Friday, July 19, 2013

The Face of Terror; Terrorists as Cover Boys

Friday, July 12, 2013

Let's Have Fun: Businessweek Angle on the Hedge Fund Story

When your humble blogger pulled this week’s Bloomberg Businesweek from the courier’s sheath (an unheralded development in print distribution), my first thought was “This is what happens when the boss goes on vacation.”
This cover turns the famous Rolling Stone campaign
on its head, comparing the flaccid reality of hedge fund
performance with its robust reputation

But still, as I chuckled, your humble blogger quickly opened the magazine to the “Cover Trail” which purports to cover the cover development every week.  The “Cover Trail” is a humanizing element, showing what the boys and girls at Businessweek are thinking.  One might assume they are all boys as one can almost hear the puerile laughter at Bloomberg HQ -  there is no masthead to be found but the credits posted on CoverJunkie .com include women.

Your humble blogger thinks this one will go viral for the usual reasons although only briefly.

The bigger story of Businessweek is about effective design (especially heavy use of charts) and good writing. Your humble blogger recalled recently, as I experienced the anticipation of opening this magazine, that I had felt the same sensation years ago, at the sight of Bernie Goldhirsh’s Inc. Magazine poking out of my mail box before I had the privilege of working for Bernie.  Ironically, Bernie's passion for competing with Business Week probably lead to one of his more costly mistakes, Business Month Magazine.

This is a fun business.  Every once in a while it is good to let it all hang out.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Why Fear in the Fourth Estate is Good

There a was a remarkably feeble defense of freedom of the press in the “Media Equation" column by David Carr, in the New York Times this Independence Day week, juxtaposing journalists, whom Carr defines as people “responsible for following the truth, wherever it may guide them” and activists whom he defines as people dedicated to “winning an argument.”

“Taxonomy is important,” he writes “…because when it comes to divulging national secrets, the law grants journalists special protections that are granted no one else.”  Mr. Carr cites no law which your humble blogger believes may be due to the fact that no such law exists.  Shield laws in quite a few states favor journalists, but it is through political power not legal code that the press avoids prosecution for disclosure of classified information.
A journalist is simply
“a person engaged in journalism"

A journalist used to be defined as “a person whose occupation is journalism,… the collecting, writing editing and publishing of news or news articles through newspapers or magazines “(per your humble bloggers  hard-used 1969 copy of the American Heritage Dictionary).  Today,  Merriam Webster defines a journalist as “a person engaged in journalism,… the collection and editing of news for presentation through the media”

By higher authority than David Carr, the intent to find truth has not been added to the definition but "occupation" has been broadened to "engaged," "publishing," to "distribution," and "newspapers and magazines" to "media."  In further discussion "news" is also broadened to include “related commentary and feature materials.”

Truth only enters the definition of journalism as a conceit of journalism schools, the University of Minnesota in Mr. Carr’s case, and the marketing position of media such as Mr. Carr’s employer, the New York Times.  What Mr. Carr is apparently trying to do is parse, on the basis of intent, an argument against The Guardian’s reporting by Glenn Greenwald of  Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA’s use of telephone and internet data.

The NSA revelations are making many in mainstream media uncomfortable.  No one is questioning the truth of the NSA revelations – only the right to voice them.  Mr. Carr’s contortions (although he pretends to concede the point in the column) have to do with claiming, for the New York Times and establishment journalism, the authority to use their own (well-intended and well-informed) editorial judgment about what should be public information while denying the same power to competitors or mere citizens who dare to exercise their own (misguided and argumentative) judgment about what should be public.

The NSA revelations highlight an uncomfortable, larger truth about the modern media equation.  Private speech, personal movement, and media consumption used to be difficult to monitor and relatively simple to protect.  Now, with new information technology, it all has become much harder to defend from prying eyes.  Increasingly we are relying on the good intent of our government and the private companies who can peer into the patterns of our lives.

The broader political-economic equation however, remains grounded in human nature.  Good intent is a weak factor in political-economic calculus whereas self-interest is paramount.

To avoid squirrelly twists like Mr. Carr's, we are better off placing the enlightened self-interest of media elites squarely on the side of free expression, open competition, and a balance of powers.  When it comes to divulging state secrets, members of the media must fear the same risk of prosecution as any citizen activist and be willing to fight for their own and thus everyone's freedom.

It is citizens and journalists, as citizens, that have the responsibility for following truth.  And freedom of public speech, although subject to some limitations, belongs to us all.

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