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Is Ice Cream Strawberry? transcript (inaugural lecture, City University, March 2011)

Is Ice Cream Strawberry? transcript (inaugural lecture, City University, March 2011)

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Published by: paulbradshaw on Jun 06, 2011
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This story, however, is a myth.The story was investigated by
David Mindich
, in his book on objectivity in journalism. He foundthat the inverted pyramid style didn’t actually become anywhere near common in newspapersuntil after 1905. In fact, he credits a government war secretary with the innovation:
, a sort of 19th century Alastair Campbell who wanted to manage news of PresidentLincoln’s assassination. (By the way, he was also the first US lawyer to use the defence of temporary insanity) But in addition to Edwin Stanton, there were other key factors in the rise of modern journalisticstyle: in particular, institutions such as the Associated Press - which explored the new businessmodels made possible by the newswire - and cultural change, such as the rise of the scientificmethod. The telegraph didn’t
anything about journalism. Instead, it was the culture of journalistswho had experienced higher education, changes in the culture of education itself, and thecommercial demands of wire services, who over a period of decades changed their style so thatnews stories could be adapted by dozens of regional clients. So: people, culture, and institutions. Not technology. Fast forward a century and the world is still riddled with mythology about technology's effect onthe media. We ask if Google is making us stupid,if the iPad will save newspapers,if Twitter can save democracy.We seem to forget that it is
who invent technologies - and that they generally inventtechnologies to solve problems. Then, once we invent the technology, we use it to try to solvethose problems. And that creates new problems, and so we have to invent more technology tosolve the new problems. And so it goes on, and on, with new problems replacing old problems. And boy does the media industry have problems. 
Digitisation and convergence: The Legacy of Leibniz and Lovelace
 The media’s current problems begin with two more people:
Gottfried Leibniz
, a 17th centurymathematician credited with inventing the binary system. And
Ada Lovelace
, who helpeddevelop the first computer program in 1843. They were solving problems of their own, andidentifying new problems, which in turn were solved again, and so on. Now at some point people in the media industry came across the legacies of Leibniz andLovelace. And they thought: “Hm, this looks interesting. Perhaps we can use these technologies
to solve our own problem?” And their own problem was the same as that of every company:how can we make more money? How can we produce our product more cheaply? How can wesell the same thing twice? The solution, they decided, was to digitise as many of the processes in news production aspossible. They wanted convergence.And at first, it worked. Production costs went down, productivity went up.(I’m reminded here of a small fact about Gutenberg - that the earliest known examples of printing using Gutenberg’s technology are indulgences, suggesting that the church - or at leastindividuals within it - saw printing as a way to solve their own problem of raising funds. Of course by flooding the market with these indulgences, the Roman church found itself with a newproblem: Protestantism) But over time new problems came up - and the news industry is still trying to solve them. Here’s the thing:
Cars, roads and picnics
 Throughout the 20th century there were two ways of getting big things done - and a third wayof getting small things done. Clay Shirky sums these up very succinctly in terms of how peopleorganise car production, road building, and picnics. If you want to organise the production of cars, you use market systems. If you want to organisethe construction of roads, you use central, state systems of funding - because there is a benefitto all. And if you want to organise a picnic, well, you use social systems. In the media industry these three line up neatly with print, broadcast and online production. The newspaper industry grew up in spite of government regulationThe broadcast industry grew up thanks to government regulationAnd online media grew up while the government wasn't looking. Now some media organisations have generally organised along the lines of car production, andothers along the lines of road construction. And there were some examples of alternative mediathat were organised like picnics. Different media organisations got along fine without treadingon each others’ toes: The Times wasn’t too threatened by the BBC, and the NME wasn’t toothreatened by the fanzine photocopying audiophile. But digitisation and convergence has mixed these businesses together in the same space,leading to some very confused feelings from publishers and journalists.

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