My friend (and editor of Mediactive
) Tom Stites has written a three-part series of postings for Nieman Lab, the increasingly excellent site that scopes out the latest in journalism thinking (and doing). These posts are about business models for our future sources of information. In order:
Part 1, a survey of the debris-strewn digital and print journalism landscape.
Part 2, news deserts as a frame to elevate the issue of how weakening journalism weakens democracy.
Part 3, why it’s time to test co-op business models.
The third installment is closest to Tom’s current work: the Banyan Project (I’m an advisor), a news cooperative that I believe is one of the most interesting models we’ve seen in a long time. When you finish reading his terrific pieces at Nieman Lab, take a look at the Banyan site, too. If you care about the future of community information, this is important stuff.
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As a diehard believer in the value of what good newspapers can bring to communities, I’m pleased that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has purchased its “hometown” newspaper. I very much doubt that this corporate owner, unlike many others, will manage the newspapers in ways mostly or solely designed to extract money from the community while providing the least amount of useful journalism.
Berkshire Hathaway already owns the Buffalo News, and is a major shareholder in the Washington Post Co. But Buffett has long been on the record as, to put it mildly, a newspaper-industry pessimist. He called this new purchase “a reasonable investment” — hardly the language he’s used with other deals.
So as a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway, I’m a bit baffled. And for the first time since I bought this stock back in the 1980s, I have the feeling that Buffett — who has said again and again that he would treat his shareholders like the co-owners of the company that they are — has arranged for Berkshire to buy something for his own personal reasons, rather than his typically sterling business strategy for the parent company.
I hope I’m wrong. Maybe we’ve reached a bottom for newspapers and there’s happier times ahead. But I’ve seen nothing to suggest a serious long-term value proposition for newspapers like the Omaha World-Herald, especially ones run in traditional ways.
I’m fairly sure this is more about Buffet’s belief that quality newspapers matter and that his hometown needs one — I applaud that sentiment — or, as a source in the Bloomberg article suggests, ensuring a positive first draft of history for Buffett and his family. If either or both of those motives is true, Buffett should have spent his own money, not Berkshire’s.
The World-Herald purchase is a rounding error on Berkshire Hathaway’s balance sheet. But it’s still real money.
Tags: omaha world-herald
, warren buffett
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I had the pleasure this week to meet journalism students from Shantou (China) University who are working on a Chinese translation of Mediactive. They’re using the fabulous Yeeyan service, which is like a Wikipedia of translation.
It was great fun visiting with the Shantou students yesterday. Several of them, with big smiles, introduced themselves as “Chapter Nine” and “Chapter 3″ and the like.
They’re being supervised by my old friend and colleague Ying Chan, dean of the journalism school at Shantou and director of Hong Kong University’s Journalism & Media Studies Centre, where I used to teach for a few weeks each fall. She tells me the first draft is done and posted, and comments are coming in. There are a number of other steps in the process (including a full copy-edit), and we’re hoping it’ll be posted early next year.
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I’m delighted to see this translation, by volunteers, of the book in Spanish. The PDF is here.
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The AEJMC (journalism education’s biggest membership group) has posted a review of Mediactive, by David Kamerer of Loyola University. Quote:
Journalism is going through transformative change, and some institutions will fail. But it won’t be the end of journalism. Our economy is more information-dominant than ever. Barriers to entry have never been lower. Millions are publishing and gaining influence in their chosen spheres. And who knows? Out of these millions of seedlings may grow the New York Times of the future. If you want to participate in this dynamic marketplace of ideas, Mediactive is a useful guide that will speed your progress.
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Tokyo-area folks: I’ll be there next week for a series of talks and other events relating to the recently published Japanese edition of Mediactive The following events are open to the public. All but the Digital Hollywood event are free, but reservations are required in each case.
