Philanthro-journalism: The new economic model?

A couple of blog posts discussed economic models for journalism and the strategies news corporations are using to stay viable.  An article by the Economist explores a new perspective worthy of discussion: Philanthro-journalism.  Reporters without orders: Can journalism funded by private generosity compensate for the decline of the commercial kind?

My question after reading this article is: How should the economic model of journalism evolve to ensure the greatest freedom of press and preserve the important function of journalists in a democratic society?

Stephanie Craft, in her essay “Press Freedom and Responsibility,” raises an interesting point: Freedom House ranked the United States 16th in the level of freedom of the press despite the fact that freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S Constitution. Iceland and Finland, who ranked at the top, also have freedom of press and speech protected under their constitution; however, one cannot denigrate the doctrines of religious groups. In addition, Finland’s government provides direct grants to newspapers. Craft asks: Why then, do Iceland and Finland rank higher than the United States in freedom of the press?

Craft’s question indirectly answers part of my question; while the idea of government-funded newspapers is provocative in the United States, it does work in other democracies and should be considered as a possible source of support for newspapers to ensure the survival of a free press.

The Economist concludes that philanthro-journalism is only a partial solution and journalism still depends on the old model. However, I would argue that the future trend is going toward an economic model where journalism will be supported by increasingly diverse sources. It will likely be based on a combination of advertisers, government funding, and philanthropy.


S. Craft. (2010). “Press Freedom and Responsibility.” in Meyers, C. (Ed.) “Journalism Ethics: A Philosophical Approach,” Cambridge: Oxford University Press.

Voice Memo

This is a pretty simple app that allows you to record up to about 7 minutes on your iphone. Sounds simple, but journalists are using it to do mini interviews. Here is the description from PRNDI:

Rather than phone tape, news makers can now record themselves with an I-Phone and send good quality audio back to the reporter.  First, ask the interviewee if he or she has an iPhone. If so, ask if they can get to a landline which you record for backup. Then instruct the interviewee to open the voice memo app. A picture of a mic appears. The record button is on the left. A button on the right with three lines on it get to the recordings.

Tell the interviewee to hold the phone 6 inches in front of his or her face with the screen at eye-level. This way they speak toward the actual microphone but not so close that they have popping “Ps.”

Have them hit record, and ask to make sure the counter is going.

If the interview goes longer than 7.5 min, tell them to stop the recording, then start another. If the file size is too large, the phone tries to chop it into multiple pieces, which can get confusing when the interviewee is trying to send the files.

After the interview concludes, have them stop the recording one last time. Then hit the button with three lines on it. It takes then to a page with the recordings in chronological order and time stamped. There, they can also listen to the file.

To send a file, highlight it, then tap the button at the bottom that says “share.” Choose email, and have them send it to the desired address.

If it took more than one file, walk them through sending each one.


Sound pretty good, and it records decent audio but alas there are some downsides.

First, the interviewee must have an iphone, and they must hold it further away from their face and at “eye level” which isn’t what people are used too, so they might not do it. This does affect the sound quality you get. It also could be a bit confusing for a source to go through the steps of emailing the audio, then deleting the audio from their phone afterward (since the audio file takes up a LOT of memory.) And if you are in the middle of an interview, and have to start a new audio session, it would disrupt the flow of the answers/questions.

The nice part is it works as long as you have a phone savvy source. I think the best application would be between journalists. If you’re on the ground somewhere and your phone reception is terrible, you can read the questions in an email and record yourself, or describe the scene to send it back to the station.

Animoto impressions

Animoto describes itself as a video slideshow maker with music. The idea behind this application is that a user can take pictures or video that they have on his or her computer or phone and use Animoto’s graphic templates and music to create a quick and easy slideshow.

I primarily looked at Animoto’s web application (there is one for phones too) and found that, even for someone as technically impaired as myself, I could easily create a basic slideshow. The menus and templates are easy to navigate and swap on the fly. From signing up to completing my first 30-second video (using sample images and video), I only spent about 10 minutes.

