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Day 1092: Live From Rising Tide 3 – Journalism Panel

Back from a fine J’anita’s lunch of spicy BBQ and a Diet Coke. Thanks, Craig and The Beautiful Kim! Also back from telling a couple of people to stay calm. Me?! What’s the world coming to?

Panelists, from left to right:
· Lee Zurik: WWL-TV investigative reporter
· Kevin Allman: author, journalist, and blogger, frequent guest blogger at Gambit’s Blog of New Orleans
· Eli Ackerman: blogger at We Could Be Famous
· David Winkler-Schmit: journalist and frequent contributor to Gambit Weekly and the Blog of New Orleans

Jeffrey introduces the panelists, reads the following excerpt from David Simon’s Does The News Matter To Anyone Any More? and asks the panelists their opinion of it.

… I understand the economic pressures on newspapers. At this point, along with the rest of the wood-pulp Luddites, I’ve grasped that what was on the Internet wasn’t merely advertising for journalism, but the journalism itself. And though I fled the profession a decade ago for the fleshpots of television, I’ve heard tell of the horrors of department-store consolidation and the decline in advertising, of Craigslist and Google and Yahoo. I understand the vagaries of Wall Street, the fealty to the media-chain stockholders, the primacy of the price-per-share.

What I don’t understand is this: Isn’t the news itself still valuable to anyone? In any format, through any medium — isn’t an understanding of the events of the day still a salable commodity?

Zurik, Allman and Eli don’t think ads influence them, but Winkler-Schmit admits that it is required to keep his job going, his paper running and television stations on the air.

Kevin Allman wants us to check out Robert Smigel’s scathing animation against NBC’s parent company, General Electric. Here is the VIDEO.

Applause for Zurik’s journalism with reciprocation from Zurik. Zurik lauds the efforts of Karen, Sarah and Eli in getting the story out.


Eli suggests that internet democratizes the news more so than papers. Zurik disagrees and contends that the shrinking newspaper and cutting staff is not a good thing. Internet news and mainstream media news cannot be conflated. Mainstream media cannot do investigative journalism in the same way. Mainstream media, however, “has real power and access, but blogs and MSM can be complementary.”

Now, they’re talking about Bill Moyers’s feelings on the media of the future:

… By 2011, the market analysts tell us, the Internet will surpass newspapers in advertising revenues. With MySpace and Dow Jones controlled by News Corporation“s Rupert Murdoch, Microsoft determined to acquire Yahoo!, and with advertisers already telling some bloggers, Your content is unacceptable, we could potentially lose what“s now considered an unstoppable long tail of content offering abundant, new, credible and sustainable sources of news and information.

So, what will happen to news in the future, as the already tattered boundaries between journalism and advertising is dispensed with entirely and as content programming, commerce and online communities are rolled into one profitably attractive package?

Allman says, “There’s nothing progressive about Arianna Huffington [who wants to pay bloggers nothing to write at her space]. She is turning into the faux-progressive equivalent of Drudge.” Read Kevin Allman’s posts tagged “Write for free!” to get the back story on why he is not happy with Huffington. Eli says it’s too early to say if the whole internet is going to be corporatized, but there are no Democratic candidates promoting net neutrality.

Now Jeff asks, “What is ultimately the quality of content when you’ve cut the budget to that degree?” He had something else to ask but had a brain fart so Kevin is giving us a story about Sam Zell. When asked if a paper should have advertising containing adult content, Zell is said to have stated to a number of employees, “What kind of man doesn’t want to look at pussy?” Very derogatory, very whorish on his own part. Winkler-Schmit says people like Zell want to “make sausage” and don’t care about content. Zurik comes back that it’s better to invest in quality journalism because publishing crap is ultimately not worth it. Eli says, “The cream of the crop rises to the top.”

Winkler-Schmit brings up how the NOAH story was broken. Zurik is upset that the biggest consumer reaction actually came from Nagin’s dismissive response to media questioning. He does not like that “the sex appeal of this story” comes from Nagin.

Forgot everything said in the last few minutes once Zurik said, “I read your blogs. My eyebrows are real! I don’t get them waxed!” Room almost explodes in laughter.

Q&A time. BTW, Sophmom’s blog is back up and she is liveblogging, so if you want to read another perspective on the Journalism panel, go to DotCalm.

Mark LaFlaur asks a great question: How do we take all these instances of internet/citizen journalism and have them rise to the top? How do we increase visibility? This is a question I brought up towards the end of my civic activism panel last year. Eli talks about Daily Kos diary and TPM Diary.

Varg brings up how one can’t be taken seriously when leaving anonymous comments. Much derision for the unmoderated, bigoted cesspool that is the Comments section of NOLA.com blog posts. Read my post on mainstream media blogs for context. Eli says, “If you’re too racist for talk radio, you turn to the NOLA.com comments section.”

Adrastos tells Zurik that the bloggers are going to start a band called “Lee Zurik’s Eyebrows.”

Clancy DuBos, “reborn as a blogger,” reiterates Simon’s question, “Does anyone give a shit about real news any more?” The panel says that people generally tune out when the news is too heavy. Allman says, “What people want are hard local complicated news and Saints football.”

7 comments… add one
  • slate August 23, 2008, 3:55 PM

    Thanks so much Maitri. I’m still here and the carpenter is still NOT. He was supposed to be here at 8:30AM. I had hoped to make it at least for the afternoon panels, but it’s not gonna happen. I can’t thank you enough for your reporting. I don’t feel quite as bad about missing it since I can keep up thanks to your inimitable lightning fast fingers!

  • Kevin August 23, 2008, 10:17 PM

    Great wrapup, Maitri (as were all your others – you’ve done a service to all those who couldn’t be at the conference).

    The Zell quote…sigh. Yeah, he said it. To a newsroom full of his female employees. This is the guy who now owns the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune.

    Read all about him: http://www.tellzell.com/

    On a personal note: it was a true pleasure to meet you and talk to the woman who writes so many beautiful words.

  • dangerblond August 24, 2008, 11:22 AM

    Thanks, Maitri, for the great RT coverage. Even all the technical problems (my odd little host went down for the first time in the four years I’ve been blogging there:/), couldn’t stop this from having been the best RT ever. Trying to let it all soak in this Sunday morning, you’ve made that easier with these posts. Thanks again and it was great to see y’all.

  • dangerblond August 24, 2008, 11:23 AM

    Oooops… umm… this isn’t Dangerblond. This is Sophmom on Dangerblond’s computer.

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