2013—Digital media expands…print media shrinks

Over the last three years I have had occasional “musings” about our digital information age and even ventured forth with a few comments…

2010– 2011…Time for a new route or an old rut?

2011–My Book My Record…Thriving Analog Artifacts in a Digital World?

2012– Digital Books…the next generation reading format?

In keeping with this three-year tradition, I offer a few thoughts for 2013

As Bob Dylan might have put it: “The Times And Media, They Are A-Changin’”

2013 is a year in which the “digitizing” and electronic distribution of text and image media will proceed apace.  More and more people will be using their phones, tablets, e-readers, and laptops to create and distribute, text, photos and videos…and to secure their news, not to mention directions to the nearest store having the object of their heart’s desire on sale…at the lowest price.

As a consequence, the future of print media in 2013…the latest 2014, perhaps…does not look particularly promising.  For example, the December 31, 2012 print edition of Newsweek was its last. Starting in 2013, readers will be able to access the magazine only by subscribing to online delivery. For a detailed explanation of this decision, go to A New Chapter…Sometimes change isn’t just good, it’s necessary. One wonders whether Time magazine will be far behind.

At the local level we still have print editions of The Press Democrat and the Petaluma Argus Courier, with no notice, as of the time of this writing, that they will cease.  However, there has been discussion of charging for online content at one or both of these publications.  Advance notice, perhaps, that the print editions are in jeopardy?

Change is inevitable and inexorable.  The movement to exclusive online distribution of stories and news will, in my opinion, change the nature and character of the content.  My view is perhaps conditioned by the fact that I am used to reading long articles such as the recent 14 page section in the New York Times presenting a single story complete with several large photographs.  In a world where it is difficult to get many to click beyond one or two screen pages, writing such as this will not survive.  I, for one, will miss it.

In one sense the rapid changes in media are an affirmation of Marshall McLuhan’s aphorism: “The medium is the message. This is merely to say that the  personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of  ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by  each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”

Oh to be sure there will be an ever increasing volume of information coming to us on our various electronic devices and small screens in the years ahead. However, I for one will cling to the New York Times Sunday print edition for as long as it is available.  As for Newsweek, I will miss it and will not subscribe online.  This is not out of spite.  It is simply that online reading of long articles is not something I particularly care to do.

What will happen to text,  I think, is what has already happened to photos. See Many More Images, Much Less Meaning.

We face, I suspect, a future of endless communication…with less information.

You can say that, but…

…only as long as you are aware of the potential consequences.

The recent national story about Congressman Anthony Weiner’s Twitter posts plus some of the comments posted to the recent Petaluma Patch article, Police launch active investigation into Aqus Cafe vandalism serve as the background for this attempt to again cover the issues of

  • Free speech
  • Appropriate speech
  • Legal liability and other consequences for the author (anonymous or not) of the posted words or photos–whether they be in a forum, an article comment or in a blog

This article is a summary of the several articles posted in the past.

FREE SPEECH

In today’s online world, you have the ability to exercise your power of free speech on any number of news websites that permit blogs or public postings to news stories, on-line forums or other message boards and social media sites. However there is no absolute right to say or write anything you want without risking litigation or other consequences.

As a user of such websites, including the social media sites, you should be aware that these sites have user agreements dictating that the author of any blog, post, or comment is responsible for its content.

For purposes of this article, think of “Free Speech” as a large ocean with two shores, or boundaries if you will. For convenience, I will call them the Criminal Liability Shore and the Civil Liability Shore…

  • On the Criminal Liability Shore, you will find several prohibitions against “incitement” with the classic example being that of Oliver Wendell Homes–You can’t yell “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. Updating Holmes, you had better not exercise your “Right of Free Speech” by saying “bomb” at an airport, unless you enjoy the prospect of suffering significant and swift consequences.
  • On the Civil Liability shore, you will find numerous restrictions and potential litigation on what you can say or write due to trademark and copyright laws. In addition, there are the classic twin specters of defamation claims and potential libel suits.

In between the two shores, there is a vast ocean of unrestricted speech–ideas, criticism, argument, advocacy, complaints, general ranting, etc. The contents of this ocean are only regulated by…

  • Social convention–e.g. there are certain things one should not say at a wedding or an office party…or in some bars after midnight.
  • Employer rules, policies, and regulations
  • Contract or agreement–such as a website user agreement.

LIBEL

Defamation (Libel & Slander) is an extremely complex legal topic. Almost every word used to describe the parameters of defamation is a term of art with a mountain of case-law behind each word or phrase…publication, distribution, retraction, trade or business libel, malice, actual malice, intent, negligence, etc.

