Friday, November 28, 2003

Foreign media in Holland/Belgium

The downturn in numbers we see in large cities in Asia is not happening in Holland, according to Maaike Veen of Dow Jones, secretary of the BPV (Foreign Press Association) in Holland. That is partly due to the different character of the Association. It is not only a social club, but recognized by the Dutch authorities and gives out the press card that allows access to official media events. It also deals on behave of its members with other issues like tax, access and social security issues.
Membership has hovered around 110 over the past few years. Because of it character it includes all journalists that would regularly cover the Netherlands for foreign media, even though they might be based in other countries. Brussels would be an obvious other place for foreign correspondents to cover Holland from, but there are also members in Germany and even Sweden.
The BPV has – compared to the FCC’s in Asia – only limited possibilities for sponsorship or corporate members. Their 75 sponsors get involved in about four cocktail parties each year, mostly hosted by one of the sponsors.

Marc van Impe, the upcoming chairman of the Belgium Press Institute sees the number in Brussels going up very fast, because of the expanding responsibilities of the EU, new member states entering the EU and other activities surrounding NATO and other multilateral institutions. Also the workload of the existing journalists goes up under pressure of the expanding responsibilities in Brussels.
He estimates that the number is now around 2,500 both official registered and non-registered foreign journalists, with an annual increase between 20 and 25 percent. “With the new countries entering the EU I estimate that the number will go up with 30 foreign correspondents for each country. I get at least three of four times per week calls from new journalists who inquire about how to get things organized in Brussels.”

This adds another flavor to the already complicated question of how to define ‘foreign correspondents’. Much of the coverage of EU-matters are becoming increasingly ‘domestic news’ for the EU-member states and they are only technically ‘foreign’ journalists.

Monday, November 24, 2003


Currently residing in Europe until the first week of December for the promotion of my book, so updates might be a bit les frequent.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Another blog "makes the grade"

Writes Diane Mermigas on the mediablog Iwantmedia of Patrick Phillips has changed into an (also) financially rewarding venture.
Courtesy of www.poynter.org

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Open source journalism

Some more thoughts after reading through some articles by J.C. Herz, the author of the book "Joystick Nation", James Duderstadt gave me yesterday. It describes the way how software engineers, especially those in the gaming industry have been able to mobilize countless of volunteers to improve their products.
Would such an approach work in journalism? What Indymedia is doing comes at leat close to it. At one of the projects I got involved in shows signs of a similar model and actually lining up volunteers is what we increasingly do at Chinabiz too.

A major difference is that for developing software volunteers work together to make a product better. In media that happens on a rather abstract level, as news is basically a throw-away product. Could that generate similar enthusiasm? At least worth a thought.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent

Still looking for the movie itself, but the picture is already promising. Or this one.
How not to become irrelevant

"Commercial TV is already becoming irrelevant for the young people," says James J. Duderstadt, previous president of the University of Michigan and now chairing the so-called millenium project from the Media Union, a building at the university campus, that will be called after Thursday the Duderstadt Building.
The university of Michigan literally hosted the internet until the end of the 1990s and has been leading in developing new technologies of the decades. That attitude has changed, in so far that learning how people are using those new technologies has become more important than the development. "In ten years time the capability of the current technology will be 1,000 times more powerful than now," Duderstadt says. "In that way it is a very disruptive technology. New ways of communicating are changing our social organizations.
Duderstadt now goes through 20 newspapers every morning and still keeps a subscription on the New York Times "so I have something the read in the airplane". All the scenarios for the future go much further than any science fiction writer can imagine, says Duderstadt.
Professors at his university fear the new technology, not because students are distracted and do not pay attention, rather the opposite. Duderstadt: "They fear they are being Googled by someone in the back of the room who tell his professor he is wrong."
With colleagues he recently observed young students, and noted changes. "They are interactive, 24 hours per day. Current graduates still belong to the wired generation, they are a new wireless generation, a change that took place in four, five years."
In theory very soon technology allows everything and everywhere to be observed with the technology that fits into a fingernail. Duderstadt: "Traditionally media would refine, focus the attention of the public. That role can become more important as more information than ever becomes available, but that task will be increasingly difficult too."
A possible scenario is what happened in the game industry, says Duderstadt. "A dozen or so engineers can develop a game, but then a hundredthousand people volunteer their service to refine and futher develop that program."
A similar scenario could work in the media, with hundreds of thousands of volunteers offering news for free. Duderstadt: "Journalists could have a task in pulling that together."

(When you visit Ann Arbor, you should try to visit the Media Union, eh, Duderstadt Building: a fascination experience. Ask Liene Karels to lead you to the cave).

