Putting that bird to rest

21 12 2009

That’s it, I’m calling it a dissertation. No more bending over backwards, no more worrying about arguments, no more fewer moodswings, no more late night revision rounds, no more excuses. Time to look up some old friends. Have a beer. Check out some new music. Relax. Sleep. Night everyone.





Belgium, a symbol of unity-in-diversity

15 12 2009

In a 2,500 word opinion piece in The Weekly Standard, Christopher Caldwell opens with:

Ever since it was carved by treaty out of the Dutch, French, and German borderlands after the Napoleonic wars, Belgium has been an odd kind of country–short on space, sunlight, and national identity.

This is an interesting read and firmly grounds the media representation of Belgium in political turmoil, linguistic conflict, cultural stereotypes and economic (in)stability. I’m adding Mr. Caldwell to my list of people to interview about my new research project.





“Nothing happens over the weekend in Belgium”

9 12 2009

Derek Blyth interview @ Corelio, 3 Dec. 2009

Background: Derek Blyth (DB) is the editor-in-chief of news weeklies The Bulletin and Flanders Today. Both titles are targeted at the international community in Flanders. The Bulletin and Flanders Today are published by Ackroyd, a Corelio subsidiary since 2007.

Flanders Today was authorized by then Flemish minister for Foreign Affairs and Media Geert Bourgeois. Its aim is to inform international diplomats, EU officials, foreign journalists, tourists and foreign students about Flanders.

The Bulletin was launched by Monique Ackroyd in 1962. It has since become Belgium’s oldest news magazine and one of the most successful English language magazines in continental Europe. It has an estimated readership of 52,000 readers weekly in and around Brussels.

Boilerplates & slogans:

  • “The Bulletin is Brussels’ essential English-language weekly magazine. Published in the capital of Europe since 1962, it is continental Europe’s most successful English-language publication.”
  • “Flanders Today is an independent weekly newsmagazine about Flanders”
  • “Uncover Brussels with The Bulletin”
  • Ackroyd Publications is a well-known publisher of English language periodicals for the international community in Belgium, and serves just about every segment of this niche market. Ackroyd Publications also owns 50% of the capital behind www.Xpats.com, a joint venture with ING.”

I meet DB in the Corelio lobby at 10:30 and we take the elevator to the third floor. I meet Nina Lamparski (The Bulletin lifestyle editor) who had suggested that I talk to DB. She hands me a copy of the latest issue of The Bulletin and tweets my arrival as DB and I go into his office. I take a seat and ask if I can record the interview. DB agrees. Total interview time is one hour and five minutes.

Précis

(0:34-2:00) The rationale for Flanders Today =  a Flemish answer to the dominating Francophone press
“so it’s a very one-sided view of Flanders”
“no politics behind it”

We talk about how Corelio won the tender for the Flanders Today project and where the funding comes from (Flemish government – Dept. Vlaanderen Internationaal & some advertising). DB tells me

  • that Flanders Today is a two man operation (Lisa Bradshaw is the Deputy Editor);
  • that the Flanders Today website “doesn’t have a life of its own”; and
  • that “we have a big team of freelancers”

(08:05-9:50) DB on the Flanders Today editorial policy:
“we’re encouraged to have stories on science”
“Brussels of course is part of the idea of Flanders”
“encourage people to learn the language”

10′ mark: Flanders Today has 13,000 subscribers and 23,000 copies are printed every week

(14:10-14:56) Having done a google search for ‘Flanders’, DB comments:
“There is no easy way of finding out about Flanders”

On the media representation of Flanders and lack of policy (in relation to critical discourse moments à la Van Rompuy’s election)

(16:43-18:05) DB: “Perhaps there should be in the background a policy of creating an image that’s independent of these unique events”
TVH: “And there’s no such policy at the moment?”
DB: “I don’t see any policy at the moment…The Flanders Houses seem to be promoting tourism and business, not image”

On news selection, generation  & content:

  • part of the coverage of the Flanders Today website is syndicated content (Flanders news) generated by VRT journalists
  • news in the ‘press room’ section is translated from Flemish media by Mediargus (“a service that is mainly targeting journalists)
  • (22′ mark) “we’re looking for stories about what Flemish government is deciding” > DS & DM coverage sets the Flanders Today agenda (30′ mark)
  • Anje Otte (DS) is Flanders Today’s independent political commentator
  • on standards of journalism and production pressures
  • “generally speaking nothing happens over the weekend in Belgium…it’s a disaster”
  • “our mission is to report on Flanders in a neutral way” (50′ mark)
  • on selecting news: “we have to simplify…we have to think about our readers”

(52:12-52:22) “I like to think we’re the only truly independent media in Belgium”

(53′ mark) On the relationship with Wallonia

  • The Bulletin used to be a Francophone publication;
  • majority of foreign journalists speak French,
  • impression of Brussels is that of a French speaking city;
  • European institutions still have a Francophone culture
  • Walloon government publishes a 3-monthly newszine (in English) on Wallonia (content is largely decided by the Walloon agency for foreign relations)




Toward a universal online news format

7 12 2009

Here’s a brilliant idea for online news. The Value Added News initiative has developed an open-source ‘microformat‘ for online news. This format makes online news machine readable, including what the story is about, who wrote it, where it was first published, the news principles it adheres to and how it may be reused. Simple, elegant and non-intrusive. Kudos.

In short Value Added News will:

  • Make your content much easier to find
  • Give proper credit to the author(s)
  • Protect uses of your news content
  • Make your news principles transparent
  • Unlock the hidden value of your news archive





Curating the 9/11 pager messages

29 11 2009

Wikileaks is an international non-profit organization that has released some 573,000 pager messages from the 9/11 tragedy. This corpus of text messages covers a 24 hour period directly related to the attacks in New York and Washington. As Wikileaks notes:

Text pagers are usually carried by persons operating in an official capacity. Messages in the archive range from Pentagon, FBI, FEMA and New York Police Department exchanges, to computers reporting faults at investment banks inside the World Trade Center

The archive is a completely objective record of the defining moment of our time. We hope that its entrance into the historical record will lead to a nuanced understanding of how this event led to death, opportunism and war.

There have been some interesting visualizations, applications and tools but this corpus is a research report waiting to happen. Journalism students, linguists, social scientists: get cracking.





Negotiating client No. 9 news discourse

7 11 2009

I am one of the 28,492 people who follow NYU Professor of Journalism Jay Rosen’s tweets. Jay is well-known for launching the People Formerly Knows As The Audience acronym and for mindcasting instead of lifecasting on Twitter. He also has a knack for curating content.

The Gawker story Jay recently linked to is a remarkable piece of investigative journalism (in itself a practice many ‘journalism-is-dead’ advocates never thought would be possible online). The story reconstructs the off-the-record email traffic that ensued when the Eliot Spitzer story broke. Mark Peterson calls it “unwriteable discourse”, Gawker calls it a “the inside of a PR meltdown”.  A recommended and surprisingly cordial tale of news management:

You’d think that, with blood in the water, the traditional coziness that develops between official flacks and the beat reporters who have to talk to them every day would break down into some kind of last-man-standing slugfest. But in the Spitzer case, the opposite happened. The revelations upended the worlds of both reporter and flack alike, and the uncertainty, long hours, and breakneck pace of the scandal actually seemed to throw them together as they worked toward what seems, if you read the e-mail exchanges, like a common goal of getting the news out and behind them.





Towards self-informing news publics

26 10 2009

File under “statements that make me dance”.

Exhibit A.

A single person can now speak to millions of people without touching a reporter. In many cases, it’s thrilling, but for the most part the tools are primitive; we are at the utter beginning of what this means for news production.

Exhibit B.

Online, what a public needs, far more than reporters or endowed professional newsrooms, is a way for everyone to do this more effectively.

Cody “the LeBron James of news production” Brown, news visionary and future millionaire. Anyone with an interest in media and journalism, I suggest you read Cody’s latest blog post.








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