Archive for the ‘Media’ category

New Media And The Capitol Protests

September 18, 2011

I like writing about media. This piece for Wisconsin Interest, the triannual political journal I help edit, examines how new media  drove the Capitol protests and its coverage. The piece begins:

The revolution came to Madison in February, but not the one you think.

Sure, Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to roll back a half-century of labor legislation and the ferocious liberal backlash were earthshaking events. But the outcome of this epic struggle awaits a last act.

No such uncertainty marks the digital revolution. New media played a crucial role in both organizing the Capitol protests and in covering them. The digital future arrived on the wings of text messages, cell-phone photos, flip-camera videos, Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

Several thousand words later, I end by saying that while  the mechanics of politics has been transformed by new media, the nature of the our politics hasn’t been changed at all.

The rise of social media has had little impact on the polarization of American politics. No middle-of- the-road, “third way” movement has been texted into public consciousness.

If anything, the new technology has been deployed in the revival of a grand old creedal fight. Surging conservatives are rolling back 50 years of liberal Democratic programs in Wisconsin and even challenging the Progressive and New Deal shibboleths of earlier generations. New media has been conspicuously agnostic in this war, equally available to the left and right.

The irony is that the epochal rise of digital media may wind up triggering Gutenberg-like changes in our culture and economy, in the transmission and creation of news, and in the very nature of our intimate communications. But in the substance of our politics — well, not so much. At least for now.

To read the full report,  please go here.

The Cap Times Web Experiment

July 23, 2010

For whatever reason, a story I wrote two years ago on The Capital Times’ move to a mostly Web existence surfaced the other day at the Association of Alternative Newspapers’ archive. (Or so I learned from a Google alert.)

Given my interest in the media, I might as well post it. Here’s how the story begins:

Good luck, Cap Times. You’ll need it. Converting from a six-day-a-week paid paper to an online news site is like jumping from a very high cliff into a very deep and mysterious pool.

The paper might be killed. Or it might be transformed.

One thing’s for sure: The Capital Times that Madison has known for 90 years will be gone. Online publishing is a fundamentally different proposition for both journalists and readers. Experts consider it a classic disruptive technology that reorders daily life for just about everyone it touches and destroys what was thought to be a durable economic model for the eclipsed technology.

Newspapers won’t die off as quickly as slide rules did when calculators were introduced, but the changes under way are so epochal you’d be foolish to believe anyone who speaks confidently of what publishing will be like in 10 years.

“Nobody knows anything,” as veteran screenwriter William Goldman famously said of the secrets to successful movie-making. The newspaper business is even more in the dark as to how it will make its next buck.

Actually, newspapers are beginning to make out a possible future–paywalls and online subscriptions. It may be time for me to check back with the Cap Times and see how its experiment fares.

For more of the original story,  go here.

What’s black and white and bleeding all over?

April 5, 2010

I intend to post a few  stories I wrote before starting this online archive. This piece on the decline of the Wisconsin newspaper industry dates to March 2009 when it was published by  Wisconsin Interest.

It  cuts close to home. I’ve spent  my adult  life working in newspapers (save a post-college stint at a factory in Kenosha), including, The West Bend News, The Capital Times and Isthmus, plus a cup of coffee at The Janesville Gazette.

The story begins:

If you’re a deep-pocketed business executive in a flourishing industry, you gather at the richly appointed Fluno Center on the UW-Madison campus for your deep-thought conferences. More modest enterprises and nonprofits send their execs to the UW’s shop-worn Pyle Center for their soul-searching. This, of course, was the proper setting for a worried group of newspaper executives on March 28, 2008.

The good news was that they weren’t squirreled away in a dining room at Denny’s out on the Interstate. Given the parlous state of newspaper economics, this might have made more sense. Their papers might have split the cost of the $5.99 “Grand Slam” breakfast special.

“We’re in a time of decline,” Stephen Gray of the American Press Institute told the 60 or 70 people present. “It’s a time of fear, depression, even despair.” Yes, fear, depression, even despair. Nobody was shocked by Gray’s words, because everybody knew they were true.

Go here to read more.


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