Saturday, December 27, 2003
Published: December 24, 2003
To the Editor of the New York Times:
In his Dec. 20 column ("The China Threat?"), Nicholas D. Kristof dismissed China's estimate of 300,000 deaths in the Rape of Nanjing in 1937 and 1938 as "hyperbole," implying that the People's Republic of China had deliberately inflated the number to create "a new national glue to hold the country together."
However, the 300,000 death-toll figure for Nanjing was cited by Chinese and American investigators long before the People's Republic of China came into existence. Charitable organizations in Nanjing, like the Red Swastika Society and the Tsung Shan Tang, spent several months counting and disposing of the dead, and their burial records were submitted as evidence during war crimes tribunals.
In 1946, the chief prosecutor of the Nanjing District Court concluded that 260,000 Chinese had died from the massacre, while a summary report prepared by the head procurator of the same district court placed the number at more than 300,000.
San Jose, Calif., Dec. 21, 2003
The writer is the author of "The Rape of Nanking."
(Sorry had to do this: about foreign correspondents and the way how they get their facts right.)
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Most of my basic investigation into the future of foreign correspondence has come to and end and that means also the end of my regular contributions to this public notebook. It will still take a few months before I resume activities back in Shanghai and will use the time to write down my stories and develop new activities.
Some early conclusions:
1. The downturn in foreign correspondence is not caused by the economic crisis, the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or even the emergence of the new media. The downward trend already started before halfway the 1990s, and has only been speeded up by recent events.
2. The system of foreign correspondence has never been perfect, to put it mildly. But both quality and volume of information about the rest of the world has never been in such a poor state as now, despite the availability of more news through the internet. Too often traditional media have consolidated their resources, cut down on foreign news and features and will do more so as their existence will be under threat from the emerging new media. Foreign correspondents are an easy way to cut down expenses.
3. There are new models emerging for foreign correspondence, especially on the internet. Those models, both in dealing with content and developing revenue models, are in very early stages of their development. Discussion should focus on how, not whether, they can develop into alternatives for the classic foreign correspondence.
4. Discussions on the new media are now too much dominated by technical and legal issues and are often limited to a small circle of US specialists. I do think that telling the story of the new media for both media professionals and consumers is necessary to broaden the basis of those new media. As the consumers will become incleasingly also reporters, sharing and discussing ethic codes is paramount.
A rather comprehensive story will be published in the summer edition of the Nieman Report of Harvard University.
For some Dutch media I will write articles and columns on my findings, and I might get involved into an ongoing research on the effect of internet on the media in the Netherlands.
As the discussion I propose will most certainly get a presence online, I will put up here any links to those websites, when available.
Best wishes and see you again in 2004.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
The question whether local journalists could replace foreign correspondents. At least at one place that would be very hard, although foreign correspondents did not get many chances: North Korea.
The BBC has a bureautiful radio-documentary. Listeren here to part one. Really very nice (still listening, though).
Friday, December 19, 2003
Interest in foreign news seems to have been lower in the US than in Europe, but then the tendency seems to catch more grounds, despite an ongoing set of wars with the outside world. I guess it could have happened also in Europe, but I was be bit shocked when a student in de media class I taught wondered why they needed to have an interest in the outside world, while they were having a war and body bags with their soldiers were coming back.
At least the universities teaching students in journalism and mass communication happily ignore that trend. Today had a talk with Mike Traugott, chair of the communication department at the University of Michigan. They currently have a fellow who earned his stripes in the Middle-East, despite a possible lack of interest among the students. "We think it is important our students know about this, so they get it," he said.
An attitude I obviously appreciate, but will it survive when students can increasingly choose their own curriculum?
Interesting discussion between optimist Chris Lydon and pessimist Larry Lessig, two famous US bloggers about the influence of the new media on society.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Further evidence on foreign correspondents mitigating stories they know from Iraq fearing they would otherwise lose their visa in Editor&Publisher.
Messages from the priesthood as told by John F. Burns. "We don't have much training [in that], oddly, considering that we spend our entire lives covering personalities in the public eye who are under stress. We know very little about the best ways to respond. And occasionally in our lives we find ourselves, however briefly, in the public eye, and under stress. I don't want to go to war with my own profession. I have no reason to. This is my community. These are the people who make my life and the overwhelming majority of them are people who are true to the highest principles of the profession. They are the seekers of truth."
So what is the difference between foreign correspondents and bloggers?
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Monday, December 15, 2003
Following the march of the new media is by now almost getting a fulltime job. Not only the Dean story - and that will be an internet story whether he wins or not - but also in Iraq. Here the story how a blogger got his story out, worldwide, while the mainstream media thought there was no story.
And of course Jeff Jarvis is rightfully claiming his role in this story by sending a camera to Iraq.
And the ass-kicking of the big media continues, in this case very justified.
One of the key questions is whether foreign news can be done by local people, or should be done by foreign reporters. While I have not made up my mind about the issue, it is not very hard to find awful disasters on both sides. Today I found this article in the New York Times that has it perfectly wrong. By using the example of a succesful business man from Singapore in Chna it assumes that having the 'same culture' in common is an asset in doing business in China.
