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Journatic and the newspapers of the future

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Washing the Chicago Tribune
Washing the Chicago Tribune

Story of the week, from my perspective, is the revelation of just how far our news organizations have fallen in importance. Seems as if we are witnessing the future of America; where industries get outsourced, job by job, and sent to some place where a salary of 50¢ an hour is nearly a middle class wage. Is this the Bain Capital model of the future? I find that depressing, and my connection to journalism is only as a reader, and through genetic history.1

The story has been percolating for a while, a recent piece on NPR’s This American Life was the blow-up event:

ACT TWO. FORGIVE US OUR PRESS PASSES. Producer Sarah Koenig reports on a company called Journatic, that is producing local journalism in a brand new way. Or is it really journalism? (23 1/2 minutes)

(click here to continue reading Act Two. Forgive us our Press Passes. | Switcheroo | This American Life.)

A Better Tribune

A Better Tribune

Turns out there was an insider, Ryan Smith, at Journatic feeding information because he was concerned. 

From the Guardian U.K:

If the best trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist, Journatic’s greatest ruse has been to convince the world that the company and its workers barely exist. Google the word “Journatic” and it’ll take a lot of digging through search results to find the company’s bare-bones website, because the site itself, as one blogger has reported, contains code that eliminates it from Google search results.

That’s strange for a company that’s had such a large impact on newspaper journalism. Over the last two or three years, the Chicago-based content provider has infiltrated dozens of mid to major newspapers across the country and obtained contracts to produc so-called “hyperlocal” news content. Those deals often lead to a horde of firings of editorial staff at those news organizations, as some full-time office-dwellers cede work to a small army of low-paid freelancers living all around the globe.

In this brave new media world, the face-to-face has been rendered as obsolete as health benefits and vacation pay, leading to a bizarrely disconnected state of affairs between the newspapers and the people putting words on its pages. I’ve copyedited or written news stories for a handful of major US newspapers over the past 18 months – the Houston Chronicle in Texas, San Francisco Chronicle in California and Newsday in Long Island, New York and others – yet it’s doubtful that any of the editors or senior executives for those news organizations could pick me out of a police line-up. In fact, it’s unlikely they could tell you a single personal detail about me or the other journalists behind the bylines of countless stories that appear in their print editions or on their websites, as provided by my employer.

Had editors at these newspapers requested a meeting with the individuals producing this new content, they’d have racked up a staggering amount of frequent flier miles. Journatic’s ranks are full of people like myself – home office-based US freelancers located far from the area they are covering. (I’ve never stepped foot in the Lone Star state once, much less visited the offices of the Houston Chronicle.) A second group of the company’s workers have been recruited from beyond the North American continent in developing countries like the Philippines and various African nations.

A final group of Journatic workers would be literally impossible to track down. Why? Because they don’t actually exist. They’re as fictional as Sherlock Holmes or the Sasquatch.

(click here to continue reading My adventures in Journatic’s new media landscape of outsourced hyperlocal news | Ryan Smith | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk.)

Anna Tarkov of Poynter has a good overview of the entire fake byline story which concludes:

“Part of the reason Journatic keeps taking over more papers is so few people are talking about it and aren’t fully aware of what they’re doing,” [Ryan Smith] said by email. “Maybe now that the story is out, the public will be willing to spend money on good journalism instead of demanding quality information for free. That has definitely helped lead desperate newspapers to consider companies like Journatic.”

Someone who hopes the public will indeed listen is the non-partisan media advocacy group Free Press. They’ve posted a petition on their site that allows signers to contact Tribune and other companies known to work with Journatic to let them know how they feel about their news being produced overseas.

Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, explained his organization’s interest in an emailed statement: “Runaway media consolidation appears to have reached a new low. The idea that companies like Tribune would sack local journalists while outsourcing their jobs to other countries is appalling, but sadly not unexpected if you’ve been watching the downward spiral of the corporate media giants. But this rock-bottom moment in U.S. journalism may offer a moment of clarity about what happens when you continually put profits above public service.”

(click here to continue reading Journatic worker takes ‘This American Life’ inside outsourced journalism | Poynter..)

Rich Play - Poor Pay - Chicago Tribune
Rich Play – Poor Pay – Chicago Tribune

Michael Miner has been covering the story for a while:

The Tribune Company announced Monday it’s turning over TribLocal to Journatic—which the Tribune describes as a “Chicago-based media content provider” that “aggregates data.” Not just Chicago-based, it’s Tribune Tower-based, and Journatic’s approach to journalism is to turn it into piecework done at home. For weeks it’s been advertising for writers and offering these terms:

Position: Per Piece Writer Treatment: 1099 Independent Contractor Time: You choose when you work, but we are looking for day availability Location: Remote. As a contractor, you choose where you work Pay: Per-piece, roughly $12/hr. For example $4 stories take about 20 +/- minutes, and $2 stories take about 10 +/- minutes. Interest in Journatic heated up a month ago when it put together a 20-page mock neighborhood section for the Tribune. That’s when executive editor Peter Behle sent employees a notice that said in part, “Reporters will be sniffing around—and they are not authorized to talk with anyone about Journatic under any circumstances. Better yet, if you receive a reporter inquiry and tell us about it (without responding), we’ll pay you a $50 bonus.”

That’s good money for dropping a dime. A Journatic writer would have to write 13 stories to earn as much, and that’s even if they were the important $4 stories.

But now that word is out Journatic’s less guarded, and I just got off the phone with Brian Timpone, the CEO.

(click here to continue reading Tribune Company does deal with Journatic | The Bleader.)

The Perfect Way to Unwind
The Perfect Way to Unwind

and what do the out-sourced reporters actually write? Miner followed up:

Timpone had told me that data was collected and processed for Journatic in the Philippines but the writing is all domestic. Someone promptly posted a Journatic ad she’d spotted on a Filipino website that contradicted him: it said, “We’re looking for writers to work on events stories.” Journatic wanted Filipino writers “able to commit to 250 pieces/week minimum” at 35 to 40 cents a piece.

