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Online Journalism Is Becoming a Billionaires' Plaything (Again)

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the use-it-or-lose-it dept.

The Almighty Buck 143

Nerval's Lobster writes "In the 1941 film Citizen Kane, the titular newspaper magnate (played with cheeky insouciance by Orson Welles) gleefully tells a doubter that he's prepared to lose a million dollars every year in order to keep publishing. "At a rate of a million dollars a year," he smirks, "I'll have to close this place in 60 years." Over the past decade, of course, many newspapers and magazines have lost a lot more than a million dollars a year, and there are signs that online publications are having trouble holding their finances together, as well. But some very rich people are stepping in to prop things up: first Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post for $250 million, then eBay founder Pierre Omidyar offered journalist Glenn Greenwald a whole lot of cash to start up a general interest publication. Billionaires and multimillionaires, of course, have total freedom to fund whatever they want—and that could be a good thing for publications with a mission and a serious need for cash. But what if the rich investor disagrees with something that his pet publication releases into the world? If (and when) that situation occurs, it could serve as an interesting test of whether the latest version of this "generous benefactor" model can work more effectively as an impartial channel for news than it has in the past (when conflicts of interest often sparked titanic fights between editors and owners)."

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143 comments

Like slashdot with Dice pulling the strings... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45150939)

oh wait slashdot is irrelevant.

insouciance? (4, Funny)

VMaN (164134) | about 6 months ago | (#45150949)

Ok, who didn't have to lookup that word?

Re:insouciance? (3, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#45150979)

"insouciance"

"Ok, who didn't have to lookup that word?"

Tens of millions of French speaking people additional to a couple of hundred million English speaking ones.

Re:insouciance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151041)

Are you honestly claiming that you believe at least 200 million English-speaking people read that article and happen to already be familiar with the word "insouciance"? It's unlikely that there's even ten million English speakers throughout the entire world who've even heard of that word.

Re:insouciance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151107)

Are you honestly claiming that you believe at least 200 million English-speaking people read that article and happen to already be familiar with the word "insouciance"? It's unlikely that there's even ten million English speakers throughout the entire world who've even heard of that word.

Yeah, most of the non-american world speaks 2 or more languages, with french being quite common. I hear spanish has a similar word, too.

Re:insouciance? (2)

gl4ss (559668) | about 6 months ago | (#45151139)

I just assumed the meaning from the context.

it's a fucking stupid word to use in a place like that and I can guarantee that the word would cause point loss on 99% of english exams in the world.

I mean, the word needs "cheeky" in front of it to work. if one wanted to get fancy with words then one could have chosen a word that combined the two and was actually not something the reporter had been waiting to use since his cultural studies ended in the late '90s.

Re:insouciance? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 6 months ago | (#45151163)

Actually, demonstrating an extensive vocabulary tends to earn points on exams. So long as you make sure you know exactly what the word means. I got a mark on my english exam studying 'Of Mice and Men' by describing the racism of the time as 'ubiquitous.'

Re: insouciance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151449)

You consider ubiquitous to be a 5 dollar word?
.
.
.
Wow.

Re: insouciance? (2)

flyneye (84093) | about 6 months ago | (#45152129)

Step right over here, I collect word usage tax, and I can assure you, that is only $1.29.
Now, ante up the toll, bub.

Re:insouciance? (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 6 months ago | (#45151573)

ubiquitous is not an "extensive vocabulary" word, it is a common, everyone known it word.

Re:insouciance? (3, Funny)

cold fjord (826450) | about 6 months ago | (#45151851)

What you're saying is that the understanding of ubiquitous is ubiquitous.

Re:insouciance? (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 6 months ago | (#45152173)

No, they're just mumbling doubletalk in Esperanto...
What they're saying is; they'd like their coffee now and a high colonic. Just bag it up and step on it. You can brainwash someone like that.

Re:insouciance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151257)

gitter gone, yeeehaw!

Re:insouciance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151565)

Actually it's a good word. The reporter could have said cheeky "je ne sais quoi" but chose insouciance instead. In fact he could have cut out the cheeky and just said, "played with insouciance by Orson Welles." By way of an example, if he had said, indifference, then yes, by all means add cheeky; but in the case of insouciance, the cheekiness is implied, making the cheeky adverb somewhat redundant. The reporter, however, knowing that most readers are ignoramuses, made an editorial decision by adding cheeky, not to mention that Orson Welles had prominent cheeks which flapped about in an impertinent manner.

Re:insouciance? (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 6 months ago | (#45152207)

Played with "sour cream" by Orson Wells. Everyone knows he had a family size bag of ripple chips and a jug of Mogen David on the set.

