Outside payments to journalists and independent, impartial Journalism at the CBC: A definitive guide

CBC News is in the throes of a crisis of conscience about the previously-undisclosed practice of its journalists to accept paid speaking engagements from organizations that are frequently covered in the news.

This episode has been driven by coverage by bloggers and online news sources. Thanks to their pressure and complaints from the public, CBC has initiated an internal review of its policies and CBC’s Ombudsman already has weighed in urging CBC management to change the current practice and either adopt a higher standard of disclosure or ban outside payments.

Who said what

This story may be about simple principles. But it has been complex in its unfolding, with a number of players speaking out over time.

Sifting through the sources and arguments can be time consuming. But it is worth doing. So, to help readers get up to speed quickly, I’ve compiled a list of what I consider to be the primary sources with key content excerpted and brief explanatory notes where required.

I hope you find this helpful in understanding how this issue has unfolded.

The story about Rex Murphy breaks

Rex Murphy and big oil: friends with benefits?Press Progress

If you Google the heck out of Murphy’s name, you’ll discover that he’s Newfoundland’s most eligible keynote speaker at oil, gas and mining industry events all across the country. Since 2009, Murphy has been spotted or booked at the podium as a keynote speaker not once, not twice, but at least 25 times.

Big Oil knows what they’re getting with Murphy because the National Speakers Bureau, which negotiates Murphy’s speaking fees, includes a snippet of his friendly views with an embedded YouTube video in his profile. It’s called “Rex Murphy of CBC’s Point of View Rips into Environmentalists.”

Rex Murphy energy speech in Alberta, November 2013Youtube user Gazzornenplat

Rex Murphy, the oilsands and the cone of silenceAndrew Mitravica

In early January, I started researching the number and content of speeches that Rex Murphy has made about the oilpatch and the petroleum industry generally.

I found that Murphy has made several speeches to oil-friendly audiences who lap up his cheerleading about the industry and his wisecracks about Neil Young, environmentalists and do-nothing Easterners, including his CBC colleagues.

…I was wondering how responsible CBC News executives were in permitting Murphy to disparage Young and other oilsands opponents on the public airwaves without informing viewers that he had championed that very development in a so-called ‘speech’ several weeks earlier.

On January 30, I provided a lengthy list of questions for Murphy and the CBC respectively to Corey Black, a CBC News publicist. The questions concerned Murphy’s speaking fee, the speech’s content and journalistic probity…

I also requested an on-the-record interview with Murphy and a senior CBC news journalist. Six days later, on February 5, Black informed me that Murphy had “declined” to be interviewed. … Black never answered my questions. Instead, he bounced me to another CBC media relations guy, Chuck Thompson.

In a cryptic February 6 email, Thompson referred me to a short blog post by Jennifer McGuire, CBC News editor-in-chief, that — according to him — “addressed the matter” and my many questions.

McGuire’s post is dated — you guessed it — February 6. It is a hollow, self-serving bit of exculpatory nonsense that limply suggests that because Murphy enjoys a “freelance relationship” with the CBC, neither he, nor the CBC, has a duty or responsibility to disclose that he’s likely pocketing money from powerful outside vested interests on subjects that he rails about on the CBC.

McGuire’s note is also the cynical product of a bait-and-switch: Find out details from a reporter about the pending story’s potentially embarrassing focus, then “get out in front” of it to suggest that you’ve already “addressed” the issue. (McGuire also refused to be interviewed.)

A Question of ConflictJennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief, CBC News

The most important thing to understand is that Rex is not a regular reporter. He appears on The National as a commentator precisely to do analysis and offer his point of view on issues of the day. His work has to be approved by editors at The National and has to meet a clear and straightforward threshold: that it be rooted in fact and experience, not just opinion or kneejerk ideology. But taking a provocative stand is what we pay him to do.

As much as Rex is identified with the CBC, he is not a full-time employee of the CBC. We have a wonderful freelance relationship that allows him to appear on The National and host CBC Radio One’s Cross-Country Checkup. As a freelancer, Rex has the ability to do other work. So yes, he writes opinion pieces for The National Post. And yes, he does speaking engagements.

