Hand-made links (for a change)

January 26, 2008 at 12:03 am | In cities, free_press, ideas, innovation, links, newspapers, resources, social_critique, urbanism, web | Comments Off on Hand-made links (for a change)

Why is it that some of the most salient material presents itself — and in the greatest quantities — when one already has a mountain of mental meal on one’s plate, with nary a cranial cranny remaining into which the new material may be stuffed?

I’m at the point where even bookmarking to Diigo isn’t good enough, because I can’t summon the energy to write a cogent annotation!

Therefore, in no particular order, some links of prime importance (in my world, anyway):
Regine at We Make Money Not Art posts two entries (Part I and Part II) on the DLD (Digital, Life, Design) conference held last month in Munich. Not only that, she includes specific references to other bloggers (Ulrike Reinhard, for example) who have posted more information (more than what’s already on DLD’s websites? Muss das sein?! …sigh…) and projects (like 192021) that I definitely need to follow up.

Part II includes way too much stuff for me to process right now — just this little picture/ diagram from one of the pages she references has me spinning:

Alert, alert: I’m thinking local local local, which starts to sound like “loco loco loco” after a while….

…Gawd, and don’t even get me started on Regine’s references to Patrick Schumacher (just a taste from WMMNA:

Patrik Schumacher mentioned that the challenge today for architects is to be able to comprehend and reflect in their work the increase in society complexity. Order and lack of complexity bring disorientation. A quick look at the way urban areas were built in the 50s brought us makes the case clearer.

“Order and lack of complexity bring disorientation.” Vraiment! It’s fatal to confuse order with “un-complex” organization. What our brains want is “ordered complexity” or “complex order,” which appeals to every person’s innate sense of pattern recognition (which, pace, is more than only “a subtopic of machine learning”).

…All this, and I haven’t even touched on several entries that rocked my world yesterday — outside.in‘s announcement of a brilliant win-win deal with the Washington Post, or their VC’s most interesting blog post, Rethinking The Local Paper

…All this, and this being the mere tip of the iceberg. Let’s not forget the links my husband sends — he tells me I have to watch Paulo Coelho (brilliant, from what I’ve heard, absolutely paradigm shifting) as well as Edward Tufte (ditto), and more… My inbox is overflowing…

Survival in the newspaper business: rethinking mass culture

November 16, 2007 at 11:09 pm | In free_press, innovation, media, newspapers | 1 Comment

Terrific post by CEOs for Cities, Rethinking Mass Culture:

“If the average reading level is eighth grade, in a mass-culture model you want to write to that level and hope you capture the largest demographic segment. And you hope that those below the level will give you a chance. In fact, you aggressively court this group by trying to prove your accessibility. As for the group reading above the level: your strategy for success is “where else are they going to go?” Your paper is probably the only/best/major source of news in your community.”Newspapers have not traditionally been mass market. In fact they were the classic niche subsidy model. The genius of newspapers was that they aggregated lots of mini-content – comics, bridge columns, stock tables, crossword puzzles, the arts, business, sports – and built enough of a combined audience to subsidize the content that otherwise would not have paid for itself.

“…the fact is that the content that journalists think counts most – coverage of city hall, foreign reporting, investigations – does not have a big enough audience to pay for itself on its own.

“Yet somewhere along the way, this idea of niche aggregation slipped away from the local paper and was replaced by the sense that every story ought to be comprehensible by every reader. The problem: in a culture that increasingly offers more and more choice and allows people to get more precisely what they want, when they want, and how they want it, a generalized product that doesn’t specifically satisfy anyone finds its audience erode away. The more general, the more broad, the more “mass culture” a newspaper tries to become, the faster its readers look elsewhere.

“The very things you see newspapers doing to try to bring in new readers… are the things that while they might have worked 20 years ago, don’t today. That’s because the celebutantes get better dish at TMZ and the Live at 5 guys do better fire and missing kids.”

Read the full post here.

And if you are interested in arts news, you can’t do better than ArtsJournal for news and the array of blogs sponsored by ArtsJournal.

