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#bbcsms: A round-up of the best blogs on the BBC Social Media Summit

Various delegates from the BBC Social Media Summit last week have spent the weekend writing blog posts reflecting on the two-day event.

If you are looking for a concise round-up of the main points of the day, go to Martin Belam’s notes from the BBC Social Media Summit.

He explains Al Jazeera‘s defence of criticism it received for being part of the story of the Arab uprisings, not just reporting it. He also reports that the New York Times is to experiment with its Twitter feed so that it becomes “a fully human experience without the automated headlines being pumped through it”.

If you want more detail, see Adam Tinworth’s series of live blogs, like this one on the session on technology and innovation.

Dave Wyllie also provides a good session-by-session summary in his core values post. He also reflects:

I left with the feeling that journalism is moving at great speed with some promising entrepreneurs and future figures emerging in their own startups. The rest are working in established businesses or broadcasting.

It’s UK based print I’m worried about, many didn’t even turn up. Maybe they didn’t get the invite or maybe they thought we were full of shit.

The most thought-provoking blog is from Mary Hamilton in her blog #bbcsms: what I learned about ego, opinion, art and commerce. She takes up the repeated use of the term ‘mainstream’.

Perhaps a more honest hashtag would be #bbcmsmsms. But it’s also telling: those who were invited to participate, and thus set the agenda and drive change, were not social media people from the Sun, or from Archant’s local divisions, or from the Financial Times. Of course it’s easier for organisations working with likeminded people to reach a consensus, but in doing so we miss the chance to learn from people outside the echo chamber.

So, like Wyllie, Hamilton also notes the absence of the UK regional news organisations. She goes on to say that issues raised may have been different if they had been there.

Esra Dogramaci of Al Jazeera faced some very hostile questioning on the topic of training people to use citizen journalism tools. Will Perrin of Talk About Local did not. Of course there are hundreds of reasons why the responses were different – not least the potential harm that people in Arabic dictatorships can come to as a result of doing journalism – but one of them is territory. Al Jazeera is invading the “mainstream”. Talk About Local is invading the regional space. If there had been many Archant, Johnston or Trinity Mirror folks there, I think Will would have faced some tricky interrogation too.

She makes some interesting points on the ‘fight to be first':

There’s still significant opposition to this notion from both individual journalists and news organisations. We fear being scooped. Outside the financial trade press, where being first by a few seconds can move markets, the business model of being first is largely an illusion. In fact, the business model is in being the most widely read, and being first is no longer a guarantee that you will gather the most eyeballs for your effort.

The fight to be first stifles innovation, because it erases partner contributions. Traditional media have always done this with stories. Now we are seeing it with innovations, too – even with innovative ways of using familiar tools. The NYT can commit to their experiment of turning off the auto-feed on their Twitter account; this isn’t new, and it’s in part because other news organisations have succeeded that the NYT can experiment without too much fear of failure.

At the end of the day, Alan Rusbridger claimed that the Guardian invented live-blogging. That stakes a claim, draws a line around an innovation that is simply a new way of using a tool, that has existed for nearly as long as the tool has existed. And suddenly, we are fighting over the origin of the thing, rather than celebrating its existence and finding new ways to use it. Suddenly it’s all about the process, about who scooped who, not about the meaning of the events themselves.

Round and round we go.

In his post #bbcsms and the ethic of the link Joseph Stashko discusses circular arguments. He says that one of sessions adopted the wrong starting point:

So when the session titled ‘Can startups compete with mainstream media?’ began I was somewhat puzzled.

The discussion that followed was very good, but the question was framed in the wrong way. It attempted to compare two different things. They shouldn’t be looking to compete with each other, because it takes us back to a bloggers vs journalists style debate again – the two should look to complement each other rather than compete.

It’s a mindset which seemed to be uncomfortably pervasive throughout the day. As someone remarked to me afterwards “I thought we were over that sort of debate…apparently not”.

He goes on to say:

In 2011 I don’t think we should be asking the questions that are based around what the roles of startups and mainstream media are. Mainstream media have recognisable brands, huge manpower, contacts, prestige and reach. Startups are more nimble, can specialise easily and can get things done quicker.

When I want to start work on a new project, I don’t identify someone who can do things that I can’t and then try and learn all their skills myself – I ask them to come and help me. It’s madness that we’re still having to debate this, but possibly appropriate given that it was held at the BBC.

