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April 30 2012

15:51

January 05 2012

15:15

The newsonomics of the News Dial-o-Matic

It’s an emerging issue of our time and place. They know too much about us, and we know too little about what they know. We do know that what they know about us is increasingly determining what they choose to give us to read. We wonder: What are we missing? And just who is making those decisions?

Today, in 2012, those questions are more pressing in our age of news deluge. We’re confronted at every turn, at every finger gesture, with more to read or view or listen to. It’s not just the web: It’s also the smartphone and especially the tablet, birthing new aggregator products — Google Currents and Yahoo Livestand have joined Flipboard, Pulse, Zite, and AOL Editions — every month. Compare for a moment the “top stories” you get on each side-by-side, and you’ll be amazed. How did they get there? Why are they so different?

Was it some checkbox I checked (or didn’t?!) at sign-in? Using Facebook to sign in seemed so easy, but how is that affecting what I get? Are all those Twitterees I followed determining my story selection? (Or maybe that’s why I’m getting so many Chinese and German stories?) Did I tell the Times to give the sports section such low priority? The questions are endless, a ball of twine we’ve spun in declaring some preferences in our profiles over the years, wound ever wider by the intended or (or un-) social curation of Facebook and Twitter, and mutliplied by the unseen but all-knowing algorithms that think they know what we really want to read, more than we do. (What if they are right? Hold that thought.)

The “theys” here aren’t just the digital behemoths. Everyone in the media business — think Netflix and The New York Times as much as Pandora and People — wants to do this simple thing better: serve their customers more of what they are likely to consume so that they’ll consume more — perhaps buying digital subscriptions, services, or goods and providing very targetable eyes for advertisers. It’s not a bad goal in and of itself, but sometimes it feels like it is being done to us, rather than for us.

Our concern, and even paranoia, is growing. Take Eli Pariser’s well-viewed (500,000 times, just on YouTube) May 2011 TED presentation on “filter bubbles,” which preceded his June-published book of the same name. In the talk, Pariser talks about the fickle faces of Facebook and Google, making “invisible algorithmic editing of the web” an issue. He tells the story of how a good progressive like himself, a founder of MoveOn.org, likes to keep in touch with conservative voices and included a number in his early Facebook pages.

He then describes how Facebook, as it watched his actual reading patterns — he tended to read his progressive friends more than his conservative ones — began surfacing the conservative posts less and less over time, leaving his main choices (others, of course, are buried deeper down in his datastream, but not easily surfaced on that all-important first screen of his consciousness) those of like-minded people. Over time, he lost the diversity he’d sought.

Citing the 57 unseen filters Google uses to personalize its results for us, Pariser notes that it’s a personalization that doesn’t even seem personalized, or easily comparable: “You can’t see how different your search results are than your friends…We’re seeing a passing of the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones.”

Pariser’s worries have been echoed by a motley crew we can call algorithmic and social skeptics. Slowly, Fear of Facebook has joined vague grumbles about Google and ruminations about Amazon’s all-knowing recommendations. Ping, we’ve got a new digital problem on our bands. Big Data — now well-advertised in every airport and every business magazine as the new business problem of the digital age to pay someone to solve — has gotten very personal. We are more than the sum of our data, we shout. And why does everyone else know more more about me that I do?

The That’s My Datamine Era has arrived.

So we see Personal.com, a capitalist solution to the uber-capitalist usage of our data. I’ve been waiting for a Personal.com (and the similar Singly.com) to come along. What’s more American than having the marketplace harness the havoc that the marketplace hath wrought? So Personal comes along with the bold-but-simple notion that we should individually decide who should see our own data, own preferences, and our own clickstreams — and be paid for the privilege of granting access (with Personal taking 10 percent of whatever bounty we take in from licensing our stuff).

It’s a big, and sensible, idea in and of itself. Skeptics believe the horse has left the barn, saying that so much data about us is already freely available out there to ad marketers as to make such personal databanks obsolete before they are born. They may be forgetting the power of politics. While the FCC, FTC, and others have flailed at the supposed excesses of digital behemoths, they’ve never figured out how to rein in those excesses. Granting consumers some rights over their own data — a Consumer Data Bill of Rights — would be a populist political issue, for either Republicans or Democrats or both. But, I digress.

I think there’s a way for us to reclaim our reading choices, and I’ll call it the News Dial-o-Matic, achievable with today’s technology.

While Personal.com gives us 121 “gem” lockers — from “Address” to “Women’s Shoes”, with data lockers for golf scores, beer lists, books, house sitters, and lock combinations along the way, we want to focus on news. News, after all, is the currency of democracy. What we read, what she reads, what they read, what I read all matter. We know we have more choice than any generation in history. In this age of plenty, how do we harness it for our own good?

Let’s make it easy, and let’s use technology to solve the problem technology has created. Let’s think of three simple news reading controls that could right the balance of choice, the social whirl and technology. We can even imagine them as three dials, nicely circular ones, that we can adjust with a flick of the finger or of the mouse, changing them at our whim, or time of day.

The three dials control the three converging factors that we’d like to to determine our news diet.

Dial #1: My Sources

This is the traditional title-by-title source list, deciding which titles from global news media to local blogs I want in my news flow.

Dial #2: My Networks

Social curation is one of the coolest ideas to come along. Why should I have to rely only on myself to find what I like (within or in addition to My Sources) when lots of people like me are seeking similar content? My Facebook friends, though, will give me a very different take than those I follow on Twitter. My Gmail contact list would provide another view entirely. In fact, as Google Circles has philosophized, “You share different things with different people. But sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn’t be a hassle.” The My Networks dial lets me tune my reading of different topics by different social groups. In addition, today’s announced NewsRight — the AP News Registry spin-off intended to market actionable intelligence about news reading in the U.S. — could even play a role here.

Dial #3: The Borg

The all-knowing, ever-smarter algorithm isn’t going away — and we don’t want it to. We just want to control it — dial it down sometimes. I like thinking of it in sci-fi terms, and The Borg from “Star Trek” well illustrates its potential maniacal drive. (I love the Wikipedia Borg definition: “The Borg manifest as cybernetically-enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organized as an interconnected collective, the decisions of which are made by a hive mind, linked by subspace radio frequencies. The Borg inhabit a vast region of space in the Delta Quadrant of the galaxy, possessing millions of vessels and having conquered thousands of systems. They operate solely toward the fulfilling of one purpose: to “add the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to [their] own” in pursuit of their view of perfection“.) The Borg knows more about our habits than we’d like and we can use it well, but let’s have us be the ones doing the dialing up and down.

Three simple round dials. They could harness the power of our minds, our relationships, and our technologies. They could utilize the smarts of human gatekeepers and of algorithmic ones. And they would return power to where it belongs, to us.

Where are the dials? Who powers them? Facebook, the new home page of our time, would love to, but so would Google, Amazon, and Apple, among a legion of others. Personal.com would love to be that center, as it would any major news site (The New York Times, Zite-powered CNN, Yahoo News). We’ll leave that question to the marketplace.

Lastly, what are the newsonomics of the News Dial-o-Matic? As we perfect what we want to read, the data capturing it becomes even more valuable to anyone wanting to sell us stuff. Whether that gets monetized by us directly (through the emerging Personals of the world), or a mix of publishers, aggregators, or ad networks would be a next battleground. And then: What about the fourth wheel, as we dial up and down what we’re in the marketplace to buy right now? Wouldn’t that be worth a tidy sum?

September 15 2011

20:46

July 21 2011

15:30

The newsonomics of U.S. media concentration

The rise and potential fall of Rupert Murdoch is a hell of a story. It is, though, closer to the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins’ description Tuesday, “not a Berlin Wall moment, just daft hysteria.” Facing only the meager competition of the slow-as-molasses debt-ceiling story, the Murdoch story managed to hit during the summer doldrums. Plus it’s great theater.

Is it just imported theater, though? We have to wonder how much the cries of “media monopoly” will cross the Atlantic. Is there much resonance here in the States for the outrage about media power in the U.K.? Will the sins (its newspaper unit now being called to account by a Parliamentary committee for deliberately blocking the hacking investigation) of News International impact its cousin, Fox Television, the one part of its U.S. holdings regulated directly by government — or can it build a firewall between the different parts of News Corp.? (See “New News Corp. Strategy: Become Even More of an American Company.”)

Certainly, the tales of News International’s ability to strike fear in the London political class are chilling. Our issues in the U.S., though, are largely different. Both come down to who owns the media, and what we need in the diversity of news voices.

The question of media concentration here is tricky, complex, and a profoundly local question. Yes, there are national issues — but the forces of cheaper, digital publishing and promise of national and global markets easily reached by the Internet have spawned much more competition on a national level.

As to what kind of local reporting we get, we see powerful forces at work, shaping who owns what and how much. Likely, we’ll see some News Corp. fallout in FCC debates now re-igniting in and around Washington, D.C. — as the fire of regulating media burns more brightly here, even as Ofcom, the British regulator, grapples with similar issues.

That said, the question of media concentration, or what I will call the newsonomics of U.S. media concentration, will be fought out on two battlegrounds in the U.S. One is at the regulatory level, as the FCC looks at cross-ownership and the cap on local broadcast news holdings by a single national company, like News Corp., and may take into account its U.K. misdeeds. (Especially if the 9/11 victim wiretapping claims are borne out.) Second, and probably more important, sheer economic change is rapidly re-shaping who owns the news media on which we depend. The fast-eroding economics of the traditional print newspaper business are changing the face both of competition and of journalistic practice faster than any government policy can affect.

So this is how our time may play out. Smart, digital-first roll-ups align with massive consolidation.

First, let’s look at the print trade, at mid-year. The numbers are awful, and getting no better. We’ve seen the 22nd consecutive quarter of no-ad-growth for U.S. dailies, the last positive sign registered back in 2006. Further staff reductions, albeit with less public announcement, continue at most major news companies. This week, Gannett — still the largest U.S. news company — reported a 7-percent ad revenue decline for the second quarter, typical among its peers. Its digital ad revenues were up 13 percent, a slowing of digital ad growth also being seen around the industry.

We see a strategy of continuing cost-cutting across the board, with a new phenomenon — roll-up (“The newsonomics of roll-up“) — trying to play out.

Hedge funds — which bought into the industry through and after 14 newspaper company bankruptcies — are having their presence felt. Most recently, Alden Global Capital, the quietest major player in the American news industry, bought out its partners and now owns 100 percent of Journal Register Company. Alden, with interests in as many as 10 U.S. newspaper chains, apparently liked the moves of CEO John Paton. Paton’s digital-first strategies have more rapidly cut legacy costs than other publishers’ moves, and moved the needle more quickly in upping digital revenues.

No terms were announced, but Paton says “all its lenders were paid in full.” That would be a qualified success, given the bath everyone involved in the newspaper industry has taken in the last half-decade.

In JRC’s case, we’d have to say the push of hedge funds for faster change has been more positive than negative. Pre-bankruptcy, it was derided for its poor journalism and soul-crushing budgeting. Under Paton, who has brought in innovators like Arturo Duran, Jim Brady, and Steve Buttry, the company is trying to reinvent new, digital-first local, preserving local journalism jobs as much as possible. A work very much in early progress.

You can bet that Alden’s move is just one of its first. Sure, as a hedge fund, it may just be getting JRC ready to sell; hedge funds don’t want to be long-term operators. Before that happens, though, expect the next shoe to drop: consolidation.

JRC owns numerous properties around Philly, and a roll-up with Greg Osberg-led (and Alden part-owned) Philadelphia Media Network, has been talked about. Meld the same kind of synergies, and faster-moving print-to-digital strategies of Paton with Osberg’s new multi-point, Project Liberty plan, and you have a combined strategy. Further combine the operations into a single company — removing more overhead, more administration, more cost — and you have a better business to hold, or sell, or still further combine with still more regional entities.

It’s not just a Philly scenario.

In southern California, the question is how the three once-bankrupt operations — Freedom Communications, MediaNews’ Los Angeles News Group and Tribune’s L.A. Times (still not quite post-bankrupt, but acting like it is) — will mate. Over price, talks broke down about merging Freedom and MediaNews (both substantially owned by Alden; see Rick Edmonds’ Poynter piece for detail). Yet, everyone in the market believes consolidation will come. Now with Platinum Equity, another private equity owner, putting its San Diego Union-Tribune back on the market just two years after buying it for a song, we could see massive consolidation of newspaper companies in southern California.

Media concentration, perhaps in the works: Southern California, between L.A. and San Diego, contains at least 21 million people — or a third of the total population of the U.K. Philly and Southern California may among the first to consolidate, but the trends are the same everywhere.