Tuesday, Oct. 11: 7-9 pm at Asahi newspaper
Wednesday, Oct. 12: 8-10 pm at Digital Hollywood (School of Media Art)
Thursday, Oct. 13: 2-4:30 pm at Digital Garage
Thursday, Oct. 13: 6:30-8:30 pm at Nikkei newspaper
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I’m listening a simulcast of the Federal Communications Commission’s hearing this morning at ASU’s Cronkite School. The event was designed to highlight issues surrounding the FCC’s recent report on community information needs.
The overwhelming focus is on supply, with almost no discussion of demand. That’s disappointing, and reflects a continuing problem in this arena.
The report discusses demand (which is a major focus of Mediactive), but offers few recommendations on what to do about it. Meanwhile, one FCC commissioner, Michael Copps, has been talking about the issue — in the context of media and news literacy — but, as the report suggests, it’s unclear what the FCC can do to promote these literacies apart from calling them a good thing.
We will never have great supply without great demand.
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Henry Jenkins, a USC professor and author who knows more about participatory media than just about anyone else, asked me some questions about the news/information ecosystem and media literacy in the 21st century. Here’s how the conversation went, in two parts (Part 1, Part 2).
Q: What role should the news media itself play in fostering basic civic skills, including those of critical reading and thinking? For example, how should the news media be responding to persistent rumors about Obama, such as those promoted by so-called Birthers? Is this a “teachable moment,” as one would say in the Education Schools, and if so, how should teaching taking place via the news media?
A: I wish the news media had made this a core mission a long time ago. They didn’t, and still haven’t. That’s a real shame; it would have helped not just their audiences but themselves – because audiences would have gotten a better idea what it takes to do quality journalism and had more respect for it.
If I ran a news organization and learned that a sizeable percentage of people in my community believed something that was false – birtherism, for example – I would make it part of my mission to help them learn the truth. That sounds easier than it would be, because people who believe lies are invested in those beliefs, but teachable moments abound in today’s world.
Tags: Henry Jenkins
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The British voicemail hacking scandal just took a hugely dangerous turn. Scotland Yard is making war on the journalists who broke the voicemail-hacking scandal that Scotland Yard refused — corruptly or ineptly — to fully investigate on its own.
The police had all but ignored most of the immoral and almost certainly illegal acts of News Corp.’s top-selling and now defunct UK newspaper, News of the World (and maybe others). Scotland Yard’s lack of interest in the case — putting the lid on the investigation after several early arrests — may have been simple incompetence, but the other possible explanation is a corrupt alliance with crooked journalists and governments.
But the Guardian (for which I write a weekly opinion piece) did its job when other journalists didn’t. Almost singlehandedly, the Guardian kept the story alive until the public saw more clearly what had happened.
Now the police are using one of the UK’s most draconian laws, the Official Secrets Act, against the newspaper. This is a blatant effort to punish the one news organization that dared to stand up for the public’s right to know about a scandal that implicated the nation’s most powerful media company, governments run by both major parties and, as increasingly seems safe to assume, the police themselves.
Scotland Yard, stung by honest journalism, is attempting to criminalize that journalism. What an outrageous move.
Tom Watson, the member of parliament who’s been on the case more than any other, puts it well in the Guardian’s coverage:
“It is an outrageous abuse and completely unacceptable that, having failed to investigate serious wrongdoing at the News of the World for more than a decade, the police should now be trying to move against the Guardian. It was the Guardian who first exposed this scandal.”
, News Corp.
, phone hacking
, Scotland Yard
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Terrific piece by Cory (a friend) about who’s cut out for self-publishing, and who may not be. Excerpt:
I firmly believe that there are writers out there today who have valuable insights and native talent that would make them natural successes at marketing their own work. If you are one of those writers – if you have a firm theory that fits available evidence about how to get people to love your work – then by all means, experiment! Provided, of course, that you are pleased and challenged by doing this commercial stuff that has almost nothing in common with imagining stories and writing them down. Provided that you find it rewarding and satisfying.
Tags: cory doctorow
, self publishing
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