He is not alone. Other prominent CBC personalities are freelancers, too. When they’re not at CBC, people such as David Suzuki and Bob McDonald have more freedom to express their views in ways that full-time journalists at CBC News do not. Our regular staff abides by rules in our Journalistic Standards and Practices which state that “CBC journalists do not express their own personal opinion because it affects the perception of impartiality and could affect an open and honest exploration of an issue.”

The bottom line is that we are comfortable with the rigour of our policies, our editorial procedures, and our editorial leaders. And while it’s fine for people to challenge his views, I want to say explicitly that we’re comfortable with the content Rex has done for The National and Cross-Country Checkup, and we’re confident about his independence – his point of view is his own.

This issue reminds us of the benefits of being more transparent with our audience. We are working on that all the time …. And we’ve already launched an active discussion about what information the audience should expect to have about the outside activities of our journalists.

Rex Murphy is paid by the oilsands and the CBC won’t disclose or discuss itJesse Brown – Download Canadaland podcast episode

How much money have Oil Sands companies paid to Rex Murphy? When did the CBC and The National Post learn of this? Why won’t Rex Murphy answer questions about this? Why won’t the The National disclose his relationship, when they’ve disclosed lesser conflicts of interest in the past? What’s going on at The National anyhow? How could they possibly think this is okay, or that nobody would notice?

Speaking my mind, no matter the issueRex Murphy

I’ve given a lot of talks — perhaps more than a thousand. … And yes, I often get paid for my bon mots — usually more than a dollar.

Curiously, during all those encounters, spanning (sadly for me) five decades — I have not had so much as a single suggestion that anything I have said anywhere during that long saga was anything but my own words, flowing from my own motivations, and not opinions “for hire” to whomever I spoke.

Not once … till now. I value independence of thought and expression, intensely. If my thoughts are not my own, they are nothing.

Yet some bloggers now are questioning my commitment to that principle, thanks largely to a talk I gave recently to Business Forum, a gathering sponsored by the Calgary-based Bennett Jones law firm, featuring oil executives, First Nation leadership, premiers of Alberta and New Brunswick, and delegates from over the world.

In my speeches, I have a few goals. I try to give a good effort. I try to be interesting, sometimes even reach for humour. But what I absolutely guarantee is that what opinions people hear from me are mine. … I have never on television, in a column or in a speech said, written or delivered any views other than my own and what I actually believe. That’s my practice and I don’t much intend to change.

Jonathan Kay defends Rex MurphyJesse Brown Download podcast episode

Rex Murphy won’t answer questions about taking Oil Sands money , but his editor, The National Post’s Jon Kay, will.

The CBC responds to my complaint about Rex MurphyLorne Warwick

Lorne Warwick published the text of a letter he received from Jack Nagler, CBC’s Director of Journalistic Public Accountability and Engagement, in response to Warwick’s complaint, in which Nagler says:

While I don’t believe there is a conflict of interest, there is a serious issue about transparency, one that we are reviewing at the moment.

the very reason Mr. Murphy appears on The National is to do analysis and express his point of view – he is not a regular reporter. We even call his segment on the program “Rex Murphy’s Point of View” to distinguish it from regular reports. His perspective on the oilsands, whether viewers agree with it or not, is an analytical argument based on facts, and is perfectly valid commentary

the most important consideration for us is whether we are providing our audience with a varied and balanced perspective on an issue as important as oilsands development – and I believe we are. You may note that Mr. Murphy’s “Point of View” segment criticizing Neil Young was a response to a feature interview The National aired with Mr. Young two days earlier. 

In policy and practice we support the idea of transparency, not just for Rex Murphy but for all of our contributors. But implementing this is not always as simple as it sounds.

There are a set of complicating factors, ranging from how much we can legally demand of our freelancers, to privacy rights of our employees, to what constitutes “full disclosure”. Is it only paid speeches we should disclose? Or do we need to be concerned about journalists who attend charity events, or moderate a public forum? Does the content of a speech matter, or does the mere act of getting in front of a lectern make it a question of public concern? And finally, how do we share the disclosure so the audience can properly judge for themselves what’s appropriate?

All are good questions. In light of your concerns and those of others about Mr. Murphy, our senior editors are reviewing the way we deal with the issue to ensure we are appropriately transparent with our viewers. I expect that review will be completed in the next few weeks. When it is we’ll be sure to post it.

