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For those who haven't seen this segment on the Gruen Transfer, go and watch it first. Be warned, it's offensive and designed to be. (For overseas readers, the Gruen Transfer is a TV show analysing advertising with competitors creating ads for outrageous briefs.)

The discussion following this segment is terrific: robust, serious and exactly what is needed about these issues. At first I thought the issues were too complicated for me to distil into a post but I've just realised something vital. The first three jokes in the ad -- about blacks, gays and Jews respectively -- centre on the habit racists/homophobes/anti-Semitics have of murdering those they despise: they refer to historical events, sterilisation and forced abortion; 'poofter bashings' that lead to death; concentration camps. The fat chick joke -- the ad aims to end shape discrimination by equating it with other forms of discrimination -- centres on someone not sleeping with her, which is very different from kiling her.

The ad not only fails to make its point because its viewers are either too shocked by the first jokes to make the needed connection or so prejudiced their views are simply reinforced but also because the equation is not actually made in the ad. Fat jokes are NOT equivalent to the other jokes because they do not call for the extermination of the target. Shape discrimination is enormously problematic and has similar emotional impact on the recipient; it may even be more isolating because there is no equivalent community to turn to as a haven in the way that blacks/gays/Jews have insular communities where they can reinforce positive psychological tropes; but it is not the same thing and I don't think this ad works for all these reasons.
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[ profile] journey2master  is on the phone to [ profile] goldfish42 , who just shared this with us -- warning NOT SAFE FOR WORK:

When you're done, watch the out-takes. Brilliant.

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For anyone who's interested in women and the media (and you all know that's one of *my* Mastermind special topics), check out this terrific piece from Salon on how women newscasters in the US have covered this election.
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I don't have time to write my own entry right now (too busy marking) but instead I'll point you at [ profile] anthonybaxter  and [ profile] crazyjane13  for excellent analyses of both the American "I can't believe it's not socialism" $700 billion bail out and the Catholic "What laws? I don't see no steenkin' laws" response to the abortion legalisation issues.

When you're done being outraged by it all, go watch the trailer for Repo: A Genetic Opera, starring Anthony Stewart Head (yes, that one), Paris Hilton (yes, that one) and Nivek Ogre (from Skinny Puppy), because the world just isn't weird enough. You have [ profile] dr_nic  to thank for that one.

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Final session. Gerard Noonan has started with a description of how filing in the old days involved finding a pay phone, dropping a coin in the slot, dialing, unscrewing the cover of the handset and attaching alligator clips to it to send what he calls "actuality" down the line.

This last session is another bunch of older white men who run newsrooms. They are Steve Foley, Deputy Editor of The Age; Michael Wilkins, Managing Editor, Daily & Sunday Telegraph and mX; and Murray Cox, Executive Producer, AAP Digital. They're supposed to be talking about how the "integrated newsroom" changes the way "we" work. I'm presuming "we" are journalists although all these men are managers now.

It seems, so far, to be a nostalgia session.

But wait, Steve Foley is talking about the new layout of the newsroom, how the desks have been moved from an oblong of distance to a theatre in the round, literally. I already knew this from Dan Ziffer, but the Age has shifted the main eds (news, picture, online, the works) into a circle where they all talk to each other and with a back circle of 18 seats of section eds and related seniors. Apparently this is a test run before The Age moves to a new building in two years' time.

There's a bunch more but funnily enough my main sense is that this final session is misplaced. Why are all these guys from newspapers? This isn't the future of journalism they're talking about, it's the future of newspapers. Which isn't why we're here. Or at least, I thought that was a very old discussion.

Where is someone from the ABC's very integrated newsroom where text had no place until the advent of the net? How do they deal with TV, radio and online? What about someone from SBS with the same issues and presumably multilingual, multi-news sources? And what about someone from left field, someone from a predominantly online space who is dealing with the new "integrated newsroom" in an entirely different way?

