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News is Priceless - Not Owned By Newspapers

06 August 2009  |  2525 views  |  0

There are some big rumblings in the 'media' at the moment, where the 'media' is making the 'news', or as in the case of some newspaper journalists making up the news.

The big guns are out for copyright infringement by new media systems, blogs, mash-ups, search engines web video channels etc.

Who owns the news, the facts, the ideas? Who owns the conclusions to be drawn from the 'facts'? Ideas are seldom arrived at in a vacuum.

The debate isn't new. Students have been very active in chasing down the path of 'news' and ideas across the internet in an effort to understand how news is generated.

They don't have it anything near right yet. Students and staff at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School have been building a database and jumping to conclusions with their mediacloud project. It is early days.  Others such as the Pew Internet & American Life Project team have been doing it more traditionally - with human eyes and I have linked readers to their research in my blogs.

Neither alone are up to the job of determining the origin of a piece of news or an idea.

Humans can quite accurately understand that two differently worded articles originate from the same 'seed' far better than an algorithm or search engine. The humans just can't keep up with the pace of the computer solution which scans millions of articles for every one by a human, but humans probably have far greater accuracy.

Accuracy is in this case pretty black and white, and if neither method uncovers the origin of an idea and its source and is therefore mis-attributed to someone else, then who decides who owns the 'idea' or the 'news'? How do courts determine it - a search?

In the context of copyright, copying and newspapers particularly loud wails at the moment, it opens up a minefield for legal redress.

Does the AP with it's clout get to intimidate bloggers with ridiculous damage claims and equally ridculously well paid lawyers? Are copyright lawyers the new bankers?

Mr Benkler from Berkman's mediacloud has jumped to some conclusions in his quest for the answer to whether the internet is an 'echo chamber' or whether perhaps some people might be able to use the internet as a tool to get issues on the national (or dare I say global) agenda?

The example Mr Benkler chose was the issue of governments becoming (more) involved in the financial system as a result of the crisis. He attributed the first suggestion of it to Paul Krugman in the New York Times in September 2008 (curiously the article suggesting this appears in the New York Times).

I'm certain that this wasn't the first hint and even the issue of protecting citizen's interests, and this is where humans and the subtlety of language blessedly appear, because it may not have been said in so many or precisely the same words.

For the first suggestion that governments participate in the financial system - finextra readers need look no futher, we were reading , thinking and discussing that inevitable outcome back in March 2008. It crossed my dinner table long before I wrote of it on finextra. Someone may have even put it in my mind.

On finextra, not only were we reading about that, but we were cognizant of the consequences - and the need to get a fair deal for the taxpayer, fully 6 months before Mr Krugman suggested the possibility of government involvement. Paul writes some good stuff but not necessarily first.

Also in March I wrote a call to Barack Obama (not even elected till November) Kevin Rudd, Gordon Brown and Angela Merkle to get together and adopt a co-ordinated multi-government approach to the financial crisis. (Nice election call?)

Several politicians championed the idea later. Probably all their own idea.

I certainly didn't 'own' it. Neither does anyone else.

AP nor any newspaper have no more claim on the news just because I share it and discuss it with my followers (friends) on twitter than they would have if I were discussing it over the phone, reading out the paragraph to a friend or standing at the watercooler.

Newpapers - wake up. The product is news. The delivery system used to be ink on paper. Paper and ink stains are losing popularity.

Newspapers have a lot to answer for with helping hype the markets. Shrinking advertising revenue leaves them with virtually only car dealers and real estate agents so we can be assured that there will quickly be a real estate and car 'boom' if they have their way. Watch that 'news'.

Fairfax newpapers recently 'jumped the gun' and put on sale their 'news' paper announcing a a series of raids to arrest suspected terrorists allegedly planning a violent act the night before the arrests were due to take place.

Responsible journalism? How much additional risk of harm for the police officers and the public. They nearly made the news worse. Desperate acts from desperately out of touch media?

Fairfax used the excuse that they were 'given the information'. Will we be seeing instructions for making weapons of mass destruction on the front page next to boost circulation? It's a proven favourite. Ethics 0.

People used to buy news from the newspaper because they had the favoured/best delivery system. Get with the times. Focus on that. Focus on how people want to interact with the news, not everyone all the time, but perhaps for most of us merely knowing we can is enough, most of the time. Often someone else will do us the service of expressing an opinion or thought we share and we can feel satisfied in knowing that at least the thought is out there.

The Times From The Pulpit format is on it's way to history.

They are so predictable and the format is familiar - cheer on anything which sells ads and papers, when the public wakes up the papers switch sides and cheer on the new. When revenues they'll fall find something to blow up out of proportion to sell a few papers. Currently the 'news' cheer squad is in the bashing governments phase after loving banks, bashing banks etc..

For me, the thought of the governments having to take control of banks (ie. support them) was not one which I was pleased to greet.

It was inescapable. What else would you have had them do?

I admire the strength and courage represented by those politicians,  whose job it was not - to micro-manage the financial system - to take it on and make what would always be unpopular decisions and try and clean up after others. They had been hoodwinked.

Time will look favourably upon them, and in all probability tomorrow's students of history will find little leeway in the path left available to our elected representatives. Leaders every one of them.

Harvard Law School, mediacloud, the NYTimes are all behind the 8ball in comparison to finextra members and even if the newspapers say it ain't so, students of history will know.

The good thing about the internet is that mistakes are 'live' and those fake newspaper reports which somehow get 'set in stone' in newspapers with little effort made to correct them, because readers are simply unable to, aren't found on the internet because participants can immediately enlighten us to any mistake.  The new media empowers a better, more factual and informed news. Power to the readers. finextra readers are making the future, real news.

 

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