What’s the Filipino contribution to TribLocal Homewood-Flossmoor? I asked Timpone.

He directed me to the “Homewood-Flossmoor Athlete Tracker” on a back page. It’s a list of athletes from the local high school now playing varsity sports in college and their latest accomplishments, however humble—such as, “Has started 26 games this year, hitting .232 with nine RBIs.”

“That’s the kind of stuff we do in the Philippines, if you want to know,” said Timpone. He explained that when Journatic came into Homewood-Flossmoor, it created a database of around “100 newsmaking organizations”—such as women’s clubs, churches, schools, and athletes. With the athletes, the schedules of the teams they play for are loaded into the database, and then the teams’ websites are patrolled for results. “In the Philippines they collect the data and put it in the system. You need a program to do it.

“The school lunch menus might be formatted by Filipinos,” Timpone went on. “Say there are 25 school lunch menus released every Sunday. We have someone gather them and put them in the system. It’s not writing. We need people who speak English and are literate. It’s a typist job, but people don’t want to be called a typist.”

(click here to continue reading The burbs’ first look at Journatic | The Bleader.)

Daily News
Daily News

Side note: Jack Shafer posted a brief, interesting history of the byline itself:

Where does the sanctity of the byline come from?

Obviously, every news story should brim with the truth. But does an accurate story become unclean if the byline does not match the name of the writer (or writers) who produced it? In even the most professional of newsrooms, editors frequently do sufficient work on a piece – reporting and re-reporting sections, composing long passages without the assistance of the bylined writer, redefining the story’s parameters – that they deserve a byline or at least a co-byline. Yet magazine, newspaper and wire editors rarely receive this credit for their extraordinary interventions. Even so, I’ve never heard anybody claim that the readers of these pieces were in any way hoodwinked.

If bylines are so holy, why do the very best newspapers in the land allow government officials, foreign ambassadors, politicians, captains of industry and other notables claim sole bylines for their op-ed pieces? Almost to a one, these articles are composed by ghostwriters, yet journalistic convention denies the ghosts credit. If Journatic is deceiving the public, so too are the op-ed pages of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and many other newspapers. See also the books that unacknowledged ghostwriters write for their celebrity clients.

Not to go all Foucault (PDF file) on you, but the meaning of authorship has flexed over the centuries, depending on the direction that ideas about property and authority were taking. In the middle of the 1800s, as the American newspaper gathered cultural force and influence, bylines were still rare ornaments. Their assignment was inconsistent, even to writers who “deserved” them. Karl Marx, who wrote a column for the New York Tribune in the 1850s, complained that his contributions were sometimes published with his byline, sometimes as unsigned editorials, and sometimes not at all, as James Ledbetter pointed out in the introduction to Karl Marx: Dispatches for the New York Tribune. That said, Marx was not shy about submitting 125 columns written by his partner in communism, Friedrich Engels, as his own work.

One early advocate of bylines was Civil War General Joseph Hooker, who imposed them on battlefield correspondents in 1863 “as a means of attributing responsibility and blame for the publication of material he found inaccurate or dangerous to the Army of the Potomac,” as scholar Michael Schudson wrote in Discovering the News: A Social History of American Newspapers. To be technical about it, journalistic bylines didn’t exist in the 1800s, as the term had yet to be invented. Instead, journalistic works credited to an author were called “signed articles” or “signature” pieces, as W. Joseph Campbell wrote in his book The Year That Defined American Journalism: 1897 and the Clash of Paradigms.

Signatures and signed articles became more common at newspapers by the late 1890s, as Alfred Balch noted in Lippincott’s Monthly (December 1898), conveying the growing status of journalists. “[I]t is the experience of every man who writes that signature makes him more careful,” Balch wrote, and this was good for publishers, too, he added. Yellow journalists Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst enthusiastically promoted their best writers (Richard Harding Davis, Sylvester Scovel, Ambrose Bierce, Nellie Bly, Stephen Crane and Eva Valesh, for example) by rewarding them with bylines, making celebrities out of them or adding to their established celebrity. But many publishers still disdained bylines because of the attention they focused on the writer at the expense of the publication. New York Times publisher-owner Adolph Ochs led the resistance, as Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones wrote in The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times:

Adolph had an ironclad policy on who got individual credit at the New York Times, insisting that “the business of the paper must be absolutely impersonal.” Bylines on stories were virtually nonexistent, and no editor, reporter or business manager was permitted to have stationery with his name on it.

(click here to continue reading How the byline beast was born | Jack Shafer.)

For the record, speaking only for myself, I have no objection to paying a reasonable price for online access to news. I pay the New York Times, pay the WSJ, pay some trade publications (Ad Age, for instance), and I’m ok with that. I don’t think news has to be free. But then I’m old.…

Footnotes:
  1. My grandfather was a newspaper man his whole life, and several of my relatives have made a living in various parts of the news industries, though as far as I know, nobody is currently employed thus []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 7th, 2012 at 8:34 am

Posted in Business,News-esque

Tagged with ,

Virginia Woolf Visits the Daily Mail

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Creative Review - Wardour Street
Creative Review – Wardour Street

Virginia Woolf may have had a delicate appearance, but she was stronger than she looked.

The New Yorker recalls:

as Evelyn Irons recalled in an essay published in our pages in 1963, three members of the Bloomsbury Group requested a tour of the Daily Mail’s printing presses in 1932. “Look here, Virginia wants to see your paper being printed,” Vita Sackville-West had told Irons at the time. “Do you think you could arrange it?”

Irons, who later became a war correspondent and was the first woman journalist to reach Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, was then the editor of the Mail’s women’s page. (She would later be fired for “looking unfashionable.”) In that capacity, she had, the previous year, interviewed Sackville-West and the two women had begun an affair. According to Victoria Glendinning’s biography of Sackville-West, Irons was the subject of a number of Sackville-West’s 1931 love poems. “It seemed very odd to me that Virginia Woolf should want to see the mass-circulation Daily Mail being put to bed, but it could be arranged, and easily,” wrote Irons.

