Sunday, January 23, 2005

The making of a sensationalistic subhed in the Times mag: blame the Internet!

For its cover article The Making of a Molester, the magazine asks if the Internet "allowed Roy to go from being a seemingly normal man to a man who could solicit sex from a 12-year-old?"

Um, no?

I read the article. I was duly horrified. But when I got to the part where Roy goes all pervy, there was nothing to suggest that the Internet had ANYTHING AT ALL to do with his sickness. 

Yes, he spied on his stepdaughter's IM conversations, and propositioned her online. But so what? This guy started getting his sick thoughts on the beach, or perhaps long before. He would have been listening to her phone calls and approaching her in the hallway if he wasn't wired. The Internet is a bogeyman trotted out to spice up the tale, but (in this case) without context.

Cheap shot, NYT.

7:14:04 PM    comment []

Bob Cox: "(T)he Conference on Blogging, Journalism & Credibility went off better than many particpants - including this one - had any right to expect and was not the presumptious snobfest that critics had labeled it before the gathering had even convened."

His post, Faith Without Works, lists some action items that he'd like to see come out of the conference.

There was a huge contrast between what was projected onto BloJoCredCon and what it actually was. It was predicted to be a political rally for the left -- except by those who said it tilted to the right. It was foretold as an academic wankfest; a star chamber pronouncing ethics for the blogosphere; a sellout to corporate media; useless; devoid of "real" bloggers, etc.

Why the hostility? Some possible reasons: resentment over an invitation-only conference about a subject that is open to all; the absence of [your favorite blogger here]; the added elitism perceived in the location; the inability of some on both left and right to look at anything through a non-ideological lens.

I thought all along that what we had was a good chance for bloggers, including blogging journalists, and others involved in grassroots media to share some of what we've learned with big media folks and with academics who could help propagate this knowledge. Harvard was a draw that meant people like Jill Abramson and Rick Kaplan would attend. That's pretty much what we got, although the flow of information involved many cross-currents, not US lecturing THEM.

Was it perfect? Of course not. But it was pretty damn good.

5:08:33 PM    comment []

I look at myself and see a horse's ass. You may agree with that statement already, but let me explain...there was much talk at BloJoCredCon about the divide between "pure" bloggers and pro journalists. As someone who finds it natural to be both a professional writer/reporter and a blogger, that tension seems odd to me. So I started thinking about centaurs, to them I guess it would feel normal to be hybrids, despite the strange looks they might get from both humans and horses, and that's when it struck me...

2:27:51 PM    comment []

Michael Christopher, shortly after his father's funeral: "In his dresser the other day I found the composition I wrote for my Master's Thesis along with the recording of it which I completed over 30 years ago. This was so like him. He never told me how important that was to him, he just kept it close to himself for 30 years."

1:50:39 PM    comment []

Jim Capo had an interesting conversation about blogs with Rhino Times publisher Willy Hammer.

Willy misses some key points about blogging, but I'm not sure his lack of understanding is a threat to his business at the conservative alt-weekly as much as it is a governor on its potential growth.

First, Willy has some facts wrong, and generalizes his way to inaccuracy. Contrary to what he says, there are many blogs with substantial numbers of readers, some that make their owners tidy incomes, and many that offer serious reporting and commentary. Willy falls into the I-don't-want-to-read-about-your-cat trap, dismissing a universe of millions of bloggers because some of them write personal journals.

Second -- and this is even more important, because undeniable empirical evidence will correct the misperceptions noted above -- part of the value of blogging lies in exactly the aspect he sees as its weakness: the blog as hub of a tiny community. But small communities are valuable, the people in them care deeply about the church or kids soccer team or, yes, the cats involved. To compare these communities to mass-market media is to miss the point. And to ignore the possible economic value of these tiny sites when aggregated is to write off an enormous potential market.

Small communities and individual perspectives can help mass media by providing them more information, more sources, more references and links, than they could possibly generate alone. At Harvard on Friday, MSNBC president Rick Kaplan said blogs help improve ratings for his programs, and New York Times managing editor Jill Abramson -- not undefensive, but not uncurious -- listened to the amen chorus singing. As Jay Rosen puts it, "the forces of denial are in retreat."

If you accept the proposition that more people will continue to get more of their news and information over the web -- and I think that's a safe bet -- then the economic models for local web advertising will surely develop. The smart local publishers will figure out ways to tap into this online market.

But given the nature of Willy's business, this online market isn't necessarily a direct threat to his revenue, at least for a long while.

As long as people want a free paper to read during lunch, and crave a sharp local perspective on the news, the Rhino will have an audience, and advertisers will pursue that market. When they build monitors into the tables of restaurants and it's safe to spill soy sauce on them, then he might be in trouble.

The Rhino is a family-owned business, and they have their hands full managing the expansion into Charlotte. They may be wise to go slowly on the web.

But looked at another way, Willy is confining the growth of his business if he ignores the web. Paper and printing and distribution cost a lot, and he's writing off a potential high-margin business that could build on what he's already accomplished. What's more, he's ignoring the voices of a community that could give the paper story ideas, publicity, eyes and ears everyhere.....

For the moment at least, Willy can get away with being proudly parochial and self-limiting. The paper that made it's name by being local and opinionated is saying it will ignore publications that are local and opinionated. How long can that last?

UPDATE: More from Chewie, Ben, Hoggard, and TheShu. Interesting -- no flames, no defensiveness, some agreement with Willy on certain points: the calm response of those (including me) who have fresh memories of learning the lessons Willy will soon learn, and who bear him not ill will but good wishes as the future undoes his conventional wisdom.

12:17:22 PM    comment []

The Front Pew, a new News & Record blog about "faith, religion and matters of the spirit," is up and running. I think that church blogs and personal blogs about faith will be really fertile ground for local conversation -- we already have a handful. Writer Nancy McLaughlin should have no shortage of sites to link to and comment on.

11:19:52 AM    comment []

It took Jeff Jarvis longer to get home to Jersey by train that it took me to get home by air via a significant percentage of the USAirways route map...I don't know where Dan Gillmor ended up...

10:19:53 AM    comment []

"President Bush talks about an ownership society. Social Security is a proven means of ensuring that every American has an irrevocable share in that society."

My newspaper column is about fixing Social Security without breaking it in the process.

"The Social Security system is not in crisis, but the Bush administration wants you to think it is so you will be open to the idea of reforming it, and even though it's not in crisis the idea of fixing it before it breaks is a good one, although the fixes likely to be proposed by the Bush administration are not necessarily the right fixes to make.

"Got that? It may be the simplest sentence you read on the subject this year. But bear with me, this is important stuff, so let's get out our John Madden telestrator and go through it in slo-mo."

Read the whole thing.

10:13:02 AM    comment []