On Hope, Hopelessness, and Change

There have already been thousands of blog posts written about Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize, so I am coming a bit late to the game here. But as a late arrival I have the benefit of stepping back and trying to take more of a long view of what has been said, and what it might all mean. While most of the ink spilled about the award focused on Barack Obama’s worthiness to receive such an honor or on how this announcement might hurt or help him politically. While there were a few thoughtful critiques, both of these arguments tended to echo the hollow horse race media coverage we see around elections.

I am less interested in whether Obama deserves the award and more interested in the intentions of the Nobel committee in choosing him. Clearly the committee was interested in sending a message – and while some snidely interpreted that message as “Thanks for not being George W. Bush,” I think there was more to it. Continue reading

Zombie TV Stations: No One Is Home

Earlier this week, we reported on the growing citizen protest surrounding a media merger in Hawaii. The media companies at the heart of the merger are trying to sneak around the FCC by consolidating three television stations without transferring ownership. In the end, the stations’ letterhead may have different logos, but this deal would effectively merge all three newsroom operations into one.

But newsroom consolidation isn’t just a problem in Hawaii. In today’s Los Angeles Times, James Rainey describes a similar deal between KCOP-TV and KTTV-TV in California. “The merging of KCOP-TV and KTTV-TV has left the former not even a shell of its previous self, unless beefcake and dancing anchors count,” Rainey writes. “The losers: Angelenos who crave real, local reporting.” Continue reading

Asking the Right Questions: Valuing Journalism

When it comes to the future of journalism, I often hear us asking the wrong questions and then wondering why we can’t find any reasonable answers. For example, people ask: “Should government get involved in journalism?” The reality is that since the establishment of our democratic system of government, laws and policies have always shaped journalism and media. So we should not ask if government should be involved, but rather how government should be involved.

The owners and lobbyists for big consolidated media companies understand this, which is why they pour millions of dollars into lobbying Congress and the Federal Communications Commission each year to pass policies that benefit them. By asking the wrong question – if instead of how – we ignore the facts and remove ourselves from the political process. This leaves those with the greatest stake in the future of news – journalists themselves and the communities they cover – out of the policy debates reshaping media in America.

Similarly, conversations about the future of journalism spend far too much time focused on the question, “What’s the cost of journalism?” instead of the question, “What’s the value of journalism?” Continue reading

Why Journalists Should Fight For Net Neutrality – Part Two

I have been talking to a number of journalists about the future of journalism on the web and how that relates to policy issues currently being hashed out in Washington, DC, like the FCC’s development of a national broadband strategy and their push (along with Congress) to establish net neutrality as the law of the land. Journalists get why this stuff is important, but they are not always ready to jump into the fray and be advocates for these important policy issues.

Let me begin by quoting Kim Huphrey’s, the person behind the Denver journalism and media advocacy group IWantMyRocky.com. In a blog post on SaveTheNews.org she wrote, “journalists cannot be objective about our right to exist… if we believe so strongly in the principles of our profession, we must be willing to defend them when they come under assault, as they are today.” Continue reading

Why Journalists Should Fight For Net Neutrality – Part One

For a while now I have wanted to write a blog post on the intersection of net neutrality and the future of journalism. Today I saw a tweet that gave me the perfect jumping off point.

One of the best known chroniclers of the struggles in journalism, @themediaisdying, retweeted a post from the Poynter Institute’s @romenesko:

“NOT LOVING THIS: RT @romenesko: AP considers charging for early delivery of news stories to some online customers. http://is.gd/419bXContinue reading

Policy Killed the Paperboy

On the front page of my local paper today there is a story about the end of an era. One of the most iconic images of America’s newspapers is the young kid peddling down the sidewalk, pitching papers onto people’s doorsteps. It remarkable how many journalists recount their humble beginnings as a paper carrier. Indeed, it’s such a cultural icon that one of the earliest Nintendo video games was based on the noble “paperboy.”

After more than a century of hiring local boys and girls to deliver the paper, the Hampshire Gazette along with a number of other regional papers, is discontinuing the practice and outsourcing to a national distribution company. The paper reports that Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, Inc., whose headquarters are in Maryland, only hires people 18 or older for their paper routes.

As newspapers are increasingly delivered to our “doorstep” via phone lines and cable connections, or wirelessly over the air, one might think this shift is just another disruption to the newspaper model brought about by technology. Others might argue it is the market at work. But both would be wrong. Continue reading