At nine o’clock one night the following week, Sackville-West, Woolf, and Woolf’s husband, Leonard, arrived at the Mail’s offices for their tour. “The whole evening had an unreal quality,” Irons recalled, and continued:

There they were, perched around the room like unfamiliar night birds: Vita Sackville-West, tall, intensely handsome, wearing her usual long, dangling earrings and smoking through a paper cigarette holder; Leonard Woolf, a dark, brooding man with aggressive eyebrows; and Virginia Woolf, recalling the moon in the daytime sky—ethereal, bone-pale, the eyes set deep in the skull. She was fifty, but age had nothing to do with her appearance; she must have looked like that forever. You might as well show those clattering presses to a ghost, I thought.

However, her guests were not there to hear anecdotes. Despite her ethereal appearance, Virginia Woolf had more than a passing interest in the working of the newspaper’s presses. To Irons’s surprise, Woolf engaged in lengthy and detailed discussions with the printers, handling their tools and often shouting to be heard over the noise of the presses. At one point Woolf even displayed her ability to read set type upside down. “We don’t often get ladies coming in from outside who can do that,” said one of the printers. The experience changed Irons’s view of Woolf:

There seemed to be little that was wan or mothlike, delicate or remote, about her now. Her long, slender fingers were smudged with black ink, and her behavior was that of a mechanically minded man.

(click here to continue reading Back Issues: Virginia Woolf Visits the Daily Mail : The New Yorker.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

March 29th, 2012 at 9:52 am

Posted in Arts

Tagged with , ,

Doonesbury Abortion Strip Censored

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Charles Pierce writes this about some newspaper publishers’ fainting over this week’s Doonesbury comic strip:

Apparently, as has happened about once a decade or so, Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury” is once again giving the vapors to the people who run our nation’s newspapers. The important thing to remember is that nobody is objecting that the facts of the Dildos Mandating Dildos laws on which Trudeau is riffing here are in any way untrue. The guardians of the marketplace of ideas are having problems with how directly Trudeau is expressing his opinion on those facts.

The reasons for this is that many of America’s newspapers, large and small, are now in the hands of bean-counting poltroons who wet themselves at the prospect of angry phone calls from wingnuts, or that the local mini-Rushbo on their evening drivetime station will get a hold of their names and say mean things about them.

Here, for example, is the mewling from the Oregonian. Trudeau, apparently…

“…went over the line of good taste and humor in penning a series on abortion using graphic language and images inappropriate for a comics page.”

The graphic language? “Transvaginal,” which is apparently banal enough for the Virginia House Of Delegates, but not for the delicate souls who read newspapers in Portland. Inappropriate images? Who in hell knows, although the suggestion by the Oregonian that all that graphic language, and all those inappropriate images, are okay for their readers of experience online, but not on the sacred corpses of their dead trees, gives you some idea of why newspapers are in so much trouble these days.

(click here to continue reading Doonesbury Abortion Strip Censored – Screaming Yellow Zonkers – Esquire.)

Sounds about right. More reactions from other newspapers compiled by Jim Romenesko

Monday:

Doonesbury 2012 3 12 abortion in Texas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday:

Doonesbury 2012 3 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mouth breathing still-governor of Texas, Rick Perry, was not amused, once someone read the strip to him out loud:

And Trudeau stands by the strip. “To ignore it would have been comedy malpractice,” he told the Washington Post. It’s also apparently the first time Trudeau has tackled abortion. “Roe v. Wade was decided while I was still in school” he said. “Planned Parenthood was embraced by both parties. Contraception was on its way to being used by 99-percent of American women. I thought reproductive rights was a settled issue. Who knew we had turned into a nation of sluts?”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office is not amused, calling the comic tasteless. “The decision to end a life is not funny,” Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed told TPM. “The governor’s proud of his leadership on the sonogram law … and being a staunch defender of unborn life.”

(click here to continue reading Doonesbury Comic Series On Abortion Rejected By Several Newspapers | TPMDC.)

 

Written by Seth Anderson

March 13th, 2012 at 8:40 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with , ,

Milly Dowler Hacking Puts Pressure on News Corp

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Jogging After the End of Times

About fracking time. Rupert Murdoch’s criminal enterprise has avoided prosecution for way too long, in this matter, and others due to political influence. Isn’t justice supposed to be impartial?  ((ha ha))

LONDON — Political pressure is bearing down on Rebekah Brooks, a top executive of the News Corporation in Britain, following allegations that one of the company’s newspapers hacked the cellphone of a 13-year-old girl who was abducted and murdered in 2002, when Ms. Brooks was its editor.

Prominent politicians chastised the company and Ms. Brooks, and Ford Motor Company suspended advertising in News of the World, the tabloid that has faced a long-running scandal over the widespread interception of voice mail messages of celebrities and other public figures.

Ed Miliband, leader of the opposition Labour Party, said Tuesday that Ms. Brooks should “consider her conscience and consider her position” after the disclosures.

“It wasn’t a rogue reporter,” Mr. Miliband said. “It wasn’t just one individual. This was a systematic series of things that happened and what I want from executives at News International is people to start taking responsibility for this.” News International is the News Corporation’s British newspaper division, and Ms. Brooks is now its chief executive.

Prime Minister David Cameron took time out from a visit to British troops in Afghanistan to lament what he called a “truly dreadful situation.” The police, he added, “should investigate this without any fear, without any favor, without any worry about where the evidence should lead them.”

Adding to the pressure, Ford Motor Company said it was suspending advertising until the newspaper concluded its investigation into the episode. “We are awaiting an outcome from the News of the World investigation and expect a speedy and decisive response,” Ford said in a statement released to news agencies. Under an onslaught of Twitter messages demanding a boycott of the paper, several other companies said they were reviewing their advertising policies.

(click here to continue reading Milly Dowler Hacking Puts Pressure on Rebekah Brooks of News Corp. – NYTimes.com.)

