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Google was recently denied the chance to create a massive online digital library by a New York judge, a decision that either stopped a monopolization of the publishing industry or robbed millions of people of the chance to read rare books http://yhoo.it/fNuVxQ.  However, the real verdict depends on your own opinion of Google laying claim to millions of published works. Would it be so bad to see a massive digital library, populated with books both old and new in an effort to expose readers to new and unheard of titles? Or is Google simply trying to gobble up the entire publishing industry while pretending to be a savior of forgotten literature?

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I personally think that having an entire library of titles available online would be a great resource for people whose local libraries are inadequate or for those who simply can’t afford to buy their favorite books. Everyone is always complaining about how no one reads books anymore, so why not try giving them away for free? If this works, than maybe a paywall-type system can be instituted, so that readers can “subscribe” to the Google library?

And just because Google wants to make all published works available online, that doesn’t necessarily mean that people will stop purchasing paper-bound books. Personally, I hate reading on a computer screen for a long period of time, and I can’t afford an e-reader. For people like me, traditional print books are something that can never be replaced.

So do I think an all-encompassing Google library is a good idea? Definitely. But, like all things, it is a concept that needs to be smoothed out before being implemented. I really think that having obscure titles available online would really increase readership, and help to slow the so called “dumbing down” of America. With a paywall type system in place, publishers who negotiate with Google in order to perfect this system may find that something that once seemed so scary may actually turn out to be the publishing industries greatest helper.

But for now, I guess I’ll just have to keep photocopying my bo0ks from the public library.

On Thursday night I attended the News Literacy Conference discussion with Ken Auletta and Dean Howard Schneider, and I honestly thought I was going to be bored. However, within five minutes I found myself raptly listening as these two experienced journalists discussed the present and future status of the news industry.

I had never heard of Ken Auletta before (I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a copy of The New Yorker) but found him to be a very interesting person with a keen eye for spotting trends in the news industry. Dean Schneider and Auletta first discussed the speed with which technology is evolving, which really helped me to put into perspective how far the news gathering and distributing process has come in the past century.

Another interesting topic of discussion was the problems that have arisen in the publishing industry with eBooks. While Auletta agreed that the lower price of eBooks is good for consumers in the short term, he made some excellent points as to why these same benefits could eventually harm consumers and the news industry as a whole in the long run.

One of the most interesting things that Auletta said during the course of the conversation was that “the news media is no longer in control of its own destiny.” I completely agree with this statement- it seems like more and more news organizations are simply trying to stay afloat with the current web advertising model and are failing to try unique and unorthodox new payment models. If the news media keeps playing follow-the-leader, it could be years before we as an industry are able to find a payment system that allows journalists to do quality work and be well resourced.

Auletta also talked about his concept that “Journalism is a kind of seduction without the sex,” meaning that a reporter has to almost “seduce” their subjects in order to get information from them. Aside from being very funny, I found that this statement is for the most part very accurate. In a way, the reporter himself can become seduced by the thrill and satisfaction that comes from producing excellent stories and informing the public through their expertise.

In closing, Auletta said that the new generation of journalists has to stand up and show people the kind of news that is important to them, such as the need for better and more extensive international coverage. Auletta said he understood why the media can be drawn to celebrity stories for easy ratings, but said that journalists need to tell Americans to “eat their peas” so to speak.

I walked away from this session feeling very enlightened and inspired by Auletta’s words. He managed to inspire in me a sense that journalism is not just about getting accurate information – it’s also about helping people to understand why this information is necessary to their everyday lives.

 

 

Any journalist worth his salt has been covering the crisis developing in  Japan this past week. The horrific earthquake and the ensuing tsunami have captivated international audiences and have raised questions about the safety of nuclear power.  Of the many the news outlets that I have been following this week, I have to say that NPR has had the best coverage.

NPR is great for me because I can listen to the news on my commute to school, and the depth and variety of their stories has helped me to see the nuclear crisis through many different lenses. The Morning Edition show of NPR often has correspondents reporting from around the world, and this week the majority of the reports have been from Japan as different correspondents weigh in on the situation as it unfolds.

I was really impressed with the many nuclear experts that NPR has featured on Morning Edition, and I find their stories to be the most concise and informative of all the news networks. I haven’t been a regular listener of NPR until recently, but I find more and more each day that I really value their coverage of international topics.

A lot of times, I find that just by listening to NPR for a half an hour in the morning that I am able to obtain enough of the day’s news to supplement my reading of the Times and television news. For instance, I watched the ABC World Evening News tonight and found that I had already heard most of the stories after having listened to NPR on my way home.

