Monday, December 3, 2012

Longform Journalism Changes

Interesting article on the Poynter Foundation Web Site about how longform journalism has adapted to changes in the news industry: Check it out.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

WIU Alum Pens Insightful Crime Story

Check out WIU Alum Mark Konkol's (winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2011) exceptional story about how violence affects Chicago Aldermen on a personal level:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mercer University's Bold, New Journalism Teaching Experiment

Mercer University is trying a new experiment in journalism education: a completely integrated news-gathering partnership between its journalism program and the local newspaper and public radio station. The university's president says it may be the future of journalism education. Check out the story at:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Work at Tri-States Radio and Get Paid

Hi everyone: Tri-States Public Radio (91.3 FM) is in the market for paid part-time reporters. You will get terrific on-air experience while learning to write in broadcasting style. You don't have to be a broadcasting or even a journalism major to apply. If interested, please pick up an application at the front desk at Tri-States Public Radio, which is in a former grocery store next to the old movie theater on the north side of University Avenue (across from Cafe Aroma, near the intersection with Lafayette Street). Thanks, Professor Lisa Kernek

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Want a Journalism Job? Learn Computer Programming

Miranda Mulligan, director of Northwestern's Knight News Innovation Lab, says journalism programs need to encourage their students to think outside of the box—and consider learning the basics of computer programming. Mulligan's article recently appeared on the Nieman Journalism Lab web site. Read it at:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

WIU Alum is Journalism Day Speaker

Mark it on your calendars: October 19 is the 2012 Journalism Day at Western Illinois University. Make sure to attend keynote speaker (and WIU Alum) Chris Ward's presentation entitled: "From comic books to radio: Following the journalism career path in the 21st century." Ward's talk will begin at 12 noon in the Carl Sandburg Theater in the Student Union. Ward is a former Western Courier entertainment editor and currently works as Director of Marketing and Communications for KDHX in St. Louis. He is also author of the comic book, "Political Power: Barack Obama," and a former staff writer and editor of "Wizard Magazine" and "Toyfare Magazine."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What's a Digital Only Media Town Like?

As more and more newspapers cut back on daily publishing, what has been the experience of communities that have only digital media? One of the first cities to lose its daily newspaper was Ann Arbor, Michigan, which converted to a digital-only format three years ago. The American Journalism Review recently analyzed how it's been going in Ann Arbor. Read the story at:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Don't forget: First meeting of the new school year for anyone interested in working on Western Illinois Magazine will be Wednesday, August 29 at 4 p.m. in the Western Courier offices in the Heating Plant Annex. See you!

Fewer People Believe Major News Media

Fewer people believe what they hear or read from major news organizations according to a recent Pew Research Center report. According to a survey, positive believability ratings have fallen significantly for nine of the 13 major news organizations. Despite the declines, however, the study also indicated that a majority of Americans still give most major news organizations positive believability marks. To read a summary of the study go to:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Welcome back! Any students needing to pick up a journalism class (or interested in politics and journalism) should sign up immediately for Journalism 334, Public Affairs and Beat Reporting, taught by Professor Lisa Kernek. The class still has a few openings so sign up now!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Job Openings in Macomb and Canton

Tom Martin, regional editor for Gatehouse newspapers is looking for a daily newspaper reporter ready to become an editor, or a weekly editor wanting to go to a daily newspaper. His company has openings at: • The McDonough County Voice, a 5-day per week newspaper in Macomb, Ill. • Daily Ledger, a 6-day per week newspaper in Canton, Ill., have top editor openings. Each newspaper has a circulation of about 4,000 and a staff of 4 full-timers in the newsroom, including the editors. The Macomb opening is urgent. The Canton job starts Oc.t 1. Anyone who is interested please contact him at

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Did the New York Times Contribute to the Death of Veteran Journalist Anthony Shadid?

