Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Saly 2 - Recommendations for Strengthening Regional Internet Governance in West Africa

uring the regional meeting organized by the Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA), on "Legal and policy frameworks for the information society in West Africa", in Saly, Senegal, with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), a one day consultative forum was held to discuss West African participation in the Internet governance Forum (IGF).
The aim was to inform stakeholders on the IGF processes, its implementation, and the current on-going review; and to further discuss its interests and impacts for West Africa on the road to the fourth annual meeting of the Forum in Egypt.
The forum highlighted the following priorities and recommendations for consideration during IG discussions and deliberations:
Awareness: Further develop awareness and capacity building on IG and its processes;
Access to infrastructure: With regards to technical infrastructure, regional backbone
and internet exchange points (IXPs), government should ensure the creation of policies
to support regional infrastructure development with support for cross border connectivity,
right of passage for cable infrastructure and open access to landing stations in West
African countries;
Open Standards and Interoperability: Understanding the role of government as a
producer, purchaser and regulator of information, government should ensure its services
are available to all by developing interoperability standards that allow universal access;
Internet Security, Safety and Trust: Building trust and confidence in online services
to be able to allow wider usage of eGovernance facilities, eCommerce and
implementation of other online activities;
Development of Multilingual and Local Content: Providing useful and relevant
content in local and national languages, meeting the needs of West Africans, as well as
promoting internationalized domain names;
National and Regional Top Level Domain Names: Establishment of, and the
strengthening of a West African and continental identity through names such as .africa
and a regional West African domain to ensure localisation of cost and traffic within the
Transparency: Promoting transparency in governance at national and regional levels in
the information society;
Collaborative Approach: Strengthening of multistakeholder approaches in internet
governance, policy and decision making processes, through face to face meetings and
remote participation;
Digital literary and technologies: Bridging the literacy gap and develop better access
to ICTs for all citizens and communities;
Role of Regional Governance and Economic Commissions: Encouraging regional
institutions such as the ECOWAS to be more involved in IG processes;
Funding: national and international partners should earmark adequate budgetary
resources to sustain IG processes;
Regional and National IG Fora: participants recommend that ECOWAS and other key
stakeholders organise a wider, higher level platform involving more West African
stakeholders, as well as national and African wide discussions, prior to the Sharm-El-
Cheikh IGF to better prepare African and West African responses.
Saly, 13 March 2009

List of institutions
Agence de Régulation des Postes et Télécommunications (ARTP) du Senegal ; Article 19 Africa ; West Africa Telecommunications Regulators Assembly (WATRA) ; Communications Commission of Kenya ; Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (CEMESP, Liberia) ; Centre National de Presse Norbert Zongo (Burkina Faso) ; Centre d'Etudes sur les Sciences et Techniques de l'Information (CESTI) ; CITS/University of
Lagos (Nigeria); Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS); Connexion Sans Frontieres (Senegal) ; Datatech (Mali); DiploFoundation; Electronic Frontier Foundation (USA); Global Voices Online (USA – Sub Saharan Africa); GoreeTIC/APC;
Haut Commissariat sur les TIC du Niger ; Information Technology (Industry) Association of Nigeria (ITAN); Panos Institute West Africa (PIWA) ; Kictanet (Kenya) ; Kontemporary Komputers (Nigeria) ; leblogdeyoro (Côte d'Ivoire) ; Ministère en charge des TIC du
Bénin ; Ministère en charge des TIC du Mali ; Ministère en charge des TIC du Senegal ; Ministry of Information and Communication (Sierra Leone); National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA, Nigeria); Open Society Institute West Africa (OSIWA); Penplusbytes (Ghana); PressAfrik.com (Senegal); Radio1 FM (The Gambia) ; Réseau des Journalistes pour les Droits de l'Homme (Niger) ; the Independant (Uganda) ;Université Gaston Berger (Senegal); University of Ghana, Legon (Ghana) ; University of Maryland (USA).

Monday, March 30, 2009

Online Journalists Optimistic About Revenue and Technology, Concerned About Changing Values


Online Journalists Optimistic About Revenue and Technology, Concerned About Changing Values

Journalists who work online are more optimistic about the future of their profession than are news people tied to more traditional media platforms, but at best their optimism is an uneasy one, according a new survey of members of the Online News Association produced by the Association and the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

These online news people also believe that the Internet is changing the fundamental values of journalism—and more often than not for the worse.

Uneasy Optimism
2009 Survey of ONA Members

Where is journalism headed?  
Right Track
Wrong Track
Is the Internet changing journalism values?  
Not Changing
Can we find a profitable business model online?  
Very Confident
Somewhat Confident
Not Too Confident
Not Confident

Overall, the online journalists surveyed are less likely to think journalism is headed in the "wrong direction" than are journalists from legacy media. They are also more confident than they are pessimistic that online news will find a self-sustaining revenue model.

Contrary to current economic trends in the news industry, most report staff increases and are seeing their sites turn a profit—though this is still heavily influenced by how costs are accounted for.

But these economic hopes, while encouraging, are still largely pinned on Web advertising, whose revenues in news began flattening out in 2008.

When it came to the impact of the Internet on values, the most cited change was a loosening of standards and more carelessness in online news gathering.

Those journalists surveyed, who come largely from websites linked to legacy media, also believe the Web is changing the fundamental values of the journalism—mostly for the worse. In particular, they are worried about declining accuracy, in part due to the emphasis online that news organizations are putting on speed and breaking news.

But not all of the changes were considered worrisome. Some journalists praised the growing diversity of voices, the potential of technology, and in some cases, even the move toward more overtly ideological points of view at news sites.

"I think there's a huge potential in online journalism, but there's also a lot of scary stuff out there  . . . We have to try to not lose our way," said one member who, as a part of a three-person operation, does everything from handling tech problems to social media posts to original reporting.

"It's a good feeling to work in a part of the industry that has hope for the future," offered another.

These are some of the findings of a survey of nearly 300 members of the Online News Association (ONA), produced jointly with the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ), which drafted the questionnaire. Princeton Survey Research Associates administered the survey.   
The findings represent the first-ever survey of journalist members of ONA, the largest organized association of digital journalists.1 The majority of those surveyed work for websites tied to legacy media and most have more than 11 years experience in a newsroom setting. 

We do not assume that these results represent the views of all of people in new media, but 10-year-old ONA, with nearly 1,800 members, offers useful insights into how digital journalism is being practiced.

Among the findings:

  • A solid majority of those surveyed (57%) say the Internet is "changing the fundamental values of journalism." The biggest changes, the respondents said, were a loosening of standards (45%), more outside voices (31%) and an increased emphasis on speed (25%). 

  • When asked what online journalism is "doing especially well these days," more named aspects of technology like using advancements well (31%) or speed (30%) than named reporting skills like improving storytelling (16%) or exploiting the potential for greater depth (12%).

  • Six in 10 (63%) of respondents ranked original reporting as the most important type of information they produce. This was more than four times as much as the second-most important information type: aggregated material from wires and other legacy outlets (13%).

  • For the most part, online journalists say they have been spared the kinds of staff cutbacks their legacy brethren experienced in 2008. Many (39%) reported staff increases compared with a year earlier. Another third said their staff numbers have remained the same. Less than a quarter (23%) saw staff decreases.

  • Despite current trends, most of these online journalists are pinning their hopes in the future on advertising. Roughly two-thirds of these online journalists predicted advertising would be the most important form of revenue at websites three years from now. Only a quarter of respondents named some other new revenue model.

  read the full report at http://www.stateofthenewsmedia.com/2009/narrative_survey_intro.php?cat=0&media=3

'Open cloud' plan sparks dissent

'Open cloud' plan sparks dissent
By Maggie Shiels
Technology Reporter, BBC News, Silicon Valley

A plan by IBM to launch an industry-wide 'open' cloud computing strategy has seemingly backfired amid accusations of closed deals.