  • From a practical standpoint, not every disparaging, critical, negative, or derogatory statement constitutes legal defamation. By case-law, public figures and elected officials must endure even more than the average person, as they must prove “actual malice” in the publishing of an alleged defamatory statement.
  • Even if defamation is established, proving up damages is not always an easy task.
  • On the other hand, as a litigant defending against a defamation claim, you may be forced to spend a considerable amount of money to prove your defense. In short, you may win against the defamation claim…but you will be broke.

In my opinion, most (if not all) of the risks of potential defamation claims can be avoided by the use of a little common sense and common courtesy when posting on a public forum.

Now, for those who still want to push the limits–and, in my opinion, they know when they are crossing the line–I suggest they read the next section.

SCREEN NAMES

Screen names are not a protection against discovery

I have a natural bias of wanting to know the author of anything I read and believe that people should put their name behind their words. For example, can anyone imagine John Hancock signing the Declaration of Independence as BIGJOHN?

I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the use of screen names is acceptable although I prefer otherwise.

How you act behind the screen name (i.e. what you write) is an entirely different question. You are ultimately responsible for what you say whether as “Big John” or John Hancock. 

There is a belief by some that you can say anything under a screen name and never be held accountable if a person or a business suspects a criminal or civil law has been broken and decides to pursue the case in court.

The practice of allowing the use of screen names is not an implied permission to engage in defamatory language or to violate the terms of a website’s user agreement. You do so at your own risk, particularly in the area of business or trade libel.

In my opinion, if there is litigation generated by an anonymous posting or series of posts, a  website is going to give you up in a New York minute.

Think about it…before you post your next brilliant “flame” for all the world to see…

Oh, one more thing. For those who are inclined to post photos of themselves on social media sites, do not use former Congressman Anthony Weiner as a role model. His photos may not have been “illegal”–but they certainly had consequences.

Legal & Personal Dangers–The Internet & New Media World…A Coda

In this post, I offer several items for your consideration:

  • An article by Bill Keller in the New York Times Magazine.  Mr. Keller is quite a bit younger than yours truly, but he definitely hits the mark in The Twitter Trap . The sub-heading gives you a sense of the article: ” What thinking in 140 characters does to our brains.”
  • An update on Your Internet Posts Can Get You Sued For Defamation…or worse! is also in order. One of the stories covered in that post involved the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a judge. Briefly, there was a question of certain anonymous online posts on the newspaper’s web site that were alleged to have originated from the courthouse.  The newspaper decided to break the story and revealed the courthouse internet connection as the source.  The judge was removed from hearing the case in question due to the appearance of impropriety. However, the judge sued the newspaper alleging defamation and breach of the newspaper’s confidentiality agreement for commenters.  The suit was recently settled without going to trial and without disclosure of the rationale for the settlement.

Related links providing background on the Cleveland Plain Dealer lawsuit:

  1. On The Media Transcript
  2. She’s Out: Judge Shirley Strickland-Saffold Removed from Cleveland Strangler Case 
  3. Saffolds dismiss lawsuit against Plain Dealer   
  4. The Indiana Law Blog  

In closing…

There are many positive aspects of the new media world  but it is also adversely affecting many cultural norms of behavior.  Of course this is simply my opinion–an opinion based on the fact that I am 66 years old, out of date, and basically irrelevant.  Personally, this is not a bad state of affairs–in fact, I have been secretly working on achieving this status for quite some time…and intend to take full advantage of it.

My Book My Record…Thriving Analog Artifacts in a Digital World?

FOREWORD

The two stories in this article were developed as the result of comments posted to 2011…Time for a new route or an old rut? by readers in Peoria, Illinois and Sonoma, California. Both comments suggested that the dystopian digital future I portrayed was perhaps not as comprehensive as I inferred. Whether it is or not remains to be seen.  Notwithstanding, I think the stories are worth telling in their own right…

     A book story…                                                                                                                        

 A record story…

PEORIA, ILLINOIS (Books)

Reader Mary Dene Etter reports that hard copy books are still popular with children in Peoria: “I am currently involved in a local project to put six books in the hands of all K thru 4th graders in District 150 (Peoria) schools. In a little over two years we have distributed 12,000 books.  I cannot imagine anything digital replacing their enthusiasm as they anticipate having their own library.”                                   (Photo Courtesy of Look! It’s My Book!)

I fully realize that there are programs such as this in many cities. Notwithstanding, this story caught my attention as I am a product of Peoria’s District 150 schools.