So this is how our time may play out. Smart, digital-first roll-ups align with massive consolidation. It’s time to get our heads around that. That won’t necessarily mean that Alden, or other hyper-private owners, keep the new franchises. Their goal probably is to sell. But to whom, with what sense of public interest?

Which brings us back to broadcast, to which newspaper people give much too little shrift.

Both those in the old declining newspaper trade and those in the mature and largely flat broadcast trade (as an indication, Gannett’s broadcast division revenues grew to $184.4 million from $184 million in the second quarter) are beginning to figure the future this way: there may only be enough ad revenue in mid-metro markets (and smaller) to maintain one substantial journalistic operation. Not one newspaper and one local broadcaster. But, one, presumably combined text and video, paper and air, increasingly digital operation.

So, finally, let’s turn back to the FCC. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals just returned cross-ownership regulations back to the FCC, largely on procedural (“hey, you forgot the public input part”) grounds. In addition, it will likely soon take up the national cap on local broadcast ownership. (Good sum-up of FCC-related action by Josh Smith at the National Journal.)

Which brings us back to the News Corp story. The national cap — how much of the U.S. any one national company can serve with local broadcast — is 39 percent. Fox News does that with 27 stations, and, of course, has lobbied for more reach. So, the media concentration issue may play out as the cap is further debated, and as cross-ownership — a News Corp. issue in and around New York/New Jersey — returns as well. Will Hackgate’s winds blow westward, as local broadcast news concentration comes up again?

Though it may be shocking to many newspaper people, though, local TV news is a major source of how people get the news. Some 25 to 28 million viewers watch local early-evening or late-evening TV news, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism. That compares to about a 42-million weekday newspaper circulation, so those numbers aren’t quite apples to apples. In my research for Outsell, I noted that local survey data indicated that reliance on TV news equaled that of newspapers.

As Steve Waldman’s strong report for the FCC pointed out, local TV news is “more important than ever” — but thin on accountability reporting.

So while much of the media concentration questions centers on print, local broadcast ownership, and direction of news coverage, matters a lot.

Combine that local concentration — 39 percent or more — with the sense that the market may only support single journalistic entitities and we’re back to the theme of media concentration, perhaps on a scale hitherto unseen.

A declining local press, with signs of impending roll-up. Stronger local TV news, weaker in accountability reporting, and pushing for more roll-up. Winds of outrage wafting over the Atlantic. Regulatory breezes gaining strength.

These are powerful forces colliding, and in the balance, the news of the day won’t be quite the same.

June 18 2011

19:31

Done - Microsoft gets antitrust approval to buy Skype

Reuters :: Microsoft has won U.S. antitrust approval to buy Skype, the Federal Trade Commission said in a website posting on Friday. Microsoft announced in May it was buying Skype for $8.5 billion, its biggest-ever acquisition, placing a rich bet on mobile and the Internet to try and best rivals such as Google Inc.

Continue to read www.reuters.com

June 17 2011

05:47

Report finds a “surprisingly small audience for local news traffic”. What about Patch?

Niemanlab :: Local news outlets get less than one half of one percent of all pageviews in a typical market, according to a new report (free pdf download) called “Less of the Same: The Lack of Local News on the Internet.” Nikki Usher points out: "Patch makes almost no appearance in the data at all, suggesting that local and commercial online-only news enterprises aren’t reaching significant traffic numbers."

The report, commissioned as part of the FCC’s quadrennial mandated review of broadcast ownership regulations, was intended as a comprehensive look to evaluate just what the rough times in the news industry have meant for local news, according to Matthew Hindman, the author George Washington University professor who authored the report.

Continue to read Nikki Usher, www.niemanlab.org

June 13 2011

22:21

FCC Report on Media Offers Strong Diagnosis, Weak Prescriptions

A consensus has begun to emerge around the Federal Communications Commission report, "The Information Needs of Communities," released Thursday: The diagnosis is sound, but the remedies are lacking.

The 465-page report (see full report, embedded below) is the result of 600-plus interviews, hearings and reams of research conducted over 18 months. It represents the most ambitious attempt yet to come to terms with the consequences of the current media transformation. It's a synthetic and comprehensive look at the entire ecosystem -- commercial, non-commercial and user-generated; across print, broadcast, online and mobile -- making it a tremendous resource for advocates, journalists, entrepreneurs and media educators.

Steven Waldman, journalist, editor and digital news entrepreneur, was lead author for this project and worked with a distinguished team of experts from across the country to compile both capsule histories of each sector and an atlas of current facts and figures. See the gallery of graphs from the report below, assembled by Josh Stearns of the media reform organization Free Press, for a sense of the range and depth of the research. (Overwhelmed? A two-page summary of findings and recommendations is also available here.)

Trouble for Local Reporting

The primary conclusion echoes that of many recent reports: Amid vibrant experimentation by a broad range of news producers, local reporting is in the biggest trouble. There are less ad dollars for newspapers, fewer reporters on the beat for both print and broadcast, fewer enterprise investigations, and more "hamsterized" reporters, all resulting in a gap in the ability to hold governments and corporations to account.

The report also represents an unprecedented effort by the FCC to take stock of the results of previous policy decisions supporting non-commercial and community media. Rather than focusing solely on public broadcasting as the answer to commercial news woes, as many recent analyses have, this report acknowledges the growth and dynamism of a broader non-profit news sector:

More accurate than "public broadcasting," the term "non-profit media" better captures the full range of not-for-profit news and media organizations. Some non-profit media groups are affiliated with public broadcasting, some not; some receive government funds, most do not. But what these groups have in common is this: they plow excess revenue back into the organization, and they have public-interest missions that involve aspirations toward independent journalism.

The report's authors see the growth and vigor in this sector as promising, and even have some kind words to say about public access stations, often dismissed or left entirely out of the local news equation. However, they also confirm that news production by non-commercial outlets is still not sufficient to fill the yawning gap in local reporting that has opened up over the past decade.

steve-waldman.jpg

What's more, stable business models for such outlets have not yet emerged, and the federal funding that undergirds the largest swath of non-commercial outlets, public broadcasters, is under political threat. Corporation for Public Broadcasting funds that were supporting digital innovation were slashed this year, as were funds earmarked for buildout of new station infrastructure.

To add insult to injury, Waldman & Co. note, public interest obligations for commercial stations have been defanged, offering no way to ensure diverse or high-quality local public affairs coverage. Those requirements that remain are rarely enforced.

No Bold Solutions

Yet, bafflingly, despite identifying these clear market gaps, the report stops short of offering bold solutions, perhaps in reaction to the currently charged political and funding climate. Instead, as several commentaries -- such as this piece in GigaOm -- note, the resounding message to the media industry is "don't look to us, we can't help you." GigaOm's Matthew Ingram writes:

One of the biggest trends that the FCC flags as important in the report is the loss of what it calls "accountability" journalism, in which news outlets on a local and/or national level cover the government and thereby act as a check on power. As more than one person has noted, this conclusion isn't exactly a news flash that required government funding and two years of research to unearth, but is arguably still worth highlighting, since it's a gap that has yet to be filled. And what does the FCC think can be done to fill it? Not much.

Commissioner Michael J. Copps objected emphatically to this laissez-faire approach at the report's release; he was the first to observe that "the policy recommendations ... don't track the diagnosis."

For some conservatives and the entrepreneurially minded, that's just fine. "I think I'm relieved that, on first scan, the FCC report on journalism recommends little," tweeted CUNY's director of interactive journalism Jeff Jarvis. As Waldman explained at the release event, a primary goal of the report's recommendations was to protect the First Amendment, a priority that sits well with libertarian commentator Adam Thieirer. He blogged his initial reaction at the Technology Liberation Front site:

For those of us who care about the First Amendment, media freedom, and free-market experimentation with new media business models, it feels like we've dodged a major bullet. The report does not recommend sweeping regulatory actions that might have seen Washington inserting itself into the affairs of the press or bailing out dying business models.

Spurring Conversation

So, what kind of remedies should the report have offered? Of course, I have my own ideas about how taxpayer dollars can best support civic engagement and innovation -- many of which I've reported on in the pages of MediaShift. I also have my own stake in this report, which cites research that I've conducted with colleagues at the Center for Social Media and the New America Foundation -- see the annotations in the embedded version of the report below for some highlights.

But, as several observers noted, the report will do its job if it spurs broader conversation about how best to support the evolution of news. That process has already begun.

Read more:

Using Storify, I've compiled reactions currently being shared via Twitter.

[View the story "Reactions to the FCC's Information Needs of Communities Report:" on Storify]

And, you can read the full document here:



Jessica Clark is a Senior Fellow at American University's Center for Social Media, a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation, and is currently consulting with the Association of Independents in Radio on a forthcoming initiative.

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May 12 2011

18:15

Massive Digital Divide for Native Americans is 'A Travesty'

Perhaps nowhere in the United States does the digital divide cut as wide as in Indian Country. More than 90 percent of tribal populations lack high-speed Internet access, and usage rates are as low as 5 percent in some areas, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

Sascha_Meinrath.jpg

Sascha Meinrath, director of New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative calls it "a travesty."

"You have a community that perhaps treasures media and cultural production more than almost any other constituency in the country, and you have an entire dearth of access to new media production and dissemination technology," Meinrath said.

Since 2009, New America Foundation has worked with Native Public Media, which supports and advocates for Native American media outlets, to help tribal communities take advantage of new media platforms. In January, the organizations formalized their partnership, and this fall, they plan to launch a media literacy pilot project that will train Native radio broadcasters in at least four communities to tell stories using digital tools.


"It's a very proactive way to address the digital divide, apart from the hardware," said Loris Ann Taylor, president of Native Public Media.

Tribal Digital Village

The organizations plan to work with both digital experts and tribal groups that have pioneered technology adoption. An oft-cited example is the Tribal Digital Village in Southern California, which brought Internet access to libraries, schools and other community buildings across 13 reservations, with grants from Hewlett-Packard and others.

we shall remain grab.jpg

Native Public Media has itself led the way in digital storytelling, partnering with WGBH in 2009 on We Shall Remain, a multi-platform project on Native history. But its primary goal is expanding local production.

Currently, 10 tribal radio stations stream over the Internet, including KGVA 90.1 FM, serving the Fort Belknap reservation in Montana, and WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles reservation in Wisconsin. The Coeur d'Alene tribe in northern Idaho created RezKast, a YouTube-like video and music sharing site. The Navajo Times, Cherokee Phoenix and other Native newspapers publish online.

As innovative as these projects are, without access, they will only reach a fraction of the Native population.

'The Digital Revolution is Stirring'

Native Americans will be savvy users of new media when connectivity arrives, Meinrath said. A 2009 report [PDF file] he co-authored found that when broadband was available, Native Americans did everything from blog to download podcasts at higher rates than national averages. Although the report noted that it was more exploratory than representative, it concluded: "The digital revolution is stirring in tribal communities."

Still, the revolution is far away for most Native Americans. Broadband infrastructure does not exist in most tribal areas, and where it does, charges are marked up radically, compared with urban centers -- by 13,000 percent, in some cases, Meinrath said. Regulatory frameworks have also contributed to under-servicing, he said.


new media study.jpg

Lately, advocacy by Native Public Media and others for government action seems to be paying off. The FCC's National Broadband Plan, unveiled in March 2010, included the goal of increasing broadband access on tribal lands, with involvement from local leaders. The Plan recommended that Congress consider creating a Tribal Broadband Fund. Last August, the FCC established an Office of Native Affairs and Policy to work with the 565 federally recognized tribes on improving access to communications services. One of its first moves, in March 2011, was to invite tribal representatives to a Native Nations Day, where the FCC expanded a "tribal priority" to promote licensing of radio stations serving Native communities.

Recent federal action is a leap forward in focusing attention on a long-ignored issue and producing empirical data for reform, Meinrath said.

Yet, he noted that progress has largely remained rhetorical. "We've run into an FCC and an Obama administration that has not, as a whole, prioritized this issue," he said.

Challenges and Opportunities

When it comes to expanding access, the challenges are steep. Many tribal areas are geographically remote, which can make provision difficult and expensive, according to the National Broadband Plan. Service is unaffordable for many Native Americans, a quarter of whom live at or below the poverty line. At the same time, funding for public media and telecommunications facilities is at risk.

But, physical remoteness and high costs are a familiar excuse for failure to serve Indian Country among decision-makers focused on majority constituents, Meinrath said.

"This is not a technical problem -- this is a remarkable lack of leadership," he said.

The challenge is not only addressing a digital divide, but also a pattern of historical exclusion from media and communication services, Taylor said. Some tribal populations still lack emergency and postal services, and almost a third lack basic telephone service. The rapid pace of technology risks leaving Native populations even further behind.

