all hold in the highest esteem. If their actions don’t generate good news, then they should fix their company not the news.

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May 23, 2005

The Temptation of the Radio Station

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Monterey Herald reports that radio stations are being provided promotion "interview" CDs with canned answers that the radion station can then intersperse with a list of questions recorded locally (Media's Integrity on Line More than Ever).

[The promotional package] contained a transcript of questions an enterprising reporter might want to ask Jim Caviezel, the movie's [The Passion of the Christ] star, should the opportunity arise.

Of course, the chances Caviezel would drop by KAZU's studio in Pacific Grove were negligible at best. But no matter. The packet contained a CD of Caviezel-recorded answers to questions in the transcript.

If the press intends to maintain trust, they need to expose this sort of shenanigans and get public relations firms to knock it off.

via Spin of the Day

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May 22, 2005

The Problem With Journalism Is ...

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Washington Post (reg. req.) publishes an op-ed by Prof. Chris Hanson of the College of Journalism at the Univ. of Maryland critical of the effects that the increased speed of the news cycle is having (The 'Scoop' Heard 'Round the World. Sadly.):

The very speed at which information -- or what passes for it -- comes at us is a big part of the problem. In 1857, the sepoy cartridge rumor appears to have spread slowly among Indian regiments, largely by word-of-mouth, over a period of months. In the wired world of 2005, by contrast, Newsweek's story zipped from modem to modem and then from radio broadcast to mosque, quickly igniting unrest that had simmered just below the surface. By the time the denials and retractions caught up, belief in the Koran abuse was probably too deeply rooted in the Muslim world for much skepticism to penetrate.
Um, is speed really the problem here? How would this story have played out pre-internet? Might the story have essentially been forgotten in the U.S., only to gain new prominence when, weeks later, it was picked up by demagogues in Afghanistan and Pakistan to spark riots? It is still likely that the riots would have happened, right? Is it really the speed of the internet that is the problem or the fact that it makes information more readily available? Maybe there wouldn't have been riots because so few in the Middle East would have access to Newsweek without the internet, but in that case, it isn't speed that is the problem, it is distribution and a journalism professor isn't going to argue against the spread of information, is he?

In any case, isn't this another version of the saying attributed to Mark Twain that "a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes"? But doesn't the internet change this to some extent? After all the Killian Memos Affair (aka "Rathergate") shows the power of the internet to counteract falsehoods. Before the internet it would have taken much more time for critical analysis of the memos to have come to light, if it ever did. Oh, wait ... apparently not.

Read on...

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

May 21, 2005

Newspapers Ends Reader Comments on Website Stories

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The LA Times (reg. req.) reports that the Ventura County Star, which had been one of the few newspapers to permit readers to comment directly on their stories via their website, has ended the practice due to too many abusive comments (Newspaper Shuts Down Controversial Feedback Platform). Read the Ventura County Star's (reg. req.) statement here: Star Web Site Disables Comments. From the LA Times:

Thousands of readers of the Ventura County Star have sounded off on stories since the newspaper launched the service in January as a way of connecting with the community, said John Moore, the paper's assistant managing editor for new media and technology.

But in too many instances, Moore said topic threads spun out of control, with posters using profanity and injecting vicious commentary on everything from race to immigration.

The newspaper suspended the online comments on Wednesday, although Moore said he hopes to soon resurrect them with tighter controls.

I'm glad to see that VCS is willing to experiment. Perhaps they might want to try trackbacks or Technorati links. They may also want to encourage local bloggers to engage with their stories and provide links to them. There are a lot of possibilities.

via How Appealing

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Journalism

NYT: For Further Reading

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Posted by Ernest Miller

This morning I was reading the NY Times editorial page (something I'll probably have to give up soon) when I noticed something cool about one of the columns. Not something actually in the column, which is somewhat pedestrian and stretches for a patronizing analogy to Star Wars, but at the very end of the column (Darth Vader's Family Values). The column refers to a working paper by Daniel Klein and then, at the end of the column under "For Further Reading," links to the working paper so that readers can download and read it themselves (Ratio Working Papers No 31: The People’s Romance: Why People Love Government (as much as they do)). Has the NY Times done this before? If so, I haven't noticed it, but it is very cool. It is not only good for the audience, but it is likely that Klein is pretty happy to have more people read his work in the original.

The column also discusses Adam Smith and there are links to the versions of a couple of his books. Hey, link to, but why not also link to the free versions on the web? Project Gutenberg, among others, has The Wealth of Nations and there are numerous copies of The Theory of Moral Sentiments online as well.

Online newspapers would be far more useful if they linked to the primary sources as well as additional resources much more often.

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May 17, 2005

UCONN Survey on Freedom of the Press

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Yesterday, the Department of Public Policy at the Univ. of Connecticut released a national study on press freedom in the US, surveying both journalists and the general public. See, Washinton Times, Journalists, Public Know Little About Press Freedom.

Read the press release: Press Freedom in the U.S.: A National Survey of Journalists and the American Public [PDF].
Read the general population survey: Freedom of the Press Survey, General Population (2005) [PDF]
Read the journalist survey: Freedom of the Press Survey, Journalists (2005) [PDF]

I'm interested in the First Amendment, so I thought I would take a look. There are a number of interesting findings.

...continue reading.