Google pulled out after signing up and Amazon said it would not get involved.

Microsoft criticised the plan, saying it was given two days to sign up to a "secret" manifesto with no input.

"We had concerns about process and governance that led us to question IBM's intentions," Microsoft's Steve Martin told BBC News.

The Cloud Computing Interoperability Forum, which had also added its name to the list of more than 30 companies in the plan, withdrew its support over the weekend.

Some of those companies still backing the plan include CISCO, Sun, AT&T, Red Hat, SAP and AMD.

IBM would not comment over the Google change of heart or that of the CCIF but said it hoped Microsoft would reconsider and get involved in the Open Cloud Manifesto at some stage.

"The aim was for this (Manifesto) to serve as a rallying cry to the industry to get focused around the importance of the cloud environment being open," Karla Norsworthy IBM's vice president of Software Standards explained to BBC News.

"We are pleased about the number of vendors who have signed up. As regards Microsoft, we are still hopeful about working together on giving customers the flexibility they have come to expect from technology that is open."

"Great pain"

News of the manifesto leaked in the middle of last week with reports of its formal launch on Monday.

Microsoft came out with a blog post last Wednesday written by its senior director of developer platform product management Steve Martin.

In it he wrote "it appears to us that one company, or just a few companies, would prefer to control the evolution of cloud computing, as opposed to reaching a consensus across key stakeholders through an 'open' process".

Ahead of the launch, he told the BBC that when he looked at the document "parts of it were impossible to object to and other parts were just so vague that we felt additional conversations were needed to understand the intent of the authors, to talk about governance and the lack of visibility of the other players".

He added: "We said we love the idea but we have significant concerns and eventually informed IBM saying we did not believe this was the right approach. We do credit them with spurring some dialogue on the topic."

Meanwhile Google issued a statement to the BBC saying: "We value industry dialogue that results in more and better delivery of software and services via the internet and appreciate IBM's leadership and commitment in this area."

The CCIF explained its decision to back out in an online post and stated it "comes with great pain as we fully endorse the document's contents and its principles of a truly open cloud".

He said: "However, this community has issued a mandate of openness and fair process, loudly and clearly, so the CCIF can not in good faith endorse this document."

"Game changer"

The six-page document calls for the entire computer industry to keep cloud services as open as possible and make it easy for them to interoperate and for customers to switch from one to the other with ease.

"In order for customers to realise the most benefit, it is important to pull the community together in order to keep the cloud open," said IBM's Ms Norsworthy.

Analysts have been complimentary about the manifesto as a first step towards openness in the early stages of cloud computing.

"This is a very important discussion to be having now because the maturation of the cloud is fairly early on. I think some companies that are developing clouds now are looking at it as a technique to lock customers into their eco-system," said analyst Judith Hurwitz of Hurwitz & Associates.

Cloud computing she said is a "game changer" and the "world will be a better place with a standard common approach to something that could have the same impact as the personal computer," she claimed.

When asked if Microsoft would get involved in the Manifesto at a later date, Mr Martin said "the door is always open for high bandwidth dialogue (with IBM) on how best to serve the needs of the customer".

In the meantime, Microsoft has said it will attend the Cloud Computing Expo in New York later on Monday and meet with other vendors and members of standards bodies.

"From our perspective, this represents a fresh start on the conversation - a collaborative "do-over" if you will, " said Mr Martin.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/03/30 07:48:40 GMT


low bandwidth blogging platform - MANENO

In Swahili, 'maneno' means 'words'.
Words form the core of everything important to Maneno; a site completely built from the ground-up to be a blogging and communication platform to meet the needs of the Sub-Saharan blogger and writer.

    But why yet another blogging system when there are so many already? Of the total number of users on the internet, only 1% are from Africa and of that amount, even fewer are bloggers. Maneno works to overcome what other systems see as nuisances, coverting them in to the foundation of a powerful content delivery system for Sub-Saharan Africa.

    Initially based upon a lightweight framework created and personally used by the founders, Maneno was founded in 2008. It allows those with limited or narrow-bandwidth internet to use a system that is lightweight and straightforward in functionality. But while being fast to access, Maneno is also a system that is full-featured and allows those who join the ability to have their own, personalized space upon it, writing in as unrestricted a manner as they see fit.

    On a continent with over 2,000 languages, cross-communication is an issue that is often forgotten about. Maneno is a system where multiple language versions for articles can sit atop one another for immediate access. The interface for the site is also translated in to as many languages as possible to remove linguistic barriers that are being seen more and more in a growingly Anglophonic web.

    While constantly building upon these cornerstones, Maneno strives to be a continually free system that aggregates and promotes the content within it so that those using it aren't just writing in a vacuum, but for an audience.

Kelele!- The African Bloggers Conference

Kelele is the Kiswahili word for noise. We are organising a gathering of African bloggers in the tradition of historical African societies where everyone has a voice. With too many voices marginalised or simply ignored in Africa society today for a variety of reasons we believe that the internet in general and grassroots media tools such as blogs in particular represent the most powerful way in which to give Africans back their voice. We are gathering to make a powerful, positive, inspirational noise that will be heard across the continent and beyond. KELELE!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

OURMedia 8 - Call for Papers


OURMedia/NUESTROSMedios is a global network that from the local, has become a movement that advocates and pushes to extend the subjects, the spaces, the themes/problems, the thinking and the practices of communication. In this way it searches for an equitable and ethical world in which there is a place and opportunity for a vast multiplicity of deeply different expressions and the right to materialize them. It thinks that to exert the "right to the word" in all forms, it is vital to reach a sustainable world that will have to arise from the different crises that humanity faces today.

In that context, the Conference OM/NM 8 taking place in Colombia in late July 2009 will take advantage of the knowledge and experience that has been developed on this field in Colombia and in Latin America, to exchange it internally, as well as with participants of other regions.

Jesus Martin Barbero, our professor of communication in Latin America, proposed in the 70's, to move communication studies from the objects (the means and the effects) to the processes (the experiences to make communication). He argued that "it is necessary to lose the object (of study) to gain the process from which this arises", a proposal that redirected the research and the practice and its role in the construction of the society. In the 80's he raised another important rupture, proposing to scholars and practitioners to move the attention "from the media to the mediations". This meant a focus less on the media and more on the cultural, the political and the popular.

In the 90's, he put forward another revitalising idea when inviting to think the subjectivities and technicalities as keys for creative resistance: " there is a need to go beyond the media and the mediations to look into the subjectivities". And beyond communication itself, but from and towards it, it is necessary to analyze and to consider what comes and leaves a country.

This map documents how communication studies and practices are re-invented in Latin America giving an account of our complex and diverse social, cultural and political realities. Thus, communication has always been at the center of the political, democracy and citizenships. Colombia and Latin America are a rich region in experiences of community and citizen communication, of narrative, community and citizen journalism, independent cinema, television, video and blogs, cultural mobilizations and peace events of networks and media activists.

In line with this popular, radical and activist view of communication in Latin America we offer in this Conference the opportunity to continue the dialogue initiated by OM/NM in 2000 and which has continued from then on, taking into account the two main transformations of our time: the proliferation of technologies of communication and the celebration of the individual subject. Thus we want to think about society in which the individual permeates, the expression of the self, the effervescence of communication as such. We propose to jointly analyze the present conditions of the alternative, community and citizen communication in a global technified and individualistic world.