Peter Mansbridge is drawn into the debate

CBC reviews Rex Murphy oil conference speech but ignored when Peter Mansbridge did hisDean Skoreyko

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CBC editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire has created an unintentional problem for the CBC after bending to the anti-oil sands lobbyists complaining about Rex Murphy’s oil conference speech (see here) – a can of worms immediately comes to mind.

First, McGuire has fully opened-up the media’s dirty little secret of journalists hiding their lucrative speaking gigs and potential conflicts of interests and secondly, how the CBC didn’t have an issue when their Chief Correspondent and The National anchor did the exact same thing.

 

Peter Mansbridge Was Paid By Oil and Gas Lobby For SpeechMichael Bolen

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) paid Mansbridge to speak at its Investment Symposium in December 2012 and a photo of him giving the address on how “energy has moved to the forefront of news: economic, environment, safety” was posted to the group’s Facebook page.

CBC spokesperson Chuck Thompson confirmed to HuffPost Canada that Mansbridge received permission from the public broadcaster to speak at the CAPP event and clears all his speaking engagements with the senior news team.

“Peter is encouraged by management to speak on a regular basis, it’s part of an outreach initiative in place for many of our hosts that ensures CBC News and in this case our Chief Correspondent is talking to Canadians in communities across the country,” Thompson said in an email.

“The content of those speeches is always about putting CBC News coverage into context and explaining what we do and how we do it but Peter never offers up his opinion or takes a position on anything that’s in the news.”

Oilsands Group Confirms Paying Peter MansbridgeJesse Brown, Canadaland

The Oil Sands is perhaps Canada’s most controversial and divisive news topic, with competing interests constantly vying for positive media exposure and public sympathy. As the CBC’s Chief Correspondent and anchor of their flagship national news broadcast, Mansbridge exerts undeniable influence over what Oil Sands stories The National covers and how it covers them. The fact that he has been moonlighting for the energy industry  is a clear (and undisclosed) conflict-of-interest.

Speaking of Speeches…Peter Mansbridge

I give about 20 speeches a year. … Many of the appearances, about half on average, I do with no fee involved. They are charities or journalism schools. The rest are handled by my speech agency, the same one that handles requests for many other journalists in this country and in the United States. In those casesa fee is negotiated between the agency and the group who want me to appear at their function. In some of those cases I donate part of the fee to a local charity; in some others I donate all the fee. And in still others I keep my share of what the agency has negotiated.

I don’t offer my opinion on matters of public policy or on certain divisive issues that often dominate the news. … I make it clear to all those who ask me to speak, whether it’s for a charity or not, that I will stick to what I know best – journalism.

Ever since I first started giving speeches, back in the mid-1980s and at the corporation’s request, senior management has approved who I speak to and are aware when I receive a fee and when I do not. Bottom line – I follow the rules and the policies the CBC has instituted governing journalists making public appearances.

I am a journalist and a public broadcaster but that doesn’t mean I’m not entitled to activities in my private life.

Peter Mansbridge receives speaking fees from oil industry group, CBC As It Happens

The CBC’s Chief Correspondent Peter Mansbridge has received payment for speaking at an event organized by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). Questions about possible conflict of interest and ethics were raised when CBC President Hubert Lacroix took questions yesterday from the Senate Communications committee in Ottawa.

We requested interviews with Peter Mansbridge and Rex Murphy today. They weren’t available for an interview. Neither was CBC’s editor-in-chief Jennifer McGuire.

Debating the ethics of journalists & paid speaking engagements, CBC The Current

We did ask CBC’s General manager and Editor in chief, Jennifer McGuire, to participate in this conversation. Ms. McGuire declined, and no one else from CBC management was made available. Ms. McGuire said CBC is now reviewing its policies and she would be happy to comment once that process is complete.

 You’ve Still Got Some Explaining to Do Mr. MansbridgeAndrew Mitrovica

 Mansbridge, like Murphy, continues to duck the issue at the heart of this growing controversy: disclosure.

Full disclosure means precisely that — providingall the relevant details, and not just to pesky journalists but to the audience as well, so they can judge and decide for themselves whether the fact that a journalist accepts money to speak from outside interests affects his or her reporting and editorial decisions.

I think Mansbridge and Murphy owe their audience and the profession full disclosure, without reservation, of how much they have made and who has paid them to speak.