The web site,, is questioning whether the New York Times pushed veteran journalist Anthony Shadid to return to the Middle East, where he had been kidnapped 11 months earlier, without concern for his health. Shadid is believed to have died of a heart attack while trying to illegally enter Syria to report on that country's deteriorating situation for the Times. In the Truth-out story, Shadid's cousin, Dr. Edward Shadid, noted that Shadid had received no counseling or treatment for possible post-traumatic stress disorder following his kidnapping. According to Truth-out, "The New York Times insisted that Anthony illegally infiltrate Syria in a poorly planned, dangerously risky operation. His editors overruled Anthony's objections and failed to provide equipment he had requested. When he then died of what his cousin suspects was a heart attack, the Times put out an inaccurate story that obscured the newspaper's role in his death, while proclaiming him a hero and basking in the reflected glory." Check out the complete story at:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Texas GOP Opposes 'Critical Thinking'

In the disturbing trend category: the Texas Republican Party has released its 2012 political platform, which includes a plank calling for the removal of "critical thinking" from public school curriculum. In the platform document, the party states: "We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student's fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority." (page 20, Republican Party of Texas, 2012). The party called on teachers to focus on traditional rote memorization techniques. A critical opinion article about the new platform can be found at:

Monday, July 9, 2012

iPad Becoming the New Evening Newspaper

Interesting story on Jim Romenesko's blog about how a large number of people who own an iPad use it to troll the Internet in the evenings, which has helped make the iPad the modern day equivalent to the old evening newspaper. Check out what he has to say at:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bogus Bylines Bring Embarrassment

The march toward "outsourcing" news—meaning the trend of some major news organizations like the Chicago Tribune to subcontract news gathering and reporting to a third party—has resulted in a few recent hiccups. Check out the controversy over Journatic's (one of those subcontractors, which is partially owned by the Tribune) use of fake bylines in some of its stories, which was recently featured on National Public Radio:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Is using a press release in a story plagiarism?

Interesting lawsuit involving a veteran Kansas City Star reporter's use of press releases in his news columns:

Monday, June 11, 2012

New San Diego Newspaper Owner Unabashedly Promotes Business Agenda

The New York Times reported today that the new owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Douglas F. Manchester, openly admits his goal is to use the paper to promote his business and political interests. Read David Carr's story about the San Diego U-T's new direction at

Thursday, May 31, 2012

University of Oregon School Newspaper Leaps Into Digital Future

The Daily Emerald, the student newspaper at the University of Oregon, is shifting to a digital-first operation and discontinuing daily publishing. Read about some of the lessons the paper is learning:

Best Books for Future Journalists

Summer is a great time to catch up on reading. Here's a recent list of books that every future journo should read, according to the Columbia Journalism Review:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Student Editors Lose Independence at UNLV

The student government at the University of Nevada Las Vegas has announced it plans to select future editors of the student-run newspaper, The Rebel Yell, previously an independent organization. As a result of a previously unnoticed change in administrative procedures, the university's board of regents inadvertently removed regulations that had given that authority to an appointed advisory board consisting of students and faculty. As a result, authority for appointing the newspaper's editor in chief falls to the student government association. Read more about the controversy in the Las Vegas Sun:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ready for Retirement