We propose for this OM, to consider that the new conditions and possibilities that the communication technologies offer tend to fragment and to disperse the encounters and the creation of collective spaces of communication, community and interests. But at the same time consider in ours discussions, that there are emerging new modalities of the collective that communication brings together and that must be carefully analyzed.

Consequently the questions that we suggest are: Is our society one of the multiple public spheres where no encounter or dialogue takes place? We inhabit the excessive fragmentation of the public, in as much as we remained without a public? How do ICT's fragment and personalize the processes? Or, Are new interests and sensitivities being created ? In the field of blogs, for example, the world being shown is "my public" or, are we constructing "our public"? Or, will it be that in addition impersonal publics are being constructed but with potential to construct new spaces? Aren't the "I's" (academics, producers, creators) the ones inventing an artificial collective "we"?; what is the role of communication in this?While we walk toward a society ever more fragmented, aren't we creating the illusion that we are building networks from the grassroots and common visions? Is it the case the Our Media are really collective? Are we moving from Our Media to My Media?

What we hope for in this OM 8 Conference is that whoever participates can question its own work from this perspective, and besides bringing the results of their own investigations and productions and developments, can also show ways to generate new answers and new questions.


1. Mornings
a. Motivating initial keynote speaker who orients and lead in these questionings
b. Engaged panels chaired by a person who relates the thematic presented displayed by four speakers - participants.

2. Afternoons
a. production workshops
b. research workshops
c. Panels with research outcomes
d. Other suggested activities

3. A day for field visits

Depending on the number of participants we will distribute in maximum of 25 people and we will take routes that will allow us to know two experiences - with dialogues with the community - in each one.

4. We will have special sessions to watch and discuss videos and AV material, which must be submitted in anticipation

5. We will have special spaces for book presentation and printed materials that generate dialogues, favor to register.

6. For the international guests a visit of field of 2 is offered - before and/or after the Conference - to 3 days in other zones of country where famous experiences of average citizens exist, like Cali, Santa Marta, San Gil, Bethlehem of the Andaquíes, Carmen de Bolivar, Barrancabermeja, etc.

There will be Spanish - English translations every day

Proposals are received until 30 of March of 2009. The conference takes place from 27-31 July 2009 and will be held in Rionegro, Antioquia, a region located 40 minutes from Medellín, in a strategic location for our purposes as it is a very beautiful region surrounded by experiences of community media and communication. The conference will be hosted at the Recinto Quirama, (http://quirama.parquepta.org/index.html) a historical site for the community radio movement in Colombia where in july 1989 (exactly 20 years ago) the "Communication and Development Group" was born which initiated the most important communication movement in our history which lead to the inclusion of 6 articles on communication rights in the new Colombian Constitution of 1991.

Organizing committee
Bogota, February of 2009


Friday, March 27, 2009

2009 Online Journalism Awards Open for Entries

The Online News Association, the world's largest membership organization of digital journalists, and the University of Miami's School of Communication today opened their call for entries for the 2009 Online Journalism Awards (OJAs), emblematic of the best in online journalism.

This year, ONA has introduced changes to acknowledge the important role of emerging technology, the influence of the independent digital journalist and the growth of community reporting efforts. Six awards now come with a total of $30,000 in prize money, courtesy of the Gannett Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the General Excellence in Online Journalism Award has expanded to include "micro sites."

The OJAs are the only comprehensive set of journalism prizes honoring excellence in digital journalism. Past winners have included major media, international and independent sites and individuals producing innovative work in multimedia storytelling. This year's honorees will be announced on the final night of ONA09, the Online News Association Conference and Awards Banquet, Oct. 1-3 in San Francisco.

The OJAs are open to work first published between June 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. Applicants are invited to enter their submissions at Journalistawards.org, until June 30, in one or more of the following categories:

The Gannett Foundation Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism: This new category, with a prize of $5,000, honors a person or company, journalistic in focus or not, that has built a digital tool significantly enhancing the practice of online journalism.

The Knight Award for Public Service: Recognizes digital journalism that performs a public service for a geographic community through compelling coverage of a vital community issue or event; one $5,000 award.

General Excellence in Online Journalism: Honors a Web site in each of four size categories, plus two from the non-English speaking community, which successfully fulfill their editorial mission, effectively serve their audience, maximize the use of the Web's characteristics and represent the highest journalistic standards. For the first time, ONA has introduced a micro site category to encourage small-scale efforts. The award is $3,000 for each winner, funded by the Gannett Foundation.

Breaking News: Honors digital coverage over a 72-hour period of a breaking-news event or development.
Specialty Site Journalism: Recognizes niche Web sites that focus on a single topic.

Investigative Journalism: Honors stories that uncover major news based on the reporters' own exclusive investigations or that offer compelling and original analysis and interpretation.

Multimedia Feature Presentation: Awards excellence in telling a story to an online audience using multimedia techniques.

Online Topical Reporting/Blogging: Recognizes beat reporting by an individual or team.

Online Commentary/Blogging: Honors a unique and powerful voice of commentary original to the Web.

Community Collaboration Award: A new award recognizing a news project or Web site that produces outstanding journalism through strong interaction with the community being served.

Outstanding Use of Digital Technologies: Recognizes achievement by a site in the use of digital techniques to tell a story and serve a community.

Online Video Journalism: Awards excellence in online-originated video journalism.

Student Journalism: Honors digital journalism by a student or team reporting on a single story or issue.

The winners are selected through a two-step process. First, a group of more than 100 journalists screen and rank the entries in each category. In August, a panel of industry-leading journalists and new media professionals judge finalists and select winners at the University of Miami under the auspices of the School of Communication.

The Online News Association is the world's largest association of online journalists. ONA's mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, technologists, photographers and others who produce news for the Internet or other digital delivery systems, as well as academic members and others interested in the development of online journalism.

The University of Miami School of Communication prepares analytical and responsible communication professionals for success in a global society. The School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism, broadcasting, advertising, public relations, visual journalism, communication studies and motion pictures. The School's state of the art, all-digital facilities and resources are among the most advanced in the country. Approximately 1,500 students are enrolled.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950 the foundation has granted more than $400 million to advance journalism quality and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change.

The Gannett Foundation is a corporate foundation sponsored by Gannett Co., Inc. whose mission is to invest in the future of the communities in which Gannett does business, and in the future of our industry. It supports projects that take a creative approach to fundamental issues such as education and neighborhood improvement, economic development, youth development, community problem-solving, assistance to disadvantaged people, environmental conservation and cultural enrichment.

For more information, contact:

Jane McDonnell, Executive Director
Online News Association

Thursday, March 26, 2009

MA Online Journalism

MA Online Journalism

NEW COURSE: Coming in September 2009 (Subject to validation)

Is the MA in Online Journalism for me?

If you are a journalism graduate, have experience in the news or web industries - or have done some exciting experiments that prove you are passionate about the possibilities of online journalism, then: yes.

What does the MA in Online Journalism involve?

The MA in Online Journalism offers the chance to explore the different shapes that journalism is taking online, with an emphasis on enterprise, community, and experimentation alongside core skills in newsgathering and production.

The MA in Online Journalism involves shaping the future of news. That means exploring the great - and awful - things that have been done with news online; it means experimenting yourself - and being prepared to fail spectacularly; and it means working with major news organisations to identify and address some of the central issues facing journalism today, such as:

  • How do we engage audiences online?
  • How can we use the power of networks to make better journalism?
  • And how do we fund great journalism online?

You will have excellent access to resources and close personal contact with tutors, all of whom are experienced industry professionals. The course is led by Paul Bradshaw, an international authority on online journalism and publisher of the Online Journalism Blog, and learning will include contact with experts in a range of news organisations and startups.

