Yes men NYT hijinks

Yes-men-nytThe Yes Men — the fabulous pranksters who got Bush to admit he thought  there should be limits on freedom of speech and who have passed themselves off as all manner of authority figures, including WTO reps and Dow Chemical spokesmen, to terrible and hilarious effect — this morning recruited volunteers through grassroots site Because We Want It to distribute copies of a fake version of the New York Times. Headlines proclaim “Iraq War Ends,” “Court Indicts Bush on High Treason Charge,” and many more hopeful fantasies. Here’s the online version, which is a spittin’ image of the Times site — except of course that it allows comments on all of its stories.

Gawker describes.

NYT reacts.

Ebay commodifies.

Yesmen weighs in.

And luckily the NYT is flattered. Alex S. Jones of the NYT City Blog says: “I would say if you’ve got one, hold on to it. It will probably be a collector’s item. I’m just glad someone thinks The New York Times print edition is worthy of an elaborate hoax. A Web spoof would have been infinitely easier. But creating a print newspaper and handing it out at subway stations? That takes a lot of effort. I consider this a gigantic compliment to The Times.”

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Hooray!!

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networked publics

Networked cover

I just received my copy of Networked Publics from MIT Press, the product of a year-long research project I participated in during 2005-2006 at USC's Annenberg Center for Communication. The book explores changes facilitated by digital tools. Chapters center on place, politics, culture, infrastructure. I edited and coauthored the chapter entitled Networked Public Culture. Thanks to Kazys Varnelis for patiently pulling the book together. A few of the chapters are available at the Networked Publics site.

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SuperMedia

A few weeks ago I met with Charlie Beckett in London and we had a great talk about journalism in the new-media landscape in which he described some of the research initiatives and projects he is involved in as Director of Polis, a journalism think tank at LSE.  Back in the States now, I just finished his recently published book SuperMedia: Saving Journalism So It Can Save the World, which  I found an impressively thorough and clear-minded assessment of the often pained contemporary evolution of journalism. You can check out several chaptershere.

SuperMedia
is packed with examples of recent experiments undertaken by journalists and news media organizations, but it’s more than merely descriptive of the current state of affairs. As the title makes clear, SuperMedia is marked by lofty insider ambitions: it’s a manifesto, basically, that plots to save what’s best about journalism. It’s a call to recognize what Beckett hopes will be an
enduring connection between public good, human rights and the news. The book argues that, far from being a species on the verge of extinction, new networked journalists can be a great force for positive global change. Networked journalism — journalism that breaks down the divide between old and new, amateur and professional (7) — can be at the heart of the new “super media,” he says:

[SuperMedia]
does not have the answer to a problem like climate change. But it will address the issue in a way that offers a networked understanding and the possibility of engagement. The public needs to
understand but also to be involved…. A networked media offers the public a chance to be more than simply informed. By increasing the dialogue between public and power, it can
facilitate change. In the end, it is about turning media literacy into political literacy (167-168).

I am instinctively drawn to the boldness and optimism of this argument, even though I tend not to believe in super heros or in narratives of change based on the hope that those in powerful positions (in this case professional networked journalists) will act benevolently. Continue reading

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Denver Open Media Wins Knight News Challenge

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The Knight Foundation announced its News Challenge Award winners last week at the Interactive Media Conference in Las Vegas. Sixteen projects will share various portions of this year’s $5.5 million prize. With the News Challenge, Knight aims to fund new-media innovations that “transform community life.” This year’s winners include digital culture all-star Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, and ten “young creators” or applicants who are less than 25 years old.
Also among the winners was Denver Open Media, a two-year-old independent public access broadcast project. (disclosure: I am a recent addition to the DOM board.) The organization won a two-year $380,000 grant to help share its open-platform business model with stations nationwide, connecting public access stations across the country to create a new-style broadcast network. The small DOM staff trains people to film and edit their programs and upload them to the Web. The programs then play on three local TV stations and on the internet. Viewers can text in ratings and comments on each show. The rating and comments appear onscreen in realtime. Programs that garner the most votes move into the best time slots. Program quality, styles and purposes vary wildly.  Continue reading
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The new publics of the new news

I. Why apologize for letting the public in?

I was recently speaking with the Editor in Chief of Bondy Blog—a blog that was established during the 2005 riots that in France that features reports by Bondy youth about life in the banleiue and issues effecting banlieue residents. It’s a fantastic example of how the news media landscape can be enhanced by the voices and perspectives of members of the public. And it has received a lot of attention in France in part because it has been widely acknowledged the civil unrest in France is due in part to the marginalization of the voices of ethnic and religious minorities in the French media. So what makes Bondy Blog great is the freshness and authenticity of its perspective. Yet as I spoke with Mohammed he kept emphasizing it’s connection with professional journalists, that it is serious and that it doesn’t recklessly cast off the norms of professionalism. I’ve heard this many times from people involved in media projects that combine traditional and new media practices—this constant reassurance that the standards have not completely disappeared with the emergence of the public into the news process. But my question is Why would it? Continue reading

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Talks on online journalism and public participation

A few weekends ago I attended a fantastic conference in Vancouver, The Future of Public Institutions–New Media, the Press, and The Museum sponsored by The Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation and organized by two of their scholars Mike Ananny (Stanford University) and Kate Hennessy (University of British Columbia). I sat on a panel with Alfred Hermida founding member of the award-winning BBCNews.com website and Tim Richards of CBC. My talk The New Publics of the New News addressed the way the notion of “public interest” takes on different meaning depending on the perceived role of the public in the process of newsgathering and distribution.