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Annenberg leads the way

The major journalism schools (and others) in the US try to find their way into the future of journalism. Market rumors say that concerning the new media the Annenberg School at the University of South California in Los Angeles has embarked into a major offensive that might give it a decisive advantage.
Their website has changed dramatically since I first checked it a few months ago.
Annenberg has in the past three months invested heavily in picking the best faculty, mainly from other journalism schools. Especially Berkeley has been hit, those rumors say.
Columbia journalism school has very little to offer at this stage, after it was one of the first to engage actively the new internet age; it was also one of the first to leave the stage. The school is in crisis, while the search for a new dean has been postponed in an effort to set a new direction.
Free newspapers have the future

Consumers are not expected to pay in the future for their daily news papers, reports an article in USA Today.
"Yet since 1990, average daily newspaper readership has continued to decline at a rate of 0.5% a year, an ominous figure if you're in the newspaper business," the paid daily writes.
Free news papers, targeting the young between 18- 34 years old, take over the market.

Some telling quotes:'
'Young people view news as a free commodity,'' says Alex Storozynski, editor of the Tribune Co.'s 1-month-old a.m. New York. ''But you can't get the Internet on a subway -- and that's where we come in.''

''If they were charging for it I wouldn't buy it, but free is another thing,'' says Albert Williams, 20, after a vendor handed him a copy of a.m. last week. Williams has never been a regular newspaper reader.

(Getting the internet on the subway might only be a matter of time, though.)

Monday, November 17, 2003

Revenue model

For those who are still wondering how a blog can make money: this article in the NYT gives a clue. (Thanks for the link, David)
Screwed up!

Apologies to all: I have seriously screwed up foreignaffairs.blogspot.com

This is the new guy on the block; will repair everything in the coming days.


Sunday, November 16, 2003

The revenue models

How to make money with media in a climate where news is becoming a commodity that is available for free? In Chicago online journalists congregate this weekend to discuss this and many other related subject subject. In his opening speech Tribune Publishing CEO Jack Fuller went for paid online content along the line, although he conceded that "“Nobody wants to go first. If you go first, you lose.”
The report did not elaborate on the BBC-strategy that has made all its content available for free. More reports at onlinejournalism.com
Howard Finberg keeps an online blog of the conference.
Foregone optimism

Traveling from California to Michigan and again problems in getting online, so I had some time to consume some of the traditional information carriers: a book. I purchased the book by John Pavlik, journalism and new media and found it a good example of how fast books can become outdated when they focus on those new media.
While the book is still useful as an overview of what might be possible, it is clearly written just before the burst of the internet bubble and shows the unrestrained optimism of those few years.
"No longer is news constrained by the technical limitations of analog media, whether print, television, or radio," Pavlik wrote. Of course, now we know that an economic crisis and restructuring of the media has stopped many of those beautiful dreams to become true.
His optimism about international news is still partly correct: "Regardless of where you sit, access to international news has never been better. ... No longer must readers accept any single point of view as the full story or complete truth."

From my practice at Chinabiz I do see a negative impact on what the international news organizations do bring. In the past we would rely mostly on the international newswires to pick up the interesting articles in the Chinese media. In the past six months we have been changing that strategy, since we discovered that those international media would increasingly miss important stories in those Chinese media. That is partly because Chinese media increasingly do bring interesting news and the number of sources is enormous. But the output of international media has been reduced and we can no longer rely on their choices for picking Chinese news.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Japan figures

Japan and China seem to have a few things in common: even very ordinary information tends to be secret. Just go a polite email from the Foreign Press Service in Japan where they explain that "we are not allowed to give out the number to anyone outside our office".
Fortunately, they give another source that might have these secret numbers, even publishes them every year in a book. But they are still secret.
The Jarvis rant

Today I visited the law school at Stanford. Although the 'maoist' and 'mediahater' Larry Lessig (according to Jeff Jarvis and his followers) was not present, I met Lauren Gelman, who denied any knowledge of the rant or Jarvis.
Well, so much for the discussion I thought I had found. Is there a discussion when the accused party even does not know about the accusations?
BBC New media

The BBC caused a splash a few months ago by announcing all its resources would be available online and for free, reversing a trend toward more paid content. Yesterday Ashley Highfield, their director of the new media had a live chat at The Guardian. (sorry, link was outdated.)
One of the replies to online questions: 'One of the biggest shifts in News reporting I think is that the reports do not all have to come from our reporters. Increasingly, our audience can submit articles, views, comments, photos, and even video footage. The big challenge in this world is how to maintain both impartiality and quality in this world of user generated content."
Fred Turner, Stanford