The course offers tuition in all practical areas of online journalism, including:

  • Writing for the web and using Content Management Systems
  • Blogging and microblogging
  • Podcasting
  • Online video production
  • Mapping
  • Flash interactivity
  • Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) and using social media for newsgathering
  • Creating data mashups
  • Building content management systems
  • Social networking and online distribution strategies

You will also be taught UK media law and ethics.

Teaching is in small groups and you will run a live news website, blogs, Twitter and other networked elements throughout your course. The taught postgraduate phase of the course will comprise modules in enterprise; newsgathering and production; and experimentation. The Masters component entails a substantial piece of independent production and study. You are not required to write a Dissertation.

Will I do placements as part of the MA in Online Journalism?

You will undertake an ongoing 'consultancy-style' relationship with a news organisation amounting to at least 10 days of work. A number of major broadcasters, national and regional news organisations in the UK and internationally have already expressed an interest in working with you.

What will I be able to do when I've finished the MA in Online Journalism?

Upon successfully completing the MA in Online Journalism you will have the skills not only to be an online journalist, but to be able to take the craft of journalism forward - whether you are working within a print, broadcast or online organisation.

You will be able to find stories from alternative sources, stand them up and tell them using a range of platforms, and with the involvement of the community. You will be good at making contacts and keeping them. You'll understand where journalism online is – and where it's heading.

You will have made a number of valuable contacts whilst on the course – not least through the consultancy experience – and be ready to take your skills into the workplace. Either developing a role you already have in the media industries, or embarking on a new career.

We have close ties with the regional and national press, and broadcast media.

What are the entry requirements?

Applicants should possess a prior degree or equivalent, or have considerable experience in a related field and be able to demonstrate outstanding ability and potential. Good spoken and written English are vital. IELTS level 6.5 is a minimum. Applicants must have some proven experience in journalism or media production (for example, programmers who wish to apply their skills to journalism). You should have a strong and inquiring mind and a tendency not to take no for an answer!

How do I apply?

For information on applications or to apply now visit the Applications page.


Monday, March 23, 2009

The Death and Life of Great American Newspapers

Communities across America are suffering through a crisis that could leave a dramatically diminished version of democracy in its wake. It is not the economic meltdown, although the crisis is related to the broader day of reckoning that appears to have arrived. The crisis of which we speak involves more than mere economics. Journalism is collapsing, and with it comes the most serious threat in our lifetimes to self-government and the rule of law as it has been understood here in the United States.

 After years of neglecting signs of trouble, elite opinion-makers have begun in recent months to recognize that things have gone horribly awry. Journals ranging from Time, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The New Republic to the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times concur on the diagnosis: newspapers, as we have known them, are disintegrating and are possibly on the verge of extinction. Time's Walter Isaacson describes the situation as having "reached meltdown proportions" and concludes, "It is now possible to contemplate a time in the near future when major towns will no longer have a newspaper and when magazines and network news operations will employ no more than a handful of reporters." A newspaper industry that still employs roughly 50,000 journalists--the vast majority of the remaining practitioners of the craft--is teetering on the brink.

Blame has been laid first and foremost on the Internet, for luring away advertisers and readers, and on the economic meltdown, which has demolished revenues and hammered debt-laden media firms. But for all the ink spilled addressing the dire circumstance of the ink-stained wretch, the understanding of what we can do about the crisis has been woefully inadequate. Unless we rethink alternatives and reforms, the media will continue to flail until journalism is all but extinguished.

Let's begin with the crisis. In a nutshell, media corporations, after running journalism into the ground, have determined that news gathering and reporting are not profit-making propositions. So they're jumping ship. The country's great regional dailies--the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer--are in bankruptcy. Denver's Rocky Mountain News recently closed down, ending daily newspaper competition in that city. The owners of the San Francisco Chronicle, reportedly losing $1 million a week, are threatening to shutter the paper, leaving a major city without a major daily newspaper. Big dailies in Seattle (the Times), Chicago (the Sun-Times) and Newark (the Star-Ledger) are reportedly near the point of folding, and smaller dailies like the Baltimore Examiner have already closed. The 101-year-old Christian Science Monitor, in recent years an essential source of international news and analysis, is folding its daily print edition. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer is scuttling its print edition and downsizing from a news staff of 165 to about twenty for its online-only incarnation. Whole newspaper chains--such as Lee Enterprises, the owner of large and medium-size publications that for decades have defined debates in Montana, Iowa and Wisconsin--are struggling as the value of stock shares falls below the price of a single daily paper. And the New York Times needed an emergency injection of hundreds of millions of dollars by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim in order to stay afloat.

Those are the headlines. Arguably uglier is the death-by-small-cuts of newspapers that are still functioning. Layoffs of reporters and closings of bureaus mean that even if newspapers survive, they have precious few resources for actually doing journalism. Job cuts during the first months of this year--300 at the Los Angeles Times, 205 at the Miami Herald, 156 at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 150 at the Kansas City Star, 128 at the Sacramento Bee, 100 at the Providence Journal, 100 at the Hartford Courant, ninety at the San Diego Union-Tribune, thirty at the Wall Street Journal and on and on--suggest that this year will see far more positions eliminated than in 2008, when almost 16,000 were lost. Even Doonesbury's Rick Redfern has been laid off from his job at the Washington Post.

The toll is daunting. As former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. and Post associate editor Robert Kaiser have observed, "A great news organization is difficult to build and tragically easy to disassemble." That disassembling is now in full swing. As journalists are laid off and newspapers cut back or shut down, whole sectors of our civic life go dark. Newspapers that long ago closed their foreign bureaus and eliminated their crack investigative operations are shuttering at warp speed what remains of city hall, statehouse and Washington bureaus. The Cox chain, publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Austin American-Statesman and fifteen other papers, will padlock its DC bureau on April 1--a move that follows the closures of the respected Washington bureaus of Advance Publications (the Newark Star-Ledger, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others); Copley Newspapers and its flagship San Diego Union-Tribune; as well as those of the once great regional dailies of Des Moines, Hartford, Houston, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Toledo.

Mired in debt and facing massive losses, the managers of corporate newspaper firms seek to right the sinking ship by cutting costs, leading remaining newspaper readers to ask why they are bothering to pay for publications that are pale shadows of themselves. It is the daily newspaper death dance-cum- funeral march.

But it is not just newspapers that are in crisis; it is the institution of journalism itself. By any measure, journalism is missing from most commercial radio. TV news operations have become celebrity- and weather-obsessed "profit centers" rather than the journalistic icons of the Murrow and Cronkite eras. Cable channels "fill the gap" with numberless pundits and "business reporters," who got everything about the last decade wrong but now complain that the government doesn't know how to set things right. Cable news is defensible only because of the occasional newspaper reporter moonlighting as a talking head. But what happens when the last reporter stops collecting a newspaper paycheck and goes into PR or lobbying? She'll leave cable an empty vessel and take the public's right to know anything more than a rhetorical flourish with her.

The Internet and blogosphere, too, depend in large part on "old media" to do original journalism. Web links still refer readers mostly to stories that first appeared in print. Even in more optimistic scenarios, no one has a business model to sustain digital journalism beyond a small number of self-supporting services. The attempts of newspapers to shift their operations online have been commercial failures, as they trade old media dollars for new media pennies. We are enthusiastic about Wikipedia and the potential for collaborative efforts on the web; they can help democratize our media and politics. But they do not replace skilled journalists on the ground covering the events of the day and doing investigative reporting. Indeed, the Internet cannot achieve its revolutionary potential as a citizens' forum without such journalism.