And on April 17 the <a href="http://estlow.org/
“>Estlow Center for International Journalism at University of Denver held an event honoring Renee Montaigne, host of NPR’s morning Edition. The day was packed with great discussions about the changing power dynamics of news and storytelling.

In my brief talk Diversity Online I argued that on the web diversity has as much to do with form and genre as with traditional demographic indicators like race and gender.

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diversity online

Untold Stories: Truth and Consequences

Workshop 1A: YouTube & Do it Yourself Media: Challenges to Traditional Media from Outside the Mainstream Featuring Stories from Diverse Communities

Welcome to this session on challenges to traditional media. Before I introduce the panel members I’d like briefly talk about the current news media landscape and the transformations that are underway due in part to the proliferation of digital comm tools and networks and the nature of diversity in this new environment.

I.
The contemporary news environment consists of two contradictory trends: Concentration of media ownership and the rise of amateur or do-it-yourself production.

Some see civic culture as deteriorating, the flow of information and opinions limited by media consolidation.

On the other hand, do-it-yourself media—youtube videos, blogs, participatory journalism projects like indymedia–is celebrated for expanding the ranks of informed citizenry and facilitating the development of an engaged and participatory transnational culture. Continue reading

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Salon.com and New-Media Professional Journalism Culture

Salon.com and New-Media Professional Journalism Culture by Adrienne Russell
For publication in Elizabeth Bird (ed), The Anthropology of News and Journalism: Global Perspectives, forthcoming Indiana University Press.

Introduction: The Challenge to Traditional Journalism

The emergence of participatory journalism, journalism that includes readers into the editorial process, has prompted much discussion recently about the ongoing role of professional editors and reporters, as news, like all cultural industries, has been deeply challenged by the proliferation of new media. This new genre of journalism has been spurred in part by the development of web publishing tools and powerful mobile devices, combined with an increasing skepticism toward mainstream media, which have prompted readers to become active participants in the creation and dissemination of news. Video- and text-bloggers, do-it-yourself media activists, and professional journalists are vying for the attention of the public, struggling over the right to define the truth, and attempting to discover what form and practice of news production yields the most viable products.

 

This chapter explores these changes through ethnographic study of Salon.com, one of the longest-running and most widely trafficked independent journalistic outlets online. According to Scott Rosenberg, one of the site founders, Salon is “old new media” because since its inception most of its staff has been culled from the world of traditional journalism, either from mainstream outlets or from journalism schools. The site straddles old and new journalism categories as those categories have been elaborated in much contemporary analysis. Although emerging participatory journalism projects such as Indymedia (http://www.indymedia.org/en/index.shtml), Ourmedia (http://www.ourmedia.org/), and Associated Content (http://www.associatedcontent.com/) seem to be doing away with the need for professional editors and reporters, there are also emerging genres of online news that aim to be non-traditionally professional. The cultural norms and practices that have developed at Salon over the past 12 years are significantly and consciously different from those that have guided magazine and newspaper journalists for decades. Nevertheless, although Salon staffers aim to disrupt the norms of traditional journalism, they are concerned with and constrained by many of the same basic variables that have long defined journalism —economic viability, accuracy, timeliness, quality and the desire to serve the public interest. By looking closely and more ethnographically at the norms and practices that are emerging in response to these age-old pressures, we can move beyond exaggerations about the death of professional journalism, and begin to better understand the ways new rules and traditions have evolved and are evolving from within the field. Continue reading

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Open source TV

Dom

On Wednesday Deb Lastowka and Tony Shawcross of Denver’s public access television station Denver Open Media gave my students and I a tour of their facilities and talked with us about the work they do. Their bold vision of the future of TV is much needed. While sites like YouTube are making history by catering to the mass craving to create and distribute amateur video, regular old television— a decade into the internet era— is still pretending the web is basically a form of Sunday newspaper: mostly good for advertising and reprinting schedules. Sorry but American Idol voting is the very definition of faux participation.

Every aspect of DOM is participatory. The organization lends out equipment and offers low-cost classes on making and uploading video. Open Media members make all the station’s programs. Shows that garner the most votes from viewers are rewarded with the best broadcast time slots. Viewers can also text-in ratings and comments, which appear onscreen in realtime.

DOM is sharing this model with other public-access stations throughout the country. In a video outlining their vision of networked TV, Executive Director Tony Shawcross explains:

In developing all the tools we need on the limited resources that we have, we’ve been working with some of the leading public access stations in the country. Together we’ve invested over $100,000 in developing a tool set that will allow any public access station to adopt the pieces that they want, include them in their model, and start collaborating with us and the other stations so we can together start acting like a network instead of tiny independent isolated stations.

You can watch DOM programs live or browse the archives. Don’t forget to vote!

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