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Copyright and the Internet
April 16, 2009, 4:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Does the AP have a coherent legal case? Is this the key to its survival? If yes, how can the AP evolve to meet the demands for digital content? If no, how should the AP be addressing this challenge?

On April 6, the AP said it would “launch an industry initiative to protect news content from misappropriation online.”  Basically, the AP plans to hunt down Web sites that post its content without paying and pursue legal action.

To me, this seems like a ludicrous way to try and solve journalism’s problem of profiting, or simply surviving, in the Internet age. 

Whether they have a legitimate legal case or not is irrelevant.  While Web sites that use AP content without permission are walking the dangerously fine line between fair use and copyright infringement, there is no way that the AP can effectively and efficiently police every Web site on the Internet.  Right or wrong, the AP is fighting a losing battle.  That’s just the bottom line.

In the end, the AP’s futile attempts to stop unauthorized use of their content could actually alienate its audience.  People have become accustomed to getting fast, free information, and they will inevitably reject any organization that tries to take this privilege away from them. 

Journalistic organizations that don’t embrace the Internet’s free flow of information will eventually die, so if the AP wants to survive, it should start using its resources more judiciously.  Instead of ignoring reality and desperately hanging on to the increasingly obsolete top-down media model, the AP should concentrate on creating a new model that makes most of the possibilities presented by the Internet. 

First and foremost for journalism, the ease of access afforded by the Internet creates the potential for more people to see news content.  Since the journalism industry strives to inform the public, it seems to me that journalists should logically view the Internet as a tool that allows them to to their job even better.  

While I will concede that the Internet creates profit problems that still need to be addressed, the answer is not to limit access to content.  This goes against one of journalism’s core values.  

Plus, the AP comes of looking like a stingy gatekeeper, and with the rise of citizen journalism and user-generated content, this is no longer a look that the AP can afford.  

I don’t know how the AP can effectively address the problem of pirated content.  It is a moving target that may never be fully resolved, but one of the first step could be to shift the tone of the conversation from threatening to informative.

Many people simply copying and pasting AP content probably don’t realize what they are doing.  I know that educating the public on copyright laws won’t stop everyone, but a significant portion of people probably would start linking to AP content, something beneficial to everyone. 

 

 

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The State of the News Industry Blog
March 20, 2009, 7:09 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

When my dad was a child, he liked to play with paper.  He would cut it up and organize it into stacks.  I know this because my dad firmly believes that people should look to their childhoods for career inspiration.

That is how I ended up as a journalism major at the University of Colorado.  As a child, I was a fanatical storyteller and a voracious reader.

My dad’s affinity for paper led him to a career in printing.  He has owned a printing company for the last thirty years, and he has relished every last minute of it.

I never quite understood my dad’s obsession with printing, but it defined me nonetheless.  Until recently, I wholeheartedly believed that hard working people could make a stable, secure living pursuing their passions. 

Unfortunately, the bad economy and the Internet are driving my dad out of business. While he has not officially closed up shop yet, it is only a matter of time.

My parents are now close to bankrupt.  They have lost all of their retirement savings and have recently put our family home up for sale, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

These changes have rocked me to the core, and as a result, I have lost my sense of self.  When expressing my fears and frustration to a former professor, he gave me an invaluable piece of advice: Crises are nothing more than new opportunities.

This piece of advice immediately came to mind as I was reading Clay Shirky’s blog post and Stephen Johnson’s speech.

The crisis that the journalism industry is currently facing is really nothing more than an opportunity to improve its increasingly outdated and inefficient model. 

The cornerstones of journalism, such as informing the public, will never disappear.  Throughout history, enterprising minds have found ways to fulfill the watchdog function, and I have no doubt that they will continue to do so in the future. 

No one knows what the future of journalism will look like.  When it is all said and done, the new model may change the industry so drastically that stodgy traditionalist no longer consider it journalism.

Personally, I am excited by the prospects.  I am not afraid of the changes that are coming because I know that I have the skills necessary to produce creative, innovative content, whatever it may be.  In this regard, my fellow journalism students and I actually have a leg up on many seasoned journalists.  

