Print is Dead: INSIDE!

STOP THE PRESSES!

St Rolling Stone

St Rolling Stone

Seriously. A pope on the cover of Rolling Stone. Stop the presses and stick a fork in ’em. We’re all done here.

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Is Journalism Dead? Did the Bean-Counters Kill It?

This evening’s event with Stephen Quinn causes me to think about a book read some time ago Flat Earth News, by Nick Davies.

While Mr. Quinn is not a newspaper man, he is — first and foremost — a journalist. The book by Mr. Davies is about journalism, and the dearth of it in the papers found principally in London, but not exclusively so. Being a regular writer for The Guardian, his expertise lies in the output of Fleet Street rather than elsewhere, and thus he devotes much of his book to the state of British journalism in its newspapers as well as the BBC News web-site. It’s a fascinating read and highly recommended for people who think.

First, however, let’s have one thing clear from the outset: this is not about how some minority group or secret committee is controlling the world and / or the media. While there may be decisions made about things by groups we know nothing about (that’s why they’re ‘secret groups’ after all), it’s all too easy to shuffle off one’s responsibility for not doing anything to change things by blaming an anonymous ‘powerful individuals’. Here’s an H.L. Menken quote included in the book (p. 395) which goes some way to explain how this sort of thinking can be rubbish:

…the central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his rights and true deserts … [He] ascribes all his failures to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity damfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street or some other such den of infamy.

This book is specifically about how there are few, if any, people in control of the media. While many reporters and editors find all too frequently that they aren’t able to do the fact-checking they wish to — and are frustrated at the situation’s stasis — they aren’t the cause of it through lack of initiative; they simply haven’t the time. According to the staggeringly persuasive argument of author Nick Davies, the newspapers of the UK are essentially now all owned by people who have little interest in publishing newspapers containing journalism. What these individuals are principally concerned with is simply ‘selling copies of the paper each and every day, and the more the better.’ This quantity over quality approach is why they are termed “the Grocers” by Mr. Davies.

Cover art of “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies

Cover art of “Flat Earth News” by Nick Davies

Certainly, any business must be operated with an eye to profit v. loss. However, there is so much an avoidance of idealism towards the media’s content, that the readers are being under-served to the point of unconscionable delivery of falsity on the part of the various persons responsible for the media outlets’ content.

While the book focuses much of its time upon the newspapers of London — including entire chapters each devoted to the Sunday Times, the Observer, and both the Daily and Sunday Mail newspapers–the problems and trends can all be recognized as being world-wide in scope. The newspapers of North America are, thankfully, prevented from out-right lying about individuals in print, owing to a reversal of the onus of proof in legal arguments here, when compared to the UK. That said, the habit of reporting quickly and loudly, then correcting slowly and quietly, is one which no legal or regulatory procedure can effectively prevent.

The other worrisome trend is the one first identified in the book: things being simply repeated from the texts of Media Releases without any effort to confirm that there is any validity within them, or even if they contain amplified — or ‘sexed up’, to use the UK Government’s term about the Iraqi WMD reports — versions of the truth which is then responsible for a snowball effect of panic about the subject in question; which then is fed-back into (EG: Iranian Elections get dropped to cover Michael Jackson’s death) or someone is able to stop the thing by explaining that it’s simply not true in the slightest and we can all relax now (EG: the nullification of the principle of habeas corpus in the USA is only applied to the cases of those naughty terrorists).

The fact that this book doesn’t cover is the recent development of newspapers closing due to financial decisions by their owners, despite any budget restraints they may have imposed prior to the shut-down. It would be fascinating to know what Mr. Davies’ views of the ‘new media platform’ might do to return journalists to the forefront of the delivery of facts. He suggests late in the book that an over-haul of newspapers is required, with the probable method of delivery being some sort of display screen.

Read this book, not to begin seeing some Secret Star-Chamber Cabal controlling the World’s fate, but in order to see that there is an ordinary group of men frantically pulling levers behind the curtain so as to continue making the Great Oz of the Media just as impressive and seemingly required as ever before.

Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media by Nick Davies; PP 420 (including index), ISBN: 978-0-099512-6-84; 2nd Edition published in 2009 by Vintage, an imprint of Random House, London, SW1V

Happy Magaversary, The Atlantic!

The Atlantic Magazine's first cover. Before they had celebrities and cartoonists.

The Atlantic Magazine's first cover. Before they had celebrities and cartoonists.

Congratulations! I’m reasonably sure that’s rival Lewis Lapham on the cover of the very first Atlantic.

via InOtherNews

Sidney Awards available monthly

Sidney Hillman Foundation logo

Sidney Hillman Foundation logo

This is sweet, particularly given that ALL WordPress.com blogs are technically “published” in the US and thus qualify for consideration. The Sidney Hillman foundation, source of the prestigious, annual Hillman award, is now offering the Sidney, a monthly award of $500. Here are the deets from the application page:

Sidney Award Nominations

For more than 50 years, the Sidney Hillman Foundation has awarded, annually, the prestigious Hillman Prizes in Journalism. In 2009, the Foundation inaugurated the Sidney, a monthly award for an outstanding piece of socially-conscious journalism. We are looking for investigative work that fosters social and economic justice.

The Sidney is awarded monthly to a piece published in a magazine, newspaper, on a news site, or a blog in the United States.  Television and radio segments broadcast in the United States are also eligible, as are published photography series.

Deadlines are the last day of the month in which the piece was published/aired. In the case of magazines, please nominate according to the issue date on the publication, not when it first appeared.

You may submit your own work or nominate someone else’s.

Whenever possible, please provide the full text of the story you are nominating, either in the body of your email or as an attachment, as well as the URL.

The Foundation will announce each month’s winner on the 15th of the following month. Recipients will be awarded $500, a bottle of union-made wine, and our certificate designed by New Yorker cartoonist, Edward Sorel.

I love that “union-made wine.” That says so much, right there. You have to fill out the form on the page, so don’t hang around here, go do it!

LITERARY WRITES COMPETITION details

Got this in my regular VOX email from the Federation of BC Writers, a terrific group that, if you are a BC writer, you really should join!

WordWorks Magazine

WordWorks Magazine

21st ANNUAL LITERARY WRITES COMPETITION ~ Federation of BC Writers

Category:       Creative Non-fiction
Deadline:       July 25, 2010
Judges: Anthony Dalton, author & Canadian Authors Assoc. National President
Sylvia Taylor, author & Executive Director, Federation of BC Writers

First Prize: $500, Fed workshop of your choice,publication in WordWorks
Second Prize: $300, publication in WordWorks
Third Prize: $150, publication in WordWorks

Winners will be read their pieces at the Word On The Street Festival in Vancouver on September 26, 2010.
The competition is open to all BC writers and residents.
Entries must be original work, not previously published in any form. Copyright remains with the author.
Maximum 2,000 words per entry. No limit to number of entries.
Blind judging in effect: do not include your name on the manuscript.

Manuscripts should be typed, double-spaced, 12 font, Times New Roman, pages numbered consecutively and stapled together, title in the footer of each page. Include a cover letter with your name, address, telephone, e-mail and the title of your piece(s).

Manuscripts will NOT be returned; they are destroyed at the end of the competition.

No e-mail submissions.
Contest results posted on The Federation of BC writers website in September 2010.

Entry fee: $15 for Federation members and $20 for non-members. There is no limit to the number of entries an individual may submit but each entry must be accompanied by the entry fee. A person may win only one prize.

Make cheque payable to The Federation of BC Writers.
All contest entries must be postmarked by July 25, 2010

Mail Entries & fees to:
Literary Writes 2010
The Federation of BC Writers
PO Box 3887, Stn Terminal
Vancouver, BC V6B 3Z3

May the best BC writer win! (of course, that’s me, right?)

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