So this is where we stand: much of local and state government, whole federal departments and agencies, American activities around the world, the world itself--vast areas of great public concern--are either neglected or on the verge of neglect. Politicians and administrators will work increasingly without independent scrutiny and without public accountability. We are entering historically uncharted territory in America, a country that from its founding has valued the press not merely as a watchdog but as the essential nurturer of an informed citizenry. The collapse of journalism and the democratic infrastructure it sustains is not a development that anyone, except perhaps corrupt politicians and the interests they serve, looks forward to. Such a crisis demands solutions equal to the task. So what are they?

Regrettably the loud discussion of the collapse of journalism has been far stronger in describing the symptoms than in providing remedies. With the frank acknowledgment that the old commercial system has failed and will not return, there has been a flurry of modest proposals to address the immodest crisis. These range from schemes to further consolidate news gathering at the local level to pleas for donations from news consumers and hopes that hard-pressed philanthropists and foundations will decide to go into the news business. And they range from ineffectual to improbable to undesirable. Walter Isaacson has proposed that newspapers come up with a plan to charge readers "micropayments" for online content. Even if such a system were practically possible, the last thing we should do is erect electronic walls that block the openness and democratic genius of the Internet.

Don't get us wrong. We are enthusiastic about many of the efforts to promote original journalism online, such as ProPublica, Talking Points Memo and the Huffington Post. We cheer on exciting local endeavors, such as MinnPost in the Twin Cities--a nonprofit, five-day-a-week online journal that covers Minnesota politics with support from major foundations, wealthy families and roughly 900 member-donors contributing $10 to $10,000. But even our friends at MinnPost acknowledge that their project is not filling the void in a metro area that still has two large, if struggling, daily newspapers. Just about every serious journalist involved in an online project will readily concede that even if these ventures pan out, we will still have a dreadfully undernourished journalism system with considerably less news gathering and reporting, especially at the local level.

For all their merits and flaws, these fixes are mere triage strategies. They are not cures; in fact, if there is a risk in them, it is that they might briefly discourage the needed reshaping of ownership models that are destined to fail.

The place to begin crafting solutions is with the understanding that the economic downturn did not cause the crisis in journalism; nor did the Internet. The economic collapse and Internet have greatly accentuated and accelerated a process that can be traced back to the 1970s, when corporate ownership and consolidation of newspapers took off. It was then that managers began to balance their books and to satisfy the demand from investors for ever-increasing returns by cutting journalists and shutting news bureaus. Go back and read a daily newspaper published in a medium-size American city in the 1960s, and you will be awed by the rich mix of international, national and local news coverage and by the frequency with which "outsiders"--civil rights campaigners, antiwar activists and consumer advocates like Ralph Nader--ended up on the front page.

As long ago as the late 1980s and early 1990s, prominent journalists and editors like Jim Squires were quitting the field in disgust at the contempt corporate management displayed toward journalism. Print advertising, which still accounts for the lion's share of newspaper revenue, declined gently as a percentage of all ad spending from 1950 to '90, as television grew in importance. Starting in 1990, well before the rise of the web as a competitor for ad dollars, newspaper ad revenues went into a sharp decline, from 26 percent of all media advertising that year to what will likely be around 10 percent this year.

Even before that decline, newspaper owners were choosing short-term profits over long-term viability. As far back as 1983, legendary reporter Ben Bagdikian warned publishers that if they continued to water down their journalism and replace it with (less expensive) fluff, they would undermine their raison d'être and fail to cultivate younger readers. But corporate newspaper owners abandoned any responsibility to maintain the franchise. When the Internet came along, newspapers were already heading due south.

We do not mean to suggest that '60s journalism was perfect or that we should aim to return there. Even then journalism suffered from a generally agreed-upon professional code that relied far too heavily on official sources to set the news agenda and decide the range of debate in our political culture. That weakness of journalism has been magnified in the era of corporate control, leaving us with a situation most commentators are loath to acknowledge: the quality of journalism in the United States today is dreadful.

Of course, there are still tremendous journalists doing outstanding work, but they battle a system increasingly pushing in the opposite direction. (That is why some of the most powerful statements about our current circumstances come in the form of books, like Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine; or documentaries, like Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine; or beat reporting in magazines, like that of Jane Mayer and Seymour Hersh at The New Yorker.) The news media blew the coverage of the Iraq invasion, spoon-feeding us lies masquerading as fact-checked verities. They missed the past decade of corporate scandals. They cheered on the housing bubble and genuflected before the financial sector (and Gilded Age levels of wealth and inequality) as it blasted debt and speculation far beyond what the real economy could sustain. Today they do almost no investigation into where the trillions of public dollars being spent by the Federal Reserve and Treasury are going but spare not a moment to update us on the "Octomom." They trade in trivia and reduce everything to spin, even matters of life and death.

No wonder young people find mainstream journalism uninviting; it would almost be more frightening if they embraced what passes for news today. Older Americans have been giving up on old media too, if not as rapidly and thoroughly as the young. If we are going to address the crisis in journalism, we have to come up with solutions that provide us with hard-hitting reporting that monitors people in power, that engages all our people, not just the classes attractive to advertisers, and that seeks to draw all Americans into public life. Going backward is not an option; nor is it desirable. The old corporate media system choked on its own excess. We should not seek to restore or re-create it. We have to move forward to a system that creates a journalism far superior to that of the recent past.

We can do exactly that--but only if we recognize and embrace the necessity of government intervention. Only government can implement policies and subsidies to provide an institutional framework for quality journalism. We understand that this is a controversial position. When French President Nicolas Sarkozy recently engineered a $765 million bailout of French newspapers, free marketeers rushed to the barricades to declare, "No, no, not in the land of the free press." Conventional wisdom says that the founders intended the press to be entirely independent of the state, to preserve the integrity of the press. Bree Nordenson notes that when she informed famed journalist Tom Rosenstiel that her visionary 2007 Columbia Journalism Review article concerned the ways government could support the press, Rosenstiel "responded brusquely, 'Well, I'm not a big fan of government support.' I explained that I just wanted to put the possibility on the table. 'Well, I'd take it off the table,' he said."

We are sympathetic to that position. As writers, we have been routinely critical of government--Democratic and Republican--over the past three decades and antagonistic to those in power. Policies that would allow politicians to exercise even the slightest control over the news are, in our view, not only frightening but unacceptable. Fortunately, the rude calculus that says government intervention equals government control is inaccurate and does not reflect our past or present, or what enlightened policies and subsidies could entail.

Our founders never thought that freedom of the press would belong only to those who could afford a press. They would have been horrified at the notion that journalism should be regarded as the private preserve of the Rupert Murdochs and John Malones. The founders would not have entertained, let alone accepted, the current equation that seems to say that if rich people determine there is no good money to be made in the news, then society cannot have news. Let's find a king and call it a day.

The founders regarded the establishment of a press system, the Fourth Estate, as the first duty of the state. Jefferson and Madison devoted considerable energy to explaining the necessity of the press to a vibrant democracy. The government implemented extraordinary postal subsidies for the distribution of newspapers. It also instituted massive newspaper subsidies through printing contracts and the paid publication of government notices, all with the intent of expanding the number and variety of newspapers. When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s he was struck by the quantity and quality of newspapers and periodicals compared with France, Canada and Britain. It was not an accident. It had little to do with "free markets." It was the result of public policy.

Moreover, when the Supreme Court has taken up matters of freedom of the press, its majority opinions have argued strongly for the necessity of the press as the essential underpinning of our constitutional republic. First Amendment absolutist Hugo Black wrote that the "Amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public, that a free press is a condition of a free society." Black argued for the right and necessity of the government to counteract private monopolistic control over the media. More recently Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, argued that "assuring the public has access to a multiplicity of information sources is a governmental purpose of the highest order."

