There can never be enough journalists like Bill Moyers

Recently my friend and coworker Arpit Mathur passed along a critique of journalism’s sorry state using the leaked iPhone story as evidence.

The sad thing is that we might be amidst some kind of golden age for journalism and are largely unawares.

For evidence, visit sites and services like ProPublica, NPR.org, McClatchyDC, THe Center for Investigative Reporting, Global Voices, Mother Jones, Global Post.

Separate from these organizations are independents who are putting it on the line every day just for passion.

And then there are aggregators like Arts & Letters Daily to help navigate it all and organizations like Media Mobilizing to help empower acts of journalism to be created.

In Philadelphia some investors just made a large bet that Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, part of this city’s infrastructure of journalism has a promising future.

For impact consider what it took to write the “Tainted” Justice” series in the Daily News or “Justice Delayed, Dismissed, Denied” in the Inquirer.

Recently Clay Shirky spoke of the importance of organizations like the Inquirer and Daily News (The Boston Globe in this case) in reporting the Boston Catholic Church abuse scandal.

The news ecosystem is evolving and Philadelphia matters as a testbed for the rest of the nation.

For more examples of this consider the following list of Philadelphia independents, non-profits, for-profits, and organizations: NEPhilly.com, OurPhiladelphia, Philadelphia Neighborhoods, The Frankford Gazette, The Broad Street Review, WHYY, thenotebook, Phawker, Philebrity, Citypaper, Philadelphia Weekly, The Philadelphia New Media Hub, Technically Philly, and the yearly Bar Camp NewsInnovation Philadelphia. And then there is the ever growing quality list covering the arts, food, and sports, way too many too mention in this space.

J-Lab, The Institute for Interactive Journalism, recently published a report on Philadelphia’s news landscape and made some recommendations. Check it out.

Programmers and Journalists are realizing common motivations and many journalists have been thinking about computing in whole new ways that relate to their work.

There are threats. It is harder for acts of journalism we need to know, but are not aware of it, to reach us. The old economic models that have supported it have crumbled. Changes in technology and culture have brought upheaval and amidst that upheaval those with power will abuse that power when not watched. The constraints on our attention and business pressures on those to breach it are huge. It’s important to lay out these threats because they get to core issues having to do with the infrastructure required for acts of journalism to be produced and be effective.

But to re-emphasize my point – there are many organizations and individuals who are doing it today. In some cases have been doing it for years, that we need to somehow amplify among the din.

As a programmer, I recognize this has everything to do with information science, communications, marketing, and development. As a citizen I recognize it has everything to do with our communities, our neighborhoods, cities, our country and navigating the world at large and hopefully making it a better place. One story at a time.

Which makes this a sad moment to note – Bill Moyers has broadcast his last episode of “Bill Moyers Journal” and ended a run of one of the best sources of journalism on television. The Journal will be missed.

NPR.org: “After Four Decades In TV News, Bill Moyers Retires”

NYTimes: “A Breather for Moyers; Next Step Is Unclear”

Roger Ebert, “Find out all you can, and see what you can do with it.”

Read Roger Ebert’s latest post: “The golden age of movie critics”.

Two from the Boston Globe on the Need for Better Filters

Boston Globe: Joe Keohane: Imaginary fiends: In 2009, crime went down. In fact it’s been going down for a decade. But more and more Americans believe it’s getting worse. Why do we refuse to believe the good news?

Boston Globe: Easy = True: How ‘cognitive fluency’ shapes what we believe, how we invest, and who will become a supermodel

New York Times going with the frequency-model?

I’m cautiously optimistic about this and am excited to see it play out. There is dire need for continued experimentation.

The strategy being discussed this go around is a Financial Times-like metered system (they call it the “frequency-model” – more at Portfolio). This would, theoretically, allow the New York Times to retain its reach and users driven to it via search, links, etc, while deriving revenue from heavy readers:

At an investor conference this fall, Nisenholtz alluded to this tension: “At the end of the day, if we don’t get this right, a lot of money falls out of the system.”

But with the painful declines in advertising brought on by last year’s financial crisis, the argument pushed by Keller and others — that online advertising might never grow big enough to sustain the paper’s high-cost, ambitious journalism — gained more weight. The view was that the Times needed to make the leap to some form of paid content and it needed to do it now. The trick would be to build a source of real revenue through online subscriptions while still being able to sell significant online advertising. The appeal of the metered model is that it charges high-volume readers while allowing casual browsers to sample articles for free, thus preserving some of the Times’ online reach.

Read all about it in New York Magazine’s “New York Times Ready to Charge Online Readers”.

The rise of the journalist-programmer

I’d call it some long-awaited recognition for many. Gawker: Hack to Hacker: Rise of the Journalist-Programmer.

Hmm… have I qualified as a Programmer-Journalist in the past?

