Scripting News for 4/26/2007

Essential television 

Watching the Democratic candidates debate on MSNBC, all the candidates sound excellent, if not presidential, the kind of people I’d like to see in the Cabinet.

However, to make an informed vote, to even understand the context that the United States exists in today and in the near future, we need a lot more information about terrorism and the war in Iraq. Luckily, PBS has produced an excellent series that’s eye-opening, and fills in a lot of blanks in the picture that’s been created for us by the press and government.

You can download all 11 episodes via BitTorrent, and I highly recommend we all do that, watch the shows, talk about them on our blogs. Let’s have a great discussion about the future of our country, and have an equally great election in 2008.

And if you get something out of these programs, as I’m sure you will, please give generously to your local PBS station.

Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10, part 11.

The changing role of the source 

Must-read piece by Jeff Jarvis on the future of the interview.

I think Wired is doing a wonderful job of listening, far better than any previous print pub has. It’s awkward because a lot of understanding hasn’t yet taken place. No pain no gain.

The new reality for all publications is that their sources can go direct. It’s just like every other activity that the Internet touches, disintermediation happens.

This is a much bigger story than they were aiming for — it’s the still unwritten story of the blogosphere. Wired has a chance to get this scoop that has been out there for the getting for more than ten years, even though, ironically, I wrote much of the story myself, when I was at HotWired — before leaving, to bootstrap blogging.

Oh it’s a great big circle, it is. 🙂

Scott Rosenberg: “In the online conversation, the reporter doesn’t get the last word. And the reporter doesn’t get to filter which parts of the conversation are available to the public. No wonder journalists want to stick with the phone.”

A perfect demo 

This blog post from reporter Ryan Sholin perfectly illustrates why we need to create a record of our interviews to provide an incentive to report only the story, not to make up stuff to add drama to it.

For example, where did the “if he wants to” bit come from? Certainly not from me. I would have bent over backwards to answer his questions, of course it would only be “If I want to,” but that’s the same rule that would apply if he asked me a question on the phone, I would only answer “If I want to.” Sloppy reporting.

The second mistake is much more serious: “The problem, of course, for folks like Dave and Jason, is that they’ve done enough print interviews to get frustrated at the fact that not everything they say, not every bit of context, not every piece of backstory makes it into the final published piece.”

That doesn’t even come close to reflecting what I said or what I believe. I’ll leave it to your readers to click on the links and compare the way you’ve expressed my opinion and the way I express it.

My belief: You need the discipline of having your sources fully on the record so that you’re more careful about representing what they said. In this case, where the reader can fact-check you, you’ve utterly failed in your responsibility to tell the true story. And this is an insignificant meta-story, and not very complex, and in your area of expertise. I don’t have much confidence that you’d be straight with me or your readers if the story was more subtle, or complex.

Conference business models 

I think I’m one of the people who Jim Forbes was on a first-name basis with when I used to run a software company in the valley, and he was a reporter for various tech pubs.

As I read this rambling and interesting blog post, I started to get the idea that Jim was talking about me, and as it progressed I was sure, but he didn’t actually say my name.

I don’t have anything to hide, either about my involvement with the TechCrunch 20 conference (I’m not being paid for my services, and so far my only involvement has been to say that I am involved) or in the back-channel discussion with the Wired reporter. The only part that hasn’t been disclosed is a little advice I offered, on background, but if he wants to disclose it I don’t mind. (Maybe I’ll dig it up tomorrow and run it as a post.)

I certainly never said anything, publicly or privately to call into question Jim’s integrity, nor do I believe there is any cause to, but I do have a problem with conferences that showcase technology, charge people to attend and charge people whose products are demoed. I’m sure, based on knowing JIm for many years, that he never did anything unethical. And Demo, the show that he worked on, is better than a lot of shows, they tell everyone that the participants are paying, in other words, they disclose.

But I’ve paid to go to conferences where I was sure I was watching ads. Boy did that feel slimy.

People I used to admire did it. That felt worse than slimy, that felt like betrayal.

I know the pressures people operate under, I ran four conferences myself, and never took money for a speaking slot. But it’s common practice in the tech industry. And I’m glad that Jason and Mike are going to make an issue of it, because it will put pressure on other conferences to clean up their act. There will be a lot more disclosing in the future, and maybe some conferences will have to find a new business model to keep people coming.

Anyway, it’s late, I’m listening to old live Dead music as I write this on my new stereo that I love (a Mac) that’s also got an outliner and a browser on it. I’m so glad I lived to see all this convergence. I’ve smoked a lot of cigarettes with Jim, and maybe a few other things, many years ago when we and the industry we’re part of were much younger. I love the guy, and if I said anything that hurt him, it was inadvertent, but I’m sorry nonetheless.

