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 1Part 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.

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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.”

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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.


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(Note: My original title for this post was much harsher on the Post and its guidelines than it should have been, and did not reflect what I wrote below. That’s regrettable and I apologize for it.)

The Washington Post’s newly public “Guidelines for Digital Publishing” are more than 5,200 words long. That’s about 5,100 words too many.

This is not an attack on what the Post, which labored for many months before giving birth to this behemoth, has put together. The guidelines are, in fact, an interesting examination of how technology’s collision with journalism has forced journalists to rethink what they do and how they do it. The document offers examples that would be excellent teaching tools for journalism students and working journalists alike — and will be interesting reading for a public that has little understanding of what goes into journalism or how organizations consider, often deeply, the consequences of their deadline-driven decisions.

But the document, a copy of which I received before it was made public, starts off with an admonition that makes the entire exercise a bit weird:

These guidelines for digital publishing are meant to guide Washington Post journalism as we deliver news and information in a rapidly changing media environment. We consider these guidelines to be a “living document” that we will continually modify and update based on feedback from our journalists, from our readers, and from our perceptions of our changing needs.These guidelines supplement but do not supplant the established principles that govern our print publications in the Post stylebook. Because the circumstances under which information is obtained and reported vary widely from one case to the next, these guidelines should not be understood as establishing hard and fast rules or as covering every situation that might arise. You should consult with an editor if you have a question about how these guidelines should be applied in specific circumstances.

Boiled down, this seems to say: “The guidelines don’t actually mean too much, because when it comes to difficult situations we’ll just make case-by-case decisions.”

Still, it’s progress. The meat of the guidelines, reflecting the Post’s remarkably rigid view of its world, won’t surprise. The paper is essentially telling its journalists to remain professional even as they attempt to take best advantage of the new tools now available to us all in the social media era. Some of the examples tell me the newspaper is overly cautious, but again that’s not shocking given the organization and its longtime style.

I’ve had a copy of this document for months, and held up posting about it after the newspaper said it was being revised. The revisions are minor. (One absolutely hilarious change — part of a discussion of “Taste/Tone” — modifies the word “shit” to “s–t.” Really.)

The “living document” language (new in the final draft) is intriguing, and it suggests a strategy the Post might have used to develop its guidelines: It might have posted an early draft online, and then invited its readers and others who care about the newspaper and journalism to offer their own ideas. Instead, of course, the organization kept its own counsel.

The Post could do better, now that the document is in the public sphere, by taking seriously what it says it wants from the rest of us. Not only should the paper genuinely invite feedback and suggestions, but all subsequent changes should be easy to see and understand, annotated and explained as part of a longer conversation we all can have about the topics raised here.

In the end, I can’t help contrasting the Post’s endless semi-rules with the ones posted by John Paton, CEO of the Journal Register Co., a small newspaper chain that may be doing more to adapt to the new world than any other traditional media company. (Paton can do this, in part, because he took over a company coming out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, which gave him some running room to experiment in ways the Post undoubtedly can’t even imagine.) Here’s what Paton wrote on his blog:

Some of you have asked what are JRC’s Employee Rules For Using Social Media. To keep it simple I have reduced them to three:




Had I been in charge of the Post’s rules, I would have (sort of) split the difference. I’d have written:

1. Be human.

2. Be honorable.

3. Don’t embarrass the company.

Then, I’d have added: “We will make some mistakes, and we’ll be honest about them and correct them. But we’ll keep working on this, because we are part of a conversation that includes everyone — and, besides, we have no alternative.”

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The New York Times is offering an excellent lesson plan for multimedia journalism based on its Libya coverage. 

News organizations should lead the way in 21st Century media literacy. This is a good example of how it can be done.

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