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Newspapers Find New Foothold Through Digital Media


Paid circulation is going through the roof

Paid circulation is going through the roof (Photo credit: Kristine_Lowe)

So you thought print was dead.  Well, it isn’t.  The New York Times published an article for their blog, Media Decoder on Tuesday.  Small Gain in Newspaper Circulations, Aided by Digital Subscriptions” by Tanzina Vega focused on the recent report from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which monitors newspaper circulation.

The report shows an overall increase in circulation for the 618 daily newspapers over a six month period.  Vega states in her article, “The biggest increase was for The New York Times, whose daily circulation, including the digital version, increased 73.05 percent over the previous year, largely because of the introduction of its paid digital subscription model last year. The A.B.C. report on 618 daily newspapers for the six-month period ended March 31 counts both print and digital subscriptions.”

Vega adds, based on the A.B.C. report, “The 618 newspapers with daily circulation increased 0.68 percent. The Wall Street Journal remained in the top spot with a total average daily circulation of 2,118,315, compared with 2,117,796 last year. USA Today was second with 1,817,446; The New York Times had 1,586,757; The Los Angeles Times, 616,575; and The Daily News of New York, 579,636.”

She also quoted the chief executive of the Newspaper Association of America, Caroline H. Little, as stating, “We’re particularly gratified to note that newspapers’ embrace of digital platforms, as well as smart and efficient circulation strategies for print products, are reflected in the numbers, which clearly demonstrate positive trends in total circulation growth for publishers.”

Okay, so you might be sitting here thinking that it shouldn’t count because it’s not print.  Well, actually it is.  It’s just in digital format.  I won’t go as far to say this gets the newspaper industry out of the woods just yet.  I will say that this is promising.  It shows how old media platforms are integrating new media platforms and using it to keep their brand alive. If it takes a bunch of new online subscriptions to keep The Gray Lady in business, and others like the Wall Street Journal, then I’m all for it.  I still enjoy the feel of a newspaper page between my fingers, but I’m also the same person who gets daily email feeds from various news sources and has an online subscription to a major news organization.

Video didn’t kill the radio star, and I honestly don’t think digital will kill traditional print.  There is room for everyone.

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A Positive Side to CISPA?


CISPA - The solution is the problem

CISPA – The solution is the problem (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

In an opinion article for Digital Trends, Andrew Couts, points out some positive information( in his opinion) about the passing of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.  His article, Five things everyone needs to know about CISPAstates that specific amendments made prior to the passing by the House, have actually improved the bill.Couts says these are the five things people should be aware of.

1.  CISPA has nothing to do with SOPA.

2.  CISPA got better with amendments.3.  …But it’s still fundamentally broken.

4.  CISPA is not the only cybersecurity bill in Congress.

5.  CISPA likely won’t pass the Senate. (unchanged)

The first point Couts makes is this, “CISPA has to do with privacy. SOPA dealt with censorship. CISPA threatens our Fourth Amendment rights — the right against “unreasonable searches and seizures” — because it allows businesses to hand over a staggering amount of information about us to the federal government with impunity. SOPA threatened our First Amendment rights — the right to free speech — because it would have allowed the federal government to block access to websites using the same practices employed in oppressive regimes, like Iran and China.”

His second point?  “A total of 11 amendments were added to the bill, some of which made positive changes to the types of information that may be shared, and how the government may legally use that information.”  He continues on to list some of the major changes made in the bill and discusses the most notable change, the Quayle amendment that he summarizes in his article.

“One added provision, known as the Quayle amendment, has raised the most number of eyebrows. It outlines the purposes for which the government may use information collected from businesses. They are as follows:

  1. cybersecurity;
  2. investigation and prosecution of cybersecurity crimes;
  3. protection of individuals from the danger of death or physical injury;
  4. protection of minors from physical or psychological harm; and
  5. protection of the national security of the United States

Couts goes on to discuss why he thinks the bill is still flawed and said, “For starters, the bill still does not provide any limits on the information shared under CISPA to be passed along to shadowy organizations, like the National Security Agency, which has essentially no public oversight. Furthermore, CISPA still allows data collected under the bill to be used for vague purposes of “national security,” a term that could mean almost anything.”