Longtime Western Illinois University journalism professor Bill Knight, who created this blog, retired this month. In a recent newspaper column, he shared his thoughts on the subject: If you want sure-fire compliments, the choices are pretty much a) retire or b) die. Highly recommended: a). When you retire you don’t hear from people who think you’re a fool or a boob, and a party especially is nice – like a visitation only you’re there. And alive. Less than a week after I retire from teaching after 21 years at Western Illinois University, my son finishes law school. (His knack for advocacy seems solid; during my retirement reception, he texted me, “Congratulations! You finally got out of college!”) So change is wafting over me like a breeze from Lake Michigan through the cheap seats at Wrigley Field. I’ll certainly miss colleagues and students, though I won’t miss commuting, meetings, ties and so many keys that I half expected someone to quip, “Are you faculty or are you just glad to see me?” Unlike journalism, which I’m convinced is a calling, teaching for me bounced between the best job I ever hated or the worst job I ever loved. Journalist Bill Moyers says, “Most of us in journalism are too obsessed with the here-and-now to think about the past or future tense of our lives.” Retirement is a chance to reflect a bit, at least in solitude. I had years of practice working alone, from delivering newspapers at dawn and mowing lawns at all hours to driving tractors and spending days cutting volunteer cornstalks out of bean fields. I also have spent decades “playing” on teams, mostly baseball, but also construction crews, a “commune” of sorts, labor unions and, of course, newsrooms. Alan Guebert, a terrific ag journalist, not long ago recalled a 2009 West Point speech by literary critic William Deresiewicz, who sought to encourage first-year cadets to spend more time alone to avoid becoming “excellent sheep” that he saw in his Yale University classes. Deresiewicz said, “(For) too long we have been training leaders who only know how to keep the routine going, who can answer questions, but don’t know how to ask them.” For 21 years I’ve hoped and prayed that I’ve encouraged my students not only to write, but read and think – not necessarily in that order: solitary endeavors. Recently, I’ve heard from former students, ranging from a Pulitzer Prize winner and a Fulbright scholar to sportswriters for AP/News Corp. and a small daily, from a business reporter for a mid-market daily and staffers in big newsrooms and even the military. They seem to be good thinkers and listeners as well as writers; I don’t think I damaged them. Their flattery included compliments about my being a mentor, a “heartbeat” of journalism, of helping them, or making classes insightful and entertaining. I’ve also heard from pals who shared past adventures, friends who are now college administrators, a state senator, a judge, and an assistant attorney general. One said, “It won't be long before you're sitting at the local cafe having breakfast on a Tuesday morning with some of your cronies, other geezers, and wondering, ‘What the heck happened?’ Enjoy that moment.” A reviewer who used to write for me remembered a “writer’s block” dry spell during which I’d cajoled him with a question: “Your hands fall off?” A Tea Party friend emailed, “Retiring? From what? We’ve been blessed with doing things we love.” An ex-PGA caddy buddy warned, “You will find time for more of the things you love, like and some that you don’t.” One former girlfriend, now at a major metro daily, wrote, “Thanks for fighting the good fight.” Another ex-girlfriend made a donation in my name to a journalism student fund. Humbling; another card from a woman sent a note I’d sent her and other students after 9-11, which she’d saved. I’d said, 10 years ago, “At such a time, reading and studying grammar, discussing and exercising news judgment, and expanding our awareness of the wide variety of stories and assignments seem relatively meaningless,. Priorities change,” I continued, “– sometimes in an instant – but reporting and the First Amendment that protects it remain important.” Priorities do change, but I agree with Moyers, who said, “Journalism [is] a continuing course in adult education.” Mine as well as others, of course. So, I won’t be in my classrooms, but I will continue to write a column, do radio, and work on book projects, plus get involved in new media and new ventures. One newsroom manager wrote, “Your work generates more complaints than anything else we use. Keep up the good work.” A high school classmate offered best wishes with a challenge: “Retirement is not for sissies.” I’m ready.

Changes in the New Orleans newspaper scene

The venerable New Orleans Times Picayune is cutting back to three days a week and pushing an aggressive online agenda. Check it out:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Buffet Buys More Newspapers

Warren Buffett moved forward with his plans to invest in additional newspapers today when he purchased all of the non-Florida holdings of Media General. Read about it here:

Monday, May 14, 2012

Court of Appeals Agrees Citizens Can Videotape Police in Illinois

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has tossed out Illinois' controversial eavesdropping law, which restricts citizens from videotaping police officers performing their public duties in a public place. Read the details here: A complete copy of the ruling can be downloaded from the ACLU web site:

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sun-Times may buy Chicago Reader