CBCecrets: Mansbridge’s Oil Pay Makes the NewsJesse Brown – Download the podcast episode

Who broke the news that Peter Mansbridge has been paid by the oil industry? How did the story break through from social media to online press to the mainstream media? Who has dared to cover it at the CBC? Why is this such a fucking big deal? Why won’t CBC News talk to CBC Radio? Should journalists stop doing paid speaking entirely?

CBC’s Ombudsman releases her review of the situation

Review findings re Conflict of InterestEsther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman

The corporate policy provides a number of guidelines. The first is: No conflict should exist or appear to exist between the private interests of CBC/Radio-Canada employees and their official duties.

Whether there is a real or only an apparent conflict of interest, in matters of journalistic integrity it amounts to the same thing.

When journalists get paid to speak to powerful advocacy groups, it is hard to argue that this does not lead to a perception of conflict of interest. … CBC management must decide and be very clear about how that perception of conflict will be dealt with. … disclosure will go some way to mitigate the concern about this issue.

…since taking money leads to a perception of a conflict of interest, CBC management might want to consider, in the review they are undertaking, whether even with disclosure, it is appropriate for CBC news and current affairs staff to get paid for their speaking engagements. … At the least, management should think about the appearance of getting paid by interest groups who are likely to feature prominently in the news, or who are involved in public policy debates.

Given that Journalistic Standards and Practices spells out a commitment to independence, and the Conflict of Interest guidelines encompass perception of conflict as well, it is inconsistent with policy when CBC news and current affairs staff accept payment from groups that are likely to be in the news. To summarize, in the course of reviewing its policy, I hope CBC management will reconsider the practice of paid speaking engagements for its journalists and, at a minimum, consider how any relevant activity and payment can be on the public record.

CBC Policy on Conflict of Interest and Journalists, CBC

To preserve that independence, all employees involved in the creation of content that is subject to Journalistic Standards andPractices must carefully consider what organizations they are publicly associated with.

CBC Should Banish Paid SpeechesFrank Koller

…most importantly, there is public perception. You can’t have it both ways: tell allegedly anodyne political tales from the head table to oil executives who have paid you to speak on a Saturday night and then, appear credible to a national television audience on a Monday night while introducing an exposé about some oil industry environmental/financial transgression.

Here’s the fundamental question: exactly how would allowing CBC journalists to speak for a fee to an outside organization like CAPP, a lobby group, seem like a decision that wouldincrease Canadians’ confidence that CBC reports the news impartially?

Stay Tuned

This story isn’t over. Now all eyes are on CBC management and their promised review of policy. Stay tuned.

What ethical standards should we expect of journalists?

When you open your morning newspaper or turn on the evening television news, do you expect to receive independent and impartial reporting on events from newspeople free of unacknowledged biases? Well, if you live in Canada,  you may have to reset that expectation.

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This basic assumption of conflict-free news media has been called into question by reports that CBC news anchor Peter Manbridge and on-air columnist Rex Murphy have benefited from paid speaking engagements with organizations they cover in the news. According to the reports, both Murphy and Mansbridge have accepted paid speaking engagements from Canada’s oil industry. And neither Manbridge nor Murphy disclosed this when moderating or participating in discussions of energy policy, the oil sands development or the oil industry.

This story emerged from the reporting of a handful of bloggers and online news sources – most notably Jesse Brown and Andrew Mitrovica.  Mitrovica raised questions about Rex Murphy’s relationship with the oil industry in a story on ipolitics.ca. Jesse Brown picked it up on his Canadaland podcast and Canadaland blog.

Remarkably, CBC attempted to stonewall the issue. Initially, they refused to answer substantial questions about Murphy’s actions. When pressed over a couple weeks, they published aggressive counter arguments in blog posts by Jennifer McGuire, editor in chief of CBC news, and Peter Mansbridge himself. Rex Murphy took to his column in the National Post to print a rebuttal.