Re:insouciance? (4, Insightful)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#45151123)

"Are you honestly claiming that you believe at least 200 million English-speaking people read that article and happen to already be familiar with the word "insouciance"? It's unlikely that there's even ten million English speakers throughout the entire world who've even heard of that word."

Au contraire, it's le mot juste.
English is a cache for french words, not only faux éminences grises, poseurs and blasé parvenus know that it is de rigueur to know them. Ask your fiancé.
Sorry, I have to leave you with this impasse, my hors d'oeuvre (mélange of mange-tout with mousse) is ready and I need some change for the pourboire for my garçon.
Sorry for the pastiche.

Ferns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151185)

With these fancy New Yorker style words and everything, I'm just concerned that Slashdot will start putting fern and doily graphics around the site.

Re:Ferns (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151579)

You just need to get in touché with your inner metrosexual.

Re:insouciance? (3, Funny)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about 6 months ago | (#45151193)

Pfff. Just another one of these fancy knobs who likes to use words he doesn't understand in order to sound more "Cochon d'Inde."

Re:insouciance? (1)

stealth_finger (1809752) | about 6 months ago | (#45151391)

"Are you honestly claiming that you believe at least 200 million English-speaking people read that article and happen to already be familiar with the word "insouciance"? It's unlikely that there's even ten million English speakers throughout the entire world who've even heard of that word."

Au contraire, it's le mot juste. English is a cache for french words, not only faux éminences grises, poseurs and blasé parvenus know that it is de rigueur to know them. Ask your fiancé. Sorry, I have to leave you with this impasse, my hors d'oeuvre (mélange of mange-tout with mousse) is ready and I need some change for the pourboire for my garçon. Sorry for the pastiche.

English has a lot of words based on french words but you're just dropping french in there. Anything with an accent isn't english. Especially garcon. That's just a french word. If any one in a restaurant calls for their garcon they're either incredibly stuck up or are taking the piss.

Re:insouciance? (1)

Arker (91948) | about 6 months ago | (#45151723)

"Especially garcon. That's just a french word. If any one in a restaurant calls for their garcon they're either incredibly stuck up or are taking the piss."

Eh, I would argue that it occurs more than often enough in English to count as an English word, particularly since it does have a distinct (though related) meaning from the French word. He's not (unless I badly misread him) using it in its French meaning but in its English meaning - it's a word that would be used by an idiot who considers himself a snob, or more likely in a parody of someone that others see as such. In this case, I believe he was indeed 'taking the piss' with it in a sense, but not necessarily in the sense you meant.

Re:insouciance? (2)

nospam007 (722110) | about 6 months ago | (#45152305)

"English has a lot of words based on french words but you're just dropping french in there. Anything with an accent isn't english. "

Every single word was found in the 3 english dictionaries I checked. Wikipedia has also a list.
But this now resembles Kindergarten, Schadenfreude is verboten.

Re:insouciance? (2)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 6 months ago | (#45151589)

I'm surprised the French have so many problems with the color of their socks. It's always sock ray blue this and sock ray blue that.

Re:insouciance? (1)

unitron (5733) | about 6 months ago | (#45152069)

I'm surprised the French have so many problems with the color of their socks. It's always sock ray blue this and sock ray blue that.

It's like when in Spanish "white house" becomes "casa blanca", with the adjective following the noun it modifies instead of preceeding it, when you move from English to French "blu-ray" become "ray blue".

Re:insouciance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152225)

You foreign fellers, it's like you got a different word for everything...

Re:insouciance? (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 6 months ago | (#45151395)

Are you honestly claiming that it's so difficult to search for an unbeknownst term for a definition in one of the many free and excellent online dictionaries?

I mean, hell, Google is usually pretty good at figuring out what searches are ostensibly for the sake of reference, even without providing the "define:" flag. In Firefox, Opera and probably other browsers, you just need to highlight the term and select "search $SearchEngine for $Word" for, and it will take you right to the definition. There's an extension for Firefox to load a word definition in an overlaid in a fancy DHTML box without having the leave the page. I'll bet there's one that does something similar on mouseover or double click since you're obviously to lazy to make the three or four clicks it takes otherwise.

I love when writers use complex words. If it's a good one, I've augmented my vocabulary with a word that will enable me to express something more elegantly and coherently. For example, just the other day, I came across the word "petulant." What an eloquently percussive word to hurl at someone when appropriate. Although, I guess you'll never fully understand it because a few clicks are too difficult. Who knew there were Slashdotters afraid to learn?

