Tag Archives: media

Lazy Journalist Revealer. This. Is. Awesome.

Everybody keeps thinking that transparency and improved access to content is something that is only going to affect government, or, maybe some corporations.

I’ve tried to argue differently in places like this blog post and in Taylor and I’s chapter in The New Journalist.

Here’s a wonderful example of how new tools could start to lay more bare the poor performance of many newspapers in actually reporting news and not simple regurgiatating press releases.

Check out the site – called Churnalism.com – that allows you to compare any UK news story against a database of UK press releases. Brilliant!

Wish we had one of these here in North America.

Found this via the Future Journalism Project, which also links to a story on the Guardian website.

How the Globe Editorial Board is Misleading You About Journalism

It was completely fascinating to read the Globe and Mail’s editorial board crow over its “victory” last week regarding the protection of confidential news sources.

Standing up for newshounds!” screamed the headlines, with a bold opening paragraph proclaiming:

The Supreme Court of Canada demonstrated respect and understanding on Friday for news reporting that depends on confidential sources. It set an appropriately high bar for judges who may wish to order journalists to reveal those sources, in civil or criminal cases. The court has in effect given the organized news media the tools to do investigative journalism in the public interest. [Emphasis mine.]

Wow, organized media has been *given tools* to protect the public interest? Yes! (According to the G&M…) Well, if this is true… Cue self-congratulatory text that plays into the trope (and myth) that traditional news media is essential for democracy!

In an era in which every blogger is a self-proclaimed journalist, the court clearly puts great stock in the organized media’s ability to probe behind the closed doors of powerful institutions. [Emphasis mine.]

The Supreme Court – again, according to the G&M – has ruled. Only journalists for the big news companies are real journalists that can enjoy the protection of the court.

This, if it were true, would be really big news. It might even justify such self-congratulatory rhetoric. The ruling however, is not this cut and dry. In truth, it provides no real new tools; the Globe‘s lawyers extracted little from the courts in the form of new protections; and the protections that do exist exist for everyone, not just journalists.

As a result, what is really disappointing about all this is that the Globe‘s editorial is at best misleading, attempting to lure Canadians into believing that traditional news media companies enjoy rights that are special and unique to them (and further, implies those rights are new). At worst, the piece suggests the editorial board clings to a world before the web – confined to an outdated worldview where “creators” who could legitimately report on or talk about the news were separated from “consumers” who passively absorb it. Previously, this worldview was made possible by the technology of the printing press, which kept production in the hands of a few; now that publishing is available to virtually anyone, the Globe‘s editorial board seems interested in finding a new way to limit this freedom – when they should be expanding it – by attempting to cast the law as a restrictive force whose benefits are enjoyed by only a few (them) and not everyone (us). It’s a dark perspective for the country’s leading editorial board to take.

Intrigued? I hope so, because what the ruling did say matters.

So what did the ruling say and what does it actually mean? Let’s look closer.

This Was a Draw, Not a Win.

Conversing with the eaves.ca legal team*, the consensus is that the ruling is a draw, not a win for the media. Very little has changed. Prior to the ruling, ascertaining if a confidential source deserved protection was up to the courts who used the four part Wigmore framework to make their assessment:

  1. the relationship must originate in a confidence that the source’s identity will not be disclosed;
  2. anonymity must be essential to the relationship in which the communication arises;
  3. the relationship must be one that should be sedulously fostered in the public interest; and
  4. the public interest served by protecting the identity of the informant must outweigh the public interest in getting at the truth.

Nothing about this case changes this framework. Courts, not the media, continue to determine if a source should be confidential, and the criteria have not changed. In short, the media has not been given “new” tools. Essentially the same tools as before apply.

Indeed, this case is at best a draw (albeit an important one) for the Globe‘s lawyers. This is because they were arguing for new and special rights, specifically the recognition that “the basis of the journalist-source privilege is a constitutional one.” In other words, they wanted to court to state that journalists have an inherent right to protect sources in the same way lawyers have a special solicitor-client privilege or medical doctors have doctor-patient confidentiality privilege. However, as the decision states:

the Court was unprepared “[t]o throw a constitutional immunity around the interactions of such a heterogeneous and ill-defined group of writers and speakers and whichever ‘sources’ they deem worthy of a promise of confidentiality and on whatever terms they may choose to offer it.”

Ouch. That’s not a victory, it’s outright defeat. Indeed, the court doesn’t even think journalists are a group with any unique rights as it:

also rejected the existence of a class-based privilege, on the basis that there is no formal accreditation or licensing process for journalists in place, as there is for lawyers for example, and no professional organization regulates the profession and maintains professional standards.

