Archive for December, 2009

Dec 31 2009

A Two Block Walk on New Year’s Eve in Jakarta

I saw the blue sky today for the first time in weeks, though the smog is even thicker than usual this afternoon. There’s something tense on the street, something more than the usual noise. I can feel it instantly when I step out of the restaurant air conditioning.

Indonesia’s first democratically elected president died last night. It’s been a turbulent decade.

The air smells like exhaust, food, people, and kerosene from cooking stoves. Bright orange three-wheeled bajaj taxis are lined up on the street, many more than usual. The sidewalk vendors are thick today, everywhere selling cheap cardboard horns. Their nasal wail pierces the traffic every minute or so. Some people are dressed up and obviously on their way out, though it’s early yet. The street is bustling. I walk as best I can down the sidewalk which is crowded by vendors and food stalls and motorbikes taking shortcuts.

It’s 30 degrees and oppressively humid. It’s always 30 degrees and humid.

Nobody stops at the crosswalk so as usual I have to time my crossing to miss the turning motorbikes. The trick is not to stop. Try to dodge them and they’ll hit you as they aim for where you wouldn’t have been. The haggard prostitute on opposite side gives me a little nod. At night she sometimes grabs me as I walk past. I pass her and make my way through a series of street restaurants built out of carts and plastic tables and awnings over the sidewalk, then turn.

The little alley twists through the innards of a huge block, and it quieter here. It’s lined with small houses, and open sewers a meter deep. On bigger streets the sewer trenches are covered with slabs of concrete, but not here. It smells bad. Children play. A fruit vendor prepares his cart for the evening, arranging bags of cut mangoes around blocks of ice. This is a pretty nice neighborhood, actually. The houses are concrete and right in the center of town. A man casually throws a piece of litter into an empty lot filled with garbage. Skinny cats wander.

I step out of the alley into Jalan Jaksa, the restless and slightly scummy packbacker district. The blowdart seller is talking to two pale young Europeans. He’s been working the street for 28 years. The old drunk guy is sitting on his usual corner in his usual clothes, nodding off. The local fixer nods at me, smiles his best, and thankfully doesn’t ask me again if I want a massage. It doesn’t smell as much here. A man sorts through a pile of trash on the street. From a story in the newspaper, I know that scavenged bottle caps go for about 50 cents per kilo, when sorted. I’m paying $25 US dollars a night for a clean room with air conditioning. A poor expat, a rich Indonesian.

And out of the chaos comes the evening call to prayer, the muezzin’s clear voice ringing out from the little neighborhood mosque. In the fading light it seems a moment of peace.

A motorbike with no muffler shatters it. Traffic resumes. I walk through several more food stalls, including my favorite juice place. In the evenings after work I like to order a fresh starfruit juice.

There’s going to be a big party tonight. Hundreds of thousands of people. It used to be at the center of town around the huge phallic monument but the police have moved it this year, saying that the revelers always trash the place. You can feel the surge of millions toward the center, you can already hear the odd firecracker popping out the last few hours of the decade. There’s nothing to do but make noise in this noisy city, to press ever closer together and celebrate.

Night begins to fall, fast.

A thirty-something woman in a very short skirt saunters down the sidewalk with nonchalant confidence.

I’m almost at the door of my hotel, where I will shower and change.

The proprietor of the coffee stall across the street sits at his one table reading a newspaper, waiting.

The city draws a breath–

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Dec 30 2009

Comments on the New York Times’ Comments System

Here are some problems I see with the implementation of the commenting system on the New York Times web site. Assuming that they want the discussions about their content to be taking place on their site. The way things stand now, I suspect that they’re actively sending many readers to Facebook instead of keeping them on nytimes.com.

