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December 03 2009


Best of Twitter: FTC Workshop Discusses Future of Journalism

For two days this week, some of journalism's most high profile executives and experts descended upon Washington, DC, for "How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?" a workshop hosted by the FTC.

One exchange of note came between Rupert Murdoch and Arianna Huffington, who spoke separately but did a good job of representing two divergent points of view. Murdoch kicked things off with a paean to paid content.

"In the new business model, we will be charging consumers for the news we provide on our Internet sites...The critics say people won't pay," he said. "I believe they will, but only if we give them something of good and useful value. Our customers are smart enough to know that you don't get something for nothing."

He also took aim at aggregators and websites that he said misappropriate content.

"Some rewrite, at times without attribution, the news stories of expensive and distinguished journalists who invested days, weeks, or even months in their stories, all under the tattered veil of 'fair use,' " he said. "These people are not investing in journalism. They are feeding off the hard-earned efforts and investments of others. And their almost wholesale misappropriation of our stories is not 'fair use.' To be impolite, it's theft."

Later, Huffington took her turn at the mic.

"It amazes me that Murdoch and Brill and the pay wall team at the [New York] Times continue to believe that people are prepared to pay for news online, despite the recent survey showing that 80 percent of U.S. news consumers say they wouldn't bother to read news and magazines online if the content were no longer free," she said.

Huffington also stood up for citizen journalists, bloggers, and other groups that she felt were maligned by Murdoch. "The contributions of citizen journalists, bloggers, and others who aren't paid to cover the news are constantly mocked and derided by the critics of new media who clearly don't understand that technology has enabled millions of consumers to shift their focus from passive observation to active participation -- from couch potato to self-expression," she said.

Their speeches were only a small part of the event, and we've culled the best and most interesting tweets about the workshop to offer a sense of what struck home with people. We removed the #ftcnews hashtag from most of these tweets, and cleaned up some typos. You can read the raw feed of tweets on the workshop by going to the Twitter hashtag #ftcnews.

Morning Session: Day One

ereuben RT @jeffjarvis: Murdoch: "Let aggregators desist +start employng own journalists." Let news orgs desist & do own mkting, then. <YES

DebGH Good to see all players in one place at FTC hearing, but seems the usual suspects are giving us the usual spiel. Where's the "wow"?

AccuracyInMedia A question? Someone got to ask a question at #ftcnews? Oh, wait, it was just FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz. Way to engage the public!

Riversiderider No consumer groups reps here. Only biz insiders & professors paid by donors.

TonyFratto RT @jeffjarvis Scripps brags about building a new printing plant in Florida. // Building it next to the typewriter factory, I hear.

amandachapel @javaun "The low barrier to entry means amateurs can hop on, but there pros here too" Like water and a farmer watching a tsunami.

candacejeanne We are 1 month away from 2010. Here's a #newyearsresolution: Let's finally stop calling it "new media."

jeffjarvis FTC bureaucrat: you are leading the witness and betraying your legacy protectionist prejudice.

DebGH Finally: News media biz models must have quality product for success -- crap in a fancy package is still crap.

spj_tweets Huffington at #ftcnews: calling aggregators parasites and thieves is the news industry equivalent of "your momma wears army boots."

javaun Huffington: having glenn beck not searchable on google is good for democracy, bad for business.

jen_mcfadden Arianna might be giving the ballsiest FTC testimony ever.

paidContent Murdoch: Ask consumers to pay for products they consume. Gov't power should promote innovators, not prop up failure.

Afternoon Session, Day One

jcstearns Irony of pundits who tell govt. stay out of journalism & lobby for policy changes benefiting them bit.ly/6EDovD via @jeffbercovici

jpshankle Trying to tweet fairly neutral but not clear if most presenters understand aggregators, links, or internet conceptually at all

Danny_Glover Lem Lloyd of Yahoo just used the word "taxonomy" at #ftcnews, so I'm officially tuning him out. Unofficially, I've been bored a while.

SaveTheNews Brill: "The whole idea of government makes me uncomfortable except for the IRS reforms Len Downie describes."

yelvington In the boom years, the Net was occupied by rainbows and ponies. Now it's full of vampires and kleptomaniacs.

Edgecliffe Robert Thomson: govt handouts would create new class of content concubines

LeavittDC Solid advice from Reuters: "Stop replicating things that are already done by people who, frankly, do it better than you."

SaveTheNews People keep talking about the low bar of entry to online publishing but roughly 40% of America doesn't have high speed internet.

jcstearns Mike Bloxham says those of us who frequent future-of-news events like #FTCnews are freaks of nature. / Knowing laughter in the room.

spj_tweets From #ftcnews: Are newspapers like typewriters (i.e. dead) or bicycles (i.e. adaptable and vibrant)?

sydneyin140 Can someone explain why FTC can hold a thoughtful wkshop like this while the FDA still thinks the internet is radio with pictures?

