23 June 2007

Lessig's Evolving Activism

Lawrence Lessig has announced that he's refocusing his activism away from Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) to "corruption." By "corruption," he means money's influence on politics (although I'd argue that money doesn't influence politics, people influence politics politicians with money, among other things).

Lessig became well known for his advocacy in the Eldritch Press v. Reno case. I agreed with Lessig that extending copyright terms was "wrong." I disagreed that a court could or should find that the law was illegal or unconstitutional. I fully agreed with Arthur Miller when he said,

''The case has sparked a public discussion that wasn't happening before,'' said Arthur Miller, a Harvard Law School professor who filed a brief at the Federal District Court level opposing Mr. Lessig on behalf of several entertainment companies. ''In a 21st-century environment, do you need a 95-year monopoly to promote the progress of science and the arts or is society better off enriching the public domain earlier? Have we reached the point where we have to be much more sophisticated in calibrating copyright? With the Eldred decision Congress can go back and think about it.''

Congress could, Mr. Miller suggested, consider a compulsory licensing system that would require copyright holders to let people use their work for a set price. Other ideas to increase the public domain include allowing copyrights to lapse on works unless owners make an effort to renew them so people can have access to material that has no commercial value after a short time.
Lessig also set up the Creative Commons non-profit organization which I agree with completely and use.

I wish Lessig the best in his new pursuit. Hopefully, he can come up with smarter solutions than the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.

UPDATE: Court clips campaign-finance law

22 June 2007

20 June 2007

Finally, Bipartisan Agreement on Something!

Congressional Job Approval Dips Again This Month

The latest congressional job approval rating (24%) is the lowest for the institution since Democrats took control of both houses in January, and is far below the 37% registered in February. The decline has been most evident among Democrats, whose ratings of Congress now match those of Republicans. [all emphasis mine]
New Gallup data show confidence in Congress at all time low
Generally speaking, Americans have been skeptical about Congress for decades now. But the current 14% confidence rating for Congress is down from 19% last year and is the lowest in Gallup’s history, surpassing the 18% confidence in Congress measured in 1991, 1993 and 1994.
The percentage of Americans with a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence in Congress is at 14%, the lowest in Gallup's history of this measure -- and the lowest of any of the 16 institutions tested in this year's Confidence in Institutions survey. It is also one of the lowest confidence ratings for any institution tested over the last three decades.
and that's not all ... how's the press doing? Not so good, or ... about as well as President Bush, but worse.

Gallup Confidence Poll 2007

Previous: How's that working out?

Pentagon Enlists YouTube

Don't Deport Hiraldo (Jimenez)

With an estimated 10 million illegal aliens in the US, as many as 275,000 in federal, state and local prisons with multiple arrests, deporting Yaderlin Hiraldo would be a crime, wouldn't it?

Yes, it would.

Do the math ...

CBS Evening News Vids Worth Watching

Yeah, that's right, CBS Evening News ... former home of anchor Dan Rather and current home of anchor Katie Couric. Katie was off the night this aired.

Orphans Left To Starve In Iraq.

U.S. troops found an orphanage full of starving, neglected children in Baghdad, where it appears the orphanage director may have selling the facility's supplies to local markets. Lara Logan reports.
Eye To Eye: Baghdad Orphanage
Only On The Web: U.S. and Iraqi forces rescued more than 20 emaciated children who were living in appalling conditions at a Baghdad orphanage. Lara Logan talked to some of the soldiers.

OffTheBus Already on the Wrong Track

UPDATE: Patrick Ruffini joins the conversation and thanks for the link Jay!

Jay Rosen and Arianna Huffington have announced their new hires for their OffTheBus project: Amanda Michel and Zack Exley.

There's a brief conversation in PressThink's comments about "... how it looks to hire two liberal Democratic political operatives to run a journalism project?"

Jay responds by emphasizing he is less concerned with how it looks than how it works. He also gives us a preview of how it will work in his post:

...The majority of contributors will probably lean [liberal], as well, with a healthy number of independents and a few conservatives. (That’s what our recruiting shows so far.)

This makes it way more of a challenge to cover the Republican candidates accurately and well, but we think it can be done....
Sounds like the intellectual diversity of a typical newsroom already, doesn't it? In fact, I'd argue the decisions made by Jay and Arianna have limited the organizing outreach of OffTheBus.