However, the editing options feel pretty limited. The slideshow I made featured photos that glided in and out of view in stylized ways, but I had no control over which direction they moved to and fro. Animoto’s templates do a lot of filling in for you, that is to say a lot of style will be decided for you according to which template you utilize. The result is, the video looked a little generic, and I think people viewing it will immediately tell it came from a free online program. That may be okay for certain uses like sharing with friends, but if you are looking for something professional, investment in a program with more options might be the way to go.

Also, if you are merely a free subscriber, you will get a fewer amount of templates to choose from and you are limited to making a video 30 seconds long. If you want more options, you can sign up for monthly payments.

Overall, I’d say Animoto is worth the free download. Depending on your needs, a generic video might be all right; they are certainly quick and easy to create. The phone app might be a simple way to create content from your computer or phone into a fast video. However, if you desire more control over your project, you might want to look elsewhere since options to put a personal touch on the videos seem limited.

Here’s a disturbing trend

The New York Times ran a story today about the fact that journalists from a wide range of news outlets, including the Times and the Washington Post, are letting politicians and campaign managers approve quotes before they appear in stories. I’m stunned. In fact, both as a journalist (or former one) and reader, I think I’d rather have no quotes in the story than have to live with the absurd restriction of prior approval on quotes that apparently is becoming the standard for interviews with candidates, campaign managers and elected and/or appointed officials.

I understand this is the result of gaffe-driven news coverage, and perhaps from the perspective of the politician or political official, it makes sense. But why would a journalist put up with such a policy?? The response from Dean Baquet, the managing editor for news at the Times (as quoted in the Times story) is that, ““We don’t like the practice. We encourage our reporters to push back. Unfortunately this practice is becoming increasingly common, and maybe we have to push back harder.” That strikes me as a timid response and one that doesn’t serve the public very well. We talk about the problem with quotes from press releases and other “overly massaged” types of information.

I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. Is this as bad as I think it is? Or is there an argument to be made for journalists simply accepting this new political landscape?

AN UPDATE: Poynter has been tracking this story over the past couple of days, and today posted this column that includes an interview with Politico editor-in-chief John Harris. It’s worth taking a look at …

Study: Viewers turning to YouTube as news source

According to a study by the The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, YouTube is becoming  “a growing digital environment where professional journalism mingles with citizen content.” It seems much like how Blogs have helped create the explosion of “citizen journalists” and the like, YouTube is turning into another avenue where this form of journalism (if that is what you’d like to call it) is expanding.  YouTube is proving to be an invaluable resource for many individuals seeking first-hand video accounts of things like natural disasters and other high-profile news events. In a way, YouTube is kind of working like Twitter. People are able to quickly upload footage of events at a close to real-time capacity, with little to no editing, to present relevant footage. These “news” videos are like the video version of a Tweet. Also, many news outlets are now taking footage that has been directly uploaded to YouTube by normal citizen users and using that footage in official news videos. As people turn to YouTube videos as a news source, and news sources use YouTube users’ videos, the distinction between professional journalism and citizen journalism further blurs.

I personally think YouTube is a great source to supplement individual’s need for more news and current event-related videos. The ability we now have to access footage of first-hand accounts of events from multiple sources is quite amazing.

*UPDATE – I’m watching CNN right now. A number of top Syrian officials were just killed by a rebel bomb blast. All the video footage CNN is showing is labeled as “YouTube/Amateur Footage” and shows us on-the-scene vantage points of the building on fire and the aftermath of the bomb through shaky handheld cameras. All this footage is being produced by normal citizens, adding to the growing nature of “citizen journalism” (even though these individuals taking the videos and pictures probably don’t necessarily consider themselves as journalists). All of this is an example of the growing presence of YouTube and amateur video in the news and the importance of it. The unprecedented amount of video, audio and photographic evidence we have access to for events that are occurring in real-time is groundbreaking. Take this Syrian bombing story for example. Before the advent of YouTube and easy-access to amateur video online, news outlets would generally not have any video/audio/photographic evidence in a real-time format (or even at all) for something such as this unless they had proactively set up a film crew in the area and anticipated an event beforehand. That, however, is an extremely difficult thing to do with most news events, especially ones related to disaster and violence. In this case, YouTube videos are feeding directly into the story being carried by major news outlets. As viewers, we are seeing events occur and unfold in a much more timely manner than ever before thanks to websites like YouTube.