Rupert Murdoch is scum, and his disease has spread through his entire “news” empire: Fox News, News of the World, New York Post, etc. etc., Ad nauseam…

Eye see u Willis
Eye see u Willis

I guess the real test will be if News Corporation’s criminal activity leads to legal action in the near future.

The allegation that investigators working for The News of the World may have had ordinary people like the Dowlers, not just celebrities, in their sights has raised the level of alarm in Britain over tabloid newspaper excesses.

“The Milly Dowler story has taken this from an issue for people who are concerned about media ethics to one that is of broader concern to the general public,” said Tim Luckhurst, a journalism professor at the University of Kent. “News Corporation thought they could put a lid on this, and this has blown the lid right off.”

According to Mark Lewis, a lawyer for the Dowler family, The News of the World not only intercepted messages left on Milly Dowler’s phone by her increasingly frantic family, but also deleted some of those messages when her voice mailbox became full — thus making room for new ones and listening to those in turn. This confused investigators and gave false hope to Milly’s relatives, who believed it showed she was still alive and deleting the messages herself, Mr. Lewis said.

In a statement, Mr. Lewis called the newspaper’s actions “heinous” and “despicable”, and said the Dowler family had suffered “distress heaped upon tragedy” upon learning that the News of the World “had no humanity at such a terrible time.”

Perched

From The Guardian U.K.

The private investigator at the centre of the News of the World phone-hacking scandal has issued a public apology to all those who have been hurt or upset by his activity.

In a statement released exclusively to the Guardian, Glenn Mulcaire made no direct reference to the hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone, but he said he had never intended to interfere with any police inquiry.

“I want to apologise to anybody who was hurt or upset by what I have done,” he said, adding that he had worked at the NoW under “constant demand for results”.

He released the statement at the Guardian’s request after experiencing what he described as “vilification” following the revelation of the hacking of the missing schoolgirl’s phone.

“Much has been published in the media about me. Up to now, I have not responded publicly in any way to all the stories but in the light of the publicity over the last 24 hours, I feel I must break my silence.

“I want to apologise to anybody who was hurt or upset by what I have done. I’ve been to court. I’ve pleaded guilty. And I’ve gone to prison and been punished. I still face the possibility of further criminal prosecution.

“Working for the News of the World was never easy. There was relentless pressure. There was a constant demand for results. I knew what we did pushed the limits ethically. But, at the time, I didn’t understand that I had broken the law at all.

“A lot of information I obtained was simply tittle-tattle, of no great importance to anyone, but sometimes what I did was for what I thought was the greater good, to carry out investigative journalism.

“I never had any intention of interfering with any police inquiry into any crime.

“I know I have brought the vilification I am experiencing upon myself, but I do ask the media to leave my family and my children, who are all blameless, alone.”

(click here to continue reading Phone hacking: Glenn Mulcaire blames ‘relentless pressure’ by NoW for actions | Media | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 5th, 2011 at 8:52 pm

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp launches The Daily app for the iPad

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Topic of the Day

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp1 has released a new iPad only news-esque app with great fanfare. The Daily, as it is called, is going to charge a daily subscription of 99¢ a week2 but is free for the first two weeks3.

I’ve only used it for ten or so minutes, but wasn’t impressed so far. The articles seem to be targeted at high school students, the average word count less than an USA Today article, and of course, much less than a New York Times article or even a Wall Street Journal article. Also more gossip-heavy than I like: in fact the second section (after News) is called straight out: Gossip. So 1/6 news, 1/6 is opinion by right-wing stalwarts like Bjorn Lomborg, 4/6 various lifestyle/celebrity gossip/sports/and games. Not a mix targeted to someone like me.

The Chicago Tribune has published a version of their paper called Red Eye, targeted at kids and college kids, and it seems similar (minus the iPad bells and whistles). I never read it. Well, flip through the pages, reading isn’t quite the right verb, as usually there aren’t too many words to read. The Daily seems an updated version.

The Daily also crashed twice in the five minutes I browsed the app. Though to be fair, the NYTimes App took several iterations before it became stable, and the Daily is only version 1.0. I also found The Daily to be fairly sluggish sometimes when jumping between sections.

So would I buy it, once the two week trial ends? Probably not. But I’ll use it for a few more days and see if it gets better.

 

Update: if you want to read a the first couple days worth of articles, you can via this Tumblr blog, even if you don’t have an iPad.

Pip and his iPad

Some reactions from various competitors:

But with bureaus only in New York and Los Angeles, backed up by freelance contributors elsewhere, not only is meaningful local coverage impossible but even regional coverage will be selective at best.

Reading the Daily can involve a certain amount of sluggishness. The “carousel” interface that greets you when you launch it lags behind your gestures, and some turns of an onscreen page also leave you waiting for a moment.

I also noticed one outright bug: With the Daily open, an iPad would not shut off its screen automatically, quickly draining its battery.

It also includes an opinion section. Editor Jesse Angelo dodged a question about whether it would mirror the right-leaning ideological tilt of other News Corp. outlets, saying only, “We are patriotic, we love America … we believe in free ideas, we believe in free people.”

(click here to continue reading Rob Pegoraro – News Corp. launches its tablet-only the Daily app for the iPad.)

That doesn’t sound like a dodge to me, but something that would said on Fox New most days of the week. Uggh.

NYTime’s Media Decoder blog:

The Fox News Channel suspended coverage of the violence taking place in Cairo Wednesday to present the news conference introducing The Daily, a new business venture controlled by Fox’s corporate owner, the News Corporation.

Both of the channel’s news competitors, CNN and MSNBC, continued to telecast the growing tension in Cairo, which included clashes in the streets involving Molotov cocktails and fire hoses.

At the same time Anderson Cooper on CNN was reporting on fires breaking out in the streets from incendiary devices, Fox News had continuing coverage of the press event surrounding The Daily, including a speech by Mr. Murdoch and editors of the online paper, as well as demonstrations of what the paper would look like on iPads.