I'm skeptical that the partnering between PressThink and Huffington Post has anything to do with limiting their hires to two liberal political operatives. I think Jay conflates organizations with individuals. Jay makes no mention of reaching out to Patrick Ruffini, David All or Mike Turk. He only discounts partnering with TownHall or National Review because:
In a practical vein, once I had the Huffington Post as a partner with its reputation the only way to offset that for purposes of reputation would be to bring in an equally large red state partner like TownHall.com or National Review. We considered that. In the end we concluded that we would also have to split decision-making evenly and that the chances of that structure being nimble enough to improvise and turn on the fly, as one must in this practice area, were virtually nil.
Will it work? Depends on how you define success and what metrics you use. Here are Jay's:
Four: One of the things I like about this project is the simple metrics. If I want to know how OffTheBus is doing it's going to be real easy. I just go to OffTheBus.Net and look at that page. If I see there fresh, arresting, original, informational reporting and commentary on the 08 election, and it is different kind of coverage than the boys on the bus have always produced, then I am not going to be alarmed very much if I how I got there didn't wind through J-school or city room.
Fine, but will the fresh, arresting, original, informational reporting and commentary (if there is any) come from a "wise crowd"?
"Wise crowds" need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions. The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people's errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are "smarter" than if a single expert had been in charge.
Where Jay fails to mention the "wisdom of the crowds," Arianna addresses it directly:
In his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, James Surowiecki argued that, given the right circumstances, large groups of people are smarter than an elite few. According to Surowiecki, three of the key elements that make a crowd (ie any group of people focused on a collective endeavor) smart are: independence, decentralization, and diversity.

Our citizen journalists will be independent -- focused on their piece of the puzzle, and not what everyone around them thinks. They will be decentralized -- spread across the country, with no one on high giving them their marching orders. And they will be as diverse as possible -- a mix of campaign insiders devoted to their candidates, neutral outsiders, passionate partisans and steely-eyed observers. The mosaic of their perspectives will add a varied portrait to the traditional coverage of the candidates and their campaigns.
If OffTheBus is really going to succeed, it will need to reach out to non-participants in order to get the diversity they currently lack. It will need to inspire online conversation with conservative bloggers through links and blog comments because they've already created an atmosphere where conservatives feel they aren't wanted as participants.

Or not.

Their "fresh, arresting, original, informational reporting and commentary" (if there is any) can be a success solely within the liberal sphere. It can have an impact (a traditional measure of success) on the primaries of both parties with Yearrrrrgh!!! and macaca videos.

An early measure of success for OffTheBus is the lack of interest displayed at memeorandum. It will be interesting to watch if/how the lack of diversity at OffTheBus plays out. I certainly agree with Jay on this:
Fifth. Do we want to say that people representing a portion of the political community cannot produce news and information for the entire political community? I wouldn't want to say that in advance, although I might conclude it after the experiment.

18 June 2007

Remember Me

Go. Read. This. Watch the video. I was sooooo tempted to post the video here (via YouTube), but ... go there.

"I felt like there needed to be more support for our troops," said Palmer, who is all of 15 years old. "This video was my contribution."
h/t: Insty

17 June 2007

"Who's Ahead?" Leaves the Public Behind ...

[Inspired by Who's Ahead? No, Seriously...]

The most damaging aspect of the Master Narrative is the effect it has on the public's need for "cacaphonous conversation" and the damage it does to journalism in the media's relationship with the public:

Carey thinks we should “value the press in the precise degree that it sustains public life, that it helps keep the conversation going among us.” We should “devalue the press” in the degree that it seeks only to inform us or, worse, “turn us into silent spectators.” [ed: also see The People Formerly Known as the Audience]
As I've written before in response to a different PressThink post: How do we know if the press has got the politics part right?
When we have a press that is discursive with the public. It is not, currently, but is capable of becoming so. The press adheres to an expository epistemological system too often, and only becomes discursive with the public when attempting to "regain" trust.

Press politics currently is the commodification of eyeballs and ears. When press politics becomes the commodification of thought and speech by the public, then they'll have their politics right.
That requires a different narrative, Off the Grid Journalism:
It is what it is. This tries to be anti-narrative, not in some ultimate sense (Lundstrom intended to tell stories in the Bee) but just at the beginning, the intake stage. Look directly at the people being interviewed, treating each of them not as symbols for a larger electorate, whose mood (“the voters are angry”) is developing outside the frame, but as an electorate of one. She is who she is. That way you avoid the traps and dead spots in most back-to-the-people journalism....

Compared to horse race news and strategy coverage, with their intense scrutiny of the candidate’s every move; compared to “issues” journalism where abstractions—health care, education, taxes—walk the land; compared to political punditry, which lets a journalist speculate freely about the voters and what they want, Lundstrom’s “campaign coverage without the candidates” is a tough, unglamorous, and at times tedious truth discipline— a way of starting at the bottom, making journalism from scratch. Her essay helps us realize why polls became such a potent tool of the political press. For polls say you can avoid all this.
Like I said earlier, "There's plenty of time to get it right for 2008!"