How to make the CBC “Canada’s online beehive”

Back in December, Don Tapscott wrote an opinion piece for the Toronto Star entitled “Canada’s online beehive“, in which he argued — begged, in fact — for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to “reinvent itself for the digital age” in order to remain relevant. I applaud Tapscott for making the argument; I’ve made it myself, too, both internally and externally during my time at the CBC. But I’ll be frank: I don’t share Tapscott’s breeziness. To achieve such a goal, the broadcaster must shed its staid bureaucracy and develop an internal culture of technological innovation to drastically reinvent how it does business. Continue reading

This American Life retracts FoxConn story

Just as I was out doing research on a long-delayed blog post about working conditions in Apple’s factories, the news that This American Life is retracting its episode “Mr. Daisey Goes To The Apple Factory” hit my inbox. While it’s regrettable that — if it’s true, because at this point, who knows what to believe — Daisey fabricated parts of his account, the whole episode overshadows the fact that many of the conditions described in his piece are actually true. They’ve been reported elsewhere, including the New York Times. FoxConn workers have committed suicide over long hours and low pay. Many other companies in China do employ the same labour practices. And, of course, it’s obviously true that Apple has outsourced manufacturing work to China exactly because the costs are lower, even though Steve Jobs used to be proud that Apple Macintosh computers were manufactured in the United States.

The public (and This American Life listeners) will now be left with an hour-long, self-flagellating examination of how authenticity and credibility in journalism has yet again been ruined. Mike Daisey will be branded as just another John D’Agata, someone who invents facts for no better reason than that it makes for a better story. (I wonder what kind of service he’ll get now when he calls AppleCare.) And, as iPad 3 sales exceed sales records, Apple’s share price will hit $1,000 in the next six months and be a better capitalized company than the lowest 50 countries on the Human Development Index combined, while everyone forgets about the actual issue that was being addressed here: appalling labour practices in overseas factories making electronic widgets for the developed world.

Shame on you, Mike Daisey. Not being a “journalist” is no reason to lie. And now you have done more damage with a bunch of fabrications than if you had just stayed home and not “reported” this story.

AP’s NewsRight and why it’s destined to fail

Yesterday, Poynter reported that the Associated Press and 28 other news organizations have launched NewsRight, “an ambitious venture to license original news content and collect royalties from aggregators.” Ambitious is right. The fact is, articles no longer have significant monetary value; otherwise, a system like NewsRight wouldn’t need to exist. AP and other legacy media organizations are trying to reverse a trend that’s irreversible.

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Disclosure: The New Objectivity in Journalism

Yesterday evening, a few of my CUNY journalism school classmates and I attended a lecture by Brooke Gladstone, host of WNYC‘s excellent media-analysis program, On The Media. Her new book, The Influencing Machine is an analysis of journalism in the modern age, told in graphic novel format. Unsurprisingly, she spent most of her talk discussing bias in the media, and how to counterbalance that with disclosure. Continue reading

Why I’m Leaving IT for Journalism

After ten years in IT, I’m changing careers. In the fall, my wife and I are moving to New York City, where I will be starting an M.A. program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

I wouldn’t be taking this step if I didn’t believe that the future of journalism is bright. I realize that my optimism flies in the face of popular opinion, particularly amongst those who bemoan the increasingly desperate state of the newspaper industry. The coming decades will bring a different type of journalism than exists today, but the fundamentals of news won’t change. World events will still happen. People still want to know what is happening in their communities. And finally, they will still want quality and accuracy, because they’ve been used to it for so long. The big questions for media organizations, large and small, are how to fulfill these demands without going bankrupt, or paying journalists below-subsistence wages. Continue reading