I obvious visited Fred Turner too early for my project. He expects to teach on the future of foreign correspondence in this Spring and - unfortunately - had not prepared yet his paper. Here a collection of good links on Turner's work.
Yesterday the AP-chief visited Stanford and he said that perhaps the number of outlets using AP diminished, but media would rely more on AP than in the past. The classic foreign correspondent might go away, thinks Turner, as the larger newsproviders like AP and Reuters might take over their function. Because of the availability of information, the lines of communication have become very short, compared to the early days of the foreign correspondents in the 19th century.
"The whole idea of 'foreigness' might disappear," he assumed.
Here I firmly disagreed: the problem of bridging cultural differences might have changed, maybe even become easier, but - for example - between China and the rest of the world I would still see a gap that would ask for a thorough understanding of that culture from a foreign perspective.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Nothing new

Complaints about the poor coverage of international affairs are nothing new, at least not in the US, I read in an book review in the Columbia Journalism Review of, yes, November/December 1996.
In short the conclusion, distilled from Stephen Hess, International News & Foreign Correspondents.
A quote: "Far too much foreign reporting is merely anecdotal, Hess argues: the brilliant spotlight of journalism's intense interest briefly illuminates a trouble spot and then scurries on impatiently to the next. Example: during the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising, ABC, CBS, and NBC aired 357 stories on China -- more than they'd done in the entire decade from 1972 (when China opened to the West) to 1981. Then suddenly, China reportage dropped from 14.6 percent of foreign dateline stories in 1989 to 1.4 percent in 1990."

And the review by Neil Hickey goes on: " No, it's the prospect of mayhem, bombings, gun battles, mortar attacks, and civil strife that traditionally have attracted both print and electronic journalists like kids to a ballpark. In 1988-92 (a period that included the Persian Gulf war), almost a third of all network stories involved combat, and -- along with related reports on human rights, accident/disaster, and crime -- more than half of all foreign reports on television related to violence. Nothing terribly new about that. Thirty years ago this summer, deep in the Vietnam rain forest, I asked a network correspondent why the near-totality of TV's coverage of the war consisted of combat coverage at the expense of thoughtful, analytical consideration of the underlying issues. He explained, impatiently, that he'd surely receive (what he called) "a rocket from New York" if he missed an action-filled firefight that competing networks had on the air -- no matter that such pitched battles had minimal long-term military significance, and zero effect on viewersability to learn what the war was all about. "New York wants John Wayne movies," said the correspondent, "not talking heads."

So: are my current worries about decreasing numbers and structural coverage of international affairs of all times or also of a more structural nature?
For the note block

Stumbled into this other website on reporting from abroad. Dinner appointment is waiting, so will have a thorough look later.

Eric (the author) wanted to become a foreign correspondent but is now working for Reuters in New York. Have dropped him an email to see how he is doing.
Help from Amsterdam

While I was getting this week a bit desperate about the information that might be available for my project, I decided to spend a day surfing on the Net and asked more official organisation for their figures: the EU, the US state department, the UN and a few more. And see, the wonder of internet worked again. The so-called 'Club of Amsterdam' is hosting a conference on the future of the media and the entertainment industry when I'm in Amsterdam.
The combination of media and the entertainment industry is a bit suspicious, but the program looks rather solid. James Dorsey of the Wall Street Journal in Turkey is attending as a speaker too, so that sould be worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Media X at Stanford

Between other activities I'm trying to identify some places at Stanford University on the cross roads between media and technology, where I could pursue my quest on the future of the foreign correspondence. Amazingly enough, very little seems to be available.
Talked to some people at the department of communication (also the journalism department), but it seems a bit of a black spot here. Stanford has a special 'portal' for interactive technology, the Media X. That contains a long list of cooperating departments, with the department of communication notably absent.
Are we journalists missing a boat here?
Stanford online

Since a few days in the heartland of the internet and the new media: Silicon Valley. Most interesting problem: how to get online. Just like last year (when I enjoyed a suburb in San Francisco after my flight was delayed) I have been able to pick a hotel without free high-speed internet access most of them offer.
I thought it would not be a problem, but I have been turning around the library of the Stanford Business School: to no avail. I paid for access at a local Starbucks: I was kicked off. Now I have illegal access to the university wireless network, but the snail trail of that connection hardly allows me to download my email. Uploading email is impossible, but fortunately I have not yet discounted all my Yahoo-accounts.

In the past, my more romantic colleagues would go through deserts, looking for water. Now, in these days, I wander through Silicon Valley looking for internet access. Missing China Telecom that would give me nationwide access without any problem.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

And where’s Columbia?

