Paul Lukasiak has posted an open letter on the Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility conference web site in a comment thread where it might get lost. (Update: 1/20 - here is the link to the comment thread where the "open letter" first appeared). It speaks to the financial interests of one blogger, but there are many bloggers attending who have interests to advance. The market for innovation on the web remains wide open, and the potential for discussing the merits of options for investment in the blogging community is probably greater in the blogs than in the dead-tree financial pages that necessarily focus on large cap enterprise with a nuanced treatment of venture and start-up efforts.
This is the fourth estate that's under discussion, a part of our culture that arguably should be publicly financed and not for profit... there's a strong sentiment and good arguments for a public press that go back to the 18th century. Paul's issues deserve an airing even though I don't really agree with him. I think credibility is an implicit conveyance of truth. I don't see why market based local web pubs shouldn't have a place in the panoply of news products available on the net. Still, it would be interesting to hear from people at the conference how they think market driven funding issues will affect our ability to communicate credibly.
Here is the letter Paul wrote:
Jeff Jarvis, JoBloCred, and Conflicts of interest
An Open Letter to the Journalism, Blogging, and Credibility Conference:
This is not about Jarvis’ political views. Its about how his personal financial interests interact with the JoBloCred conference.
Jarvis’s latest scheme is related to his involvement in “Advance Internet”. Advance is connected to a number of media companies. And they’ve decided to get into the community blogging business.
Everyone recognizes that journalism has deteriorated because media corporations no longer see “news” as the product they produce, but are in the business of manufacturing audiences for advertisers. And these corporations are scared to death of the internet, and what it means in terms of audience control.
So Jarvis has come up with a “solution”, an aspect of a “new business model”. That solution involves creating “a half-dozen town blogs in those markets – new, group blogs (using iUpload) to which any neighbor can contribute. …The idea is that… people may not want to start their own blog but they have plenty of news to contribute to their communities: opinions, news updates, sports reports, photos, calendar items, and so on.”
Jarvis is upfront about the real goal here….not information dissemination, but advertising. “The hope is also that once we have a critical mass of content in a town from all these sources, a critical mass of audience is sure to follow. This means, we hope, that we can target ads down to the town level and automate them, saving the cost of sales and production, and price them in such a way that we can serve local advertisers who heretofore could not afford to market in big papers.’
Now, the implications for journalism, and blogging credibility are immense here. First off, its going to eliminate a buttload of jobs for journalists, as “bloggers” do the “reporting” from town council meetings, football games, etc. And when that happens, very real questions of “blog credibility” will come into play. The average journalist has no personal stake in whether East Podunk decides to change its zoning laws, but the “news bloggers”, the people who will be blogging about the town council meetings where the zoning decisions are made will have a decided interest in those laws. But not only is the very idea of objective local journalism at risk—the opportunity for corruption of information rises exponentially when a community relies on “news bloggers.”
Then, of course, there are the obvious questions about what happens when a blogger criticizes “Joe’s Meat Market” when “Joe” is advertising on the site.
Now, these are all very important questions….but you are giving someone who has a specific financial interest on these questions the “leadership” role in the discussion of “new business models” and how “ethics and standards” will be affected by them. Do you really expect that he is there to discuss this from an intellectually honest position? Or is his intention to give you a sales pitch for an idea that is going to line his pockets if it receives your endorsement?
It is people like Jeff Jarvis who are trying to destroy what it best about the blogosphere, and what little remains of journalistic standards. And I don’t understand why you are letting him get away with it!