Despite the challenges, the potential for technology to improve media capacity in tribal areas is tremendous, Taylor said. New media tools will help Native Americans cover issues that are ignored or misrepresented in mainstream media. They can fill extreme gaps in information access and enable cultural preservation. They allow local news and cultural programming to reach tribal members who have left reservations for jobs or military service.

Leaping the Divide

Critically, technology offers a chance to "leap over" the traditional media divide, especially as many tribal newspapers have shut down in the economic downturn, and radio stations, the traditional medium of choice for Native communities, are not feasible in all areas, Taylor said.

Most of all, Taylor's vision is about enabling Native Americans to have a voice on vital issues, from the housing market to the energy crisis.

"In this country, if we leave people out from having access or ownership or control of the technology, then we're really denying them something even larger -- to have participation in a democratic society," she said. "It's really about self-determination at the end of the day."

Katia Savchuk works as an investigator and writes for Ethical Traveler and Polis, a collaborative urbanism blog she co-founded. She previously spent a year and a half documenting the work of slum-dweller federations in India. Her writing has appeared in Let's Go travel guides, Environment & Urbanization and the Palo Alto Weekly.

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April 19 2011

08:59

What do librarians know about apps? Plenty.

Today I had the great pleasure of sitting in a room--a small room--with the FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, as he announced a new project in collaboration with the Knight Foundation: Apps for Communities. This exciting new venture will put $100k of prizes in the hands of folks who dream up creative and useful ways to capitalize on existing public data and connect local folks to local data that solves local issues.

While Chairman Genachowski likely didn't have librarians in mind when nurturing this idea with the Knight Foundation, my first thought was: librarians! You might be thinking, "but I'm not a coder," and that may be true, but you have ideas. And you know your community. And you're crafty, innovative, and smart. What does your community need?

From the FCC:

This challenge is an effort to drive the great technical skills we have in our country out into our local communities. A particular goal is to build new applications to improve access for people who struggle with accessing information and services online: Seniors, non-English speakers, people who are uncomfortable with technology, and others. This contest seeks to bring the value of broadband to people who are, up until now, less likely to be online."

These people are in your library, using your library's services. What do they need? Do they need access to information during a disaster? Do they need to know where urgent care facilities exist and how to get there by public transportation? These were just two ideas shared during the press conference and discussion, but you likely have better, more focused ideas because you know the patrons who walk through your doors.

But what to do with your idea? Well, here's an idea:

One of TechSoup's projects, NetSquared, holds monthly offline events for anyone interested in technology and social impact. These local gatherings are an opportunity to share ideas, learn from one another, and collaborate on projects to create real world impact. What's more, they take place in 80 cities around the world, and if one doesn't exist near you, you can start on AT YOUR LIBRARY! How cool is that? Perhaps this FCC/Knight Foundation challenge is just the venue for you to share your idea with folks who could really make it happen. Try it. Or let me know why not. Or share your idea in the comments. Or just plain get in touch.

February 11 2011

17:00

Why an expansion of low-power radio stations could mean good things for community news

The future of local radio news may involve more than just the letters N, P, and R.

Last month, President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act, a new law allowing the expansion of noncommercial stations around the country though new low-power radio licenses. Running on 100 watts (about the same as an exceptionally bright lightbulb), these stations are intended for nonprofits, schools, and churches to create community programming. While this may inspire visions of contemporary Christian music and school board meetings popping up alongside the best hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and today, it could also mean more locally produced journalism.

Consider the commonalities low-power radio stations have with local news startups: A defined coverage area and audience; a model that requires engagement with the community; a need for financial support from businesses and a mission to serve the public interest.

“Low power radio really fits well into the model of covering local issues,” Ian Smith of the Prometheus Radio Project told me. “It’s a hyperlocal medium.”

Very hyperlocal, considering that a 100-watt signal won’t carry very far, but it could be just enough to cover a small town or a neighborhood in larger cities. Smith, a development and communications associate with Prometheus, said low-power stations directly reflect the communities they are in, whether its keeping zydeco music alive or voicing the concerns of Latino farm workers.

Smith said a number of low-power stations have set out to not just provide cultural programming but respond to gaps in local news coverage and offer alternatives to traditional media. In that sense, community radio stations join the growing network of nonprofit journalism startups as well as locally oriented initiatives from NPR like Project Argo and Impact of Government.

But what separates community radio from its larger public and corporate cousins is the same thing that could make it work as a vehicle for citizen journalism. “One of the things that makes low power radio so unique is its so participatory,” Smith said. “You can participate in the production, not just the consumption.”

Though low-power radio offers a ready conduit for people concerned about issues within a community, it also can impose certain disciplines helpful to journalism. In order to put a program on the air, you need to know how to run a soundboard (or some basic audio recording tools) and have the ability to put together a cohesive program. Dean Graber, who works at the University of Texas’ Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas and has researched low-power radio, points out that some stations are already attempting to guide citizen journalists. KPOV in Bend, Ore., for instance, created a journalism handbook for volunteers. As Graber wrote on his blog: “For people worried about the state of U.S. journalism, now is the perfect opportunity to consider and experiment with new forms of non-profit, community-based journalism, on the time-tested medium of radio.”

While some community radio stations may wish to take on the mantle of news provider, it would be wrong to expect their programming to be similar to that of traditional news outlets, Graber told me over email. “Some news and information programs will follow existing formats for delivering news and information over the radio, including Pacifica and Free Speech News. Other programs will thoroughly innovate their news and information programs,” he wrote.

As malleable as the programming is, it’s likely the ubiquitous nature of radio will also help low-power stations grow and find an audience. As Smith points out, radio is largely free (okay, yes, once you buy the radio) and accessible everywhere, at home, at work, or in the car. Although streaming radio complements that and increases the potential to reach broader audiences, the focus, as always, remains local.

“We think it’s important to maintain the localism of this medium in any way that is relevant to their community,” Smith said. “It’s part of the public commons and should be serving the public good,” he said.

Image by William Li used under a Creative Commons license

January 21 2011

15:30

This Week in Review: The Comcast-NBC marriage, j-school 2.0, and questions about paywall data

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

Huge merger, big reservations: One of the biggest media deals of the past decade got its official go-ahead when the Federal Communications Commission approved the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal. As Ars Technica noted, the deal’s scope is massive: In addition to being the nation’s largest cable provider, the new company will control numerous cable channels, plus the NBC television network, Universal Studios, Universal theme parks, and two professional sports teams.

The new company will also retain a stake in the online TV site Hulu (which NBC co-founded with News Corp.), though it agreed to give up its management role as one of the conditions the FCC placed on its approval. Lost Remote’s Steve Safran called the requirement a forward-thinking move by the FCC, given how far Comcast’s content outpaces Hulu’s right now. Another of the conditions also protects Bloomberg TV from being disadvantaged by Comcast in favor of its new property, CNBC.

The decision had plenty of detractors, starting with the FCC’s own Michael Copps, who wrote in his dissenting statement that the deal could lead to the “cable-ization of the Internet.” “The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real,” he said. In the current issue of The Columbia Journalism Review, John Dunbar wrote a more thorough critique of the deal, arguing that it’s old media’s last-gasp attempt to stave off the web’s disruption of television. Josh Silver and Josh Stearns of the media reform group both penned protests, too.

A few other angles: GigaOM’s Liz Shannon Miller looked at the FCC’s emphasis on online video, and All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka explained why the deal might make it more difficult to give up cable. Finally, Steve Myers of Poynter examined NBC’s agreement as part of the merger to create new partnerships between some of its local stations and nonprofit news organizations.

Rethinking j-school: The Carnival of Journalism, an old collaborative blogging project, was revived this month by Spot.Us founder (and fellow at Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute) David Cohn, who directed participants to blog about the Knight Foundation’s call for j-schools to increase their role as “hubs of journalistic activity” and integrate further integrate media literacy into all levels of education.

The posts came rolling in this week, and they contained a variety of ideas about both the journalistic hubs component and the media literacy component. The latter point was expounded on most emphatically by Craig Silverman, who laid out a vision for the required course “Bullshit Detection 101,” teaching students how to consume media (especially online) with a keen, skeptical eye. “The Internet is the single greatest disseminator of bullshit ever created. The Internet is also the single greatest destroyer of bullshit,” he wrote.

CUNY j-prof C.W. Anderson pointed to a 2009 lecture in which he argued for education about the production of media (especially new media) to be spread beyond the j-school throughout universities, and Memphis j-prof Carrie Brown-Smith noted that for students to learn new media literacy, the professors have to be willing to learn it, too. Politico reporter Juana Summers made the case for K-12 media literacy education, and POLIS director Charlie Beckett talked about going beyond simplistic concepts of media literacy.

There were plenty of proposals about j-schools as journalistic hubs, as well. City University, London j-prof Paul Bradshaw wrote about the need for j-students to learn not just how to produce journalism, but how to facilitate its production by the community. Megan Taylor tossed out a few ideas, too, including opening student newspapers up to the community, and J-Lab editorial director Andrew Pergam and CUNY’s Daniel Bachhuber looked at the newsroom cafe concept and NYU’s The Local: East Village, respectively, as examples for j-schools. Cohn chimed in with suggestions on how to expand the work of journalism beyond the j-school and beyond the university, and Central Lancashire j-prof Andy Dickinson argued that j-schools should serve to fill the gaps left by traditional media.

A few more odds and ends from the Carnival of Journalism: Minnesota j-prof Seth Lewis urged j-schools to create more opportunities for students to fail, Cornell grad student Josh Braun pondered how the rise of online education might play into all this, and Rowan j-prof Mark Berkey-Gerard listed some of the challenges of student-run journalism.

A pro-paywall data point: One of the biggest proponents of paid news online lately has been Steven Brill, whose Journalism Online works with news organizations to charge for content online. This week, Brill publicized findings from his first few dozen efforts that found that with a metered model (one that allows a certain number of articles for free, then charges for access beyond that), traffic didn’t decline dramatically, as they were expected to. The New York Times — a paper that’s planning a metered paid-content modelwrote about the results, and a few folks found it encouraging.

Others were skeptical — like The Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum, who wondered why the story didn’t include information about how many people paid up online and how much revenue the paywalls generated. Rick Edmonds of Poynter pointed out the same thing, and tied the story to a recently announced paywall at The Dallas Morning News and tweaks at Honolulu Civil Beat’s paywall.

Elsewhere in the world of paid news content, Michele McLellan of the Knight Digital Media Center talked to the editor of the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald about his newspaper’s paywall experiment, who had a warning about technical challenges but encouraging news about public feedback.

Cracking the iPad’s subscription code: Publishers’ initial crush on the iPad seems to be fading into ambivalence: The New York Times reported this week that magazines publishers are frustrated with Apple’s harsh terms in allowing them to offer iPad subscriptions and are beginning to look to other forthcoming tablets instead. Apple is cracking down overseas, too, reportedly telling European newspapers that they can’t offer a free iPad edition to print subscribers.

One publication is about to become one of the first to seriously test Apple’s subscription model — Rupert Murdoch’s much-anticipated The Daily. Advertising Age reported on the expectations and implications surrounding The Daily, and the Lab’s Ken Doctor took a look at The Daily’s possible financial figures. Mashable’s Lauren Indvik, meanwhile, wondered how The Daily will handle the social media portion of the operation.

In other iPad news, a survey reported on by Advertising Age found that while iPad users don’t like ads there, they might welcome them as an alternative to paid apps. The survey also suggested, interestingly enough, that the device is being used a lot like home computers, with search and email dominating the uses and usage of media apps like books and TV lagging well behind that. Business Insider also reported that AOL is working on a Flipboard-esque iPad app that tailors news around users’ preferences.

Reading roundup: Tons of other stuff going on this week. Here’s a sampling:

— Two titans of the tech industry, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt — announced this week they would be stepping down (Jobs is taking a temporary medical leave; Schmidt stepping down as CEO but staying on as executive chairman). Both were massive tech stories, and Techmeme has more links for you on both than I could ever intelligently direct you to.

— Another huge shakeup, this in the media world: Dean Singleton, co-founder of the bankrupt newspaper chain MediaNews, will step down as its CEO. Both Ken Doctor and the Lab’s Martin Langeveld saw Alden Global Capital’s fingerprints all over this and other newspaper bankruptcy shakeups, with Langeveld speculating about a possible massive consolidation in the works.

— As I noted last week, Wikipedia celebrated its 10th anniversary last Saturday, prompting several reflections late last week. A few I that missed last week’s review: Clay Shirky on Wikipedia’s “ordinary miracle,” The New York Times on Wikipedia’s history, and Jay Rosen’s comparison of Wikipedia and The Times.

— Pew published a survey on the social web, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and The Atlantic’s Jared Keller both offered smart summaries of the Internet’s remarkable social capacity, with Keller tying it to Robert Putnam’s well-known thoughts on social capital.