But that’s not it. On the fourth Wigmore criteria – the question of public interest – the Globe‘s lawyers also wanted the onus to shift to the party seeking production/testimony. In other words, to keep a source secret it shouldn’t be up to the Globe to persuade the courts that the story IS in the public interest, but up to the other party (person, corporation and government) to persuade the courts that it ISN’T in the public interest.

But the court did not agree with this request either:

The Court rejected this argument. Given that the evidence is presumptively compellable and admissible, the burden of persuasion remains on the media to show that the public interest in protecting a secret source outweighs the public interest in criminal investigations. The Court ultimately concluded that every claim to journalist-source privilege — be it in the face of testimonial compulsion or the production of documents — is situation specific, with the public’s interest in the freedom of expression always weighing heavily in the court’s balancing exercise. [my bold/italics]

Strike two.

So, to recap so far: First, the court has not made journalists a special class.  We all enjoy the rights to publish content and if that content were tested legally, the Wigmore framework would be applied to our sources. Second, the court essentially preserved the Wigmore test, so it has not “given media the tools”; it has simply preserved and reaffirmed the tools that already existed. Essentially the courts mostly sustained the status quo that existed before the lower court upset the apple cart.

I don’t want to belittle this outcome. This is an important victory for all Canadians as it preserves everyone’s ability to engage in investigative journalism if they so choose.

So what’s with the language in the Globe‘s editorial? Why claim a big victory and dump on bloggers? What you are really reading is a lot of spin. Which is part of what makes the editorial so frustrating – I hold the editorial board to a high standard, and I expect them to not spin stories, especially about themselves and a subject as serious as freedom of speech.

So let’s unpack that spin…

Mixed Messages

The first is the effort to qualify the victory.

As we previously saw, the Globe‘s lawyers argued that journalists should be a protected class and journalist-source relationships should enjoy constitutional protection. As we also saw, however, the Supreme Court did not agree. But look at the quote from the piece below:

“Bearing in mind the high societal interest in investigative journalism, it might be that he [Mr. Leblanc] could only be compelled to speak if his response was vital to the integrity of the administration of justice.” That is a high bar, indeed. The protection of sources should never be absolute, but the Quebec Superior Court will have to give it full consideration, in light of the important public interest at stake, when it ultimately decides the matter.

So first, the bar did not really move. Yes, the court overturned the lower court, but it essentially re-affirmed the Wigmore framework. Again, this is great news, but this is something preserved, not gained.

But more intriguing was the editorial board saying that the protection of sources should never be absolute. A constitutionally protected journalist-source relationship either is absolute, or if I understand it correctly, pretty close to absolute. So why say it shouldn’t be absolute when this is what your legal team was essentially asking for? One suspects that had the court given journalists a special, constitutionally protected relationship with sources (which really would have demanded a dramatic editorial) than the paper would have argued that the journalists sources had finally achieved the absolute protection they so richly deserve and need.

Burying the Lead

But what is particularly interesting about the Globe‘s editorial piece is its treatment of pretty much everyone who isn’t employed by the mainstream media. The entire framing of the piece is that this is a win for journalists and the media, even though the court goes out of its way to say they are not a protected or even recognized class.

Indeed the real story is that important rights that belong to all Canadians have been preserved! But that story is buried.

Rather, the Globe seems very keen to divide the country into two groups – creators (that’s them) and (passive) consumers (that’s you).  Coming back to the first quote from the piece, the Globe notes that.

In an era in which every blogger is a self-proclaimed journalist, the court clearly puts great stock in the organized media’s ability to probe behind the closed doors of powerful institutions.

In fact, the court does no such thing. First, the Wigmore framework applies to anyone who publishes. That would include people like myself who blog. That also means you (since really anyone can blog, or tweet, or publish something these days).

Second – and this is where it feels like the editorial board really misleads the public – the court did not put great stock in organized media. Indeed, if anything, it went out of its way to say it put very little stock in it.

The basis of the above line in the editorial is, I presume, this part of the ruling:

Justice Binnie put particular emphasis on the significance of the third and fourth factors [of the Wigmore framework], in the journalist-source context. The third factor, whether the relationship is one that the community should sedulously foster (para. 57), introduces a certain degree of flexibility in the evaluation of the different types of sources and different types of journalists. He suggested that whether the relationship is between a source and a blogger, or between a source and a professional journalist, will impact upon the court’s weighing exercise.