He asks three questions of the point of such conferences:

How many more case studies of Twitter do we really need?
How many more examples of how you can harness the wisdom of crowds?
And how many more discussions about the futility of mainstream media building their own versions of existing services rather than employing the ethic of the link to connect people to knowledge?

The Media Blog also asks a question in its post journalism, is it ever ‘just a numbers game’? Here it’s worth noting Wyllie’s summary of the session which explains that “the room seemed to divide into two camps: live by your stats to influence your content OR ignore stats for they are perverse and influence you in the wrong ways”.

The Media Blog takes the example of the Daily Mail’s website.

And while it is difficult to cast either extreme of the Mail’s split personality as quality journalism, it is clear that simply chasing clicks with pics and key words is not. For example, a Google search for US socialite and ‘home movie’ star “Kim Kardashian” on the Daily Mail website returns 186,000 results. A search for “Kim Kardashian”+”bikini” returns just 1,000 fewer – 185,000 results – which is still more than results for “David Cameron” and “Gordon Brown” put together.

But asking if journalism and web traffic is ‘just a numbers game’ the post acknowledges that not all stories generate hundreds – let alone hundreds of thousands – of clicks and questions the “business sense” of editorial decisions in only selecting stories which generate hits which “is to assume that all important news would also have the good grace to be popular news”.

Publishers just need to remember the subtle differences between getting more readers to their content and producing content purely to bring in more readers. Somewhere between the two lies a dividing line marked ‘quality journalism’.

So what about the future? Mary Hamilton suggests an opening up:

We need people who take elements not just from journalism but also from other areas: user experience design, anthropology, web culture, psychology, history, games, literature, art, statistics. We need to interrogate journalism with tools outside the journalistic sphere; we need not just to borrow from other disciplines but exchange with them.

And comment below Hamilton’s post expands this further:

Your last point is a valid, and reflects what I took out of the day; innovators and non-mainstream thinkers are looking to be involved, traditional outlets are sitting back and waiting for invites. They should be the ones sending out the innovations.

“With capability comes responsibility”, I believe was one of the finer quotes of the day.

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Debate: Will other reporters follow Tindle’s and strike over quality?

Journalists at Tindle newspapers in north London are striking over the declining quality of the nine newspapers written by just three news reporters.

They complain they cannot leave the office to cover court stories, council meetings and are delivering a poor product to readers.

They are saying “enough is enough” and downing tools for a full two weeks. Nine editorial staff will walk out from Tuesday.

Tindle has said it will aim to produce the Enfield papers during the strike. Father of the chapel and features editor of the north London papers Jonathan Lovett speculated that they would do this by asking staff from other regional centres to cover.

So are the striking Tindle nine bravely leading the way to stop “churnalism” and deliver a better quality product for readers or are they standing on a picket line for two weeks only to ask the impossible of a company which has been hit by declining sales and advertising?

And, of course, cuts and declining quality is not just happening at Tindle newspapers.

It’s not just Tindle’s arts pages that are cut back, reporters who are over worked and council meetings that are ignored.

The last three years have seen cuts in regional newspapers across the country.

Jobs have been lost, subs’ posts have disappeared, production has moved way beyond the area where the spellings of councillors’ names and villages are known, football reports have been written a long way from the pitch and change pages have been reduced.

So can the quality of regional newspapers be upheld by industrial action taken by the reporters who write them? We would like to know your opinions on this issue.

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Kelvin MacKenzie sparks big debate on journalism training

Kelvin MacKenzie’s rubbishing of journalism courses has sparked a heated debate across numerous websites.

“There’s nothing you can learn in three years studying media at university that you can’t learn in just one month on a local paper,” he wrote in today’s Independent, saying he would shut down the colleges.

This post on Wannabe Hacks gives four reasons why MacKenzie is wrong and makes this interesting observation of why the former Sun editor – who has only one O-level – ended up in journalism.

This is key for me: the fact Mr MacKenzie had no choice but to scrap at a local paper when he was 16. He had few prospects and no options beyond an early entrance to the newsroom. But when you have the chance to go to uni or do a postgrad course, I think it’s natural to want to do so and to push yourself academically. It’s not for everyone and the jury’s out as to whether courses do you good. But let’s not take advice from a man who didn’t have a choice.

Over on Jon Slattery’s blog, he points out it is not the correct climate for newspapers to take on trainees.

