State of the Media or How Journalism ‘Lost its Guts’

The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s ‘State of the Media 2007’ report is out, and folks, its laced with negativity. The media in general certainly hasn’t seemed to benefit from any kind of potential reawakening since last year’s report.

Most revelatory (albeit vague) in the executive summary (PDF) of the 160,000 word report, is this analysis:

With fundamentals shifting, we sense the news business entering a new phase heading into 2007—a phase of more limited ambition. Rather than try to manage decline, many news organizations have taken the next step of starting to redefine their appeal and their purpose based on diminished capacity. Increasingly outlets are looking for “brand” or “franchise” areas of coverage to build audience around.

I’m confused by the parallel drawn between “limited ambition” and “diminished capacity.”
What is the root cause of this so-called era of “limited ambition?” Is it this renewed focus on local, or “hyperlocal” news as Howard Owens (to his utter dismay) read it? Or is it intimidation and competition with TV’s talking heads that’s led to print journalists losing their jobs as newspapers get thinner — as the LA Times’ James Rainey wrote?

If I’m looking at an Internet start-up after the 2000 bubble burst, say a Yahoo! (which lost a huge chunk of it’s market valuation at the time), I’d reconsider the business strategy and reshape it’s goals for success. After all, by 2000 a techie, Web-centric future was evident, in spite of the disabling adjustment Wall Street made to once ridiculously overvalued stocks.

Similarly, it’s apparent today that news content, the media-hungry audience and its sponsors are moving online. Is it impossible for the old media to adjust their expectations for the sake of journalism and maybe, I dunno, accept 15% profit one year, knowing that investment in online and interactive endeavors may eventually reap profits of 20% and more in the long run?

As Dan Rather offered in his keynote address at the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, perhaps journalism has “in some ways lost its guts” in recent years and is in need of “a spine transplant.”

I received similarly motivating and emphatic advice a couple weeks back, when Tom Brokaw visited USC Annenberg to commemorate the career of Ed Guthman, who will retire this year at age 88. I asked Brokaw, “what can young journalists do to rebuild the public’s trust in the media?” He answered simply, “stay true to the journalism you believe in and make the news fun again.” As short of an answer as it may seem, I took it as genuine. Perhaps there will come a tipping point when more people have fun with and enjoy journalism about “news” than those starving for the latest scoop on the Paris Hilton DUI?

More on State of the Media 2007 at Editor’s Weblog, Lost Remote, and Poynter.

Wilco Streams Again

wilco sky blue sky album coverNever averse to leaking their music (we all remember the WB/Reprise debacle of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) Wilco is streaming (via Flash player), the upcoming Sky Blue Sky in its entirety until 7PT.

Better than last time they did this, you’re in total control and can listen to whatever songs you want, however many times using the QT-embedded Flash Player.

I’m still digging this record — this is a bit of consolation today as I’m being bombarded by the typical I can’t believe I’m not at SXSW feelings that are normally associated with not being in Austin when the conference takes place while being unable to keep the killer reviews and feedback from hitting the inbox. Anyway, here’s another gem from Sky Blue Sky.

Continue reading “Wilco Streams Again”

AP to Protest U.S. Military Censorship in Afghanistan

American military in Afghanistan provided the Associated Press with an unfortunate, yet easy-to-cover subplot in the aftermath of a battle that led to the death of 16 Afghan civilians.

Amir Shah writes from Kabul:

A freelance photographer working for The Associated Press and a cameraman working for AP Television News said a U.S. soldier deleted their photos and video showing a four-wheel drive vehicle in which three people were shot to death about 100 yards from the suicide bombing. The AP plans to lodge a protest with the American military.

The U.S. military blamed its troops’ unfortunate reaction, in which Afghan civilians were killed, on a “complex ambush” by Taliban militants. The deaths of the 16 civilians will undoubtedly hamper the U.S.’s efforts to redouble their forces while making nice and contributing positively to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.

Carlotta Gall has been delivering the straight gravy from Afghanistan for years for the New York Times:

The shooting sparked demonstrations, with local people blocking the highway, the main road east from the town of Jalalabad to the border with Pakistan. And there were differences in some of the accounts of the incident, with the Americans saying that the civilians were caught in cross-fire between the troops and militants, and Afghan witnesses and some authorities blaming the Americans for indiscriminately shooting at civilian vehicles in anger after the explosion.

No matter whose account you believe, the Taliban’s expected “spring offensive” is on. Two British troops were reported killed in southern Afghanistan yesterday.

troops in Afghanistan 2007 international by country

Graphic of active multinational military force in Afghanistan, 7 feb, 2007, via NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.

Tim Fite’s ‘Over the Counter Culture’

One of the best records of the year cannot be found in stores. It’s not available on iTunes. Last Tuesday, Tim Fite released “Over the Counter Culture” exclusively on his Web site. For free.

Fife is signed to Anti-, the record label currently responsible for releases from such stalwarts as Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Neko Case, and Mavis Staples. But “OTCC” is just too anti-establishment and anti-commercial to NOT be given away for free. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune wrote an in-depth profile:

“This record is a soundtrack for war, and in many ways it’s a soundtrack for a war that’s waging within everyone,” Fite says. “There’s the war outside, but then there’s the war inside ourselves about how much we acquiesce to market culture. That’s what the record was about for me, finding out what I’m fighting against and being truthful with myself about what I allow myself to fall victim to.”

Interview w/ Fite on “Sound Opinions — why he was inclined to go the DIY route with this particular content (press play):

VIDEO: “Camouflage”