The next miracle (v11.1): Owen Youngman

Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy, Medill / Northwestern

Owen YoungmanOwen YoungmanOwen Youngman

Expiation, top 10 style

So I could fill up perfectly good space with all the reasons why I allowed the dog to eat my homework, leading to my not posting anything of value over the last week or so.  (I did waste some perfectly good blogging time writing one of those insidious, invidious Facebook quizzes, but decided it wasn’t such a waste after all when 341 people had taken it within 48 hours…and I had only directly promoted it to 4. Add end to monograph on viral marketing.  And then there was the WordPress upgrade that didn’t go well.)

Anyway, all of the following items wanted me to write about them – but I didn’t.  I’m thinking that if I ‘fess up, I can start fresh tomorrow.

10. I still think I want to turn this into a different sort of online quiz because there are lots of perfectly good words in here, as well as some that are, well, fecklessly louche.  N.Y. Times mines its data to identify words that readers find abstruse » Nieman Journalism Lab.

9. L. Gordon Crovitz, on the Op-Ed page, quotes Jeffrey Matsuura: “Intellectual property rights were not goals in and of themselves, but were instead a mechanism through which society attempted to facilitate creative collaboration.” Why Technologists Want Fewer Patents – WSJ.com.

8. “A modified version of the Internet’s communications protocol, devised for interplanetary use, is being tested by spacecraft.” via Monitor: Dot Mars | The Economist.

7.  “[S]ome postal officials are pushing for a fundamental change: five-day delivery.” via Post Office Looks to Scale Back – WSJ.com.

6.  Some dandy back-and-forth between two of my favorite Steves, Outing and Yelvington.  And then more great stuff from Brother Y after a trip to Minneapolis.

silentswitch5. Too many stories on iPhone 3.0 were written for anyone in the universe (whether the currently known universe, and or any portion thereof that is not yet discovered or explored) to write anything new or interesting or of the remotest value.  So I wanted to write about how silly I found it when the “ring/silent switch” fell off my iPhone 3G, what has to be a $0.01 piece of material, and the friendly folks at the Genius Bar handed me a new phone instead of reattaching the switch.  But I didn’t.  And I now I did.  (As I did manage to tweet, I am still ROTFL.)

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The death of ‘place,’ the death of papers

Richard Rodriguez: "The civic fabric has been ruptured." Richard Rodriguez: “The civic fabric has been ruptured.”

I don’t think the Chronicle is dying so much as I think that San Francisco is dying. When a metropolitan newspaper of that magnitude  stops publication it indicates that there has been a death of the metropolitan ideal.

via Richard Rodriguez: The Death of the SF Chronicle – NAM.

In 1995, Witold Rybczynski published his classic assessment of the devolopment of the American city, City Life. One reason I remember it so clearly is his long lool at Chicago, where “in many ways twentieth-century urbanism got its start.”  More famously, of course, he argued that it was perfectly OK that American cities were not at all like Paris. He refers only glancing to the role of newspapers, though many writers have documented the ways in which the fates and fortunes of cities and their newspapers have always been intertwined.

I was reminded of all this today when I encountered an interview with Richard Rodriguez, the American writer whose prominence stems partly from  his memoir Hunger of Memory and partly from his ideas about ethnicity and identity, at the website of New America Media.

The edited transcript (and the whole interview, provided as an MP3 on the site) constitute a powerful alternative take on 2009′s inescapable “death of journalism” discussions, articles, posts, and memorial services.  Not because the idea is entirely sui generis, obviously; if newspapers and cities grew together, it might well follow that they might die together. But because of Rodriguez’s argument that “Americans are going to news outlets, not for what news used to provide — the sense of the local, the sense of the parochial, the sense of this place–but rather almost as an escape from place.”  In fact, he says that even the metaphors we use about the Internet – “the ether,” “cyberspace,” “the superhighway” – are “almost against the spatial.”

imagesThe jumping-off point is a question about the San Francisco Chronicle, as are several of the examples and explanations Rodriguez cites.  But Rodriguez’s thesis is as much about the idea of a city as it is about the fate of The City, and it summoned up for me a definition of a city that I think I learned in philosophy class: a community founded on common acceptance of social norms.

When I Googled this last idea today, I was reminded that this is close to the Stoic idea of a city, as a community of virtuous people, “something morally good” (Clement of Alexandria).  Does it follow that if a city dies, the moral good that newspapers can do must die with it?  I’m not ready to go there yet.  But let me give the last words to Rodriguez, and then you can go read or listen yourself at one of the links above:

“The civic fabric has been ruptured. It may be 30 years in the making, but it’s happened now, and we blame the Internet or we blame computers; we blame children because they have an addiction to buttons instead of to paper. But these are really afterthoughts.  These are not the reasons the newspapers are dying…By the 1980′s, there already is the sense that San Francisco is losing interest in itself….People tend not to know what they need until they lose it.”

The (fast) company we keep

Its just one revolutionary interface after another......

It's just one revolutionary interface after another......

When last we looked in on the Internet-era magazine Fast Company, it was 2005 and the Gruner + Jahr division of Bertelsmann was unloading it.  And we do mean “unload”:  According to the New York Times archives, Chicago’s own Joe Mansueto (Morningstar Inc.) picked up both Fast Company and Inc. for $35 million, leaving G+J with a return of -93% on the $571 million it spent to buy them (from separate owners).

There’s quite a bit more to say about the old Fast Company, but today I’m focusing on the new one because my fellow North Park University trustee Chuck Eklund (@ChazEk on Twitter, if you’re scoring at home) pointed me to this piece:

With newspapers’ traditional business model in free fall, the top media minds at global design firm IDEO (designer of the Apple mouse, consultant to Fortune 500 companies) were asked to imagine: How will we get our news after the traditional model falls apart? Here’s their answer.

via News Flash From the Future: What Will Journalism Look Like? | Fast Company.

Some of what you’ll find at the link are paragraphs that exist largely to live next to the eye-catching art from IDEO (“The next four pages showcase two environments that put the future of news in the context of our daily lives,” says the text cheerfully).  Others of its assertions seem just flat wrong already.  But more than a few of the ideas are more than pie in the sky; they’re actually news flashes from … the present.

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