Re:insouciance? (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 6 months ago | (#45151165)

I browse at -1 with a dictionary and pronunciation window open. For me, hanging out with smart people is the best way to keep my mind open and learning.

Re:insouciance? (3, Funny)

unitron (5733) | about 6 months ago | (#45152095)

...For me, hanging out with smart people is the best way to keep my mind open and learning.

Insert obligatory "...then what in the bleep are you doing on Slashdot?"

Re:insouciance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45153251)

It gets worse: it's "look up". That's a phrasal verb. "Lookup" is a noun, as in "lookup table".

more of the same (4, Interesting)

Gravis Zero (934156) | about 6 months ago | (#45150965)

this has happened in all sectors of our emerging dystopia. the media was the first to go. the endgame of controlling information is to control everything. unless you have someone with good intentions at the helm, this is simply a step in a conquest of dominance. it's like the dark ages but with lawyers instead of soldiers.

Re:more of the same (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about 6 months ago | (#45151331)

Well, what do you expect when the media turned on its heel in 2009 and became solidly pro-government? To the extent that they refuse to investigate the administration even when crimes are clearly being committed? All because they're simpatico with the political leanings of the President. Disgraceful, eh?

Re: more of the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151475)

Wtf are you talking about? The media stopped being adversarial with the government after 9/11

Re:more of the same (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151543)

I think you have the wrong year, and the wrong administration. Illegal war and torture came before the current administration, and that bastion of "liberal" news the NYT refused to use the word torture to describe it.

Get real.

Re:more of the same, not really (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152049)

You mean like Rupert Murdoch buying various news outlets that are nothing but speculative babble, the paper would serve wonders for those without toilet paper? Or more to the point, turning the defunct idiots at FOX (Fuckin' Oxy-Moron News) into the same mindless babble, all for the shack and awl (as some call it) to sell the news at any costs.. Cause that is exactly what is happening, look at CNN, MSNBC, NBC in general, pretty much all of them, even NPR (all tho they do report various things you can pick and choose from with ease).

When you have too much money you have too much time as well, and that leads to arrogance and ignorance.

Re:more of the same (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152643)

Here's a little tip, Mr. Zero: not using your shift key doesn't make you look cook, it makes you look like someone who doesn't need to be paid attention to.

what's new? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45150997)

Haven't media enterprises always been owned by some rich guy/group?
The only difference now is that more people can get in the game, as the Internet provides for more channels.
Old channels are regulated by the state, so we can only expect the level of censorship and manipulation to be higher.

Mainstream media has been a combination of reality show and bullshit for decades now. It can only get better.

As every paid journo knows (4, Insightful)

ehack (115197) | about 6 months ago | (#45151005)

The freedom of the press belongs to the owner of the press.

Re:As every paid journo knows (1)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 6 months ago | (#45151317)

Which makes network neutrality all the more precious. Without it then you can set up your own server but the packets go nowhere.

Every effort has to be made to allow the individual to be heard somehow.

just another example of societal regression (4, Informative)

nimbius (983462) | about 6 months ago | (#45151007)

Billionaires and multimillionaires, of course, have total freedom to fund whatever they wantâ"and that could be a good thing for publications with a mission and a serious need for cash.

in the late 19th century and into the beginnings of the 20th century america and england had epidemic problems with the 'well to do' financing newspapers. it took investigative journalists that didnt care about the advertisers or the backers to correct this.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muckraker [wikipedia.org]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_American_newspapers#The_press_in_the_Party_System:_1820.E2.80.931890 [wikipedia.org]
the difference being todays muckrakers have the internet. its much harder, although not impossible, to silence a glen greenwald or a julian assange if they so choose to expose your corruption. plutocratically controlled news is an important thing to have when voters are striking for fair minimum wage, protesting your banks in occupy camps, and largely backing healthcare and prison reforms that would undermine your system of creating intentional strife within parties or groups of people to further advance your cause.

Re:just another example of societal regression (2)

sabbede (2678435) | about 6 months ago | (#45151941)

Hey, be careful, that's an awfully broad brush you're painting with. Don't forget, Benjamin Franklin was a wealthy media mogul. And following him was a time when people would start newspapers just to slander their political opponents...

...which I guess we have kind of come back to. (I'm looking at you Drudge and KOS).

I guess that I'm not just going to assume nefarious intent just because somebody is wealthy.