The owner of the Chicago Sun-Times is negotiating to purchase the Chicago Reader for about $3 million, according to Crain's Chicago Business, and the deal could be finalized next week. Sun-Times parent company Wrapports LLC, which took over the daily in December, is looking to buy the alternative weekly from New York investment firm Atalaya Capital Management L.P., which acquired it along with four other weeklies out of bankruptcy in 2009 after lending money to prior owners at Tampa, Fla.-based Creative Loafing Inc. "The Reader will survive and thrive because it represents what so many other media outlets have forgotten today and thus have threatened their very existence; that is, it's all about local, local, local!" said Brad Bulkley, the investment banker hired by Atalaya to sell the Creative Loafing papers. Bringing the Reader into the Sun-Times newspaper group -- which includes seven suburban dailies and dozens of suburban weeklies -- could expand the chain's scant coverage of the city's arts, culture, restaurant and entertainment scene and connect it with a new category of advertisers.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Millennials prefer print: WaTimes

Turns out that college students still prefer to read the old-fashioned printed version of the newspaper, according to the Washington Times. In a recent article, the Times said "The millennials seek out an honest-to-goodness, dead-tree, processed-pulp newspaper, handed out by the paper’s staff, to catch the midday dining rush." Check out the story:

Sunday, May 6, 2012

West-central Illinois newsmen honored by Chicago Headline Club

Two journalists with ties to west-central Illinois on Friday
won in two categories of the Peter Lisagor Awards for Editorial Excellence from the Chicago Headline Club, the city's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). Chicago Sun-Time reporter Mark Konkol (right), a 1995 WIU graduate and Pulitzer Prize winner, won best sports story in a daily with 250,000+ circulation for his feature “Worst. Season. Ever.” It was a look at the Lake County Fielders' short and disastrous season as a minor league ball club. Peoria native Rick Telander (below, right)
of the Chicago Sun-Times won best Sports Commentary for a daily with 250,000+ circulation for his series of columns titled “Murray Park: Can Heaven Still Be Found on a Playground?" It was about the Englewood neighborhood and changes there since NBA star Derrick Rose grew up and developed his talent on local playgrounds.

Chicago dailies rank in new ABC circulation report

Chicago's daily newspapers rank #9 and #10 in the Audit Bureau of Circulation's most recent report on top U.S. newspapers for the six months ending in March. The Chicago Sun-Times is 9th with a total average circulation of 422,335 -- a 0.7 percent increase. The Chicago Tribune is 10th with a total average circulation of 414,590 -- a 5.17 percent decline. "Digital circulation now accounts for 14.2 percent of newspapers’ total circulation mix, up from 8.66 percent in March 2011," said Neal Lulofs, Executive Vice President and General Manager, ABCi. "Digital circulation may be tablet or smartphone apps, PDF replicas, metered or restricted-access websites, or e-reader editions." For a year and a half, ABC has incorporation newspapers' transformation into an industry that's the source for multi-media delivery of contents instead of exclusively the print platform. The "total average circulation" data for the Sun-Times shows the daily with about 200,000 verified print copies and more than 68,000 digital deliveries, plus 152,000 "branded editions." ABC defines that category as "editions of the newspaper that are published at least weekly, have a different name than the member newspaper, but are labeled to include the word 'edition.' Branded editions may include commuter, community or alternative-language newspapers." The Tribune shows higher print numbers (387,000 copies), more than 27,000 digital deliveries, but no branded editions.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

New devices, fewer tech companies, and newspapers remain main source: PEJ

The ninth edition of the "State of the News Media" from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism is out for 2012, and it has some predictable findings and some surprises. First, as mentioned in Politico reporter Reid J. Epstein's remarks at April 28's Spring Journalism Day at WIU in Macomb, "the explosion of new mobile platforms and social media channels represents another layer of technology with which news organizations must keep pace." Next, and somewhat unexpected, in the last year a shrinking number of technology corporations started quickly consolidating their power by becoming makers of almost all devices people use in their digital lives. "Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and a few others are maneuvering to make the hardware people use, the operating systems that run those devices, the browsers on which people navigate, the e-mail services on which they communicate, the social networks on which they share, and the web platforms on which they shop and play," the report states. "And all of this will provide these companies with detailed personal data about each consumer." The most surprising finding, however, may be one that defies conventional wisdom about print journalism as sources of information. "More evidence emerged that newspapers (whether accessed in print or digitally) are the primary source people turn to for news about government and civic affairs," the report notes.