Then, on March 12, the CBC’s Ombudsman Esther Enkin presaged a dramatic shift in the standards of acceptable behaviour in her review of the situation. While finding that both Murphy and Mansbridge were onside with the CBC’s policies, Enkin challenged the policy itself. She stated,

Whether there is a real or only an apparent conflict of interest, in matters of journalistic integrity it amounts to the same thing….  since taking money leads to a perception of a conflict of interest, CBC management might want to consider, in the review they are undertaking, whether even with disclosure, it is appropriate for CBC news and current affairs staff to get paid for their speaking engagements. … At the least, management should think about the appearance of getting paid by interest groups who are likely to feature prominently in the news, or who are involved in public policy debates.

and concluded,

Given that Journalistic Standards and Practices spells out a commitment to independence, and the Conflict of Interest guidelines encompass perception of conflict as well, it is inconsistent with policy when CBC news and current affairs staff accept payment from groups that are likely to be in the news. To summarize, in the course of reviewing its policy, I hope CBC management will reconsider the practice of paid speaking engagements for its journalists and, at a minimum, consider how any relevant activity and payment can be on the public record.

Now, the ball is in CBC management’s court. Jennifer McGuire has indicated that the results of an internal policy review will be forthcoming soon. In light of the Ombudsman’s review, it’s hard to imagine how this new policy could maintain the status quo.

Discuss these issues with Jesse Brown at Third Tuesday

This affair raises a number of questions applying to all news media – both traditional and new online and social operations. Questions worth discussing at length.

Jesse Brown

And that’s just what we’re going to do at the next Third Tuesday. Jesse Brown will be our speaker at the March Third Tuesday Toronto and Third Tuesday Ottawa. Jesse will take us through the issues and the questions raised. Questions like:

  • Is it reasonable to believe that a journalist can be influenced or biased because he or she accepts payment from companies or organizations for services provided outside of the journalist’s main occupation?
  • How much transparency about outside financial payments to journalists is sufficient? How much is realistic and possible?
  • In a freelance economy, should we expect the same degree of disclosure from freelance journalists who must earn their living from a variety of sources?
  • Should news organizations enforce an outright ban on their journalists accepting payment from other sources or is disclosure of such payments sufficient?
  • What is the responsibility of the news organization to define standards for their journalists and what is the responsibility of the journalist as an individual?
  • Should a national broadcaster paid for by public funds be held to a higher standard of transparency than a private news organization?
  • What can we do when media outlets are slow to cover an issue in which they are directly involved?

We will talk about these issues and more when Jesse Brown joins us at Third Tuesday. If you’re interested in attending, register online for Third Tuesday Toronto or Third Tuesday Ottawa.

Learn more about this important issue

This is an important issue. And as such, I encourage you to read these original sources.

Rex Murphy and big oil: friends with benefits?, Press Progress

Rex Murphy energy speech in Alberta, November 2013, Youtube user Gazzornenplat

Rex Murphy, the oilsands and the cone of silence, Andrew Mitravica

A Question of ConflictJennifer McGuire, General Manager and Editor in Chief, CBC News

Rex Murphy is paid by the oilsands and the CBC won’t disclose or discuss it, Jesse Brown

Speaking my mind, no matter the issue, Rex Murphy

Jonathan Kay defends Rex Murphy, Jesse Brown

CBC reviews Rex Murphy oil conference speech but ignored when Peter Mansbridge did his, Dean Skoreyko

The CBC responds to my complaint about Rex Murphy, Lorne Warwick

Peter Mansbridge Was Paid By Oil and Gas Lobby For Speech, Michael Bolen

Oilsands Group Confirms Paying Peter Mansbridge, Jesse Brown, Canadaland

Speaking of Speeches…, Peter Mansbridge

Peter Mansbridge receives speaking fees from oil industry group, CBC As It Happens

Debating the ethics of journalists & paid speaking engagements, CBC The Current

Q Media Panel on Maidan, Murphy and Mansbridge, CBC Q

The CBC Won’t Talk to CBC Radio About Mansbridge’s Speaking Fees, The Huffington Post Canada

You’ve Still Got Some Explaining to Do Mr. Mansbridge, Andrew Mitrovica

What Peter Mansbridge’s CAPP Speaking Fee Says About His News Judgment, Dan Rowe

Covering Climate Change, Jennifer McGuire

CBCecrets: Mansbridge’s Oil Pay Makes the News, Jesse Brown

Review findings re Conflict of Interest, Esther Enkin, CBC Ombudsman

CBC Policy on Conflict of Interest and Journalists, CBC

CBC Ombudsman Questions Peter Mansbridge’s Speaking Fees, Canadian Press

You Can’t Have the Cash and Keep the Credibility, Andrew Mitrovica

CBC Should Banish Paid Speeches, Frank Koller

Thank you to our sponsors

Third Tuesday is supported by great sponsors – Cision Canada and Rogers Communications – who believe in our community and help us to bring speakers to our community. Without the sponsors we couldn’t make Third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair. So, thank you to the sponsors of the Third Tuesday 2012-13 season: Cision Canada and Rogers Communications.