The trouble with the local press route into journalism is how are regional newspapers going to take on trainees when they are cutting staff? Look at today’s news. Midland News Association, publisher of Britain’s biggest selling regional, the Wolverhampton-based Express & Star, is planning 90 [95] redundancies.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists agrees. HoldtheFrontPage has this interview with the chief executive of the NCTJ, Joanne Butcher.

She said: “Kelvin MacKenzie, of course, exaggerates to make some valid points about media degree courses and the value of learning the journalist’s craft by cutting your teeth on a local paper.

“But he does seem stuck in a time warp. Unlike when Kelvin trained on the South East London Mercury and was sent away to college, newspapers simply don’t take on many raw recruits these days.

In this post, a journalism student from University of Central Lancashire, Wordsmith, also argues the difficulties in being accepted on a paper directly from school.

On papers you don’t have time to fail, because of the pressure on you and the hundreds of people waiting to take your job.

A blog post on Rantings of a Sub Editor suggests a non-journalism degree first does help and some training, in a sub’s case the “basics of libel, copyright and privacy law, which are essential, a grounding in public affairs – local and national – and a working knowledge of Quark” and Substuff has some pretty good advice for wannabe journalists too.

Roy Greenslade also believes it is important to get a university education before going on to take a postgraduate journalism training course and, in this blog post, responds to MacKenzie’s jab at Greenslade’s City University lectureship.

I came up by the same route as Kelvin. He is right about it having been a terrific combination of learning-on-the-job and fun. But that was then, and this is now.

A university education is far better for journalists – and for journalism. It sharpens their critical faculties. It provides a great grounding in the basic skills. It is so good that many graduates are able to step straight into national papers.

Over on the Press Gazette blog, Dominic Ponsford argues MacKenzie “has a point about the ballooning cost of journalism training”.

MacKenzie does highlight a looming problem for the journalism industry, and one which it desperately needs to address. On the whole journalists are nowadays expected to fund their own training (the industry used to provide it on the job via block-release schemes). With first degrees costing up to £9,000 a year, and post-grads another £10,000 on top, and with food and board added in,  you are looking at spending £50,000 to to bag a job which, in the regional press, offers starting pay of £15,000.

How many aspiring journalists are realistically going to do that?

Journalism.co.uk’s earlier comment post – where you can tell us why you think MacKenzie is right, or wrong.

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Comment: Response to Kelvin MacKenzie on shutting journalism colleges

Media law, 100 words a minute shorthand and how to shoot and edit a video, these are just some of what I probably would not have learned in my first month on a local paper.

But according to former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, writing for the Independent this morning, “there’s nothing you can learn in three years studying media at university that you can’t learn in just one month on a local paper”.

He believes aspiring reporters should start on their local newspaper at 18 and be on a national by 21. Perhaps he is unaware local newspaper editors, radio stations and TV newsdesks are not exactly falling over themselves to take on teenagers with no training.

Learning on the job may be a highwire act but it will be a lesson you will never forget compared with listening to ‘professor’ Roy Greenslade explaining why Wapping was a disgrace. No amount of academic debate is going to give you news sense, even if you have a PhD. It’s a knack and you’ve either got it or you haven’t.

There are more than 80 schools in the UK teaching journalism. These courses are make-work projects for retired journalists who teach for six months a year and are on a salary of £34,000- £60,000. Students are piling up debts as they pay to keep their tutors in the lifestyles they’re used to. I’d shut down all the journalism colleges today. If you want to be a print journalist you should go straight from school and join the local press. You will have a better career and you won’t owe a fortune. Good luck.

This is not the first time MacKenzie has rubbished journalism courses.

The Independent’s full story is at this link.

So, fellow journalism graduates, are you shouting at your computers/phones/iPads yet? Or has MacKenzie got it right?
Please comment and let us know what you think.

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Will the Shropshire and Wolverhampton walls pay?

Part-paywalls have gone up at the UK’s biggest-selling regional daily, the Wolverhampton-based Express and Star, and at sister title, the Shropshire Star. Breaking news will remain free but other content, such as football reports, are now behind the wall.

But will Wolverhampton and Shropshire pay?

At £2.19 more a month than the Times, is £12.18 too high a price for a monthly digital-only subscription?

Last week the Times, which went behind a paywall last summer, announced that it has 79,000 digital subscribers and the Financial Times, which has been behind a metered pay model for 10 years as of yesterday, also claims success with 210,000 subscribers.

But the Times and FT have their own reasons for tens of thousands of digital subscribers. The Times had a huge push to create high-value content as it went behind the wall and the Financial Times is perhaps best seen as a specialist publication with a wealthy readership prepared to pay for financial news.

