Posts by Cheryll Barron

If the Snowden leaks proved that government spooks are evil, why do Americans still trust the military more than any other institution?

‘… the Snowden brand - with hints of baby Jesus - and the Guardian  brand - as something like God the father and protector …’: GQ , June 2014  - postgutenberg[at]gmail.com

‘… the Snowden brand – with hints of baby Jesus – and the Guardian brand – as something like God the father and protector …’: GQ , June 2014
- postgutenberg[at]gmail.com

In honour of the silly season, here is a real-life puzzle drawn from opinion polls. Somehow, members of the public remain obstinately un-manipulated by the one-sided reporting on the Snowden leaks about NSA and GCHQ surveillance. Reorganising media to make such an extreme, pointless bias impossible would be an incalculable enrichment of our culture, as we proposed last week.

The other day, we came across the results of a Gallup poll in June: by a staggering margin, Americans still trust their military more than any other public institution, including the people’s own elected representatives in Congress – and the presidency, and Supreme Court. Just look at the percentages of interviewees who answered that they had a ‘great deal’ or ‘quite a lot of confidence’ in each of these groups: military (74); Congress (7); the church or organised religion (45); presidency (29); public schools (26); banks (26); medical system (34); criminal justice system (23).

Most government spying is done on behalf of the armed forces, to serve military ends. Indeed, America’s citizens are slowly coming round to a less benign view of the NSA’s arguments about needing to collect vast stores of personal data about them for their own safety. But they also seem, on the whole, to accept the government’s arguments that changes in technology and the differences between fighting terrorists and waging conventional wars have changed what spies must do to spy effectively.

This flatly contradicts the claims of some of the most ardent campaigners on behalf of Edward Snowden – who remains more unfathomable than either wicked or virtuous, for many of us – that he has sparked mass outrage about government surveillance. (Though, by last November, the weaselly word ‘resonate’ was being used, as in, ‘His disclosures about the NSA resonated with Americans from day one.’)

A new specialist in conducting interactive, continuous polls, isidewith.com – commendably non-partisan, if a Forbes report is accurate – suggests that Americans, by a solid 10 per cent margin, oppose granting Snowden immunity from prosecution. But where in The New York Times or The Guardian – two purveyors of news analysis considered disproportionately influential– has this view been reflected, delved into and explained in perceptive commentary by either insiders or outside commentators?

Since there has been no such delving, nor in-depth reporting on the reasons for the public’s continued support of the military, the true mission of the 29 year-old at the heart of l’affaire Snowden continues to be as mysterious as the Turin shroud. Or, so we thought, as we read Michael Wolff, in his GQ profile of the Guardian’s chief, describing the newspaper’s attempt to ride the uproar about the leaker that it largely manufactured to make itself the talk of America and win a vast new transatlantic audience:

Its efforts so far had hardly put it on the map in the US – and suddenly Snowden did. … News outlets want to break big stories but at the same time not be overwhelmed by them – a certain detachment is well advised. It is an artful line. But the Guardian essentially went into the Edward Snowden business – and continues in it. … The effort to pretend that the story is straight up good and evil, … without peculiar nuances and rabbit holes and obvious contradictions, is really quite a trick.

In an effort to pull off that trick, the Snowden brand – with hints of baby Jesus – and the Guardian brand – as something like God the father and protector – become nearly symbiotic. (The Guardian now campaigns fiercely for a Snowden pardon.)

Because the Snowden exposés were so crucial to the paper’s U.S. ambitions — in turn, part of a future plan sequestered behind dust sheets, as we said last week — it stifled virtually all perspectives and discussion critical of him and his band of helpers, including the lawyer-turned-journalist Glenn Greenwald:

The theoretically freewheeling Guardian locked itself down. Staff and contributor Twitter feeds were closely monitored for indications of Snowden or Greenwald deviations, with instant reprimands when any party-line divergence was spotted.

Devotees of the Guardian will find it hard to recognise it in that censorship usually associated with dictatorships, unless they have been loyal readers of this blog – and remember the comments about press reform that its moderators deleted, which post-Gutenberg saved and reproduced here. (Scroll down to the bottom of this earlier entry: ‘Why is The Guardian censoring debate about press reform and ignoring the Lord Chief Justice’s endorsement of citizen journalism?’ 7 November 2011.)