We want students to be able to attend

Third Tuesday is a great opportunity to hear about the latest developments in social media and to network with business and thought leaders. And we don’t want students to miss out on this opportunity. So, if you are a student and would like to attend, don’t let the admission fee stop you. Simply present your student ID card at the time you sign into Third Tuesday and we’ll refund your admission fee, courtesy of Thornley Fallis.

Mathew Ingram on journalism: The only constant is change

We live in the age of wisdom, the age of foolishness. The spring of hope, the winter of despair.

“The only constant is change and the rate of change is increasing all the time.” 

Mathew Ingram shared his insightful perspective on the current state of journalism when he spoke at Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ.

I captured Mathew’s complete presentation on video. Here are some of the highlights (and the time in the video at which you can find them):

Advertising revenues have decreased by over 40 billion dollars in a few years. The loss of revenue forces news media to change or die. (1:03)

Paywalls may slow the decline for traditional media, but they also stunt growth. Even at the New York Times, with its unique positioning, online subscription revenues are not keeping pace with the decline in advertising revenue. (1:55)

Paywalls are a “sandbag strategy”. They stem the flow in the short term, but they don’t solve the real problem. (2:55)

Continue reading…

Mathew Ingram on journalism today: Change. Change. And more change.

Mathew Ingram spoke at Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW last night. And judging from the quantity and quality of questions as well as the number of people who stayed behind to meet and talk with him, he was a great hit. And for those who are wondering what he is talking about, I’ve grabbed a selection from the Twitter stream from last night’s session. Enjoy.

Continue reading…

Mathew Ingram is coming to Third Tuesday

The world of journalism and news media is dramatically different than it was five years ago. Today, digital media and traditional media simultaneously compete and feed one another as a new hybrid news ecosystem emerges. What is each best at? What are the strengths and weaknesses of traditional and digital media? What mistakes are being made? What lessons learned? And what are the factors we should be paying attention to as we try to understand what is driving news and business decisions today?

Mathew IngramMathew Ingram is the embodiment of the revolution that is transforming journalism. He has experienced it first hand as he moved from traditional media as a technology writer and communities editor for Canada’s leading daily newspaper, the Globe and Mail, to become a senior writer with GigaOm, an early pioneering digital media outlet.  And he is one of the co-founders of Mesh, the seminal digital conference that inspired Third Tuesday. Today, Mathew is a must-read for people who follow and care about the evolution of online media. And he does this from Toronto. Go Canada!

What can people who come to see Mathew at Third Tuesday expect?

A few snippets to set the table:

On the use of crowd sourced content by news outlets

“By now, it should be obvious to just about anyone that “citizen journalism” or “user-generated content” is a crucial part of what the news has become, whether it’s a photo of a plane landing on the Hudson or a video of a bomb exploding in Boston. Unfortunately, the ways that media entities handle such content is all over the map — some give credit, while others take whatever they want without so much as a link. Do we need a formal structure to deal with this new reality?”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/05/24/crowdsourcing-the-news-do-we-need-a-public-license-for-citizen-journalism/

On the shifting economics of newspapers

“While prominent brands like the New York Times or those with targeted markets like the FT might be able to make the shift to subscriptions, many smaller newspapers simply won’t be able to make that transition, because they won’t have enough subscribers. So what happens to them? … there is a very real risk — not just for the NYT or Financial Times, but even more so for smaller newspapers — that relying on subscription revenue will result in a much smaller number of readers and also a much smaller business overall. What will that mean for the journalism that such newspapers produce? What happens to the public impact and social benefits that newspapers have always argued they bring to the table? Do newspapers just become a new variation on the controlled-circulation newsletter?”

http://gigaom.com/2012/08/03/crossing-the-newspaper-chasm-is-it-better-to-be-funded-by-readers

On one newspaper’s decision to shut down their paywall

“…research the newspaper did with print subscribers showed that what readers were willing to pay for wasn’t the actual content itself, but the method of delivery — that is, the printed newspaper. When offered the exact same content online for a price that was 90-percent less than the average print subscription rate, only five percent of readers said they were interested.”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/09/30/another-wall-tumbles-the-dallas-morning-news-dismantles-its-paywall-focuses-on-premium-content/

We pay for online entertainment. Why not news?

