Wednesday, October 24

Confidence Game


An interesting although for me, a rather unsatisfactory close. You are an investor. And a citizen. And both need access to news. But the current world and economic and social and technological footprint doesn't give the right economics behind the newspaper or media industry. Indian newspapers are growing but they are corrupt, sell news and are more rags than anything else. So where does an investor or a citizen get its news from? Twitter? 

That requires you to have a great imagination to be able to distil zillions of voices. Think of the daily mail, the third most popular media site on the net. And people hate it viscerally. Schizophrenic or what? I read it regularly and find the reactions to the stories I post from there hilarious. Fascinating but ultimately futile, this posturing against popular media and very elitist. Wrong side of history. 

Keep a finger on the pulse of what the people are saying son. And twitter is too much noise, you want to follow trends, and that cannot be done if you are part of the herd. Step just so far back that you are part of the crowd but not in it, able to guide and track trends but not be driven (at least too much). 

Still, interesting reads. Remember what the printing press did, it destroyed many priesthood, modified politics, democratised citizenry. The Internet will do the same. 



Confidence Game

Columbia Journalism Review; Strong Press, Strong Democracy


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Essay — November / December 2011
Confidence Game

The limited vision of the news gurus

By Dean Starkman

“The question that mass amateurization poses to traditional media is ‘What happens when the costs of reproduction and distribution go away? What happens when there is nothing unique about publishing anymore because users can do it for themselves?’ We are now starting to see that question being answered.”—Clay Shirky

“The whole notion of ‘long-form journalism’ is writer-centered, not public-centered.”—Jeff Jarvis

“As a journalist, I’ve long taken it for granted that, for example, my readers know more than I do—and it’s liberating.”—Dan Gillmor

“As career journalists and managers we have entered a new era where what we know and what we traditionally do has finally found its value in the marketplace, and that value is about zero.”—John Paton

“The story is the thing.”—S. S. McClure


Ida M. Tarbell, a writer for McClure’s Magazine, a general-interest monthly, was chatting with her good friend and editor, John S. Phillips, in the magazine’s offices near New York’s Madison Square Park, trying to decide what she should take on next.

Tarbell, then forty-three years old, was already one of the most prominent journalists in America, having written popular multipart historical sketches of Napoleon, Lincoln, and a French revolutionary figure known as Madame Roland, a moderate republican guillotined during the Terror. Thanks in part to her work,McClure’s circulation had jumped to about 400,000, making it one of the most popular, and profitable, publications in the country.

Phillips, a founder of the magazine, was its backbone. Presiding over an office of bohemians and intellectuals, this father of five was as calm and deliberative as the magazine’s namesake, S. S. McClure, was manic and extravagant. Considered by many to be a genius, McClure was also just an impossible boss—forever steaming in from Europe, throwing the office into turmoil with new schemes, ideas, and editorial changes. “I can’t sit still,” he once told Lincoln Steffens. “That’s your job and I don’t see how you can do it!”

At McClure’s, there was always, as Tarbell would later put it, much “fingering” of a subject before the magazine decided to launch on a story, and in this case there was more than usual. The subject being kicked around was nothing less than the great industrial monopolies, known as “trusts,” that had come to dominate the American economy and political life. It was the summer of 1901.

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