The book distribution program described by Mary Dene is sponsored and managed by Peoria’s Look! It’s My Book!  and Janet Roth, President describes their efforts:

The most wonderful magic has been the incredible support that Look It’s My Book! has  gotten.  We are now up to seven schools, (there is a district wide poverty level of 70%); we’ve given away over 12,000 books, and have over 160 volunteers. 

It has been so fun to see the children pick their books!  One little girl actually clapped her hands and jumped for joy when she found out we had Fancy Nancy! One little boy came over and asked me how did you pronounce the word mischievous. I told him. Then he asked, “What does it mean?”  I said it was someone who wasn’t exactly bad, but who got into trouble sometimes and liked to do things like play practical jokes.  His eyes lit up and he asked “How do you pronounce that again?” I think he identified with the term.*

Mary Dene also reported by e-mail: “Many stories to tell — one from a bus driver who says he always knows when it’s been “book day,” the kids are so quiet (reading their new book).  We get lots of smiles and hugs; also get to witness their enthusiasm as they discuss their newest book with their friends.”

Back in the day, Peoria, Illinois was the most “middle” of middle class cities in a cultural and economic sense. The expression, “Will it play in Peoria?” evolved from describing a rough river town on the Vaudeville circuit to describing a city that was a test market for new consumer products.  It was, if you will, an island of middle class stability. 

Having moved to California in 1985, I lost touch with the “realities” of my home town. Consequently, I had trouble processing the fact that the poverty level in the district is now 70% as reported by Janet Roth. A little research verified this figure. See Schools struggling to deal with rise in poverty 

All I can say or offer at this point is a loud HUZZAH to the many people behind Peoria’s Look! It’s My Book!It may be a digital age, but you have found the perfect analog response to a difficult problem.

SONOMA, CALIFORNIA (Records) 

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to be a vinyl record collector. However, I thought the medium had disappeared with the advent of the audio CD in the early Eighties.

Therefore, when Gina Cuclis in Sonoma, California reported that her twin daughters (Seniors at Sonoma Valley High) love listening to vinyl records, she had my attention.  

  • She even suggested that this might be part of a larger trend eventually generating a nostalgic yearning for  printed newspapers. 
  • Perhaps…perhaps not. 

What focused my mind was the reference to records.  I know there is a small group of hard-core audiophiles who still reject the digital recording format in favor of analog records and spend large sums of money for playback equipment.  But I was not aware that the love of records was shared, shall we say, by a wider group of more rational people.

I pursued the subject further with Gina by e-mail and telephone:

My daughters — Olivia and Elena Tennant love vinyl. Olivia gave her sister several vinyl records for Christmas. I find this very interesting. As Millennials, they are the first generation to grow up with the Internet, yet they prefer old-fashioned vinyl records.

They tell me their friends feel the same way. I find them both at times with their friends in our living room listening to my husband’s and my old Rolling Stones albums. They say the vinyl “sounds better.” They will download from iTunes some of the same music for their iPods. But then they’ll listen at home to an old vinyl record.

As a music aficionado, I was taken aback by this information–I, for one, love the CD format and was more than happy to have moved on from records several years ago. 

I performed a little research and discovered that there is a genuine resurgence of interest in the record format. It is not confined to a group of young adults in Sonoma, California.

  • Many new releases are offered on Amazon in three formats:  CD, MP3 downloads, and…vinyl records.
  • Elvis Costello reportedly prefers the vinyl record medium.

Vinyl records? LP Albums? Who knew? Well, it seems is if Olivia & Elena have figured it out.

For more information on this phenomenon, see the “Vinyl Links” section at the end of this article.**

__________________

NOTES
* Our project becomes even more important as we look at crime.  The April 10th edition of the Economist looks at the question: Are there ways to prevent people from becoming criminals in the first place? There is plenty of evidence that a lack of education goes hand in hand with criminal behavior. But few studies have established that less education is actually a cause of crime.  However, now there is one. It was almost accidental, when the UK changed their law and extended the time students had to stay in school “they found a causal link between low education and crime.”   They found this group with the additional year of schooling was less likely to engage in criminal behavior.   The authors could even calculate that one year extra of education reduces property crime by 1-2%. And a study of American crime found the biggest benefit from extra education was fewer violent crimes.   Reading skills keep children in school.  Books in the home allow kids to gain those critical reading skills…that’s why we are doing Look! It’s My Book! 
  
**VINYL LINKS
 
 
 

2011…Time for a new route or an old rut?