At one point in the Fox coverage, the business anchor Neil Cavuto appeared to respond to comments from viewers who were suggesting that Fox was only covering this because this was a business owned by their own boss.

“That might have something to do with it,” Mr. Cavuto said. He then offered arguments for why this news spoke to “cultural events beyond a given company,” suggesting that it was a “crucial stage” in the future of news because so many more people were getting their news and information online

(click here to continue reading The First Look at News Corp.’s ‘The Daily’ – NYTimes.com.)

I Pee Free Daily

Macworld:

But we’ve seen most of this before. Every major newspaper Website features videos these days, and a number of them even make great use of big and panoramic photos. The Economist’s app beat The Daily to the punch in offering audio transcripts of the written stories. All in all, the app isn’t quite as innovative as Murdoch and Apple would have you believe.

Having built a kinda-new wineskin, Murdoch’s wine seems awfully familiar … and underwhelming. With its breezy, pointed headlines—“Here we snow again, America”—The Daily strongly resembles News Corp.’s own New York Post. With its energetic coverage of sports, it is reminiscent of USA Today. With its emphasis on graphics and photos of beautiful people, The Daily seems like People or Us Weekly.

But in its overall mix—light on news, heavier on celebrities and jocks, every item short and punchy—The Daily most reminds me of two other attempts to save daily newspapers from hemorrhaging young readers: Red Streak and RedEye, two free tabloids that appeared in Chicago a decade ago, aimed at twentysomething commuters who, it was thought, weren’t interested in news unless it was chopped up and dumbed down. There wasn’t much there there, and the same seems to be the case with The Daily: Murdoch’s reinvention of journalism looks a lot like the one before it.

(And, it should be noted, the “legacy” newspapers behind the RedEye and Red Streak—the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times, respectively—have both been in bankruptcy in recent years. So much for reinvention.)

One of the clearest indications that The Daily is tied to old-school ways of thinking, though, is the presence of sudoku and crossword puzzles in the app. There are plenty of iPad offerings in both genres for dedicated puzzle-players, so it’s perplexing to see The Daily duplicate those efforts instead of concentrating on what it should do best: news.

The Daily isn’t a total disappointment. It seems most promising as a platform for advertisers: ads are quite easy to overlook on newspaper and magazine Websites, but on The Daily they fit into the natural flow of reading, and can grab your attention with eye-popping graphics. There is some promise here.

 

(click here to continue reading The Daily: New technology, but old news? – Business – Macworld.)

The Guardian U.K.:

Some have written it off as dead on arrival, thanks to its fusion of old and new media. It will be fully digital, but published every night in time for the subscriber to read over morning coffee. “Wonderful! Slower news – and at a higher price,” wrote Scott Rosenberg of Salon before the launch.

As ever, Murdoch has dismissed the naysayers with a flick of his ample cheque book. He has sunk $30m (£19m) into developing the Daily and said it would cost $26m a year to cover its costs, including those of 100 staff. He is targeting the 50 million people expected to own an iPad by the end of next year. Analysts project that he can cover costs if 2% of them could be persuaded to subscribe to the Daily at 99 cents a week – no mean task, considering that there are already 9,000 other news apps for the iPad on the market. “It will all come down to content,” said Alan Mutter, blogger and former editor of the Chicago Daily News. “He’s going to have to make something very compelling to get people to pay.”

The first edition of the Daily had a conventional news front on Egypt under the headline “Falling Pharaoh”. It gave high billing to its gossip section, with features on Natalie Portman and Rihanna, and a column by Richard Johnson, formerly the doyen of the Page Six gossip column of the New York Post. It also showcased several digital bells and whistles, including photographs that can be scanned through 360 degrees, a “carousel” of stories that can be spun with a finger, and stories that you can listen to like a radio.

Asked by the Guardian whether the Daily would be more centrist in its politics than other parts of News Corporation, which, particularly in America, have been accused of being caustically rightwing, Murdoch was noncommittal, saying its editor, Jesse Angelo, would decide.

“We are patriotic,” Angelo replied. “We love America, we are going to say what we think is right for this country.” How would he measure success, Murdoch was asked. “When we are selling millions,” he replied.

(click here to continue reading Rupert Murdoch unveils next step in media empire – the iPad ‘newspaper’ | Media | The Guardian.)

There’s more if you want to find more

Footnotes:
  1. Fox News, Wall Street Journal, eats babies, yadda yadda []
  2. $40 a year []
  3. actually sponsored by Verizon []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 3rd, 2011 at 10:29 am

Posted in Business,News-esque

Tagged with ,

Whoopsie! Safire is on permanent hiatus

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Share photos on twitter with Twitpic

[click to embiggen photo]

Today’s New York Times Magazine has an awkward typo: William Safire, who died September 27th, is listed as being on hiatus. Yikes. Last week’s NYT Magazine said Safire “is on hiatus for a few weeks.” Ok, last weeks magazine was excusable, it was only a couple of days after Mr. Safire’s death. But to alter the byline means someone edited it since last week. Awkward…

They have now appended a correction to the online version of the article

A note with the “On Language” column on Page 14 this weekend refers to the absence of the regular columnist, William Safire. Mr. Safire died last Sunday, after some copies had gone to press.

Written by Seth Anderson

October 4th, 2009 at 3:40 pm

Reading Around on October 1st through October 2nd

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A few interesting links collected October 1st through October 2nd:

  • The Outfit: A Collective of Chicago Crime Writers: If You Wanna Win You Gotta Learn How to Play – The whole Olympics is going to be like this–a game in which Chicagoans will be made to feel like they should be emotionally invested when the real players will be behind the scenes: the guys with contracts waiting to be signed, and properties on the Olympic venue Monopoly board … Maybe the games will lose money on the whole, but some people, people on the inside, are going to make Benjamins by the bagful. These are the people who exaggerate the benefits, who make it sound like Chicago needs the Olympics more than the Olympics needs Chicago (a dubious claim if only because the IOC stands to make another half billion or so in television rights for summer games on US soil) so that you’ll support an endeavor that will line their pockets.