He also informs his readers that there are two other bills currently in Congress, one brought forth by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called SECURE IT Act or S. 2151.  The other bill is presented by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), called Cybersecurity Act of 2012 or S. 2105.  Couts explains that both other bills share the problem of broad language like CISPA and that it’s possible in the end that CISPA could be combined with one of the two bills.  Couts reports that currently, Lieberman’s bill has the support of the White House and Senate Democrats.  This is significant since the President has threatened to veto CISPA if certain changes do not take place.

The veto issue is also part of Couts last point, that CISPA will not likely pass in the Senate.  He includes the caveat of change.  If certain requirements outlined by the President take place, and the bill can be hashed out to everyone’s liking, it may pass into law.  Considering the track record, of the two major political parties agreeing on anything, as being less than stellar, I’m personally not going to hold my breath.  That doesn’t mean I’m not deeply concerned about the bill.  After all, it did pass the House with a 248-168 vote and had over 100 cosponsors, which is cause for serious concern for all those who use the internet, and more specifically, investigative journalists.

Overall, I don’t see any real positive change in the language of the bill.  I’m concerned for investigative journalists for a very good reason.  The nature of their work.  The “watchdogs” of government may have to begin re-thinking the methods they use to get information online.  I’m skeptical that should the government get wind of an investigation through the abilities provided by the CISPA bill, they would just let journalists go about their job undeterred.  We may end up seeing more instances like what happened to the two journalists working for USA Today.  You can read more about their story here.

So what’s the take-away?  Well, as Couts points out, it’s a long process and we should all be willing to accept that fact, and keep paying attention no matter how long it takes for a decision to be made on CISPA.  Journalists especially, should be paying close attention.  If you thought there were problems with the use of anonymity before, just wait and see what happens when the government, at will, snoops around your information and starts to monitor you under the guise of national security.  (Especially if your story targets the government.)  As a computer scientist friend of mine casually suggested recently, getting to know the ins-and-outs of encryption might become a valuable investment in your career.

Government Bullies


One of the many Media Bistro blogs, FishbowlNY, published and article by Chris O’Shea on Friday titled, “USA Today Journalists Targets of Online Intimidation”.  The two journalists in the article, Tom Vanden Brook and Ray Locker claim that fake websites and twitter accounts had been created as a smear campaign to deter them from the investigative journalism work they were doing about the Pentagon and its propaganda contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

O’Shea quotes sections from a Washington Post opinion blog, which stated:

“In an interview Thursday night, Locker said that the campaign was ‘something I’ve never experienced in 30 years’  in this business. The sites launched in the names of the USA Today colleagues, suggests Locker, were insidious samples of infocrafting. They contained links to work that the journalists had done, plus a space for comments on the stories. In that space, says Locker, there were ‘nasty, untrue’ remarks from commenters who didn’t appear to be real people.”

Erik Wemple, the author of the blog post for The Washington Post also stated:

“Looking back, the 52-year-old Locker doesn’t come off traumatized by the Internet tinkering. “It’s been a little bit of a distraction,” he says. But he’s happy that the paper published a story exposing the scheme. “I think it’s good that we called attention to it. . . . I’m glad that the people I work for have my back,” he says.

There is some symmetry to the whole story: Locker and Vanden Brook document in their investigative story that info ops practices in war zones are “dubious.” Just like the ones arrayed against them.”

Apparently the Pentagon denies any involvement in this attack on the journalists.  Interesting, considering the very nature of the Pentagon and it’s practices lend to a school of thought that includes secrecy, subterfuge and manipulation of Peoples and who knows what else you can imagine.  I’m not knocking these things as value-less tools in times of war, but since when is it okay to practice this behavior on citizens of the United States charged with the role of the watchdog?

I’m relieved to read that this attempt of intimidation did not work, and the two journalists continued with their investigative project, but the thought that our government, especially in light of bills like CISPA trying to be passed, should be examined very seriously and we journalists should be on our guard, and realize that the time to protect our freedoms of speech and press as well as privacy need to be at the forefront of our minds.  Now more than ever, I believe journalists must continue to scrutinize the government and fully embrace that watchdog role.  Kudos to USA Today for standing by their journalists.  I hope to see more of this type of support in the future.

You can read the investigative reporting by Locker and Vanden Brook here and here.