  • How come some articles allow comment and others don’t? Is the policy of which articles get comments explained anywhere? Arriving at Times content from a link, I’m confused about whether I can expect a good discussion or just broadcast.
  • Even for articles that we are allowed to comment on, the comments are hidden. Sometimes there’s a pull-out quote (which is cool!) but more often we see only this:

    NYTimes hidden comments

  • The number of comments on each article is not visible from the front page or the section pages. There’s no way for readers to see, at a glance, which discussions are hot.
  • The “recommend” button on each comment is welcome, and serves as a useful way to filter comments. The “highlight” button which seems to appear on the more recommended comments is a little more obscure — does it just put the comment in the “highlight” list, or is there editor moderation involved? The “what’s this” tip doesn’t clear this up (click image below for larger)

    Highlight what

  • There is no comment view that is sorted for both relevance and freshness, which is the most useful way to track a discussion. Digg and others get this right by adding a time-weighting to a comment’s position in the list.
  • There is no way to reply to someone else’s comment. This makes it impossible to have a real discussion on the site. Many other commenting systems organize comments into threads. By not supporting this, the Times is saying that we can talk to them, but not to each other.
  • The comments on an article close after a certain point. Although I can see that this might be due to moderator workload issues, it’s also a way to drive away future traffic — as when that link goes viral a week later, or the discussion lasts for months.
  • Speaking of which, the comments are moderated. This topic’s a little more complex: there are advantages and disadvantages to this. But I’d like to note that there are plenty of civil discussions happening on the internet in unmoderated places. The strategy of putting a “flag this” link on each comment that sends it for human review is relevant here.
  • From the comments FAQ: “We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent by e-mail.” Really? Why? Wouldn’t claims of possible errors of fact be the among the first things you’d want readers to see? Your comments are moderated anyway. And I’d like to point out that your own journalists and editors read the site too — you need those corrections up quickly for internal communication (see: the hilarious Washington Post vs. Public Enemy “911″ correction saga.)

In short, the comment system seems to be to have been designed by someone who has never responded to a message that says “there’s a great discussion about that going on at [link].”

Comments?

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Dec 22 2009

Nobel Winner Patiently Shows Adam Smith Wrong

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Elinor Ostrom won this year’s Nobel in economics for a lifetime’s careful study of the ways that communities work together to manage shared resources. Her real-world case studies include pastures, ground water, and cleaning the fridge at work. To an optimist of human nature, the idea that people can learn how to cooperate seems so blindingly obvious that it’s not worth writing papers about, yet classic economic theory predicts “the tragedy of the commons” for things that aren’t under centralized control in one way or another. That is what Elinor shows to be false, through decades of careful field work.

The above video is an overview of her work given shortly after she won the prize. Crooked Timber also has a good discussion:

Lin’s work focuses on the empirical analysis of collective goods problems – how it is that people can come up with their own solutions to problems of the commons if they are given enough room to do so. Her landmark book, Governing the Commons, provides an empirical rejoinder to the pessimism of Garret Hardin and others about the tragedy of the commons – it documents how people can and do solve these problems in e.g the management of water resources, forestry, pasturage and fishing rights. She and her colleagues gather large sets of data on the conditions under which people are or are not able to solve these problems, and the kinds of rules that they come up with in order to solve them.

In other words, Elinor went out in the world and studied the use of common resources in real situations, rather than starting with the supposition that everybody acts in purely self-interested fashion all the time. The concept of self-interest has been at the core of economic theory since Adam Smith first postulated the “invisible hand” of the market, and it really does correctly predict a great deal of human economic behavior. But it doesn’t explain everything, and overuse of that assumption leads to predictions that simply aren’t true.  (Besides which, it’s a mistake to conflate a theoretical model with a moral stance, take note Wall Street.)

From a really nice NPR interview with her:

The core is still an individual, but the individual is a little more complex than the caricature of “me first always”. The “me first always” caricature model can be used, mathematically, to predict outcomes when the problem is pure private goods and you have a highly competitive market. But we have to also understand that humans are more complex than immediate material self-interest as the only goal. So humans learn norms and ways of expressing themselves, and the importance of love of brothers and sisters and their spouse, and members of their community. Then, instead of taking my individual interest only into account, an individual outside of a really narrow market situation can take the broader community into account.

Which is something that hippies have been saying since, I don’t know, the invention of sitting around and getting stoned together, but Elinor puts academic rigor behind that — the kind of careful analysis that is necessary if you are government policy maker and it’s your job to figure out how use the natural resources of your country in a sustainable way.

For the immediately curious, here‘s a bit of her thinking:

Analysing the design of long-enduring common pool resource (CPR) institutions, Elinor Ostrom (1990) identified eight design principles which are prerequisites for a stable CPR arrangement:

1. Clearly defined boundaries

2. Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions

3. Collective-choice arrangements allowing for the participation of most of the appropriators in the decision making process

4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators

5. Graduated sanctions for appropriators who do not respect community rules

6. Conflict-resolution mechanisms which are cheap and easy of access

7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize (e.g., by the government)

8. In case of larger CPRs: Organisation in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small, local CPRs at their bases.