So yes, the credibility of the person will matter. But this also means a fly-by-night newspaper may not enjoy the same protection as an established blogger. But even here the wording is quite conservative – “a certain degree of flexibility” and the difference is “suggested.” This is all pretty qualified, and hardly a sign of the court putting “great stock” in established media.

Of course, what little there is gets watered down even further in the next line of the ruling:

But, according to Justice Binnie, the fourth factor [of the Wigmore framework] does the lion’s share of the work, and the court’s task is to “achieve proportionality in striking a balance among the competing interests” (para. 59).

So the public interest is what really matters – not who (e.g. blogger or newspaper) is seeking to preserve the confidentiality of the source.

In Conclusion

This piece is, in many way, a continuation to a piece I wrote in December after a previous Supreme Court ruling which the court went out of its way to put journalists, bloggers and citizens on a equal footing. In the same vein, my problem with the editorial board’s piece isn’t that they played up the significance of their victory – it is still an important victory. It’s that the piece suggests the victory is the (large) news industry’s to enjoy exclusively (or at least, that we ordinary citizens may only enjoy its benefits through them). This is not the case and it does a disservice to citizens, bloggers and journalists to suggest as such.

The Globe and Mail will likely have a long and illustrious reign as the newspaper of record of Canada – but that reign is more likely to continue if it provides credible insights into both the technological and legal realities of the digital world. This editorial suggests that it does not; and I believe that the country, and the paper, are weaker for it.


*Thank you for those who helped me with the legal legwork on this piece, and for those who’ve stuck through to the end; I know this is an unusually long post.

Twitter, Criminal Investigations & Fox News North

Today, in a headline that came as somewhat of a shock (that, of course, I first saw on twitter) Kory Teneycke, the Quebecor Media vice-president and main advocate for the proposed Sun TV News Channel, announced his resignation. As backgrounder for those not familiar with this story, the proposed Sun TV News Channel is seeking to bring a conservative, Fox styled cable news channel to Canada. There has been a little bit of a battle over what type of license they should get which is covered very well in this blog post. What’s important is that Avaaz launched a petition against the proposed channel which subsequently had a number of false names added to it (adding someone else’s name to a petition is, I’m told, illegal in Canada).

What makes Teneycke’s resignation so interesting is that it comes on the heels of Avaaz asking the police to investigate the additions. It appears that, thanks to technology, figuring out who was illegally adding the names may not be that hard:

On September 2, 2010, Avaaz became aware that an individual operating from an Ottawa IP address was adding both fictional and actual names and email addresses to a petition to stop Prime Minister Harper from pushing biased crony media onto Canadian airwaves. The next morning, Quebecor executive and Sun TV front man Kory Teneycke published several pieces in Quebecor owned newspapers attacking Avaaz and accusing them of running a fraudulent petition – even quoting actual names added by the fraudster. Teneycke later admitted to insider knowledge of both the perpetrator and crimes committed.

Days later, Quebecor threatened to sue Avaaz for the content of its petition site.

In short, it appears that either Teneycke or someone he knew was adding false names to the petition so that a) Teneycke could write a story to discredit the petition and b) prompt Quebeccor to launch a lawsuit to have it taken down. This is serious stuff. Especially from someone who intends to run a news channel. (although, to be fair, it is consistent with the type of thing one might expect from Fox News).

Perhaps Teneycke’s resignation has nothing to do with the false names on the petition? But it is also worth noting that Teneycke’s twitter account is no longer active. This also means that the original offending tweet where he admits that he knew the person adding the false names can no longer be seen. Fortunately, on a lark, I took a screen shot of it the day it went up since, after reading CBC reporter Kady O’malley’s excellent coverage of the back and forth, since given her coverage something seemed very odd about the whole affair.

So what are some key lesson here?

a) Things on twitter don’t disappear

b) Manipulating the press in a world of social media is not as easy as you think it is, even for a former Prime Minister spokes person

c) It appears that Sun TV executives are every bit as slimy as the counterparts feared they would be. If even 10% of this is true then this is shocking behaviour from a proposed News television executive.

d) This may yet lead to Canada’s first high-profile criminal investigation involving twitter

Interesting stuff indeed.

The Web and the End of Forgetting: the upside of down

A reader recently pointed me to a fantastic article in the New York Times entitled The Web and the End of Forgetting which talks about the downside of a world where one’s history is permanently recorded on the web. It paints of the dangers of a world where one can never escape one’s past – where mistakes from college rear their head in interviews and where bad choices constrain the ability to start anew.

