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New Investigative Project

Jay Rosen: Introducing the new Huffington Post Investigative Fund (And My Own Role in It) The announcement of its birth, along with the $1.75 million starter budget, is really the launch of a new Internet-based news organization with a focus on original reporting. You might say the Fund’s operating principle is: report once, run anywhere.

As newspapers fail, the news ecosystem is finding a way forward. This project, like ProPublica and and several other projects, will help fill in the gaps.

We need a hundred such experiments, not just a few. Here’s hoping we’ll see more local ones, not just national ones.

A key question, as yet unanswered: What copyright license will be used for the output of this material. If it’s not Creative Commons, then it won’t have nearly as much value as it might.

Watching Walmart Spread Through America

Flowing Data: Watching the Growth of Walmart Across America

Brilliant. I was working in the Midwest when Walmart’s destructive march across the nation’s heartland was just gaining strength. This visualization looks like the nuclear explosion map in old movies, and the imagery — if over the top — is thought-provoking.

Updated with fixed link….

Google Power

Google TB.png

Google is pointing from its home page today to a page about World Tuberculosis Day and that, in turn, points to the Stop TB Partnership, a nonprofit organization. A worthy cause, and good for Google for pointing to it.

Consider the power of this endorsement. I suspect that with this single link, Google is channeling more money to the organizations that want to end TB than the sum of all their previous campaigns. This is power of a breathtaking kind.

Guest Blogging Elsewhere Next 2 Weeks

I’ll cross-post the media related items here, but for the next 14 days you’ll find me over at BoingBoing.

Saving Local Journalism, One Step at a Time

Chris Anderson (Columbia University):  What’s So Hard About Local? Where should our foundation dollars go? Perhaps they should go towards assuring that the so-called “lowly” (and yet, so oddly difficult to fund either a peer-produced or market based substitute for!! so much for lowly!) beat reporter, police bureau chief,  crime reporter, city hall reporter, can survive.

Tracking Simulus Spending: Hire Some Unemployed Reporters

The Obama administration promises it will be accountable in how it spends our (children’s) money in the new stimulus legislation. On the Recovery.Gov site you’ll see, under the heading “Accountability and Transparency,” some strong rhetoric:

This is your money. You have a right to know where it’s going and how it’s being spent.

So far so good, and the bill allocates some $84 million for a Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board, the task of which is to follow the money.

That notion — follow the money — is what much of the best journalism has been all about in recent decades. News organizations and freelancers have uncovered all kinds of malfeasance and nonfeasance by watching how money got spent. aims, in part, to show where every dollar is going from the stimulus appropriation. In theory, this will enable an army of average folks to look into the data and flag inappropriate (and good) uses of the money.

But that $84 million will pay some professionals who know how to investigate, and they’re going to be a first line of defense in ensuring that the fraud and abuse — guaranteed to occur no matter how well-meaning the management of this enormous pot of money — will be caught.

The inspector general and his team would be smart to reaize that they could be hiring some unemployed (or under-employed or soon-to-be unemployed) people who have some of the skills we need in those positions. I’m talking about journalists, many of whom have been serving as watchdogs for a long time.

They’ll need some updated training. But a lot of them have the temperment we need for this task. Most vital: They are relentless diggers.

We need their skills in lots of ways. This could be one. The journalism business may be imploding, but these journalists still have a great deal to offer.

NY Times Goes Hyperlocal

New York Times: Hey Kids, Let’s Put on a Blog! Starting today, The Local is an online news site for these communities. But if we build it right together, The Local will be something much more: a glorious if cacophonous chorus of your voices singing the song of life itself in these astoundingly varied and vibrant neighborhoods.

With your input, The Local will tell stories that matter: crime and politics and culture and civic life and everything else. Some stories will be snapshots, mere moments. Others will unfold over days or weeks or marking periods — the birth pangs of a food coop or a high school newspaper, the aftermath of a crime, and, as the unstoppable wave of local gentrification crashes into the unstoppable wave of global economic meltdown, an ever-growing tale of loss and struggle.

The Times’ move here is critically important. It’s long overdue, as such a thing would be at any newspaper, but at least it’s finally happening. I’ll be watching closely to see how this develops.

What I don’t see, so far, is any serious indication of the parallel media universe that exists outside the Times’ perception. If this “local” site doesn’t point widely to the community blogs and other media, it will simply reinforce the old-style media view of the past. I’m confident that the paper understands this.

One question, of course, is whether (a) this will make any money for the newspaper, and, if so, (b) whether the Times will share any wealth created by the community in this endeavor. Let’s wait for (a) before we worry too much about (b).

HerdictWeb Collaboratively Tests Website Availability

HerdictWeb: “the first collaborative, real-time map of Internet accessibility and it needs your input.”

This is a fabulous new Berkman Center project. Please consider joining the herd.

Congrats to the team that put this together.

Hearst: Huge New SF Cost Cuts, or We Sell/Close Paper

Hearst Corporation announced today that its San Francisco Chronicle newspaper is undertaking critical cost-saving measures including a significant reduction in the number of its unionized and nonunion employees. If these savings cannot be accomplished within weeks, Hearst said, the Company will be forced to sell or close the newspaper.

We’re approaching an end-game of the current leveraged newspaper business. It’s going to be seriously more ugly from now on at many big papers.

More on this in a post tomorrow…

Philly Boss: Me First


Forbes: Boss Got Raise As Philly Papers Tanked. As the parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News slid toward the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing it made over the weekend, one employee did well on the pay front: CEO Brian P. Tierney.

How disgusting is this?

The arrogance of the people like Tierney just compounds the woes of the newspaper business. He and his management team are facing the perfect storm when it comes to the revenue model for newspapers, but they don’t have to add to the damage with their greediness.

These are not small issues. The journalists and truck drivers and printers and salespeople at the Philadelphia have every right to feel betrayed.

UPDATE: The bosses have recognized reality and rolled back the raises. (Given that they did a leveraged buyout of the company, their salaries remain way too high, but that’s another issue.)