    One Billion Dollars

    One Billion Dollars

  • Senator Helped Mistress’s Husband, Raising Ethics Flags – NYTimes.com – A Republican Senator and an ethical scandal? What a a surprise!”The senator also put his chief of staff at the time, who had raised concerns that Mr. Hampton’s activities could violate the one-year ban on lobbying, in charge of dealing with him.”
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  • Michael Wolff on Rupert Murdoch | vanityfair.com – more than being about cost, [Rupert Murdoch's] strategy is about pain. What he is always doing is demonstrating a level of strength and will and resolve against which the other guys, the weaker guys, cower. He can take more pain than anybody else. While others persist in the vanity of the Internet, he will endure the short- or medium-term pain necessary to build a profitable business.

Written by swanksalot

October 2nd, 2009 at 4:01 pm

The Times Plans Local Edition in Chicago, SF

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Interesting

Three Is the Magic Number
[Three Is the Magic Number]

The New York Times is making plans for editions of the paper tailored to the Chicago area and other metropolitan markets, in addition to the San Francisco edition it plans to launch this fall.

“We’re in conversations with potential news providers in Chicago about adding local content to The Times,” said Diane C. McNulty, a spokeswoman for The Times. “Our intent is to roll out these expanded reports in several key markets around the country, with Chicago following San Francisco. The details are still being discussed. The idea is to provide additional quality local content for our readers.”

Plans for the San Francisco edition call for adding to the paper, twice a week, two additional pages of news about northern California. At first, the added content will be produced by The Times’ own writers and editors. But eventually, the plan, as in Chicago, is to turn the production over to a local partner.

[From The Times Plans Local Edition in Chicago, Too, and Other Markets - Media Decoder Blog - NYTimes.com]

Speaking for myself, I’d probably enhance my NYT subscription to include weekdays when this happens1. The Chicago Tribune has shrunk its news hole so drastically that reading the entire front section takes about 9 minutes, on a good day. Some days there are about 150 words of interest to me in the whole paper. Chicago sports is still multiple pages, of course, but who gives a rats ass about the Bears or the Cubs? Not I. There are much better sports writers on the web anyway, especially for the one sport I follow2. The Tribune brain-trust has decided that the only way for profitability is to fire/retire all of the actual reporters, and make the paper easier to browse while sitting on the bus. Shorter stories, more pictures, more entertainment news. Bleh. The New York Times, on the other hand, is still filled with words in complex sentences, and not just pretty3 graphics. I may disagree with the NYT on various topics, but it is the best newspaper now being published.

Will be very interested to see how this shakes out. Will the Tribune counter this incursion by increasing their news collection? Or just continue fading into irrelevance? My subscription to the Tribune lapsed last week, and I struggled with the decision to renew it or not. I decided I would give them one more year to figure out their audience, so we’ll see.

Newspapers should focus on what they do best: collecting & analyzing data about our society and world, and stop tarting themselves up to attract 19 year old boys who can’t read anyway.

Footnotes:
  1. currently I only get the Saturday/Sunday package []
  2. The NBA if you’ve forgotten []
  3. vacant – oh private joke []

Written by swanksalot

September 30th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , , ,

Reading Around on August 24th through August 25th

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A few interesting links collected August 24th through August 25th:

  • Guampedia: Get Involved – Guampedia, Guam’s online encyclopedia, is striving to help preserve and promote Guam’s history and culture and help educate children, residents and visitors alike … but we need your help.
  • Placid Beneath Warm Sun -oil.jpg
  • Paragraphs! – Back in the days of old, when men were men and computers didn’t yet rule the earth, stories couldn’t be edited merely by hitting the delete key a few times. So when copy needed to be cut to fill a particular space, it was convenient for every sentence to be its own paragraph. That way, you could cut any single sentence you wanted, join up the copy, and you were done. You always knew exactly how many lines you were saving and it was simple to make the cut without resetting the entire piece.

    Electronic typesetting makes this unnecessary, of course, but there’s another advantage to this custom: it adds a bit of white space to the page. Newspapers that don’t do this end up looking gray and intimidating. So the custom stays.

  • Radley Balko Comments on CNN’s Unattributed Use of His Reporting – City Desk – Washington City Paper – CNN recently did to criminal justice reporter Radley Balko, who lives in Northern Virginia, what Gawker supposedly did to Shapira, except it failed to give any credit where much credit was due.
    Balko (who I worked with at Reason) has spent several years reporting on Steven Hayne, the Mississippi medical examiner whose shoddy work has led to the incarceration of several known innocents. Over the last three years, Balko has cultivated sources, reads hundreds–if not thousands–of pages of documentation incriminating Hayne, and, as a result, has broken every single piece of major news about the medical examiner.

    But you wouldn’t know any of that if all you had for reference was the AC360 special about Hayne, which piggy-backs almost exclusively on Balko’s reporting without every hat-tipping or acknowledging his work. (Techdirt reported that “sources quoted by CNN told Balko that CNN claims it found them via his articles.”)

    all-you-can-eat_25.jpg

Written by swanksalot

August 25th, 2009 at 8:01 am

Posted in Links

Tagged with , ,

Reading Around on August 9th through August 10th

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A few interesting links collected August 9th through August 10th:

pig-o-cycle.jpg

  • The Washington Monthly – GLADNEY THE UNINSURED ACTIVIST – I know I should laugh at the misfortunes of others, but…bwha-ha-ha:

    “Wait, the conservative opponent of health care reform, fighting (literally) to defeat a plan that would bring coverage to those who lose their jobs, lost his coverage because he got laid off?

    I’m not in a position to say whether Gladney sustained genuine injuries or whether he’s exaggerating for 15 minutes of Fox News fame and a lucrative out-of-court settlement.

    Either way, the new right-wing cause celebre needs to take up a collection to pay for his medical bills because he doesn’t have health insurance. It’s a fascinating sign of the times.”