— A few addenda to last week’s commentary about the Tucson shooting: How NPR’s errant reporting hurt the families involved, j-prof Jeremy Littau on deleting incorrect tweets, Mathew Ingram on Twitter’s accuracy in breaking news, and the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s study of the shooting’s coverage.

— Finally, a wonderful manifesto for journalists by former Guardian editor Tim Radford. This is one you’ll want to read, re-read, and then probably re-read again down the road.

January 07 2011

17:30

This Week in Review: The FCC’s big compromise, WikiLeaks wrestles with the media, and a look at 2011

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week's top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

A net neutrality compromise: The Review might have taken two weeks off for the holidays, but the rest of the future-of-news world kept on humming. Consider this more your “Holidays in Review” than your “Week in Review.” Let’s get to it.

The biggest news development of the past few weeks came just before Christmas, when the FCC passed a set of Internet regulations that were widely characterized as a compromise between net neutrality advocates and big Internet service providers. In essence, the rules will keep ISPs from blocking or slowing services on the traditional wired Internet, but leave the future of wireless regulation more unclear. (Here’s a copy of the order and a helpful explainer from GigaOM.)

In the political realm, the order drew predictable responses from both sides of the aisle: Conservatives (including at least one Republican FCC commissioner) were skeptical of a move toward net neutrality, while liberals (like Democratic Sen. Al Franken) fervently argued for it. In the media-tech world, it was greeted — as compromises usually are — with near-universal disdain. The Economist ran down the list of concerns for net neutrality proponents, led by the worry that the FCC “has handed the wireless carriers a free pass.” This was especially troubling to j-prof Dan Kennedy, who argued that wireless networks will be far more important to the Internet’s future than wired ones.

Salon’s Dan Gillmor said the FCC paid lip service to net neutrality, paving the way for a future more like cable TV than the open web we have now. Newsweek’s Dan Lyons compressed his problems with the order into one statement: “There will soon be a fast Internet for the rich and a slow Internet for the poor.”

From the other side, Slate media critic Jack Shafer, a libertarian, questioned whether the FCC had the power to regulate the Internet at all, and imagined what the early Internet would have been like if the FCC had regulated it then. The Los Angeles Times’ James Rainey told both sides to calm down, and at the Knight Digital Media Center, Amy Gahran used the story as an object lesson for news organizations in getting and linking to the source documents in question.

WikiLeaks and the media’s awkward dance: The long tail of this fall’s WikiLeaks story continues to run on, meandering into several different areas over the holidays. There are, of course, ongoing efforts to silence WikiLeaks, both corporate (Apple pulled the WikiLeaks app from its store) and governmental (a bill to punish circulation of similar classified information was introduced, and criticized by law prof Geoffrey Stone).

In addition, Vanity Fair published a long piece examining the relationship between WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange and The Guardian, the first newspaper to partner with him. Based on the story, Slate’s Jack Shafer marveled at Assange’s shrewdness and gamesmanship (“unequaled in the history of journalism”), Reuters’ Felix Salmon questioned Assange’s mental health, and The Atlantic’s Nicholas Jackson wondered why The Guardian still seems to be playing by Assange’s rules.

We also saw the blowup of Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald’s feud with Wired over some chat logs between alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning and the man who turned him in. It’s a complicated fight I’m not going to delve into here, but if you’d like to know more, here are two good blow-by-blows, one more partial to Wired, and another more sympathetic to Greenwald.

Greenwald has also continued to be one of the people leading the inquiries into the traditional media’s lack of support for WikiLeaks. Alternet rebutted several media misconceptions about WikiLeaks, and Newsweek attempted to explain why the American press is so lukewarm on WikiLeaks — they aren’t into advocacy, and they don’t like Assange’s purpose or methods. One of the central questions to that media cold-shoulder might be whether Assange is considered a journalist, something GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram tried to tackle.

Other, more open critiques of WikiLeaks continue to trickle out, including ones from author Jaron Lanier and Floyd Abrams, a lawyer who argued for The New York Times in the Pentagon Papers case. Abrams’ argument prompted rebuttals from Jack Shafer and NYU prof Clay Shirky. Shirky in particular offered a nuanced comparison of the Pentagon Papers-era Times and the globally oriented WikiLeaks, concluding that “the old rules will not produce the old outcomes.” If you’re still hungry for WikiLeaks analysis, John Bracken’s rounded up the best of the year here.

Looking back, and looking forward: We rang in the new year last week, and that, of course, always means two things in the media world: year-end retrospectives, and previews of the year to come. The Lab wrapped up its own year in review/preview before Christmas with a review of Martin Langeveld’s predictions for 2010. PBS’ MediaShift also put together a good set of year-end reviews, including ones on self-publishing, the rapidly shifting magazine industry, a top-ten list of media stories (led by WikiLeaks, Facebook, and the iPad). You can also get a pretty good snapshot of the media year that was by taking a look at AOL’s list of the top tech writing of 2010.

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds examined the year in newspaper stock prices (not great, but could’ve been worse), while media consultant Alan Mutter explained that investors tended to stay away from debt-laden newspaper companies in particular.

As for the year to come, the Lab’s readers weighed in — you like ProPublica, The Huffington Post, and Clay Shirky, and you’re split on paywalls — and several others chimed in with their predictions, too. Among the more interesting prognostications: New York Times media critic David Carr sees tablets accelerating our ongoing media convergence, The Next Web forecasts a lot of blogs making the Gawker-esque beyond the blog format, Mashable’s Vadim Lavrusik predicts the death of the foreign correspondent, TBD’s Steve Buttry sees many journalism trade organizations merging, and the Lab’s Martin Langeveld thinks we’ll see John Paton’s innovative measures at the Journal Register Co. slowly begin to be emulated elsewhere in the newspaper industry.

Two other folks went outside the predictions mold for their 2011 previews: media analyst Ken Doctor looked at 11 pieces of conventional wisdom the media industry will test this year, and the University of Colorado’s Steve Outing outlined his wishes for the new year. Specifically, he wants to see News Corp. and The New York Times’ paid-content plans fail, and to see news execs try a value-added membership model instead. “This will require that news publishers actually work their butts off to sell, rather than sit back and expect people to fork over money “just because” everyone should support journalism,” he wrote.

Rethinking publishing for the tablet: One theme for the new year in media that’s already emerged is the impending dominance of the tablet. As The New York Times’ Joshua Brustein wrote, that was supposed to be the theme last year, too, but only the iPad was the only device able to get off the ground in any meaningful way. Several of Apple’s competitors are gearing up to make their push this year instead; The Times’ Nick Bilton predicted that companies that try to one-up Apple with bells and whistles will fail, though Google may come up with a legitimate iPad rival.

Google has begun work toward that end, looking for support from publishers to develop a newsstand to compete with Apple’s app store. And Amazon’s Kindle is doing fine despite the iPad’s popularity, TechCrunch argued. Meanwhile, Women’s Wear Daily reported that magazine app sales on the iPad are down from earlier in the year, though Mashable’s Lauren Indvik argued that the numbers aren’t as bad as they seem.

The magazine numbers prompted quite a bit of analysis of what’s gone wrong with magazine apps. British entrepreneur Andrew Walkingshaw ripped news organizations for a lack of innovation in their tablet editions — “tablets are always-on, tactile, completely reconfigurable, great-looking, permanently jacked into the Internet plumbing, and you’re using them to make skeumorphic newspaper clones?” — and French media consultant Frederic Filloux made similar points, urging publishers to come up with new design concepts and develop a coherent pricing structure (something Econsultancy’s Patricio Robles had a problem with, too).

There were plenty of other suggestions for tablet publications, too: GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram said they should focus on filtering the web, MG Siegler of TechCrunch asked for an easy-to-use newsstand rather than a system of standalone apps, and Alan Mutter suggested magazines lower the prices and cut down on the technical glitches.

Three others focused specifically on the tablet publishing business model: At the Lab, Ken Doctor gave us three big numbers to watch in determining where this is headed, entrepreneur Bradford Cross proposed a more ad-based model revolving around connections to the open web, and venture capitalist Fred Wilson predicted that the mobile economy will soon begin looking more like the web economy.

Reading roundup: A few items worth taking a look at over the weekend:

— The flare-up du jour in the tech world is over RSS, and specifically, whether or not it is indeed still alive. Web designer Kroc Camen suggested it might be dying, TechCrunch’s MG Siegler fingered Twitter and Facebook as the cause, Dave Winer (who helped develop RSS) took umbrage, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and The Guardian’s Martin Belam defended RSS’ relevance.

— Add the Dallas Morning News to the list of paywalled (or soon-to-be-paywalled) papers to watch: It announced it will launch a paid-content plan Feb. 15. The Lab’s Justin Ellis shed light on Morning News’ thinking behind the plan. PaidContent’s Staci Kramer also broke down a Pew report on paying for online content.

— For the many writers are considering how to balance social media and longer-form writing, two thoughtful pieces to take a look at: Wired’s Clive Thompson on the way tweets and texts can work in concert in-depth analysis, and Anil Dash on the importance of blogging good ideas.

— Finally, NPR’s Matt Thompson put together 10 fantastic lessons for the future of media, all coming from women who putting them into action. It’s an encouraging, inspiring set of insights.

December 28 2010

16:40

Top 3 New Media Legal Battles of 2010

This year's been a big one. Spain won the World Cup. Lindsay Lohan went to jail. Don Draper married his secretary. And, of course, the federal courts waded into some of the thorniest legal issues affecting new media.

Three cases stand out from the rest of 2010's docket. Each one shook up the law in a significant way. Below are summaries of the major developments, condensed in the spirit of CliffsNotes, with some commentary about the implications for people and organizations using new media.

Viacom v. YouTube

In June, a federal district court judge ruled on Viacom Int'l Inc. v. YouTube, Inc., a case testing the limits of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act. The ruling came after three years of pre-trial litigation. Viacom claimed that thousands of its copyrighted works had been uploaded to YouTube (e.g., clips of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"), in violation of the DMCA, which governs online copyright infringement.

At the heart of the case was the DMCA's safe-harbor provision. It allows service providers in certain circumstances to host user-generated content without assuming copyright liability for that content. The key element is a notice-and-takedown scheme that immunizes the provider if it "responds expeditiously" when notified of specific infringements. That notification can come in two forms.

First, the provider could have actual knowledge of an infringement. This occurs when a valid takedown request has been received. Second, the provider could be "aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent." This operates like a red flag, and the idea is that the provider can't claim the safe harbor if it ignored one.

Viacom argued essentially that YouTube ignored a red flag, because it was well known in general that there was a great deal of "infringing activity" on the site. The judge, however, didn't agree. He sided with YouTube and held that the "facts and circumstances" raising the red flag must be "specific and identifiable infringements of particular items." In other words, it was not enough for YouTube to be aware in general that there was "infringing activity" on the site.

Although some have questioned the importance of the decision, it does spell out just how aggressively YouTube and others must police their user-generated content. Among other things, the decision affirms that the burden of identifying and documenting infringing content is on the copyright holder, rather than the service provider, and it makes clear that if the provider is aware only in general that there is infringing activity on the site, then the safe harbor still will be available.

Earlier this month, Viacom appealed [PDF] the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, bringing in Theodore Olson, a former U.S. Solicitor General, to handle the oral argument. This is a sign that Viacom is very serious about winning. YouTube has not yet filed its reply brief.

Barclays v. Theflyonthewall.com

barclays_logo.gifThis case required a federal district court judge to apply the "hot news" misappropriation doctrine, first recognized in 1918, to a news aggregation website. Barclays and two other financial firms produced regular research reports, to be distributed to clients for a fee, about stocks. They often released them before the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) opened for the day, and although the firms took precautions to ensure the reports went only to paying clients, some did leak out.

Enter Theflyonthewall.com (Fly), an online subscription news service that picked up and published those reports on its own news feed, updated continuously every day between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. It featured an average of 600 headlines per day, some of them about the research reports.

In 2006, Barclays and two other firms got fed up and filed suit against Fly, claiming that their reports were "hot news" and that the redistribution of them constituted misappropriation, a violation of New York state law. Misappropriation is a fancy way of saying that an organization used your property impermissibly for its own benefit. This is where the old collides with the new.

The "hot news" doctrine, as noted above, was developed in 1918, in the Supreme Court case International News Service v. Associated Press. INS and the AP were competing news services during World War I that transmitted articles by wire to member newspapers. Speed and accuracy got them their daily bread. For various reasons, INS began collecting AP stories that ran on the East Coast and rewriting them for INS subscribers on the West Coast. Finding that the AP had a "quasi-property right" in the news content it gathered, the Supreme Court held that INS's conduct constituted misappropriation. INS was, the Court said, "endeavoring to reap what it had not sewn."