It is, frankly, a terrifying view of the world.

I also think it is both overblown and, imagines a world where the technology changes, but our social condition does not. Indeed, the reader sent me the piece because it reminded him of a talk and subsequent blog post I wrote exactly a year ago on the same topic.

But let’s take the worse case scenario at face value. While the ability to start anew is important, at times I look forward to a world where there is a little more history. A world where choices and arguments can be traced. A world of personal accountability.

Broadcast media fostered a world where one could argue one position and then, a few months later, take the exact opposite stand. Without easily accessible indexes and archives discerning these patterns was difficult, if not impossible. With digitization, that has all changed.

The Daily Show remains the archetype example of this. The entire show is predicated on having a rich archival history of all the major network and cable news broadcasts and having the capacity, on a nightly basis, to put the raw hypocrisy of pundits and politicians on display.

The danger of course, is if this is brought to the personal level. The NYT article identifies and focuses on them. But what of the upsides? In a world where reputation matters, people may become more thoughtful. It will be interesting to witness a world where grandparents have to explain to their grandchildren why they were climate change deniers on their Facebook page. Or why you did, or didn’t join a given political campaign, or protest against a certain cause.

Ultimately, I think all this remembering leads to a more forgiving society, at least in personal and familial relationships, but the world of pundits and bloggers and politicans may become tougher. Those who found themselves very much on the wrong side of history, may have a hard time living it down. The next version of the daily show may await us all. But not saying anything may not be a safe strategy either. Those who have no history, who never said anything at anytime, may not be seen relevant, or worse, could be seen as having no convictions or beliefs.

I loved the New York Times article, but it looked at society as a place where social values will remain unchanged, where we won’t adapt to our technology and place greater emphasis on new values. I can imagine a world where our children may say – how did you have friends with so little personal history? It may not be our ideal world, but then, our grandparents world wasn’t one I would have wanted to live in either.

Irony, defined

So it appears that the Vancouver Province Editorial Page Editor Gordon Clark is not a fan of either the census or me. In a piece the other day (which someone kindly forwarded on to me) he become the lone person in the country to defend Industry Minister Clement’s decision to end the Long Form Census.

His reason? In his own words:

Clement is right when he says the data from a voluntary form may be more accurate than under the current forced scheme, which resulted, for example, in 55,000 Canadians listing “Jedi” as their religion in the last census. It makes you wonder how accurate the rest of it was despite its $567-million cost. For that kind of money shouldn’t those StatsCan folks be curing cancer or something?

Actually, Clement is not right. There isn’t a statistician in the country who would agree with this opinion. Indeed, I dare Gordon Clark to produce a single statistician at a university, or even a polling firm, who will agree with this statement. I’ve got about a 1000, and indeed, their professional organization, who feel otherwise. So Clark’s defense is built on a lie. But then, since  this whole debate is about replacing facts with opinions, should we be surprised?

But that’s reasoned fact part of this blog post, there’s a juicier little tidbit…

Over at Gordon Clark’s twitter page, take a look at his bio:

See that line that proudly states “The Province, the best-read newspaper in Canada west of Toronto.”

Interesting that, isn’t it?

So how does Gordon know that The Province newspaper is the best read paper west of Toronto? Well, he relies on NADbank, which produces regular reports about newspaper readership. But dig a little deeper. In the technical report that outlines the survey’s methodology I’ll give you one guess on how NADbank ensures it has an accurate cross section of Canadians so that Gordon Clark can accurately and proudly claim his paper is the best-read in Western Canada.

Again… one chance…

How about… the census! Yes, the census – including references to data collected by the long form – is mentioned no less than 20 times in the report and is essential to enabling NADbank to do its survey.

So not only does Gordon Clark wish to replace fact with opinion, he has no idea how the census – especially the long form – impacts almost every aspect of his life, including his ability to brag. Of course, if he wants to he could change his bio to say:

I’m in charge of the editorial pages and write a weekly column for The Province, a newspaper in western Canada that we aren’t really sure how many people read.

But somehow that doesn’t have the same punch, does it?

As an aside, it is worth noting that while NADbank has The Province as the most-read newspaper in western Canada the Canadian Newspaper Association survey shows the Vancouver Sun has a bigger paid circulation (by quite a margin). I suppose if you give away enough free copies, you too can boost your readership…

The Myth of the Open Data Mob: a response to Mike Ananny

I recently discovered that Mike Ananny wrote this response to a piece I initially posted here and then on The Mark titled Let Us Audit Parliament’s Books. I encourage you to read both my piece and Ananny’s thoughtful response. And, in the spirit of dialogue, I have two thoughts in response.

