Look, I did a hot take.
I’ve had my first piece for The Conversation published today. It’s about whether the giants of Silicon Valley should share some of their wealth with struggling news companies to help support journalism (my conclusion: not really). The piece is part of a series at The Conversation on business models for the news media.
I’m sure it won’t be the last thing I write for them. The Conversation, which gets academics to write stuff about their areas of interest, is a start-up I’ve admired for a long time. There’s usually something good on there to read, and besides, getting lecturers to publish outside the opaque world of academic journals is the sort of thing I generally approve of.
Posted in Articles
Tagged Apple, Facebook, Facebook Instant Articles, Google, Instagram, Jack Dorsey, Jeff Bezos, Rockstar North, The Conversation, The Scotsman, Twitter, University of Huddersfield, Washington Post, WhatsApp
I had one hour today to introduce a lecture hall of nearly 200 first year students from various courses to how the internet has affected journalism. Admittedly, it was just an introduction, but even so it was pretty hard to condense it into a single lecture. I did my best.
At one stage I brought up the recent purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos for the relatively small sum of £160m, and pointed out that was roughly what Johnston Press paid for the rather less grand Scotsman just eight years ago. Showing a picture of Woodward and Bernstein, I started to say that they would probably be turning in their graves at the low valuation of their famous old paper, then realised they’re both still alive. Change really has come quickly to the news business.
Here’s the full presentation.
The Piper Alpha memorial in Aberdeen. (picture: Lizzie/Wikipedia)
If you grew up in Aberdeen you remember Piper Alpha. I was six at the time, in July 1988, and I vividly recall hearing the rescue helicopters flying directly over my house from the airport out to sea. They returned with just 61 survivors; 167 men were killed.
In the 25 years since, the tragedy has perhaps not been revisited by the media as often as others from that time, such as Hillsborough and Lockerbie. But there was an excellent documentary, Fire In the Night, shown on BBC2 earlier this year. And as a result I’ve read the source material for the film, a book by Scotsman journalist Stephen McGinty. It’s thorough but highly readable, with the descriptions of the chaos on board the platform as the fire took hold particularly devastating. Recommended.
Also recommended is Nieman Lab’s oral history of the impact of digital technologies on journalism, Riptide. It’s been criticised for being too simplistic and lacking a suitable variety of voices, but it’s still a useful guide to some of the key developments and experiments in the news business over the past three decades. And this video of a 1981 news report on an early digital experiment in San Francisco is ace.
Elsewhere, Damian Radcliffe published another useful assessment of the UK’s hyperlocal scene at the BBC College of Journalism, an abridged version of his chapter in the new edition of What Do We Mean By Local?. This guide from the BBC’s Marc Settle to using Apple’s new iOS7 is also worth a read.
A couple of sport-related articles which I’ve enjoyed lately: Andy Bull in the Guardian on cricketer Scott Boswell’s battle with the yips, and some interesting speculation from the New Yorker on whether playing American football might have contributed to Jack Kerouac’s early death.
The always-good This American Life radio show had another cracker earlier this month, too. Michael Lewis (of Moneyball fame) tells the remarkable story of how Bosnian immigrant Emir Kamenica got into school and then college in the US. Listen to the whole thing: the podcast is here.
Posted in What I'm Reading
Tagged Andy Bull, Apple, BBC College of Journalism, Damian Radcliffe, Emir Kamenica, Fire In The Night, Hyperlocal, iOS7, Jack Kerouac, Marc Settle, Michael Lewis, Nieman Lab, Piper Alpha, Riptide, Scott Boswell, Stephen McGinty, The Guardian, The New Yorker, The Scotsman, This American Life, What Do We Mean By Local?
The Washington Post building. (picture: vpickering on Flickr)
This is the first in what I imagine will be a semi-regular feature on this site, with links to things I’ve enjoyed reading.
The biggest media news of the week came from Washington DC, where the Graham family announced it was selling the Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for $250m.
That sounds like a lot of money, but everything’s relative. As Alex Massie points out, that’s basically what Johnston Press paid for The Scotsman as recently as 2005.
Of the American reactions to the deal, here’s the analysis on the Post’s own Wonkblog. It’s worth reading the thoughts of former Post staffer and New Yorker editor David Remnick.
Also at the New Yorker, John Cassidy offers a sceptical view of what Bezos’ motives might be. Back at the Post’s website, read this enjoyable open letter to Bezos from Gene Weingarten.
I’ve been checking out Medium this week, the writing-focused newish social network from the Twitter guys, Ev Williams and Biz Stone. Williams explains it all here.
A couple of things that I particularly enjoyed: Callie Schweitzer on how interviewing director David O Russell for her high school newspaper changed her life, and Dave Harte discussing a presentation on the internet he gave to a class of ten-year-olds.
Some rotten boroughs news to finish. Weep at Leeds Citizen’s account of councillors’ refusal to allow the recording of a council meeting. And, from Private Eye via the Telegraph’s Louise Gray, an explanation of how fracking permission was originally granted in Balcombe (there’s an easier-to-read follow up from the Independent here).
Just goes to show why it’s important to scrutinise even parish councils.
Posted in What I'm Reading
Tagged Alex Massie, Amazon, Balcombe, Biz Stone, Callie Schweitzer, Dave Harte, David O Russell, David Remnick, Ev Williams, Fracking, Gene Weingarten, Jeff Bezos, John Cassidy, Johnston Press, Leeds Citizen, Louise Gray, Medium, Parish councils, Private Eye, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The New Yorker, The Scotsman, Washington Post, Wonkblog