Technies seek journalism's re-invention

At a media executives conference in Madrid in April, a few leaders of tech companies conceded they were looking for a marriage between news and their various platforms, but they do not see themselves as news organizations. “Most newsgathering is still done in a very traditional way,” Facebook journalism manager Vadim Lavrusik told reporter Robert Andrews. "In too many places, it’s still ‘this is what’s happening’, not contextualising what’s happening. There’s a lack of discovering why this is happening, the context. “People want analysis from journalists,” he said. "Posts with journalists’ analysis receive 20 percent more referral clicks [than others]. Content isn’t scarce – it’s the contextualization and making sense of that content that’s becoming scarce.” Richard Gingras, head of Google's news products and Google+ programming simply stated, "We're not a news company. We're a platform."

Media coverage of religion too sensationalized, poll says

A 45-page report from the Annenberg School of Communication at Southern Cal and the Roy C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron interviewed 2,000 American adults and a representative cross section of reporters and found that news magazines, newspapers, radio news, online news websites, and (last and least of all) television news all beckon for audiences, and the religion that beckons for attention will tend to be sensationalized. As interesting as the reaction of news consumer is the concession by news providers: "Less than one-fifth of reporters call themselves 'very knowledgeable' about religion," the report notes

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Online users still turn to newspapers' stories, content

Almost three-quarters of Internet users access newspaper content in some form during a typical week, according to a survey conducted for the Newspaper Association of America. About two-thirds of readers use a digital platform several times a day to read newspaper-generated content, and about the same proportion said they act on digital ads in the paper. "Clearly, newspapers' embrace of multiplatform strategies provides significant opportunities for audience and revenue growth," NAA President Caroline Little said. Meanwhile, another NAA study found that the number of unique adult visitors to newspaper websites increased 4.4 percent in the first quarter compared with the first quarter last year. An analysis of comScore data showed that the number of adult daily visitors increased 10 percent, with an identical increase among 18- to 24-year-olds.

Tribune taps Journatic for hyperlocal content

The Tribune Comapyn last week announced that it's made an investment in Chicago-based media content provider Journatic, which will take over production of TribLocal,the Chicago Tribune's five-year-old network of community web sites and print editions. Terms were not disclosed for the deal, which will outsource all hyperlocal editorial content to reporters and editors at Journatic over the next three months. About half of TribLocal’s 40 staffers, including copy editors, designers and web producers, will see their jobs phased out during the transition, with 11 of 18 reporters being reassigned to provide beefed-up coverage for the Chicago Tribune's suburban bureaus. Founded in 2006, Journatic aggregates data and employs 40 full-time staffers and hundreds of freelancers to provide content to media companies and marketers. Journatic produces the entire weekly real estate section for the San Francisco Chronicle and also owns, which publishes real estate research and news for 20 major metros, including Chicago. Launched in 2007, TribLocal uses staff reporters, freelance writers and user-generated content to produce hyperlocal Chicago-area community news. “We've made an investment in this company because we believe that it is a more effective way of providing hyperlocal news, and we think we can do more of it in this way,” said Tribune Editor Gerould Kern.

American U launches visual history of significant journalism in six decades

American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop has launched the first comprehensive online visual history of how journalists have helped to save democracy. Some of America’s greatest moments of fearless, independent journalism, and how they changed the course of American history forever, are featured. Investigating Power seeks to answer one of the most pressing questions confronting journalism in this age of shrinking media budgets and newsrooms: How can the American people know the truth about those in power with the future of original, in-depth reporting in question? On 51 high-definition videos, the project interviewed journalists who've brought "truth to power" through their reporting during contemporary U.S. history dating back to 1950. Investigating Power defines six crucial “Moments of Truth,” including the McCarthy era, Civil Rights, Vietnam, Watergate, post 9/11 America, and Corporate Power, and features conversations with Carl Bernstein, Ben Bradlee, Seymour Hersh, Dana Priest, Bob Woodward and the late Daniel Schorr and Mikle Wallace.