First, Ananny misrepresents the thrust of my argument. He suggests that I only want crowds and that my goal is to replace public institutions with amorphous “crowds.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, I say, at the end of the article, that the Auditor General should do her own audit – using the same information that is available to everyone. I’m not in favour of replacing institutions with crowds, or democracy with populism. What I am in favour of is ensuring their are checks on institutions.

Second, Ananny creates a straw man of my arguments painting the picture of a single monolithic crowd. These misrepresentation can be found in lines such as this from his piece:

It’s okay that we do this. But in the kind of crowd-sourced audit Eaves describes, who are the “others” that we trust to discover on our behalf and teach us what they learn? At least we know who the auditor general is and how – cumbersome as it might be – she and the government can be replaced.

This is certainly not what I sought to describe nor is what I think I did, but as an author I share responsibility in being clear.

Do I believe there will be no single amorphous crowd? No. I believe there will be the public much like today. And it will discern the debate in the same way it currently does. What does this mean? I suspect that if the expensess were public there might be numerous audits, and that those will find it easiest to earn the public’s trust will be those conducted by “others” who first and foremost declare who they are. The most obvious candidate for this would be the Globe and Mail. (Wouldn’t it be nice if they had access to MP expenses)? Of course, the Globe may not have the resources to go through every line of every MP’s expenses so they may ask people to flag lines that seem to be of particular importance. This is, of course, how  The Guardian newspaper in the UK exposed some of the most problematic expenses in their MP expense scandal. In short, this isn’t a single faceless mob, this is about allowing numerous people, from public institutions to the media to self interested private citizens. Some will self-organize, others will not. But there will be a diversity of perspectives.

Second, and more importantly, is that these competing audits would be good for democracy and for public institutions. I completely agree with Ananny’s quote from Bentham. A perfectly knowledgeable public is a myth. Yes, most of us, on most issues, knowingly or not, do delegate responsibility for forming our beliefs to others. The challenge is, to whom to delegate? Ananny seems confident he knows exactly who it should be (an AG who, actually, only has the power to shame). He wants us to place our faith in a crowd of one – the AG – who no one gets to choose and who herself has no oversight.  I’m interested in a different outcome. We live in a world where it is easier to allow more than one resource to which citizens can delegate their trust. More importantly, by sharing the expenses different parties can assess how others conduct their audit – biases, different assumptions, flaws and more clear comparisons – in short a public debate, could take place. Giving everyone access to MP expenses will, admittedly, be messy, but then so is democracy. The point is you either believe in public debate or you don’t.

Encouragingly, this is ultimately what Ananny seems to want as well, as he states:

I know we don’t have to choose between crowds or experts – I want both – but if it’s a question of emphasis, I’d much rather be the constituent of an AG who can be legally reprimanded and dramatically fired than an unwilling patron of a crowd that may or may not know what it’s doing.

I want both as well. I’d also love to see a supportive infrastructure that helps people contribute to audits. Indeed, this was the thrust of my June 10th piece Learning from Libraries: The Literacy Challenge of Open Data. But you don’t create that infrastructure by not sharing the the accounts openly. As my libraries piece argues, sharing is a precondition to developing such an infrastructure.

So if, as suggested, this is a question of emphasis, why did Ananny choose to use my piece as a launchpad for his own? We seem to be on the same page (we both appear to want to improve public institutions and public debates). I think the ultimate reason lies in this last point. Ananny’s examples refer to crowds or institutions that are deemed expert by somebody. But the public’s trust in an institution or resource or even a crowd isn’t granted or ordained, it is earned. Ananny’s solutions keep returning to the notion that we need to ordain trust and delegate whereas mine is that we need to enable emergent systems so that many actors can attempt to earn trust and we can debate. This is why I agree that the AG’s office should, as he suggests, provide a program to help people learn how to do audits. But I also I think society will be best served when a diversity (of particularly emergent) approaches are possible, perhaps involving actors like accounting firms and universities. This would allow others to be a check on the AG which will enhance, not destroy confidence. But again, this is only possible if we all have access to the information.

And that ultimately is my point. Access to information is a precondition that enables us to engage in better debates, foster systems that support alternative perspectives and also provides a check on public institutions. It is these checks and debate, not blind delegation, that will improve confidence.