The end of a year is a time for reflection and so it is that I find myself ruminating over the keyboard during this last week of 2010…

“We know what we are, but we know not what we may become”- William Shakespeare

I have no great words of wisdom or forecasts for 2011 except to note that the Gales of Change will continue to blow in 2011. At a minimum, we can expect further disruptions in the economy, government budgets, and the general well-being of society.

In short:

  • It is more than likely that 2011 will not be a good year.
  • We will be fortunate if it is no worse than 2010.

The above notwithstanding, I offer two futuristic observations on our digital communications media world in the coming year(s).

__________________

I.

The almost relentless drive to digitize all forms of consumer media will accelerate in 2011

DVD’s and CD’s will be harder to find as they are replaced by downloads and on demand services. The pressure to buy e-books, to watch movies online, and to consume music by download will continue.

Large scale Sunday newspapers may soon disappear…

Eventually, everything will be available online–exclusively–for consumption on an electronic device…

  • Digital downloads will generate a tremendous savings in resources previously dedicated to producing and distributing consumer books, recordings, magazines, newspapers, DVD movies, etc.
  • Homes will no longer be cluttered with books, magazines, photo albums, and recordings.  They will be available online and on demand…for a fee of course.
  • Public & private libraries will no longer be necessary in an online digital world.
  • Book stores, like the Dodo, will become extinct.
  • Book signings will be replaced by Facebook entries & Twitter Tweets.

Eventually, all human generated content and information–writings, books, film, photos, government records, business records, personal records, and archives–will be stored in a central computer cloud…and accessed through a wireless umbilical cord.

Of course, there is one question…

http://tracking.technodesignip.com/?action=count&projectid=642&contentid=6558&referrer=-&urlaction=r...LightningWho will control the cloud?Storm cloudhttp://tracking.technodesignip.com/?action=count&projectid=642&contentid=6558&referrer=-&urlaction=r...

http://tracking.technodesignip.com/?action=count&projectid=642&contentid=6508&referrer=-&urlaction=r...Just asking…http://tracking.technodesignip.com/?action=count&projectid=642&contentid=6508&referrer=-&urlaction=r...

II.

To Tweet or not to Tweet–That is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous Facebook fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of social media links*

Recently, I have been reflecting on two books (hard copy versions) that have stirred my little gray cells in the spirit of Agatha Christie’s Poirot. 

They are interesting contradictions, these two books…

Both can be read at several levels… 

  • The first deals with the tensions, dynamics, and strains of creating something in and for the “real” world.
  • The second describes how the “real” world is being replaced by the Virtual Internet Worldwith its infinite array of marketing, news, and social media communication channels…the latter filled to the brim with a stew of 140 character texts, digital snapshots, video clips, and banal messages–a world where constant communication is more important than content or context. It is a world we have yet begun to understand as it changes our entire media landscape…and us. ***

In musing over the information and ideas presented in these books, I asked myself two questions for 2011…

Is it time to find a new route in the new Social Media?

Perhaps…

Or…

Is it time to go back to the future and stay in the old rut?

After careful deliberation, my answer is…the old rut!

Why?

Simply put, I have no interest in contributing to the digital vapors of the new “social” media.

I find less and less reason to follow, much less take part in, a virtual world where people, for the most part, would rather commune with others on their mobile devices or computers instead of engaging in face to face encounters.  I am well aware that this is the reality of the day and it is not going to change. I do wonder if this is not one of the reasons why some decry the increasing coarseness of, and rude behavior in, society…

Could it be that we are losing our ability to interact and communicate personally because it is so much easier to do it through a surrogate electronic device?

I have always tended to pick the “road less traveled” in the spirit of Robert Frost or to cheer the underdog in conflicts and see no reason to change now.

Therefore, I will continue working in the now out of date world of 300 to 800 word blog articles written and formatted as if they were set out on a real page with large scale photo prints. While read or seen by few in the Virtual World, as they are not suited for quick consumption on handheld screens, it is the course I elect to maintain. ****

Looking ahead to 2011, my plans are to continue posting articles from time to time on such topics that may come my way–usually by way of photographs made during the month.

  • If you care to follow along in 2011, there is a free, easy e-mail subscription section in the right hand column on this page. 
  • The Photo Blog (Click Here) will also continue in 2011. As with this blog, the Photo Blog has a free subscription link if you care to follow my irregular photographic meanderings. The subscription link is at the bottom of the page

In closing, Happy New Year to one and all. It’s going to be a bumpy ride to an uncertain destination.

