Independent voices

Companies, Peter Drucker said somewhere, are ways of organizing work. They do things you can’t do any other way. Same goes for governments. We need the things we depend on to work well, including those things — and “the media”. Whatever they were, and will be.

I submit that The Olde Media worked well at their best, but still never fully . I’m not sure they ever did. Too much gets missed, mis-quoted, skewed. Even at the best papers and magazines. “Stories” are what’s best and worst about journalism, and perhaps about all human narratives. (I explained why in Stories vs. Facts.) And, as we come to depend on The Media less and less (or to depend on more and more media, to lesser degrees in each case, which include each other), we yearn for re-institutionalizing the whole thing, somehow. It’s going to take awhile, obviously.

In the meantime, consider the importance of independence. As a supplier of story fodder, do you want to be locked into a single conduit to readers, listeners and viewers? In professional cases, sometimes. But not in amateur ones.

So I’m thinking about this while reading on Demotix about rallies in Taipei in support of PTS, Taiwan’s Public Television Service. Seems Taiwan’s feds are holding up funding for the service. Here in the U.S., public broadcasting has been far more independent, both editorially and budgetarily, from the federal government. This is a good thing. But it’s not the only thing. The most public media are the public itself. What forms will the public’s new media systems take? Many. Experimentation is required.

Demotix is an interesting experiment. “YOU share your images with the Demotix community WE licence thm to the mainstream media for you…”, it says on Demotix front page. It explains, “Basic, non-exclusive rights to your photos will sell for anything between $150 and $3,000 USD”, and “In all cases, you get exactly 50%”, and “you retain the copyright”.

Sounds nice. Looks to me like a new market for paparazzi. There’s still lots of publishing money in celebrity obsession. Not sure about the rest of the business, though.

I’m a professional journalist with Linux Journal — mostly as a writer. But as a photographer I’m mostly an amateur, which is cool with me. My 26,000+ photos on Flickr include a few dozen that have appeared in NowPublic and Wikipedia, to mention a couple of places. I don’t want or expect to be paid for those, and I’m not exceptional, in the sense that I’m not alone. But there are many clusters of not-alone.

Meanwhile, I am sure that what matters most for citizen journalists (and for all of us as individuals in any case) is independence. As Neo said to the Architect (in the second Matrix movie), the problem is choice. So I’ll be watching Demotix as well as NowPublic and other new mediators to see how things go.


  1. Stephen Lewis’s avatar

    D. Even as the old-fashioned business model of old media collapses, a case can be made for the inherent worth of newspapers as they once were and have evolved to be. It might be that the new media is but a superstructure built atop the information and competences of the old. For a far better take on this than I can compose, see . Surowiecki also advances new financial models on which to build “newspapers”. So, lets not let the baby go with the bathwater. Newspapers still give us a “product” that almost no bloggers have the time, competences, and staff to delivery and most bloggers blog about the news they receive from newspapers. Even Dave Winer’s excellent “river” you recommended in a past post streams the NYT and the BBC. SL

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, Steve.

    I acknowledge the inherent worth of newspapers, and one of their most neglected weapons against opinion blogs currently dominating Google News (and much else), in my latest post.

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