Paywalls put up by UK regional newspapers have been less successful. Johnston Press trialled a paywall in 2009, testing it on some of the group’s smaller websites, the Southern Reporter in Scotland, the Northumberland Gazette and the Whitby Gazette, charging just 40 pence a week for access. The wall was dismantled after three months as it was deemed not viable.

There is a difference in the Express and Star’s approach and Johnston Press’ tactics though, in that the Wolverhampton and Shropshire titles are trying to push their print subscriptions, adding digital as an optional extra and are charging just 40 pence a week more for the print, online and smartphone deal than digital-only.

The exact cost may not be the deciding factor in whether readers decide to get their credit cards out. The Johnston Press paywall was very cheap – just £1.71 a month – but few paid. The New York Times, which went behind a metered-paywall last week, believes readers will pay up to $35 a month, which is the cost for a combined online, iPad and smartphone subscription (though readers were eased in with a £0.99 a month charge).

The Express and Star has taken the bold step of becoming the first major regional newspaper in the UK to go behind the wall. If it invests in high value content, makes payment easy, has an engaged audience already and can convince advertisers a quality rather than a quantity of online readers is more important, then the wall might work. If not, then the wall may come tumbling down.

Express and Star deputy editor Keith Harrison has told Journalism.co.uk he is confident the premium content site will be a success.

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Independent: BBC savings have to come from somewhere

March 23rd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Comment, Editors' pick, Jobs

An opinion piece in today’s Independent recognises that the BBC has some tough decisions to make when it comes to finding ways to save money, but says that the corporation shouldn’t be immune to budget cuts.

No one could dispute that such reporting [of global news] is at the very core of the BBC’s public-service broadcasting remit. But savings are going to have to come from somewhere, and the BBC should be no more immune from the need to prioritise than any other organisation.

The BBC is currently undergoing the Delivering Quality First review to try to find ways of coping with no increase in the licence fee for the next five years.

Several ideas are on the table, including cutting programming on BBC local radio stations between the breakfast shows and drivetime shows when the stations would broadcast Radio 5 Live. The NUJ has warned this could see 700 jobs axed. The Guardian is reporting today that overnight programming could be scrapped as another cost saving measure.

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The New York Times paywall: what do people think?

So what have people been saying about the New York Times paywall (or fence, ramp, meter, porous paywall, nagwall or even ‘metered-access digital subscription system’, if you prefer)?

It was announced yesterday that the paywall is going up on March 28. A metered system will allow readers to access 20 articles a month for free and it will be free for those who land on a page via a link from Twitter, Facebook, a search engine or blog.

So, how much money will it make? paidContent has done the maths and reckons around 500,000 people will sign up, generating $100 million.

And what is everyone saying about it?

Online Journalism Blog is encouraged that the NYT model will work, as it recognises the importance of distribution (via Twitter and Facebook) and balancing quantity with quality for advertisers.

Newsonomics thinks the timing is good, coinciding with the launch of the iPad 2 in America.

The Nieman Journalism Lab says the NYT faces seven tests if it is to succeed.

The Online Journalism Review is encouraged by the business model but thinks customers will go elsewhere for news.

10,000 Words looks at paywall models and compares NYTs strategy with the Wall Street Journal and Newsday.

Poynter takes a look at tweets on the subject (including some quite funny ones like “If the NYT paywall gets torn down, Reagan will probably get credit”).

The Cutline looks at what readers of the NYT think of it (not much, judging by many of the comments).

One of the most interesting points is made by TechCrunch, which says the pricing structure is unfair and “discriminates by device” (The NYT’s charging $15 a month for web access, $20 to add smartphones or a an iPad, and $35 for all).

In other words, if you are shelling out $20 a month for the iPad subscription, and you want to also be able to read it on your iPhone, you basically have to pay the full smartphone subscription price, or an additional $15 a month. That seems like a rip-off. A digital subscription should be a digital subscription, and it shouldn’t matter what kind of computer you use to read the paper on. But okay, the iPad and other tablets are different, I might pay a little more for the tablet apps. But once I step up to pay the New York Times $20 a month for its iPad app, that should include access via the iPhone app as well.

Scripting also makes an excellent point about “frequent linkers”, who will have to pay to deliver readers to the NYT.