That is not the opinion of most business people from Singapore who have a very hard time in China. China has been the cultural battleground between different ways of doing business, where the false idea of Singaporeans that they have something in common with the Chinese has caused more problems that real outsiders did have.
The Singaporean industrial park in Suzhou was the most famous example of clashing _different- business cultures, but more examples are all over the place.
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Another basic report, published a few years ago, but focusing on one of the key issues: the credibility of (online) news providers. Done by the Online News Association and funded by the Knight Foundation.
Most interesting point: the audiences do not see the credibility of online news as a problem, it is mostly the colleagues of the traditional media, who perceive the credibility of online news as a problem. Note: this report was published before the New York Times did its best to also discredit major traditional media.
Another interesting conclusion: the mistrust of the audience concerning journalism is similar, whether it concerns online or offline print media. Trust in the print media seems anyway on the decline, while that in others remains the same at best.
One of those useful days on the internet. Bumped into Japanese antropologist Mizuko Ito, who focuses on new media, technology and the Japanese youngsters. An overview of her links here at this conference site.
Friday, December 12, 2003
And Howard Dean has become a force in de Democratic party that will change it forever, Dean's own blog reports.
Chris Lydon has started a new (audio-)blog on the presidential elections in the US: go for it.
I'm fortunately not the only one who likes his work.
At bit off track here, but fun as an experiment I thought.
At Chinabiz we are planning for Thursday a web cast on the retail in China, with Paul French of Access Asia as the main guest. His newest report on Wal-mart is not yet available in our bookstore, but other reports are.
Now we are solliciting feedback from possible participants on the right timing at our forum. A time will be set by Monday at the end of the day.
We will use yahoo messenger as a communication tool and you can mail me for technical assistance.
For January we plan an additional web cast on succesful B2B internet companies in China with Kate Hartford.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Yes, Pekka, you are right: although it is out of focus for this blog, the whole Dean factor is going to change also the media, and how US presidents get elected (or lose of course). Beautiful piece in this feature in the New York Times of some days ago.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Just arrived back in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but still a few stories to tell about Harvard.
Of all the initiatives I found at the Berkman Center, I want to single out the initiative by radio maker Chris Lydon, whose ambition it is - apart from visiting Shanghai - to set up a global talkshow, for the time being online only.
Making radio programs was one of my previous businesses and I always wondered how audio and the internet could go together. While the number of eyeballs is still limited, Chris is doing a fantastic effort that will be pay off as traditional radio declines.
A very enthusiastic Jeff Jarvis you can hear here.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
One of the good things of hanging around for some time in the US is that you can observe more closely how the basis of the traditional media is being eroded in a grand way. Or maybe it happens because I'm away from my different homes, so it is easier to draw some gruesome conclusions.
What you watch the commercials at US TV, you wonder who is watching them. Most of the commercial target an 50+ audience with a wide range of medication and insurances that are for sure not meant for the young people. When I would be young, I would feel very much not at home with US TV.
Similar worrying signs when you look at the print media. When you ask people what movie is worth while to watch, they do not pick up a local paper: they go to yahoo. And they can find out online where the theater is, what the reviews are and can even make a reservation online. Who needs a local paper in the US?
Compared to China and Europe, connectivity in the US (especially in the cities) is much higher, although the US cannot beat Korea and Japan, who are leading worldwide.
Sunday, December 07, 2003
The World Economic Forum in Davos will host a session on the effects of blogging on journalism in January 2004. I will most likely not be able to follow the proceedings in person, but blogs will be a good alternative.
“So yes, Henry and I think that mainstream media will enter turbulent time on the long run, 3 to 5 years. They will see their audience decline and their subscribers decline. Of course, they will stay as it will take time and a lot of people will only read paper and watch TV,” writes Loïc de Meurs, who will co-host the session on blogs together with a colleague.
And: “In the long run, […] journalists will start their blogs and publish good content on it. In parallel, excellent bloggers keep appearing and their blogs get high audience, very focused and loyal audience. …Henry and others will provide good revenues to these bloggers and they will be able to blog & research 4-5 hours a day and live on it as their blogs (few though) will get millions of page views a month (some already do) and the highly focused advertising (and possibly paid subscriptions like the WSJ?) will get them between 2 or 3 to 10 to 20 thousand of $ a month.”
Click here for an overview of the first discussions collected by Jeff Jarvis.
Saturday, December 06, 2003
Some things happen only very late in an adult life. Today I have been shoveling snow in the streets of Boston to clear the way for people and cars after a first blizzard has hit the city. More is to come. I even liked it, unlike the Bostonians, but for me it was a first time, not an anual burden.
China is sound asleep, so no emails from there. Weekend and a snow storm have halted this part of the US to such a degree even spam is not showing up anymore. I might as well finish my book by James Duderstadt on the virtual university.
I just discovered an interesting new line of finance. The article in the magazine Foreign Affairs that partly triggered off my ongoing project into the future of foreign correspondence was actually the result of a fellowship by John Hamilton and Eric Jenner at the Joan Shorenstein Center of the Kennedy School at Harvard University. While I'm not planning a paper on this matter (mainly some articles including the Nieman Report), there is not reason why it could not develop into a paper.