Re:just another example of societal regression (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151997)

I agree with what you're saying, but personally I feel that Greenwald is a bogeyman too. Tarzie enunciates this much better than I can, in terms of how Greenwald is using exactly the authoritarian tactics to control the leaks he once used to denounce.

http://ohtarzie.wordpress.com/2013/10/15/viva-the-new-journalism/

The problem is for profit news... (5, Insightful)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 6 months ago | (#45151039)

.. always bends to business or advertisers. At this point I'd like (I know it's unrealistic) to have a news organization that's totally funded by the public via central bank and they have a bottomless well of money to spend in case of political emergency (aka build it into the system) that's run by the sanest citizens. They are picked for their sanity and respect for the truth. People who accept science, aren't easily fooled by left/right ideology, understand that societies have to change in accordance with what is true about the universe, even if that up-ends the status quo. We have people trying to cling to 19th century ideologies in a world where technology is fast making human elements unprofitable over the long term.

News sucks so bad because most people are just too scared or too sheepish to actually call out the corporate system on its bullshit because they depend on that very system for survival, too many people are easily manipulated by the threats of loss of income, relationships and status.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (2, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 6 months ago | (#45151171)

Such organisation would still have to keep happy the politicians who decide to allocate the money.

A better solution is to have everything: Government-funded news, privately sponsored news, advertiser-funded news, volunteer-operated enthusiast news. All biased, but in different directions, and constantly fact-checking each other.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151207)

Such organisation would still have to keep happy the politicians who decide to allocate the money.

A better solution is to have everything: Government-funded news, privately sponsored news, advertiser-funded news, volunteer-operated enthusiast news. All biased, but in different directions, and constantly fact-checking each other.

This is essentially what we have now and it doesn't work. People tend to read and embrace what they already believe in, and ridicule & disparage what they do not believe in...

Re:The problem is for profit news... (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 6 months ago | (#45152387)

This is essentially what we have now and it doesn't work.

Yeah, but it's the best you're going to get.

People tend to read and embrace what they already believe in, and ridicule & disparage what they do not believe in...

That's more the fault of the audience than the news media.

It would be nice if we could teach people to examine the different ideas before they make up their mind. That's what a liberal education used to do.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151265)

http://www.democracynow.org/

Re:The problem is for profit news... (2)

nbauman (624611) | about 6 months ago | (#45152465)

http://www.democracynow.org/

I can't mod that up because I'm commenting.

That's the George Seldes formula. If you want good news badly enough, pay for it yourself.

Fortunately Amy Goodman is a very good journalist. There's a reason people go to Harvard for their education. Like a lot of good small news organizations, it's heavily dependent on a single individual.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (1)

blahplusplus (757119) | about 6 months ago | (#45152921)

"Such organisation would still have to keep happy the politicians who decide to allocate the money."

It wouldn't be run by elected officials, it would be run based on genetic and other scientific assessments of the persons thought and worldview. Tests for sanity. hence I said 'sanity' being #1. There are people who are nearly bias free and have penetrating insights into mankind and society at large. Bias has little to do with survival. We know enough about the world to know when we are threatening our own long term survival. The problem is the people who's minds are easily co-opted by the system.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (2)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 6 months ago | (#45151247)

> .. always bends to business or advertisers.

Exactly. I work in the media (radio), and you'd better believe it. But it doesn't only happen with "rich guys." (Or "gals.)

The classic example is that of a small local newspaper. The largest advertiser's son is arrested for drunk driving. The advertiser calls the paper and says, "please don't run that story." What does the paper do? If it agrees, it has compromised. If it doesn't, though, it loses its largest advertiser and (this example is based on a true story, can't remember the details now) goes out of business.

In this particular case, who knows? Maybe the rich guy could *afford* to tell the advertiser, "sorry, but it's news, we're gonna print it."

My only other strong disagreement with some of the other posts here is the idea that government could somehow do a better (or at least more "unbiased") job. That's ludicrous. Politiclowns are the LEAST informed and the most swayed by public opinion. Now add in the fact that they earnestly want to *shape* public opinion, and you'll see what I don't believe anything emitted by a government organ.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (1)

dinfinity (2300094) | about 6 months ago | (#45151513)

Politiclowns are the LEAST informed and the most swayed by public opinion. Now add in the fact that they earnestly want to *shape* public opinion, and you'll see what I don't believe anything emitted by a government organ.

Because everybody who works for the government is a 'politiclown'. All humans are and will be (for the time being) fallible and prone to corruption, which is why the design of the system should mitigate that. Separation of powers, transparent evaluation processes, etc.

The big difference with private corporations is that citizens can and should demand openness about how public processes take place and that 'regulations' for the government aren't seen as evil economy and freedom-killing blasphemy by half the country.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (3, Informative)

nbauman (624611) | about 6 months ago | (#45152523)

> .. always bends to business or advertisers.

