Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Democracy Now! has an interview from Netsquared conference with Hong Eun-taek, Ethan Zuckerman (who's a really *great* guy!) and Saori Fotenos who's teaching kids in the favelas* of Rio to blog. From the interview:
HONG EUN-TAEK: We launched our site six years ago with four full-time staff members and 727 citizen reporters, and it has grown into a big operation with actually 43,000 citizen reporters.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean “citizen reporters”?

HONG EUN-TAEK: Our statement is that everyone can be a reporter, so news stories can be written by citizens who are expert on their lives, so they can write about their lives and what they believe and what they want to see in the society.

*(If you don't know anything about the favelas, you should see Favela Rising...)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Red Herring has a breakdown of key points from today's sessions at TechSoup's NetSquared Conference.

Even though so many of These Things are geared towards Folks Other than Us (futurists, "mediastes," innovators, and people you won't find down at the Stop and Shop at 12a.m.....)it's always good to take a peek at what they said.

Because, quite frankly, what They are saying will eventually impact what We are doing. And if we find something that stinks, we should let them know.

Heck, perhaps we should let them know even if we like something (as most of Those Folks rarely take kindly to criticism before a compliment--I think that's just human nature.)

And along those lines, I was heartened to hear to read that Michael Rogers of MSNBC say “The mainstream media, they’ve decided not to fight, but to co-opt [blogging technology],” he said. “These powerful tools shouldn’t be ceded to the mass media.”

Maybe he should tell Brian Williams to lay off the blogging then...

Or perhaps he's saying this because, quite frankly, until we have a change of administration, we could see the press increasingly de-fanged in the name of "national security" and better crime-fighting....and that's scarily too close to government control of the press than should happen in this country.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Could something like this help us get rid of Greta van Susteren *and* Bill O'Reilly?? In India, Exaggerated news gives birth to media watchdog:
"The Central government should constitute a Media Council and authorise it to monitor and have control over the electronic media in view of the numerous complaints received against them by the Press Council," its Chairman Justice G N Ray told reporters here.

He said the electronic media was giving exaggerated news of terrorist attacks, communal riots and sex scandals to gain publicity in the face of increasing competitiveness.

Unfortunately, with the current political climate here, we'll probably end up with more circuses and even less bread.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Apple Loses Court Battle: Bloggers Protected by First Amendment

In case y'all haven't already heard: a California state appeals court has ruled that bloggers are protected--just like journalists--under the First Amendment:
In their decision, the judges wrote: "We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment, which is to identify the best, most important, and most valuable ideas not by any sociological or economic formula, rule of law, or process of government, but through the rough and tumble competition of the memetic marketplace."

[...]In addition to being a free speech victory for every citizen reporter who uses the Internet to distribute news, today's decision is a profound electronic privacy victory for everyone who uses email," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "The court correctly found that under federal law, civil litigants can't subpoena your stored email from your service provider."

For you legalese junkies, PDF of the full decision is here.

My sentiments: okay, a lot of bloggers may be more like jounallers than journalists--but the fact remains that what we write (as long as it is not libelous nor slanderous) is protected by the First Amendment. No one can go in and subpeona your journal just because. This may all become very, very important in light of Atty. General Alberto Gonzalez's statments last Sunday on suing reporters for breeches of "national security," and what George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley sees as a "growing threat against the media, particularly by this administration."

Seems that, if we're publishing anything using self-publishing, we are *all* media--even if we don't see ourselves that way. Should we, then, be telling all those folks who don't see themselves as media that they are media? Should we make sure they know that what they publish is protected by the First Amendment, even if it's whiny stuff about their boyfriends and pictures of their cats? Will this just confuse folks or will it make them stop publishing, or will it make every on-line conversation, because it is published, an act of journalism?

maybe these seem like strange or perhaps naieve questions, but maybe we really *do* need to think about them in our rush to participate in online culture.

Just a thought.

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

This blog is a whole one year old! To quote Jerry: what a long strange trip it's been...and continues to be...

Andy Carvin has video from yesterday's "Day of Out(r)age" protest in support of net neutrality and community access TV that was held at the Massachusetts State House.