Although I feel that most news organizations are doing a stellar job of covering the potential nuclear crisis in Japan, I have been especially impressed with the coverage done by NPR. In my opinion, radio journalism is massively overlooked in this day and age, and NPR proves that just because the technology is old, it doesn’t mean it isn’t still useful.

With the release of the Ipad 2 this morning, analysts are predicting that the new device may sell 600,000 units in a single weekend (http://bloom.bg/hSOJPe ).  The new device is thinner and features two cameras for video conferencing.

The predicted sales of the Ipad 2 seem to confirm the rise of the tablet as the most popular portable device, as was discussed by Josh Quittner in class on Wednesday. However, how does the popularity of the Ipad 2 affect journalism? Will more consumers begin buying digital magazines on their new devices, and regularly using news apps, such as the one provided by the New York Times?

I have so far been extremely impressed with the Ipad (and all Apple products for that matter). I think that once the prices of digital newspapers and magazines come down to a more socially acceptable price, that people will begin to purchase them in greater numbers. Websites that allow me to read my favorite magazine and newspaper articles for free are great, but they have never been able to capture the unique and timeless layout of a printed magazine or newspaper. There is something so elegant and satisfying about a good magazine that I think has been impossible to emulate until now.

With the large screens on most tablets on the market, magazine layouts can finally be aranged more traditionally than their website brethren. I would love to be able to get my hands on a great digital magazine that looks and reads like a traditional printed magazine.

While I don’t think the Ipad 2 will be the end all and be all of tablet devices, I think it is definitely a step in the right direction.  With tablets’ ability to play flash video and much more, it might even be plausible to see a digital magazine with a video clip embedded rather than a static picture. The possibilities for  digital magazines are very exciting, and hopefully the creators of such apps will take these possibilities into consideration in the future.

If Justin Beiber can become an overnight sensation because of YouTube, who’s to say that the next Steven Spielberg won’t be found there too?

Google, the owner of YouTube, has purchased the web video company Next New Video for $50 million dollars, as announced on Monday (http://nyti.ms/gB2TI9). Next New Video is a website through which users can create their own videos and distribute them for profit.

The acquisition of Next New Video may turn out to be a huge success for YouTube. When most people think of YouTube videos, some of the first things that come to mind are dogs on skateboards and other America’s Funniest Home Video type of clips. However, genuinely talented people have been discovered on YouTube, including Justin Beiber (like him or not) and the newest lead singer of the rock band Journey.

Professional, full length videos on YouTube might be the start of independently produced feature films, news shows, and even accurate newscasts by citizen journalists. Much like public access TV gave regular Americans access to a television audience, YouTube has given people all over the world the chance to get exposure on an international level. I’m actually shocked that more directors and citizen journalists haven’t been discovered already.

I think the acquisition of Next New Video by YouTube is a great thing. By giving people easy access to software that allows them to create professional grade videos instead of amateurish gag clips, more and more budding journalists and film directors will surely begin to make their work known. The world has seen enough silly viral videos and teen idols gain popularity from YouTube – Bring on the award winning online journalists and Oscar winning directors.

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This morning I read a very interesting article from the New York Times about a battle that had taken place in the town of Brega, Libya between Colonel Quaddafi’s military forces and the opposition group (http://nyti.ms/gJuu0o). The reporter, David Kirkpatrick, was able to give a detailed eyewitness account of the battle, which, although I found to be poorly written, was very interesting and colorful.

The rebels fighting against Quaddafi’s forces in Libya have made some significant gains in the past weeks, but many fear that the growing power of Quaddafi’s military will soon overtake the freedom fighters. Even though the opposition forces were able to push back the military today, the battle is becoming increasingly more difficult.

I really wish that the United Nations would do more to help the people of Libya. I understand that the United States is in a tough position right now, but I feel that it is wrong to let these injustices go unpunished. Furthermore, we may be able to gain some much needed allies in the Middle East if we were to step in and help the freedom fighters retake Libya from Quaddafi’s forces.

Every day that the fighting continues, more and more innocent people are dying for their cause. In order to help restore balance to the Middle East, we need to intervene to help rid the people of Libya from their oppressive dictator.

The events in the Middle East have shocked the international community. Hopefully with enough aid from the United Nations and the United States, the people of Libya can return to their daily lives, and we can reestablish the relative tranquility in the Middle East. What America does or does not do in the next few weeks may determine the political outcome of the region, as well as influence the rest of the world’s politcal relationships.