Exactly. I work in the media (radio), and you'd better believe it. But it doesn't only happen with "rich guys." (Or "gals.)

The classic example is that of a small local newspaper. The largest advertiser's son is arrested for drunk driving. The advertiser calls the paper and says, "please don't run that story." What does the paper do? If it agrees, it has compromised. If it doesn't, though, it loses its largest advertiser and (this example is based on a true story, can't remember the details now) goes out of business.

Classic example is Ms. magazine. Most of their advertising came from cigarettes. They ran stories about every cancer except lung cancer, every women's health problem except lung disease. An ad in Ms. magazine meant that their advertising acceptability department had approved it. Ms. was saying it was acceptable, even fashionable. They helped addict a generation of teenage girls to nicotine, and you can see it in the death rates in women from lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and strokes.

Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151341)

And the ting that's really scary is that public opinion is so easily manipulated. And real news is disappearing. It's more propaganda, sound bites, and distorting things to the point of getting at the truth is extremely difficult.

It doesn't help that the politicians really don't explain their positions well. The other day on NPR, they were interviewing a Republican Congressman. As far as I'm concerned, he discredited his otherwise eloquent position by calling the Affordable Care Act as the "Un-Affordable Care Act".

That tells me nothing - no data - no facts. Just bumper sticker sound bite.

And the NPR corespondent didn't hold his feet to the fire and ask, "Exactly what makes it unaffordable?"

Re:Scary (1)

nbauman (624611) | about 6 months ago | (#45152583)

And the NPR corespondent didn't hold his feet to the fire and ask, "Exactly what makes it unaffordable?"

That's exactly the problem. Of course if he did ask a question like that, the politician wouldn't have given NPR easy quotes any more. And that would mean the correspondent would have to work harder for a story.

Amy Goodman www.democracynow.org would have asked him. It can be done. Listen to her interview with Bill Clinton.

Or listen to Carole Coleman's interview with George W. Bush on Irish TV -- where she actually asked him substantive questions about the war in Iraq.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151347)

The real news network (google it or check youtube, i don't know how to link in this board) is a project attempting to do the unrealistic by being funded solely by the public viewers.

Personally im surprised by the quality of their work in terms of debated and investigated content and how long they have been afloat.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (3, Insightful)

sabbede (2678435) | about 6 months ago | (#45152017)

Well, NPR is pretty darn close to what you're talking about. There's also the BBC.

But how do you get around the problem of a media outlet becoming an organ of the state? There is an unavoidable risk that news reporting will become beholden to whomever controls the purse strings. But the more of them there are competing for advertising revenue, the less it costs to advertise with them. The broader the base of financial support, the harder it is to become beholden to any one source.

Of course, the theory behind public funding (through the government, not pledge drives) is that the media is then beholden to each individual. However, it is the body that funnels the funds to them to which they will become beholden.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (2, Informative)

nbauman (624611) | about 6 months ago | (#45152319)

.. always bends to business or advertisers.

That's the general rule, but the exceptions are even more interesting. (And the exceptions are the ones that I read.)

Before Rupert Murdoch took it over, the Wall Street Journal was my choice for the best source of general news in the English language. The paper was very profitable and had a wide advertising base, so it wasn't dependent on any single advertiser. They were owned by a family, the Bancrofts, that were quite liberal, hired good journalists to run the paper, and left them alone, except when they had to stand behind them. The conservative editorial page gave them cover for a news department that was actually one of the most liberal in the country. I was struck by their no-sacred-cows coverage of the pharmaceutical industry, automobile safety, mining, and the Reagan-era welfare reforms. They had long, ongoing coverage of people with life-threatening diseases who couldn't afford to get treated in the health care system. One of their reporters in New York profiled a young woman who worked in a news stand near her house, who was blind in one eye, and going blind in the other eye, because she couldn't afford to pay her bills at New York Eye and Ear medical center, and couldn't afford the relatively cheap drugs for glaucoma.

The best account of the Wall Street Journal, I think, was in a couple of articles written by A. Kent Macdougal (in More and in the Monthly Review) after he retired to teach journalism. He said that in all his career, he never heard of pressure from an advertiser or a political favorite of the management or publisher. He was a socialist, and he could write whatever he wanted as long as he followed the formula of balanced, objective journalism with every statement backed up by facts.

Macdougal said that the Journal earned its credibility in the 1950s when they got photos of the next year's GM model cars, which were a big marketing secret. GM said that if the Journal published them, they would cancel all their advertising. The Journal published them, GM cancelled their ads, and when GM finally came back begging to let them advertise again, the Journal took a long time deciding whether to take them.

