Job opening: Chinese propagandist

China needs to improve its image abroad, so the regime is now willing to invest no less than 6 billion dollars in Chinese media which target international audiences. There is talk of a Xinhua satellite channel and new English language newspaper editions. Expertise is needed and probably available in these difficult economic times:

Many English reporters in other Beijing-based media organisations said they had received “very competitive salary package” offers from the Global Times as the head-hunting campaign becomes more urgent, with some saying apartments were being offered as well as high salaries.

Post-print New York Times

Michael Hirschorn debates what could happen if the New York Times had to close its print edition. On the behalf of journalism, he ends on a fairly positive note

In this scenario, would begin to resemble a bigger, better, and less partisan version of the Huffington Post, which, until someone smarter or more deep-pocketed comes along, is the prototype for the future of journalism: a healthy dose of aggregation, a wide range of contributors, and a growing offering of original reporting. This combination has allowed the HuffPo to digest the news that matters most to its readers at minimal cost, while it focuses resources in the highest-impact areas. What the HuffPo does not have, at least not yet, is a roster of contributors who can set agendas, conduct in-depth investigations, or break high-level news. But the post-print Times still would.

By the way, Google will not save newspapers, says Eric Schmidt. Though they would like to:

The good news is we could purchase them. We have the cash. But I don’t think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems. It would help solidify the ownership structure, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem in the business. Until we can answer that question we’re in this uncomfortable conversation.

(Tip: Silicon Alley Insider).

UPDATE: John Battelle weighs in. It’s starting to sound like a smart and constructive debate…:

I hate to be the one calling bullshit on an industry I love, but really, honestly, how on earth can you want to save an industry that requires hundreds of journalists to fill a paper that has about 50-100 stories a day in it, half of them wire copy taken from AP or other syndicates? The newspaper industry has a GM problem, if you get my drift. Too many expensive workers doing too little work on products not enough people actually want to buy.

Print magazine + web: a great combination?

Foreign Policy magazine is out with a relaunched website with a selection of new blogs, one of them by Dan Drezner (see Undercurrent interview). According to the Passport blog, the objective is to create “a vibrant, daily online magazine of global politics, economics, and ideas.” What’s interesting here is where Foreign Policy is coming from. A very slow bi-monthly print magazine now has a website that is updated many times a day with instant analysis. The web has made such expansion possible for serious print magazines (The Atlantic is another example). Maybe the print versions of these long-form, analytical magazines aren’t as exposed to web migration as daily newspapers. Their “content” lasts longer. Could this print-web combination be a winning media format?

The value of reported blogs

The New York Times website has been blocked by Chinese censors. China-based writer and blogger Adam Minter argues that the impact for web users in China is smaller than it would have been a few years ago. The reason is the proliferation of reported blogs — that is, blogs where the emphasis is on checking and reporting facts rather than expressing opinions:

I don’t mean to suggest that the block isn’t important. But it is interesting (to me, at least) that it is so much less consequential to consumers of English-language news in China, in 2008, than it would have been even two years ago (admittedly, a small group of people, even including the Chinese readers of English). If I had the competence to read and understand the Chinese language blogs that break news, I’d guess that it would matter even less.

(Story found on James Fallows’ blog. Fallows had the story about the NYT block first — on his blog).

Why we blog

Andrew Sullivan writes a passionately analytical essay about blogging. Must return to this. In the meantime:

A blogger will air a variety of thoughts or facts on any subject in no particular order other than that dictated by the passing of time. A writer will instead use time, synthesizing these thoughts, ordering them, weighing which points count more than others, seeing how his views evolved in the writing process itself, and responding to an editor’s perusal of a draft or two. The result is almost always more measured, more satisfying, and more enduring than a blizzard of posts. The triumphalist notion that blogging should somehow replace traditional writing is as foolish as it is pernicious. In some ways, blogging’s gifts to our discourse make the skills of a good traditional writer much more valuable, not less. The torrent of blogospheric insights, ideas, and arguments places a greater premium on the person who can finally make sense of it all, turning it into something more solid, and lasting, and rewarding.

GM: you have to be a little impressed

General Motors really is using the whole arsenal of digital tools to sell the story of their own reinvention. They are blogging, making videos and wikifying… The bet they have placed on getting the plug-in hybrid Volt on the road is huge, but maybe they have no other choice? It’s something of an achievement to create a movement around a car that can’t even be bought yet.


The Atlantic July-August 2008 coverDer Spiegel August 11 2008 cover

The Atlantic’s “Is Google making us Stoopid?” cover is not that magazine’s finest hour — the title does not do justice to Nicholas Carr’s article; all headlines must of course be reductionist, but this one goes too far and becomes unintendedly self-defeating (printed magazines make us stoopid). The article has provoked a broad debate over at the Britannica Blog and elsewhere. But apparently the cover “communicates”, because this week Der Spiegel has found the timing right to copy The Atlantic cover, as you can see. The title is an almost exact translation! (Spiegel has substituted Google for “the Internet”). The cover story isn’t available online yet (the great Spiegel archive is free, but there is a two week embargo on new stories), but let’s hope the text is plenty more original than the choice of cover art. (via Netzeitung Altpapier).

More internet freedom in China, for how long?

The unblocking of several important regime-critical websites the past few days makes the internet more free for people in China, not only for journalists in the Olympics press centre. Andrew Lih has compiled a list and observes:

This is actually quite remarkable for folks living in China. The “Big Three” NGOs that have been unrelenting critics of China have been reliably blocked for years. YZZK (Yazhou Zhoukan) and Apple Daily both in Hong Kong, have done some of the most critical journalism regarding China.

The OpenNet Initiative, which does in-depth studies and monitoring of the Great Firewall, notes on their blog:

Another open question is whether China’s Internet filtering practices will be transformed in the rest of the country, and for how long. For most Chinese citizens the situation appears to be more of the same–the usual strict supervision goes into hyperdrive as sensitive political events unfold. As international media focused their attention on websites hosted overseas, China has already tightened control over domestic cyberspace, such as online discussions on online forums and chat rooms.

The “Firewall”, of course, has many aspects. One of the best accounts I have read is James Fallows’ in The Atlantic.

How to kill a country (in 10 steps)

Looking for background to the ongoing Zimbabwe tragedy? Try Samantha Power’s 2003 article How to kill a country, which holds up very well five years later. Here’s Power’s prediction — if these are the alternatives, Zimbabwe is still on the brink:

If he [Mugabe] hangs on, and if other African leaders don’t force him out, Zimbabwe may go in one of two directions. Its destitute citizens might be so preoccupied with finding food and staying alive that they will increasingly tune politics out. Over time their memory of-and sense of entitlement to-a better life will give way, and they will docilely submit to authorities whose power will only increase as the crisis deepens. Or the country’s appalling conditions might stir a domestic revolution, a fourth chimurenga [war of liberation], which will bring down Mugabe and his ruling party.

UPDATE (for Norwegian readers): A good report (text and video) about Zimbabwean refugees in South Africa at

Back to the future with Murdoch

From an analysis in The Atlantic of Rupert Murdoch’s plans for the Wall Street Journal:

One of the first strong messages Journal reporters and editors received from their new owners was that Murdoch wants scoops. He wants his reporters out in front of every competitor on the planet. This means that, at a time when every big newspaper is tinkering with futuristic business models, Murdoch is doing so with both feet planted firmly in the past. His strategy for success in 2008 is to behave as though the year is 1908. So while his competitors retrench, Murdoch is going to war-by challenging The New York Times, in particular, to an old-fashioned newspaper battle. Except this time the stakes aren’t nickels in Times Square, but dominance in America, and the world.