Articles

Rebooting The News #17

In Podcast on July 20, 2009 by Dave Winer

The show was recorded at 9AM Pacific. Show notes as always by Jay.

TechCrunch reported on documents–including business plans and projections–taken from private email accounts that belong to Twitter employees. An immediate controversy. We assess it.

Dave: “I don’t think they made a mistake” in publishing. A very clear picture of the company emerged from it.

Jay: “I don’t support what Techcrunch did.” There’s a difference between leaking and breaking and entering.

The news tribe has a lot of teach the tech industry about “practices that lead to trust” in the editorial business.

Since we first talked about it, David Weinberger wrote a post about his maxim: Transparency is the new objectivity. Key principle in a rebooted system of news.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post gave Weinberger a free demo: From now on, its ethics policy will be a public document, says editor Marcus Brauchli. The ombudsmen wrote:

Updated policies should be made public. For years, Post management has refused. News flash: Brauchli has agreed. It’s a “good idea,” he told me, because “it allows the public to hold us accountable . . . for what we believe in.”

One Newspaper, Many Checkbooks. Jay: “It’s a group of people outside the New York Times who are funding an act of journalism that runs in the New York Times.” Another element in the rebooted system of news snaps into place.

Jay maps A.O. Hirschman’s terms, exit, voice and loyalty onto the troubles in the news industry. What do people do when they are dissatisfied with a firm? They can exit the firm: stop buying. They can choose voice: “you’re not meeting my needs, can we talk?” Or they may “stick” with the firm (the brand, the industry) out of loyalty. But not for long.

Dave: ideally the news should be a mirror. “If you let people speak for themselves, you don’t have to be objective… you just have to reflect.”

Dave: Where’s the value in this pattern? Reporter talks to N number of sources, writes down some of what’s said, selects certain bits (often the most embarrassing) and strings the quotes together. You end up being a piece of a narrative you find appalling.

Jay: It’s true that it’s often the reporter “making” the source speak by choosing the quotes to use. But what good journalists do is make a call list, add background knowledge, consult with colleagues and start slogging through the call list, scrambling to make it all work by deadline while combing all imperfect sources of knowledge. “It’s not just listening to sources. It’s synthetic.”

Dave: Why don’t we find a really well constructed story and take it apart by asking the sources how they rate the experience and assess the final result? Then we can ask the reporter how it was put together and compare these accounts.

Dave’s turn this week for sources of inspiration: His pick is Walter Cronkite. Because he came down from the mountaintop when it was required.

reboot09Jul20.mp3 (binary/octet-stream, 10.3MB)
Monday, July 20, 2009.

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