Now that Murdoch took over, he started using his pressure not on behalf of his advertisers, but on behalf of his political ideology http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/14/business/media/14carr.html [nytimes.com] I guess he thinks he's Citizen Kane.

I think the formula for good news is a lot of money (from whatever source), and good journalists who know how to report, edit and manage news. Ralph Ingersol paid for PM and The Compass. George Seldes used to publish his newsletter In Fact, which published news that nobody else would (and had a network of reporters around the world who sent them stories they couldn't publish in their own newspapers), like racism in the South. In Fact was a model for American newsletters and dissident newspapers that followed, including I.F. Stone's Weekly. Seldes didn't know this until much later, but his main financial backer was a Communist who was getting money to pay for the newsletter from the Soviet Union. Dostoyevsky said, "We all came out from under Gogol's overcoat." Well, we all came out from under Seldes' In Fact.

So that's what it takes -- good journalists, and money with no strings attached, wherever you can get it. Let's see if Omidyar and Greenwald can do it.

Re:The problem is for profit news... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152871)

So your standard for "the best source of general news in the English language" is "a news department that was actually one of the most liberal in the country"???

Liberal news bias is no better or worse than conservative news bias. Both are a problem and the goal should be objective news coverage. The problem is that for whatever reason, the vast majority of people graduating from journalism school and going into the business are liberal Democrats. Try as some of them might to hide their bias, it generally shows through - perhaps because their just aren't enough hours before deadline to think everything through and clean it up, perhaps because they're surrounded by like-minded individuals who make their group-think seemed centrist. Whatever the reason, the news heavily skews left. That's not a good thing. And just giving reporters free rein to report whatever they want is unlikely to solve it. Even the requirement that reporting be backed by facts isn't enough, a huge source of bias comes from deciding which facts to report and how to report them.

Well (2)

The Cat (19816) | about 6 months ago | (#45151049)

Since the Internet has failed to realize its goal of making it possible for the little guy to be on an even playing field with the large companies, I would say that it's par for the course that the rich people will take over.

The promise of open standards and democratic information have been destroyed with the enthusiastic participation of the very people who told us open standards were the way forward. E-mail has been abandoned for Twitter. The web has been abandoned for Facebook and the PC has been abandoned for the iPhone. And you love it.

This all happened after the U.S. high tech industry was strangled and dumped in a drainage ditch naked in 2000 and the space program was raped and left for dead somewhere in northern Asia.

It's too late to cry about it now. You got exactly what you wanted, and every step of the way when people pointed out we were on the wrong path you shouted them down with your smartass memes and your neckbearded atheist-habit self-assurance you are the smartest people in the world.

In ten years the Internet will be destroyed completely, and since there is nobody left under the age of 50 with an attention span longer than ten seconds the people who lose it won't have any idea what the hell happened.

And it will be your fault.

Re: Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151131)

Yes, web 2.0 sucks, but it has a purpose it acts as a filter, it keeps the worthless masses away from web 1.0 technologies. web 1.0 has been demographically cleansed, this good. /some sort of internet psuedo-nazi elitest.

Re:Well (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 6 months ago | (#45151431)

And it will be your fault.

While the general contempt being spat in the above post is rather direction-less, I feel that this statement at least is accurate. It is "our" (collective computerdom's) fault that the internet is being turned into a giant walled garden surrounded by watch towers.

The web needed technologies that put decentralisation, anonymity, and encryption into the hands of every single user by default. That never happened. It never happened because hackers did not
a) Write such software, or write such addons to existing software, and
b) Never pushed for such software to be written or included.

Where's the button on Firefox that turns on -- no, turns off from default -- encrypted browsing? Where's the auto-configured PGP setting in _all_ email clients, ready to send and receive encrypted mail by default? Where are the default sever settings in programs like Apache which support all of this across the web?

These things are no longer optional extras. In the face of the rumbling, Kafka-esque behemoth that the NSA is becoming, they are essential features which everyone on the web needs right now.

The first task: Get Firefox to accept self-signed certs without complaining.

Re:Well (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 6 months ago | (#45151657)

It's easy to blame "us" for not writing these things, but that's an oversimplification. The security and privacy features you describe are decidedly non-trivial to implement, it's not generally something that works well as a weekend/hobby project. And no one wanted to pay us to implement them.

And I'm not referring to the corporate overlords (who have a vested interest in the end user *not* having access to them) or the government (ditto). I mean every end user who, up until the recent shitstorm, dismissed those very concerns with suggestions to "make sure the shiny side is *out*," etc...