More later, and on other topics, too, but I’m in a total rush right now. Just for now, on the newspaper topic, though: DO, if you’re in that business, PLEASE do consider what Invisible Inkling has to say in 10 Obvious Things About the Future of Newspapers You Need to Get Through Your Head… Really, read it. Great stuff.

More on Black Press scandal

September 3, 2007 at 9:22 pm | In black_press, free_press, newspapers, times_colonist, victoria | Comments Off on More on Black Press scandal

On August 21 I wrote about the scandal brewing at Black Press here in Victoria, which I learned about through — and which was otherwise consistently covered only by — local political writer and blogger Sean Holman. The whole story was otherwise largely ignored. (On Aug.28, I added an update to the original entry, again adding more information from Holman’s updates.)

The story appears to be fading slowly from view, which I find pretty appalling. There is one other update, again from Sean Holman, who on August 29 wrote his last (to date) entry on the topic: Black on Black.

Go read it for yourself — it’s lengthy and complex, and shows that when corporations put out fires, it’s not necessarily a fine art, but rather something conjured by sheer “because I say so” power.

It’s also depressing to see that comments have apparently dried up around this topic. It’s as if the reporters and some staff cared, initially, but the reading public is dumb, oblivious, and anaesthetized. Or jaded, which may be the same thing.

And as predicted by many, Monday Magazine, despite its pretence of being critical and anti-corporatist, has been breathtakingly silent on the issue. Why? Ever-so-alternative <kof> Monday is owned by Black Press, and I guess staff at Monday know which side of the ass their cheek is buttered on.

Also read Holman’s entry and see that the other thing that’s alive and well is the corporate art of playing “po’ me,” as in: claiming that the big ol’ daily newspaper (the Times-Colonist) has it easy because people pay to read it, so therefore the “free” community newspapers have to put themselves in bondage to their masters, the advertisers, upon whom they rely for revenue.

Oh, give me a break already. If that’s your business model, I suppose it explains why you don’t have to care about the quality or integrity or timeliness of your editorial content.

Besides, I believe the Times-Colonist already scooped Black Press on how to bend over for advertisers, in the process eschewing quality editorial content: who can forget the Vivian Smith affair?

Another Victoria newspaper scandal, being ignored by …newspapers

August 21, 2007 at 10:07 pm | In black_press, business, canada, free_press, innovation, scandal, silo_think, times_colonist, victoria | 5 Comments

(Updated Aug.28/07, see below…)

Some readers might remember the Vivian Smith scandal from early July last summer: I blogged about it here, on July 20/06 after reading about it on Sean Holman’s Public Eye Online. (Note: re. my July 20/06 entry: pardon the opening two paragraphs — I was coming out of a period of blog hibernation, which, as any reluctant blogger will attest, can discombobulate one’s train of thought. Just skip that bit and go straight to the paragraph that starts, “On July 7, Sean Holman…”)

Well, history might not repeat itself exactly, but aside from the details, we have a repeat performance at another Victoria newspaper. Last year, we witnessed the Times-Colonist firing Vivian Smith, who dared to write an article that suggested that tourists need not get fleeced by established tourist industry ventures and that they can find plenty of things to do for free in Victoria. It seems that these established tourist ventures (The Empress Hotel, Butchart Gardens, etc.), which spend many dollars advertising in the Times-Colonist, felt aggrieved, and so Smith was fired. (See my blog entry, toward the end, for a list of all the relevant Public Eye Online posts on this saga. Smith was sort-of/ kind-of reinstated eventually, although one hardly sees her well-written, informative articles anymore.)

This year we see the Victoria News (a thrice-weekly publication owned by local press baron David Black) revealed as fully in bondage to car dealers. The paper’s editor (Keith Norbury) was fired and one of its senior reporters (Brennan Clarke) resigned in the wake of an article Clarke wrote, detailing the savings Canadians can expect if they go to the US to buy a car.

Sean Holman broke the story in his August 17/07 entry, Car trouble:

Victoria News editor Keith Norbury was fired today, Public Eye has exclusively learned, two days after one of his senior reporters – Brennan Clarke – resigned. The firing follows an advertiser complaint about an article published earlier this month by the newspaper. In an interview, Vancouver Island News Group president Mark Warner confirmed Mr. Norbury’s forced departure was, in part, connected to the complaint. “There were a number of issues,” he said. “But that was certainly one of them.” Mr. Warner declined to say what those other issues may have been. Nor would he elaborate on how the complaint was connected to the firing.