But government support for the press is not merely a matter of history or legal interpretation. Complaints about a government role in fostering journalism invariably overlook the fact that our contemporary media system is anything but an independent "free market" institution. The government subsidies established by the founders did not end in the eighteenth--or even the nineteenth--century. Today the government doles out tens of billions of dollars in direct and indirect subsidies, including free and essentially permanent monopoly broadcast licenses, monopoly cable and satellite privileges, copyright protection and postal subsidies. (Indeed, this magazine has been working for the past few years with journals of the left and right to assure that those subsidies are available to all publications.) Because the subsidies mostly benefit the wealthy and powerful, they are rarely mentioned in the fictional account of an independent and feisty Fourth Estate. Both the rise and decline of commercial journalism can be attributed in part to government policies, which scrapped the regulations and ownership rules that had encouraged local broadcast journalism and allowed for lax regulation as well as tax deductions for advertising--policies that greatly increased news media revenues.

The truth is that government policies and subsidies already define our press system. The only question is whether they will be enlightened and democratic, as in the early Republic, or corrupt and corrosive to democracy, as has been the case in recent decades. The answer will be determined in coming years as part of what is certain to be a bruising battle: media companies and their lobbying groups will argue against the "heavy hand of government" while defending existing subsidies. They will propose more deregulation, hoping to capitalize on the crisis to remove the last barriers to print, broadcast and digital consolidation in local markets--creating media "company towns," where competition is eliminated, along with journalism jobs, in pursuit of better returns for investors. Enlightened elected officials, media unions and public interest and community groups that recognize the role of robust journalism are going to have to step up to argue for a real fix.

Fortunately, an increasing number of veteran journalists, scholars and activists are beginning to grasp the historical significance of the present moment and the central role of public policy. It was the late James Carey, decorated University of Illinois and Columbia journalism professor and no fan of government power, who saw this before almost anyone else, writing in 2002: "Alas, the press may have to rely upon a democratic state to create the conditions necessary for a democratic press to flourish and for journalists to be restored to their proper role as orchestrators of the conversation of a democratic culture."

We have to ask where we want to end up, after the reforms have been implemented. In our view we need to have competing independent newsrooms of well-paid journalists in every state and in every major community. This is not about newspapers or even broadcast media; it entails all media and accepts that we may be headed into an era when nearly all of our communication will be digital. Ideally this will be a pluralistic system, where there will be different institutional structures. Varieties of nonprofit media will have to play a much larger role, though not a monopolistic one.

We recognize and embrace the need for a system in which there will be a range of perspectives from left to right, alongside some media more intent on maintaining a less explicitly ideological stance. We must have a system that prohibits state censorship and that minimizes commercial control over journalistic values and pursuits. The right of any person to start his or her own medium, commercial or nonprofit, at any time is inviolable. From this foundation we can envision a thriving, digital citizen's journalism complementing and probably merging with professional journalism. What will the mix be? It would vary, with more not-for-profit and subsidized media in rural and low-income areas, more for-profit media in wealthier ones. The first order of any government intervention would be to assure that no state or region would be without quality local, state, national or international journalism.

We begin with the notion that journalism is a public good, that it has broad social benefits far beyond that between buyer and seller. Like all public goods, we need the resources to get it produced. This is the role of the state and public policy. It will require a subsidy and should be regarded as similar to the education system or the military in that regard. Only a nihilist would consider it sufficient to rely on profit-seeking commercial interests or philanthropy to educate our youth or defend the nation from attack. With the collapse of the commercial news system, the same logic applies. Just as there came a moment when policy-makers recognized the necessity of investing tax dollars to create a public education system to teach our children, so a moment has arrived at which we must recognize the need to invest tax dollars to create and maintain news gathering, reporting and writing with the purpose of informing all our citizens.

So, if we can accept the need for government intervention to save American journalism, what form should it take? In the near term, we need to think about an immediate journalism economic stimulus, to be revisited after three years, and we need to think big. Let's eliminate postal rates for periodicals that garner less than 20 percent of their revenues from advertising. This keeps alive all sorts of magazines and journals of opinion that are being devastated by distribution costs. It is these publications that often do investigative, cutting-edge, politically provocative journalism.

What to do about newspapers? Let's give all Americans an annual tax credit for the first $200 they spend on daily newspapers. The newspapers would have to publish at least five times per week and maintain a substantial "news hole," say at least twenty-four broad pages each day, with less than 50 percent advertising. In effect, this means the government will pay for every citizen who so desires to get a free daily newspaper subscription, but the taxpayer gets to pick the newspaper--this is an indirect subsidy, because the government does not control who gets the money. This will buy time for our old media newsrooms--and for us citizens--to develop a plan to establish journalism in the digital era. We could see this evolving into a system to provide tax credits for online subscriptions as well.

None of these proposed subsidies favor or censor any particular viewpoint. The primary condition on media recipients of this stimulus subsidy would be a mild one: that they make at least 90 percent of their content immediately available free online. In this way, the subsidies would benefit citizens and taxpayers, expanding the public domain and providing the Internet with a rich vein of material available to all.

What should be done about the disconnect between young people and journalism? Have the government allocate funds so every middle school, high school and college has a well-funded student newspaper and a low-power FM radio station, all of them with substantial websites. We need to get young people accustomed to producing journalism and to appreciating what differentiates good journalism from the other stuff.

The essential component for the immediate stimulus should be an exponential expansion of funding for public and community broadcasting, with the requirement that most of the funds be used for journalism, especially at the local level, and that all programming be available for free online. Other democracies outspend the United States by whopping margins per capita on public media: Canada sixteen times more; Germany twenty times more; Japan forty-three times more; Britain sixty times more; Finland and Denmark seventy-five times more. These investments have produced dramatically more detailed and incisive international reporting, as well as programming to serve young people, women, linguistic and ethnic minorities and regions that might otherwise be neglected by for-profit media.

Perhaps in the past the paucity of public media in the United States could be justified by the enormous corporate media presence. But as the corporate sector shrivels we need something to replace it, and fast. Public and community broadcasters are in a position to be just that, and to keep alive the practice of news gathering in countless communities across the nation. Indeed, if a regional daily like the San Francisco Chronicle fails this year, why not try a federally funded experiment: maintain the newsroom as a digital extension of the local public broadcasting system?

Currently the government spends less than $450 million annually on public media. (To put matters in perspective, it spends several times that much on Pentagon public relations designed, among other things, to encourage favorable press coverage of the wars that the vast majority of Americans oppose.) Based on what other highly democratic and free countries do, the allocation from the government should be closer to $10 billion. All totaled, the suggestions we make here for subscription subsidies, postal reforms, youth media and investment in public broadcasting have a price tag in the range of $60 billion over the next three years.

This is a substantial amount of money. In normal times it might be too much to ask. But in a time of national crisis, when an informed and engaged citizenry is America's best hope, $20 billion a year is chicken feed for building what would essentially be a bridge across which journalism might pass from dying old media to the promise of something new. Think of it as a free press "infrastructure project" that is necessary to maintain an informed citizenry, and democracy itself. It would keep the press system alive. And it has the added benefit of providing an economic stimulus. If these journalists (and the tens of thousands of production and distribution workers associated with newspapers) are not put to work through the programs we propose, their knowledge and expertise will be lost. They will be unemployed, and their unemployment will contribute to further stagnation and economic decline--especially in big cities where newspapers are major employers.