Timing is becoming a problem, but will try to pay my respects to this famous institute.
Friday, December 05, 2003
Of course the word "open-source journalism" has been used before in different places. The killing of an article in the magazine Jane cause for an uproar. Well, it is typical for really good ideas: they might come up at diferent places at the same time.
More about open-source journalisme here.
Consumers in Europe spend more time on the internet and have left especially the magazines behind in terms of time-consumption, writes Bandrepublic, republished in 'De Internetjournalist' from the Netherlands.
European users of media spend ten percent of their time on the internet and only eight percent on magazines. The survey was done by Millward Brown of the Europe Interactive Advertising Association. Daily papers have a market share of 13 percent and TV is still leading with 41 percent. About 45 percent says they watch less tv because they have internet access.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Today was a day dominated by blogging. I first taught a media class of Kate Hartford at Umass about my first findings on the future of the foreign correspondent. Interesting discussions and they behaved like willing guinea pigs for my project results. The problem is of course that I do identify a problem for the classic foreign correspondent, but still not have a clear solution. That would have been too easy.
In the evening I joined the Thursday evening meeting of the Harvard blogging community at the Berkman Center, that could be followed by a webcast and was quasi-chaired by superblogger Dave Winer. Much focused on technical discussions, while playing all the different gagets participants could come up with. A participant of an upcoming meeting on the development of the media industry. They will propose a annual US$50 tax on internet connections and then downloading music would be legal.
Although interesting it would not work. There are privacy concerns (who is going to register this all) and such a proposal would basically make the music industry oblivious, perhaps a reason for them to resist. I already thanked the meeting on behalve of the 80 million Chinese internet users, who would most likely not pay such an American tax.
Here Dave Winer preaches the blog-gospel in the Harvard Gazette.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
Just arrived in Boston and was able to crack the system of Harvard University to get online: really a touch job. Tomorrow a meeting of local bloggers. Just met Ben Edelman of the Berkman Center. Interesting details on possible revenue streams for online ventures that are being stopped by China's internet system.
Also systems to block pops-ups (the Google-bar) and other nice little tricks are going to cause both legal cases and hearings in congress, triggered off for example by and angry NYT who sees ways to make money on the internet blocked.
Monday, December 01, 2003
In the American Journalism Review. It documents rather different opinions on foreign coverage by American TV stations: "Some say this has expanded networks' reach into places they could never staff themselves. Others say it has turned many reports into cut-and-paste collages, often using unidentified sources.
Interesting is that some quote the famous Pew report to show that interest in foreign coverage increased dramatically since 911. Others use the same report to support a different conclusion: "A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey, released in June 2002, showed that only 21 percent of the public was following international news very closely, an increase from 14 percent two years before. The majority (61 percent) only paid attention during major crises."
The rest of the article develops in a typical flow of conflicting opions, without clear direction. (Hear the European journalist talking about his American colleagues :-))
Edward Seaton, president of the ASNE was already worried. After 911 he repeated his plea at Poynter.
"We've had a wake-up call. Will we stay awake," he wonders.
Here against in August 2002, but that is the same plea as in 1998. Perhaps for a good reason.
Another his, now more recent at the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) whose website carried last year an article by Michael Parks, then director of the Annenberg School of Journalism.
Parks saw an upsurge in the pages dedicated to foreign news after 911: "In many papers, there were open pages for the U.S. move into Afghanistan, the war on terrorism, the nuclear confrontation between India and Pakistan and, more recently, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; some continue to devote several focus pages a week to international news. A number of newspaper groups and individual papers sent domestic reporters and photographers to cover U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Central Asia. To explain the new issues facing the United States, newspapers turned increasingly to complex graphics, many of them full pages, composed of photos, maps, quotes and summary statements. And some op-ed and commentary pages began regular forums for discussion of international events."
The article gives a nice overview about what happened after 911, and how papers tried to beef up their international coverage, but no real conclusion on how this is going to develop. Local news seems to regain its former position - not surprisingly.
Just another day on the internet and found this article about the developments of American media by Scotti Williston, now teaching at Columbia.
"Part of the reason is that news has become "reaction coverage," more than ever before. There's no history before a story breaks. We're always shocked in the States when an incident happens somewhere, because we didn't even know there was a situation. Reaction coverage is part of why the news is losing its audience. The only shows giving viewers real information are the magazines, but those all have an agenda, a purpose, and it will be slanted much more so than traditional, supposedly even-handed news coverage. For all these reasons the quality of overseas coverage has declined," she wrote already two year ago.
She is still rather optimistic: "The American public is going to start clamoring more for things it is not being told. The public knows it is too isolated-and Americans know they're criticized for not knowing what goes on in the world. One major reason for a reversal is that Americans are meeting more people from around the world, and that sparks interest in other places. There are large immigrant communities all over the country, and that has meant more and more international broadcasting within the United States."
I do hope she is right, but not too sure.