Newspapers More Like Craigslist

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist. Not surprisingly, the Journal’s Brian Carney projected a befuddled confusion as to why this electronic phenomemon doesn’t properly exploit it’s revenue potential. Wall Street’s mouthpiece can’t understand why a profitable organization that more than satisfies its customers doesn’t wring out every spare nickel it can spot. The Journal, it seems, cannot be introduced to a Golden Goose without reaching for a hatchet.

Buckmaster does a great job of spurring Carney to wonder if he is a communist. As the head of one of the first entrepreneurial successes of the Internet era, Buckmaster would have been justified to laugh uproariously in Carney’s face.

But, instead, Buckmaster defended the Craigslist model, pointing out its longevity in a field sown with failure. He went on to address some broader issues that touch on the future of conventional publishers:

“In Mr. Buckmaster’s view, newspapers would be better off being a little more Craigslist-like: Go private, eschew Wall Street’s demands for continually “goosing profitability” and give your readers what they want.”

Damn Commie! Catering to customer’s wants and needs? Who does he think he is? The real brilliance in that clip is the idea that newspapers have much to gain by divorcing themselves from their corporate parents so that they can focus on producing superior journalism rather than short-term quarterly earnings results. Superior journalism would, in the end, give them what they really want – more readers, advertisers, and profits.

We all know how these megaliths are consumed with greed. The question now is, are they greedy enough to do what is truly in their best interest?

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The Nation’s Corporate Media & Consolidation

The Nation magazine has updated its chart of who owns what in the media. Along with the chart, they invited some influential writers to comment on the state of entertainment and media. Here are some highlights:

Mark Crispin MillerThe Death of News
In short, our very lives and liberty are at unprecedented risk because our press has long since disappeared into “the media”–a mammoth antidemocratic oligopoly that is far more responsive to its owners, big shareholders and good buddies in the government than it is to the rest of us, the people of this country.

I couldn’t agree more.

Jeffrey ChesterA Ten-Point Plan for Media Democracy
The next several years are critical to insure that the promise of what we now experience online–and its vast potential to help build a just civil society–is fulfilled.

This is an invaluable resource for participation in the fight for media reform. Most of the top media sites on the Internet are divisions of old media conglomerates. What we do today will determine if new media remains independent.

Eric KlinenbergMega-merger Mania
No one, except the owners of conglomerates, benefits from concentrated control of local media, and in the past decade public outrage over the costs of consolidation has helped turn the embryonic media reform movement into the nation’s fastest-growing bipartisan political project.

Public outrage got Congress to reverse an FCC rule permitting media ownership to increase from 35% to 45%. But shortly after the Congress acted, the FCC produced a new rule with a 39% cap. Eternal vigilance is the price of a free press.

Markos Moulitsas ZúnigaUse the Tools
We are at the beginning of the age of citizen media, where corporations can own vast, billion-dollar media outlets yet fail to control the flow and content of information.

From a proven expert in citizen media, a call to arms. We can become the media we hope for. Though he is more optimistic than I am about the whether the old media will fade away.

Robert W. McChesneyFight for a Free Press
Despite the Internet’s truly revolutionary implications, in itself it cannot address the core crises of our media: the collapse of journalism and the rise of hypercommercialism.

What more can I say?

Robert GreenwaldBrave New Media
We have at our disposal a rapidly proliferating array of tools available at low cost to get our messages out–from the Internet to iPods to cellphones and whatever comes next.

Greenwald has been experimenting with alternative methods of film distribution, including providing free copies of films to people who host house parties for their family, freinds and neighbors.


Bargain Bin: FCC Indecency Alternatives

Lawbreakers who are considering cussing or flashing a breast on TV may not be getting the most value for their money. The FCC’s recently escalated fines for these heinous crimes is $325,000 per incident. Lost Remote has done the public service of identifying some relative bargains for the thrifty ne’er-do-well.

  • Killing someone by accident: $250,000.
  • Commit Second Degree Murder in Florida: $10,000.
  • Kidnap a child in California: $10,000.
  • Do drugs in Iowa: $10,000.
  • Violate someone’s civil rights: $10,000.

Some of these crimes also come with prison terms, but from a financial perspective, the benefits are clear. This is an excellent example of the free market at work.


Rumsfeld Muzzles Media In Guantanamo

The office of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told reporters covering Guantanamo to take a hike. The reporters from the Los Angeles Times and the Miami Herald were given orders to be prepared to leave by 8:00 am Wednesday morning. Another reporter from the Charlotte Observer was given until Saturday with the stipulation that he would not be given access to the prison camp. Which, I suppose, means that he could still use the spa and lounge on the beach.

The reason given for the booting was that other media outlets were threatening to sue if they were not allowed in. This reason doubles as an admission that the Pentagon was already denying access to other reporters. The Pentagon did not identify any party that indicated an intent to sue, nor were reasons given for their exclusion.

