FREE SPEECH: its history and future by Jacob Mchangama

Free speech has a long history. Long enough that we know the pitfalls so well that they have nicknames.

There’s Milton’s Curse to describe the tendency for emerging leaders to defend free speech, only to walk backward once they are in power. More recently, we added the Streisand Effect, nicknamed after Barbara Streisand’s failed 2003 attempt to keep photos of her Malibu home off the internet. Her failed resistance generated far more attention.

This long, fragile and volatile path for free speech is the focus of the new book Free Speech A History from Socrates to Social Media by Jacob Mchangama. It is thorough, important and enjoyable. I recommend it. Below are my notes for my future research purposes.

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All the News That’s Fit to Sell: notes on mass media business models from the 2003 book by James T. Hamilton

The fractured media landscape we have today was already breaking apart two decades ago, and the economic models that underpin them predicted what we have today.

That’s the benefit of reading All the News That’s Fit to Sell, a 2003 book from James T. Hamilton, a well-respected journalism professor. I’ve read Hamilton’s work before, and this book was one I’ve long had on my list. I enjoyed the work, which is just as relevant 20 years later.

His research is helpful for my understanding of journalism models that I’ve spent my entire career working on. The book is also helpful for those interested in a dispassionate outline of the beginnings of the digital transformation of media – which we’re now fully immersed in.

Below I share notes for my future reflection.

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Journalism Thinking: a lightning talk at Ignite Philly

Geographically-focused acts of journalism are powerful. Professionals are increasingly rare because the business model that supported most of them has been supplanted. No one is doing the hard work of combating that. Let’s change it.

Following my journalism thinking essay, I’ve been looking to develop a more general-interest way to deliver the message. On Oct. 16, I gave my first try, at Ignite Philly, a local, volunteer-run outpost of a global confederation of big-idea events. (I spoke there in 2011 and 2013)

Find my notes and slides below, and I’ll add the video here when it’s eventually posted.

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‘Journalism Thinking’ doesn’t need a business model. It needs a call to arms

I originally posted this on Medium here. It received considerable endorsement, including here, here and here.

Early professional news networks in the 14th and 15th centuries were couriers on horseback, informing warlords and merchants. Even competitors saw the value in shared professional news gathering, when there wasn’t a state-owned alternative. Subscriptions, then, subsidized the first foreign affairs and business reporters.

Over the next 500 years, innovations in distribution and in printing and paper technology shaped professional news-gathering into the 20th century model we most recognize today: advertising revenue subsidized relatively low unit costs to ensure widely available mass media (albeit almost exclusively from a white male perspective, but that needs its own post entirely).

Today we’re well into the first generation of the digital transformation of news-gathering and distribution. Yet we as journalism practitioners are still managing to underestimate how dramatically things have changed.

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Journalism is a strategy, not an industry

Journalism is a strategy, not an industry.

Newsrooms should rethink their competition. Journalism organizations are in dozens of different businesses. What we share in common (journalism DNA) makes us more partners than adversaries. The many businesses that are competing for the revenue and not providing other community value, like service journalism, are the real competition.

This was the focus of a lightning pitch I gave this weekend at the national Online News Association annual conference in Denver. Below find my slides, audio and some tweet reactions I received.

Continue reading Journalism is a strategy, not an industry

We need to deploy ‘Acts of Journalism’

The idea of ‘citizen journalism’ was always going to be short-lived.

It did its job to articulate that after generations of highly professionalized news-gathering we needed help. Now both professional and amateur journalists need a new understanding of the work we do.

I’ve been using a somewhat clunky and certainly pretentious-sounding phrase for some time now: producing “acts of journalism” to refer to the many outcomes that lead to honest dialogue about an idea and concept.

This could be data visualization and panel discussions and, yes, article writing, with a feature lead and a nut graf. So I was quite tickled to see Josh Stearns use this phase as the title of an important report he published for the Free Press Institute this fall [PDF].

As the Harvard Nieman Lab went on to point out: the report raises the crucial question of how Shied Laws should protect such acts.

This is a healthy reframing of journalism practitioners, and others who take on the work when relevant to their passions and interests.