inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #51 of 81: Shock and Awe Cubed (robertflink) Wed 9 Feb 11 08:16
>Too much information? Certainly not! No such thing. Only inadequate

Gosh! I thought we could rely on journalists or the church or Fox or
NYT, or Focus on the Family, or Democracy Now or etc.. to filter for
us.  Do you mean we have to do our own filtering?  Who is to tell us

Wow! a whole new dimension of self-reliance.  Can I cope?  Help!!!    
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #52 of 81: Kevin Anderson (kevinanderson) Wed 9 Feb 11 20:39
Peter Richardson (to clarify from Peter Lewis) when you say public
support for political reporting, do you mean public funding or more
support from the public? If you mean public funding, why for political
journalism rather than broader categories of journalism? 

I ask both from a clarification point and also from the point that I
can't see in the current political climate when there are calls (again)
to defund public service media in the US how this might happen. Not to
be Socratic, but how would you build support for more public funding
of journalism? I'm not saying it's impossible, but I'm curious to hear
how you would turn the debate. 

As for the subject of filters, I actually see a big opportunity here.
I think the success of social filters, first with things like
recommendations in Facebook or Twitter and now with more advanced
applications such as FlipBook, and Tweeted Times, there is
definitely a hunger for this. Washington Post, NYTimes and Gannett have
plowed $12m into a new paid social aggregator Ongo. This is very 1.0
at the moment, or maybe even just outta beta. I'm quite keen how not
only social filters but also semantic technology can help journalists
and help audiences. 
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #53 of 81: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 10 Feb 11 06:50
The Texas Tribune ( is organized as a
nonprofit and gets (sometimes rabidly) enthusiastic support from donors
small and large. They started with floor-deep pockets (a large initial
donation) and worked smart from there. They cover only political news,
feeling that political coverage has diminished in other news orgs -
there's an increasingly larger gap to fill, and I think that's what
<richardsonpete> and the others he mentions are concerned about. 

Why is there a gap? The average for-profit news org is depending more
and more on infotainment, and committing fewer resources to hard
political reporting. Doing what it takes to sell, not papers, but bits.
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permalink #54 of 81: Peter Richardson (richardsonpete) Thu 10 Feb 11 08:48
Yes, I meant public funding for political journalism.  Steve Coll's
idea is to expand the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, whose budget
in real terms has risen only 5% since 1982. That budget (about $425
million) is one third of what we sent to Egypt last year.  On a per
capita basis, Canada spends about 20 times more, and the U.K. spends 50
times more.    

I focus on political journalism because it alone qualifies as a public
good in the way that economists use that term.  And other forms of
journalism (business, sports, entertainment) seem to be doing OK.  

Yes, the GOP is once again trying to zero out the CPB contribution. 
That's exactly why we need to discuss/defend/expand it. In Coll's
scenario, the money would come from spectrum user fees.  

I'm not against markets in general, but we know that they fail to
produce the right quality and quantity of public goods--defense,
infrastructure, education, law enforcement, and (I would argue) health
care. No one asks the army to be profitable, but we (alone?) seem to
think that the lifeblood of our democracy should rise and fall on that
basis.  The founders had no such illusion.    
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permalink #55 of 81: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 11 Feb 11 06:18
How should the Corporation for Public Broadcasting change in a
post-broadcast world? While expansion of the CPB budget is an
(unlikely, right now) option, I would think a reconsideration of budget
allocation makes sense, and maybe a name change given the evolution of
the media ecology from top-down mass broadcast to bottom-up networks
of niches. 

The CPB mission still works: "to facilitate the development of, and
ensure universal access to, non-commercial high-quality programming and
telecommunications services." But development and access have changed
radically since CPB was created in 1967.
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permalink #56 of 81: Andrew Haeg (andrewhaeg) Fri 11 Feb 11 14:37
The House is set to take up a continuing resolution next week that
includes a zeroing out CPB funds, which could mean the loss of $440
million in funding for public broadcasting. Folks who have fended off
threats to the CPB for many years say this year feels more dangerous
and more real than any other. 

Even so, I think it's critical for us in public broadcasting to be
laser-focused on the market failure we were created to fill. In other
words, what kinds of information or services are the commercial media
failing to provide at scale, and what are the acute information needs
of the public?  