Articles I'm digesting – 25/5/2010

Been a while since I’ve done one of these. A couple of good ones ranging from the last few months. Big thank you’s to those who sent me these pieces. Always enjoy.

The Meaning of Open by Jonathan Rosenberg, Senior Vice President, Product Management

Went back and re-read this. Every company makes mistakes and Google is no exception (privacy settings on Buzz being everyone’s favourite) but this statement, along with Google’s DataLiberartion.org (which unlike Facebook is designed to ensure you can extract your information from Google’s services) shows why Google enjoys greater confidence than Facebook, Apple or any number of its competitors. If you’re in government, the private or the non-profit sector, read this post. This is how successful 21st century organizations think.

Local Governments Offer Data to Software Tinkerers by Claire Cain Miller (via David Nauman & Andrew Medd)

Another oldie (December 2009 is old?) but a goodie. Describes a little bit of the emerging eco-system for open local government data along with some of the tensions it is creating. Best head in the sand line:

Paul J. Browne, a deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department, said it releases information about individual accidents to journalists and others who request it, but would not provide software developers with a regularly updated feed. “We provide public information, not data flow for entrepreneurs,” he said.

So… if I understand correctly, the NYPD will only give data to people who ask and prefer to tie up valuable resources filling out individual requests rather than just provide a constant feed that anyone can use. Got it. Uh, and just for the record, those “entrepreneurs” are the next generation of journalists and the people who will make the public information useful. The NYPD’s “public information” is effectively useless, much like that my home town police department offers. Does anyone actually looks at PDF’s and pictures of crimes? That you can only get on a weekly basis? Really? In an era of spreadsheets and google maps… no.

Didacticism in Game Design by Clint Hocking (via Lauren Bacon)

eaves.ca readers meet Clint Hocking. My main sadness in introducing you is that you’ll discover how a truly fantastic, smart blog reads. The only good news for me us that you are hopefully more interested in public policy, open source and things I dwell on than video games, so Clint won’t steal you all away. Just many of you.

A dash of a long post post that is worth reading

As McLuhan says: the medium is the message. When canned, discrete moral choices are rendered in games with such simplicity and lack of humanity, the message we are sending is not the message specific to the content in question (the message in the canned content might be quite beautiful – but it’s not a ludic message) – it is the message inherent in the form in which we’ve presented it: it effectively says that ‘being moral is easy and only takes a moment out of each hour’. To me, this is almost the opposite of the deeper appreciation of humanity we might aim to engender in our audience.

Clint takes video games seriously. And so should you.

The Analytic Mode by David Brooks (via David Brock)

These four lines alone make this piece worth reading. Great lessons for students of policy and politics:

  • The first fiction was that government is a contest between truth and error. In reality, government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths.
  • The second fiction was that to support a policy is to make it happen. In fact, in government power is exercised through other people. It is only by coaxing, prodding and compromise that presidents [or anyone!] actually get anything done.
  • The third fiction was that we can begin the world anew. In fact, all problems and policies have already been worked by a thousand hands and the clay is mostly dry. Presidents are compelled to work with the material they have before them.
  • The fourth fiction was that leaders know the path ahead. In fact, they have general goals, but the way ahead is pathless and everything is shrouded by uncertainty

The case against non-profit news sites by Bill Wyman (via Andrew Potter)

Yes, much better that news organizations be beholden to a rich elite than paying readers… Finally someone takes on the idea that a bunch of enlightened rich people or better, rich corporate donors, are going to save “the news.” Sometimes it feels like media organizations are willing to do anything they can to avoid actually having to deal with paying customers. Be it using advertisers and relying on rich people to subsidize them, anything appears to be better than actually fighting for customers.

That’s what I love about Demand Media. Some people decry them as creating tons of cheap content, but at least they looked at the market place and said: This is a business model that will work. Moreover, they are responding to a real customer demand – searches in google.

Wyman’s piece also serves as a good counterpoint to the recent Walrus advertising campaign which essentially boiled down to: Canada needs the Walrus and so you should support it. The danger here is that people at the Walrus believe this line: That they are of value and essential to Canada even if no one (or very few people) bought them or read them. I think people should buy The Walrus not because it would be good for the country but because it is engaging, informative and interesting to Canadians (or citizens of any country). I think the Walrus can have great stories (Gary Stephen Ross’s piece A Tale of Two Cities is a case in point), but if you have a 1 year lead time for an article, that’s going to hard to pull off in the internet era, foundation or no foundation. I hope the Walrus stays with us, but Wyman’s article serves up some arguments worth contemplating.