Yes, we need them now. And in true, modern corporate fashion, our (collective) short sightedness is biting us in the ass. Barn doors and horses and all.

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151849)

How are un-editable pages better?

Re:Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152079)

I'll add one more thing: by not coming down hard on black hat hackers and crackers right away it created an enviroment of tacit acceptance for violating everyone's personal property. This is hardly the way to build open, trusted networks.

The dream (for some of us) has always been an all-purpose server in "the hall closet," running mail, personal web servers and whatever else could be done with it. But a big reason we don't is because of the constant attention and security requirements.

How is this new? (1)

phayes (202222) | about 6 months ago | (#45151135)

I'm not even talking about the historic examples of a century ago. Robert Murdock anyone?

Re:How is this new? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151235)

Barak Obama anyone?
He gave NBC's, and MSNBC's, parent company $16 Billion dollars during the stimulus. I would dare say that is far more than Murdock ever spent.
He has also gotten overwhelmingly positive coverage for it. By the way, that was taxpayer money he gave them, not his own.

Re:How is this new? (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 6 months ago | (#45151933)

Murdock is a reliable corporatist, so he's considered mostly-harmless. I've been following @pierre for a while on Twitter - he's really pissed about the NSA scandal and has the money to draw attention to his concerns.

That's why we're seeing toady stories today bemoaning Rosebud - his reputation needs to be damaged in the court of public opinion, so that the real people who control the press can go about their business.

The New is Just Like the Old (3, Insightful)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 6 months ago | (#45151149)

You needn't go back to Charles Foster Kane or the William Randolph Hearsts of the world he was meant to represent. This kind of thing never went away (vide Rupert Murdoch [wikipedia.org] or Ted Turner [wikipedia.org] ). The main difference between a Bezos and a Murdoch is that Bezos made his fortune indiscriminately selling books filled with insight, entertainment, truth, facts or lies, while Murdoch was much more discriminate in peddling lies.

Re:The New is Just Like the Old (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152367)

I don't know if he was ever famous in the USA, but let's not forget arch-crook Robert Maxwell [wikipedia.org] .

It is not so much about disagreement with content (3, Insightful)

vikingpower (768921) | about 6 months ago | (#45151157)

But what if the rich investor disagrees with something that his pet publication releases into the world?

It is much more about the content, in *all* cases where a billionaire takes over, becoming poorer and poorer. Why ? Because the billionaire has become a billionaire by earning ( lots of ) money, and is 100% geared toward .... earning money. The only way to do that, with media, in our dystopian world, is by advertising. Advertising only works well if and when the media carrying the ads reach a large public. A large public can only be reached by rendering content poorer: shallower, shorter, simpler.

And that is how it works and has worked, e.g. for the ( prime example ! ) French "quality newspaper" Le Monde. Up to the beginning of the '90s, that newspaper was owned by private investors, philantropists actually, who knew that producing a quality newspaper costs money, more than that same newspaper can bring in. But then, some time in the '90s, Le Monde was taken over by rich investors. The result: from the stern, photo-less format for which it was famous, from great heights of linguistic refinement and from immense depths of understanding and background articles, Le Monde went to... well, pretty much the same format as other large-public newspapers: advertisements everywhere, shallow articles dealing with the craze and the hype of the day. If even Le Monde could not do it, I do not see how any other serious media can do it, whether they be newspaper, tv programme, radio - you name it.

Conclusion: any take-over of traditional media by billionaires is bad news. Bad news for the public at large. Bad news for the employed, conscientious journalists and reporters. Bad news for the "third power" that media have come to be in our ramshackle democracies. Bad news for all.

Re:It is not so much about disagreement with conte (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 6 months ago | (#45151203)

But what if the rich investor^^W^WRupert Murdoch disagrees with something that his pet publication^W^W^W Fox News releases into the world?

Or let's go further back, since we're referencing Citizen Kane: How about Randolph ("Reefer Madness/Remember the Maine!") Hearst?

Re:It is not so much about disagreement with conte (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151961)

You mean the guy the movie character was based on?

Re:It is not so much about disagreement with conte (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152917)

I'm confused by your post. What is the difference between rich "private investors, philantropists actually" and "rich investors"? If a rich guy buys a newspaper knowing it will lose money, how can you tell if he is a philanthropist before seeing the results?

Financing (2)

AndyCanfield (700565) | about 6 months ago | (#45151173)

In the past century selling copies was a common method of financing; the entire book ecosystem is built around this concept. Similar is the movie ecosystem, which sold views until DVD's came along.