Bloomberg app for business journalists (Blackberry and iPad)

While I was working in finance (at Bloomberg) I did not have a blackberry torch or an iPad. Now that I have both, I do not work anymore in finance and have no need for any financial apps. However, there is a good chance I will produce a business related show where I can combine my passions for economics and news or write commentary on market conditions. In addition, as an avid Economist reader, I noticed many of the journalists use charts and data from Bloomberg to accompany their commentary. I have done so myself when I worked at Bloomberg, but I did not need an app since I had direct access to Bloomberg’s data terminal.

There are several Bloomberg apps and I picked the one which would help me most as a professional producer of a business program for television. If you work in finance you must always be up to date on the latest information on what is going on in the various financial markets. If you are a business journalist or producer of a news show it is part of your job responsibility. I had the phone version for a while, which I never used. I do not remember if it came as a default option with the phone or I downloaded it myself, but if you are looking for a business app to add to your phone, I recommend it. There are many features and I focused on two: data and news feeds.

Data: the app is great for a quick summary of the benchmark indices such as the Dow Jones and S&P 500. It provides currency exchange rates for the most traded currencies. It also has an icon for each asset class where you can click and find more detailed information. There is even a ‘stock finder’  which is a search engine for equities.   However, the app lacks a search engine for other asset classes. For equities there are features such as a data table following the top ‘leaders’ and top ‘laggers’ .  There is also an option to view charts with historical performance over 1d, 1m, 6m, 1 yr, and 5 yr, (day, month,and year). This is not helpful for me personally since my area of interest is commodities and currencies.

Real time news feeds: this is a great feature for a producer of a business news show. It’s a great way to keep up to date on news makers and find potential guests for a television show, especially considering the time sensitivity.  The news section is divided into rubrics. There are various user-friendly breakdowns such as geography, sector, opinion, sustainability, and health care.

I would give it a 4 (out of 5) for the reasons mentioned above.


“App” Test: AudioBoo online recording device

In browsing some online journalism tools today, I came across this British site, It’s basically an online recording device with a focus on social media. You can record anything up to three minutes for free, and you can pay 60 British pounds per year for AudioBoo Plus to record for up to 30 minutes. When you finish recording, you can upload immediately to Twitter or Facebook. The site itself has a social media format — you can have followers and follow others as in Twitter and blogging sites, and you can chat with other AudioBoo users. You can also browse popular, featured or “trending” audio clips.

In addition to recording clips directly, you can upload audio files from your computer and share them on your social media sites through AudioBoo — so even if you forget to use AudioBoo during your next interview, you can link to it on your social media later.

In terms of “new media,” I think AudioBoo is a fantastic way to record interviews or even breaking news for immediate release to social media sites. It could work like a radio station, but instead of a constant stream that listeners have to “stay tuned” to, the content would be broken up into small audio clips which viewers would originally find on Twitter.

I tested AudioBoo by recording a story about Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France and posting it to my Twitter account. This strategy gave people a quick and easy way to listen to breaking Tour news without searching for it specifically on the VeloNews website. If a news organization were to use AudioBoo, I would recommend upgrading to AudioBoo Plus so as to not be limited to three-minute clips; on the other hand, that short time span forces long-winded journalists to be concise, which keeps listeners interested throughout the whole clip.