I have some ideas, but I'd like to throw that question to this group.
What's missing from journalism today that public broadcasting should be
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permalink #57 of 81: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 11 Feb 11 23:09
The Texas Tribune just hired away the woman who's been doing the
weekly Idaho legislative reports on public television here. Thanh Tan,
and she looks like she should be hanging on a charm bracelet, but she's
a dynamo.
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permalink #58 of 81: Scott Rosenberg (scottros) Sat 12 Feb 11 21:59
I'm really sorry that I've contributed so little here--crazy week--but
lucky me, I get to catch up on a great discussion. Here are some notes
and responses.

Tony said in 24: "Because media organizations have less control of
information flow today, they can no longer insist that readers 'should'
consider different viewpoints."

The thing is, they never really *could* insist this. Didn't stop them,
but really, if someone isn't interested in considering a different
viewpoint, the urging of a columnist or an editorialist is hardly going
to make a difference. We've always had echo chambers, but echo
chambers in the broadcast world -- Fox being the most successful -- are
far more dangerous than echo chambers online, because they're
broadcast: you can't talk back to them in their own medium.

But I don't think the gatekeepers of media power have ever felt that
the central purpose of their "control of information flow" was to make
sure that partisans had to confront opposing views. Instead, this
control has always been deployed in service of agenda-setting and
boundary-drawing: saying "this is what's important now" and "this isn't
a story." The Net really does alter this dynamic, and I think  that's
on balance a good thing.

Look at how this just worked in Egypt. The Egyptian state media wanted
to make Tahrir Square a non-story. Maybe the protests would stop if
state TV didn't tell the world about them. Well, the Net bollixed that
plan, and by the time Mubarak pulled the plug on the Net it was too
late. Ah, but the US press doesn't work that way. Or does it? Sometimes
the US media have been highly effective at declaring certain points of
view so far out of bounds that they become nearly invisible. The
online channel means they can't be totally stifled, but they can be
cordoned off from the national debate and the public consciousness. The
most pernicious example of this in recent history was, of course, the
runup to the Iraq War, when antiwar perspectives were written out of
the public dialogue, and most of our media establishment -- including
some of its most important pillars -- became propaganda organs of the

When the media lose their power of boundary-drawing, of course, it
also means that loonies and lies can be heard more readily. Which is
why I think the idea of "media literacy" education touched on here
will, in fact, I think, become a growth industry. The radical
transformation of our media diet is central to our politics today --
both its hopeful aspects and its pathologies -- and people increasingly
understand that their children need to learn to think critically about
it. To Ed Ward's point, it doesn't have to be seen as a liberal
conspiracy. Conservatives need to be media literate too. Many of them
already are!

I'm glad that Kevin mentioned Dan Gillmor's new book "Mediactive."
It's a wonderful primer and guide to many of the topics this discussion
has touched on. 

On the perennial "Who is a journalist" theme, rather than rehash
something I've been talking about for years, I'll point you to a talk I
gave at Stanford Law last year, "No more bouncers at the journalism
club door." I argued that we should stop worrying about "who is a
journalist," throw away the convention of the press card, and instead
think about laws and institutions that protect *acts of journalism*:

Tiffany asked about whether the Net opens more room for voices that
have been traditionally less well represented in the media, and that
remains an important question.  The spectrum of voices that can speak
and be heard online *is* wider in important ways, I think. But the
online media that have evolved on the Net -- the new institutions of
journalism -- remain just as demographically unrepresentative as the
old media. Much more work to do.

As for the McChesney/Nichols/Coll call to boost public-funded media,
it seems to me that it is impractical/implausible in today's Beltway,
where we'll be fighting to save NPR, not to expand it. Even more
important, the campaign is, to me, fundamentally backward-looking. It's
about replacing dollars, not rethinking journalism.

So when Andrew asks, "What's missing from public broadcasting?" I
answer: a vision of public service journalism that is *not*
broadcasting. Public media isn't defined by radio and TV platforms,
it's defined by a set of ideals about public service, fairness, civic
value, and access. We need to find ways to carry forward those ideals 
into an era when broadcasting is going to gradually vanish and niche
media, conversational media, personalized media will dominate. 
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #59 of 81: Peter Richardson (richardsonpete) Sun 13 Feb 11 10:49
I'm not sure there's anything about public support that's limited to
television and radio.  I also doubt those media will vanish.  
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #60 of 81: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 14 Feb 11 09:14
Will the future of media and journalism be built on the backs of
"serfs" working for free?