Watch it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Where Do You Go When The WiFi Goes Down??

On Sunday, a violent spring thunderstorm hit Hamden and Hampshire counties in Western Massachusetts, knocking down trees, powerlines and a heck of a lot more. I'd been gone most of the day, so when I finally got back to my hovel in Chicopee, I discovered that my telephone and dsl were completely knocked out--zip, zero, no dialtone, nothing. (My tv was also kaput, but that's another story.)

After talking with my neighbor, I found out that lighning struck something across the street, there was a loud boom! and a flash. Her phones and tv were fine.

The neighborhood I live in is incredibly congested. There are multiple lines criss-crosing the backyard, hooking up to a pole that looks like it's part of the backyard fence. The junction box outside the house still says "Bell Atlantic" on it, so you know how old that thing is.

When I called Verizon, they "tested the line" and found no problems. So it must be me. I told them about the storm, and that it probably isn't me--which, 5 hours after my initial call, they confirmed. Something outside had been hit, and the ETA for restored service is Wednesday...

Well, maybe Tuesday....more like Thursday...

Which leaves me where I am now--sitting in a Panera Bread restaurant, freezing my ass off, using their wifi. I was at Starbucks again this a.m., where the wifi is thru T-Moble, and I have to pay for it via some kind of plan. It's also where conversation and thinking are well nigh impossible because what used to be background music is now loud enough to be foreground music.

Yesterday I was not only at Starbucks, but the Woodstar Cafe in Northampton (free wifi but no outlets in case your batt goes down) and Barnes and Noble (with another pay for play wifi plan courtesy of AT&T.)

While I was at Starbucks this a.m, I tried to find where the wifi hotspots are for this particular geographic area--hoping one would be Max's Tavern by the Basketball Hall of Fame (where it might be fun to also flirt during lunch.) No such luck on Max's, but I can say that every single McDonalds "restaurant" (and I use that term quite loosely) *is* wifi'd.

There are a couple of things bothering me about this--one is that wifi is ubiquitous in all the Mickey D's in the area. The second is that each and every place has a different service. The wifi in a Starbucks in Northampton has a different wifi provider than the one in Chicopee. The third is that no matter where you go, you have to eat there (as well as sometimes pay for the wifi.)

Which lead me to belive, for some oddball reason, that wifi should be in our public libraries! (I was convinced even more of this when I called the Chicopee Public Library and asked the Ciculation Desk if they had wifi--and the person at Circulation couldn't answer my question because she didn't know what I was talking about! Even when I got the Reference desk, and got the "no(what are you, crazy?)" answer, I wasn't all that confident that the Reference Librarian knew what I was talking about.)

When I think about it, municipal wifi located in the public libraries makes a great deal of sense. First, there are, esp. in the Pioneer Valley, many folks who work online and where the Intenet is their commerce lifeline. When we're knocked out, we're forced to be vagabonds, roaming the streets, wigged out on too much caffiene (who really feels comfortable *not* buying a coffee in lieu of using the wifi) and getting very little done--mainly because the working conditions in these places is hardly optimum. (I am so freezing at the moment that I've got goosebumps. Seriously. and I'm shivering. Seriously. The air conditioner is set for later in the week when it's supposed to be 80, not today when it's, like, 54.)

Yeah, I can hear y'all saying all kinds of stuff about bums coming in and spreading viruses and searching kiddie porn and hacking and that muni wifi would aid only online predators...

How about if there was a policy where a patron would have to show an active library card and get a code (that changed every day) before logging in to the wifi network? Wouldn't it be great for people looking for jobs, who may have lost their home dsl, or only have dial-up? Wouldn't it be great for businesspeople doing research, or kids working on papers?

And wouldn't it be a service to the community when the phones went out in another part of town??

Oh, what's with me....I'm surely smoking something. When people working in a library don't even know what wifi is, how could I possibly think that municipal officials could see the need for it.

For now, I'm stuck in Starbucks, or Panera, or any other place I can drive to in order to find wifi (and that's the other thing--I have to drive everywhere to find it.) But I won't go to McD's. No way. Not for all the free wifi in the world...