I get the sense, in the end, as Chris Warren from the IFJ says, that rather than being Jay Rosen's willing migrants about to chart a course to the promised land, I am listening to a bunch of digital convicts, thrown on board a ship not knowing where they're going and not quite sure why they're being punished by being sent to this incomprehensible place but determined to make a go of it anyway.

I will probably muse a little more over the next few days. I finished my afternoon having a coffee with my good old friend David Sutton, from those old days of 3am philosophy I was talking about the other day, who is now Manager, Corporate Development at the ABC. Oh, how the humble have risen. We nattered. It was good.
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I sub-edited Journalism in Troubled Times for the IFJ a few years ago. It's a sad fact that journalism is not a safe career choice in many countries and that people who cover war zones and other areas also put themselves at risk (I believe that this week another two journalists in Afghanistan were injured).

This session we have Bambang Harymurti, Chief Editor of Tempo Interactive, Indonesia and K Kabilan, Editor of Malaysiakini, who have both apparently been jailed in the past for controversial articles on their sites. Malaysiakini started online because they couldn't get a newspaper licence. They've applied for one again now that they're so popular but it's been refused. The Prime Minister told the parliament last year that he saw Malaysiakini as a threat to national security. Kabilan isn't sure why...

Harymurti is talking about an interesting business model where people SMS a special number for a password that lasts for a week, meaning that they pay for the password and there's ongoing revenue. Interesting, indeed.

Scarily, there's a new Internet law in Indonesia: if you're found guilty of libel online, it's a six year jail term! That's not just for journalists either, although of course it affects them greatly.

There's also a corruption issue in Indonesian media, where editors and journalists don't run stories because they're paid off. Tempo Interactive has a policy that anyone who takes a bribe will be fired.

In the most recent election, Malaysiakini had volunteers in all the areas feeding back the information to the site. They had when two of the states fell and kept updating. At first people thought they were trying to topple the government by putting out false information but once they realised it was real information, the hits started rising. It almost crashed the site. They set up 16 mirrors that night. Apparently one of the first thing that the Prime Minister said after the election was "How the hell did Malaysiakini get the results before us?" Since the election, their subscribers have doubled. Now they're taken seriously as an independent media outlet.

Tempo only has two journalists and an editor. A lot of Indonesian journalists write one story for their official outlet but know that they can't tell the whole truth so they submit a second story to Tempo under an assumed name. One of the journalists at Tempo was arrested but he was jailed with a whole bunch of activists so he interviewed them all and kept feeding exclusives to Tempo. Once the government worked that out, it moved him to a jail outside Indonesia.

I asked them both why they blog on blogspot and not officially on their sites (because I'd just Googled them for the links above). Kabilan made interesting points about wanting to say different things from his writing in Malaysiakini and that he had hoped they could be seen separately. Harymurti said that the editorial writing at Tempo is a collective voice and that he didn't want his journalists to feel they couldn't contradict him because 'the big boss' had a particular opinion so he tries to keep those sorts of blog posts more private.
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Yes, that's the terribly tacky name for the next session where Michael Elliot, International Editor and Deputy Managing Editor of TIME magazine is talking to us about all the TIME branded products. Finally, someone's talking about magazines.