The policy justification anchoring that decision was the same one running through the Barclays decision: The content producer invested substantial time, labor and money in its publication process, and those investments should be protected; because if they're not, the producer loses the economic incentive to continue producing, depriving the public of a valuable benefit.

The judge, accordingly, ruled for Barclays. She issued an injunction requiring Fly to delay its publication of stories about the research reports. Notably, the delay was just long enough to allow Barclays and the other firms to monetize the reports by distributing them to clients before they appeared on any news aggregation site.

Fly quickly countered that decision, however, by asking a federal appeals court to stay the injunction, i.e., to relieve Fly of its obligation to comply with it. The court granted the stay and agreed to expedite its full review of the appeal, which is pending as of this writing.

Comcast v. FCC

Last but not least comes the determination in April by a federal appeals court that the FCC has limited power to regulate the Internet. Comcast Corp. v. FCC [PDF] arose because of complaints in 2008 that Comcast, a service provider, was interfering with its customers' use of peer-to-peer networking applications.

mediashift_legal small.jpg

In response to those complaints, the FCC issued an order concluding that it had jurisdiction over the matter and that Comcast's method of bandwidth management "contravene[d] ... federal policy." Comcast complied with the order, but later asked the appeals court to review it, objecting on three grounds. The court began and ended its inquiry by finding that the FCC failed to establish jurisdiction.

For its part, the FCC conceded to the court that it did not have express authority to regulate network management practices, but argued that it had ancillary authority under the Communications Act of 1934 [PDF]. It empowered the FCC to "perform any and all acts, make such rules and regulations, and issue such orders ... as may be necessary in the execution of its functions."

The court didn't buy the argument and said the FCC, relying heavily on policy statements and unhelpful statutory provisions, failed to prove that its Comcast order was "reasonably ancillary to the ... effective performance of its statutorily mandated responsibilities."

The decision prompted many commentators to wonder about its implications for Net neutrality, the idea that all online content and applications should be treated equally by service providers. David Post in April summed up the thinking over at the Volokh Conspiracy: "So what does this portend for Net neutrality rules? Can the Commission proceed with its rulemaking efforts ... or does it need some additional statutory authorization from Congress before it can do so?"

Since then, the FCC has been trying to answer those questions. It promulgated last Tuesday a set of rules that functionally creates two classes of Internet access, one for fixed-line providers and one for wireless providers. The rules are tied to the FCC's Section 706 authority, which directs the commission to "encourage on a reasonable and timely basis the deployment of advanced telecommunications services to all Americans," purportedly including broadband services. This means the FCC would have to show that the Net neutrality rules are ancillary to 706's mandate, a difficult task because the FCC itself concluded in the 1990s that that section is not an independent grant of authority.

Despite all the uncertainty, two things are certain: The rules will be challenged in the courts, and they will be challenged by Republicans in Congress.

The Year Ahead

Next year promises to bring big developments in the law affecting new media. A federal appeals court will decide both the Viacom and Barclays appeals, and the Net neutrality rules surely will be challenged. WikiLeaks will continue to dominate the news and very likely will head to court to test the uneasy balance between free speech and national security. And at the Supreme Court, the justices will hand down Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, which addresses whether the First Amendment permits any limits on offensive content in violent videogames sold to minors.

Jonathan Peters is a lawyer and the Frank Martin Fellow at the Missouri School of Journalism, where he's working on his Ph.D. and specializing in the First Amendment. An award-winning freelancer, he has written on legal issues for a variety of newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at jonathan.w.peters@gmail.com.

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November 23 2010

14:00

How the FCC is Creating Better Open Data

In the context of our TileMill project, we’ve been talking about our goal to help make open data from governments more actionable by making it easier to turn GIS data into custom maps. We’re focused on building better tools so people can turn data into custom maps to tell better stories online, but another important part of this process is getting good access to quality data in the first place. What does it look like to open up data effectively, so that it’s not just available but useful to the public?

FCC Setting a Good Example

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is providing one good example by demonstrating how an iterative approach to releasing data leads to better quality. Where a lot of government agencies and other organizations with large volumes of data have taken a path of just posting everything they have and letting developers figure out the rest, the FCC has taken a different approach. They have been building applications with their own data, creating APIs based on their own needs as they build, and releasing these APIs to the public to help further vet the usefulness of the APIs and the data. This iterative process where they’re actually “eating their own dogfood” and using the data and APIs they have created is giving the data they have released a sharper edge. Instead of just posting files, the FCC is taking the time to understand how their data is used so that others can leverage it more effectively.

We’re big supporters of this approach. After working on data visualization projects with open data sets, one of the most practical things we’ve discovered is how often there are holes in data quality or completeness until someone tries to visualize the data. The sooner data providers can figure out where these holes are, the sooner they’ll see their data leveraged by others to create greater impact. There’s no better way to discover (and then improve) data issues like this than actually working with the data.

Video

As part of their process to engage the developer community to provide feedback on their API releases, the FCC recently hosted an “Open Developer Day”. After the event, my colleague Eric Gundersen talked about the FCC’s “dogfooding” with Alex Howard from O’Reilly Media. Check out the video below or read Alex’s blog post for more details.

August 11 2010

16:41

3 Hot Topics at Supernova: Public Policy, Social Media, Privacy

Supernova, an annual technology conference, recently convened for the first time on the East Coast, a change that was evident in the composition of the conference attendees and the direction of the overall conversation. Below are the top three major takeaways from the conference.

Policy matters

Harold Feld, legal director of Public Knowledge, earned a place as crowd favorite during a panel about the governmental implications of broadband connectivity. Referencing the FCC's apparent hesitance to pursue regulatory policy, Feld said, "This could end up being the best administration for the tech community or the worst administration for the tech community."

Comcast's Cohen, whose company has an obvious stake in issues like net neutrality and reclassification of broadband, made his point by contextualizing an anecdote conference host Kevin Werbach shared during opening ceremonies.

Werbach had explained that the seats in the lecture hall where the conference took place did not have power outlets because Wharton faculty voted to not have them, fearing students would be overly distracted or some other similar supposition. Cohen thought this was an excellent metaphor for unintended consequences of regulation.

"Our concern about governmental regulation in this space drives directly from that story," he said. "Not that our government is ill-intended or that they would try to do something that would impede innovation; but the unintended consequences of legislation that takes a long time to do and a long time to fix could result in actions that retard innovation."

There was also discussion of how governmental agencies are promoting tech initiatives. Projects in different disciplines, like HealthCare.gov and the FCC's broadband portal, are trying to put data (after it's been properly scrutinized for privacy concerns) online in accessible formats. As Beth Noveck, deputy chief technology officer for the United States, explained it, "open government is a horizontal, not a vertical."

Bottom line: Regulating broadband will continue to be a messy process, but it has to be done.

Social Changes Everything

Social media is changing the dynamics of content creation and distribution. That's hardly a surprise to the average MediaShift reader, but the observation's familiarity is a reflection of its veracity.

sn-logo.jpgSocial media changed conferences, that's for sure. The Twitter backchannel at #sn10 during the conference was nearly as valuable as the sessions themselves. Conference participants (and certain panelists) would share relevant insights and links while the conference was ongoing, which was perfect for information omnivores such as myself.

It's changing civic life, too. The government's strategy is noted above, but initiatives like ThinkUp are trying to improve the process of governance by tapping the wisdom of the crowd.

It's also changing the media, augmenting new and old media's ability alike to connect with consumers. Comcast's Cohen noted that the company no longer sees it as a cable company, but as a technology provider that increasingly experiments with new media delivery technologies such as a Hulu-like online video service. Cohen said the number one reason for Comcast's acquisition of NBC Universal is to increase its "ability to accelerate the application of innovation and technology for the delivery of what consumer demand is in this space: anytime, anywhere television." In a word, convergence.

SB Nation CEO Jim Bankoff noted that, "Media does not need to be saved and it is not the responsibility of social to save media." He said he thought user generated content was not as interesting as user generated distribution of content, an insight echoed by other panelists who noted that many companies were experimenting with television and movies to create "multi-platform" experiences that span offline and online spaces.

Blip.TV cofounder Dina Kaplan spoke to the economic power of new media when she revealed that her company had recently compensated the creators of Halo-themed web series Red vs. Blue more than $123,000 as part of their commitment to split profit with content producers.

Bottom line: Having a social media strategy is table stakes.

Screen shot 2010-08-10 at 3.14.29 PM.png

Privacy is hard

The most fascinating conversation of the conference, from my perspective, was between danah boyd, a social media researcher at Microsoft Research, and Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at CUNY and author of What Would Google Do?. The rapport between these two new media thinkers was evident throughout their discussion of how technology companies and the government are assessing and responding to online privacy concerns.

Though the two had differing opinions about the definition of privacy, they agreed that the root of privacy concerns was inequity between expectations and outcomes regarding how information flows.

"Privacy is about understanding a social situation and how information will flow, and then making a decision that recognizes this. People scream 'privacy fail!' when they've lost control and found that information flows differently than they expected," Boyd said.

Jarvis used Facebook to illustrate a similar point, referencing ongoing concerns the company faces regarding its approach to personal data. "Facebook created a structure for crafting a public," said Jarvis, "but suddenly people were talking to the public," he said.

The pair also agreed that context has been undervalued as it relates to publicly shared information. "The information itself has value, but so does the interpretation," Boyd said. "We can't divorce the two, interpretations depend on context."

Jarvis essentially agreed with the danger of free-form data being accessed without its necessary context, but also seemed worried that over-compensating for this threat could "risk what makes the Internet powerful."

Bottom line: Defining privacy is just as important a task as protecting it.

Related Links

Have a look at these links to read more about the conference:

Davis Shaver is MediaShift's editorial intern. He is also the founder and publisher of Onward State, an online news organization at Penn State. He studies history and the intersection of science, technology, and society.

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August 05 2010

12:57

Evil?

The report that Google is making a devil’s pact with Verizon for tiered internet service is disturbing because I wonder whether people inside Google are still asking that vital question: “Is this evil?” I wonder whether Google is still Google.

I don’t mean to come off like a high priest of the net neutrality church. But if ISPs like Verizon can charge tiered pricing for quality (vs. unquality?) service, then it’s the consumers who’ll get screwed because costs will be passed onto us. ISPs (like newspapers) want added revenue streams but those streams always end up at our feet. But we know that.

What also concerns me is that creators will get screwed, too. Only the big guys will be able to afford to pay ISPs for top-tier service and so we return to the media oligarchy that — O, irony — YouTube and Google broke apart. Google, I fear, is gravitating back to the big-media side because it wants those brands on YouTube so it can get their advertisers on YouTube because those advertisers are still too stupid to see where the customers really are. And then we’re back to a world of big-media control over what we get to see. It was the millions of little guys — people who made their own videos, people who embedded videos — who made YouTube YouTube.

But that’s short-sighted strategizing, I think — I hope — because fragmentation is infinite; blockbusters will get ever-harder and ever-more-expensive to create; advertising will catch up with reality, the real world, and customers and (unless the Wall Street Journal ruins it) become far more targeted and relevant; advertising will also start to fade away; the mass market will shrink.

But this is a last-gasp attempt to hold onto mass-market economics (vs. open market scale). [Craig Roth in the comments makes the critical point that the story I linked to is supposition rather than announcement, a caveat I certainly should have delivered. As I said in response to him, I thought this was worth discussing before it was fait accompli in the hopes that it won't be.]

It’s an uncomfortable moment for a Google fan boy. This report comes at the same time that Google killed Wave. Now Wave has had its detractors who are now cackling, but it’s not the specific platform that concerns me. It’s that Google can’t figure out how to launch new platforms. Wave was a bust. Buzz was a bust. Knol was a bust. Orkut was mostly a bust. Brilliant people like Gina Trapani hung their hats on these platforms; she wrote the book on Wave and others started developing it and now the rug’s pulled out from under them because Google didn’t support their development, which is what would have made Wave a success. Evil or merely rude?

The reason these efforts were busts is because Google didn’t think them through, didn’t have the corporate discipline to find and execute on clear-eyed strategy. I’m all for beta — I learned that lesson from Google — but you can’t just spend your life throwing shit against the wall to see what sticks. Eventually, you’re knee-deep in shit. But you can do that for a long time — if you have lots of money. A poor startup uses betas to learn precious lessons because they can’t afford to fail. This rich company is using betas, I fear, rather than making hard decisions up front — because it can afford to. So Wave may have ended up dead anyway but if it were run by entrepreneurs it would have struggled long and hard before taking its last breath.