Strap on your seatbelt and…Fingers crossed

TEXT NOTES

  • *With apologies to Mr. Shakespeare!
  • **I strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to get a sense of the changes in our media world in terms of how they took place and what lies ahead.  It is extremely well written and documented.
  • ***This “virtual” article is the equivalent of five 8 1/2 by 11 pages set in size 11 Georgia font. It contains 1153 words, 6,524 characters with spaces, three full-sized photographs, five emoticons, and six notes.  Obviously, it is hopelessly out of date by current Internet writing standards!
  • ****As an alternative explanation for my decision, I borrow a few words from that great philosopher from Texas, Waylon Jennings: “I’ve always been crazy and the trouble that it’s put me through…I’ve always been different with one foot over the line…I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane.”

PHOTO NOTES

  • For those not familiar with Petaluma, the first photo is a composite of two exposures of the Clock Tower at the corner of Western Ave and Petaluma Blvd.
  • The “tunnel” photo is a triple exposure of the inside of the Waldo Tunnel approach to the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • For larger views, click on each photo.

 

Petaluma Patch…In A Sticky Wicket?

Petaluma Patch launched its online news service for Petaluma on November 23. I briefly wrote about their debut in The Petaluma Patch–Hyperlocal News

Petaluma Patch’s user agreement imposes a high standard of behavior for posting online comments.  They require that real names be used and insist that personal attacks be avoided. 

Such a concept!

To give you an idea of their policy position on public comments as posted on their site, I am reproducing portions of that agreement here with the permission of Janine Iamunno of PATCH Public Relations:

We want everyone to enjoy Patch, so you may use the Service without registration (ie, signing up with a email address and password). However, in order to access some aspects of the Service, you will need to register for an account…. Patch believes in transparency, and we ask that all your registration information be truthful. You may not use any aliases or other means to mask your true identity. (Emphasis Added)

Communities thrive when people care about each other, and as such, Patch expects all of its users to be respectful of others. If you notice any violation of this Acceptable Use Policy or other unacceptable behavior by any user, please report it to support@patch.com.

While we encourage people to be honest and post what’s on their mind, there are some types of Content that we simply can’t allow on Patch. We’ll go over some of the prohibited items…but these are merely examples and the list is not intended to be exhaustive.

We understand that everyone has different opinions, but Patch will make the sole determination as to whether Content is acceptable for the Service. is defamatory, abusive, obscene, profane or offensive…

Instead of trying to memorize all (this), you might boil it down to three main policies: “Keep it clean,” “Don’t try to trick people,” and “Treat others as you’d like to be treated.” Easy, right? (Emphasis added)

However, having a well written policy is one thing.

Enforcing it is another.

So far, it appears that Petlauma Patch is willing to do so. But there are signs of waffling on this issue.  Note how the monitoring comments by the editor have shifted:

  • “Please keep your comments to the issues at hand and refrain from personal attacks. Also, you must use your real name when commenting on stories or we will delete your thread.” (Emphasis Added)
  • “Dear commentators. While we love and encourage your opinions on our site, you need to keep them civil or they will be deleted. There is no need to get nasty. Patch is about fostering community and divisive and rude comments do not help. Thanks!”
  • “Hi Patch readers. While we’re very happy you are discussing this important topic on our site, we just want to remind everyone to keep the comments to the issues at hand and not make any personal attacks. In the spirit of transparency, we also encourage you to post using your first and last name so it’s clear who the comment is coming from. You can also submit letters to the editor to karina@patch.com, which will be reviewed and posted on our site.” (Emphasis added)
  • ARTICLE: “Comments Rule up for Debate”–”Two items we’ve posted… have generated a stream of comments on our pages. That has resulted in discussion about whether Petaluma Patch should require every person commenting on the site to use their real name.” (Emphasis Added)
  • “As a new site, we are a work in progress, so we may amend our policy as we go on, but for now, our hope is that people will respect our “honor system” and not hide under aliases or nicknames.” (Emphasis added)

Monitoring comments is a daunting task and I applaud the effort.

Going forward… 

  • Will Petaluma Patch serve as a model for other online news communities?
  • Will they stand by their written policy regarding identification?

To read the entire Patch User Agreement, Click Here

For supplemental information, go to 13 Things You Need to Know About Petaluma Patch

Freelance Editorial Cartoonist Suspended!

READER NOTE–Important updates to this article are included at the end.

