Miscellany of the moment

  • Over at MediaShift’s Idea Lab blog, where as a Knight News Challenge grantee I’m posting occasionally, I’ve published a discussion of an interesting problem we’re grappling with at MediaBugs: How do you organize a set of categories for all the different kinds of mistakes journalists can make? Do weigh in over there and help us sort out this epistemological puzzle!
  • Andrew Leonard had a fine take on the Duran Duran guy’s complaint that easy access to the musical past devalues the present and inhibits innovation:

    But rather than worry about whether the Internet is exerting a baleful influence, I think we just need to make our peace with the fact that every new technology creates a different space for cultural practice. Duran Duran without cable television or a high-end production studio is simply unthinkable. Recording technologies enabled the commodification of musical performance on a mass basis. Networked computers have crippled the profitability of that commodification. The adventure is ongoing.

    Perhaps the digitally-enabled overhang of the cultural production of previous generations is a heavy burden. But I guarantee you that those artists who do break free of its restrictions, and can come up with something interesting to say, will be easier to find and easier to enjoy than any pioneers of any previous era were.

    Nick Carr’s is worth reading too:

    Taylor argues that, when it comes to music or any other form of art, the price of our “endless present” is the loss of a certain “magical power” that the artist was once able to wield over the audience. I suspect he’s right.

    Carr seems a little bummed about that price, but I’m more sanguine: Our culture had swung way too far in the direction of artist worship anyway. Less fetishization of the purchased object and the personality who produced it is fine with me.

  • Megan Garber’s piece in CJR on the Pacific garbage patch story funded by Spot.us and appearing in the NYTimes sparked an extended debate in the small but vocal world of new-media journalism punditry. The framing of Garber’s piece, in particular the headline, positioned it as a critique of Spot.us for failing to “deliver” a New York Times piece of sufficient quality. But the body of the piece made the far more useful argument that the garbage-patch reporter, “Garbage Girl” Lindsey Hoshaw, shone far more brightly in the daily blog she produced than in the relatively conventional Times feature.

    To me, it looks like Hoshaw gave the Times what it doubtless asked for in terms of fairly impersonal feature writing. The Times’s reluctance to capitalize on — or even link to! — the blog indicates the limits of its own willingness to embrace new modes of journalism far more than any problems or failures in the Spot.us model.

    Hoshaw’s postmortem is worth reading in full, but this comment stands out:

    And the most rewarding part of the Spot.us project was getting to meet some of the donors in person before I left, listening to their ideas, writing to them on my blog from the middle of the ocean and emailing them when the story came out to celebrate our success.

    I had images of my readers’ faces in my mind while I was at sea and it kept me accountable. These were real people not some unimaginable group called “the public.” I knew their names and I’d met with some of them in person. They were tangible and I thought, “what would Alex think if he knew I blogged on behalf of the ship or that I wasn’t diligent about taking photos at every opportunity?”

    (Full disclosure: I was one of many people who kicked in a small donation via Spot.us to fund the garbage story.)

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