For the first time in ages I wandered around in a decent bookstore again, the one at Stanford University. Bookstores in China are giving a better selection than some years ago, but walking around – admitted: with a severe jetlag – is a bit of an unsettling.
The book of my previous host, “Opening up” on the sexual revolution in Shanghai by James Farrer, was present, but the small department on communication and media offered only very few books on the famous ‘new media’.
I was afraid that I would be overwhelmed by already existing books on this issue, but much of the discussion seems to limit itself to the internet. The only book I purchased was ‘Journalism and the new media’ by John Pavlik, professor and executive director of the Center for New Media at the Graduate school of journalism of Columbia University. That means: it was his previous job, since Columbia might be one of the most famous schools of journalism, is has abandoned the new media. Columbia was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon in 1996, but jumped off equally fast.
Extremely nice campus, BTW.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Pio d’Emilia, Il Manifesto

In the afternoon the Tokyo correspondent of the famous Italian communist news paper, working since 1982 in the region and now recovering from a car accident.

A few quotes:

"Priorities have changed. The paper only has two pages on foreign news and when there is something big going on elsewhere in the world, that easily takes up one of those pages. My paper is not that much interested in foreign news."

Didn’t they ask you to give up and go home? "My paper likes me to stay, I like this country, not the government and there are really changes going on although it is very hard to report about this in a newspaper."

"The paper likes to have breaking news and I do not have that so often. I can write a beautiful story about the changing Japanese middleclass, but they are not interested.
The readers are not interested? I think the readers would be interested, but the editors think they are not, so they do not get this. The editors decide what they think the readers want."

"There was definitely more interest in the 1980s, even in the 1990s. You can see it in my production. 1996 was my record year with 207 articles, partly also because of the developments in the Philippines. In 2002 I only wrote 87 articles. Even in 1999 my production was still very high."
Sam Jameson, Tokyo

This morning an interview with the longest-serving foreign correspondent in Japan, Sam Jameson, initially for the Chicago Tribune, later (until 1996) LA Times, currently writing a book on the Third Japan.
A few quotes:

‘t is worrisome to see that in the US Japan has been wiped out from the radar. When I left the bureau of the LA Times here in Tokyo we had four people working for us. By 2000 they have been replaced to Seoul and Shanghai, a reduction with two.’

It still is the second largest economy in the world. And when things continue to go well in aspects in China and continue to go wrong in all aspects in Japan, in 16 years time it will by the third largest economy. But it is still the third largest economy.

“t the LA Times the return on equity has to go up from 8 to 20 percent. That is dictating their editorial policy, nothing else. To get that done, they fired all people over 60, to cut costs. I believe the return on investment might no be over 8 percent.
Cutting Japan is of course a very easy way tp cut money.”

The consumers can now decide what they can see on TV, they can even decide not to have news at all. I would not call this a change, but the end of reporting from Japan.

How can consumers make a choice when there is nothing to choose from? The stuff I see on the internet is mostly of rather low quality, they sometimes just bring translations from Japanese media without explaining anything.

The average people do not care about Japan. Many of my friends from high school even do not know where Japan lays. That is one of the reasons for me not to go back: I might have nothing to talk about. They follow only sport and baseball, in the winter you can also watch football on TV in the weekend.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Howard French, New York Times

After a lecture at the Temple University Japan in Tokyo. French has after four years moved from Tokyo to Shanghai but that is a pure career move. "In the decade that I work for the NYT the number of foreign correspondents has actually grown from 30 to 50."
Perhaps the NYT might be very soon one of the few to have a larger network that can provide foreign news. French grins: "What an awful thought that would be."

The NYT is syndicating its news, making it possible for other papers to cancel its foreign posts. The Chicago Tribune would have in de past a larger number of foreign correspondents, but now takes more and more from the NYT, says Chicagoer James Farrer.

Waiting for a lecture of Howard French of the New York Times in Tokyo and now and then a teacher of the Temple University Japan comes in thinking I'm French. One had a nice comment on the FCCJ. "It is basically a club for retired business people," he said. "Now and then they point at somebody in a corner and say 'he might be a journalist, and he might be foreign too"."
The teacher showed his membership card, then not only retired business people and journalists join the club.
Tokyo 2