Blasiol2_uwm #ftcnews is ravaging my thesis topic.

Morning Session, Day Two

jessdrkn Rosenstiel: revenue of newspaper from print is like sands of hour glass where one day it will be gone

bobwyman The faith in "Journalistic Exceptionalism" is no more healthy than are the many similar nationalistic or faith based prejudices.

AccuracyInMedia Rep. Henry Waxman now speaking about "the future of journalism," and he's not even on #Twitter. Clueless and backward.

dannysullivan Government's going to have to be involved in one way or another. waxman on journalism reform #ftcnews no he didn't say obamapaper :)

jen_mcfadden I'm sorry, Rep. Waxman, it will be solved by itself. It's called capitalism. Bring on the start-ups.

tgdavidson Dumb thought of the day, from Waxman: Have cities fund news! How might that work in Balt., Mayor Dixon?

wrldtree Interesting presentation at #ftcnews by Gentzkow that show that newspaper closings leads to less voting, at local and national levels.

jen_mcfadden "Journalism encourages people to act in their role as citizens" So do new tools like seeclickfix.com - need to think more broadly

tgdavidson More proof the #futureofnews won't be created at a conference: RT @jcstearns Only two software developer in the room at #FTCnews

jessdrkn Eric Newton, Pres, Journo Program, Knight Foundation: journalism does not need saving, so much as creating

Tracyvs The Big O!, Recipes, and Networks: What the FTC's Journalism Summit isn't Talking About http://bit.ly/6Pcwae

pilhofer Starting the Joaquin Alvarado fan club. The guy utterly, totally, completely gets it.

alisaamiller Eric newton fr knight. It's professional ethics. It's about firewalls. The fear of more govt funding and prejudicing content =bogus

Afternoon Session, Day Two

keverhart Pubcasting reform workshoped by FTC panel: there's more to it than expanding newsrooms. http://tinyurl.com/yb2qwz2

digiphile Spotty wifi fix: Stenographer tosses 3G USB modem to US CTO Chopra, who hands it to @pilhofer & @ericuman. Public-private coop FTW!

SaveTheNews At #FTCnews @pilhofer says "I'm a reporter by trade and a nerd by avocation"

sydneyin140 Journalism not content, it's what people take into their minds and hearts. It took 2 days at #ftcnews before anyone used the word "story."

sdkstl PBS.com's Seiken: added a "failure" category to performance reviews. If an employee doesn't fail enough, gets marked down.

sydneyin140 Oh dear, bdcst union rep missed the memo: "A person tweeting from a news scene is not a journalist."

martindave Missing from the debate: Not enough diversity focus on serving the truly needy in our society. Poor, elderly, youth esp children.

PotatoPro My view: journalism may turn from a job into a skill. Like "public speaking" you write in you area of expertise

jmhaigh To recap #FTCnews this will get sausaged into summary doc, consensus points highlighted, collab w/FCC & proposals @ part deux, springtime?

densmore53 Aggregation of #ftcnews FTC journalism event running notes at: http://bit.ly/5ymuoj #rji

Jessica Clark directs the Future of Public Media project at American University's Center for Social Media. There, she conducts and commissions research on media for public knowledge and action, and organizes related events like the Beyond Broadcast conference. She is also the co-author of a forthcoming book, "Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media," due out from the New Press in February.

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December 02 2009


Get off the lawn

There’s one thing that Rupert Murdoch, Arianna Huffington, Steve Brill, and I agreed on yesterday – and and there’s probably nothing else one can imagine this group would ever find consensus around. At the two-day Federal Trade Commission “workshop” (read: hearing) that asked how journalism will “survive” (their word) in the internet age, we all told the commissioner to kindly butt out.

Murdoch talked about a drumbeat building to bail out newspapers and how that would be a mistake, just as bailing out GM was. The government shouldn’t save companies that make things customers don’t want, he argued. Huffington said there’s no need for government intervention and after her speech (read: testimony), I interviewed her for my upcoming Guardian MediaTalkUSA podcast and when I pointed out that she agreed with Rupert, she pointed out that he was asking for government favors in his threats to try to rewrite fair use. Brill started his talk begging government to stay out.

And I told Liebowitz that the future of news will be entrepreneurial not institutional; the institutions had and blew their chance. What we need is a level lawn where the tender shoots of these new businesses can grow without government trampling them on its way to try to protect the legacy players.