I worry that Google isn’t an entrepreneurial company anymore. It didn’t start those platforms under the hard economics of entrepreneurship. And it hasn’t nurtured some outside entrepreneurs well. If it did, Dodgeball would be Foursquare today.

My real fear then is that Google is too big. I certainly don’t mean that in the way that EU regulators do: “so big we have to rule it.” Uh-uh. No, I mean it may be too big for its own good. Too big for the right hand to find the left hand and have coherent strategies for operating systems (Android v. Chrome) and applications (Docs v. Wave). So big that it starts to identify with other big guys (ISPs and Hollywood entertainment conglomerates). Big is a fine thing when it brings critical mass and the freedom to innovate. As Eric Schmidt himself says, lack of innovation can kill a tech company. So can bad innovation — fat innovation.

I’ve never bought the arguments that Google is a one-trick pony. Honda is a one-trick pony; it makes cars. That’s not Google’s problem. Its problem is that everything it faces is new and it can’t ever afford the luxury of leaning back on old lessons and old relationships. So what does it hold onto on that rapids ride? It has to hold onto its mission — organize the world’s information, etc. — and its evolving definition of evil so it doesn’t stray. It also needs to find the organizational structure — the firm-jawed management — to force different teams with different agendas to work to shared goals and to hold them to entrepreneurial discipline.

All of these are just early warning signs — every early. It’s good — for Google and also for a fan boy like me — to see these cracks because, used properly, they are lessons that help a company get back on its track and shade its eyes from the bright glare of hubris. But only if they ask the really hard questions. Like, is that evil?

: MORE: On a different thread, I also want to note that I think the way this devils’ deal works out is that it will give the FCC and possibly even the FTC and Congress the rope they need to hang ISPs on net neutrality. Is that Google’s really evil plan? It doesn’t like regulation but wants it in this case and so it’s creating the invitation for it? Naw As I said, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. In any case, I do think that such a deal will invite regulation.

: I won’t cry for ISPs. I was at a meeting of cable ISPs some years ago when they were all cackling about their margins exceeding 40%. They ain’t hurting. The solution to all this remains competition. Remember that Google’s founders entered the big spectrum auction a few years ago to force neutrality and they want broadcast white spaces opened up to become “wi-fi on steroids” and thus competition for broadband providers.

: ALSO: I want credit for not making a WWGD? gag. I leave that to Twitter. But it may, indeed soon be time for a sequel (or update).

July 13 2010

19:48

The First Amendment wins one

Bravo. The Court of Appeals has struck down the FCC’s indecency rule — specifically, its fines for “fleeting expletives” — as “unconstitutionally vague.”

No shit.

Fox is the official victor here. The other networks also win. But we all win whenever the First Amendment does.

The Appeals Court, to its credit, notes how much media and the country have changed since George Carlin first uttered his seven dirty words on radio and the Supreme Court blushed. Says the appeals panel:

The Networks argue that the world has changed since Pacifica and the reasons underlying the decision are no longer valid. Indeed, we face a media landscape that would have been almost unrecognizable in 1978. Cable television was still in its infancy. The Internet was a project run out of the Department of Defense with several hundred users. Not only did Youtube, Facebook, and Twitter not exist, but their founders were either still in diapers or not yet conceived. In this environment, broadcast television undoubtedly possessed lives of all Americans.”

The same cannot be said today. The past thirty years has seen an explosion of media sources, and broadcast television has become only one voice in the chorus. Cable television is almost as pervasive as broadcast – almost 87 percent of households subscribe to a cable or
satellite service – and most viewers can alternate between broadcast and non-broadcast channels with a click of their remote control. The
internet, too, has become omnipresent, offering access to everything from viral videos to feature films and, yes, even broadcast television programs. As the FCC itself acknowledges, “[c]hildren today live in a media environment that is dramatically different from the one in which their parents and grandparents grew up decades ago.”

Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s doctrine in the Carlin decision stands. But this court is not reinterpreting that rule of law. Instead it finds that the FCC’s police is “impermissibly vague.” That is: “A law or regulation is impermissibly vague if it does not ‘give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited.’” And the First Amendment requires extra attention to protection from such vagueness. The court said:

We agree with the Networks that the indecency policy is impermissibly vague. The first
problem arises in the FCC’s determination as to which words or expressions are patently offensive. For instance, while the FCC concluded that “bullshit” in a “NYPD Blue” episode was patently offensive, it concluded that “dick” and “dickhead” were not. Other expletives such as “pissed off,” up yours,” “kiss my ass,” and “wiping his ass” were also not found to be patently offensive…. Thus, the word “bullshit” is indecent because it is “vulgar, graphic and explicit” while the words “dickhead” was not indecent because it was “not sufficiently vulgar, explicit, or graphic.” This hardly gives broadcasters notice of how the Commission will apply the factors in the future. The English language is rife with creative ways of depicting sexual or excretory organs or activities, and even if the FCC were able to provide a conew offensive and indecent words are invented every day….

The same vagueness problems plague the FCC’s presumptive prohibition on the words “fuck” and “shit” and the exceptions thereto. Under the FCC’s current policy, all variants of these two words are indecent unless one of two exceptions apply. The first is the “bona fide news” exception, which the FCC has failed to explain except to say that it is not absolute. The second is the artistic necessity exception, in which fleeting expletives are permissible if they are “demonstrably essential to the nature of an artistic or educational work or essential to informing viewers on a matter of public importance.”

That’s how Saving Private Ryan got away with “fuck” and “shit” while on The Blues, they were dirty. In other words: when white people say them, the words are clean, but not when black people say them. Says the court: “The FCC created these exceptions because it words would raise grave First Amendment concerns.” Yup.

The policy may maximize the amount of speech that the FCC can prohibit, but it results in a standard that even the FCC cannot articulate or apply consistently. Thus, it found the use of the word “bullshitter” on CBS’s The Early Show to be “shocking and gratuitous” because it occurred “during a morning television interview,” before reversing itself because the broadcast was a “bona fide news interview.” In other words, the FCC reached diametrically opposite conclusions at different stages of the proceedings for precisely the same reason – that the word “bullshitter” was uttered during a news program. And when Judge Leval asked during oral argument if a program aboutthe dangers of pre-marital sex designed for teenagers would be permitted, the most that the FCC’s lawyer could say was “I suspect it would.” With millions of dollarAmendment values at stake, “I suspect” is simply not good enough.

Importantly, the court recognizes that the FCC has chilled speech. CBS affiliates would not air a 9/11 documentary because it contained curse words — and I can’t imagine a better cause for them. As I argued in this column, bullshit is political speech. Sandra Loh was fired from an NPR station because she said a bad word. “Broadcasters,” the court says, “may well decide not to invite controversial guests on to t heir programs for fear that an unexpected fleeting expletive will result in fines.” A station did not air Pat Tillman’s funeral because of family members’ grief and language. Fix didn’t air a repeat of a That ’70s Show episode — a Kaiser Family Foundation award winner — that dealt with masturbation. They were no longer masters of their domain.

Sex and the magnetic power of sexual attraction are surely among the most predominant themes in the study of humanity since the Trojan War. The digestive system and excretion are also important areas of human attention. By prohibiting all “patently offensive” references to sex, sexual organs, and excretion without giving adequate guidance as to what “patently offensive” means, the FCC effectively chills speech, because broadcasters have no way of knowing what the FCC will find offensive. To place any discussion topics at the broadcaster’s peril has the effect of promoting wide self-censorship material which should be completely protected under the First Amendment.

All is not won. The Appeals Court says the FCC could create constitutional policy — this just isn’t it. And this could return to the Supreme Court. But for now, let’s all say a celebratory “BULLSHIT.”

May 07 2010

23:18

4 Minute Roundup: FCC's 'Goldilocks' Approach to Regulating Net

Here's the latest 4MR audio report from MediaShift. In this week's edition I focus on the proposal by the FCC chairman Julius Genachowski to find a "third way" of regulating broadband providers. His "Goldilocks" approach tries to inforce fairness and Net neutrality rules, but not be too heavy-handed by avoiding setting prices for ISPs or forcing them to open up their lines. Reaction was tepid from both sides of the political aisle. I try to explain Genachowski's approach, and talk with the Investigative Reporting Workshop's John Dunbar, who thinks there's little to cheer consumer advocates in this proposal.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio5710.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with John Dunbar:

dunbar full.mp3

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

The FCC's 'Third Way,' Will it Work? at CBSNews

FCC's Genachowski Tries To Carve A 'Third Way' For Regulating ISPs at PaidContent

FCC's Third Way - What You Need to Know at PC Magazine

FCC Chair Cites 'Third Way' For Neutrality at MediaPost

FCC's third way - Regulate Internet access, not Internet content at VentureBeat

How the FCC Plans to Regulate Internet Lines at WSJ Digits

FCC statement - 'Third way' legal framework at CNET

FCC Web Rules Create Pushback at WSJ

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about what you think the FCC's proposal:




What do you think about the FCC's "third way" of regulating broadband?online survey

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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April 30 2010

18:06

Live-Blogging FCC Workshop: Public Media in the Digital Era

How should public and noncommercial media evolve in the digital age? Hopefully we'll find out shortly, as I report live from today's FCC's Future of Media Workshop. A who's who of execs, funders and researchers are lined up to speak, and given that this isn't the FCC's usual beat, everyone's curious to see how the day will turn out. You can follow along with live-streaming video at fcc.gov/live, or on Twitter at #FOMwkshop. Let's start the show:

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Chairman Julius Genachowski
Says that he's excited to see "energy and enthusiasm around this important topic," and hearkens back to the mid-1940s, when the noncommercial broadband system was established: "If we hadn't made those simple but bold decisions then...our society, our democracy would have been uncalculably poorer." Now we are again at a moment of "seismic shifts" that offer both challenges and opportunities. Genachowski notes that the noncommercial community is no longer saying "public broadcasting," but "public media," and that thousands of web sites and mobile projects are now operating with a public media mission, but not yet recognized as public media.

"This is not about preserving an industry, or about preserving journalists' paychecks, though that wouldn't be so bad," he says. Instead, it's about preserving the vigilance and accountability of journalism for citizens. It's also about finding new ways to help parents helping to struggle with their children's media consumption, and giving them new forms of educational content.

live video fcc.jpg

Notes that there is tremendous creativity both in the leadership and in the grassroots organizations. He notes that the organizations are working together more, and urges them to "keep it up." Wants to make sure the public media spectrum truly serves the public, providing access to "vibrant, diverse" sources of news and information. Policymakers create the "platform for free speech" used by journalists and creative trailblazers to "enlighten us all."

FCC Commissioner Michal J. Copps
"The subject at hand could not be more timely...doing something about journalism is at the top of my bucket list," says Copps, who has demonstrated particular interest in the role of public media over the years. Citizens need "an information infrastructure" that tells them what they need to know to serve as informed citizens. This challenge has been with us since the founding fathers, who decided to subsidize postal rates in order to facilitate the flow of news. "Newspapers were the information infrastructure of that era...the technology and the lingo may change, but the small-d democratic challenge remains and always will," says Copps. Media literacy is part of the toolset, teaching people how to distinguish "truth from fact," and to not only know how to use media, but "how media can use them."

Praises public media makers for their impressive work given the embarrassingly low national investment in public broadcasting, even while noting that there are still things to fix. "It seems that with each finger that's plugged into the dike, 15-20 more leaks spring up." Journalism is still in trouble, and many conversations around the country need to address this issue. Of course, he notes, cable and radio commentators may dismiss this as "Maoism or whatever else," but "we need to get off the defense and on the offense," says Copps. We need more substance--what we have right now is "a bad case of substance abuse." Notes that Bill Moyers is broadcasting his last show today, and "can think of no journalist now or at any time who has contributed more to our democracy," and asks the crowd for a round of applause

Framing Presentation: A 1967 Moment... A Vision for Public Media

Luis Ubiñas, President, Ford Foundation
In a taped address, Ubiñas describes Ford's historic investments in public broadcasting, but notes that public media "must find new relevance." How to create a cross-platform system that includes interactivity and user-generated content? Notes that the Carnegie Commission set the vision for 50 years; now our charge is to "ensure access and engage all Americans to create a new kind of public square." Notes that now we need to "take risks," to create "dynamic media" and create "the space and access required to encourage innovation." Ford, he says looks forward to investing in a "new generation of public media pioneers."

Ernest Wilson, Chair, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
"This is a critical moment in the life of public service media," says Wilson, and the challenge is to move "beyond public broadcasting." We are "beyond the old and the new, and have to challenge ourselves with creativity and energy" to harness the tools that we now have. But "tools are not enough," we need the "wisdom to use those tools wisely," as well as courage to discard old practices, attitudes and institutions that don't serve a new vision of public service media. If we succeed, democracy will be stronger.

