Here come the lawyers

Steve Yelvington over at Poynter has a few thoughts this morning that bear repeating. Now that RSS has entered the mainstream, what are the rules about using an RSS feed? Are they only for personal use, or can you republish them on a Website?

As more media companies hop on the RSS bandwagon, we’re going to have to confront some legal questions: Who owns the feeds, and what can be done with them? Ownership is easy — it’s just copyright. But licensing is complicated.
Steve notes that Wired has an open policy, asking only that users refrain from pulling full text articles, while the AP says their feeds are only for “personal use,” although they don’t define that.

This is the beginning, folks, of the rules of law entering into a space heretofore occupied by gunslingers and Postmoderns. It will be interesting to see how people respond, because licensing and restricting are tools of a top-down culture, and sooner or later, we’re going to be talking about fees for such. I think trying to lasso the Internet in such a fashion is like trying to hang onto an octypus in a sea of slime. Stay tuned.

MSM generalizations

Doc Searls is upset that critics and other mainstream media writers use generalizations to make their points about the evils of the blogosphere, and I agree with him. He’s also weary of the argument that blogs aren’t journalism.

Look. Blogs are personal journals, written by millions of people, on zillions of topics. Whether or not those journals practice “journalism” is a useless question at this point. Besides, it’s been done to death.

Generalizing about bloggers is about the same as generalizing about telephone callers or photographers or baseball players. You don’t say all phone callers are rude, all photographers take nasty pictures or all baseball players spit. So stop saying all bloggers (that third person plural “They”) are … anything. Because it just ain’t true. There’s too damn many of them. All individuals. With nobody in charge.

The real challenge isn’t for bloggers to bootstrap themselves into Serious Journalism, but for Serious Journals to take advantage of a growing population of self-starting stringers. Who happen to already have their own journals.

It’ll happen, Doc. Sooner or later.

Dissatisfaction in the newsroom

The Poynter Institute published a significant study this week that reveals high levels of dissatisfaction among journalists over their inability to balance work and life concerns. The report (written by old friend Jill Geisler) speaks of “long hours, pressure to do more, missed vacations, staff cutbacks, and as a result, a significant number of journalists who are considering leaving the field.“

The risk of losing journalists due to work-life balance issues is especially troubling because they also report a high level of satisfaction with the work of journalism. It is the working conditions that are at issue.

Key issues

  • Always work more than 40 hours a week: 65.1 percent of respondents
  • Did not take all the vacation they had coming in the past year: 46.2 percent
  • Organizations cut staff in the past two years: 67.2 percent
  • Staff shortages negatively affect their work-life balance “consistently” or “frequently”: 50.9 percent
  • Have seriously considered leaving journalism: 47.2 percent
Poynter also interviewed a handful of industry types for their reaction to the study, and the whole project is worth reading.

10 Questions for M.D. Smith IV

M.D. Smith IV was a lifetime broadcaster and one of the last local TV owners and operators in the country. He sold his station, WAAY-TV in Hunstville, Alabama, in 1999 and is in semi-retirement. He was an innovator in many ways and a pioneer in others. In this conversation, he offers his views of the challenges confronting broadcasters today, the internet, and what life was like when “TV was art.”

He talks about the days when the station had only 17 employees, and staff members had to handle many different tasks.

Perhaps, we will come full circle in the coming years,” he notes, “with 17 people running a TV station and with computerized tools (similar to many radio stations of today) able to still attract an audience, sell commercials and make a profit.”

10 Questions for M.D. Smith IV

I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I have in putting it together.

What’s this? AP goes RSS

If you haven’t heard that the Associated Press is providing RSS feeds, you need to pay attention. Consultant/blogger Susan Mernit broke the story yesterday.

The Associated Press has quietly added RSS feeds to their corporate site. This is the first time AP stories are available directly on the web in RSS (as opposed to running through Yahoo News.
Jeff Jarvis points out — and I concur — that this is a very unusual move for the AP, because it is a coöperative of news organizations and hasn’t — until now anyway — marketed directly to news consumers.
I’m wondering whether that’s going to cause a burp. When the AP started its online news service, it went to incredible pains to make sure you could get to it only through members’ sites. I wonder whether Reuters’ plans to build an online brand of its own is causing a little competitive indigestion.
The AP RSS license also allows anybody to display its RSS headlines on Websites, as long as a few rules are followed, including linking back to the original story. Doesn’t this devalue the AP’s news on member Websites?

What are they thinking?

Many TV station blogs aren’t

In today’s NewsBlues, (Subscription required) my friend Mike James writes of a blogging war of words between two meteorologists in Lexington, Kentucky. WLEX-18-NBC’s Bill Meck said some nasty things about WKYT’s radar “putting lives at risk,” and WKYT-27-CBS’s Chris Bailey responded by saying he wouldn’t stoop to Meck’s level. The story is pretty funny and fairly typical of the unbridled passion found in certain strident meteorologist camps, but that’s not why I’m writing about it.

This battle is taking place inside the stations’ WorldNow Websites on pages defined as “blogs.” They are not blogs, and I wish these stations — and many others that do likewise — could see the foolishness of creating journals buried inside the walls of their one-size-fits-all Websites. TV stations who do this fool themselves into thinking they’re into the new media world when all they’re really doing is producing columns in a closed environment. It is shortsighted and self-destructive, because it refuses to recognize reality.

A blog without comments and permanent entry links is an imposter. Moreover, it belies an ignorance about the citizens media phenomenon that is visible for all to see. Blogging is about a conversation, not a lecture, a column or a commentary. Call it a journal page. Call it a column. Call it whatever you wish, but don’t call it a blog.

In world where marketers can control the message, journals inside WorldNow (or other) platforms give stations the opportunity to tout their presence in the blogosphere. (“Hey look, we’re blogging!”) This may work with those unfamiliar with blogs and blogging, but it’s a turn-off to those who make up the bulk of citizens media. It’s an attempt by traditional media forms to assimilate blogs, and it won’t work. In fact, I believe it’ll backfire.

UPDATE: If you want to see a real blog within a media Website, look at John Robinson’s Editor’s Log from the Greensboro News & Record.