But the commissioner’s title for this “workshop” alone – “How will journalism survive the internet age?” – is prejudicial, a foreshadowing of the results they have already prescribed: it implies saving the legacy players when, as the Knight Foundation’s Eric Newton said at the hearings today, journalism doesn’t need to be saved, it needs to be created. (The reason I’m not there today is that I am teaching my entrepreneurial journalism course. That’s one way to save journalism: build it.) The choice of speakers was itself prejudicial: mostly the old players who played their tiny violins. The questioning was prejudicial: an FTC bureaucrat threw a newspaper exec a soft ball to decry aggregators and suggest how he wanted to get money out of them (not hearing the idea that aggregators who are adding value to the content). Liebowitz’s presumptions about the event were prejudicial; in his opening talk, he said he has already scheduled more hearings to talk about copyright (read: changing copyright to favor the dying institutions).

My requestion to Liebowitz and company: Get off our lawn!

Maybe, just maybe, he heard a bit of this. He told the Wall Street Journal last night, “I think the message from today is be very, very cautious before you do anything.” How about nothing.

But from the looks of Twitter, it’s worse today. Rep. Henry Waxman told the group today that “Congress responds to market failures.” But this is not a market failure. It’s a market, doing what markets do. Let the market do that.

Rep. Waxman: Get off our lawn!

Sponsored post

Arianna Huffington on the desperation of Journalism 2009

Full text of Arianna Huffington’s ‘Desperate metaphors, desperate revenue models, and the desperate need for better journalism’ speech, made at a Federal Trade Commission event in Washington DC – at this link. An extract:

“So now sites that aggregate the news have become, in the words of Rupert Murdoch and his team, ‘parasites,’ ‘content kleptomaniacs,’ ‘vampires,’ ‘tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internets,’ and, of course, thieves who ’steal all our copyright.’

“It’s the news industry equivalent of ‘your mama wears army boots!’ Although, not quite as persuasive.

“In most industries, if your customers were leaving in droves, you would try to figure out what to do to get them back. Not in the media. They’d rather accuse aggregators of stealing their content.”

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December 01 2009


FTC Should Consider Policy Reform to Support Public Media 2.0

It's been a busy season for prognosticators who examine the intersection of public policy and media. Today will be particularly hectic for them, as journalists, bloggers, public broadcasters and policy wonks pack into a session at the Federal Trade Commission to ponder, yet again, "How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?" (Submit your own thoughts via Twitter here).


Two weeks ago, the Future of News Summit in Minneapolis considered the fate of regional journalism. And throughout 2009, there have been countless closed-door conversations mapping out different scenarios about how policy solutions might help salvage reporting capacity.

At these events, the public or non-profit model is often presented as an answer. The amount of serious reporting is diminishing, the argument goes, so public broadcasters should rush into the breach. In their much-discussed paper, The Reconstruction of American Journalism, Michael Schudson and Len Downie put it this way:

Public radio and television should be substantially reoriented to provide significant local news reporting in every community served by public stations and their Web sites. This requires urgent action by and reform of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, increased congressional funding and support for public media news reporting, and changes in mission and leadership for many public stations across the country.

Despite the scope of the challenge, foundations and public broadcasters are taking these calls to action to heart. The CPB and Knight Foundation are teaming up to fund the $3 million Argo Project, which supports local reporting focused on specific topics by journalist-bloggers based at stations. Under the leadership of president and CEO Vivian Schiller, NPR has been making bold plays to build a multi-platform news network that bridges local and national news production.

As someone who is watching this shift of focus, it seems as though the move to increase resources for journalism is less a result of a top-down policy change, and more a matter of internal policy decisions on the part of the many organizations that comprise the public broadcasting system. You could even say it's something of a grassroots movement, with scattered reporting experiments cropping up at stations around the country.

Of course, any increase in taxpayer dollars for public broadcasting might be earmarked to support even more reporters. But serious policy proposals need to go further. Simply producing additional news doesn't address the demand side of the issue.

Engaging the Public

As we've been arguing at the Center for Social Media, successful Public Media 2.0 projects must directly convene publics to learn about and tackle shared problems. This means more than just handing out yet another serving of information to a surfeited audience; it's about engaging users at every phase -- planning, funding, production, distribution, conversation, curation, and mobilization -- to make sure that all stakeholders' voices are included. This ensures different perspectives are aired, and that content is interesting, relevant and accurate. As the "Instant White Paper" that was issued after the Future of News Summit noted:

The needs of the audience can no longer be taken for granted, and new and creative efforts must be devised to listen authentically to the public (not in a check-the-box fashion, which CPB President and CEO Patricia Harrison said tends to be the case), and then provide them with quality information that is both enticing and informative. "Draw me in. Engage me. Challenge me," said longtime public radio consultant and online attendee Israel Smith, "make the radio (or whatever platform) experience as compelling as the journalism. If not, I'll go somewhere else." As MPR's Chris Worthington put it, we need to "listen more to the audience" to understand what the gaps in journalism are we need to fill, and what sort of journalism they will value.

Okay, that's a start. Listening to audiences is good; partnering with them to solve problems would be even better. But what other policy strategies might support a media system that makes this possible? Here are a few suggestions.