“…plenty of people are willing to pay for movies, TV shows and music, but a dramatically smaller number of them are willing to pay for news. Why? In part, because those other forms of content are, well… entertaining. News, in most cases, is not. Many consumers are more than happy to watch or listen to the same TV show, movie or song multiple times — something that almost never happens with a news story.”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/09/26/yes-some-people-will-pay-you-for-your-news-a-really-really-small-number-of-people/

Innovation: The upside of the deteriorating traditional business model for news

“Since no one really knows what the future of digital media looks like, it’s worth experimenting with as many new things as possible — in part because the next new thing always starts out looking like a toy.”

http://paidcontent.org/2013/09/23/theres-one-good-thing-about-the-newspaper-industry-decline-more-innovation-is-happening/

Social news distribution vs. RSS

“I still think RSS is a crucial part of the plumbing that underlies the web — and I hope the death of Google Reader isn’t the beginning of an attack on RSS, as some suspect — but for me it lacks a certain something, and that something is the element of social interaction. … social news distributed via Twitter and other networks is just that — social. It has a human element that automated RSS feeds simply can’t duplicate … it’s not just that Twitter is good at delivering real-time news — where it is, in my experience, as good or better than an RSS reader. It is also particularly good at attaching meaning to that news, by the combination of people who tweet or re-tweet a link or a piece of information. That does as much to help me appreciate the significance of a story as a single post or scoop, and likely more.”

http://gigaom.com/2013/03/15/why-the-death-of-google-reader-doesnt-bother-me-that-much-social-news-has-won/

On the value of Blog comments

“A blog without comments is a soap-box, plain and simple. Not having comments says you are only interested in passing on your wisdom, without testing it against any external source (at least not where others can watch you do so) or leaving open the opportunity to actually learn something from those who don’t have their own blogs, or aren’t on Twitter or Google+.”

http://gigaom.com/2012/01/04/yes-blog-comments-are-still-worth-the-effort/

On top of this, Mathew also authors a Twitter stream chock full of links to thought-provoking posts by others and his own reflections on them. It’s well worth following.

Now you can spend an evening with Mathew – at Third Tuesday

Registration for Third Tuesday with Mathew Ingram is open now. Register online to attend Third Tuesday Toronto #3TYYZ or Third Tuesday Ottawa #3TYOW.

Thank you to our sponsors

Third Tuesday is supported by great sponsors – Cision Canada and Rogers Communications – who believe in our community and help us to bring speakers not just to Toronto but to Ottawa, Calgary and Vancouver as well. Without the sponsors we couldn’t make Third Tuesday a truly Canadian affair. So, thank you to the sponsors of the Third Tuesday 2012-13 season: Cision Canada and Rogers Communications.

We want students to be able to attend

Third Tuesday is a great opportunity to hear about the latest developments in social media and to network with business and thought leaders. And we don’t want students to miss out on this opportunity. So, if you are a student and would like to attend, don’t let the admission fee stop you. Simply present your student ID card at the time you sign into Third Tuesday and we’ll refund your admission fee, courtesy of Thornley Fallis.

 

 

Laurier LaPierre, legendary Canadian broadcaster, has left us

Laurier LaPierreSad news today: Laurier LaPierre, Canadian broadcast icon and former Canadian Senator, has passed away.

I met Laurier when we worked together on Sheila Copps‘ unsuccessful campaign for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Laurier may have been fighting for a lost cause, but he did it with enthusiasm, generosity and the highest principles.

It was an honour to have known him. And a true delight to have spent time with him.

—————–

For a perspective on Laurier LaPierre’s contribution to journalism, read Cecil Rossner’s Grilling the Guest – Laurier LaPierre and the Host Seat Interview on the Canadian Journalism Project blog.