The Times article really gets to the heart of a rather hairy issue for
career journalists (and those hoping to build a career in the

"The Huffington Post, social networks and traditional media may all
seem like different animals, but as advertising, the mother’s milk of
all media, flows toward social and amateur media, low-cost and no-cost
content is becoming the norm....For those of us who make a living
typing, it’s all very scary, of course. It’s less about the diminution
of authority and expertise, although there is that, and more about the
growing perception that content is a commodity, and one that can be had
for the price of zero."
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permalink #61 of 81: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Mon 14 Feb 11 11:26
THe HuffPo debacle is only the most egregious example of this trend
toward paying writers in "exposure." Which is certainly a kind of
currency, particularly in a celebrity=obsessed culture, but it sure as
hell doesn't get you very far at the local Stop and Shop. On the other
hand, selling what she got in return for providing that exposure will
buy Arianna a great deal of caviar. 

An interesting, if boutique-y approach to part of this problem is The
Atavist <>, which tries to preserve the values of
magazine journalism--fact-checking, deep reporting, nice design--while
using a digital platform, and all the toys that enables, and still
charging money for the privilege of reading it.

Myself, I'm glad for two things. One, that I never tried to make a
living this way, so it's been more like butter-and-egg money for me,
and two, that I sank part of the only big advance I ever got into a
house in Nicaragua, where I could probably afford to live on a
freelancer's pay if I decided to try. 
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permalink #62 of 81: Ed Ward (captward) Mon 14 Feb 11 11:42
Not very encouraging to someone who made a living for 45 years at this
game and is desperately trying to fit into the new landscape -- and
who has no desire whatever to live in Nicaragua. 

So do we just wait out this new! shiny! approach to journalism and
wait for the return of content we can get paid for and hope we don't
starve to death in the meanwhile? Or is there a more proactive
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #63 of 81: Gary Greenberg (gberg) Mon 14 Feb 11 11:52
Well, we could start by not providing content for free. And making
sure that the people who solicit it understand that's why we're not
saying yes. (I'll see if I can dig up a recent exchange between me and
a shiny! perky! editor at Psychology Today onn this very subject.)
But that's mostly for self-respect.

I also do really annoying things that are probably ineffective and
self-defeating and mark me as an outdated curmudgeon to boot. Like when
I put something up on my website about a magazine article I've
written, I suggest, not without a certain amount of guilt-infliction,
that people subscribe to the magazine rather than link to the online
article. (After a few months, I do put a pdf up on my site, or link to
it if the magazine provides it for free--which other than Harper's,
which is, not coincidentally, circling the drain at this very moment,
they all do.) 

As for the return of content--seems to me that the idea of what's
worthwhile to read (and write) has changed immensely, which means that
it's unlikely to return. And much as I like to think that when there's
nothing left but bloggers blogging about blogs, people will finally
come to their senses, I'm sure I'm wrong about that.
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permalink #64 of 81: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 14 Feb 11 12:43
"I suggest, not without a certain amount of guilt-infliction,
that people subscribe to the magazine rather than link to the online

Magazines are supported by ads and so are websites. When you buy the
magazine at the counter, that money's eaten by overhead - probably by
distribution overhead - so it's not clear that the publisher makes more
money from the sale of paper with ads than from your eyeballs on the
website with ads, which is much cheaper to distribute. I'd also note
that when I was in the magazine business, the distributors were not
good about floating the money from magazine sales back our way (but
that might not be a universal problem).

So I don't think you should feel bad about sending them to the

Some websites do very well with ad revenues - boing boing, HuffPo,
DailyKos, and Gawker (actually a media network) I'm certain have done
well. I also have the unverified impression that NY Times had better
revenues from ads after opening its content up than with subscriptions
when it was locked down.

Of those, I think most pay writers, though not all of them. HuffPo has
had both paid and free writing, boing boing's bloggers share in its
profits... I'm less sure about Kos and Gawker. I think Kos can be
thought of as more of a community system but without the many diaries,
and the many more readers reading them, Markos would never have had the
eyeballs to justify serious ad sales.

These are just some observations. I know that plenty of writers are
being paid for writing online. I've been paid for it, myself, though
I've done a lot more for free. My time is so overcommitted now I have
to charge for most of what I do, and my blog is suffering for it. (It
also needs an editor, that's another story...)

I've watched with interest as Texas Tribune has done increasingly well
with its nonprofit model, wondering if that's a big part of the future
of journalism...?
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permalink #65 of 81: Ed Ward (captward) Mon 14 Feb 11 12:46
I just did a piece for the Oxford American's music issue, and the
understanding was I'd get the same fee for publication on the Web,
since they didn't have room for the article in the paper edition. 