The reporters who managed to gain temporary access were invited to cover military tribunals that were to have begun this week. But while they were there, three prisoners, protesting their detention without charges or legal rights, committed suicide. The tribunals were subsequently cancelled and the reporter’s invitations revoked.

The Center for Constitutional Rights was representing the three men who committed suicide. They released a statement regarding the media blackout:

“At a time when the administration must be transparent about the deaths at Guantanamo, they are pulling down a wall of secrecy and avoiding public accountability. This crackdown on the free press makes everyone ask what else they are hiding down there. This press crackdown is the administration’s latest betrayal of fundamental American values. The Bush Administration is afraid of American reporters, afraid of American attorneys and afraid of American laws.”

That just about says it all.


The Media Celebrates Karl Rove’s Non-Indictment

It’s interesting to observe what American media considers to be good news these days. This morning a statement was released by Karl Rove’s attorney stating that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald does not expect to seek charges against Rove. Much of the media’s characterization of this announcement plays as if Rove had received an award.

The New York Times said that the decision:
“lifted a pall that had hung over Mr. Rove,” and that it, “removes a potential political stumbling block for a White House that is heading into a long and difficult election season for Republicans,” and that it, “should help the White House in what has been an unsuccessful effort to put the leak case behind it.”

The ABC News/Associated Press reports that the news is:
lifting a heavy burden from one of President Bush’s most trusted advisers,” and that it, “cheered Republicans and a White House beleaguered by war and low approval ratings.”

Reuters says that the news gave:
“a much-needed boost for President George W. Bush, who has been battered by bad news ahead of November’s congressional elections.”

MSNBC hails that:
“Now with the cloud of indictment lifted, Rove is liberated.”

On NPR they noted that:
The news about Rove triggered what was described as elation at the White House.

What they are not saying is that Rove’s evasion of culpability may be temporary. Fitzpatrick’s notice stated that, “he does not expect to seek charges…” That is hardly an unequivocal exoneration. And let’s not forget that Scooter Libby is still under indictment and others, including Dick Cheney, are still being investigated.

I think it’s funny (not ha ha funny) that the media, and even much of the blogiverse, thinks it is positive for Rove that he hasn’t been indicted. Since when is “not being indicted” an affirmation of good character? As if that is the penultimate honor in our society – to be suspected of dishonesty, corruption and treason, but not get indicted for it. Isn’t that the dream we all have for our children?


Paramedia – Expanding Reach In The Blogiverse

I started News Corpse as a direct result of my experience at dailyKos. I didn’t set out to seek attention or to promulgate my views. I was just drawn to the idea of being able to express myself. It was more cathartic than anything else. But absent the stir of inspiration, I might never have made this site manifest.

Now I’m getting about 2,500 visitors a day. I know that’s small in Kosian terms, but it’s 2,485 more people than I’ll run into at the coffee house I hang out at. And if just 100 Kossacks (out of 70,000) build sites like mine, that’s almost another dailyKos in terms of reach. The exponential growth of this message machine is mind boggling. And that’s where I see the most value emerging from this community.

Markos has set the stage for an experiment in communications that I call paramedia. It is not just an addendum to the conventional media. It resides on a seperate plane but can move in concert with it. Paramedia uses the same components as the conventional model, but uses them much more efficiently. In advertising, reach and frequency are the keys to a campaign’s effectiveness in influencing consumer behavior. By expanding reach, a message gains exposure. And for messages to take root in the public mind they must be repeated with reliable frequnecy. Frequency also places the message in close proximty to a consumer’s decision. These same concepts hold true for politics, journalism and citizen media. Therefore, it is important for those who have an interest in promoting the goals of progressive leadership, liberal ideology, and media reform, to participate in the discussion. You may not think that your role is significant, but it’s a cumulative formula and every contribution adds mass to the whole.

In a pre-conference post, Markos said,“Technology allows each and every one of us to be a leader.” But it does more than allow it – it invites it. It savors and rewards it, and spreads it like an infection, the likes of which the world’s body has never seen.

If you have something to say, say it. Don’t fret about who hears you. The reverberations of our cumulative voices extend out like waves and can inspire whomever they touch. Your signal in this wave pattern may not touch many people, but what if it touches one person who sends out more powerful signals? That’s your progeny. Some of us may touch 200, others 200,000. That’s really not the point. It’s like bands that never really got very famous themselves (i.e. Velvet Underground, Joy Division, Pixies) but got tens of thousands of teenagers to pick up instruments and take up residence in their garages and start their own bands, many of whom went on to superstardom.

As an artist, I would rather have that kind of legacy than being the next Warhol.

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Stalking Points Memo – Marry Amending

Marry Amending

In Bill’s world, freedom is a core American value that can only be exercised by majority rule. In his folksy idiom, the folks have the right to decide for themselves which folks have the right to decide for themselves.


(Click the pic here to go to Stalking Points Memo page, then click the pic there to start the Flash movie)


Fox News’ Non-Stop Zarqawi Party

The news of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is deservedly blanketing the airwaves. He was a significant figure in Iraq and was responsible for untold devastation. He was certainly a major target of the U.S. military, who can view his demise as a success.