They did something smart in not charging readers who get to a Times story through a link from a blog post or tweet. But – since I am a frequent linker, I wonder why I should pay to read their site, when I’m delivering flow to them. How does that equation balance by me paying them? Maybe they should pay me? Seriously.

Elsewhere on paidContent, Bill Grueskin, former managing editor of the subscription-based Wall Street Journal Online, predicts the NYT can expect a big number of early subscribers.

He is also one of many to point out that there are ways over the wall.

According to sources close to the situation, the 20-story limit can be breached if you access the site from multiple devices, and/or if you delete your cookies. In other words, suppose you hit the wall on your PC. Then move to your laptop, where you’ll get another 20 stories. Delete your cookies on any computer, and the clock goes back to zero.

Roy Greenslade has also been reading about how to jump over the wall: by finding a story, pasting the headline into a search engine and accessing the linked story for free.

Perhaps the most revolutionary way to sneak around the wall is this idea is reported in the the Atlantic.

So, cheapskates, meet @freenyt, a three-hour old Twitter feed that intends to tweet all the Times stories.

That works as articles linked via twitter are free. But the article does point out:

Maybe we can even think of the Times paywall as akin to old-school shareware that didn’t force you to upgrade but just hit you with a nag screen (a nagwall?).

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Paul Bradshaw: journalism’s invisible history – and conflicted future

March 3rd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Comment, Journalism

Paul Bradshaw is a visiting professor in online journalism at City University, London. This evening (Thursday 3 March 2011) he will be giving his inaugural lecture at City University: “Is Ice Cream Strawberry? Journalism’s invisible history – and conflicted future”. Here is an excerpt from it:

Cars, Roads and Picnics

Paul Bradshaw

Paul Bradshaw: not rotten

Throughout the 20th century there were two ways of getting big things done – and a third way of getting small things done. Clay Shirky sums these up very succinctly in terms of how people organise car production, road building, and picnics.

If you want to organise the production of cars, you use market systems. If you want to organise the construction of roads, you use central, state systems of funding – because there is a benefit to all. And if you want to organise a picnic, well, you use social systems.

In the media industry these three line up neatly with print, broadcast and online production.

  • The newspaper industry grew up in spite of government regulation
  • The broadcast industry grew up thanks to government regulation
  • And online media grew up while the government wasn’t looking.

Now some media organisations have generally organised along the lines of car production, and others along the lines of road construction. And there were some examples of alternative media that were organised like picnics. Different media organisations got along fine without treading on each others’ toes: The Times wasn’t too threatened by the BBC, and the NME wasn’t too threatened by the fanzine photocopying audiophile.

But digitisation and convergence has mixed these businesses together in the same space, leading to some very confused feelings from publishers and journalists.

This is how news production used to be: a linear process, limited by physical constraints. You went out to get the story, you came back to write it up, or edit it, and then you handed it over to other people to edit, design, print and distribute.

Production was the first part to become digitised, turning a physical good into an intangible one – this saved on transportation time and costs but it also meant that there were limitless, identical copies. And it lowered the barrier to entry which had for so long protected publishers’ businesses from competition.

Newsgathering was the next element to become digitised, as an increasing amount of information was transmitted digitally. In fact, in some cases journalists began to write computer programs to do the grunt work while they got on with more important business of investigating and verifying leads.

Then finally, media companies simply lost control of distribution. This has gone through a number of phases: initially distribution was dominated by curated directories and portals like Yahoo! and MSN, which then gave way to search engines like Google, and these are now being overtaken by social networks such as Facebook.

And this is not over: the net neutrality issue could see distribution dominated by telecomms companies – an issue I’ll come on to later.

This move from a linear physical production process to a non-linear one online is one of the bases for the Model for a 21st Century Newsroom that I published three years ago.

Disintermediated, disaggregated, modularised

As the media went online, three things happened:

  • It was disintermediated by the web,
  • Disaggregated by links
  • And modularised by digitisation.

Put in plainer language, once newsgathering, production and distribution became digital they could be done by different people, in different places, and at different times – including non-journalists.

It’s important to point out that there is no ‘natural’ way to do journalism. There are hundreds of ways to tell a story, to investigate a question, or to distribute information. Institutions and cultures have grown up out of compromises over the years as they explored those possibilities and their limitations.

When you remove physical limitations you remove many of the reasons for the ways for making those compromises.

See also: Paul Bradshaw: five predictions for journalism in 25 years


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Martin Belam: My favourite comment spam

We get at lot of spam comments here at Journalism.co.uk. Some of them are uplifting:

This is really good stuff for me. Must admit that you are one of the coolest bloggers I’ve ever seen.

