Category Archives: Journalism

News is bad for you


“News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind.”

“News stories are overwhelmingly about things you cannot influence. The daily repetition of news about things we can’t act upon makes us passive. It grinds us down until we adopt a worldview that is pessimistic, desensitised, sarcastic and fatalistic.”

Full article in The Guardian


“There is no news industry”

“If the public can speak directly to one another in large groups and with high visibility, then the self-definition of a journalist as a privileged translator takes a big hit. If you think of yourself as a member of the only class allowed to find and explain information, you find yourself in a very uncomfortable position.

“The easiest way to get people in institutions to do interesting new things is for that institution to go bankrupt and for those people to change jobs.”

Anything in the news business that can be commodified will be commodified. The people who cling to the idea that humans are required to rewrite wire service copy are spending money that no longer needs to be spent.”

From an interview with Clay Shirky by The Europlean Magazine

My country right or wrong?

The military (and many outside the military) consider Bradley Manning a traitor for leaking classified documents. Let’s imagine we’re in the latter days of World War II and a German soldier leaks thousands of documents related to concentration camps and the atrocities committed there. Is he a traitor? Probably. Did he do the right thing? Depends on who you ask? If the only difference between my hypothetical and the Manning case is whose ox was gored, that’s morally thin ice.

But the Manning leaks could have endangered American lives, goes one argument. No doubt, although I’ve not seen anything to suggest any lives have actaully been lost. Would it matter if some of the leaked documents revealed American actions were costing innocent lives?

I thought the Viet Nam war was a bad idea, primarilly because it could have gotten me killed. Turns out there were plenty of other reasons. Like the the mass murder of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians near the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968, by United States Army soldiers. Most of the victims were women, children, infants, and elderly people. Some of the women were gang-raped and their bodies were later found to be mutilated and many women were allegedly raped prior to the killings.

Would it be treason to tell the world about My Lai?

“My country, right or wrong!” was a popular slogan for those supporting that war. That did work for me then and it doesn’t work for me now.

Challenges of Conversational Journalism

“The most visible journalism these days — aka the loudest journalism, namely cable news, pop culture blogs, tabloid magazines, TMZ, Buzzfeed, HuffPo, talk radio, etc. — mostly takes the form of opinionated conversation: professional media people discussing current events much like you and your friends might at a crowded lunch table. A side effect of this way of doing journalism is that you rarely hear from anyone who actually is an expert on the subject of interest at any particular time. That approach doesn’t scale; finding and talking to experts is time consuming and experts without axes to grind are boring anyway. So what you get instead are people who are experts at talking about things about which they are inexpert.”

From a post by Jason Kottke

Twitter Radio

Twitter is my first source for breaking news. If anything big (that I care about) happens, it will show up first in my Twitter feed. I guess a cable news channel might come close or a good all-news radio station (do those still exist?) but my Twitter stream is non-stop in my pocket. Smart news organization (NPR and Reuters, for example) know they need to have their stories where I am, rather than try to get me to come to where they are.

Is the future of serious journalism in the hands of corporate media?

ZDNet’s Tom Foremski asks: “As the business models for serious journalism continue to erode where will we get the quality media we need as a society to make important decisions about our future?”

And warns: “Special interest groups will gladly pay for the media they want you to read, but you won’t pay for the media you need to read.”

Cisco has a large team of journalists producing articles about the tech industry for its online magazine “the network.” John Earnhardt said that the reporters have just two rules to follow: “Don’t write about competitors, and don’t write anything that could harm Cisco.”

At Nissan Motors, the company has built a full scale TV studio and produces a news program with veteran journalists from the BBC and elsewhere.

“Why does Nissan want to get into the business of serious news journalism? Why not sponsor an existing news show? His answer was surprising. “I don’t have the confidence that traditional news organizations will be able to survive the transition to the new business models. Why should I invest large amounts of money over the next few years in a failing enterprise?”

If there’s a take-away from this piece it’s probably this: “Media is a loss leader, you need something else to sell. If all you have is media to sell, then you will have losses.”