News and content based business models online links for thought

Both sides of the fence represented in the following links:

Tech Crunch: The End of Hand Crafted Content

Daily Patricia Daily Patricia – Dumb Things Media 2.0 Loves To Say

Doc Searls: The Revolution Will Not Be Intermediated

Jeff Jarvis: Content farms v. curating farmers

Paul Kedrosky: Dishwashers, and How Google Eats Its Own Tail

Clay Shirky lays out the issues confronting the future of news journalism

Read the whole thing. Nieman Journalism Lab: Clay Shirky at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy:

…in the nightmare scenario that I’ve kind of been spinning at for the last couple years has been: Every town in this country of 500,000 or less just sinks into casual, endemic, civic corruption — that without somebody going down to the city council again today, just in case, that those places will simply revert to self-dealing. Not of epic, catastrophic sorts, but the sort that just takes five percent off the top. Newspapers have been our principal bulwark for that, and as they’re shrinking, that I think is where the threat is.

…So we don’t need another different kind of institution that does 85 percent of accountability journalism. We need a class of institutions or models, whether they’re endowments or crowdsourced or what have you — we need a model that produces five percent of accountability journalism. And we need to get that right 17 times in a row. That’s the issue before us. There will not be anything that replaces newspapers, because if you could write the list of stuff you needed and organizational characteristics and it looked like newspapers, newspapers would be able to fill that role, right?

It is really a shift from one class of institutions to the ecosystem as a whole where I think we have to situate the need of our society for accountability. I also want to distance myself — and I’ll end shortly. But I want to distance myself, with that observation I also want to distance myself from the utopians in my tribe, the web tribe, and even to some degree the optimists.

I think a bad thing is going to happen, right? And it’s amazing to me how much, in a conversation conducted by adults, the possibility that maybe things are just going to get a lot worse for a while does not seem to be something people are taking seriously. But I think this falling into relative corruption of moderate-sized cities and towns — I think that’s baked into the current environment. I don’t think there’s any way we can get out of that kind of thing. So I think we are headed into a long trough of decline in accountability journalism, because the old models are breaking faster than the new models can be put into place.

Again read the whole thing.

People tend to pick apart Shirky’s writings to find what supports their arguments. Which, I partially just did in fact, so don’t do that – absorb the nuance because the opportunities and problems at hand are far more complicated than the either naysayers or utopians would lead us believe.

News site redesigns afoot

CNN.com

Salon.com

Locally, Philly.com Sports

Earlier: Yahoo! News

Lawrence Lessig shakes the faithful?

TNR: Lawrence Lessig: Against Transparency: The perils of openness in government.

Yes – you read that title right.

Lessig connects the dots from newspapers to the music industry and the ripple effects taking place – everything having to do with the architecture of the Internet and the dynamics set forth.

You need to read the full piece because it is not ‘against transparency’ – far from it – but it does call for a sense of concern and realism to settle into conversations about transparency as means to an end. Ultimately, in regards to government, it is a call to reform, specifically election finance reform – and I agree with much of it.

Reformers rarely feel responsible for the bad that their fantastic new reform effects. Their focus is always on the good. The bad is someone else’s problem. It may well be asking too much to imagine more than this. But as we see the consequences of changes that many of us view as good, we might wonder whether more good might have been done had more responsibility been in the mix. The music industry was never going to like the Internet, but its war against the technology might well have been less hysterical and self-defeating if better and more balanced alternatives had been pressed from the beginning. No one can dislike Craigslist (or Craig), but we all would have benefited from a clearer recognition of what was about to be lost. Internet triumphalism is not a public good.

Likewise with transparency. There is no questioning the good that transparency creates in a wide range of contexts, government especially. But we should also recognize that the collateral consequence of that good need not itself be good. And if that collateral bad is busy certifying to the American public what it thinks it already knows, we should think carefully about how to avoid it. Sunlight may well be a great disinfectant. But as anyone who has ever waded through a swamp knows, it has other effects as well.

Related:

O’Reilly Radar: Carl Malamud: Larry Lessig and Naked Transparency

David Larry Lessig: Beyond Transparency, and Net Triumphalism

Aaron Swartz: Transparency Is Bunk

These are connected: Future of Journalism Links and Communication for September 23, 2009

Ethan Zuckerman covered a Clay Shirky talk given at the Shorenstein Center” on journalism today and its future. It’s an absolute must read for media/info/com future thinkers: “Clay Shirky and accountability journalism”.

Mark Bowden traces the path a story takes, from political operatives, thru social media, to mainstream news, in the The Atlantic piece“The Story Behind The Story”. Another must read.

Paul Graham: Post-Medium Publishing. Slashdot thread.

Mathew Ingram: Micropayments for news: The holy grail or just a dangerous delusion?

The Atlantic: The Rise of the Professional Blogger

And finally, Timothy Egan attacks an entire subset of the population for their passion based on a lack of facts, missing the point that he is working for a member of the industry that has a role in that: “Working Class Zero”