Recently the Internet has exploited the advertising method of financing. Newspapers and magazines have relied on this for decades.

RIch investors are not a new invention - it goes back thousands of years. This was how The Old Testament was paid for. Today nobody would know about Abraham except for the fellow who financed hand-written copies of the Torah. It is by far the oldest tradition. It's not evil. You pay to print your opinions, I pay to print my opinions. Millions read yours, maybe one or two will read mine. We both become part of the human cultural heritage.

Billionaires, megacorps, what's the difference? (4, Informative)

Quinn_Inuit (760445) | about 6 months ago | (#45151201)

Why am I supposed to worry about Jeff Bezos having more of an effect on the editorial direction of the WaPo than I am on, say, Disney affecting the editorial direction of ABC News (or Gannett, if you want to stick with print)? The only difference that I can see is that the latter is answerable to shareholders and so might tolerate fewer losses on the business. IMO, this horse was out of the barn years ago, and the nouveau riche* are the "same as the old boss" at this point.

*Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Re:Billionaires, megacorps, what's the difference? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152131)

mod this up to 6.

Washington Post (4, Informative)

ThatsNotPudding (1045640) | about 6 months ago | (#45151223)

I wouldn't hold my breath over the Post launching an in-depth investigation into Amazon's contracts with the CIA, for example. More to the point, Bezos won't even have to say a word; even the dimmest editor knows which side of the bread his butter lies. Kinda like Russia Today's coverage about the treatment of the LGBT communities in that country is a bit... light. Or Al Jazeera's reportage on the practical enslavement of south pacific workers in the Middle East. Lesson: never single-source.

Can you say BIAS? (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 6 months ago | (#45151307)

The question posed in the summary is moot. It's obvious that, say for example, the Washington Post won't publish anything that upsets Bezos (like a favorable Nook review).

Paid-for journalism is nothing new. It's just been exacerbated by the rise of the WWW.

Billionaire incompetence (1)

mbone (558574) | about 6 months ago | (#45151469)

In my (limited but non-zero) direct experience, billionaires are dangerous, since they tend to go outside their areas of competence, since everyone assumes that they know what they are doing, and since (at least in the United States) very few people will speak up when they are wrong.

yea, right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45151473)

like /. is anything close to tech news...

Online news (1)

grub (11606) | about 6 months ago | (#45151587)


I absolutely love the ~1 year old news site Quartz [qz.com] . I forget how I found it, but it's been a great. The "While you were sleeping" sections in the email updates keeps you up to date on events around the clock.

Maybe we MIGHT get some ACTUALLY balanced news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152325)

Ok,

          I figure I'm going get slammed anyway, but...
          Knowing the current state of the media, paper, and TV, and the current rift between "Progressivve" and "Neo-Conservatives", MAYBE we can get someone to simply TELL the news without Spin-Doctoring the news!

          I'd like to, for once, be able tojudge a story on the merits of what actually happened from all perspectives, instead of the Doom and Gloom told from BOTH sides. It's freaking annoying that people are trying to tell me HOW and WHAT to think, instead of allowing me to make my own decissions!

(OK so my spelling sucks. It's early for me...)

Jason

Practical Alternatives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152425)

If you don't want "rich" people owning and operating news organizations, what do you want? Do you want them to be non-profits that can be harrassed by the IRS at the administration's whim? Would you rather they be funded directly by the government, so that the government can pressure them with funding, or coerce them to the will of the currently-dominant ego of the government every time a "continuing resolution" date comes up? Maybe just wholly operated by the government?

Is there anything left besides a co-op? I don't know how practical that would be in such a high-pressure environment. Yes, the newspaper industry is fairly high-pressure.

Jeff Bezos may or may not be the right hand of the devil, but one thing he has going for him: he's more free than most. IMO, the less the purse strings are controlled by government organizations, the better, for *the press*. I know the "government control" is all a grey area - "hey Jeff we'd love to give you this server contract but really need Story X to be pushed to page 5" - but dammit, let's push it towards one side rather than the other.

Impartial journalism is a farce (1)

argoff (142580) | about 6 months ago | (#45152841)

For chrissake, there has never been a day since the birth of humankind where journalism has been impartial. Right now, the powers that be seem to be changing hands, and so all the old partialities are falling to the new ones. Maybe the old minions are whining about impartiality, but in practice they are really just whineing that their partiality is being subbed out for somebody elses.

Why no mention of Carlos Slim and The NY Times? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45152987)

Do you people even know about this? Carlos hopes to bring what socialism has done for Mexico for the last 90 years to the USA.

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