Journalists use LinkedIn, but wonder why

Journalists use LinkedIn, according to a recent study, but most don't know why. "Where things become fuzzy is show often they use it, for what purposes, and how effective a tool it is," writes Kevin Allen. "Seven out of 10 journalists investigated in the Newswise study had user profiles on LinkedIn, and 42 percent of them responded to requests to connect via the social networking site," reported Newswise, a company that surveyed 1,000 journalist subscribers to its tipsheet. "A significant number of respondents had difficulty with the fundamental process of connecting with others on the site. "Only 1 in 4 respondents expressed an opinion about the value of social networking in general, with 13 percent finding value, and 12 percent finding none," the report continued. "The remaining 75 percent were undecided or neutral. In other words, 88 percent of LinkedIn users had found value or were neutral about the value of social networking."

Friday, April 13, 2012

New KPCC editor an advocate for open journalism

Melanie Sill, the former editor of the Sacramento Bee and the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., will be the new executive editor of Southern California Public Radio's KPCC-FM 89.3 in Pasadena.

She's a longtime advocate of open journalism, a more transparent collection and delivery of the news.

She wrote a very interesting paper on the topic in December, and commented on the subject on

"It’s time to open up journalism’s processes, not just its outcomes, to more robust and effective interaction with sources, contributors and consumers," Sill said. "A discipline based on bringing information to light needs to be more engaged with the expanding practices and culture of information exchange in the communication era. This is key to improving journalism’s service and expanding its value and effectiveness as a public good."

Web revenue to rise 21% this year

Local online advertising is expected to grow 21.3% in 2012, to reach around $20 billion, according to a new Borrell Associates report out this month. That’s on top of 20.6% growth in 2011.

"The commerce-focused 'pureplays' continue to dominate the local online ad scene, with a 46% share of the market, according to Borrell," reports Eric J. Smith for NetNewsCheck.

Newspapers are second at 25%.

Reviewing digital ad revenue from more than 5,700 media companies to compile its report, Borrell found that the average newspaper site also made nearly $2.2 million online last year, outpacing the average TV station’s take of $858,000. Radio sites lagged far behind, with an average of $445,000 in Web revenue.

Peoria market shows newspapers' web sites lead

Online presentation of news doesn't happen in a vacuum, according to Peoria Journal star business editor and media critic Steve Tarter. Newspapers provide the bulk of content online.

"Hardly a day doesn't go by when you don't hear something about the print media's fall from grace," he writes. "But the fact is that papers continue to inform in both print and online editions."

He quotes author Eric Alterman, also a professor of English and journalism at Brooklyn College, as bemoaning changes in presentation: "So long as our society treats the disappearance of newspapers as strictly a business matter - with no implications for the future health of our democracy - this problem will continue to worsen," Alterman wrote.

But Tarter points out that newspapers' newsroom are still the main source for the journalism the audience seeks.

"The newspaper remains," Tarter says, "just like the bulletin board that somehow still finds a place in this digital world."

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mike Wallace, R.I.P.

CBS News last Saturday announced that the legendary Mike Wallace, the "60 Minutes" pit-bull reporter whose probing, brazen style made his name synonymous with the tough interview - a style he practically invented for television more than half a century ago - died.

He was 93 and passed away peacefully, surrounded by family members at Waveny Care Center in New Canaan, Conn., where he spent the past few years.

In his book "Heat and light," Wallace commented on how he deplored the focus on "opinion, gossip and scandal" that has become the norm in the 24-hour news cycle.

TV news, Wallace said, has become "yammer, yammer, yammer. It's infotainment. It used to be race to the top. To a certain degree, news today is a race to the bottom."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Media opinion influential but not new, says Mount Holyoke prof in video interview

Looking at the growing influence and partisanship of opinion formats in political journalism, a Mount Holyoke expert on the role and influence of media opinions says such formats are not necessarily bad for democracy.