The article, authored by Mr. Clarke, discussed the case of a Broadmead resident who saved $13,000 by purchasing a Mercedes ML350 in Portland rather than from a local dealer. The woman, Rebecca Schevenius, and her friend are “planning to publish an 18-page how-to pamphlet entitled ‘How to Import a Car into Canada’ for others interested in testing the cross-border used car market.”

In a interview with Public Eye earlier this afternoon, Dave Wheaton Pontiac Buick GMC Ltd. dealer principal Dave Wheaton said, “I was upset with the paper for doing it because it was one person’s opinion” – referring to Ms. Schevenius. “And they are by no stretch of the imagination an expert at it. And why that was news I don’t know.”

Note that this is Dave Wheaton’s opinion, but it seems opinions are weighed differently, depending on how big your advertising budget is. For since the firing and resignation, writers on Public Eye Online’s comments board have revealed more information on the Wheatons:

According to the Wheaton website, Wheaton owns 17 dealerships in the Western Provinces. Obviously any sort of criticism from Dave Wheaton would carry a lot more weight than a single dealership in a single Black Press market. (from this Aug.20/07 entry)

and

I see that the Wheatons now own a bank and insurance company as well. General Bank of Canada, located in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is owned by the Wheaton Group of Companies, the largest General Motors franchised dealer network in Canada. The incorporation of a bank further expands the financial services of the Group which currently owns a regulated life company, First Canadian Insurance Corporation, and a property and casualty company, Millennium Insurance Corporation. General Bank of Canada is the first privately held chartered bank in Canada. (from another Aug.20 entry)

It’s worth reading all related entries, plus comments, by date:
Aug. 17: Car trouble (which includes a full reprint of the alleged offending article by Brennan Clarke)
Four entries on Aug. 20, in order:
So long and thanks for all the fish (8:27 AM)
A question of credibility (9:10 AM)
Klausphiles (4:00 PM)
Another brick in the wall (4:33 PM)
Aug. 21: Meanwhile, among the ranks of the fallen

Lots of good comments on the boards, too. I especially agree with the most recent one in the Aug.21 post, which points out what a good job Keith Norbury had done as editor. The VicNews shot itself in the head by firing him. As the story unfolds further, Sean Holman will no doubt keep up the reports, so check back on Public Eye Online in the coming days.

Even though Victoria’s economy seems to be maturing in some areas, what I wrote at the end of my blog entry of July 20/06 on the Vivian Smith firing still rings true: there is an entrenched paternalism and a petty immaturity at work here that should just be canned. Full stop. The paternalistic mindset is particularly offensive to me. It represents not modern capitalism at all, but a weird sort of colonial capitalism: a throwback to an economy where men “expect to be sheltered from criticism, whether the kind emanating from a free press or the kind coming from the market,” as I wrote last year. It’s an economy where the “natives” better not get uppity, where women and punky reporters toe the line and know their place, where a man’s silo is his castle, and you better know where the service entry is, ’cause the front door of the keep is not for you.

And we wonder why Canada ranks at the bottom for innovation (14th place out of 17 among the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries). That will never change as long as newspapers like the Times-Colonist or the Victoria News act as enablers to uninnovative businesses with bloated advertising budgets. They certainly don’t want anybody rocking their status quo by forcing them to innovate in a free market, and our “free press,” it seems, guards their interests.

Update, Aug.28/07: Sean Holman reports today that Dave Wheaton emailed him over the weekend to say that his comments were not the reason for Brennan Clarke’s resignation or Keith Norbury’s firing. The newspaper (whose publisher Mark Warner had earlier explicitly stated that the resignation & firing were connected to Dave Wheaton’s complaint) now backs the car dealer up:

Asked for comment, news group vice-president Kirk Freeman said Mr. Norbury’s firing “is an internal personnel issue. And what has transpired had nothing to do with Dave Wheaton.”

Somehow, I find that rather incredible. It sounds more like the rearguard trying to douse a fire.

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