But Fox News may be carrying the celebration into a bizarre area. Their commentary is almost devoid of the rational reality that Zarqawi was not a lone wolf. The Iraqi insurgency is a diverse group that is still capable of much turmoil. By overplaying the impact of this, they could even end up diminishing its value.

Zarqawi was not Superman. Indeed, just a few weeks ago the Pentagon was ridiculing him as incompetent. They released a video of him wearing American sneakers and struggling to operate an automatic weapon. In addition, he was not considered to be an icon of stability. He feuded with his al Qaeda handlers and Osama bin Laden, who opposed the beheadings as a tactic that generated bad PR. It is hypocritical to portray him as a buffoon when he is at large but a terrorist mastermind in death.

Fox anchors have repeatedly referred to this news as a turning point in the war in Iraq. They have said that other recent news that casts a negative light on the war, like the massacre at Haditha, will be subsumed by this morning’s events. The problem with this short-sighted and unseemly journalistic cheerleading is that it will only take one new bombing to demonstrate that this war is still in progress and decidedly deadly. In fact, as I write this, CNN is reporting a bombing in Baghdad that has killed 19 and wounded more than 65 Iraqis.

Yet Fox soldiers on conducting an interview with the father of Nicholas Berg, the contractor who was reportedly beheaded by Zarqawi. The interview took on a confrontational tone because Mr. Berg is a critic of President Bush, but Fox was in no mood to tolerate criticism. They were able to quickly regain their footing by interviewing a procession of retired officers who were more cooperatively positive.

As for turning points in the war, there have already been many that turned out to be cul-de-sacs. The declaration of “mission accomplished”, the capture of Saddam, and the annoucements of several diplomatic milestones in the development of the new Iraqi government, are all examples of raised hopes that were followed by evermore increasing violence. And therein lies the danger that media hype presents in these matters. Each time the press gloats about having turned a corner, and then is confronted by more turmoil, the enemy is emboldened and less likely to take the news seriously or be demoralized by it. They may even be motivated to escalate violence to prove that they have not been deterred by the loss of a leader.

What will Fox and other media optimists say if things continue as they have been for the past months and years? What will they say if things get worse? I’m all for personally savoring victories when we have them, but the media must be more reflective and responsible because the consequences of their missteps can be far-ranging and destructive.


Cheney’s Obsession With Secrecy

Vice-president Dick Cheney has a well-known penchant for secrecy. Whether it’s the energy task force he headed or his attempts to hide the facts about his shooting a friend on a hunting trip.

Now he is trying to suppress a congressional investigation into the administration’s wiretapping affair. The Republican chairman of the senate Judiciary committee, Arlen Spector is accusing the VP of interferring with the oversight responsibilities of congress. In a letter to Cheney, Spector said…

“I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point.”

Spector said Cheney had lobbied Republicans to oppose the holding of any hearing, even a closed one. He argued that the telecommunications companies were “not to provide any information to the committee as they were prohibited from disclosing classified information.”

These admonitions were given in advance of the hearings and represent a kind of executive prior restraint since there was no evidence that the companies intended to disclose anything of a classified nature. The administration has been working hard to keep the facts surrounding their unlawful eavesdropping from seeing the light of day. They have even cut off Justice Department investigations by refusing to grant JD attorneys the necessary security clearances to conduct their investigation.

Is this the behavior of a White House that has nothing to hide?


More UN Bashing From Bolton

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown gave a speech on “Power and Super-Power” before the Century Foundation and Center for American Progress — Security and Peace Initiative. Much of the speech was directed at encouraging greater participation by the U.S. in both world affairs and the U.N.’s operations and reforms. But while Brown lamented the absence of U.S. participation, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, seemed to take the whole speech as an affront to America and Americans.

Brown’s central observations were concerned with U.S. officials and media that promote hostility toward the U.N.:

“…today, on a very wide number of areas, from Lebanon and Afghanistan to Syria, Iran and the Palestinian issue, the US is constructively engaged with the UN. But that is not well known or understood, in part because much of the public discourse that reaches the US heartland has been largely abandoned to its loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News.”

We can add John Bolton to that group. Before his recess appointment (he has never been confirmed by the Senate for his post), he was quoted as saying that, “If the UN Secretariat building in New York lost 10 stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.” His response to Brown’s speech demonstrates that his mood has not mellowed.

“Even though the target of the speech was the United States, the victim, I fear, will be the United Nations…Even worse was the condescending and patronizing tone about the American people.”

Bolton went on to say that, should Brown’s speech not be repudiated, he fears the consequences for the organization. Bolton’s predilection for making up affronts to Americans and his fondness for throwing threats around is an affirmation of the substance of Brown’s speech. I’m not sure where we can expect to go from here when we have an ambassador who feels insulted by a colleague who is admiringly pleading for a closer, less hostile relationship with the U.S.