Amending the Public Broadcasting Act

A more responsive, dynamic public media system is already evolving hand-in-hand with the ever-increasing availability of high-speed broadband. The FCC has been calling for its own hearings and public comments to support the creation of a national broadband plan. In response, Center for Social Media fellow Ellen Goodman, who is also a professor at Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, submitted a set of comments that outline how public media could spur broadband adoption.

To allow it to do so effectively, she suggests, Congress will need to take another look at the Public Broadcasting Act. Titled, "Digital Public Media Networks to Advance Broadband And Enrich Connected Communities," Goodman's comments offer up a set of new parameters for public media: she argues that it should be accessible, modular, engaging, networked, diverse, innovative, and transparent. Taken together, these new characteristics form the acronym "AMEND-IT" -- a provocative suggestion that will raise eyebrows at some traditional public broadcasting institutions.

A Presidential Commission

Media reformers from the Free Press have also been calling for a reboot of public broadcasting legislation. Earlier this month, executive director Josh Silver told Current, the newspaper that serves the public broadcasting sector, that the organization is lobbying the Obama administration to appoint a bi-partisan "high-level, White House-sanctioned commission" to consider "the information needs of citizens in a digitally networked democracy." This language mirrors that of the recent Knight Commission report, which makes its own pitch for boosting funding to public media.


Candace Clement of Free Press coordinates the organization's New Public Media campaign. She said that the first step in reinvigorating public media is broadening the definition of the sector.

"For us, public media means non-commercial media that is created by a wide variety of organizations and individuals," she said. "The traditional conception includes NPR and PBS, but we also include community media, and local or national providers who are providing the media that commercial media won't."

She stressed that recent legislative campaigns are focused not only on supporting new forms of media production, but on preserving the capacity of citizens to report via older platforms, such as low-power radio and cable access stations. Such platforms are still quite valuable at the local level, especially for users who haven't yet made it online, and don't often see their concerns reflected in large, for-profit media.

Clement ticked off other planks in the New Public Media campaign platform, including changing how public media is funded, taking a more critical look at governance structures, increasing diversity within the sector and the content it produces, and supporting infrastructure and technology improvements that will allow public media makers to stay accessible and relevant.

"We have a system," she said, "but it needs a lot of changes before it can do the kind of work we need it to do."

Policy solutions to support journalism are not called out explicitly in the New Public Media campaign, but are a central focus of a related Free Press campaign, Save the News. The organization marshaled more than 2,000 citizens to respond to the FTC's call for comment for today's event.

Turbulence Ahead

For many, be they reporters, citizens or news media moguls, the idea of government-supported media sets off warning bells. Some worry that federal funding could stifle criticism, generate political conflicts of interest, or at the very least result in what Jeff Jarvis described as boring "broccoli journalism."

Conservatives like Glenn Beck of Fox News see public media policy reform as a land grab by liberals that -- somewhat paradoxically given the increasingly open media ecosystem -- could muzzle free speech. Libertarians argue that government should stay out of the news business (along with everything else, thank you very much), likening it to "a welfare system for journalists." Local communities are wrestling with questions about whether their stations' top priorities should be news production or civic engagement.

All of this means that, as Richard Gingras, CEO of Salon Media quipped at the Minneapolis summit, for now at least, "The future of news is a future of conferences about the future of news."

Prognosticators, keep those bags packed.

Jessica Clark directs the Future of Public Media project at American University's Center for Social Media. There, she conducts and commissions research on media for public knowledge and action, and organizes related events like the Beyond Broadcast conference. She is also the co-author of a forthcoming book, "Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media," due out from the New Press in December 2009.

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


First, do no harm, government

Relevant to today’s FTC workshops (read: hearings) on the “survival” (their word… I would have said “rebirth:) of journalism in the internet age, Geoffrey Cowan and David Westphal issue a good set of principles for government involvement (read: meddling or support):

First and foremost, do no harm. A cycle of powerful innovation is under way. To the extent possible, government should avoid retarding the emergence of new models of newsgathering.

Second, the government should help promote innovation, as it did when the Department of Defense funded the research that created the Internet or when NASA funded the creation of satellites that made cable television and direct TV possible.

Third, for commercial media, government-supported mechanisms that are content neutral — such as copyright protections, postal subsidies and taxes — are preferable to those that call upon the government to fund specific news outlets, publications or programs.

I disagree about their conclusion: that government has always supported media (with postal discounts, legal notices, tax breaks) and that should continue. I disagree on principle and as a practical matter. Postal discounts are in force for many – including junk mailers – and in any case they become less relevant when news isn’t printed. Legal notices, I believe, should go online in standard data forms and feeds, making them more available to more people, giving us a permanent record of them, and – critically – saving taxpayers money. There’s no reason for media to have tax breaks (except, as other industries receive them, for innovation).

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