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
Lost in the uproar over Mike Daisey’s significant fabrications about Chinese working conditions is what Ira Glass calls the “normative question underlying all the reporting… as somebody who owns these products, should I feel bad?” As I’ve stated before — and as the New York Times’ own investigative report showed — the story about working conditions at Apple suppliers is essentially true. The question we have to ask ourselves is whether any of this is acceptable, keeping in mind that, a century ago, working conditions in America were equally if not more harsh. Let me view this whole episode through the lens of another product that’s just as valuable to New Yorkers as smartphones: the subway system. Continue reading
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.
I’ve finished reading Jeff Jarvis‘s “Public Parts“, a book that advocates and celebrates publicness as a force for good. While I agree with some aspects of Jarvis’s argument, I find that too often, living one’s life in public is just a more polite name for narcissism. And on occasion, Jarvis himself crosses into that territory.
If you believe the hype, printed books are going to follow newspapers into the dustbin of history. But I think that books, like newspapers, won’t die off completely. They’ll just become niche products, consumed by a small, but avid, group of people who still love the medium and find their digital equivalents lacking.
Ironically, the fact that books are becoming a niche product will revive the fortunes of the small, independent booksellers who have been hammered over the last 10-15 years by competition from major chains. If they are smart, the independents will remain nimble and provide services that the Amazons of the world can’t: namely, curation. Type, for example, leans towards architecture & design, although they do carry a decent selection of general fiction/non-fiction. The reason they remain a going concern is because the owners have successfully identified the kinds of books read by people who love physical books, and they aggressively stock those.
Note that these two qualities aren’t inexorably linked. I’m waiting for the day when an independent bookstore offers e-books alongside their physical products, thereby enabling them to both serve a niche via actual books, and a general audience via digital download. However, such a day will not come so long as e-readers like the Kindle are closely tied to a major chain, with all of the DRM shackles that such an association implies. How long before we see a truly open-source e-reader? And what aspects of the bookselling market will need to change before that happens?
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.
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
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