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May 16, 2005

NYT: We Don't Want People to Read Our Op-Ed Columnists

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Posted by Ernest Miller

At least that seems to be the strategy. According to MarketWatch ( to charge for Op-Ed, other content as of Sept):

The New York Times Co. (NYT) on Monday said that, starting in September, access to Op-Ed and certain of its top news columnists on the paper's Web site will only be available through a fee of $49.95 a year. The service, known as TimesSelect, will also allow access to The Times's online archives, early access to select articles on the site, and other features. Home-delivery subscribers will automatically receive the service, the NYT said.
What are they thinking? Is Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman and the rest worth $49.95/year? The easy is answer is: nope. I don't even think they'll be missed all that much. I'd say more, but others have made the most important points.

Ezra Klein (One Last Times):

I'd guess that the hits and discussion generated by the Times' op-ed writers convinced the paper's higher-ups that their opinion page was a must-read and people would follow it behind a subscription wall. They're wrong. The Washington Post has a great op-ed lineup with a terrible site layout, and the LA Times has an occasionally decent piece with a marginally better html scheme. Give them a web designer and the two could easily supplant the NYT's spot as the go-to op-ed source because, in the end, we're not really looking to read the writers, we're simply searching for a stupid or brilliant paragraph that we can write about, and those paragraphs, unfortunately for the Times, can be found most anywhere you look. Till now, searching for them on Keller's sheet was the blogosphere's habit. Demand a toll for it, however, and that habit will instantly change.
And Reason's Hit and Run (Journalistic "New Coke"):
William Strunk once said that to air one's views gratuitiously is to suggest that the demand for them is brisk. Well, in our age of blog, there's a lot of gratuitous airing, and one can't help but suspect that—if the laws of supply and demand hold—that makes it a less-than-propitious time to start trying to charge for 800-word opinion squibs. That's especially the case because there are network effects involved in writing of that sort: Part of the value of reading, say, Paul Krugman or Tom Friedman is that you expect other people to be reading them, and you want to be prepared for what folks are going to be chattering about over drinks after work (well, in D.C. anyway) or around the blogs. Attenuating that discussion by raising barriers to open linking could create a kind of negative feedback loop—and maybe grant Maureen Dowd the irrelevance she so richly deserves.
And I thought the NY Times actually sort of got it.

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May 15, 2005

May 14, 2005

Three Senior Editors of LinuxWorld Magazine Resign

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Groklaw reports that the Senior Editorial Staff of LinuxWorld Magazine resigned (Senior Editorial Staff of LinuxWorld Magazine Announce Resignations). Journalistic ethics in action, although according to one of those who resigned, their positions were unpaid.

MONTVALE, New Jersey, May 14th, 2005 --- The entire senior editorial staff of LinuxWorld Magazine has today announced that they will be leaving the magazine, effective immediately.

The following statement was released by the group. “We regret that Sys-Con Media has been unable to apply a standard of journalistic ethics that we can comfortably operate under. We feel that recent articles published with the consent of Sys-Con Media fail to meet minimum generally accepted journalistic codes, and because the management of Sys-Con Media has failed to acknowledge that the articles are by all informed judgment ethically unsupportable, we have decided we must find other avenues for our work.”

The resignations stem from the publication of a piece by Maureen O'Gara that provided a good deal of personal information about the semi-anonymous journalist behind Groklaw. The original article is no longer available, but you can read Groklaw's response here: Intimidation.

The Editor-in-Chief of LinuxWorld Magazine (who hasn't resigned, apparently) essentially apologizes here: The Editorial Staff Of LinuxWorld Magazine Would Like To Set The Record Straight.

Read on for statements from those who have resigned ...

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Journalism

May 12, 2005

February 08, 2005

Journalists Going "Off the Record"

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Every journalism school discusses the ethics of the common journalistic practice of having sources give information "on background" or "off the record." There are furious debates as to when this is appropriate, what these terms actually mean, and the ethical quandries thereby raised.

But what of the ethics of journalists going "off the record" or "on background" themselves? When is it appropriate for a journalist to participate and speak at a forum that is "off the record"? Is there any discussion or debate about this issue?

The reason I ask is because Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive of CNN, spoke on a panel at Davos and his comments have caused a bit of a scandal. For more background, see, Jay Rosen on Press Think (Weekend Note on Eason Jordan).

There are differing accounts of what Jordan actually said but, fortunately, the panel was videotaped. Unfortunately, the videotape is to be kept securely out of the eyes of the public until such time as no one really cares anymore (which will probably be a very long time). The panel, which took place before potentially hundreds of a wide variety of the global elite, was "off the record."

Heck, is it even ethical for an "on duty" journalist to agree to such a panel being "off the record"? This isn't Deep Throat, after all, this is a panel before a wide variety of various big names from many different countries. It isn't as if secrets are being revealed. What does "off the record" mean in such cases? It seems to me that such a requirement is merely to provide a sense of entitlement among the attendees and their social circles against the wider public. Something along the lines of "these words are only fit for those privileged enough to attend a ski resort in Switzerland, not for the general public."

Of course, whether or not it is ethical for a journalist to agree to such a panel being "off the record," is it ethical for a journalist, especially a prominent one to agree to participate in such a charade of public access to information? What purpose did Jordan's presence serve? Why did he not make clear that he would speak only on the record or not at all?

Why should politicians care about transparency if journalists don't?

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