Perez Hilton Was Scheduled to Speak at Annenberg?

perez hilton with pink hairI’m befuddled to learn that a March 28 lunchtime discussion at USC Annenberg with Perez Hilton (aka Mario Armando Lavandeira Jr.) was not canceled by the school, but by Hilton himself.

It’s not mandatory to hold one’s blogging standards up to the those embedded in the rigid ethics taught at a Journalism and Communication school, but inviting someone so painfully lacking in journalistic integrity to speak as a role model to an admiring student body?

I’m pretty sure Annenberg didn’t invite Jayson Blair or Stephen Glass after they were unceremoniously canned for their breaches of journalistic integrity.

The students who would have filled Room 207 at Annenberg for this event may not have been aware that Hilton is the defendant in an ongoing $7.6M copyright infringement lawsuit. While I’m a strong proponent of fair use, and believe copyright rules need to be revised for the digital age, Hilton’s fair use defense doesn’t stand a chance. He stole copyrighted, non-Commons-licensed photos from multiple journalists, bloggers, news agencies and photographers alike and re-used them on his hugely popular (and profitable) Web site. More recently, he was sued for posting topless photos of Jennifer Aniston.

Had he not been too chicken to show up (and I hope he reconsiders) I would give my colleagues the opportunity to ask as many questions as they want: how does it feel to party with Paris and Linds? OMG what are you gonna wear when you host MTV’s Australian Music Video Awards? After all, it was billed not as a discussion on journalistic ethics but as “An Insider’s Take on Celebrity Culture, Blogging, and Gays in Hollywood.”

But I sure hope I wouldn’t be the only one (I’d wait until the end of the hour) to out him as a decent model for snuffing out gossip and aspiring young celeb-bloggers, but an even better example of journalism-gone-wrong and how ethics and laws still apply as equally to the blogosphere as they do to print and radio/TV.

photo by Mai Le via flickr.

Viacom Grabs the Guillotine

Viacom filed suit seeking a cool billion in damages from Google/YouTube for intentional copyright infringement. Sure, that’d be enough cash to help boost Viacom’s earnings, but if they were really that worried about anyone “illegally” viewing or copying their programs, perhaps they never should have aired them in the first place. No way is this going to court. More .

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.