by Dana Blankenhorn
  Volume IX, No. XIX

This Week's Clue: Two Journalism Crises

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This Week's Clue: Two Journalism Crises
SSP (Shameless Self Promotion)
Best of the Week
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in, Clueless

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For the Week of May 9, 2005

I have been predicting a crisis in journalism would occur for many years, and this month it struck with full force.

What I didn't realize at the time was I might be a casualty of it.

There are many differences between blogging and journalism. One is that journalists care about mistakes, and I made a giant one recently. In a rush to make some points about how Blogger has been mismanaged by Google, I failed to see if Blogger founder Evan Williams (yes, I know the original name of the firm was Pyra) was still at his post, before I identified the problems with him.

He wasn't. I tried to kill the item immediately but it was in the archives. I tried to apologize, but found myself suspended. When I finally got the apology out, critics instead linked to a different item that featured lessons from the incident rather than the apology, and piled on the name-calling.

Believe it or not this is perfectly fair. The cruel fact is that years of good service can be destroyed by one piece of stupidity. I have made such mistakes over my career, not many but enough, which is why I'm at the bottom of the pyramid rather than the top. I wonder, should I be doing this, but then I ask, what else would I do?

The crisis is made worse by a simple fact. Few people care. After two years at Corante my ratings remain puny. Technorati counts 192 links to Mooreslore, about 10% of what would be needed to make the Top 100. I have gotten neither marketing nor real editorial support from Hylton Jolliffe. I have made precisely no income. The only positive I can offer is I have been given my head, but that's not always a good thing.

Of course all this is as nothing compared to the crisis in the business of journalism. Most people find papers biased. Ethical problems are growing, The audience is running away at the same time papers hide ever-more content behind registration firewalls . Both editorial and advertising are being corrupted. Even Rupert Murdoch is concerned, saying the newspaper business is dieing if not yet dead.

No one will listen but I have offered some solutions, which start by approaching the Internet as it is, with working the business problem first rather than editorial, and which I guarantee no one will listen to.

Instead we see a rush toward blogs and podcasts, neither one of which has a firm business model. And in those areas we see the same old mistakes being made - content homogenized around beats, the conversation increasingly one-way.

IN means Interactive. IN means Intimiate. Your goal as a site manager, no matter what the site, should be to grow intimacy, increase permission, and to enable everyone's voice to be heard. The more your site is filled with the voices of your audience, the more buy-in you have from them, and the more credibility you have in the world of 21st century journalism.

I have been saying this sort of thing for 20 years, most of my career now, and my words have been ignored by absolutely everyone. Instead I see the same mistakes repeated, time and time again.

Why bother?


Shameless Self-Promotion

I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source for ZDNet.

I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout, a new kind of mediator for mobile phone users.

My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."

On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.

You are encouraged to forward this newsletter widely. And if you have trouble subscribing let me know. Remember: it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...


Best of the Week

The Seventh Crisis

Last week I took a dispassionate look at economic cycles. This week let's take an equally dispassionate look at political cycles.

Is Blogging Journalism?

When journalists blog, when we ask hard questions, dig for facts, and take mistakes seriously, well then yes journalism can happen on a blog.

The Entrepreneur's Secret is No

The secret to being a successful entrepreneur is learning how to handle NO.

14 Clues Murdoch Won't Use

How can incumbent newspaper companies achieve anything on the new medium? His speech read like someone anxious to learn. I'll take him at his word.

Stepping Toward a Space Elevator

Rice University, my old school has an $11 million deal with NASA to develop carbon nanotubes that will, at first, be big enough to act as power cables and could, with time, produce the technique for a space elevator

The Spam Fight Continues

Ferguson is using SkypeOut. He calls the spammer's contact number using SkypeOut and leverages Skype's inherent cost advantage to keep that phone busy, so victims can't get through. No victims, no money to the spammer

Blog Item Placement Flux

There was some misunderstanding about a recent item that caused me to re-think a lot of what I'd considered standards in publishing items on a blog.

The New Digital Divide

Now, a decade later, the digital divide is back. And this time Americans are on the other side of it.

Moore Transitions

The best way to understand the future is to look into how chips are changing.

Two Blogging Markets

Today Duncan Riley of The Blog Herald goes further. He says the game is already over, that Microsoft won, that the field is consolidating into the three big portal players so Movable Type needs to sell out to Yahoo, quick. Riley is right as far as he goes. But if you click below, we'll go a bit further.

Tear Down the Great Wall of Silence

That the heirs of Mao , that the Butchers of Beijing should lecture anyone about human rights seems absurd.

One Chip, One License

Traditionally software companies have priced per-processor. But if a single chip has multiple processors, which could be doing different things, then shouldn't you require two licenses? Answer: no.

The Open Source Political Challenge

If your organization is tightly-knit, if your issues are driven by corporate interests, then your politics is closed source. On issues that mainly interest businesses this is determinative.


The American Diaspora


Table of Contents

ZDNet Open Source

Game Over for Windows ISVs?

The Case of Brazil

Kaboodle LAN Commander Reaches 1.0 Milestone

Open Source Does Not End Corporate Intrigue

Tridgell Releases SourcePuller

Is Open Source More Secure?


Clued-in, Clueless

Clued-in is the Acton MBA Program although you have to wonder why some academic institution (like UT-Austin) isn't the sponsor of this.

Clueless is Dana Blankenhorn. I hope that's the last time I have to say it.


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