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Monday, May 22, 2006

OhMyNews Opens Up on Citizen Journalism

Korean-based OhMyNews has announced a new section designed to explore how citizen journalism is done.Citizen Journalism Theory and Practice will be an attempt to stimulate interest in citizen journalism as well as try to understand it better.

This is a far better move than trying to buy up Blogger in an effort to make all of us unwitting citizen journalists.

Editor-in-chief Hong Eun-taek had this to say about the venture:
The concept itself is not hard to understand; rather, it is its execution that is less than easy. Thus there are few successful citizen journalism sites. And for that reason we are launching a new section. We'd like to share what we have experienced and learned from our operation. Our new section "Citizen Journalism: Theory and Practice," we hope, will be a kind of teahouse for citizens to gather and freely discuss citizen journalism and share their own experiences with each other.

I'm thinking that I'd really like to talk with Hong Eun-taek to find out more about this new project. We over here don't really know much about what's going on in the rest of the world (we're so "centric") and it's rather fascinating how well OhMyNews has done, including recently obtaining huge financing from a very influential Asian bank.

It's also nice to see another source (other than Poynter) try to open up dialogue on how c.j. is done. Poynter's attempts, most notably those with Amy Gahran and Steve Outing, are good, but I wonder how many "citizens" know about them, and if what they discuss is influenced by American ideas about journalism (which, quite frankly, seem very different from those of other parts of the world.)

My sense of things is that those of us on both sides of the equation need to look at global perspectives on cit j. They might be helpful--or at least provide a little more fuel to a very interesting discussion

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Day 2 of the Syndicate conference is over and I'm back from NYC. Will have a full report (or mostly full) tomorrow. What I can say right now is that Day 2 was far better than Day 1. Some great stuff about "structured blogging," interaction, and podcasting for businesses....

There was a lot more emphasis today on how new all of this stuff is, and that there just aren't a bunch of charts and graphs available to help organizations understand why they might want to do a podcast or why they might want to interact with their customers. It's new, it's a chance--but it's not as costly as, perhaps, an entire re-branding campaign.

BTW, it was very nice to hear Doc Searles give a succinct explanation of branding (with the subtext that the way the term is used today isn't all that great...)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I'm sitting here at the last session of the day.....and I'm wondering about big conferences like this...

This is my third big conference this year and I'm finding a lot of the information is familiar. And I asked someone if my impression of all of this was correct. He confirmed it.

I have to get used to the fact that I really don't have to doubt my sensibilities all that much anymore.

It seems that really big, costly, media/blog conferences are really there for people who couldn't make the last big media/blog conference (although I can say the podcasting panel was interesting, as podcasting is pretty new--still, I wonder if we were seeing just a group of early adopters who've done well, or if there is really something to what they're doing.)

I'm hearing same kvetches about how "people" are horrid and that interacting with them is difficult. The only impression of "interaction in the blogosphere" (as opposed to interaction in the blogosphere) that most businesspeople and publishers seem to have comes from messageboards and forums.

The problem, as I see it, is that companies and publishers are afraid.

And lots of brains seem to be stuck in the past....

Then again, in the grander scheme of business and publishing (heck, in the grander scheme in the world in general), This Stuff is so very, very new. as was said over and over at Beyond Broadcast, we're in the nanoseconds of new world and its hard to grasp what's going on...

When it's hard to grasp what's going on, the brain tries to interpret it all in a way that it can understand...which doesn't work all that well in This Space.

I did, though, enjoy hearing Richard Edelman, who seems to have a little bit of a clue. I was surprised to hear him say how businesses just have to get out there, stop being afraid of getting slammed, and deal with it when they *do* get slammed. Essentially, getting slammed won't kill a product unless the product is a bad product. R.E. mentioned how a particular product got slammed but by the company confronting the problem, things actually turned around in their favor.

Makes sense to me. Unless a product is *so* *bad* that it's irredeemable.

But this was something I heard before, too...

I guess though, that to reach people, the same thing has to be said in different places to different people.

