Friday, June 19, 2009

Browsing ideas for Boston's news future

In August the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication will make Boston the scene of its annual convention.
Newcomers might want to start browsing through these two serious discussions of possible futures for The Boston Globe. Both authors suggest paying more attention to the company's Web site.

(If you haven't been following the drama, the Globe is currently owned by The New York Times, which has put it up for sale after rough negotiations with the paper's unions.)
The newspaper's section of the Globe Web site is technically
For more browsing: The Globe's main competition is The Boston Herald. One or both of those articles mention a third daily, a free paper aimed mostly at subway-riders, the Metro.

The city's old-established "alternative" weekly is The Phoenix. When I lived there 10 years ago an alternative-alternative was just getting started, the Weekly Dig, probably a reference to the city's "Big Dig" monumental tunnel-building that was going on at the time.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A risible or banal glut of shibboleths for the feckless?

If you have accidentally double-clicked on any word in an online New York Times story recently, you've seen a question-mark icon indicating that one more click will get you a definition of the word. That's a huge improvement over the previous version of the "feature," which went straight to the dictionary after that second click, interrupting anyone with a twitchy mouse finger, including a journalism professor trying to highlight a well-turned phrase or tightly-edited lead for class discussion.
But here's another bonus: Now that a good many of those mistaken clicks have been eliminated, the Times is able to compile a list of the words people look up... including some word choices that aren't in the news writing textbooks.
  • My favorite copy editor, Pam Robinson, at Words at Work, found most of these links, including a "Wordle" map of the terms and a list of reasonably correct definitions, rescued from the depths of Metafilter's discussion thread.
No word on when the Times might add the click-for-definition feature to the print edition.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finding time for life and "Life Inc."

Summer reading: I think it was the Frontline documentary "Merchants of Cool" that first put Douglass Rushkoff's reporting and analysis on my radar. I hope I can make time this summer for his new book, Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back. The book is a call for small-scale activism, for local community, for "reconnecting with real people, places, and value."

(Will people will only see the first two words of the title and assume it's about a photo magazine, a breakfast cereal, or a board game?)

Here's a "Merchants of Cool" crossover observation from one of the Life Inc. online chapter excerpts:
"With no other choice available, we grow up partnering with corporations for our very identities. A kid's selection of sneaker brand says more about him than his creative- writing assignments do, and is approached with greater care."
Along with the sample chapters, this is the first book I've noticed using online video previews... (The first one starts with a 15-second burst of tuning-across-the-dial static, which almost convinced me the clip or my Web connection was faulty, but the noise goes away.)

Episodic videos on Vimeo:

Life Inc. Dispatch 01: Crisis as Opportunity from Douglas Rushkoff on Vimeo.

More at

A blurb from another of my favorite authors:
“Read this book if you want to understand how the current economic meltdown started 400 years ago, how so much of what you consider to be a natural evolution of daily life was carefully designed to profit a few, and how corporatism has so colonized every part of life that most of us don’t even recognize how our lives and fortunes are channeled and manipulated by it. Rushkoff is going to be attacked as a communist, but that gets his point wrong. Look at his references — he has meticulously documented his argument. I love that Rushkoff isn’t afraid to think big — very big. He took on the media more than a decade ago. Then he took on Judaism. But now he’s chosen a larger target — the corporation.” -- Howard Rheingold - author, Smart Mobs

So, is Rushkoff out to start a movement? I'd say yes, but he says no -- at least from the excerpts I've skimmed -- that the whole point is to work close to home, "reinvesting in local reality"...
"We’d each like to launch a national movement, create the website that teaches the world how to build community from the bottom up, develop the curriculum that saves public schools, or devise the clever antimarketing media campaign that breaks the spell of advertising once and for all... The temptation to save the whole world—and get the credit—comes at the expense of steps we might better take to make our immediate world a more fruitful, engaging, sustainable, and satisfying place."