The following is the first part of my inaugural lecture at City University London, ‘Is Ice Cream Strawberry?’. The total runs to 3,000 words so I’ve split it and adapted it for online reading.
The myth of journalism and the telegraph
Samuel Morse was a portrait painter. And he invented the telegraph. The telegraph is probably one of the most mythologised technologies in journalism. The story goes that the telegraph changed journalism during the US Civil War – because telegraph operators had to get the key facts of the story in at the top in case the telegraph line failed or were cut. This in turn led to the objective, inverted pyramid style of journalism that relied on facts rather than opinion.
Objectivity is one of the key pillars of journalistic identity: it is one of the ways in which we identify ourselves as a profession. But for the past decade it has been subject to increasing criticism from those (and I include myself here) who suggest that sustaining the appearance of objectivity is unfeasible and unsustainable, and that transparency is a much more realistic aim.
Recently I’ve been revisiting some of the research on journalistic objectivity for my inaugural lecture at City University. But as I only mention objectivity once in that lecture, I thought it was worth fleshing out the issue further.
One of the reasons why I think studying journalism is so important at the moment is that the profession is rooted in a series of practices and beliefs that have specific historical roots – and things change. Continue reading →
Great post at Boing Boing (which AP could learn a thing or two about new business models from) on AP’s recent announcement “that they had spent millions of dollars on a DRM system for news that would limit how you could paste the text you copied from your browser window”. Ed Felten did some digging:
“Unfortunately for AP, the hNews spec bears little resemblance to AP’s claims about it. hNews is a handy way of annotating news stories with information about the author, dateline, and so on. But it doesn’t “encapsulate” anything in a “wrapper”, nor does it do much of anything to facilitate metering, monitoring, or paywalls.
“AP also says that hNews ” includes a digital permissions framework that lets publishers specify how their content is to be used online”. This may sound like a restrictive DRM scheme, aimed at clawing back the rights copyright grants to users. But read the fine print. hNews does include a “rights” field that can be attached to an article, but the rights field uses ccREL, the Creative Commons Rights Expression Language, whose definition states unequivocally that it does not limit users’ rights already granted by copyright and can only convey further rights to the user.”
DRM always works like this: It never stops people who really want to steal or break the law, but it almost always hinders law abiding, paying customers. Will this extra layer of code eat up CPU cycles and RAM, bring computers to a halt and not even work on some machines? My guess is that this negatively impacts law abiding users. User experiences matter.
The AP’s announcement yesterday that it will police the web for what it sees as “illegally” published content is so worrying, on so many levels, that I will struggle to cover everything here. Continue reading →
Here’s the good news for mobile phone websites: Vodafone has “seen a 50% rise in revenues from its data services over the past quarter, after the number of its customers using the web from mobile devices more than doubled.” Continue reading →