These proposals are a good start, but then the really hard work begins. We have to come up with a plan to convert failing newspapers into journalistic entities with the express purpose of assuring that fully staffed, functioning and, ideally, competing newsrooms continue to operate in communities across the country. The only way to do this is by using tax policies, credit policies and explicit subsidies to convert the remains of old media into independent, stable institutions that are ready to compete and communicate in the decades to come. To get from here to there, and especially to make possible multiple competing newsrooms in larger communities, policy-makers should be open to commercial ownership, municipal ownership, staff ownership or independent nonprofit ownership. Ideally the next media system will have a combination of the above; and the government should be prepared to rewrite rules and regulations and to use its largesse to aid a variety of sound initiatives.

We confess that we do not have all the answers. Neither, we have discovered, does anyone else. The fatal flaw in so many sincere but doomed responses to the current crisis is that they try to do the impossible, to create a system using varying doses of foundation grants, do-gooder capitalism, citizen donations, volunteer labor, the anticipation of a miraculous increase in advertising manna and/or a sudden--and in our view unimaginable--reversal on the part of Americans who have thus far shown no inclination to pay for online content. At best, these are piecemeal proposals when we are in dire need of building an entire edifice. The money from these sources is insufficient to address the crisis in journalism.

We have to open the door to enlightened public policies and subsidies. We need our members of Congress and our leading scholars to approach this matter with the same urgency with which they would approach the threat of terrorism, pandemic, financial collapse or climate change. We need an organized citizenry demanding the institutions that make self-government possible. Only then can we, like our founders, build a free press. The technologies and the economic challenges are, of course, more complex than in the 1790s, but the answer is the same: the democratic state, the government, must create the conditions for sustaining the journalism that can provide the people with the information they need to be their own governors.

About John Nichols

John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written The Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

Nichols writes about politics for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent. He is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times and the associate editor of the Capital Times, the daily newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other newspapers.


About Robert W. McChesney

Robert McChesney is Gutgsell Endowed Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois. He hosts the program Media Matters on WILL-AM every Sunday afternoon from 1-2PM central time. He and John Nichols, The Nation's Washington correspondent, are the founders of Free Press, the media reform network, and the authors of Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy (New Press). He has written 16 books and his work has been translated into 15 languages. more...


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Time Inc. To Start Charging For Online Content

Because there's too much ad inventory on the Internet, Time Inc. publications including SI.com, Time.com, CNNMoney.com and EW.com will experiment with mixing paid and free content in the next 8 months, EVP John Squires told reporters gathered today at the company's NYC headquarters.

We caught up with John afterward and asked him to explain further. He told us, "certain content area of our sites will try some pay tests, just to see what will drive consumers to get out their wallets or subscribe to one of our magazines."


Press Complaints Commission(PCC) says quality of online news reporting is slipping

The Press Complaints Commission has said it has noticed a decline in the standard of online journalism and is watching carefully to see what effect cutbacks are having on accuracy.

But outgoing PCC chairman Sir Christopher Meyer, who steps down later this month, said a record number of complaints last year was evidence that self-regulation is working and not a sign of an overall decline in quality.

Unveiling the PCC annual report, Meyer warned that sacrificing editorial standards in the pursuit of profit was like "selling the family jewellery".

In response to a question about the effects of editorial cutbacks on journalism standards, Meyer said: "If we do notice something which appears to be linked to some of the hollowing-out that's going on in the industry, I'm sure we would say something.

"It's part of our remit to keep standards high. We've noticed some wobble in standards in areas of online reporting where it's clear the pressure of time and the 24-hour news cycle may have lead people to put up stories which haven't been thoroughly vetted."

He later added: "Newspaper groups are businesses and have got to find a business model which reconciles high standards with profitability."

The role of the sub-editor in an online age has been the subject of ongoing debate in recent months after Press Gazette reported comments made by Roy Greenslade at a publishing industry conference last month.

A number of newspaper groups have changed how they process copy online. Last October it emerged that Telegraph Media Group had begun experimenting with "post-moderation" of online news stories, effectively allowing reporters to write directly to the website.

Meyer said he believed the overall standard of British journalism had improved since the mid-Nineties, when he was press secretary to then prime minister John Major.

In its annual report, the PCC said more than half of the 4,700 complaints it received were about online stories - outnumbering print complaints for the second year running.

Meyer said the eight per cent year-on-year increase in complaints showed the public had confidence in the self-regulatory system administered by the PCC.

"We have morphed from being purely a complaints service to be a citizens' advice bureau on the media," he said.

He said that when he joined the PCC six years ago the system of self-regulation faced "an existential threat".

"If you go through the House of Commons and the House of Lords you will find quite a few people who are hostile to self-regulation and hostile to the PCC. That's never going to go away," he said.

But he added: "It's pretty clear that the centre of gravity lies with self-regulation.

"We come back to the old paraphrase of Winston Churchill who said that democracy was the worst system of government until he compared it to all the others.

"You will find a lot of people who say self-regulation has its difficulties, its jagged edges. But compared with any other system of regulation it's the best."

The most complained-about article in 2008 was a comment piece in The Times by Matthew Parris in which he suggested that cyclists should be decapitated. It attracted 584 complaints. The PCC found that there had been no breach of the editors' code of practice.

The Daily Mail's coverage of the Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand controversy attracted 92 complaints, closely followed by the coverage of the Mumbai attacks in the Independent, Telegraph, Star, Sun, Times and Express, which prompted 90 readers to write to the PCC.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

McCain gives first Twitter-based interview

John McCain has come a long way, technologically, since his days on the 2008 campaign trail.

Less than a year ago, the Republican presidential hopeful admitted that he needed help logging onto the Internet. Now the 72-year-old, four-term senator is practically leading Washington's foray into the Web 2.0 realm as the subject of what ABC News claims is the first "Twitterview"-- an interview conducted entirely on Twitter.

ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday interviewed McCain through the microblogging service. In no more than 20 minutes and 140 characters at a time, Stephanopoulos managed to ask the senator about AIG, Pakistan, and Iran, and whether President Obama is putting the nation at risk of another terrorist attack, among other things. McCain proved, however, that a character limit cannot stop a seasoned politician from using a bit of rhetorical agility to avoid a reporter's questions.

"AIG: Would a President McCain break bonus contracts?" GStephanopoulos asked.

"@GStephanopoulos i would have never bailed out AIG, the real scandal is billions to foreign banks," SenJohnMcCain replied.

McCain, who has been tweeting on a near-daily basis since late January, controls 100 percent of the content of his posts, according to his staff, and posts tweets either from his PC or his BlackBerry, which he may or may not have helped create.

The senator is one of 69 congress members on Twitter and certainly not the only one whose use of Web 2.0 tools may be subject to a learning curve, as evidenced by one congressman's announcement of a secret Iraq trip via Twitter.

Undeterred by such gaffes, at least four congressional committees now have their own Twitter accounts as well: the House Committees on Science and Technology, Education and Labor, Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.

McCain "Twitterview" not a journalistic high point

ABC's George Stephanopoulos is an excellent reporter and Senator John McCain has given some great interviews. But while yesterday's "twitterview" may have been a watershed moment for Twitter, it was far from a high point for either journalism or politics.

After reading a transcript of the interview, I have to question whether the 140 character format makes any sense as an interview technique, especially when dealing with life and death questions such as "What worries you more: Pakistan or Iran?" to which Senator McCain responded, "Both. The challenges are different but both significant."

Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer a little more depth in my interviews. While brevity has its place, I found both the questions and the answers to be artificially short thanks to the limit of 140 characters per "tweet."

In an age where we get much of our political information from sound bites and commercials, I appreciate the tradition of a well-seasoned journalist sitting down with a politician to ask in-depth questions, get candid responses and be able to ask equally in-depth follow-up questions. In most cases, in person or at least telephone interviews are a better way to do that than short bursts of typing.