Which brings me back to interaction. If businesspeople and publishers are merely sitting around and listening to panels of talking heads, and they never get to interact with the talking heads while they are in talking mode on the dias, will anything ever change? They're locked in a physical model of a top-down interaction mode that doesn't work out here among peers (although is still quite prevalent in the way BigShots treat LittleShots who comment on their blogs--another topic for another post....)

Who knows...
Off on another excellent adventure: I'm at the IDG Syndicate Conference in NYC. Conference going can become addictive. I alternately love and hate them--love the information, hate the networking. But that's Life in the Big Cities of Cyberspace. This plans to be quite a bit different than Beyond Broadcast--possibly more like BlogOn (see the sidebar to a link to that.) Good thing I'm ever-curious.

I'm here, actually, as media--will be blogging some of this for Corante. Whether or not the posts will be here or on Corante, I'm not sure.

One of the things that came out of BB was how so much of this stuff is in the nanoseconds of development. This is true. as I watch people milling about arond here, I keep thinking about how we all are looking to catch the wave of what's oing on....whether we can or not, is another thing.

And then there are the practicalities of it--there's loads of creativity, but where's the money? Finding the revenue streams is the biggest problem....and it all seems to hinge on advertising...

fascnating how the blogosphere is a new world, yet in other ways it's the same world.

I wonder if this is how the conquistadores thought.

just spotted Jeff Jarvis talking with Doc Serles. This is, in many respects, a gathering of Illuminati--which makes me think "well, how did I get here?"

and I realize that I'm surfing in a whole different way.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Media World & Citizen journalism Beyond Broadcast

When I left Boston this morning, it was still raining. It had been raining pretty hard since I waded into Cambridge on Friday to attend the Beyond Broadcast conference. This two-day event, at only $50 bucks, was perhaps one of the best conferences I've attended in what appears to be a year of conference attending.

Lots of people wonder why I keep going to conferences--they wonder "what's the point?" Thing is, I'm kind of on a mission to learn as much as I possibly can about what's being said about the world of blogging and the internet. Going to conferences is, for me, like taking continuing education classes. The World of Cyberspace is a place we are going to have to learn to live and thrive in--and I want to be here.

Someone said to me (I think some Canadian guy--a producer of a current affairs show out of Ontario) that a lot of it is about the evolution of the individual--how we started to acknowledge the individual in religion and philosophy several hundred years ago, and it is no surprise that we would want to use media to express the self.

The internet combined with the wonders of self-publishing and cheap electronics is giving us a whole new medium of expression.

But we must be watchful--there are lots and lots of folks who are unhappy with this freedom and want to find ways to corral, commodify, and control it because they cannot see that this whole world out here--this new Wide Open Spaces, Wild Frontier--is where we may see a new step in our evolution...

James Boyle, law prof from Duke, who gave the keynote is one of the folks who can see that we are moving into a New World, and sees the threat to it. While he sounds the alarm that special interests influencing and moving the government to rule in their favor, he also sees that complete openness might not be the total answer. He deftly explained how even Open Source development has some checks and balances (very true!) and that this, not new laws, should be the model for governance Out Here. As he explained how Property Laws don't truly reflect the Intangible landscape of the Internet, I kept thinking of how, when our forefathers were drafting the Declaration of Independence, they changed "life, liberty and property" to "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Many of them knew how Property Laws in the Old Country kept them from getting educations and participating in government. Now, Old-style notions of property threaten innovation, internet commerce and opportunities of all sorts. (the video of Prof. Boyle's amazing keynote will be posted shortly)

The panels were stocked with individuals who are some of the best minds in their fields. I won't go into the panel details here, as you can find info on them at the Beyond Broadcast site....

What I do want to let y'all know about is the session on Citizen Journalism: Trust and Credibility that I was part of. Led by Dan Gillmor, this was the very first group at a conference that I attended that had a mix of journalists, bloggers, writers, activists, filmmakers, vloggers, etc. And because it was a mixed group, not all higher-ups from MSM, a lot of great stuff was said (we could've used a podcast.)

