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Sunday, May 16, 2004

James Fallows, author of Breaking the News and national correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, popped up in the business section of The New York Times this weekend with some insights on the present and future of publishing, including the impact of weblogs and their RSS content feeds on the spread of news.

Fallows was one of the first non-technical journalists I remember reading on the subject of personal computing 20 years ago, when we were both fumbling with WordStar or Word Perfect. His Times piece blurs the distinction between RSS feeds and e-mail a little, but gets the main points, that news feeds are like home delivery instead of having to go to the post office box (or newsstand) -- and that the blog content they deliver is something you can't find on any newsstand:

If you don't get quite enough sass, attitude or instant conclusions from the rest of the news media, you can always find more at the leading blogs. But in between are thousands of sites that offer real-time eyewitness testimony from people doing almost anything that some other person might find interesting: training as a surgeon, looking for oil in Siberia, fighting in Iraq.

Fallows doesn't even mention the Times own RSS feeds, but here's one for his article:

The Twilight of the Information Middlemen
The case of magazine publishers illustrates why it is harder to put an exact price on intellectual or creative effort than on, say, a bushel of wheat. By James Fallows . [The New York Times]

Speaking of weblogs. public relations watcher Steve Rubel already links to Fallows' article, and calls its appearance in the Business (not Technology) section of the Times a Watershed Moment for RSS.

Footnote... I just noticed that instead of my usual RSS feed's link address of "Partner=Userland," Steve Rubel's link to the Times story ends with "Partner=Google." The special Userland addresses keep bloggers' Times story links from expiring into the pay-per-view archives. Do the Google links work the same way? I do see Google listing the Times as a partner for its search service, but I don't see information about story addresses. Hmm. I'll ask Steve and come back to this note later... (see comments)

5:16:15 PM    comment []

When I sat down at an Atex news editing terminal in 1979, the thing that blew me away was the ability to split the screen, put the Associated Press version of a story on one side and the UPI version on the other, compare the two, and even copy and paste paragraphs back and forth, rewrite the transitions a bit, then put a "Combined Wires" tag on the result.

Today the Web puts the same power  in my iBook, and news organizations'  RSS feeds and feed-reader software make as powerful an index as that old Atex terminal, as well as letting me mix some astute webloggers into my feed collection, to alert me to things I might find in my usual sources or point to articles at sites that don't have their own RSS feeds, such as Seymour Hersh's The Gray Zone in the "May 25" New Yorker, posted yesterday.  Its opening sentence is a perfect  weblog "tease" to visit the whole article -- or to stop at the drugstore for a copy if you aren't a New Yorker subscriber:

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation...

Meanwhile, back in the RSS feed, responses to Hersh's story are already rolling in, now that major news organizations have adopted RSS:

Pentagon Denies Rumsfeld OK'd Interrogation Plan. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the use of unconventional interrogation methods in Iraq to gain intelligence about the growing insurgency, ultimately leading to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, the New Yorker magazine reported on Saturday.

Pentagon Denies Rumsfeld OK'd Prison Plan (AP). AP - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the expansion of a secret program that encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq, The New Yorker reported Saturday.

Pentagon Denies Rumsfeld OK'd Interrogation Plan (Reuters). (via Yahoo) Reuters - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the use of unconventional interrogation methods in Iraq to gain intelligence about the growing insurgency, ultimately leading to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, the New Yorker magazine reported on Saturday.

Accused G.I.'s Try to Shift Blame in Prison Abuse. As the most important military prosecutions since Vietnam unfold, each soldier is struggling to explain away evidence captured in frame after frame of disturbing images. By Adam Liptak, Michael Mossand Kate Zernike. [The New York Times]

Rumsfeld and Aide Backed Harsh Tactics, Article Says.  Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and one of his top aides authorized the expansion of a secret program that permitted harsh interrogations of detained members of Al Qaeda to be used against prisoners in Iraq, including detainees at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, according to an article in The New Yorker Magazine. By David Johnston.  [The New York Times]

Other voices from the aggregator, not just concerning the New Yorker article:

News Judgment Old and News Judgment New: American Nicholas Berg Beheaded. Now What?. The argument surfaced last week: the gatekeepers in Big Media are mistaken--clueless, biased, disconnected--for filtering out the full horror of the Berg beheading. [Jay Rosen's Press Think]

How the digital revolution is reshaping the news. An insightful article from South Africa's Mail&Guardian, on how cheap digital technology is revolutionizing the way news is gathered, disseminated and perceived [~] and in doing so, how it's stoking a controversy. [Smartmobs]

1:16:26 PM    comment []

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