That kind of comment makes for a great start to the morning.

Some of them are confusing, but still basically positive:

A person essentially help to make seriously articles I would state. This is the first time I frequented your web page and thus far? I surprised with the research you made to create this particular publish amazing. Wonderful job!

We did do a lot of research to make that particular publish amazing, so it’s nice to have it recognised.

Some of them contain constructive criticism:

I have read your article, and I think that it’s a little bit biased. (maybe its just me.) Hmm… Maybe next time try be more objective, I know it’s hard to be good journalist, but it worth it.

That kind of thing reminds us about trying to be good journalists every day.

We are, of course, not the only ones to benefit from such feedback and guidance.

Guardian information architect Martin Belam has written about this kind of spam in the past, which uses these inane comments to try and sneak through links for SEO purposes. Belam posted some of his own favourite spam today with some responses, and its pretty funny.


“Alistair conditioning” is my favourite concealed keyword ever.


See the full post on currybetdotnet at this link.

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Comment: Joe Lieberman, the New York Times and the idea of ‘bad citizenship’

Speaking to Fox News yesterday, Senator Joe Lieberman, who is among WikiLeaks’ fiercest critics, makes very clear his desire to see the organisation’s founder Julian Assange extradited to the US and indicted by any means possible. Or not possible just now, but possible very soon, perhaps.

More interesting than Lieberman’s quite naked desire to prosecute Assange or WikiLeaks, or both, is his speculation that the New York Times may have also committed a crime and may also be subject to some form of prosecution.

That isn’t a great leap though, if WikiLeaks has committed a crime in publishing the cables then surely the New York Times has also committed a crime. It seems likely that attorney general Eric Holder, try as he might, will have enough trouble bringing a case against WikiLeaks. The state has been bitten once already in this kind of fight with the Times and I suspect it will be quite shy about trying again.

More interesting still is Lieberman’s comment toward the end of the interview:

I think the New York Times has committed at least an act of bad citizenship.

Holder can’t indict the Times for bad citizenship – yet – but the charge is an interesting one. It rests, at least in part, on the assumption that the interests and motives of the ‘good citizen’ align with those of the government. The American author Don DeLillo succinctly exposed the error in this assumption in 1988, in response to a very similar criticism by newspaper columnist George Will.

That year Will published a scathing review of DeLillo’s novel Libra in the Washington Post. He wasn’t a huge fan of the book. He called it:

… an act of literary vandalism and bad citizenship.

DeLillo’s novel, which tells of the events leading up to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, mixes fact and fiction in the mold of Public Burning or Executioner’s Song. It challenges the official version of events presented by the Warren Commission report. In doing so it wounded George Will and, in Will’s mind, America too. The New York Times’ publication and coverage of the embassy cables has wounded Joe Lieberman and in Lieberman’s mind, America too. Lieberman makes his feelings plain in the Fox News interview: rather than discuss the possible indictment of Julian Assange in the (relatively) factual terms of breaking the law or not breaking the law, Lieberman whimpers about the “negative consequences” for America, about the country being “hurt”.

It sure looks to me on the facts that WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have violated America’s espionage act, with great negative consequences for us.

He ought to be indicted and then we can ask the authorities to in England to extradite him to the United States. If we don’t do that someone else will come along and do exactly what WikiLeaks has done and that will hurt America even more.

But did DeLillo’s novel hurt America? Will the embassy cables? Are they acts of ‘bad citizenship’? More importantly, is an act of ‘bad citizenship’ a bad thing? Should the newspaper feel chastened?

This was DeLillo’s response to Will:

I don’t take it seriously, but being called a bad citizen is a compliment to a novelist, at least to my mind. That’s exactly what we ought to do. We ought to be bad citizens. We ought to, in the sense that we are writing against what power represents, and often what the government represents … In that sense, if we’re bad citizens, we’re doing our job.

Journalists should, of course be responsible, professional, and transparent where possible, but if the Times did not act as a ‘bad citizen’ in Will’s and Lieberman’s terms, would its journalists be doing their jobs?

Whether or not the newspaper has committed a crime is one thing but this stuff about ‘bad citizenship’, this stuff about America the Brave being wounded by one of its own, is as ludicrous now as it was when George Will said it. The New York Times should pledge allegiance to the truth, not the flag.

Senator Joe Lieberman, a good citizen?

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