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Entries in Julian Assange (3)

Sunday
Mar302014

Do We Dare Say that Journalism Has Hit the Bottom?

Last week the Pew Center released its State of the News Media report for 2014.  While the report reinforces the headwinds faced by traditional media outlets (ad revenues down 52% from 2003), it also illuminates growth in digital only news outlets that now number over 500 and employ about 5,000 full time professionals. Could it be time for the journalists to stop blaming technologists for depriving them of the means to pay for the essential service they provide?

Jeff Jarvis anointed Johannes Gutenberg as the original technologist in his 2012 book Gutenberg the Geek.  Whether or not Gutenberg needed Jarvis’ endorsement, journalism and technology have certainly been dance partners for hundreds of years.  Gutenberg’s movable type printing press brought about revolutions in business, religion, and politics and gave story tellers the ability to reach a larger audience than ever thought possible at open mic night in 1439 Strasbourg.

The advertising industry traces its roots to the very same 15th century when the practice of paying artists including Michelangelo to produce art that contained certain messages.  Many of these new visual advertisements were religious in nature. Soon politicians and business people were the fast followers of this new technology; commissioning works that were clearly promotional.  In early renaissance Italy, everybody who was anybody had a portrait with a 3D background showing off the Filippo Brunelleschi’s new technology of perspective drawing.

About a hundred years later the Gutenbergers and the Brunelleschis joined their ability to print things cheaply and their desire to encourage readers to buy things and gave birth in 1525 to advertisements as we know them today.  In fact the New York Times Book Review was not an original idea, because those early ads were mostly for books and were found in the precursor to newspapers, the broadsheet.

All of this is to make the simple case that technology is just doing what it does.  Yes, Craigslist, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the techies have stolen away the revenue the newsrooms needed to survive.  However, their geek ancestors created the technology that enabled advertising and newspapers some 500 years ago for the same reason the newsroom is in the emergency room today.  The geeks are still just doing what they do.

Technology people don’t under-appreciate Ed Murrow.  23 generations after Gutenberg, they are still in the business of delivering as much information as possible to as many people as possible as cheaply as possible.  The argument that we are replacing the system that brought us back from the brink of McCarthyism with a system that serves up the best grumpy cat videos has been used to cling tightly to the way that it was for long enough.  We have now seen how new media actors like Julian Assange, Ed Snowden, and Glenn Greenwald, have worked with the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Der Spiegel to revive the fourth estate.

Certainly, there is much work to be done.  A flood of technology energy is being applied to this industry, and not just the high profile purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos, or the founding of First Look Media by Pierre Omidyar.  New media organizations are everywhere, both succeeding and failing fast in their pursuit of good journalism.  We know that 5,000 jobs created in the new digital world do not fill the hole created by the tens of thousands of jobs lost in traditional newsrooms, but it does seem possible that the bottom has been reached and working together journalism and technology are building something we should be watching.

 

Wednesday
Dec292010

Looking up in 2011

I have had the chance to catch up on some reading this week and overall my sentiment about our prospects in the US has turned a corner.  Over the past couple of months I have been finding more and more reasons to be bullish on America and some of those thoughts seemed to have crystallized in the last week.  Here is my attempt at a list:

Attention on Education:  I have been involved in non profit initiatives to improve education in the US for 20 years and I have never seen the kind of focus and awareness on the education problem as we saw in 2010.  There were always a few high profile people working on this -- now there are dozens.  2011 is the year we will start our climb back up.  We have a long way to go, but not going down further is a great victory.  

Realism in the White House:  We may not like the state of things, but just accurately assessing the problems is a big victory.  In the past we had leaders that just made things up -- it is hard to address issues when no one wants to talk about them.

International Humility:  We have said it over and again enough times that the world community is starting to believe that we are not going to solve everyone's problems.  We said we would get out of Iraq and we are actually starting to do that.  There was a great line I heard the other day (not sure of the source):  Saudi Arabia is willing to fight Iran to the last dead American.  We don't seem likely to get sucked into that game.

No Need for a New War:  Yes Assange should have been on the cover of Time Magazine.  I am glad he was not because that one event has jinxed many other people, and the WikiLeaks story is just getting started.  Here is a great post on The New Republic about how WikiLeaks could end big business and big government.  I don't know if that is true, but we do need a way to reduce the influence of big organizations before they drive us into a new war.  Uncontrolled power always gets diffused somehow, and quite often it is a war that does it.  Perpetually bad economic times also promotes war.  We have very powerful big organizations and bad economic times -- a tough combo.  WikiLeaks, or something like it, could be just the thing to pull the rug out from under the oil companies, bankers and the warmongers, and just in time too.

In America we know that we have the most adaptable form of governance on the planet.  I know that once we wake up and view our problems in the light of day -- we will prevail.  I think 2010 could have been the year we accurately assessed things, and 2011 could be the year we start doing something about it.

If you have some time this week and want to read some great background material, check out David Brook's Sydney awards for best essays of 2010.  

Sunday
Dec122010

Are Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Liu Xaiobo Safe?

What do you get when you combine governments that oppress their citizens, the unrepressable nature of free speech, the Nobel Peace Prize, and citizens that are committed to freedom?  A very interesting week in the news.

Manning, Assange, and Xaiobo are probably safer in jail than they would be if released.  Accidents happen frequently and these three courageous men would be in danger of falling prey to an accident if not under the protection of their captors.  Their captors are obligated to keep them alive by the bright light we are all shining on these events.  I shudder to think of what would happen if that light went out.

Our mistrust of government, the foundation of our constitution, is what makes our country resistant to the corrupting influence of power.  If we are going to prevail as a nation it will be because we support people who are willing to put themselves in harms way to end a war or end a governments oppression of their own citizens.

The war in Afghanistan is now the longest war we have ever fought.  

If you are interested in this subject, here are a few links you may want to follow:

Bradley Manning Wikipedia Page

Daniel Ellsberg Wikipedia Page

Daniel Ellsberg Speaking in Bradley Manning's Defense

Wikipedia Page on Article Three of the Constitution

Huffingtong Post on Liu Xaiobo 

New York Times on the Nobel Prize 

New York Times on Keeping Secrets Wikisafe