The “suspension” of Steve Rustad, the Argus Courier’s freelance editorial cartoonist, for violation of his “contract” is a curious matter. In the abstract it appears to be a contradiction in terms.  If a person is a freelancer, how is it that they could ever be in violation of a policy or contract provision except for failure to produce the piece they agreed to provide?

Perhaps the “answer” is in the contract, which, of course, I am not privy to.  However, I wonder just how such a contract might read and whether or not the signatory freelancer of such a contract is a de facto employee. If so, then there are a host of other legal issues that come to mind. Such contracts are known as contracts of adhesion or one sided contracts. In other words, the terms and conditions are not negotiated.  It is strictly a take it or leave it contract.

Petaluma 360 bloggers are also “bound” by a written agreement. While they are not compensated (insofar as I know) they have certain restrictions and requirements imposed on them. I suggest that Petlauma 360 bloggers become aware of them if they have not already done so.

Below is the latest version of the Petaluma 360 “Blogger Agreement” that I have.  I highlighted certain critical portions–particularly the section where bloggers agree to hold Petalluma 360 harmless. 

After reading it, it may be prudent for bloggers to check with their insurance agent as to whether homeowners insurance will cover them in the event of legal action or litigation.

_________________

Petaluma 360 Blogger Agreement

PLEASE READ THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE

By submitting weblog columns (“blogs”) to petaluma360.com, you agree to the following terms and conditions and any subsequent modifications.  Petaluma360.com may revise these terms and conditions from time to time, and the new terms will take effect on the date of posting.  Please review these terms and conditions every time you post a blog as they are binding upon you:

1.  You agree to update your blog at least once per week.

2. You may post your blogs to other blogs, provided the blog posted on petaluma360.com is updated first.

3. You may post readers’ comments. 

4. You may not post libelous, untruthful or obscene material or comments.

5. You acknowledge and agree that your blog, in whole or in part, is subject to removal by petaluma360.com in its sole discretion.

6. You may not post any self-serving or commercial promotion materials.

7. You represent and warrant that your blogs will be original, will not plagiarise another’s work, infringe another’s copyright or trademark, violate another person’s rights, including the right of privacy, or contain libelous or otherwise unlawful or misleading material.  You also represent and warrant that your blogs will not have appeared elsewhere, in whole or in part, and that you have not been paid to promote another’s viewpoint or product.  You agree to indemnify and hold petaluma360.com harmless from all costs, expenses, liabilities and damages arising from a breach of the foregoing representations and warranties.

8. You grant to petaluma360.com the irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free license to redistribute or republish your blogs in any medium or form. 

John Burns, Publisher

707-776-8450 May 21, 2010

UPDATE November 14, 2010  Go to>> Drawn and Quartered

UPDATE November 15, 2010  Focusing only on the apparent provision in the freelance contract with the NYT prohibiting a freelancer from doing work with any “current or potential news source”…it appears that such “non-compete” clauses have been declared invalid by the California Supreme Court. See http://lawzilla.com/content/noncompete.shtml

UPDATE Novemver 15, 2010– COMMENTS FROM AROUND THE WEB

  • November 13th, 2010 8:43 am | [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Petaluma360 and Feelancer Team, Blog-o-Line. Blog-o-Line said: : Argus Cartoonist Suspended … Bloggers Beware – Petaluma Argus Courier (blog) http://ping.fm/SJAIn http://bit.ly/avtqOB [...]

    by Tweets that mention Argus Cartoonist Suspended … Bloggers Beware – Petaluma Spectator – Petaluma 360 – Petaluma, CA – Archive — Topsy.com

  • November 13th, 2010 10:40 am Thank you for posting this, Frank. I had no idea these sort of terms and conditions were in effect. I’m not entirely sure that Ross was ever notified directly about them. Perhaps they didn’t exist when he was originally approached by the Argus to write a blog, prior to P360′s existence. Either way, definitely some food for thought, particularly item 8.

    by Jennifer Lockhart

  • November 13th, 2010 11:45 am Jennifer–I agree that Item 8 is important. But don’t forget Item 7. That is where the danger for individual bloggers resides. See “Your Internet Posts Can Get You Sued For Defamation…or worse!” Link>> http://frankpetaluma.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/your-internet-posts-can-get-you-sued-for-defamation-or-worse/

    by Petaluma.Spectator

  • November 13th, 2010 12:15 pmDo I have this right? If you are a blogger, all the benefits go to Pet 360 and you take all the risks? SUCH A DEAL!