We'll see: queries have gone unanswered so far, and the magazine's
been out a couple of months. 
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permalink #66 of 81: Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Mon 14 Feb 11 17:47
I'd like to second (third, fourth, fifth, whatever) the recommendation
of Dan Gillmor's excellent new project, Mediactive. I was about to
call it a book, but that's so analog. The digital versions of
Mediactive include links and include a companion website where Dan
updates things regularly. So far I've not discovered any use of
augmented reality, 3D data visualization or other non-bookish
embellishments, but perhaps he's saving those for a subsequent edition.

How do we find trustworthy information online? Dan argues that we get
it the old-fashioned way ... we earn it. We firm up our flabby
crap-detection muscles (tip o the hat to Howard Rheingold), revel in
skepticism and suspicion, use judgment, investigate different and
opposing news sources, ignore anonymous and unsigned commentary,
investigate a writer's background and prior work, visit,
employ whois, view sourcecode, make sure the advertisements match the
content of the website, check regrettheerror and other error-monitoring
sites, assume the fresher the news is the less trustworthy it is,
support startups like Fabrice Florian's NewsTrust  ... and a lot of
other stuff. 

Damn! That's hard work. Gillmor argues that it's only going to get
harder with the shift from the 1,440-minute news cycle to the
86,400-second news cycle, with Twitter and other real-time-web news
The message is we'll get trustworthy news only if we demand it and
work for it. We need to hold the New York Times and Fox News and other
paragons of media accountable for their failures with the run-up to the
Iraq war and the financial collapse of 2008 and the coverage of global
climate change. We need to question potential conflicts of interests
now that anyone can write for a global audience on influential sites
like HuffPAol. 

As for Government financing of news coverage... historians, help me
out. When the Government awarded television and radio spectrum to
private corporations, licenses worth untold billions of dollars, didn't
they require the broadcasters to set aside significant airtime for
news, public service and education?

And how well did that turn out?

The tax codes already support news organizations and non-profit news

Suppose the GOP allowed just one new tax ... a broadband tax,
collected from every Internet and digital cable subscriber, to finance
quality journalism. How long before the fighting starts on who gets the
funds? Who runs the new news operations? How they hire reporters? The
subjects they cover? 

I don't see how it could possibly work, and I don't know many
(actually, any) journalists besides McChesney and Nichols who would
accept direct Government funding. 
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permalink #67 of 81: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 14 Feb 11 22:52
I hadn't thought about direct government funding for journalism, seems
that would be a strange beast without legs. The nonprofit,
non-government model makes a lot of sense, though. 

I've wondered how the New Yorker's doing, putting so much of its
content online. Expensive content: clearly a lot of time and care goes
into writing those long investigative pieces. I just read Lawrence
Wright's excellent piece on Paul Haggis and Scientology
published online the day it showed up in print, complete with embedded

I admire the way a really good journalist will blast clusters of
contradictory facts and let the reader find the most credible path.
I've tried to write that way in the past, but it takes time to capture
the multiple perspectives and flesh 'em out.
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #68 of 81: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 15 Feb 11 06:21
Hey guys, been a bit occupied and haven't been able to keep up with
this,so glad it will be archived. What I loved most about the WELL back
in the '90's was the ability to dialog with many of the people who
later published in the media. Many times it seemed as if I was days
ahead of the news.

That's been taking place still, but mostly it happens for me now on
Twitter. I imagine you all have your own PLN's there with rich
resources and conversations. Mediactive is a good example of some of
the new things that are developing, with more coming daily. It's all so

My point is that this whole shift to a new way of doing journalism
includes a new way of sourcing and connecting and we all haven't found
each other yet or learned how best to use all these tools. So there is
a bit of lag time and learning curve involved. 

There are so many ways now to create our Networks, with so many ways
to focus on particular data streams. Wondering if most of your skills
and methods are transferable to it all, or if you are finding you have
to learn some new tricks? And also if there isn't a sense of "this is a
whole new day, with whole new ways" that no one really understands
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permalink #69 of 81: Can we grasp the sorry scheme of things entire? (robertflink) Tue 15 Feb 11 09:05
Interesting to contemplate the idea that those who watch and report on
the changing world may find changes in their own field disconcerting.