  • Newspapers: Shut up and charge already « King Kaufman – “I wish newspapers would quit talking about this stuff and just start charging. They’ll quickly “understand the value” of their content, which, with rare exceptions like the Wall Street Journal, is something very much like zero, and then get to the real business at hand, which isn’t figuring out how to get people to pay for newspaper Web content, it’s how news organizations can generate enough revenue to do the important work they need to do.”
  • anti propaganda hemp anslinger marijuana-girl-reefer-madness-poster.jpg
  • Drug WarRant – “If you’re reading this, you’re at the new location of Drug WarRant.com.

    Our home for the past 6 years was at blogs.salon.com using radio userland software. Radio hasn’t been upgraded in ages, and they’ve announced that the blog hosting will go away in December of this year. This is a big change (and a difficult transition).

    I have moved the blog to a server at DreamHost and adapted a WordPress theme to be close to the old look of Drug WarRant. All 3,500 radio posts were exported to MT and then imported into WordPress relatively intact (with some formatting errors). Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do with the old comments — they can’t be retrieved from the Salon server (except manually — over 20,000 of them).”

Written by swanksalot

August 10th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

Reading Around on August 9th

with one comment

Some additional reading August 9th from 11:29 to 13:20:

Dictation at the Chicago Daily News

  • What’s a Big City Without a Newspaper? – NYTimes.com – “But parts of the system are actually not broken at all. Journalists still know how to gather news. And the Internet is a step forward in disseminating it. What’s broken is the pipeline that sends money back to where the content is created. Most of it is available to readers online, free, including on newspapers’ own Web sites, where it is not sufficiently supported by advertising.”
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  • Flickr “Not Currently Working” on Account Restore Feature After Users Suffer Losses of Thousands of Photos | Thomas Hawk Digital Connection – “s it stands now when a user’s photostream is deleted at Flickr it is gone. Erased. Permanently and irrevocably. Many Flickr users are appreciably nervous about this fact, especially after reading stories about hackers infiltrating flickr accounts or when overzealous underlings in the Flickr Censorship Division seem to overreact to minor Flickr Community Guidelines violations by nuking users’ photostreams.

    When Flickr nukes a user’s photostream, it’s not just the users’ photos that are gone. It’s all of the rich, important and vibrant social metadata around the photos that are gone with it. I’ve had many very long engaging conversations around my and others photos on the site. When Flickr nukes your stream those all get erased from existence.”

  • Make A Messenger Bag From Plastic Bags (Video) | TakePart Social Action Network™ – “Wouldn’t it be great if you could make a reusable messenger bag out of all of the plastic bags that have accumulated in your house? Well, Make magazine shows us that for a fun Sunday project you totally can, all it takes is a little ironing and sewing.

    Ideally we want to stop using plastic bags all together, so they don’t contribute more waste to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and continue to create a demand for oil used to produce them”

Written by swanksalot

August 9th, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Reading Around on July 21st through July 30th

without comments

A few interesting links collected July 21st through July 30th:

  • caravaggio-bacchus-1596.jpg
  • The Nichepaper and the Failure of the Fourth Estate – Umair Haque – HarvardBusiness.org – “Where was the fourth estate when our political, economic, and social institutions were being systematically dismantled? What has happened to our economy parallels what Mugabe did to Zimbabwe. Was the fourth estate asleep while this happened? Like other power brokers, it was negligent — and, perhaps worse, complicit.If newspapers had protected the public interest like they were meant to, they would be more profitable. Everyone would be better off today — including newspapers — if newspapers had chronicled this transfer of value. Yet, by failing to protect the public interest, they helped create the conditions for the transfer of value away from people who do stuff, to people who speculate on stuff.”
  • hypnotism-0250-pg1.jpg
  • Plagiarism Checkers: 5 Free Websites To Catch The Copycats – “The use of this rooster of article plagiarism checking apps should be enough to make us all tread on the side of caution and keep our creative spirits intact. If you write (or publish)…do you check? Let us know.” Image: swanksalot
  • Go `Birthers’ go! – Medved has been quoted as saying that Birthers are “crazy, nutburger, demagogue, money-hungry, exploitative, irresponsible, filthy conservative imposters” and “the worst enemy of the conservative movement.” The “movement “makes us look weird. It makes us look crazy. It makes us look demented. It makes us look sick, troubled, and not suitable for civilized company.”

    Shhhh.

    If you know any Birthers, please encourage them in their efforts and don’t, whatever you do, show them these Web links (call it a Nutburgerbliography):

Written by swanksalot

July 30th, 2009 at 10:00 am

A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web

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Will be curious as to how this shakes out.

Taking a new hard line that news articles should not turn up on search engines and Web sites without permission, The Associated Press said Thursday that it would add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.

Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.

[Click to continue reading A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web - NYTimes.com]

Alternative Google

Websites like Google are going to be in for a bit of a dustup

Search engines and news aggregators contend that their brief article citations fall under the legal principle of fair use. Executives at some news organizations have said they are reluctant to test the Internet boundaries of fair use, for fear that the courts would rule against them.

News organizations already have the ability to prevent their work from turning up in search engines — but doing so would shrink their Web audience, and with it, their advertising revenues. What The A.P. seeks is not that articles should appear less often in search results, but that such use would become a new source of revenue.

Right, there is a simple addition that webmasters can add to their site that tells Google’s automated indexing software to “go away”:

The robot exclusion standard, also known as the Robots Exclusion Protocol or robots.txt protocol, is a convention to prevent cooperating web spiders and other web robots from accessing all or part of a website which is otherwise publicly viewable. Robots are often used by search engines to categorize and archive web sites, or by webmasters to proofread source code. The standard is unrelated to, but can be used in conjunction with, sitemaps, a robot inclusion standard for websites.

