John McCann

Archive for the ‘Blogging’ Category

Future of Newspapers: One View

In Blogging, Citizen Journalism, Listen to the Dawn, Newspapers on February 20, 2006 at 8:44 pm

Diane Rehm holds conversations with authors, politicians, industry experts, thought leaders, etc. on her daily radio show from WAMU in Boston. On her January 3, 2006 show, she talked to several people about the future of newspapers. The guests: Michael Massing, Journalist, press critic; John Morton, Newspaper industry consultant; Rem Rieder, Editor, American Journalism Review. It is worth listening to the streaming audio of the show.

At around the 29 minute mark in the show, a caller (who identified himself as the former managing director of the LA Times syndicate in Europe) states that citizen journalists and bloggers are destroying the future of news “papers” and that business models of traditional news gathering organizations will be challenged by a huge number of bloggers using citizen journalists all over the world. He said that the news paper model and the accompanying news gathering model will go away.

The sad thing was the response of John Morton (as I transcribed from the broadcast).

“I envision this bloggers world as sort of analogous to what civilization was like in the Middle Ages when everybody had opinions; we were full of all sorts of witch hunts and mysteries; it was before the Enlightenment. And really, civilization has advanced because of information. I don’t care how many opinions you spread around the world, it’s only going to be news coverage that provides information that makes a difference.”

Morton, who was introduced as a newspaper industry analyst, is clearly out of tune with the new media world. It appears from his response that he is totally unaware of the roles played by citizen journalists and has a view of bloggers that is commonly expressed in newspaper articles. A lot of the traditional media writers have put blogs into two camps: vanity blogs in which people write about their daily lives and opinion blogs in which people express opinions about articles they read in the traditional media.

These two types are, indeed, very common in the blogosphere. But just consider the number of bloggers at work. Dave Sifry reports that “Technorati currently tracks 27.2 million weblogs, and the blogosphere we track continues to double about every 5.5 months.” These 27 million bloggers include people who are generating the news, as well as people writing about that news.

If Morton is representative of that traditional world, the conquest described by the caller to the show will occur with very little opposition. If you do not understand what is happening to your business model, you cannot respond adequately.

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How did you participate in life?

In Blogging on February 17, 2006 at 3:19 pm

My brother Bill died in late 2003 when he was in his late seventies. His wife showed me the few pages of a memoir he had started on a yellow legal pad and I found his stories very interesting, as did his wife and three daughters.

But those few pages were the total written record of his life. He had wanted to leave a complete record but he started too late in life. Oh there are plenty of memories held by his family and friends, but those will extinguish some day. And my memories are quite limited because he was 15 years older than me and was not around when I was growing up. After that, we would see each other on special occasions for limited periods; not a good source for memories.

The same is true of my parents, their parents and all of my ancestors. There is no written record and almost all of my relatives have passed away. We have a box of old pictures, and an old crumbling bible that contained several pages that listed my family tree back to one great, great grandfather. It appears that we were not a family of journal keepers or letter writers & collectors.

My attempts to learn more about them from the genealogy record has not been very successful. But even if I were able to trace my roots, all I would have is a list of names and dates.

How did my brother participate in life? How did my parents? Their parents? My cousins? What every happened to cousin Charles? Did he leave a trace of his life? I’ll never really know; nor will later generations.

But a large number of people are documenting their lives via their blogs. Online journals are very common forms of blogs; in many of them people disclose the minute details of their daily existence. When I first encountered them I reacted in a way that is probably very similar to how others react when reading about how Jane, for instance, went to the mall, drove to meet Sue, and had a snack at McDonalds: Who cares; it’s so common that why would anyone want to read about it!!!

But I would love to know what Bill did after school when he lived in a second floor apartment on St. Clair Street, across from the Old Capital Building in Frankfort, Kentucky. Where did he hang out? What did he do after school? What did he wear? What did he think about when walking to school? What did he fear? Love?

I’ll never know. His children will never know, nor will their children. Someday, it will be very important for one of his ancestors to know how he lived his life. But they will never know.

I imagine that no one will ever know how a high school student, any high school student, ipent his days in Frankfort in 1936 . But the ancestors of today’s teenagers will likely have access to reports by dozens, if not hundreds, of teenagers in Frankfort in the early years of the 21st century. They will be able to determine how their ancestors participated in life.

We, the older generations, could record our memories so that our ancestors can get a glimpse of how we lived throughout our lives. It might seem like an exercise in vanity to some, but it would likely be very appreciated by someone in the turn of the 22nd century who wants to know how her great, great, great, great, great grandfather lived his life.

Just how did you participate in life?