Analysing the design of long-enduring CPR institutions, Elinor Ostrom (1990) identified eight design principles which are prerequisites for a stable CPR arrangement:
1. Clearly defined boundaries
2. Congruence between appropriation and provision rules and local conditions
3. Collective-choice arrangements allowing for the participation of most of the appropriators in the decision making process
4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators
5. Graduated sanctions for appropriators who do not respect community rules
6. Conflict-resolution mechanisms which are cheap and easy of access
7. Minimal recognition of rights to organize (e.g., by the government)
8. In case of larger CPRs: Organisation in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small, local CPRs at their bases.

Further revelations await in this 2000 paper of hers, “Collective Action and The Evolution of Social Norms.”

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Dec 19 2009

Newsroom vs. Web Culture Clash

“No one cares what you think,” said my reporting instructor at the beginning of term. He repeated it slowly. “No one cares what you think. That’s not your job.” I had to think about this for a while, but as I got the hang of writing classic wire service copy, I began to see the logic. Reporter as conduit. Objectivity, whatever that tricky word means. So in my story about Google Goggles, my editor obliged me to kill a paragraph stating something I knew to be true.

“Even if you know it’s true, someone else has to say it,” she said. “Your story mixes news and editorial.”

I’m not saying she made the wrong call. She’s a very nice woman and she knows a lot more about editing a newspaper than I do. I’m saying that after four days in the Jakarta Globe, I’m beginning to see how deep traditional newsroom culture runs. And I think it’s probably not the right culture for web media.

Classic newsroom values: don’t use material that your competitors came up with, and don’t speak with your own voice. Emerging web values: linking to other people’s work is honest, efficient, and valuable, and each of us is expected to add what we know to the conversation. No wonder there’s been a war brewing between “old” and “new” media.

Another example: yesterday Twitter.com was briefly hacked to point to a screen which claimed that the “Iranian Cyber Army” was behind the attack. In my self-appointed role as the interim technology editor on the Jakarta Globe web team, I felt that we should cover it. Our online readers (and Facebook and Twitter followers) are big into social media and they’d find it interesting. Our options were:

  1. Write an original story on the topic, perhaps making some phone calls to get original quotes.
  2. Run a wire service story on the topic (AP and AFP and probably others had already reported the event)
  3. Reblog or otherwise link to a report elsewhere.

Writing an original story is really time consuming, and duplicates effort — something that an industry facing deep revenue shortages from the loss of their advertising monopoly cannot afford. Web media thinking says 3 is the right answer: find out who has the best coverage and send readers there. But that violates classic newsy values, which say that you should avoid acknowledging the existence of any other publications if at all possible. We went with running the AFP story.

Again, I’m not saying that this was the wrong move, but it does illustrate a classic newsroom practice that doesn’t translate well to the web.

Non-journalists are probably not familiar with newswire services. These are organizations like the Associated Press (AP), Reuters, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse (AFP) and so on that maintain huge international staffs of reporters spitting out stories as fast as possible. It’s really quite amazing to sit at a terminal and watch the news roll in over the wires, a new story every minute or so from all over the world. Newspapers subscribe to these feeds for thousands of dollars a month, both for the information and for the license to rerun stories.

It’s actually an efficient scheme — how many local papers can afford a Botswana correspondent? Running a wire story is sort of like reblogging for the old media world.

Where this scheme falls down is rewrites. “We spend a huge amount of time chasing wire stories and rewriting them so we can put our own name on it,” a reporter for the International Herald Tribune in Hong Kong told me earlier this month. “It’s stupid.”

And this is part of why wire service stories are dry as toast: the newswire company promises anonymous prose that is easy to rewrite and rebrand. Not only is this a waste of time, but the voicelessness of wire copy is a big problem for the web.

First of all, wire stories are plain text. No links at all. This is not only inconvenient for the user who wants to know more, it’s a transparency problem. The reader can’t tell what the reporter’s references are, or where they are coming from. There is no way to link this story with others by the same person, to get a sense of the author’s experience, knowledge base, and point of view. That is the difference between linking to a blog which has a public identity and history, and running a wire service story which is intentionally anonymous and therefore opaque.