I admit that not knowing what the future holds makes me a bit apprehensive, but ultimately, we have a unique and exciting opportunity: the opportunity to mold the future of journalism.

 



Ethics Blog
January 23, 2009, 6:41 am
Filed under: Assignments

What is a phenomenon that you see in news that you find troubling? Is it uenthical? What standards of ethics do you feel are under challenge? What should our industry do in such a case?

Last October, a fake story claiming that Steve Jobs had been rushed to the emergency room after suffering a heart attack was posted on iReport.com, CNN’s citizen journalist Web site. 

Afterward, shares of Apple’s stock dropped 5.4 percent.

This event raises some serious questions about the relationship between traditional news media and citizen journalists. 

Would this same post on someone’s personal blog have had the same impact?  Did people trust iReport.com more because of its affiliation with CNN?

It seems to me that the average person with Apple stock is a fairly educated and discerning. However, a significant number of them clearly decided to act based on iReport.com’s content.

Were they skeptical at all?  Did they simply decide that rumors were enough?  Or, did they blindly believe?

The truly amazing part is that the fake posting was on the Web site for a grand total of twelve minutes, an eternity in the digital age.  News travels fast, especially on the Internet.  As a result, mistakes are amplified. That’s why today’s journalist have to make sure that their reporting is accurate the first time around.  

Now, I am not proposing that traditional news media should break all ties with citizen journalists.  The benefits far outweigh the risks.  The whole Web site should not be shut down because of a teenage prank. However, I think that changes obviously need to be made.  

First, CNN should require more information from their posters.  As it stands, posters only have to provide a valid email address.  I know that authenticating the identity of posters is tricky, but CNN will lose credibility if they continue to sponsor an unreliable Web site.

Second, CNN should more boldly display their disclaimer.  Instead of ignoring skepticism, the media should encourage it.  We should not fear the public questioning us. If we are doing our job properly, we have nothing to worry about.

In the meantime, the public should learn to be media literate, and hopefully, this will lead to some understanding.  In the era of the 24-hour news cycle, the media frequently feel pressure to make unsubstantiated reports public.   If the public understands how the media works, they will be able to differentiate between an honest mistake and irresponsible journalism.



My Very First Music Video
May 8, 2007, 2:50 pm
Filed under: Assignments

click here



Visiting Artist Jillian Mcdonald
May 8, 2007, 2:04 pm
Filed under: Write Ups

Jillian Mcdonald is a Canadian performing and media artist currently based out of New York. Her best-known piece titled “Me and Billy Bob” explores America’s extreme celebrity-obsessed culture in a light and humorous manner. In the video section of the project, Mcdonald inserts footage of herself into a variety movie scenes involving Billy Bob to create the saga of a dramatic, fantasy relationship that eventually runs its course. Initially, she intended to end the video with a romantic kiss, but she opted for the alternative ending after developing a real crush on Billy Bob.

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This fascinated me because I recently heard that the human brain might actually be hardwired for gossip. The theory based on evolutionary psychology holds that the brain, for the most part, developed when humans lived in small tribes, so all recognizable faces were inevitably an acquaintance. At this time peoples’ actions had a direct impact on everyone else in the tribe. Consequently, gossip was functional. However, as tribes grew and then technology allowed us to “know” people outside of our respective tribes, gossip lost its functionality and eventually fed the celebrity obsession of today.

I thought it was great to hear her talk about “Me and Billy Bob” because I was honestly a little concerned when I perused her site. I was definitely interested, but at the same time, I was creeped out. It was reassuring to know that she is normal. Not only is she not obsessed with celebrities, she is prone to the same pitfalls that we all are. In other words, she is not crazy, and she is not judgmental. I think this is what makes the piece work so well. Also, I thought that rough quality of the video, while unintentional, worked well. It visually illustrated how fake celebrity crushes really are.