The only problem I ran into when using AudioBoo was that the loading of the audio clip after I recorded it was sometimes slow. I’m not sure if that’s a problem with my own computer or with the site, but I had to completely close out one of my recordings and start over because it was taking so long.

I tested AudioBoo on my laptop, but the device is also available as an app for Android, iPhone and Nokia. If you have a mic on your phone, tablet or computer, I would recommend using AudioBoo — because, as the site’s tagline goes, “sound is social.”

Social Networks and Journalism?

Networks such as Twitter and Reddit are often criticized for being the source of nefarious rumors and false news reports, including a false conclusion on the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act by CNN.

But as misreports and errors can spread quicker than in print news, they can also be publicly vetted for accuracy. When George Mason University students deliberately created fake Wikipedia entries they used these pages as a veneer of credibility for websites, YouTube videos, and other sources. Reddit users spotted the fake in less than half an hour. Several users first found the hoaxes and like white blood cells on an pathogen, they swarmed on the fakes.

As Yoni Appelbaum describes in a post at The Atlantic: “The Wikipedia articles had been posted and edited by a small group of new users. Finding documents in an old steamer trunk sounded too convenient. And why had Lisa been savvy enough to ask Reddit, but not enough to Google the names and find the Wikipedia entries on her own? The hoax took months to plan but just minutes to fail.”

In a research paper entitled “Tweets and Truth,” University of British Columbia journalism professor Alfred Hermida speculates that Twitter can bus used in a similar way to fact-check news in something approaching real time.

Is there anyway that social media and journalism could find a symbiotic relationships?

Poynter’s McBride on covering the Penn State report

I’m sure most of you know that the report of the investigation into the Sandusky scandal — the independent one commissioned by Penn State University trustees and conducted by a panel led by former FBI director Louis Freeh — was released today. It’s pretty damning in terms of what it says about Penn State officials, including Joe Paterno. And it’s certainly newsworthy.

But, as Kelly McBride points out in this column on the Poynter website, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that this story has an impact beyond Sandusky or Paterno’s legacy or Penn State or even Sandusky’s victims (though they are certainly going through their own traumas as a result of the news coverage). McBride reminds us that one in four women and one in six men have been sexually abused before they turn 18, and that stories like this can have impacts on these victims as well, and she talks about how to more responsibly cover the Sandusky scandal and the Freeh report (and, by extension) other stories like this one.

It’s worth a few minutes to take a look at what McBride is suggesting … especially, in my opinion, our tendency to soften the language so that readers don’t get offended or put off. But in doing that — by using words like ‘molest’ or ‘fondle’ instead of ‘child rape’ — we also make it seem less traumatic than it is.

Revisiting the viability of paywalls

Much has already been written about the fiscal future of newspapers and the business models that will ultimately prevail. But in light of a report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Steve Myers wrote an article on the Poynter website that re-examines the viability of paywalls (the charging for online content).

Myers points out that three of the top five papers in the last six months, in terms of highest increase in Sunday circulation, utilize some form of paywall. In contrast, the five papers that saw the biggest drop in daily circulation offer their online content for free.

While some papers like The New York Times have used a paywall for some time now, other notable publications are beginning to follow suit — The Los Angeles Times put up a paywall a few months ago and The Chicago Tribune plans to do the same. Myers doesn’t necessarily propose that paywalls are the solution to the industry’s woes, but an interesting question is raised: are readers increasingly willing to pay for the news they get from the web?

A post by Brent Lang on The Wrap website takes the position that paywalls will become a bigger trend among papers, but that the figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations can be misleading:

“The rise in circulation may be partly attributable to a complicated new set of rules by the Audit Bureau of Circulations that may allow newspapers to count the same subscriber multiple times if they pay to access articles over more than one device.”

Although there are exceptions, I used to be of the mind that paywalls will largely fail as long as readers could easily travel to other sites that didn’t charge for online content.

Are paywalls still a model that only a few papers can utilize successfully? Or are they more viable to a broader range of publications now? Would you be willing to open your wallet for access to online news?