Dan Froomkin of the Washington Post has summed this up masterfully by saying that the web “abhors lack of voice.”

So what’s the “right” approach? Exactly what the blog media have been doing: do what you do best and link to the rest. There are only two useful things a newsroom can do:

  1. Put new content online by doing original reporting
  2. Filter the internet to tell users where to find other good stuff.

I think a news organization has to do original reporting in some form to be worthy of the name. To develop authority and convince its audience to listen, it probably has to let its reporters expertise shine through. What newsrooms don’t seem to understand yet (and Google does) is that filtering is just as useful, if not more so. Running or rewriting wire copy does serve to inform the reader, but linking is far more efficient for the newsroom and far more useful to the reader. Any organization that wants readers to come to its site first can ill afford to pretend that the reader doesn’t want the rest of the web too.

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Dec 18 2009

What Internet Censorship Looks Like in Qatar, Bahrain

I am collecting “censored!” screens from different countries. Thanks to the sleuthing of Jacob Appelbaum, I’ve got two more for you. When you’re not allowed to see something online in Qatar, you get redirected to this site:

QatarCensored

(Click for larger.) As opposed to most of the other “blocked site” screens, you don’t actually have to be in country to see this, just go to http://www.censor.qa/.

Next up, Bahrain:

Bahrain-filter

Lest the Westerners in the audience get the impression that blocking internet access is all about silly little theocracies in the desert, note that Australia just passed an internet censorship law. The blacklist is secret. Stay tuned for “What Internet Censorship Looks Like in Australia”!

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Dec 17 2009

Lifelogging + Machine Transcription = Public Reporters’ Notebooks

want reporters to make their notebooks public, because I want news organizations and audiences alike to enjoy the fruits of transparency that the web is bringing to us. There are at least two problems with this idea: these notes are indecipherable scribbles on paper, and reporters won’t want to do it. Recording audio instead of ink and using machine transcription will help with the first problem, while the cultural shifts brought by the slow but inevitable rise of lifelogging will help with the second.

ReportersNotebook

The traditional “voice of god” news writing style just doesn’t cut it on the web, where Wikipedia has made us expect hyperlinked footnotes to every statement and bloggers happily admit their uncertainties. I’m hardly alone in calling for professional journalists to be more upfront about the sausage-making that is news production.

Not only might this renew the public’s battered trust of pro media, but showing your work lets other people build on it. Bloggers and Tweeters don’t wait until they have the full story to publish a new fact or post an interesting interview, allowing that information to be used immediately by someone else. As I have argued extensively, working journalists need to get into the habit of collaborating with their communities.

It’s quite possible that everyone wins when professional journalists show their work.

First problem: the scribbles. It’s really hard to write fast when you’re taking down a quote. The result is chicken scratchings and personal shorthands. Each reporter’s notebook is written in its own code. Even if anyone could read the writing, they’d find only a battered mess of sentence fragments and unidentified quotes. Besides, the notebook is on paper. We could ask reporters to come back to the newsroom after each assignment and scan their notes, but that would be useless.

Reporters might consider recording their interviews instead, as they often do already, and posting those recordings online. Want to know more than the article says? Just watch the video or listen to the tape. The Nieman Journalism Lab already makes a habit of this.

But transcribing recordings is a huge time-sucking pain in the ass, and AV isn’t searchable so there’s no quick way for either the reporter or the audience to find that favorite quote. Enter machine transcription, automated speech-to-text systems that produce a transcript of any conversation. This sort of technology is still in its infancy, and it has accuracy problems — but it’s already used by Google Voice to convert voicemail to email,  by YouTube to make videos of political speeches searchable, and in Adobe Premiere for semi-automated tape logging.

Rather than the notepad, I envision the journalistic tool of the future to be a Blackberry or iPhone with real-time speech-to-text software running on it. And I want a “tag this” button on the phone, which I will push to mark the time whenever someone says something interesting. Immediately after the interview, I might review the transcripts and tweet any particularly interesting points from my mobile device. Back at the newsroom, I would cut and paste quotes from marked times, then upload the article and post the entire recording, including its transcript. Done, and anyone who wants to know more than my 200 word summary is free to roll the tape to do their own sleuthing.

