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Three interesting developments in modern journalism

By Francis Moran

A few years back, my pal Ian Graham acquainted me with his “law of three.” If any subject or person or issue crosses Graham’s attention three times in relatively short order, he believes he ought to pay attention to it. It’s an intriguing notion that I have found plays out in my own life more often than I might expect. Graham’s law intersected last night with my colleague Leo Valiquette’s piece earlier this week about “the mocking white glare of an empty page.” Having begged off posting yesterday to finish a client project and faced with having to produce a post for today, I was struck by an article I read about Canadian movie house Alliance Films seeking to charge Canadian journalists as much as €2,500 for interviews with bold-name stars such as Brad Pitt at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It was the third article I read this week about interesting and controversial developments in modern journalism and, not wishing to be mocked either by my empty screen or by my hardacre blog editor, the idea for this post was clumsily conceived.

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Why redefining PR is not unlike herding cats

By Linda Forrest

The PR industry has been aflutter with activity in response to the recent efforts of the Public Relations Society of America to crowd source a new definition for PR.

Rather than leave it open ended, PRSA has gone with a fill-in-the-blank (in this case, parentheses) approach:

Public relations (does what) with/for (whom) to (with/for) for (what purpose).

If you wish to weigh in, submissions will be accepted at the above link until the end of the week, with a new definition targeted for publication before the end of the year.

It has indeed been quite some time since the term has been defined, nearly 20 years, during which time the means by which public relations is conducted has evolved markedly from dead trees to digital zeros and ones, shifting from a one-way conversation to a multi-stakeholder conversation.

From the PRSA website:

The PRSA 1982 National Assembly formally adopted a definition of public relations, which remains widely accepted and used today:

“Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

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Facebook friends Goldman Sachs and the rich get richer

By Alexandra Reid

Facebook has raised US$500 million from Goldman Sachs and Russian investment firm Digital Sky Technologies, according to the New York Times.

The injection of cash values Facebook at about $50 billion. The social network now has a bigger capitalization than Boeing, at $48.7 billion, and Time Warner, at about $36 billion. The deal has reportedly fueled the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s examination of the growing trade of privately held shares of well-known social networking sites. The concern is that Goldman is planning to craft a “special purpose vehicle” that may be able to dodge the 500-shareholder rule, which requires a company to disclose certain financial information to the public, even if it hasn’t filed for an initial public offering. Through this vehicle, the investment would be managed solely by Goldman and therefore would be considered just one investment, even though it could potentially pool investments from thousands of clients.

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How to avoid becoming a pork belly writer in Topeka, KS

By Leo Valiquette

Regular readers of this blog will recall that a few weeks ago I wrote about the U.K. court case of Meltwater vs. the Newspaper Licensing Agency (NLA), an ongoing story that spotlights the challenges of traditional media outlets to maintain control of, and monetize, their content in the age of Web 2.0 and news aggregation/media monitoring services such as Meltwater.

In that post I made passing reference to the dire straits of the overworked journalist, faced with staff cuts and diminished resources, who slogs away day after day trying to produce relevant and insightful news content that digs deeper than the headline and the news release. For these folks, the fiscal challenges of their corporate overlords have translated into longer hours, poor job security and loss of benefits.

Gawker.com recently published a hilarious animated short in which a seasoned journalist crushes the idealistic ambitions of a naive wannabe who wants to work for the New York Times, do important journalism and make a difference, oh, and meet the President, too.

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New York Times decries “Tweet” is for the birds

By Linda Forrest

Oh dear.

The standards editor at the New York Times (@nytimes) has banned usage of the word Tweet, insisting that its use flies in the face of the paper’s general avoidance of “colloquialisms, neologisms and jargon.” His reasoning is that Twitter might be next year’s proverbial bird-cage liner and the Times will have egg on its face for adopting this word before its usage was properly established and therefore considered “ordinary.”

Just today, the Oxford English Dictionary added a number of words to its tome – data center among them. Until now, was that just jargon? When I consider the OED more closely, however, maybe it’s not the best arbiter of what’s ridiculous and what’s not, as evidenced by this meant to be comical but rather frighting piece. I’d be very interested in the standards editor’s position on muggle and gaydar. Perhaps the paper could devote an On Language feature to Frankenfood or bouncebackability… Here’s an interesting article where the columnist behind On Language reports on the fact that Tweet was 2009′s WORD OF THE YEAR. That would indicate that the word is in common usage, would it not?

If it’s familiarity with terms that the editor is worried about he can rest easy in the knowledge that fully 87% of Americans know what Twitter is; you can be assured that fewer people than that know what paleolithic means, Mr. Standards Editor. And paleolithic is exactly how you seem to the 105 million registered users of the platform.

What truly strikes me as comical, however, is that this comes despite of the great extent to which the NY Times itself Tweets, er, writes on Twitter. The paper as a whole, various sections and, according to @nytimes, 96 staffers all have distinct Twitter accounts. I hate to tell you, Phil, but this thing’s catching on.

What I fear is that this indicates a larger problem – how out of touch the media can be with, well, how to be successful in the modern media marketplace. Heaven knows Rupert Murdoch’s plans to rip the Wall Street Journal content from search engines as they erect a paywall is doomed to failure. Should be interesting to watch. The Times itself is planning on employing a metered pay system itself next January. Too late. People have been enjoying your content for free for far too long to want to pay for it now.

This does remind me of a time in 1999 when I was privy to a tour of one of the major record label HQs and the president, when asked what their online strategy was, said “we’ve got a couple of guys working on it. Nobody really knows what they do, but I’m sure this ‘Internet’ thing will be short-lived anyway and we’ve got it well in hand.” We know how that worked out. It would be a shame if the New York Times suffered the same sad fate, but this obtuse move doesn’t bode well for its future.

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