    by Steven

  • November 13th, 2010 12:34 pmSteven–I can only answer your question by directing your attention to the link I mentioned in the response to Jennifer above

    by Petaluma.Spectator

  • November 15th, 2010 3:09 am Argus Cartoonist Suspended … Bloggers Beware – Petaluma Spectator ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

    by World Spinner

  • November 15th, 2010 10:34 am Thanks for the post, Frank. I sort of recall the agreement, but sometimes wonder if my “opinions” could be taken exception to…but that would be censorship! Oh, no! Love how Stephen Colbert manages to lampoon about anything he feels needs attention with nonsense. I just want to write the truth with joy. But truth is a relative thing. Aren’t we all relatives?

    by In.Her.Own.Write

  •  

  • –The Times’ ombudsman addressed the issue of freelancer ethics a while back. Some freelance writers had apparently accepted junkets.
    Freelancing is to employment as a one-night stand is to marriage. If newspapers want to control what you do outside work, they ought to marry you–i.e., pay you a full-time salary and benefits. Otherwise, they ought not to stand in the way of “dating”–or making a living elsewhere. 
    –Is the New York Times Company seriously suggesting that they don’t have freelancers who also have direct political campaigning views? They publish editorials from active politicians every week. 
    –We’ll be seeing more and more of this as media companies install the new plantation-system, where everyone, except management, is freelance or work-for-hire. The bigshot contributors will still be able to do what they want. Everyone else… including cartoonists, of course… is screwed.
    –Ethics are fine and dandy when you’re making $75,000 a year to be ethical.
  • I’ve never done any work like this here, and probably wouldn’t, but I’m not going to fault the guy for doing an unsigned freelance job.The old standards no longer apply. FoxNews and Huffpo and, yes, NYTimes Inc. have seen to that.
    How many editorial page editors have slid into high-paying jobs as political operatives or corporate flaks and then slid right back into newsrooms a few years later? No one seems to have a problem with that.
  • Kick-Ass? No Problem!

    Language is a measure of the status or nature of our civil society. Of course, language usage in social discourse is constantly evolving. 

    Recently, I took note of current language trends that have been colliding with my senses…

    • ITEM–The all purpose “F” word. After spending the night at a party house, a teenager calls home for a ride.  Forty minutes after making the call, a parent drives up and is greeted with: “Where in the f..k have you been! You’re f….g. with my life!”
    • ITEM–The new “catch phrase” that has replaced You’re Welcome with NO PROBLEM.
    • ITEM–A recent column in the Press Democrat by Pete Golis suggests that civility in public forums has ceased to exist.

    Some say that current language and civility standards are merely reflected in our popular media–movies, TV shows,  and Internet sites. Others say that the popular media sets the standard for language and civility which is  followed in daily interactions.

    Setting aside the question of the role of the media in this process, I field tested the above items with a few people on my e-mail list.  To be candid, I only included those who were in their fifties or higher and one who is somewhere between forty or fifty. Some of their reactions will be shared in this article. 

    http://images.Quebles.com/hotmail/emoticons/1511761.GIFhttp://images.Quebles.com/hotmail/emoticons/1511761.GIF

    THE “F”  WORD

    The exchange between parent and child outlined above is quite common, at least based on what I observe these days. As a child growing up in the early Fifties, if I had greeted my parents with the F-Word (or its many derivatives) I would still be in solitary confinement.

    But alas, the times they are a changing.

    The F Word is quite versatile–it can be a verb, a noun, an adverb, or an adjective.  In fact, one could almost carry on an entire conversation with the “F Word” and perhaps only twenty or more words for variety.  

    Perhaps the best evidence of the current level of civil discourse, is found in a recent item in the August 9, 2010 edition of Newsweek.  And I quote:

    “Goldman Sachs bans profanity in emplyoees’ e-mails, rendering traders and bankers practically mute. What the f–k?”

    Turning back to the parent child exchange, perhaps they should seek the advice of Dr. Phil.  I can see it now–the family on stage and the various options being explored. Dr. Phil asks the audience: “If you were the parent, would you have simply driven off? In the alternative, would it be appropriate, by today’s standards, for the parent to say: ‘Shut your f…..g mouth and get in the f…..g car!’”

    It is so difficult to know what to say these days.

    http://images.Quebles.com/hotmail/emoticons/1511769.GIFhttp://images.Quebles.com/hotmail/emoticons/1511769.GIF

    NO PROBLEM!

    “NO PROBLEM” is the answer for just about everything these days in conversations with servers, sales clerks, and customer service types.  It has become a universal verbal tic.

