March 07, 2005

Catching Up: Apple, Dying Newspapers, Gonzo vs. Gannon

Between a glut of work, travel and a vicious cold (see: travel) I've been offline - and this week I'm going to Oaxaca so posting will continue to be light. Here, though, are some quick takes:

 Apple vs. Bloggers: Good story in today's New York Times about the court fight between Apple Computer and bloggers who are making public things the company prefer were kept secret. At the heart of Apple's argument: Bloggers are not reporters and therefore don't deserve protection under California's shield law. I like the approach of Jack Balkin, a Yale law professor: Define bloggers by function - those who report are reporters. Says Balkin (emphasis added):

"I would be willing to claim that if you look in my blog, what I'm doing is so similar to what Lewis or Krugman or Safire do," he said, referring to Anthony Lewis, Paul Krugman and William Safire, current and former columnists for The Times, that "although it's done more informally and it's about a much narrower area, that I could claim that I was in the functional definition. That's what happens when you start taking a functional approach."

All the documents in the case are here at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. (Thanks, Susan Mernit.)

 Don't Hire the Hearse Yet: Alan Mutter, of Newsosaur, commenting on a remark by Phil Bronstein, editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, "that the free model and the non-newsprint model is what we're looking at in the future" says news companies can save newspaper if they're willing to radically remake the business model. Writes Alan (emphasis adde):

"Will all due respect to Phil B, we don't have to stop the presses just yet. Newspaper executives can save the industry if they quit trying to preserve, protect and defend the comfy mass media business model that has carried them into the handsome offices, salaries, stock-option plans and retirement accounts they enjoy today. This is not tinkering. This is radical change that will cost time and money and likely lead in the near term to lower profits and, most likely, lower share prices."

[Read: Reading the Vanishing Newspaper, 2: How Newspapers Make Money]

 Gonzo vs. Gannon: Frank Rich in the Sunday Times takes on the differences between the salad days of Hunter Thompson and the sad times of Jeff Gannon. Thompson's shining quality, says Rich, was authenticity, a voice as unfiltered by the constrains of mainstream meda as the one today's bloggers proclaim to have. Says Rich (all emphasis added):

"His unruly mix of fact, opinion and masturbatory self-regard may have made him a blogger before there was an Internet, but he was a blogger who had the zeal to leave home and report firsthand and who could write great sentences that made you want to savor what he found out rather than just scroll quickly through screen after screen of minutiae and rant."

Gannon, on the other hand, represents the debasement and emasculation of News (Rich capitalizes it) by both facile broadcasters (he swipes at Jennings and Williams) and a White House bent in bending media to its own purposes, ethics be damned. Rich writes:

Today you can't tell the phonies without a scorecard. Besides the six "journalists" we know to have been paid by the administration or its backers, bloggers were on the campaign payrolls of both a Republican office-seeker (South Dakota's Senator John Thune) and a Democrat (Howard Dean) during last year's campaign. the Social Security Administration is refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests for information about its use of public relations firms - such as those that funneled taxpayers' money to the likes of Armstrong Williams. Don't expect news organizations dedicated to easy-listening news to get to the bottom of it.

To combat this very real attack on the validity of News, authentic journalists are needed.

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Posted by Tim Porter at March 7, 2005 08:14 AM