If y'all go thru the highlights posted on the wiki, you'll see how things evolved. There was, however, one point that stuck with me (and one that I talked to the Ontario guy about later on)--I was troubled by how the journalists in the room seemed to continually say "those bloggers" but never managed to mention names. There were, however, several of us in the room who could be identified as "those bloggers", including Lisa Williams of H2otown, a true citizen journalism blog on Watertown Mass, Andy Carvin of the Digital Divide Network, videoblogger Steve Garfield, prolific blogger, community admin and activist Shava Nerad.

However, I don't think the journos meant us. I think they meant another group of bloggers, and I remain amazingly curious as to who they believe are "those bloggers."

If the journos in the room were talking about the A-list--folks like Kos and Marshall and Atrios and Cox and Jarvis and such--then they're talking about folks who have been journalists (or lawyers.) In the case of journalists who are now bloggers, then the discussion of what they are doing is really a battle between different kinds of journalists not journalists and "bloggers" (if we agree beforehand that not all bloggers are journalists.)

Strangely, the Ontario guy later on asked me why I don't identify myself as a journalist since I work as an editor for Corante. I did walk around for a time identifying myself on my business card as a journalist, but when I found myself mingling with longtime journalists, I realized that this might be a bit foolish of me--that they wouldn't be able to google me and find anything but my blogs. I also didn't want to incur the wrath of those folks who have degrees who have far more opportunities than I to be journalists. It's a matter of academic degree and of opportunity.

I think though that there are differences between the European model of journalist and the American model of journalist. I've spoken with several folks from England and Canada who never studied journalism who are now doing journalism. Why, then, is there such a bias in America against those who are not properly professionally educated in journalism?

Yet as I sit here reviewing the Saturday discussion, what I marvel the most at is that I was able to be in a discussion with someone like Dan Gillmor. This was an amazing opportunity and priviledge and at times I'm left a bit speechless by it. I never thought that I would ever find myself in a room at Harvard, with Dan and so many other amazing people (listed above) discussing journalism, citizen journalism, and blogging...

This is a wonderful time in the world....

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

"Off With His Head!": PA Reporter Axed Over Forum Flack

One Strike and you're out: The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal (out of Lancaster, PA) recently axed 33-year old court reporter Justin Quinn for shooting his mouth off (anonymously) on the IJ's website Forums.

Quinn would not confirm the posts, some of which were critical of the paper, nor the name under which the posts were made.

Editor Ray Shaw confirmed Quinn had been handed his head, but refused to say exactly why.

hmmm....he said, he said and nobody's really saying anything.

What Quinn said, though, seems to be the expression of a boatload of frustration *any* reporter might have in these these times when even huge media empires are courting "user-generated content" and elevating the personal over the professional:

(Quinn) said he began posting to "set the record straight" about topics he covered but eventually began offering his opinions as well. News stories printed in Lancaster's three newspapers are often the topic of Talkback discussions.

"It is extremely hard to sit idly by when people are misstating facts," Quinn said. "They obviously have not read the article. It's just hard to sit there and take it."

Quinn's most definitely caught between the rock of old-style journalism ethics (which prohibits reporters from expressing opinions)and the hard place of a changing new media landscape that appears, on the surface, to be more supportive of reportage than reporting. Yet as I said in conversation today to Bill Densmore, longtime journalist and director of the Media Giraffe Project, reporters are going to feel frustrated and are going to want to interact--and newspapers are going to have to let them develop a level of transparency *and* let them interact. If newspapers are going to move forward, and if they're going to earn back the trust they have lost, they simply can't post blogs without comments, allow trolls to beat each other up on their forums and think that this is interaction. Newspapers are going to have to learn the right ways to interact with the public. They can't expect reporters to simply ignore the sea-changes that are swirling around them--that's like asking reporters to ignore a scoop.

Reporters need to learn how to interact--they need to learn about transparency and the subtle turns of internet interaction. As a veteran of online interaction (since 1998),it ain't as easy as it seems....and hiding behind anonymity won't help a reporter "set the record straight" nor help him/her interact with the public.