Having said that, I do like the fact that Stephanopoulos used Twitter prior to the interview to get his followers to submit questions for the Senator and I would like to see more online forums where politicians answer questions not just from journalists but from citizens as well. But asking the likes of Stephanopoulos and McCain to reduce their dialog to 140 characters per question is, in my opinion, an interesting experiment but a bad precedent. Twitter is fine for casual conversation and occasional punditry, but when it comes to the affairs of our nation, we need to hear a lot more than 140 characters from our leaders and our leading journalists.


Online Journalism & Web 2.0 Programme

School of Journalism & New Media Studies

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in collaboration with

Deutsche Welle (DW) AKADEMIE, Germany offers

Online Journalism & Web 2.0 Programme

The training programme aims to equip the learner with the skills in using Internet as a digital medium to communicate effectively with various advanced multimedia packages. The programme will deal with the possibilities of using Internet as medium of dialogue; it will discuss journalistic ethics and professional issues involved in journalistic writing for Internet; it will teach journalistic tools like structure of online articles, writing for Internet, non-linear story-telling and packaging; and will introduce the learner with various additional, interactive and cross media options for web sites.

There will be theoretical as well as intensive practical training sessions. State-of-the-art multimedia lab facilities will be provided and the participants will be expected to produce and manage online content- articles, pictures, audio, video and interactive elements using multimedia packages. The programme will be journalistic in nature and the technical skills will be focused at this aspect only. Some selected participants of this training programme may be considered to participate in a traineeship programme for young media professionals organized by DW in Germany.

Venue: IGNOU Campus, Maidan Garhi, New Delhi-110068

Medium of Instruction: English

Participants: Media practitioners, Faculty members, Graduates preferably in journalism and mass communication who want to excel in online journalism.

Objectives: The aim of the workshop is to enable participants to:

• acquaint themselves with the characteristics and challenges of online journalism;

• identify news and current affairs topics suitable for websites aimed at diverse target


• plan, research and write online articles on various topics.

Contents: The workshop will focus on:

• journalistic ethics (role and responsibility of the online journalist);

• journalistic skills (how to write better headlines, teasers, articles);

structuring online articles through graphic elements; (how to incorporate links,

interactive formats etc);

• non-linear story telling;

• compiling article-dossiers for the internet;

• Web 2.0 (Blogs, Podcasts, user-generated content etc).

Training Methods: Lectures, discussions, visualization, practical exercises, interactive sessions and group work.

Fee Structure:

For residential candidates, there will be arrangements of boarding and lodging in IGNOU campus and total fee will be Rs.25,000/. For non-residential candidates the fee will be 18,000/- which includes cost of study material, working lunch and inter-sessional tea etc. during the programme.


One Month : 23rd March to 17th April 2009.

Last date of receiving duly filled application forms: March 10, 2009.

How to Apply?

Further details and application form can be obtained from the Assistant Registrar, SOJNMS, Room No 8, Block-1, IGNOU Campus, Maidangarhi, New Delhi-110068. The form can be downloaded from IGNOU's website www.ignou.ac.in or obtained by email from soj@ignou.ac.in.


Participants who successfully complete the programme will be issued a joint certificate by IGNOU-DW.

Selection Criteria

· The number of participants is limited to 25.

· Assessment of the applications will be based on the information provided in the completed application form.


Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has entered into a long term collaboration with Deutsche Welle Akademie, Germanyfor the conduct of various training programmes addressing the needs of the industry requiring highly specialized skills. The month-long programme on Online Journalism & Web 2.0 is the first programme to be conducted as part of this collaboration. Two more such programmes - Training of Trainers and Media Management will be conducted shortly by internationally renowned trainers from Deutsche Welle Akademie.

The DW Akademie is one of the premier institutions of media education and training in Europe. The roots of Deutsche Welle's international training activities go back to over 40 years. DW also offers a foreign language traineeship in Germany for young journalists and has an excellent reputation with the domestic media.For further information on DW access: www.dw-world.de


Tigo, Google, GNA launch SMS service

Millicom Ghana, operators of Tigo, in collaboration with Google and the Ghana News Agency (GNA) has launched a value added service to provide subscribers with internet-based information through text messaging.

The service allows Tigo subscribers to send text messages to short code '4664' to receive information on weather, currency conversions, news from all over the world and sports among others as may be preferred by the subscriber.

The service also allows Tigo subscribers to access definition of words and translations of English words into other languages.

As per the collaboration, Google will provide the internet service facility whilst GNA provides news feeds. 

Ms Anita Erskine, Corporate Affairs Manager of Tigo, said the service was to ensure that apart from the normal voice calls, customers had the opportunity to use the network to build on knowledge.

She said the company was committed to adding value to communication and giving customers value for money.

Mrs. Estelle Akofio-Sowah, Google Ghana Office Lead, said subscribers did not need hi-tech phones to access the service since it was based on ordinary text messaging, adding that the cost per service was the same as that of a regular sms.

Mr Kweku Ofosu Adakwa, Chief Director of the Ministry of Communications, was hopeful that the service would provide entrepreneurs with the opportunity to deploy ICT in meaningful ways to help minimize the cost of doing business.

He called on subscribers to use the service for social networking to promote inclusiveness and confidence among one another.


Source: GNA

With P-I Transformed, Watch for an Old-Fashioned Newspaper War Online in Seattle

To paraphrase a Mo Udall quip on politics, everything that needs to be said about the new online-only Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been said -- but not everybody has said it yet. So here's my two cents.
I would love to know the business model. In the unlikely event Hearst tells me, I'll discuss it. Meantime it looks as if Hearst and the P-I are eliminating expenses even more radically than I and others had speculated in discussing the pulling-the-plug-on-print scenario. Not only are they getting rid of paper, printing and distribution costs, they whacked seven-eighths of the newsroom as well. I'm guessing costs just went down 80 percent.
On the revenue side, the P-I will be building from a very modest base. Locally The Seattle Times ran the joint operating agency and advertising sales. Corporate parent Hearst may be able to contribute national advertising given its leading role in setting up the partnership of 700 newspapers with Yahoo and exploration of other high-tech ad placement options.
My former boss, Philadelphia Inquirer executive editor Gene Roberts, used to say it sometimes makes sense to start a new project before you are completely ready. That would make sense here -- assuming Hearst may have reached the go/no-go decision point only within the last several weeks. The P-I's site has a lead in monthly unique visitors over The Seattle Times (which had double the paid print circulation). So priority one is to hold onto that audience by continuing to publish online and, best case, build a wider, younger audience later.
Even if the site is not a money-maker for several years (my guess), if the losses are kept to a low roar, SeattlePI.com may make sense for Hearst and the company's surviving papers as a real-time test of what works and what doesn't in an online-only local site. Lots is up for grabs, including the ratio of news to non-news. (Keep sending those pet pictures, Seattle). Micro-payments are so last month; this week, aggressive experimentation is in.
Oddly, the death of the JOA will likely usher in a more intense and high-stakes competition in Seattle than before -- with the combatants duking it out in the fresh venue of online. Does the Times site -- with ties to an excellent (though smaller than it used to be) metro paper -- establish dominance? Or does the nimble, Web-savvy upstart better plug into the tastes of online users and the needs of advertisers? 
The P-I has already said it plans to stay competitive with breaking hard news. That is high on the list of what readers want. I'm enough of a traditionalist to be skeptical about how much news substance can be achieved with an eighth the professional staff the P-I fielded yesterday. But I will be watching carefully to see if Hearst's grand experiment proves me wrong.