Canadian Libel Reform, Meet Economic Reality

by matttbastard

So, you think that recent SCOC ruling will help fight the chilling effects of Canada’s draconian libel laws? Think again, says Ryerson journ prof Jeffrey Dvorkin:

While editors are hailing the ruling as a breakthrough for more aggressive journalism, it also makes it clear that these days, news organizations may be less able than ever to deliver on these expectations.

That’s because as layoffs continue at news organizations and as newsrooms are pared down to the editorial bone, the ability of news organizations to engage in deep, contextual investigative journalism is far from what it once was, or what it should be.

News organizations almost everywhere are dropping their investigative units as too expensive, too time-consuming and far too unable to deliver the requisite audience numbers. Instead, investigative reporting is being contracted out in the U.S. and other countries to “stand-alone” not-for-profits such as ProPublica, Global Post, and the Center for Public Integrity, among others. In Canada, we don’t even have that option.

[…]

My guess is that media law departments are now advising chief editors to restrain their journalists from doing more aggressive reporting unless they can prove that every effort (including a demonstrable commitment to editorial resources) has been made to get all sides of the story. It’s that commitment to shoe-leather reporting that is among the first things to be dropped in a downsizing news organization.

Dvorkin also addresses a matter that Jeff Jedras brought up the other day, the perceived lack of “professionalism” among us foul-mouthed Cheeto-eaters, and may finally have come up with a viable solution on how to effectively net-nanny teh ornery tubes:

The ruling addresses the issue of ethics, standards and practices among bloggers – those independent reporters and opinion-mongers whose power and influence are growing just as legacy media’s reach and heft are diminishing. The ruling brings the blogosphere under the same right, responsibilities and obligations as the mainstream media.

[…]

The challenge for the online community is to create a set of ethical standards that will give bloggers the same credibility with the public as valid as those espoused by the mainstream media. In effect, bloggers need an ombudsman.

Indeed. A ‘blogbudsman’, if you will. I nominate Canadian Cynic.

What?

h/t Bill Doskoch

Update 12/29: Via the wonders of Twitter, Jay Rosen points to a 2008 post of his regarding the seemingly endless handwringing from legacy media types re: blogger ethics:

If “ethics” are the codification in rules of the practices that lead to trust on the platform where the users actually are—which is how I think of them—then journalists have their ethics and bloggers have theirs.

  • They correct themselves early, easily and often.
  • They don’t claim neutrality but they do practice transparency.
  • They aren’t remote, they habitually converse.
  • They give you their site, but also other sites as a proper frame of reference. (As with the blogroll.)
  • When they grab on to something they don’t let go; they “track” it.

In all these ways, good bloggers build up trust with a base of users online. And over time, the practices that lead to trust on the platform where the users actually are… these become their ethic, their rules.

Those in journalism who want to bring ethics to blogging ought to start with why people trust (some) bloggers, not with an ethics template made for a prior platform that operated as a closed system in a one-to-many world.

That’s why I say: if bloggers had no ethics, blogging would have failed. Of course it didn’t. Now you have a clue.

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Curley in Amber (Or, Reason # 54,765 Why AP is DOOMED.)

by matttbastard

Speaking of media dinosaurs, it would appear the Associated Press is once again eager to hasten its own extinction:

I’ve tried to avoid speaking out regarding reports about the Associated Press’ plans for the future. I’ve done so because AP executives and board members have a habit of saying lots of things that are later “corrected” after they stick their fingers in the air and discover the wind is blowing another direction. So I assume everything I hear that’s attributed to “someone at AP” is merely a trial balloon.

However, the article in the New York Times today about AP (or, if you prefer, “the” AP) “cracking down on unpaid use of articles on the web,” attributes the insanity it reports to the CEO of the AP — by name. As he was going on record with the New York Times, I have to assume that he means what he’s saying.

In other words, I feel fairly confident now that it’s okay for me to start calling a nut a nut.

Here’s a quote from the NYTimes.com story:

“Tom Curley, The A.P.’s president and chief executive, said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it. In an interview, he specifically cited references that include a headline and a link to an article, a standard practice of search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo, news aggregators and blogs.”

In other words, what I just did — quote the New York Times and point to the article — would be considered a copyright violation by AP if the point was to an AP story. To quote and link to that story would require me to have a licensing agreement with AP. That policy, of course, is nuts.

And I’m not even saying it’s nuts from a legal “fair use” standpoint or nuts because AP reporters quote and link to bloggers all day everyday. And I won’t even explain why it’s nuts because of the traffic-driving dynamics and economics of advertising revenue that results when I point to an AP story on, say, my hometown newspaper’s website.

I’m just saying “it’s nuts.” And it’s nuts that Tom Curley doesn’t understand why it is nuts.

BTW, remember this little teapot tempest from the stiff-spined TECHNICAL GENIUSES @ AP?UNAUTHORIZED!!!1

Yep — still embeddable.

Golf. Claps.

Methinks some jaunty grave-dancing music is in order:

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Dinosaurs and Mammals

by matttbastard

Apropos, especially in light of the recent public tussle between the straight-from-the-Jurassic editorial staff of the Toronto Star and a certain far-sighted columnist/blogger:

Undeniably, there is money to be made in digital publishing with free reader access, but whether that revenue leads to profits depends upon the scale and scope of the organization. The potential revenue does not appear to be of the magnitude that will support the massive operations of existing news organizations. What works in today’s web landscape are lean and mean organizations with little or no management bureaucracy — operations where nearly every employee is working on producing actual content. I’m an extreme example — a literal one-man show. A better example is Josh Marshall’s TPM Media, which is hiring political and news reporters. TPM is growing, not shrinking. But my understanding is that nearly everyone who works at TPM is working on editorial content.

Old-school news companies aren’t like that — the editorial staff makes up only a fraction of the total head count at major newspaper and magazine companies. The question these companies should be asking is, “How do we keep reporting and publishing good content?” Instead, though, they’re asking “How do we keep making enough money to support our existing management and advertising divisions?” It’s dinosaurs and mammals.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Joe Trippi

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Dear Canuckistanian Noozpaper Editorz

Unbiased private citizen Kyle Simunovic told me to tell you that WHINY SOCIALIST MP Charlie Angus  smells like fresh goat feces on a hot summer afternoon. Also, I hear that our glorious leader, Stephen Harper, farts rainbows and pisses Dom Pérignon. And doesn’t hate teh Joe Sixpack (unlike a certain WHINY SOCIALIST MP who shall remain nameless).

Signed,

SO not a Conservative staffer (no, srsly!)

h/t Impolitical via Twitter

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