Jun 12

Summing up what we’ve learnt on Leveson, Murdoch and law

My loyal band of Twitterati may have noticed that I’ve been in Australia, where I gave a talk in two universities trying to sum up what we’ve learnt from the Leveson Inquiry. British readers of this blog might well want to stop right here because a good deal of the talk below will be familiar. There’s a very short version on the Australian-based The Conversation, a site which acts as a web publisher for opinion and analysis on public affairs by academics. But in case anyone wants to see the full text, here it is:

Phone-Hacking, the Leveson Inquiry and Rupert Murdoch

Public inquiries – often thought of as deliberate, careful, rational procedures – often provide examples of the operation of the Law of Unintended Consequences. They don’t always work out as their instigators hope or intend.

So it is with the Leveson Inquiry, now running most days of the week in London. The Inquiry is formally into the “culture, practice and ethics” of something quaintly called “the press”. The inquiry’s terms of reference are very broad indeed. They cover standards, accuracy, regulation and law, media plurality and ownership, relations with both the police and politicians.

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Aug 10

“Web Death”, the fallout

While I was away, the argument about whether or not the web is dead, killed by the rise of apps (as argued by Chris Anderson and Michael Wolff – see here), boomed back and forth. Mostly wrong as it was, the original piece nevertheless dislodged some illuminating ripostes. Some of the better pieces:

  • A good new-readers-start-here summary from The Observer.
  • Some expert debunking here from John Naughton.
  • A different angle from Frederic Filloux of the excellently quirky Monday Note.
  • Lastly, an upbeat lateral route outwards from this debate and towards the cheering idea that portable, wireless devices – be they called smartphones, tablets, e-books or whatever – are now getting so neat that and useful that long-form journalism may be better and better read. From Bobbie Johnson of The Guardian and with links to new sites specialising in promoting long-form.

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Aug 10

The web, RIP?

“Is the Web Dead?” ask the big red letters on the cover of the latest edition of Wired magazine. Twin pieces by Chris Anderson (Wired’s editor-in-chief and author of “The Long Tail” and “Free”) and Michael Wolff (of Vanity Fair and Newser) agree that the web is done for.

Both men are professional exaggerators and overstate their cases. Which is briefly that the web’s “open”, free-wheeling, browser-based serendipity era is over and being gradually replaced by closed apps and systems which will capture ever-larger chunks of what is now a fluid and fragmented markets in news and entertainment. Their pieces are here.

But as exaggerators often will, they have dislodged a cascade of interesting reflection. Some of it is accumulating on Twitter at #webdeath. Best of all so far is this commentary from Alexis Madrigal which carries a lot of links on the fallacies of technological determinism.

The relevance of this to journalism lies in whether digital publishing will eventually shake down into a faithful reproduction of the print or broadcast models which tend to create a small number of big players. An oligarchy of news if you like.

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