I don’t do interviews by email 

I’m so tired of reading how I prefer to do interviews by email, as if to prove my point — can’t these reporters read or don’t they care about getting the story right? This is crux of the story. It’s not a minor detail. I don’t do interviews by email.

Here’s the piece where I explained how I do it.

Here’s where I explained it again.

One more time: I am not Jason Calacanis, who expressed a preference for interviews by email. My name is Dave Winer. I prefer to do it in blog posts, totally out in the open, in writing, on the record.

We’re in really deep shit here in the US, at least partially because reporters don’t do their jobs. I’m up to episode five of the PBS series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours reading news coverage of Iraq, and now I’m finding out what I suspected, all the reports were 100 percent garbage. Nonsense. Fiction. This is how it happens. They write what they think should be true, they don’t bother finding out what’s actually happening.

Today’s links 

NY Times: Jack Valenti dead at 85.

Newfangled indoor BBQ movie.

Checkbox News, Day 4 

Thanks Doc. What a nice thing to say. 🙂

I think Checkbox News is all the things you say it is.

Uninstalling IE7 renders machine useless 

  1. I installed IE7.
  • The OPML Editor doesn’t run on Windows XP if IE7 is installed.
  • I want to use the OPML Editor on Windows XP.
  • Therefore, I uninstalled IE7 using Microsoft’s Add/Remove Programs control panel.
  • It told me I had to restart.
  • I restarted.
  • iertutl.dll blah blah blah.
  • Didn’t the government sue Microsoft over this?
  • 52, the perfect age? 

    I was born on May 2, 1955.

    Which means that on Wednesday I will be 52.

    Think about this.

    May 2.

    5th month,  2nd day.
    5  2

    Perfectly symmetric.

    As is the number itself.

    5 is an upside down 2.

    And vice versa.

    Sometimes life makes sense.

    Or will make sense.

    Next Wednesday.

    We hope.

    Praise Murphy. 🙂

    9 responses to this post.

    1. I just posted this on Jeff Jarvis’ piece:

      I simply could not do my job using written interviews. There is a massive, massive loss of information in written interviews. Tone matters, pauses matter, physicality matters. This is why we use them to select mates, presidents, etc.

      The written word is great for conveying certain types of complex information. That’s why I use email. But don’t count on someone to be honest about their feelings, intentions, doubts, nervous ticks etc on email.

      It’s also, critically, much much SLOWER in terms of followup. On the phone I ask my followups instantly. This actually gives the source MORE power to set the agenda. On email I have to front load everything, or do a very slow ping pong process. And when I front load my questions on email, the source is more likely to think I have an agenda, because I am trying to come up with a bunch of questions with little information, with no feedback along the way from the source about where I am wrong.

      Think about it this way, Jeff: do you think the president would be right to insist only on written interviews? How about the Defense Secretary? Your governor? Your mayor? The superintendent of your child’s school?


    2. And why is that our problem?


    3. You have less power to set the agenda, as I explained.

      Also, a reporter doing his job will often refuse your groundrules. Now at least you know why!

      And it also explains why I don’t think Jeff’s idea about written-only interview will take root in American newsrooms, however right he is about the problems with interviews today.

      If it does take root, it would undermine the quality of all journalism, as I explain.

      Not sure if I should be bothering to fight this out anymore. Your reply seems a little curt, like you didn’t even read all of my comment.


    4. Damn, how many Ryans are there in here?


    5. Are you kidding?

      I think you’re full of it Ryan (Tate).

      I don’t need you, and you don’t help me set any kind of agenda. What utter bullshit. And never did anyone need to hear that more than you. I’ve been reading your posts here for a long time, and thinking that you’re learning a lot of bad habits, and making some very wrong assumptions about Who Needs Who.


    6. Within an interview, a source has more power to set the agenda on the phone, because he is interacting with the reporter and influencing what questions the reporter will ask.

      That’s what I meant, and what I said.

      I wasn’t talking about me and you specifically. Given I haven’t covered tech as a journalist for six years, and have never covered media in print or blog, I wouldn’t presume to be helping set an agenda for you.


    7. Quote of the debate: when asked if he could be a candidate that could speak on the world stage without offending: “Yes”. That was classic.

      Most of these candidates are speaking well but (not to take anything away from them in any way), the questions and therefore their responses so far have been made easy by the current administration. When there’s nowhere to go but up, that definitely helps. 😉 Thanks for the PBS links; I’ll be hitting them later.


    8. Oops…I left Biden’s name out inadvertantly; I was quoting him as the “Yes”. 🙂


    9. Another great thing about 52 is that when 5 and 2 are placed together the white space in-between forms the shape of a heart.
      Have a great year 🙂


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