With the federal budget in its current state, it’s understandable that some major cuts have to be made across all areas, including public news. However, some Republicans are proposing cuts to PBS and NPR that could severely cripple these American institutions. An article in yesterday’s New York Times (http://nyti.ms/fBWDPH) explains some reasons for these budgetary cuts and the history of the struggle between government and public radio (apparently, this sort of thing has been going on for years).

I’m very concerned about what may happen if government funding is cut for public news stations. I’ve finally begun listening to NPR, and I find their coverage of the news to be good enough to supplement a good deal of my newspaper reading. It is also highly convenient to listen to NPR on the radio on my way to school and work as opposed to reading a newspaper. I have heard some very interesting and unique stories on NPR, most notably a phone interview with a 50 yr old Libyan businessman in the midst of gunfire from protesters.

While I don’t regularly watch PBS, I agree with what Patricia Harrison, the chief of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said about public news in the New York Times article:

She cited her experience running a small business as evidence that it was possible to cut too deeply, and equated public broadcasting to the Statue of Liberty, noting that even if Americans did not always visit, they wanted to know that it was there.

“It’s not always about numbers,” she said.

I feel like PBS and NPR are American Institutions that are worth fighting for. After all, public radio and public news in general has remained a reliable source for news, and should be held to the standard of other larger, better known news providers such as the New York Times or the Wall St. Journal.

I was shocked to hear that on Friday the Libyan government completely shut down the internet, initially confining all of its citizens from communicating with the outside world. According to an article from the Huffington Post, however, it seems that Libya’s internet is now back up and running.

This was the same strategy used in Egypt just a few weeks ago, and it seems to smack of desperation on the part of the government. It seems like a sure sign that a government is losing control when they have to restrict all outside communications via the internet.

However, the situation in Libya is a great deal worse than the protests in Egypt that led the the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak. Col. Gaddafi, the leader of Libya, has exercised violence against the protesters, and many have been killed thus far. Even though the protests in Libya are following in the footsteps of Egypt, the government seems to be going a decidedly different route.

Who knows what may happen in the next days and weeks? Hopefully the shutting down of the internet will be the least of the protesters’ worries. I’ll be carefully monitoring the news to hear about any of the latest developments in Libya and the surrounding nations.

Sources:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/18/libya-internet-shut-down-_n_825473.html

I just read an article in the LA Times which stated that Fox News and Al Jazeera.net have received a large increase in ratings and unique site viewers in the US, respectively, because of the events happening in Egypt during the past week. The story went on to say that the Fox nightly news and Al Jazeera.net gained more viewers, while other news networks such as CNN and NBC news earned slightly lower ratings.

This story is a perfect example of Americans flock to news outlets in times of crisis, such as September 12th, 2001. Although the situation in Egypt was no way near as dire or close to home as the terror attacks of September 11th, the story was still large enough internationally to draw significantly audiences to reliable news sources.

However, its understandably strange why Fox News and Al Jazeera.net would become more popular, while CNN and other network news would lose popularity. Do Americans really think that Fox news is the most reliable and objectionable source for television news? I certainly don’t think so.

Whatever the reason for the increase in news viewership, for nothing else I’m glad that more Americans were interested in the turmoil in the Middle East. In a world where we have unlimited access to news, it is nice to know that at least some Americans are taking advantage of the various sources available to them.

Sources:
http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/the_big_picture/2011/02/al-jazeera-fox-log-biggest-audience-jumps-during-egypt-crisis.html

I was shocked to hear this morning that Lara Logan, the chief foreign correspondant for CBS news was sexually assaulted on Friday while covering the celebrations in Egypt. According to an article posted on CBS.com, Logan was surrounded by an angry mob and sexually assaulted before a group of women and Egyptian soldiers were able to reunite her with her camera crew.

I didn’t imagine that such a senseless act of violence would occur now that Mr. Mubarak has stepped down from office, especially since most of the protestors in Egypt are now celebrating their newfound freedom. I would have expected something like this to have happened last week, when the protests were still going strong, and public opionion was more heavily split. It is a terrible shame that something like this would happen to an american journalist, and just goes to reinforce the point that american journalists covering international topics need to be extra careful when reporting on volatile situations.

Incidents like this make me question whether or not I would want to be a foreign correspondant. I understand the importance of good coverage, but is a story worth my life? In this day and age, americans have become something of a public enemy in countries in the Middle East, where the struggle for democracy is often turbulent and violent. Hopefully, conditions will continue to the point that aspiring journalists like myself do not have to fear covering foreign stories.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/02/15/60minutes/main20032070.shtml