In terms of education, he wonders, will Americans--especially the poor among us--have the tools they need to navigate the new digital ecosystem? How will journalists be trained or retrained? Notes that a number of journalism schools are addressing these challenges through the Carnegie-Knight initiative.

Turns to the mission of the CPB: commitment to "innovate for the American people," not to be wedded to a particular platform or institution. NPR and PBS are at the core of the noncommercial media ecology, and are "sprinting rapidly" to adapt to the new platforms. But some legacy institutions aren't "sprinting," but strolling, and CPB is trying to help them catch up in this turbulent environment. This is a moment for change, and CPB has commited itself to the values of "digital," dialogue," and "diversity." Institutions nimble enough to succeed using the three "d's" will be rewarded with a fourth "d": dollars.

Right now, not quite a "public service media" but no longer just "public broadcasting" either--somewhere in between. Moving forward, the challenge is to welcome the future as an opportunity. "The time to act is now."

Waldman asks: How can you measure success in this new arena?

Wilson: A set of measurements has to emerge in conversation with people in this room and at the stations. But "it's not rocket science." Diversity can be measured by the number of people of color at the local stations or in leadership, by audience share, content type--we need to set the standards and incremental money will follow.

Waldman asks: What is public broadcasting's approach to local news and information?

Wilson: This is at the core of what we do, especially as the quality of commercial local media declines. In some communities, public broadcasters are the only source of local news. Our obligations are becoming even more important, but it's going to be a challenge to embrace new technologies at the local level. Production values are in question--is it worth sending out local reporters with Flip cameras in order to increase local coverage? "We're not doing enough, and we need to do more. One of the challenges is to save money inside the system...so that we can buttress local reporting."

Panel Discussion I: Varieties of Public and Noncommercial Media

Ellen P. Goodman, Rutgers University School of Law, Camden and Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Future of Media Project, is moderating this panel and introduces the panelists

Patricia Harrison, President and CEO, Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Public media is "the real Homeland Security," Harrison says, noting that CPB was created to serve as a firewall between the government and public media, and "this is the trust equation" that allows the public to rely on public broadcasting for news and information. "We've always been underfunded but have always overperformed on a shoestring...but that string is running out." Journalism is shrinking, and CPB is struggling to respond. Notes investment in Project Argo and the Local Journalism Centers as a start, and will soon be announcing another $10 million investment in investigative journalism. "These are all components of a dynamic public media," collaborative and diverse. "This turbocharges our transformation in the digital age." Great companies that grow cannot be wedded to the status quo, she says.

Vivian Schiller, President & CEO, NPR (Via Remote Video)
Points to the State of the News Media report, and likens it to "a blow to the head by a 2×4." The report begins with two words, she says, "What now?" NPR has been somewhat insulated from the wild swings in journalism, and listening to public radio is at an all-time high--more than the paid circulation of the top 100 newspapers combined. NPR stations are also some of the only locally owned and operated stations in the country. She sees the report as a call to action. "Public media has many of the answers to the growing void"; those answers involve innovation and partnership. Local accountability journalism is a signature focus of their new efforts. Diversity of listeners is also key--assessed by age, race, and other factors. Moving onto new platforms is also growing the audience for public radio: iPhones, iPads, and other. "We will always be free to the consumer on every platform." Digital technologies also offer the chance of reinventing distribution through the creation of a "public media platform." Goal is to make all public media available on a common platform, plus content from other nonprofits, archival material, and more. She anticipates that developers "in their pajamas in their basement" will be able to help repackage and innovate with this information--a new benchmark in access. So, "what now?" All public media outlets must commit to partner, to innovate, and to spur innovation inside and outside of their ranks.

Jan Schaffer, Executive Director, J-Lab, The Institute for Interactive Journalism
Thinks it's critical to expand the definition of public media to include nonprofit news experiments popping up on the local level. Newcomers more than "bloggers in their pajamas." They include hyperlocal sites, metro-area sites with paid staff, and "soft advocacy" organizations like Sunlight, which demonstrate "journalistic DNA." They are accomplishing this with bare-bones support from funders and donors, but need more support. All are experimenting with hybrid models of support; philanthropic support can jump-start them, but it's not enough. J-Lab has funded 52 startups, but has received more than 2000 applications. Policymakers should incentivize opportunities to be publicly engaged. CPB should be refocused as the Corporation for Public Media; and a Public Media Participation fund should be funded by taxes on cellphone and laptop purchases, with a matching contribution by these manufacturers; tax credits could be given to civic media producers, and more. Increased transparency, Shaffer notes, is key to support for these new news organizations.

Hari Sreenivasan, Correspondent, PBS NewsHour
Sreenivasan describes "the public making media in its most raw and simple form," by exchanging information about an event across platforms and screens. "We are telling our own stories now without waiting for a TV network to squeeze us down into a 20-second soundbyte." It's in this "impatient environment" that NewsHour is reinventing itself. Trying to serve viewers who are tired of the coarseness and acrimony of cable news, but are also expecting to be able to participate, contribute, comment. NewsHour also working to partner with more public media projects on the local level to feed local content up to the national level. Using new technologies to facilitate this reporting and share it, without using older, more expensive satellite technologies. Jim Leher is Skyping in from his book tour, now signing his emails "geeky Jim." Focus of NewsHour is on delivery of necessary information, not the most titillating tidbits. "My job isn't to tell you that the glass is half full or half empty, it's to tell you that it's a 16-ounce container with fluid in it."

Jose Luis Rodriguez, Founder & CEO, Hispanic Information and
Telecommunications Network (HITN)

HITN feels a gap by providing information and educational content to the Latino community. They are also working on an initiative to connect community organizations, libraries and schools via a broadband network to create a learning environment. The public interest set-aside policy for DBS satellite has allowed this network to grow, but obtaining cable distribution is daunting, and they are segregated into a "ghetto," which requires that users subscribe to them. He's recommending the creation of a national public interest cable tier. HITN should be "part of the public broadcasting familiy." He urges the commission to make digital channels available to independent educational broadcasters. "Is there any place at all for small, minority broadcasters in a rapidly consolidating landscape?" Such providers can add to the diversity of available content.

Sue Schardt, President, Association of Independents in Radio
Showing a video from the Makers Quest 2.0 project, designed to help lead public radio into the transition to public media. The video features the Mapping Main Street project, a collaborative, multiplatform documentary designed to help people map and document the more than 10,000 main streets across the U.S. Educators have been particularly interested in adapting the project to help students engage with their communities. The projects demonstrate the "bold, entrepreneurial spirit" of independent producers, and, Schardt says, "we are committed to building a bottom-up network," that will allow public media to " follow where they lead us."

Goodman asks Schaffer: If CPB got a "big pot of dough" for local journalism, how should they spend it?

Schaffer: Need to beef up editorial chops, create partnerships with regional expeiments.

Goodman: How to choose where money goes?

Schaffer: Not all of these sites are objective in a traditional way, but you can look at the track record of the sites, their involvement in the community

Harrison: There will be increasing investment in the local journalism centers. But we can't operate on a shoestring anymore. "The increase in what we're getting as an overmediated nation is not quality." But to respond to this problem, more money is needed.

Waldman: Won't questions of bias become more acute if CPB funds accountability journalism that holds local officials' feet to the fire?

Harrison: "I hope that's the outcome." Hopes that local journalism centers do "speak truth to power." Wants members of Congress calling in; "that would mean we're doing a good job...I'd welcome those phone calls and do receive them from both sides of the aisle." Leadership takes courage, she says, and public broadcasting "has a mission." This is why it's crucial to have "a funded, independent public media network."

Waldman: What about people who feel that Bill Moyers isn't a hero, but an ideologue.

Harrison: All kinds of perspectives are aired on public broadcasting, just listen. "I want to attract to public media the brightest, most creative people who are interested in ideas."

Goodman: What will it mean to have local stations serve as a "community hub"? Will reaching outside of public broadcasting complicate the objectivity issue?

Schiller: "It's a good tension." You have to choose partners wisely, though. Notes that it will be a case-by-case negotiation for stations to work with journalism experiments. Values of independence and balance are central to journalism.

Jamila Bess Johnson of the FCC asks: How do you bring people from other communities into the mix?

Schaffer: Micro-grant programs are good for bringing people out of the woodwork; notes that many J-Lab applicants have been women.

Harrison: Local journalism centers, as part of grant process, there's a requirement to connect with NAHJ, NABJ, etc. for recruiting. "There are ways to shape inclusion and increase diversity." As diversity increases in the country, we can't afford to "have the same people tell the same stories."

Wilson adds that by not recruiting more broadly, public broadcasting is "leaving a lot of talent on the table," especially as boomers start retiring. "I think it's going to be fun and important," to bring more diverse young talent in.

Goodman asks: What would you tell Congress about why they should fund shows like the NewsHour or stations like HITN?

Sreeivasan: "We provide context," and commercial media doesn't have the time for that, sometimes to the detriment of their editorial integrity. "I'm one of the few people in my peer group who hasn't had to go out and cover Tiger Woods over the past few months." NewsHour serves as an explainer about important issues.

Rodriguez: HITN has provided programs that teach Latino students and their parents how to prepare to go to college, interactive call-in programs with experts that explores topics like postpartum depression, the housing crisis, and immigration issues; you don't see these kinds of programs on commercial TV.

Panel Discussion II: Purposes of Public and Noncommercial Media

James O'Shea, Editor & Co-Founder, Chicago News Cooperative
Explains that he's been a journalist for 40 years, including editor of the Los Angeles Times. There are gaps in journalism now. What is public service journalism? "It's like pornography: you know it when you see it." Describes impactful reporting on the death penalty in Chicago, a corrupt hospital in Watts. These strories weren't flashy; they were the "dividends paid" by regular, patient reporting. "Many newspapers today practice reporting by ROI," serving as "content machines." The Chicago News Cooperative, among others, is a nonprofit news experiment that is thinly capitalized, but trying to retain traditional news values. Says he's skeptical of government intervention in journalism, but urges government to incentivize these new types of organizations for the sake of democracy.

Paula Kerger, President, Public Broadcasting Service
PBS was created to do what commercial providers cannot: to use media for teaching and learning, to "serve the people, not to sell them." PBS has pioneered educational television, supported news documentary, and supported cultural performances. She talks in more detail about the role that various programs have served, and notes that PBS is developing popular online educational content, iPhone apps and content for smart boards" online games, and more. A new digital channel will also launch devoted to the performing arts.

David Fanning, Executive Producer, Frontline
Notes that documentary journalists have been experimenting with online platforms since 1995, and that Frontline has had significant success in providing content online, including Bush' War, which has been downloaded more than 6 million times. They use the web to provide better access to long-form interviews, background material and more. "Every Frontline lives in a matrix of curated content." They identify "bright lines of narrative," that travel out into the world with all of their content attached so that people can refer back. Frontline is reaching beyond U.S. borders, partnering with online journalism organizations like the Tehran Bureau. Worked with ProPublica and the Times Picayune on a documentary about Hurricane Katrina. "What's most exciting about this activity is that it's all so true to the public mission...this work is the serious and profound obligation to the public commons." In the end, more resources will be needed to support "a robust digital infrastructure...to pay for the pipes," so that public media doesn't have to rely on advertisers to support distribution.

James T. Hamilton, Professor, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University
Randolph J. May, President, The Free State Foundation

Public media fills the gap between what people need and want to know to function as voters and citizens. For most people they don't see the benefit in investing time in politics--a state economists call "rational ignorance." Duty, diversion and drama play a role in voters' interst in public media--they feel obligated to be interested in politics, they find it entertaining, they are engaged by colorful characters or controversy. But public affairs reporting is expensive. This combination of cost and lack of general interest in this kind of reporting means that it's often devalued. But such journalism can save lives, save public money, and more. It's hard to monetize this value, but there is another value system to consider: the public good. Even if readers aren't consuming advocacy journalism, they benefit from its production. "It's hard to do well and do good at the same time," but what's the cost of stories not told? They are highly valuable to society.

Randolph J. May, President, The Free State Foundation
The abundance of media today calls into question the need for public media funding. Tensions inevitably arise between role of government in supporting journalism and the first amendment. "Government's involvement exacerbates public tensions in a way that makes civil discourse difficult." Perhaps if there was widespread agreement that gaps exist, government funding would be more acceptable. But, given the national debt and budgetary demands facing the country, maybe instead an "exit strategy" might be set for funding public broadcasting at all. Cites Goodman's comments that the scarce resource today is not content, but "attention," and that public media should serve a curatorial and filtering purpose. He disagrees, and says that government-supported media shouldn't serve as a filter or a megaphone, and cites the significant differences of the coverage of the Tea Party as an example of the range of views across the ideological spectrum. There are significant differences of opinion about what needs more coverage, and the market should provide as much "quality" as the market demands. He emphasizes now is the time to reduce or diminish funding, not expand it.