I was not all that interested in her new works that involve the subject of zombies. The question of why some people are attracted to horror movies does not hold the same social significance and seems very meaningless after viewing “Me and Billy Bob”. However, while the project idea as a whole lacks significant content, some of the individual pieces hold potential. For example, putting make-up on in the subway begins to address issue of beauty and personal space.   Also, her video of screams begins to address how women are typically portrayed as weak and helpless. It was really annoying to watch, though.



More Culture Jamming
April 5, 2007, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Random

Hank Willis Thomas received his BFA in Photography and Africana Studies from NYU as well his MFA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of the Arts. His series “Branded” hopes to provoke serious conversations about race by using advertisements to draw connections between stereotypical images of strong, particularly physically strong, African American men and slavery. Many of these works have been displayed as public installations on phone booths and bus stops. He also uses many of the images as logos on t-shirts. In his series “Unbranded” Thomas removes all of the identifying advertising traits such as logos and text from existing ads that feature the African American community in order to reveal what is really being sold.

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“The Yes Men” Review
April 2, 2007, 3:56 am
Filed under: Write Ups

The Yes Men are activists that practice a particular form of culture jamming known as “identity correction”. Culture jamming utilizes or manipulates traditional forms of mass media such as advertising in an attempt to comment on the often vicious negative impact that excessive commercialization has on society. In other words, culture jams regularly expose the true environmental or human cost of corporate practices. The specific concept of “identity correction” involves otherwise honest people impersonating government and corporate leaders in an attempt bring to light how these “truly evil” organizations harm the public.

The two main members of The Yes Men go by a number of different aliases; in the film they are Mike Bonanno and Andy Bichlbaum. In real life Mike Bonanno is Igor Vamos, an assistant professor of media arts at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York while Andy Bichlbaum, really Jacques Servin, is best known as the designer who programmed unauthorized images of men kissing into the computer game SimCopter.

One of their very first pranks was the 1999 satirical website GWBush.com, which they deliberately designed to resemble Bush’s official website GeorgeWBush.com in order to call attention to the many hypocrisies found there. Their most famous prank, which they made into a documentary film, began when they set up the website GATT.org to spoof the World Trade Organization. This fake website began to receive e-mails from various groups wishing to have WTO representatives speak at their conferences. At a conference in Finland The Yes Men proposed that CEOs of large corporations should implant themselves and their remote employees with electrodes, so bosses could watch their workers at all times. To make the speech as ludicrous as possible Andy Bichlbaum donned a garish, gold, skin-tight suit fully equipped with a large, inflatable phallus. At the end of this phallus a hands-free screen allowed CEOs to watch their employees wherever they pleased. Since the movie release, The Yes Men have continued with their pranks. Most recently, they impersonated HUD in New Orleans.

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I am somewhat conflicted about the methods that The Yes Men use. I really enjoy their satirical websites because they say a lot about society. We have a tendency to take things at face value without adequate questioning. It surprised me that so many people unwittingly invited imposters to speak at their conferences. However, as far as I can tell The Yes Men never informed anyone at these conferences at any point in time that they are not actually legitimate representatives of the WTO. I have to wonder if their point actually gets across if they never let other people in on the joke? They claim that they do these pranks for the articles written afterwards, which in theory reach far more people, but I have never read one of these articles. Furthermore, I would argue that articles hardly ever truly impact people while most people remember odd, quirky events.

The predominant problem with the prank is that their main message warns against the possible dangers of globalization, yet they rely heavily on the Internet and news articles circulated through mass media, which epitomize globalization. While I realize that this dichotomy is intentional, at times it takes humanity out of their pranks and makes me think that they are not fully aware of their intended or potential message. They do not use the Internet as fully and responsibly as possible. Instead of using connections made through the Internet as springboards for new, productive, global relationships, they exploit peoples’ ignorance. However, change does have to start somewhere, and the Internet is a great place to reach people across the globe. So while The Yes Men may still be catering soley to likeminded artists, they are reaching far more of them than they otherwise would. I am definitely more knowledgeable about the WTO and its practices because of their work.