Sep 10

Does science journalism need saving?

David Rowan, editor of the UK edition of Wired magazine, thinks so and explains why here. One sentence takeout: science writers, to survive and prosper, are going to have to learn to be less dependent on journalism’s institutions, which are being eroded.

Footnote: David Dobbs, namechecked in David’s lecture to Dutch science writers, is currently a Visiting Fellow at City University’s Journalism department in London.

Update 29/9/10: I appeared on a panel with Martin Robbins not long ago and thought that more or less everything he had to say about science journalism made sense. His dig at the mannerisms of science reporting is on the nail.


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.

Continue reading →


Jun 10

Rupert’s hymn to Steve Jobs

The low subscription price being asked as of next month for The Times and Sunday Times sets some hard tasks for the papers’ owners in the future: raising the price involves raising the value seen by the subscriber. Or so I thought. Rupert Murdoch sees the working of a paywall quite differently. Cutting people off when they don’t pay may work for cable or satellite TV, but I’m less sure that it’ll work that way for newspaper sites. But what do I know?

One of the weird things about Murdoch’s reputation is that what he actually says – on the relatively rare occasions he’s interviewed – gets little attention. So the interview detail is worth the six minutes. Highlights: the Wall Street Journal should really be called “the Main Street Journal” (a soundbite which bears all the hallmarks of the WSJ’s editor Robert Thomson), publishers should charge for “electronic distribution” (rather than for content, note), namechecks for the Wired and Scientific American sites and gushing, BP-oil-leak-style praise for Steve Jobs.