Goodman: There's a difference between funding content and funding capabilities. New capabilities such as streaming are not in the current mandate of CPB. Asks O'Shea how he partners with public broadcasting without fear of influence.

O'Shea: They partner with both the New York Times and the local public station, WTTW. Partnering with WTTW allows them to have a tax-exempt status; eventually they will become their own nonprofit. They share a reporter; it's a collaboration, and no one can tell them what to do. "As long as you maintain that independence," it works.

Waldman: Asks May if marketplace is providing a sufficent amount of accountability journalism.

May: Says he understands and appreciates role of accountability journalism in democracy, and that the country is undergoing a transition that affects newspapers and other news organizations. Suggests that more original reporting is cropping up, and that models will evolve to ensure more accountability journalism. Fundamentally, he believes that the government shouldn't be involved in media, and that the private media should supply accountability journalism.

Waldman: How do you respond to the model that O'Shea describes?

May: "The more attenuated direct goverment support is, the more comfortable I am." Also more supportive of government funds for infrastructure rather than content.

O'Shea: Notes that they don't get money from WTTW.

Waldman: Asks Kerger to expand on the idea that noncommercial broadcasting spun off formats like reality TV, cooking programs; is that role still necessary given the proliferation of new platforms?

Kerger: Notes that only 15 percent of public broadcasting funding comes from the government. Public media needs to survey for market gaps. Arts programming pioneered on PBS also spun off into commercial channels--Bravo and A&E--but they have now backed off from this kind of programming because it's not commercially viable, so PBS is stepping back in. "WHere the marketplace serves well," it should, when it can't "that's the role of public media."

Waldman: Notes that high-quality long-form investigative work is expensive; given the crisis wouldn't money be better spent on re-employing reporters?

Fanning: In a noisy information ecosystem, progamming that provides context is very rare. "It is the great gap, both in terms of the investigative work that is necessary to ask the hard questions of our political instiutions, and more imoprtantly, to try to frame up the larger questions." There are times when this kind of work really matters, and "if anything we need more of it."

Goodman: If there's one point of agreement on this panel, it's that public media should fill market gaps. But "here's the rub." If consumers are "rationally ignorant," but we want public media to "grow its audience," how can we expect public media to do that when we're asking it to provide information that people supposedly don't want? Puzzlingly, some public media programs do have a large audience--how to explain?

Hamilton: The largest gap is local and state accountability reporting, but right now that's not heavily represented in public media. There are things that public media can do to lower the cost of discovering stories. "Impact" is not tantamount to audience--once the story is uncovered, it can be distributed through various channels. You can also tell a story that has public impact in an entertaining way.

Fanning: Frontline had 25 million page views on its site over the last 6 months--long-form documentary actually is popular. Why should we keep paying for this kind of journalism? There are so few places that actualy do it. ProPublica, Center for Public Integrity, Investigative Reporting Workshop--all talking with Frontline about how to work together to leverage and amplify one another's work.

May: Says he sees a contradiction in Fanning's assertion; that there are enough places creating long-form journalism, and that if there's more public demand, more will be produced. When the government funds such projects, there's a "tendency to displace private support." Support will come if government withdraws.

Fanning: Networks no longer support long-form investigation; have scaled back to "hidden camera" journalism and other less hard-nosed forms of news.

Kerger: Says public broadcasting's ROI is different; they're delivering against a second bottom line of service to the American people. Now, they're also not only delivering programs for broadcast and public media sites, but content that can be distributed elsewhere, on other sites, in the classroom. "Within public media there is a clairion call to create content of the highest integrity," but also to create content that generates demand for more.

Waldman: Asks Kerger--why is there more news on public radio than public TV?

Kerger: There's a lot of local programming on public TV--public affairs, convenings, town hall, cultural coverage. There is more news on radio, and "the reason is a simple one: money." That's why more support for local news--which allows for collaboration between radio and TV--is important.

Johnson: Wondering if there's a role for public broadcasting to serve niche audiences.

Kerger: Yes, there is a role, and that's where the use of new platforms is going to be important. They are developing more content for children and teens specifically online.

Waldman: Is the distinction between international, national and local journalism important? Where are the real gaps?

O'Shea: What's really disappearing is the systematic, daily reporting conducted by newspapers. Statehouse reporting in particular has been "hit hard"--"that's really bad. I come from Illinois and I can guarantee that's not what we need." Systematic investigation of civic, governmental, private organizations is what's needed.

Hamilton: Difficult to mass up on the local level to support beat reporting. Cites a laundry list of reporters local to him who had been on various beat and had been laid off. "Those beats are gone."

And...scene. Time for lunch, back with more in a bit.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

April 09 2010

14:00

This Week in Review: The iPad has landed, WikiLeaks moves toward journalism, and net neutrality is hit

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

The iPad unleashed: If you’ve been anywhere near a computer or TV this week, it’s not hard to determine what this week’s top journalism/new media story is: Apple’s iPad hit stores Saturday, with 450,000 sold as of Thursday. I’ll spare you the scores of reviews, and we’ll jump straight to the bigger-picture and journalism-related stuff. There’s a ton to get to here, so if you’re interested in the bite-sized version, read Cory Doctorow and Howard Weaver on closed media consumption, Kevin Anderson on app pricing, and Alan Mutter and Joshua Benton on news app design.

If you’re looking for the former, The New York Times and the current issue of Wired have thoughts on the iPad and tablets’ technological and cultural impact from a total of 19 people, mostly tech types. We also saw the renewal of several of the discussions that were percolating the weeks before the iPad’s arrival: New media expert Jeff Jarvis and open-web activist Cory Doctorow took up similar arguments that the iPad is a retrograde device because it’s based around media consumption rather than creation, strangling development and making a single company our personal technology gatekeepers. In responses to Jarvis and Doctorow respectively, hyperlocal journalist Howard Owens and former McClatchy exec Howard Weaver defended those “consumers,” countering that not everybody consumes media like tech critics do — most people are primarily consumers, and that’s OK.

Meanwhile, two other writers made, judging from their pieces’ headlines, an almost identical point: The iPad is not going to save the news or publishing industries. Leaning heavily on Jeff Jarvis, The Huffington Post’s Jose Antonio Vargas made the consumption argument, saying that consumers want to tweak, question and pass around their content, not just passively consume it. And Harvard Business Review editor Paul Michelman contended that publishers are trying to retrofit their media onto this new one.

News business expert Alan Mutter and Poynter blogger Damon Kiesow offered some tips for publishers who do want to succeed on the iPad: Mutter wrote a thorough and helpful breakdown of designing for print, the web and mobile media, concluding, “Publishers who want to take full advantage of the iPad will have to do better by creating content that is media-rich, interactive, viral, transactional and mobile.” Kiesow told news orgs to consider what the iPad will be down the road as they design.

There was also quite a bit written about news organizations’ iPad apps, most of it not exactly glowing. Damon Kiesow provided a helpful list of journalism-related apps, finding that not surprisingly, most of the top selling ones are free. The high prices of many news orgs’ apps drew an inspired rant from British journalist Kevin Anderson in which he called the pricing “a last act of insanity by delusional content companies.” Poynter’s Bill Mitchell took a look at early critical comments by users about high prices and concluded that by not explaining themselves, publishers are leaving it to the crowd to make up their own less-than-charitable explanations for their moves.

As for specific apps, Poynter’s Mallary Jean Tenore was wowed by USA Today’s top-selling app, the Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum compared The New York Times’ and Wall Street Journal’s apps, and news industry analyst Ken Doctor looked at the Journal’s iPad strategy. Finally, the Nieman Journalism Lab’s Joshua Benton found three intriguing news-navigation design ideas while browsing news orgs’ iPad apps: Story-to-story navigation, pushing readers straight past headlines, and the “cyberclaustrophobia” of The New York Times’ Editors’ Choice app.

Is WikiLeaks a new form of journalism?: On Monday, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks posted video of civilians being killed by a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad in 2007. In a solid explanation of the situation, The New York Times’ Noam Cohen and Brian Stelter noted that with the video, WikiLeaks is making a major existential shift by “edging closer toward a form of investigative journalism and to advocacy.”

Others noticed the journalistic implications as well, with Jonathan Stray of Foreign Policy wondering whether WikiLeaks is pioneering a new, revolutionary avenue for sourcing outside the confines of traditional media outlets. On Twitter, Dan Gillmor posited that a key part of WikiLeaks’ ascendancy is the fact that unlike traditional news orgs, it doesn’t see itself as a gatekeeper, and C.W. Anderson declared the video and an analysis of it by a former helicopter pilot “networked journalism.” If you want to know more about WikiLeaks itself, Mother Jones has plenty of background in a detailed feature.

Net neutrality takes a hit: In the tech world, the week’s big non-iPad story came on Tuesday, when a federal judge allowed Internet service providers some ability to slow down or regulate traffic on their network. It was a huge blow to proponents of net neutrality, or the belief that all web use should be free of restrictions or institutional control. The FCC has tried for years to impose net neutrality standards on ISPs, so it’s obviously a big setback for them, too.

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and CNET all have solid summaries of the case and its broader meaning, and The Washington Post takes a look at the FCC’s options in the wake of the ruling. I haven’t seen anyone directly tie this case to journalism, though it obviously has major implications for who controls the future of the web, which in turn will influence what news organizations do there. And as Dan Gillmor notes, this isn’t just a free-speech issue; it’s also about the future of widespread broadband, something that has been mentioned in the past (including by Gillmor himself) as a potentially key piece of the future-of-news puzzle.

Murdoch rattles more sabers: As his media holdings continue to prepare to put up paywalls around their online content (The Times of London was the recent announcement), Rupert Murdoch made another public appearance this week in which he bashed search engines, free online news sites and The New York Times. There is one thing he likes about technology, though: The iPad, which he said “may well be the saving of the newspaper industry.” Staci Kramer of paidContent astutely notes that Murdoch’s own statements about charging for content imply that it will only work if virtually every news org does it. Meanwhile, Australian writer Eric Beecher argues that Murdoch’s money-losing newspapers subsidize the power and influence that the rest of his media empire thrives on.

In other paid-content news, the Chicago Reader has an informative profile of the interesting startup Kachingle, which allow users to pay a flat fee to read a number of sites, then designate how much of their money goes where and trumpet to their friends where they’re reading. Also The New Republic put a partial paywall up, and newspaper chain Freedom Communications took its test paywall down.

Reading roundup: I’ve got a pretty large collection of items for you this week, starting with a couple of bits of news and finishing with several interesting pieces to read.

Columbia University announced a new dual-degree master’s program in journalism and computer science. Eliot Van Buskirk of Wired has a deeper look at the program’s plans to produce hacker-journalists who can be pioneers in data visualization and analysis and device-driven design, along with a couple of brutally honest quotes from Columbia faculty about the relative paucity of computing skills among even “tech-savvy journalists.” Just about everybody loved the idea of the program, though journalist/developer Chris Amico cautioned that more than just dual-degree journalists need to be hanging out with the computer scientists.  ”The problem isn’t just a lack of reporters who can code, but a shortage of people in the newsroom who know what’s possible,” he wrote.

Down the road, this may be seen as a turning point: Demand Media, which has been derided lately as a “content farm” will create and run a new travel section for USA Today. As Advertising Age points out, USA Today isn’t the first newspaper to get content from Demand Media — the Atlanta Journal-Constitution gets a travel article a week — but this is collaboration of an entirely new scale.

Now the think pieces: Here at the Lab, former newspaper exec Martin Langeveld updated his year-old post asserting that more than 95 percent of readership of newspaper content is in print rather than online, and while the numbers changed a bit, his general finding did not.

In an interview with Poynter, Newser’s Michael Wolff had some provocative words for news orgs, telling them readers want stories online with less context, not more (as several folks asserted a few weeks ago at SXSW) and saying he would’ve told newspapers way back when not to go on the web at all: “[Online readers'] experiences have changed and their needs have changed, and I just don’t think traditional news companies are in a position to really understand that kind of change or to speak to it or to deliver it.”

At The Atlantic, Lane Wallace wrote that journalists’ (especially veterans’) strongest bias is not political, but is instead an predetermined assumption of a story line that prevents them from seeing the entire picture.

And lastly, two great academically oriented musings on media and society: Memphis j-prof Carrie Brown-Smith wonders if social media furthers our cultural knowledge gap, and University of Southern Denmark professor Thomas Pettitt talks to the Lab’s Megan Garber about the Gutenberg Parenthesis and society’s return to orally based communication with digital media. Both are great food for thought.

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