Rebooting the News #50

In Podcast on May 3, 2010 by Jay Rosen

This is our 50th Rebooting the News, an event that seemed to be worth celebrating. So we did our version of “all request radio,” appealing to listeners and fans to suggest topics and questions… And they did!

But first we addressed a question that came up after last week’s show: isn’t Dave kind of a member of the church of the savvy, but for tech?

Jay’s answer: No, because ultimately he believes in the power of the users and expresses his solidarity with them. The savvy begins when the informed observer splits himself and his listeners off from the great mass of people “out there,” so that he can speculate in that shrewd and savvy way about what it likely to appeal to them, or analyze what’s working on them.

These are the questions from users we addressed; you’ll have to listen to hear the answers!

Andrew Hazlett: Do you guys think that the non-profit model for news is really sustainable (apart from NPR maybe)? I think the foundation or government grant cycle is just too slow and onerous to serve start-ups… Mightn’t radically reduced overhead and many small revenue streams work better? Or would the L3C “low-profit” corporation model offer some hope for getting grants and cash revenue?

Michael Morisy; How important are changing our comment/interaction/getting-feedback-from-them-formerly-known-as-the-audience systems to keep up with the times and/or better adapt to different situations? Most comments on papers are cesspools, but recent Q&A sites like StackOverflow have shown we can do better, at least in certain areas with certain communities and certain systems. Dave keeps talking about how he’d like a NYC map of where you can get Verizon, so my question is: Do we need to evolve the tools we use to gather and process community information, just better use the tools we have now, or start looking outside journalism for great tools?

AJ Quiñones: Hi guys. Discovered your podcast a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed it very much. I’m suggesting… “iPhoneGate” for today’s podcast.

Rams: Dave: Last edition of RBN almost created a near epiphany moment for me, as I heard you explaining how Facebook will go down, the same way that Microsoft did; that bit of advice for Facebook about becoming an investor rather than hiring more programmers was fascinating. It was perhaps the clearest explanation of the tech-startups life cycle that I had ever heard. Perhaps you’re one of the few programmers who criticises programmers, while even really intelligent people like to romanticise them. I think last RBN was the best ever. Can you please talk a bit about areas that are good for start-ups to focus on these days ? Plus, do you build something from scratch or around the APIs of bigger companies?

Joey Baker: Congrats on show 50! And thank you for making this a “crowdsourced” show. I’d love to hear your thoughts on, as a signal that mainstream media has failed in their traditional role as the fourth estate. I’d also love a follow up to, what’s been the result, have any projects come out of it, and possibly, how does Google’s Living Stories open source code affect that goal?

Matt Terenzio: One of the key aspects of the real time rebooted news system is identity. Facebook wants to own our identity. So does Google and others. It’s important that a federated system operate well on the identity level and centralized identity systems do make for a good user experience. But they are dangerous too. What are your thoughts?

Greg Linch: Congrats on no. 50! I’d be interested to hear your and Dave Winer’s thoughts on this: Why Computational Thinking Should be the Core of the New Journalism Mindset.

Brad Bonnette: Congrats on making it to 50. I think it’s fair to say that the focus of the show is on political and tech media. Here’s my suggestion: I’d like to see you expand your conversation to the unquestioned assumptions, problems, opportunities, long-term prospect, etc.of the sports press, science press, medical press, pop culture press, and other niches….

Phillip Smith: Congratulations on making it to the big five-oh! 🙂 Here’s a topic that would pull me in: Where are the holes (in the rebooted news system)? (The full question is here.)

And now for the show, Rebooting the News #50; we hope you like it. And if you are moved to comment, please do.

6 Responses to “Rebooting the News #50”

  1. I’m surprised that Jay let Dave simply rant about how the iPhone/Gizmodo fallout was about “stopping journalism.”

    I believe this is an instructive event because it isn’t just about the theft of “an iPhone.” It was a case of the unauthorized purchase of, under California law, stolen goods. And what was stolen? An unreleased prototype of the next product in a multi- multi-million dollar business. That’s a whole lot more than just a phone.

    It was legally wrong. Worse, it was ethically wrong.

    But, more to the point of this excellent podcast series (and congrats on your milestone!), it was bad journalism. Gizmodo knowingly bought property they knew wasn’t theirs in pursuit of a scoop. Yes, there is “interest” in this story, but I’d argue there is little to no “public interest” in what the next iPhone looks like. So there’s no mitigation of the crime necessary to tell the story. To me, it’s the moral and gravitas equivalent of breaking into Lindsay Lohan’s house to see what’s in her medicine cabinet. Interesting, yes, but not of public interest.

    Compounding the journalistic crime was Gizmodo’s smirking tone as they described how they came into possession of the phone.

    Finally, to hide behind the Shield Law now puts other journalists at risk. Should the wrong judge catch this case, Gizmodo’s argument that the Shield Law is an absolute, well, shield against police investigation of crimes suspected of the reporter (it isn’t) could lead to a weakening of the law in its interpretation or, should a California legislator decide to make this his personal crusade, in its actual wording.