Of course, this means that everything the reporter says will be public. This will be a change. It won’t always be appropriate, as with off-the-record chats or embargoed material. But most of all, I think it’s going to take getting used to the idea that our lives and our work are going to be a lot more public than they were.

On Tuesday I worked with a colleague to interview an Indonesian street performer. The recording on my iPhone also caught us in a brief, er, discussion about who was going to type up the transcription. I would be hesitant to put the recording online because of that, and because it reveals all the snarky comments, translation confusions, possible inaccuracies and in short, the entire messiness of the journalistic process. Traditional journalistic style is clean, well ordered, literally black and white. The real world isn’t like that, and showing our work is going to destroy some cherished myths.

But then, entire civilizations used to think that the King was descended from the gods. Some myths are worth losing. And we are losing them: LiveJournal, Facebook etc. are giving us new notions of privacy and with them, an outpouring of strikingly honest accounts of what it is to be human. Meanwhile, we’re going to start recording much more of our lives, and with much less effort. Imagine an audio recording of every moment of your life, with good search capability. Such a system would be a form of perfect memory. Life-logging is going to happen; the technology is already here, so I’d guess that teenagers are going to be growing up with it within a decade.

Recordings of candid moments will then become commonplace, and if we’re lucky, we’ll all become more forgiving as we gain a better understanding of human fallibility.

In this context, it won’t seem so scary for a journalist to post the unedited records of their encounters with reality. In fact, it’s going to become necessary. Everyone else will be doing it.

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Dec 16 2009

Best Visualizations of 2009

FlowingData just did a roundup the top 5 prettiest, awesomest, interestingest data visualizations of the year. I think it’s wonderful, because I think visualizations are important. The amount of data in the world is exploding, but human sense abilities are not.

open-street-map-edits-545x306

It was a huge year for data. There’s no denying it. Data is about to explode.

Applications sprung up left and right that help you understand your data – your Web traffic, your finances, and your life. There are now online marketplaces that sell data as files or via API. Data.govlaunched to provide the public with usable, machine-readable data on a national scale. State and local governments followed, and data availability expands every day.

At the same time, there are now tons of tools that you can use to visualize your data. It’s not just Excel anymore, and a lot of it is browser-based. Some of the tools even have aesthetics to boot.

It’s exciting times for data, indeed.

Data has been declared sexy, and the rise of the data scientist is here.

With all the new projects this year, it was hard to filter down to the best, but here they are: two honorable mentions and the five best data visualization projects of 2009. Visualizations were chosen based on analysis, aesthetics, and most importantly, how well they told their story (or how well they let you tell yours).

Go here for the rest.

Since all I ever seem to write about these days is journalism (what with the journalism school, and the currently interning at a newspaper), here’s the tie-in:
Data is news now.

Deep, huh?

More pretty pictures at visualcomplexity.com, my very favorite infoviz site.

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Dec 12 2009

The Structure of Social Journalism

Shortest way I can describe how I think journalism must change: the internet is not just for distribution, but production too. I’m not saying that “citizen journalists” will be making all the news. I suspect a complex collaboration between many people, including something like a newsroom full of pro journalists. In this article I’m going to explore what that might look like, by asking what the component tasks are that make up “journalism”, and thinking about who can do those most efficiently. And I’m going to sketch out the design for a piece of social software to support this.

Here’s a list of things that professional journalists do:

  • decide what should be more broadly known
  • decide what should be more deeply investigated
  • collect information from sources both public and private
  • check that information for factual accuracy
  • construct narratives to make sense of that information
  • produce content to convey those narratives
  • publish and market that content

This list is by no means definitive or exhaustive. It’s just illustrative, a starting point for a thought experiment. Who could do each of these things best? And what tools to do they need to do it?

Having a network of people producing journalism around a newsroom is not a new idea. Jeff Jarvis has been discussing networked journalism since at least 2006, and naturally I think he’s on to something. In this essay I want concentrate on process and roles. If cheap networks make new types of collaboration possible, they also set the stage for new types of specialization. I think one of the problems of the traditional, mainstream media newsroom is that it it tries to handle the entire journalistic process internally, even the parts that it’s not actually very good at.

An example

On November 25, a video appeared on YouTube which appears to be the testimonial of a young woman recently fired from the credit card collections division of Bank of America. She had been allowing the bank’s most desperate customers to enroll in fixed-payment debt recovery schemes. Many of these customers are currently paying 30% interest as a result of recent rate hikes, so this was a great kindness. It was also against company policy.