[Click to continue reading Robots exclusion standard - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Not a Good Sign

If A.P. did that, they would lose search engine generated traffic, but that isn’t really what A.P. wants. A.P. wants traffic, and to be paid for the traffic. I doubt it will happen as seamlessly they want, but we’ll soon see. Newspaper executives also don’t like blogs much:

Executives at newspapers and other traditional news organizations have long complained about how some sites make money from their work, putting ads on pages with excerpts from articles and links to the sources of the articles.

but I don’t know if that particular genie could ever be crammed back into its bottle; the bottom of the bottle is missing, and digital content flows wherever it can, instantly.

and this is puzzling:

Each article — and, in the future, each picture and video — would go out with what The A.P. called a digital “wrapper,” data invisible to the ordinary consumer that is intended, among other things, to maximize its ranking in Internet searches. The software would also send signals back to The A.P., letting it track use of the article across the Web.

If someone cuts and pastes an A.P. article from some other site, how is this magic technological bullet going to still be attached? Either there is more to the process than the A.P. admits, or else they are really deluded1.2

Footnotes:
  1. not that it matters, but John Gruber, always an astute observer of these sorts of matters, agrees with me []
  2. corrected the URL, oopsie []

Written by Seth Anderson

July 24th, 2009 at 8:39 am

Reading Around on July 20th

without comments

Some additional reading July 20th from 09:53 to 19:30:

  • The Return of the Pay Wall | The Big Money – The summer of 2009 is a terrible time to start charging for what was free. …

    So is this really the best time to start charging for online news? No. The best time was back in 1994, when the Web made online publishing to the masses a snap. And now that newspapers are finally making the move, they're applying a 1994 solution to the 2009 Web. Today, online publishers are seeing more and more traffic coming through blogs, aggregators like Google News, and social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Ignoring them is even more perilous to a paper's image than it was two years ago, when the New York Times tore down its Times Select pay walls. The hypertext link that made the Web unique is even more powerful today, and pay walls that break those links send would-be readers a clear message: Don't bother.

  • pandagon.net – these things don't just blame themselves – Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., one of the nation’s pre-eminent African-American scholars, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home by Cambridge police investigating a possible break-in.. Gates, director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard, had trouble unlocking his door after it became jammed.
    He was booked for disorderly conduct after “exhibiting loud and tumultuous behavior,” according to a police report. …
    Now, I can understand why the police might think that a middle-aged black man was breaking into a home during lunchtime by trying to ram the front door with his shoulder, because it’s what many middle-aged black men do with their time, between Young and the Restless commercial breaks.
    … I’m sure that a significant number of people will read this and think that this is just a black man screaming racism because he handled a situation poorly, because a significant number of people like being dead fucking wrong.
  • The Return of the Pay Wall | The Big Money – The summer of 2009 is a terrible time to start charging for what was free. …

    So is this really the best time to start charging for online news? No. The best time was back in 1994, when the Web made online publishing to the masses a snap. And now that newspapers are finally making the move, they're applying a 1994 solution to the 2009 Web. Today, online publishers are seeing more and more traffic coming through blogs, aggregators like Google News, and social sites like Facebook and Twitter. Ignoring them is even more perilous to a paper's image than it was two years ago, when the New York Times tore down its Times Select pay walls. The hypertext link that made the Web unique is even more powerful today, and pay walls that break those links send would-be readers a clear message: Don't bother.

  • Hullabaloo – Wrecking Ball – Davis really had only bumped the fee back to its historic level: to 2% of a vehicle's value, rather than a recently enacted 0.65%.

    Schwarzenegger's canceling of the fee hike actually amounted to the single biggest spending increase of his reign. That's because all the revenue from the vehicle license fee had gone to local governments, and Schwarzenegger generously agreed to make up their losses by shipping them money from the state general fund.

    The annual drain on the state treasury was $6.3 billion until February. Then the governor and Legislature raised the fee to 1.15% of vehicle value, saving the state $1.7 billion.

  • Kennedy ’suicide ramp’ improvements to increase suicide rates | The Daily Blank – "According to an official Illinois Department of Transportation report, the notorious “suicide ramps” on Chicago’s downtown Kennedy Expressway will undergo much-needed improvements in order to bring the annual number of suicide deaths back up from what has been a startling decline in the past decade."

Written by swanksalot

July 20th, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Yalta Meeting of Top Newspaper Publishers

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Interesting, and amusingly clandestine.

Pippen Peruses the Newspaper

[quote]

Here’s a story the newspaper industry’s upper echelon apparently kept from its anxious newsrooms: A discreet Thursday meeting in Chicago about their future.

“Models to Monetize Content” is the subject of a gathering at a hotel which is actually located in drab and sterile suburban Rosemont, Illinois; slabs of concrete, exhibition halls and mostly chain restaurants, whose prime reason for being is O’Hare International Airport. It’s perfect for quickie, in-and-out conclaves.

There’s no mention on its website but the Newspaper Association of America, the industry trade group, has assembled top executives of the New York Times, Gannett, E. W. Scripps, Advance Publications, McClatchy, Hearst Newspapers, MediaNews Group, the Associated Press, Philadelphia Media Holdings, Lee Enterprises and Freedom Communication Inc., among more than two dozen in all. A longtime industry chum, consultant Barbara Cohen, “will facilitate the meeting.”

[Click to continue reading Shhhh. Newspaper Publishers Are Quietly Holding a Very, Very Important Conclave Today. Will You Soon Be Paying for Online Content? - James Warren]

Hope somebody surreptitiously videotapes the conference and posts it to Google’s YouTube.

Thursday begins with a quick declaration of goals at 8 a.m., then an 8:10 a.m. session labeled, “Fair Syndication Consortium/Attributor.” It’s described as a “presentation on technology/service to track content on the Web and to extract payments from third-parties and ad networks that have appropriated newspaper content.”

That first session is followed by “Journalism Online: Presentation on proposed service to charge for access to newspaper content and to license that content that (sic) online aggregators” (the assistance of at least one of the many copy editors sent packing by the attendees might have been sought).

That presentation would seem quite important, with many conflicting ideas floating about whether charging will work and how to even try. The stark reality is that the industry will have to soon start demanding payment for at least some of its online handiwork.

Changes are afoot, undoubtedly.

Written by Seth Anderson

May 28th, 2009 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with , , ,