    Perhaps worthy of some further discussion.

  2. If I could edit my previous comment, I’d replace the glowing piece of kryptonite in the first paragraph that is the word “rant” with the more accurate and less-incindiary “assert.”

    Everybody needs copy-editors!


    I’m surprised that Jay let Dave simply assert that the iPhone/Gizmodo fallout was about “stopping journalism.”

    • Tim, don’t worry about calling it a rant — I think it’s actually an accurate way to portray my comments. I have strong feelings about the way the police behaved in this case, and I’m sure it comes through in the way I argued it. I suspect that Jay agreed, otherwise he would have said something. Maybe in next week’s show.

      Anyway, as I said — Gizmodo may have broken the law, and if they have and the police want to prosecute they should, but…

      They must be very careful to be 100 percent sure that the reason they’re prosecuting is because of the theft and not to try to shutdown coverage of Apple’s product development.

      Apple has a right to *try* to keep their development private, and we, the public, have a right to try to find out what they’re doing, despite their wishes. That’s what living in a free society is about.

      If the police were acting in Apple’s interest to try to shut down this discourse, then THEIR CRIME was MUCH MUCH BIGGER than Gizmodo’s. Because it’s our freedom they’re trying to steal, not a prototype.

      I lived in Silicon Valley for over 30 years (arrgh) and I know that it’s got a company town mentality. But this has all grown far beyond the borders of the Bay Area, they line up in NYC to buy Apple products. That’s good for APple, but we’re not here to please Apple as much as they would like us to be. We have lives and interests that go beyond their wants.

      And forget all the moral arguments — the US law doesn’t make moral judgements about things like this. Either it’s there in black and while, in the code, or it’s not.

      Finally, thanks for raising the issue on the web. It’s sometimes hard to know if anyone is listening, it’s such a one-way thing, this podcast. The more discourse imho the better. 🙂

  3. There have been other leaks of information that hasn’t resulted in a police raid. No raids at Engadget or Wired. Here’s how Gizmodo could have done their checkbook journalism legally and without risk of the police knocking down the door:

    Absolutely in the clear: Have Brian Hogan, the guy who stole the phone, take the pictures and take it apart to get the specs. You could have a Gizmodo person at his house giving suggestions on what is desired, but Gizmodo is just guying the information.

    Mostly in the clear: Same thing, except the Gizmodo person does the taking apart and take the pictures. So long as a Gizmodo/Gawker employee never walks out the door with the phone, it’s not buying the property.

    Or probably avoid any issues: Just post pictures and stats. Nothing about “someone left it in a bar and we bought it”, no video of Jason Chen waving the phone saying “Yes, we have it”. Once done with the shoot, give it back to Hogan, put it in a plain box and mail it to Apple, something.

    But when someone proudly, loudly, and continually says “Yes, we bought stolen property”, how can the cops NOT respond?

  4. You wrote “Apple has a right to *try* to keep their development private, and we, the public, have a right to try to find out what they’re doing, despite their wishes. That’s what living in a free society is about.” You also said something very similar in the podcast. When I first heard it, it struck a wrong chord in me and it took me a while to work out why this statement bothers me.

    I wonder what you would say to Erin Andrew, the ESPN sportscaster who was a victim of a peeping tom? Would you tell her that she has a right to *try* to keep her privacy, but because she is famous and beautiful, we, the public, have a right to try to invade it any way we want, despite her wishes. That’s what living in a free society is about?

    You easily forget that as citizens of a free society, we have responsibilities to each other. There are certain lines we do not cross. These lines are defined in the law we drafted and agreed to live by.

    Jason Chen may have crossed these lines if he knowingly bought stolen or lost property. Apple, as far as I can tell, has done no wrong here. If a crime has been committed against Apple, it is their right to ask the police to investigate. The police have a duty to investigate a crime. It does not matter if the victim is a private citizen or a public company.

    A crime is always about the criminal and his motives and methods. That is the story. You twist the story so that it becomes a story about the Apple and the police. But your assertion that the police action is an attempt to shutdown journalism on Apple’s behalf is a jump to conclusion that is not based on any facts.

  5. @Dave,

    I’m with you on the whole “company town” slippery slope, and, to me, the search warrant did seem unnecessarily broad and had the potential to expose other journalistic efforts that Jason may have been working on. Agreed.

    But when it comes down to the topic of the show — news and journalism — I do think it’s important to talk through the ethics (which, perhaps, I conflated a bit too much with morals) of journalism.

    Checkbook journalism isn’t the ideal, but it’s okay in the right circumstances. But felony journalism isn’t. And I believe that’s what this boils down to: Gizmodo, in its zeal for a scoop, seems to have at least *participated* in a felony and may have knowingly *committed* one.

    That kind of behavior doesn’t help the cause of news, rebooted or otherwise. When a high-profile site such as Gizmodo plays fast and loose with law and ethics, it just feeds into the wrong-headed notion some people have that bloggers and other new media creators aren’t “real.”

    And, off-topic, a belated Baltimore welcome to the East Coast!

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