Very much impressed by Tokyo, a very diverse city where I would not mind to live for some time, if the rents would be affordable. They are not.
According to the correspondents I talked to Tokyo, just like Hong Kong, losing its foreign correspondents. First, the costs are really unbearable, although I found the prices for food en commodities not so different from Shanghai. I’m staying with friends and that makes the difference, rents and other real-estate related costs are sky-high.
Also China is attracting more attention in Asia than Japan. China is the story of today.
I called this morning Pio d’Emilia of the Italian newspaper Il Manifesto. The poor guy had a car accident in the province last week and has to stay in bed for a month. Fortunately he will return tomorrow to Tokyo and because he is hospitalized he has loads of time for me.
The story of Japan is that of a country that is in an economic downturn for a decade. My first superficial impression of Tokyo was that of a vibrant, interesting and very diverse city with a high level of cultural creativity that is very much missing in Shanghai. And it has a fabulous (cheap) system of public transport. Really a very nice place.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003


Arrived in Tokyo earlier today on my first leg of my trips. Fascinating place, Tokyo; I can understand people like to live here, although the costs are extravagant.
Will attend tomorrow a piece by Howard French, the bureau chief of the New York Times and try to round up some colleagues here for talks later in the week. Timing is unfortunately, with the elections on the 9th.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Jarvis vs Lessig II

The debate between Jarvis and Lessig is a bit off track here, but the comments are interesting for those who want to follow it.

"The future of America's media is up for grabs. Who will control it and for what purposes? With laser-like focus, Mark Cooper analyzes the growing threat to media democracy. Anyone interested in the future of the nation's media ought to read this illuminating book," FCC Commissioner, the Honorable Michael J. Copps commented in a press release announcing the book "Democracy in the digital information age" by Mark Cooper.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

Reuters’ struggle

“We have no God-given right to exist for another 150 years. We have to earn that right,” says Reuters’ CEO Tom Glocer in a pretty extensive interview for Business Times in Singapore.

Reuters today has 2,400 editorial staff, journalists, photographers and camera operators in 197 bureau’s in 130 countries, filing approximately 30,000 headlines and over eight million words daily in over 26 languages, but relies already for a long time on its now 458,000 terminals for corporate users and not on the media, writes the paper.
“Essentially, the challenge boils down to three things: a cyclical downturn which badly hit the financial sector, which is a key driver of Reuters' earnings; structural changes within the financial services sector itself, which reduced the number of players and hence customers for Reuters; and competitive challenges from rivals, especially an aggressive Bloomberg,” says Business Times.
“To Mr Glocer, headcount cuts are not as important in the long run as what he calls the re-shaping of its cost base. So it is going offshore to reduce costs. It opened a development centre in Bangkok at the beginning of last year with 14 employees. Today, it has 300 people there and expects that to rise to 600 by the end of next year. The average cost per employee for development work in Bangkok is 14,000 a year, compared to an equivalent figure of some 80,000 a year in the US. Reuters is also going to open an English language centre in Bangalore, India, next January, with about 450 people, and increasing to 600 by the end of 2005.”
Jarvis vs Lessig

While still looking for my way in the murky waters of the new media, I stumbled on this rant by Jeff Jarvis against Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig at his personal blog. (Look for today's entry called 'Media haters')
Lessig will unfortunately not be available when I visit Stanford later this month, but the argument is interesting enough.
Jarvis accusses new media guru Lessig of asking the government to interfer with the media, because they hate the media and the media companies, writes Jarvis. "I remain surprised that Lessig et al are the darlings of the libertarians. You'd they'd disdain anybody in favor of greater government meddling in our press and media. But they apparently hold their media disdain more dearly than their ideology... or their logic. Lessig wants less government involvment in copyright but wants more government involvement in media ownership. The thread that ties that together is only media hatred. It's an intellectually and ideologically illogical stance."
And Jarvis moves on: "They simply can't stand the idea -- the essential reality -- that news is a business, not a government program. And in a free society, news is the last business that should be regulated by government. News must be regultated by the marketplace, the free marketplace of ideas.
"But Lessig, Cooper, et al ignore all that in the face of their media hatred. They want to stick it to media any way they can. They want to see us spoonfeed what they think we ought to know rather than what we, the market, want to know -- just at the time when, on the Internet and in weblogs, the citizenry is revolting against that sort of Mama-media.
Reason for the rant is a book by Mark Cooper, Media Ownership and Democracy in a Digital Information Age. Larvis advises not to buy the book, but read it for free at the devil's site.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Contact details

email: fons@cbiz.cn
blog: foreigncorrespondent.blogspot.com
Until 4 November Shanghai (+86-13916349026)
4-8 November: Tokyo (+813-33126922)
8-14 November: Palo Alto (+1-650 322 7666)
14-21 November: Ann Arbor (+1 734 709 7256)
23-29 November Bussum (+31 35 6914487)
snailmail to: Fang Jing
921 Church Street, ECIR Apt 202A,
Ann Arbor, MI, 48104

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