It is most unfortunate that Quinn was fired though--and his firing was probably the result of being a young gun with no clout as much as his actions consituted a violation of journalistic ethics. Michael Hiltzik, whose internet stupidity was far more egregious, lost his column and blog but got reassigned. Demotion, not dismissal. Guess whether or not your career gets destroyed has more to do with the clout you have than it does with the mouth you shoot off.

Update Longtime journo Steve Yelvington agrees:
Journalism today is a conversation, not a lecture. The newspaper's reporters should be posting on the forums ... but under their real names, not pseudonyms. And they should be getting positive coaching from their editor about how constructively engage with the community.

Update: Editor and Publisher has a better link to the story

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Monday, May 08, 2006

"Unknown"? Yeah, sure...

Okay, I've once again had enough of the spin machine that's HufPo. I was going to try to quit with any namecalling, but from an article in USA Today comes this specious gem:
In The Boston Phoenix last week, media columnist Mark Jurkowitz wrote that he is "skeptical about Huffington's transformation from one-time It girl of the Republican revolution to a sultry dah-ling of the left. Her Huffington Post, fueled by a stable of high-profile liberal bloggers, is just too anti-thetical to the concept of the blogosphere as a place for feisty, independent, underdog watchdogs. It's more like the Rolex of blogs."

Huffington disagrees. "We have celebrity bloggers, but we also have people nobody has ever heard of who are feisty (and) passionate."

The "people nobody has ever heard of" appear to be people that aren't your average, everyday blogger--but they are hardly unknown in the sense most bloggers are unknown.... .

Since when does the ideal of the unknown apply to people of status and acclaim? Please! Just because someone is not a media household name like Jessica Simpson does not mean that he or she is an unknown. Take a look at the list--oh, I very much love the way Alec Baldwin is made to sound like just your average guy named Alec Baldwin.

"Hi, I'd like you to meet my next-door neighbor, Alec Baldwin. Sure, his dad was a teacher, and don't mind the diamond rings. Yes, he's utterly charming and groomed within an inch of his life, but I'm sure he'll enjoy the liquor store across the street and the pizza joint up the block."

I don't think Huffington's given anyone a break on her blog who has not already had a break in some other realm--which makes the criteria for an unknown very similar to Rumsfeld and Scooter Libby's criteria for what consitutes a lie.

As many of us have said, Huffington's blog gives a voice to the already voiced.

So let's stop the lying--stop the spin. It's sickening. Just admit that HufPo is stocked with the weathy and priviledged--and that it wasn intended that way. She's a savvy woman, and I'm sure she figured out that stocking her blog with folks like six-book authors, TV writers, retired generals and former congressmen would lend far more cred than if she enlisted Jay-and-Joan AverageBlog.

Heaven forbid we should let the rabble in for tea and civilized conversation!
Snarksmith now has comments! yay! someone else to bother now!
I've posted a nice little piece on some(farily)new citizen journalism efforts in Chicago, Olympia WA and Muncie IN at the Media Giraffe Newsblog. check it out.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The "False Divide" between Journalists and Bloggers

Dorian Benkoil, who's at We Media makes a very astute observation about the all the conversations re the separation between "citizen journalists" and journalists:
It's an artificial divide. Any journalist worth his salt reads the blogs on his beat and those inform the coverage, at least, and are quoted by name if he's honest. And the bloggers repay the favor, giving the journalist more voice by commenting, linking, and taking it further. It's more of a feedback loop than a divide.

Dorian's definitely understands how the blogger/journalist ideal *should* play out. Yet being on the blogger end of this thing, and an observer on how it plays out locally, the interface isn't always ideal. From observing both and The Daily Hampshire Gazette, it appears that there isn't huge interest in involving bloggers outside of these papers in their ventures. Among its bloggers, Masslive has an eclectic mix of citizens and newspaper people keeping blogs, yet the blogs do not take comments and there appears to be little interaction of the Masslive blogs with the greater blogosphere. At the Gazette, everything is behind a wall--reading full articles, and responding to them are only for those who subscribe to the Gazette's print version, or for $1.99 per week for non-print subscribers (this is an interesting revenue-generating model, but does restrict interaction.)