Bite-sized, just for you:
  • Magazine market is very healthy.
  • Circulation: 3.25 million a week in the US, a little over 1 million internationally.
  • Best selling issue: the annual top 100 most influential people.
  • Made a decision to reduce the circulation by 18% because it was becoming financially untenable to maintain. (How?) Did a thorough redesign.
  • Completely changed our conception of what was doing and what it's purpose was.
  • Advantage in magazine world was that it was never addicted to classifieds like newspapers.
  • has relaunched as a 24-hour news site with editors passing on responsibility from New York to London to Hong Kong. Went from irrelevant in rating 10 years ago, now n top 10.
  • Averaging 80 million page views per month, 9-10 million uniques, vast majority are not TIME readers.
  • Realised people didn't want localised versions so bundled TIME Europe and US etc into one.
  • Can geotarget advertising for different audiences around the world, so they do pay attention to global audience in local ways.
  • Changed print publication day from Monday to Friday so the print version has become a weekend read.
  • Key to success is building community -- as has been said over last few days.
  • Strong columnists who can develop strong sense of community; daily blogs; up to the minute news from the campaign trail.
  • Do what we do best and link to the rest.
  • Take advantage of multiple media: interview with Gordon Brown last year, did two-hour interview for text and then said, can we do a TV interview? Did a 20 minute video interview for immediate upload.
  • Difficulty with the business model: trading analogue dollars for digital cents.
  • Hopes that decline in legacy business is shallow enough that new media model can take up the slack.
  • Just in case you missed it yesterday, video is the future.
And running out of battery again (damn Macs) so I'll be back later...
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Interestingly, the session this morning on "digital natives", the people who are already embracing the future, features three women. Cinnamon Pollard -- woman behind for Fairfax to try and get younger people online; Rebekah Horne -- general manager of MySpace Australia; and Kath Hamilton -- director, Yahoo 7. They are younger than the men of yesterday and dressed more interestingly.

They are talking about the social nature of media consumption in the next generation.

Today's interesting info:
  • Participate for Cinnamon means "rate, vote and have their say" -- which is not full participation in my mind. Her audience is under 26 and apparently most of them still live at home. They crave peer recognition. They need to feel as though they're going to become famous.
  • Horne says 3-5 minutes is the longest video you would put online. She is talking about a vampire film made by Hammer that has been posted exclusively on MySpace in 5 minute chunks.
  • "Continual partial attention" -- the way that digital natives perform media snacking.
  • The Vine has been designed to be online, mobile and will become print -- probably one page a week in the Sunday paper (bizarre way to do it)
  • They're talking about mobile as the reception device rather than the participation device.
  • The Vine has an editorial team of five people. It's not designed to be a breaking news site so the stories can be well researched and well crafted. The aim is for the stories to be conversation-starters.
  • MySpace has 400 people in the US just checking images to make sure they're suitable for 14-year-olds.
And most hated word for the day: yep, someone actually used incentivise.

ETA: Spoke to Cinnamon in the break. Real participation is phase 2. They have a job opening right now for a Community Moderator. Think I might actually have applied for that and not got it but she said send her my CV, so I will.
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The luminaries of the Australian media scene swan in and out of the conference. Eric Beecher, youngest editor of the SMH ever then founder of Text Media (and hence once my ex-big boss) and now of course owner of Crikey; Mike van Niekerk, online chief at Fairfax (and the man who head-hunted me for The Age); Karim Temsamani, now General Manager of Google Australia and New Zealand, once group manager at Fairfax Magazines and hence my ex-big boss; now on stage, Mark Scott, now Managing Director of the ABC and once Deputy Editor of The Age and hence the man who hauled me over the coals for a freelance writer's conflict-of-interest indiscretion. I've met these men fleetingly, if at all (Karim was a voice on the phone, once). I want to speak to them in the breaks but apart from Eric Beecher, they flit in to present and then leave, far too important to stay and network.

I am fascinated to listen to their pearls of wisdom. I am inspired and yet wistful that I feel myself so strongly to be an outsider again. Then in the break, I find myself chatting to Tiy Chung, communications director for Greenpeace, or Jenny Farrar, from the MEAA who's going to Switzerland on Saturday to cover the nuclear non-proliferation treaty because she's involved with Mayors for Peace.

Back to listening to this session though. Newspapers are dead, apparently. And everything else is converging. So far, old news.

Quote of the day, Roy Greenslade on Andrew Jaspan, editor of the Age: "I used to work with him at the Sunday Times in London. I've been following his career and I'm aghast at a man of such limited talent rising so high."

