Tuesday May 12, 2009

Multiple Sources and Simple Gadgets

At North Hall, professors constantly remind the students of the importance of multiple sources in getting to the story.

Some 6 years ago, soon after I installed our Free-to-Air (FTA) stallite dish and box, the remote control to the set top box broke. Without a remote control, it was impossible to "program" the box and I had to rely on factory settings for channels and occasional updates through a pre-canned search of the channels.

Last week, I had a brief moment to order a new remote control by phone. It arrived yesterday, and I "programmed" the box yesterday evening to receive FTA channels Press TV (Iran) and Russia Today (Russia). These are both English channels hosted by professional journalists, with quality productions of a whole range of forums and views one rarely finds in British or American mass media. I'm not sure if these channels are also available through community cables.

These days, among other topices, Press TV reports on Iran's presidental elections, 2009. RT is currently broadcasting a whole range of reports, including some from Moscow's Eurovision 2009.

I am also able to receive Al-Jazzira in English and a wide range of Arabic TV. I have had to adjust and search about 4 different satellites for these FTA channels.

A simple little tool, like a proper remote control, can do wonders to one's capabilities to get to things.  Without the remote, it was impossible for me to edit satellite transponder settings.

Tuesday Jan 02, 2007

Breaking The Symmetry

The new design of the paper edition of The Wall Street Journal debuted today, January 2, 2007.  (See L. Gordon Crovitz, "Annual Letter from the Publisher: A Report to Our Readers," WSJ, Jan 2, 2007.) The video report of this change including commentary by Crovitz, managing editor Paul E. Steiger and design consultant Mario Garcia can be found here. These changes may save costs and capture greater readership for The Wall Street Journal.

The editors and publishers have written a whole section defending the new design and font on the paper edition.  They note that the new design comes in response to readers' feedback and the realities of online information distribution, including the evolving role of the online edition of the Journal itself. In fact, the Journal has also published a Readers Guide to explain the changes and various venues for getting the content it publishes.

While some readers may find advantages in the information lay-out on the Journal and some of the new services, including the free online Markets Data Center (in lieu of printed market data) and the printing of major economic and financial indexes on top of the front page, the narrower format of the new paper edition of the Journal is a real setback. It breaks the symmetry of the paper, which used to have 6 columns. It now has 5 columns, with an absent left column, and folding the paper in the middle renders one of the columns (the middle column) totally unreadable.

In short, something as mundane as the narrower format used for the new print edition of The Wall Street Journal seems to break the basic rules of using paper as technology.

The Wall Street Journal, despite the controversies and usual biases of its opinion and editorial pages which are to be expected, has published some of the best works American journalism has had to offer.  Some of this work has appeared on the "infamous" left column of the Journal, which will now be harder to find and read than it used to be simply because it is no longer there, on the left, at the top of the front page. While the online Journal has continually improved, the new paper edition seems to have some room for further "evolutionary" improvements.

By contrast, the paper edition of Financial Times (as distributed in the U.S.) continues with the (folding) symmetry of 8 columns in 2007. This symmetry preserves the resizing (i.e. folding) capabilities of the viewing platform the paper edition offers.

In the meantime and somewhat relevant to the Journal's change, Aline van Duyn of Financial Times reports the following surprising fact ("Media groups are grappling with a drift of revenue to the web," FT, Jan 2, 2007):

An analysis by Bain & Company, a consultancy, illustrates the problem. For an average US newspaper, a subscriber generates about $1,000 a year from advertising. For those newspapers that base their internet strategy around being a content destination, each viewer generates an average of $5.50 of advertising revenue. Losing one print subscriber can therefore be hard to recoup in terms of advertising, even as advertising dollars shift online.

Capturing online viewers do not seem to be keeping up with loss of print readers. So many analysts believe that traditional media need to deploy new business models for capturing revenue from online advertising, perhaps by taking a cut from transactions initiated through the online ads. On the other hand, there are ways to improve the number of print readers. Anyone traveling internationally will have noticed the wide availability of free papers for travelers. There are of course other means for improving print readership. Successful traditional media will probably emphasize both modes of reaching their audience.

It is of interest to note that The Wall Street Journal has actually added print subscribers at a rate of 10% last year.

Perhaps, the next evolutionary change in the print edition should be a reduction of the columnn width so that 6 columns can still fit on the Journal's page. FT's columns now are much narrower than the Journal's. So, this change should not be too disturbing although font size might have to be reduced a bit.

Friday Nov 10, 2006

A Persian Blogger Comes of Age

 The Power of the Press

If you know Persian, occasional viewing of Hossein Derakhshan's Persian weblog might benefit you. He also has an English weblog and a photoblog worth a visit for a cultural study if nothing else. The Washington Post carries another regular blog of his.

Derakhshan's recent piece analyzing current politics of Iran might be a good lesson for those Persian speakers who have a tendency to provide knee-jerk analysis of the Iranian history of the last 30 years. The title is a bit odd but clear "چرا با براندازی حتی نرم هم مخالفم" ("Why I'm opposed to regime change of even the soft variety"). I've not included the link to this particular entry of his but you can search for it on his Persian blog if you're interested. If you don't know Persian, you can turn to his Washinton Post blog, mentioned above, for a taste of his writings.

Athough Derakhshan takes the job of the journalist somewhat seriously and does quite a bit to expose double-standards everywhere he can see it, his failing (if any) seems to be related to an exaggerated view of the role of the journalist in modern society up to a purist theoretical limit beyond any dreamed up by common Western journalists in Europe or North America. One may also detect an exaggeration with respect to the actual (as opposed to either the theoretical or the subservient) capability of a journalist to transform society, which in practice tends to remain limited because of subtle realities of human life that stand beyond and above opinions of one sort or another. To his advantage and credit, Derakhshan insists on remaining at least self-consistent unlike some of his peers who go as far as advocating false concepts such as judicious double-standards.

In his "History of American Journalism classes," professor Thomas C. Leonard of UC Berkeley used to ask whether journalists, under the Fourth Estate, had perhaps evolved into a new type of priesthood (The Power of the Press: The Birth of American Political Reporting), and Kierkegaard would have hated that very aspect of modern times, The Present Age, and Ayn Rand tried to capture it all in her Fountainhead. This perspective, focusing on the leveling effect of the journalistic approach to understanding our moral place in the world, while full of modern rings, goes back all the way to Socrates and his dislike of the rhetoricians of the courts who could make anything sound right or good. Hence, his repose into dialogs

Who is right? The confusion continues, and perhaps, the disintegration of authentic communities of moral practice tend to give rise to priestly elites who busy themselves with "useful" justifications (of torture under "rules," e.g., by Alan Dershowitz: here, here, here; here and here) instead of advocating well-established and crystal-clear moral concepts having to do with human beings and their due integrity and honor, and also, to journalists who play the missing priests--to use professor Leonard's reluctantly-drawn  but apt analogy.

About

MortazaviBlog

Search

Archives
« April 2014
SunMonTueWedThuFriSat
  
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
   
       
Today