I always wonder if these papers are all that interested in what is going on outside of their own little stable of bloggers--or if there is some need, on the part of the editorial staff, to control what the bloggers are up to. A need to control could end up excluding local bloggers because they cannot be controlled. Are the journalists trying to spin the bloggers a certain way? Perhaps a good question...

Yet Dorian is right about the feedback loop. Within Masslive there are references to articles in some blogs--although I rarely see print articles reference local bloggers. The lack of a commenting feature may hinder this interaction. The Gazette's experiment is still very new (they changed ownership in September), and since it is behind a wall, its interaction loop isn't easy to observe.

Bill Densmore, who heads up the Media Giraffe Project at UMass (and is also giving me a bit of mentoring), was ref'd on Ethan Zuckerman's blog entry about We Media:
Bill observed that local newspaper editors generally understand the value of journalists cooperating with bloggers because local papers don’t get produced without the help of lots of amateurs. That baseball story, town meeting summary or theatre review might have been produced by a seasoned, experienced journalist… and just as likely was produced by an intern, an amateur trying to get some experience, or someone in the community who was passionate that an event get covered.

Maybe these conversations aren’t best [yelled] held between bloggers and journalists from highly professional, structured, hierarchical news organizations - maybe community papers could help provide an ideological bridge between camps?

And Ethan is very, very right! And the desire to form that bridge is what we are trying to accomplish out at the Democracy& Independence: Sharing News and Politics in a Connected World conference at the end of June...a number of Big Media types are planning to be there...and we denizens of the blogosphere, if we really want them to notice what we're doing, have to stop kvetching about Big Media, get off our asses and meet them. Big Media are, unfortunately, in the positions of power and still make decisions that effect us. If we want it to change, it's up to us to get our butts where They will be, stick our hands out, say "Hi, let's talk!" and start the dialogue.

Still, I wonder how much of the perception of the False Divide is totally that of Big Media, or if there are bloggers who like the division and have no desire to bridge the divide. Perhaps, for some, the Divide serves an ego need, or they feel that their role is best when they are free-speech pitbulls rather than as media compadres...

And in that case, the Divide is real, has a purpose, and might never be bridged...

Essentially, it is going to individuals who will bridge the divide--some from local media, some from the blogging community, still others from the dreaded big media. The thing is that if parties on both sides of the "false divide" want to change the perception, they have to meet, become visible to one another, and demonstrate the reality.

Otherwise, the false divide will remain a true divide in the perceptions of many.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Some Observations are Self-Evident

So, Richard Dreyfuss gives a speech at the We Media Global Forum where he says:
"instantaneous knowledge, and the loss of rumination, patience and simply thinking things through."

I could just scream. Why? Becasue I observed, and wrote about the same thing after Al Gore's speech at We Media '05.

I don't know weather to pop a gasket or get an agent. ;-)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Pimping Opal Mehta

So, the Washington Post agrees with my contention that Kaavya Viswanathan had a certain marketability--or, perhaps literary pimpability-- that got her in the situation she's in:
Like the character in her novel, Viswanathan is "an Indian-American girl who got good grades, from New Jersey, who wanted to go to an Ivy League school." It was only to be expected, then, that Viswanathan's, yes, Range Rover-driving neurosurgeon father and obstetrician-turned-stay-at-home-mother signed their only child up with IvyWise. This admissions counseling service will, for a fee -- the platinum package will set you back $30,000 -- "take all the raw material and help you put it together in the way that an admissions officer is going to be most impressed by," as Viswanathan explained. . .

It was, unsurprisingly, IvyWise founder Katherine Cohen (Brown '89; Yale PhD '97) who got Viswanathan into the book-writing business. Cohen (author, "Rock Hard Apps: How to Write a Killer College Application") wondered why Viswanathan hadn't listed her novel-in-progress on her résumé. You can almost see her application-glazed eyes lighting up: Okay, here's our pitch: "Not just another high school newspaper editor-in-chief, Indian American science nerd!"

Which is where the next round of packaging comes in. Cohen sent Viswanathan's work to her own agent, who hooked up the teenager with Alloy Entertainment, a book packager (yes, this is really a business) that specializes in churning out teen-lit like so many Moschino miniskirts. Deeming her original concept too dark, Alloy "helped Kaavya conceptualize and plot the book," according to the company president.