Perhaps we all have trouble seeing what is right under our noses.
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #70 of 81: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 15 Feb 11 09:30
Yup...also it's just plain hard to "see" right now
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permalink #71 of 81: Tiffany Lee Brown (magdalen) Tue 15 Feb 11 22:54

the "bloggers blogging about blogs" comment rings true. if we get to the
point where no one is actually reporting on anything --- or everyone is
reporting on everything --- there will be no canonical knowledge and no
definitive sources. 

maybe we should think about past media revolutions, small and large, and
see how industries weathered them. TV didn't kill radio. the desktop
publishing revolution didn't kill the mainstream magazine industry (quite
the contrary). i suppose Gutenberg didn't do the illuminated manuscript
cartel any favors, though. and cable, plus internet, has wreaked havoc on
network/broadcast television.

it's wonderful to make everyone a content generator. so democratic. but it
does pull the plug on some of our moneymaking activities. i am paid about
25% of what i'd have made for the equivalent work in the 1995-2000 era, to
write a blog for Syfy now. and then several compatriots told me i'm
actually getting paid very well for it compared to similar gigs they've
gotten recently. 

this is.... scary.
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permalink #72 of 81: Peter Lewis (peterlewis) Wed 16 Feb 11 01:17
In 2007 I freelanced a piece for the inaugural issue of the
short-lived Conde Nast Portfolio (known around the water cooler as Fort
Polio). I was paid $2 per word for a 1,000-word piece that was
eventually cut until nothing remained but picture captions. Michael
Lewis (no relation) also freelanced a piece for that issue. He was paid
$10 per word. That's less than the $12 per word Tom Wolfe got. I
believe that must have been the high-water mark for spending for
freelance journalism, but I could be wrong. 

Now we're in an era where good writers who used to command a buck or
two per word are happy to get 25 cents. One editor tells me he pays
writers "a penny per click." Not long ago Forbes offered me the
opportunity to write a regular blog for Pay? Zip. "It's
good exposure," they said. Sixty gazillion blogs are created every
month (number is estimated). Most are self-financed.

HuffPo just sold itself to AOL for north of $300 million, more than
10X its annual revenue. HuffPo has a few staff writers who are paid
decently, but the vast majority of pieces on HuffPo are written by
writers who aren't paid a dime. (Not a dime per word; not a dime per
article. They write for free.) A leaked document reveals that AOL
expects its staff writers to produce five to 10 stories per day. Demand
Media pays its freelancers $10, $15 or $20 per article.

There are still some print journalists who get paid handsomely. I know
a few who command around half a million dollars a year. I know some
writing stars whose six-figure salaries from leading publications
merely cover the taxes on their income from speaking fees. The business
manager of the not-for-profit Bay Citizen is paid $400K. The editor of
the not-for-profit Texas Tribune is paid north of a quarter-million
per year. The top editor of non-profit ProPublica tops half a million.
But those lucky ones are exceedingly rare. 

The harsh reality is that the pay scale for the average freelance
journalist is reverting to zip. It's a textbook case of supply and
demand. Supply is soaring faster than demand. These days, nearly every
company is a media company, and nearly every sentient being with a
computer is a content producer.

Demand Media: IPO Valuation $1.5 billion. Business model: Selling ads
based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $15 per
500-word article (certainly below minimum wage).

HuffPo: Valuation $315 million. Business model: Selling ads based on
number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0.

Twitter: Best-guess Valuation $8 billion. Business model: Selling ads
based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0.

FaceBook: Best-guess Valuation $50 billion. Business model: Selling
ads based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0.

Groupon: Best guess Valuation $15 billion. Business model: Selling ads
based on number of readers. Typical pay to content providers: $0.

You can bet that other media companies see the trend. When a content
factory like Demand Media has a higher valuation on Wall Street than
The New York Times, something is seriously upscrewed in the way quality
journalism is valued.

Whaddaya think?
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #73 of 81: Ed Ward (captward) Wed 16 Feb 11 02:06
Dunno if you've had your snot quotient today, but I got enraged about
four paragraphs into this. 


Time to take these folks down a peg, I think. 
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #74 of 81: Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Wed 16 Feb 11 05:48
inkwell.vue.402 : The Future of Journalism
permalink #75 of 81: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 16 Feb 11 10:01
Someone recently pointed out to me that the arc of history for media
brought about by the digital revolution has replaced the Gutenberg
printing area and brought us back to the oral tradition. This all seems
to be some of the fallout from that.


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