Pew research report shows the impact of YouTube on video news

The explosion of video content on social media isn’t just having an impact on how and where we find entertainment. It also is having a dramatic impact on how video news is made and consumed.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted an analysis of news videos on YouTube over the 15 month period from January 2011 to March 2012. And they uncovered evidence confirming that a significant shift is underway.

A complex, symbiotic relationship between citizens and news organizations

“Worldwide YouTube is becoming a major platform for viewing news,” Pew asserts. “In 2011 and early 2012, the most searched term of the month on YouTube was a news related event five out of 15 months, according to the company’s internal data.”

“A complex, symbiotic relationship has developed between citizens and news organizations on YouTube, a relationship that comes close to the continuous journalistic “dialogue” many observers predicted would become the new journalism online. Citizens are creating their own videos about news and posting them. They are also actively sharing news videos produced by journalism professionals. And news organizations are taking advantage of citizen content and incorporating it into their journalism. Consumers, in turn, seem to be embracing the interplay in what they watch and share, creating a new kind of television news.

Pew cited the March 11, 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami as a case study of this “new kind of visual journalism.” They observed that “most of that footage was recorded by citizen eyewitnesses who found themselves caught in the tragedy. Some of that video was posted by the citizens themselves. Most of this citizen-footage, however, was posted by news organizations incorporating user-generated content into their news offerings.”

However, Pew also notes that “clear ethical standards have not developed on how to attribute the video content moving through the synergistic sharing loop.” This is not just a case of citizens posting copyright material without obtaining permission. News organizations were observed to be including citizen-generated content in their news reports without any attribution to the original source.

The form of news is shifting

  • “Citizens play a substantial role in supplying and producing footage. More than a third of the most watched videos (39%) were clearly identified as coming from citizens.”
  • “The most viewed news videos on YouTube, however, come in various forms. More than half of the most-viewed videos, 58%, involved footage that had been edited, but a sizable percentage, 42%, was raw footage.”
  • “Unlike in traditional TV news, the lengths of the most popular news videos on YouTube vary greatly. … the most popular news videos on YouTube were fairly evenly distributed-from under a minute (29%), one to two minutes (21%), two to five minutes (33%) and longer than five (18%).”
  • “YouTube is a place where consumers can determine the news agenda for themselves and watch the videos at their own convenience-a form of “on demand” video news. In the case of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, audience interest continued for weeks. The disaster remained among the top-viewed news subjects for three straight weeks.”

The Pew study is chock full of facts and observations that underline the tremendous shift that is underway. If you are interested in this area, this is a study worth bookmarking.

 

 

The future of journalism: Beats

If you care about the state of news media and the changes that are being driven by social media and digital news distribution, you should be reading the Nieman Journalism Lab blog and the Nieman Reports magazine. Here, you’ll find a stream of provocative thought about the role of journalism and how to secure quality journalism in the changing mediascape.

The Winter 2010 edition of Nieman Reports takes a close look at the importance of beats in news coverage the impact of their disappearance as newsrooms shrink and what might replace them in the future.

Two of the articles stood out for me.

In The Blog as Beat, Juanita Leon illustrates how the focused blog can supplement newsrooms to provide the in-depth, sustained coverage of a beat. Leon argues

I increasingly believe that the role of specialized blogs is to create beats for journalists. Typically, newspaper and TV reporters rely on tips from sources for their stories. Now blogs and journalistic websites like La Silla Vacía are starting to be significant forces in our media ecosystem. With an investigative blog like ours, we have four or five reporters covering one topic in-depth while the traditional beat reporter is expected to cover many issues at once. This means that the reporting we do often becomes a first stop for many newspaper and broadcast political reporters. By gathering expert opinion, inside information, and high-level analysis, we’ve created a hub from which can emerge new angles on news stories.

In It’s Expertise that Matters, Michael Riley argues that expertise has value and new business models will recognize this.

…expertise, exclusivity and depth. Those are the elements, it turns out, that imbue content with value, a process, I would argue, that holds the key to journalism’s future success.The next wave of journalistic progress will channel its power from the underlying principle of the reporter’s beat: the creation by an expert of valuable content that readers need and can’t find anywhere else. This proper emphasis on expertise promises to give rise to a subscription-based business model in which people will pay for exclusive content they value.

You may have missed these articles in the rush to Christmas. If you did, I think you’ll find it worth your time to go back and read them now.