Facts of interest:
  • The Guardian has more readers in the US than in the UK
  • Australian online sites don't care about being flooded with links from Boing Boing or Drudge because Nielsen only measures Australian clicks and that's what the advertisers want.
  • The major sites are all redesigning their story/article pages and see them as more important than the home page because that's the most likely point of site entry now, thanks to blogs, aggregation sites, RSS feeds, newsletters.
  • There is no longer a national conversation in the home, that the newspaper used to engender -- Roy Greenslade again
  • Every minute of every day, 10 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube.
  • Teens attitude: if news is important enough, it will find me.
  • 10-25% of the net has changed every time Google indexes it.
  • Google paid $4.5b in adsense revenue last year (? not sure of the timeframe)
  • Mark Scott believes that many viewers came to Summer Heights High through MySpace *because* they gave the characters MySpace pages and referred to it in episode 1. But how can this apply to journalism?
  • Max Uechtritz makes a distinction between quality journalism and 'good tabloid journalism'. He says growing the audience is vital because proprietors will fund good journalism if the numbers are there, so whether you get the numbers through Facebook doesn't matter because in the end you are still being able to fund the good quality journalism.
  • Newspapers have lost money over many periods but are sustained by being part of diverse groups such as the Financian Times surviving because it was part of Pearson. -- Roy Greenslade.
  • Washington Post now only makes 10% of earnings for the WP organisation. It now makes most of its money from education but the Post is still the spiritual core of the organisation. -- Mark Scott.
  • Five years ago, 75% of Fairfax earnings was from Herald/The Age. Now it's around 25% but bulk is still from print.
  • Video is the next big thing.
  • Mark Scott is really on the ball and I'm very impressed with him. "As editor you know a little bit, the newsroom knows a bit more, but the readership knows the whole story. We’ll always be broadcasting but increasingly we’re going to host the conversation. We recognise that we are no longer the broadcaster as oracle, particularly with younger audiences who want to be participants.
    Still going to have reporters, but we're also going to have space. People want to contribute and be part of the media experience. If you can manage that and complement it with the journalism you’re doing, it can add up to more than what you were as the oracle."
Most hated word of the day: Monetise.
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Jay Rosen this morning used a fascinating metaphor for the situation of journalist in the new media world: we are migrants crossing the sea to a new land, some scared to leave, some excited, all imagining what the new world will be like without having been there yet. Not all of us will make it and there are people who are already there who we have to fit in with.

Worrying for some, he said that the person project-managing his Off the Bus campaign section at the Huffington Post is someone with no editorial background; rather, she was an online political campaign organiser. This perhaps bodes well for someone with my skillset, but I need to act and stop talking about it.

Meanwhile, a quick chat with Chris Nash during the tea break has already resulted in a card exchange and a discussion about tutoring at Monash.

Since there are no power points here, I'll leave it at that and go back to listening to the panel on who will pay for journalism in the future, as at this stage my model looks like universities will be funding my existence and journalism will be a sideshow.
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Oh yeah, and Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal. Hell. Handbasket.

The meedja

Jun. 23rd, 2005 02:44 pm
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Sometimes I'm really, really glad I'm not at Fairfax anymore. The new COO has given management 10 days to come up with ways to cut $50 million from their budgets. This includes editorial redundancies.

Let me just put this into perspective for a moment: Fairfax has had a staff freeze since before I joined it in 1999. That is, for seven years, unless a completely new product like e)mag was developed (with its supposedly concomitant new revenue), no new staff have been employed apart from through the traineeship program. Every time someone resigned, they were not replaced. For seven years. All jobs have been filled internally (except, I think, editor of the Good Weekend and of course editor of The Age but they can't risk the flagships). And the trainee intake is approximately 8 trainees per year per title.

The place is already absolutely stretched. All the fluff has already been trimmed and there is no more. And they keep bleeding older, experienced journalists and losing that knowledge and efficiency and depth.

Do they make a profit? But of course. That's not what capitalism is about. It's about *growth*. It's about *shareholders*. It's about proving fleetness and responsiveness to the "marketplace".

Sigh. Bye bye, quality journalism. It was nice knowing you for a short while.

(Thanks to [ profile] p_cat for the heads-up)


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