It's no excuse, but with all this third-party positioning, is it any wonder that a person -- especially a teenage person -- could forget (or ignore) the fact that some of the writing in her book is not actually hers? How easy it is for authenticity to be obscured in a world in which hired help packages preschool applications, in which the line between a real relationship with an adult and strategic sucking up is blurred.

This has been my intention all along. We cannot expect a 19 year-old, who's been pushed along in a high-pressure environment (or anything other than an "emancipated minor" environment) to differentiate between mentorship and "sucking up"...and to understand when they've been helped along just a bit more than their less-than-affluent and much-harder working counterparts...

The Post piece also talks about "book packagers"--another insidious layer of literary pimping--which is explained quite well by Steve Leigh (thanks Terry.)

But let's also take a look at the issue of race and ethnicity that is slightly touched upon in the Post piece: Perhaps, what this incident might also achieve is the trashing of an insidious stereotype that's been percolating since the arrival of so many Indian immigrants some 25 years ago--that many are special, and smarter than most Americans. The attitude wasn't necessarily promulgated by the new immigrants themselves--even though many initial immigrants were doctors and computer geeks--but got stirred up in an American social climate that was moving towards an excess of political correctness spurred on by a "white guilt." That old-fashioned white guilt seemed to want to offer a whole bunch of mea culpas for past immigrant abuses by treating new immigrant groups with a bit of deference. Current guilt over the sins of the past, though, ended up not really quelling any anti-immigrant sentiment--and there was lots of that--it only managed to create a very trendy, highly marketable, ethnicity...

And, in part, it is that trendy ethnicity that, once a blessing, is now a bit of a bane for Ms. Viswanathan...thanks to some insidious, and expert, activities that, when calling it what it is, amount to a whole lot of down-and-dirty pimping...
Whatever they'rs smoking over at OhMyNews I wish they'd send me some! What makes CHL Geroge think that everyone who's part of Blogger and has a blogspot blog is a "citizen journalist"? What makes him think that every blog is citizen journalism? Once again, we've got someone who's playing fast and loose with the term citizen journalism and grafting it on to every form of self-publishing he can imagine.

To be blunt about it: what a lot of nerve! Blogger would be really stupid to get themselves involved in something like OhMyNews' proposal.

There are, in development, several aggregating services--such as Pluck's BlogBurst as well as Digg and several others that aggregate, in different ways, blog posts that the authors want to be considered citizen journalism.

Why doesn't OhMyNews look into developing an aggregator that feeds off of Technorati's tags rather than some ridiculous partnership with Blogger that would, effectively, enslave bloggers to OhMyNews??

Monday, May 01, 2006

Third time's the charm...yes, I had another name change here.

This time, it might stick.

I decided to change the name from Snarkaholic to Constant Observer because, quite frankly, Snarkaholic wasn't working anymore. While I'll admit that I thoroughly enjoy ripping someone a new one from time to time, what is even more a pleasure is nailing an issue right square where no one else figured it could be nailed....

It happened in my post on United 93 and in my post on the Kaavya Viswanathan plagiarism case...

Sometime back, I got a piece of unsolicited advice from Jay Rosen, who suggested I ditch Snark, get a new blog, and "write smart." Well, I'm a bit too lazy and not quite ready to go the whole domain and full blog transfer thing yet, but changing the name of this one (even though it might screw up some people's blogrolls) was pretty easy....and writing smart is something I had to realize I was doing all along.

I guess, in some way, I've grown up, too. It's not really about lobbing a huge tomato at someone anymore just to get attention--although I reserve the right to do that, when appropriate, and from time to time (because some people truly deserve to be called "dumbasses".) For the most part, though, the attention's there. Now, it's a matter of keeping it, and of maintaining an intelligent level of discourse--and not just in my posts, but among commenters too. There's a lot of smart people out there, and I actually *like* hearing from them, even if they don't totally agree with me.

So, here's to the new name. Let's hope it's the last one!