    For example, after telling a server your food selections from the menu, the all too often response is– “NO PROBLEM!”  Now, I find that a bit curious. Why should it be a problem? It’s a restaurant, is it not?  I would think the response would be more appropriate if I were asking for something not on the menu. Even better, it would be more appropriate if I asked for a penne pasta and a glass of wine at a car dealership while my car was being serviced. In that context, “NO PROBLEM” would be a remarkable reply.

    “NO PROBLEM” has also replaced “You’re welcome” in many human service interactions. It makes no sense as the speaker has already rendered the service or provided the requested object.  Obviously, it was not a problem.

    A closely related personal gripe is the practice of  replying to a “Thank You” with “THANK YOU!” I mean, when does it end?

    • Thank You.
    • No, THANK YOU!
    • No I mean, I really THANK YOU!
    • But you thanked me last! It’s my turn!

    And so it goes…

    One correspondent  commented: “Personally, I am a big “You’re welcome” fan and do think we should campaign to keep the phrase alive.”

    I fear that it is too late. Clearly, “You’re welcome!” is antiquated and no longer in common usage. Given present trends, “NO PROBLEM” may be replaced with “NO F…..G PROBLEM!” (See above)

    Angry smileSurprised smileSmile with tongueBarring teeth smileDevilhttp://images.Quebles.com/hotmail/emoticons/1504907.PNGCrazyAngryWhatHuhCrazyAngry smileSurprised smileSmile with tongueBarring teeth smile

    CIVILITY… IN POLITICS?

    One of my e-mail correspondents put it best: “Civility in politics is hoping for too much….focus on functionality and don’t worry about the divides… people elected leaders for the values they represented and want those values to be defended. The tone is not as important as the truth of an issue. How can it be civil to knowingly misrepresent the record of an opponent…what is one to do when lies are told in a seemingly civil manner?”

    The above notwithstanding, there have been instances where people at opposite ends of the political spectrum honestly liked each other and debated openly and honestly–JFK & Barry Goldwater immediately come to mind.

    However, for the most part, civility in tone and behavior, not to mention honesty, are quite rare in the political world.  They have always been the exception and not the rule.

    CLOSING OBSERVATIONS

    At one level, the items that I based this article on are just additional examples of modern societal rudeness as discussed by Amy Arkon in her book,  I SEE RUDE PEOPLE: One woman’s battle to beat some manners into impolite society.

    Some e-mail correspondents also felt that what passes for acceptable dress is another example of the decline in civility…

    “(children)…are frequently sent to school looking like ragamuffins. The West Coast look has become so completely deranged that the hip set rarely even comb their own or their children’s hair. My pet peeve is seeing adults (and teens) out in their pajamas on weekends, at the store, walking the dog.”

    I certainly won’t disagree with this analysis of the disheveled look. And, of course, I could go on for another 100 or so words about the men walking around with four-day beards.  

    Frankly, I am getting used to the unshaven males and people wandering around the bagel shops and stores in their PJ’s while dropping the F Bomb in their conversations. 

    To borrow a popular term from Bill Gross in the financial world, this is the “new normal” we are experiencing.

    I close with a hypothetical household conversation that turns back to the title of this article…

    • What the F….K is on TV tonight?
    • “KICK-ASS” is available for download!
    • Let’s watch!
    • NO PROBLEM!

     

    The Web As A Tower of Babel?

    Some of the articles in this category (Legal & Personal Dangers–The Internet & New Media World) reflect on the changes in the news media generated by the Internet. 

    To briefly recap…

    • News organizations (whether television or print media) are being severely cut back due to the loss of advertising revenue, viewers, or readers. 
    • This, in turn, reduces in-depth information gathering and investigative reporting to the public.

    Frankly, much of what now passes for news is merely a reprocessing of pubic relations releases or statements from government or businesses.

    IN MY OPINION: The expectation that independent journalists will become the new providers of “real” news is absurd in the extreme. 

    • Oh, to be sure, there are courses (some provided by journalism schools) teaching or preaching the new digital age of journalism to former newspaper or television reporters; however, they had better be prepared to work for next to nothing. 
    • Yahoo recently announced a new consortium with several newspapers to provide online content from over 300,000 independent “content providers” who will work for as little as $2 an article

    Locally, several individuals are trying to establish advertising supported online “news” outlets through blogs or by paid subscriptions to local web-based news publications. Of course, there is also the Petaluma 360 model. 

    The explosion of information sources  is replacing  traditional central sources of information.

    IN MY OPINION: It remains to be seen whether or not the Web is becoming another Tower of Babel where everyone has a voice…and no one is heard.