The video is powerful. It’s an amazing first-person testimonial of the greed and heartlessness of large corporations.

So is this journalism?

Continue Reading »

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Dec 08 2009

Five (Long) Videos about Journalism Transformed

Come, my fellow information geeks, and gather ’round the glow of monitors. The world is changing (it’s the internet) and the way we learn things is changing too. The blogosphere is blooming while journalists are being laid off. Is this good? Is this bad? I’ve spent far too much time trying to understand how everything is shifting.

And now you too can waste your time in learning! Here are five videos about journalism, blogging, tweeting, collecting and sharing information, and how stuff is generally changing. In no particular order:

1. “The Arab World on the Front Edge of Media”, by Moeed Ahmad, head of New Media for Al Jazeera

Moeed Ahmad talk

Figuring out which tweets from the Iranian protests are true. Tracking falling bombs in Gaza using SMS and open-source mapping mash-ups. Releasing war footage under Creative Commons licenses. Moeed has a seriously interesting job, and speaks with great eloquence about how his small new media team fits into a huge global news organization.

Continue Reading »

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Dec 02 2009

What is the Right Number of Journalists?

How many journalists does the world need to adequately serve the public? It’s a difficult question, and I’m going to argue that the market won’t tell us. But here’s a thought: for the first time in history, it’s trivial to check how many outlets covered any particular story.

From Google News just now:

TooMuchCoverage

In this case, there were 2,907 articles on the web covering the story of Iran freeing the Brits. Even accounting for the fact that most of these pages will be mirrors of the same text, we can see that Aljazeera, The Telegraph, the Associated Press, CNN, the New York Times, and many others covered the story. And they all did their own reporting, a horde of journalists from all over the world making phone calls and doing interviews.

Meanwhile, written-word reporters are getting laid off right and left, essentially due to the end of the print-based information distribution monopolies. Last year, 35,000 journalists lost their jobs in the US. This has made a number of quite clever people fret about the end of “accountability journalism,” the press that keeps people honest by serving as a watchdog.

This talk between Clay Shirky and Alex Jones is a great introduction to the argument that we’re “losing the news,” to use Jones’ phrase.

But what the Google numbers suggest to me is that, if we really are losing the kind of journalism that is essential for democracy, it’s not because we have too few people. It’s because they’re doing the wrong things. According to people like Shirky and the Knight Foundation, local news in particular is vastly under-served.

I discussed this with a journalist from the International Herald Tribune yesterday. He raised the point that we definitely need more than one organization covering each story. Competition is important, as is a plurality of viewpoints — I think we really do want to preserve the difference between the CNN and Al Jazeera.

So the right number of newsrooms on each story is greater than one. But I bet it’s less then 10 or 20, which is what we have now. Sadly, I think this means that there is a currently a tremendous duplication of effort in the global news-gathering system.

The world’s journalists need to get better organized and stop wasting their efforts. Markets are very good at maximizing efficiency for all sorts of things, but I think this is a case where just letting the market strip apart newspapers until they’re profitable again (if ever) is unlikely to give us the right answer.

Journalism is, arguably, a public good in the economic sense. This means that everyone benefits from it, but everyone also shares it — you will tell your friends the hot news, which makes it difficult to charge for. It’s been understood for at least a century that a competitive market tends to produce too little of a public good. The only reason we had so many newspapers before the internet is that they had a monopoly on distribution. Presses and paper are expensive.

I am not arguing that newspapers need to be run as non-profits or government subsidized, as some people have (and it’s worth noting that the world-wide BBC operation runs on UK government money.) Personally I favor hybrid “social-venture” models that subsidize news through other means. I find Jay Rosen’s list of ways that the news has been subsidized in the past to be particularly enlightening.

It seems likely to me that the bare market is going to under-produce journalism, at least the general-interest public service sort of journalism (financial journalism is currently quite profitable, thank you very much.). If we believe this, and we are going to start designing models and policies to ensure that we get more, then the question of when we have enough needs to be asked in a serious, empirical way.

Counting story duplication isn’t a very complete answer to “how do we know when we have enough journalists?” but it’s a start.

What I really don’t know how to address is the question of how many stories should have been written, if only someone had been there to cover them.

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