Professor Eleanor Townsley, who co-wrote "The Space of Opinion, Media, Intellectuals and the Public Sphere" with Ron Jacobs (Oxford, 2011) adds that opinions like those now expressed on television and radio shows and in print and online are not really new to U.S. media.

“Opinion formats date back to the origins of modern American journalism," she says. "They pull together different elements from a long history of opinion shows."

Although Fox and MSNBC are familiar today as opinion broadcasters, the format actually originated on public TV on shows such as "Agronsky and Company," "The McLaughlin Group" and William F. Buckley’s "Firing Line."

Do talk shows and editorials, commentary and columns, harm democracy? Not necessarily, Townsley says.

“Shows like Hannity’s and O’Reilly’s engage audiences that may not otherwise participate in politics," she says. "They offer highly authentic performances that speak to people’s values and touch their emotions. This encourages many to join in the public conversation who otherwise wouldn’t.”

Further, audiences who reads, hear or watch opinion journalism can become more media literate, she adds.

“These shows alert people to media bias," she says, "and if more people realize that information comes from a perspective, then that is probably good for democracy.”

Saturday, March 24, 2012

'Internet con men' hurt publishing: Harper's MacArthur

Providence Journal writer Robert Whitcomb posted a lecture by Harper's magazine publisher (and PJ contributor) John R. MacArthur that was presented at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and expresses deep doubts about the usefulness of the Internet to publishing.

He's no Luddite, but offers an often-overlooked perspective: What are writers getting out of the World Wide Web? Here are a few sharp observations from the very insightful 4,000-word speech:

"Youthful members of my editorial staff were imploring me, demanding even, that I meet the Internet revolution head-on by posting free what they also described as 'content' on our brand-new Harper's web site. The Internet, I told them, wasn't much more than a gigantic Xerox machine (albeit with inhuman 'memory'), and thus posed the same old threat to copyright and to the livelihoods of writers and publishers alike."

"Print advertising is remembered longer and more clearly for the simple reason that readers spend more time with a printed article in a magazine than with pieces posted on web sites."

"Out of physical sight, out of mind. At some point you've got to turn off your computer or your iPad, but the mail and the brochures and printed matter just keep coming. Advertising on the Internet is just too easy to avoid. Unless the Tea Party and the Democrats kill off the U.S. Post Office, I wouldn't bet against print."

"As Daniel Defoe wrote in 1709, unauthorized reprints of his work by pirate printers meant that 'a Man, who has studied several years to perform this most elaborate work... has his labor destroyed, his expenses lost, and his copy reprinted by sham and piratical booksellers and printers, who eat the gain of the poor man's labor...' The same is true today with illegal downloads."

"The Internet huckster/philosophers are first cousins -- in both their ideology and their sales tactics -- to the present-day promoters of 'free trade'."

"In the long run, I think I'll be vindicated, since clearly the advertising 'model' has failed and readers are going to have to pay (in opposition to Google's bias against paid sites) if they want to see anything more complex than a blog, a classified ad or a sex act."

"As much as I object to free content, I am even more offended by the online sensibility and its anti-democratic, anti-emotional, even anti-intellectual effect. Devotees of the Internet like to say that the web is a bottom-up phenomenon that wondrously bypasses the traditional gatekeepers in publishing and politics who allegedly snuff out true debate. But much of what I see is unedited, incoherent babble indicative of a herd mentality, not a true desire for self-government or fairness."

"Can it be seriously argued that popular government in America -- with our two-party oligarchy, 90 percent-plus re-election rates, and money-laundered politics -- has progressed in the age of the Internet? Have WikiLeak's disclosures on Afghanistan moved us any closer to withdrawal from that country? Would America be any less democratic without e-mail?"

"All those millions of eyeballs glued to Facebook do not a revolution make, or even a reform movement. The energy devoted to the 'net is an astonishing waste. This is time that obviously could be better spent talking to a friend or a child, reading a good book, or marching in a political demonstration."

"I'm still offended by the whole Internet pretension of universality, freedom, and democracy."