Such drastic warping of the discussion in a democracy of a subject as serious as military tactics and defence must be countered. How? In the spring of last year, we suggested that for systematic and regular audience consultation, media might adopt equivalents of Switzerland’s Publikumsrat – the five-man Public Council of Swissinfo.ch, which is the internet adjunct of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) founded in 1999. (See: ‘How Swiss audience inclusion and a certain sort of nudity might be the key to success for post-Gutenberg media,’ 3 March 2013.)

An extract:

The style of government that makes Switzerland the world’s most democratic democracy is replicated in organisations of every size and kind in CH – including its many businesses run as cooperatives, two of which make the list of the world’s top twenty-five in sales.

The Publikumsrat gives Swissinfo’s editors and journalists detailed feedback on their choice of subjects as well as on the way these are tackled. It makes suggestions for new topics. It also defends Swissinfo from its detractors. More than once, in the last ten years, it has led campaigns to protect it from accountants wielding budget-slashing axes – inspiring ‘Save Swissinfo!’ petitions from as far away as New South Wales, in Australia.

We see Publikumsrat equivalents in the Anglosphere as unavoidable and essential. If the Guardian had one, the gap between popular opinion and the paper’s religious fervour, covering Snowdenia, could not be the great black hole it is.

The proof of quite how badly we need one is in the Gallup poll statistic for public confidence in the press. It was a humiliating 22 per cent, only three points higher than for ‘news on the internet’ (19).

Can Alan Rusbridger do what he must to make a true mark on media’s future history?

- postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

Behind scaffolding – postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

No media editor is being watched more closely by peers around the world than Alan Rusbridger, leading The Guardian into the future – and sounding as if a cooperative seems to him, too, the logical structure for media drifting towards ‘participatory journalism’. Never mind if he calls going co-op ‘mutualisation’ – as in this exchange in India with two editors at The Hindu, G. Ananthakrishnan and Mukund Padmanabhan:

You have been speaking about mutualisation of the newspaper, and you explained how it makes sense to involve readers, … But traditionally, were we not listening to readers … ? What has changed now?

I think it is going further. It is technology. Because the readers now have the ability to publish and link up. And I think in all this we have to make a judgment about whether essentially our role stays the stays the same. You are right to say that the best newspapers have listened to their readers and drawn upon their expertise. But the realm of newspapers is shrinking and all this energy is being created elsewhere and I think it is a real life or death position for newspapers as to whether they essentially ignore all that or whether you have to redefine the role of the newspapers to encourage it to come inside with what they are doing.

Very well said, but that conversation is now four years old. We cannot unfortunately peep behind the scaffolding and dust sheets to observe the latest stage in planning for The Guardian’s digital future. Does it make sense to hope that Rusbridger will walk his talk — unveil a plan for, at the very least, an experiment in mutualisation that involves giving reader-commenters the financial stakes that are of the essence of the cooperative idea?

We ourselves were pessimistic about this, a few weeks ago – in a post arguing that it is far more likely that younger media innovators will take that particular leap. But Rusbridger’s temperament and managerial style, more than his age, could rule him out as the most important pioneer in the next phase in media’s Darwinian shift.

That is certainly the likely conclusion of anyone reading the most thoughtful, complex and revelatory profile of any newspaper editor still in harness – Michael Wolff’s portrait of Rusbridger, published in the British edition of GQ last month. It is surprisingly even-handed – unstinting with praise for Rusbridger’s strengths – given that the Guardian eliminated Wolff’s perch on its web site earlier this year.

These sections of his essay, if true, are discouraging for anyone hoping to see real action, soon, in mutualisation that actually means something:

While the Guardian has a business staff with a CEO, and is overseen by trustees with ultimate responsibility, it has one real power centre, strategic thinker and moral compass: its editor, Alan Rusbridger. (A kind of preternatural consensus surrounds Rusbridger, but underneath him the Guardian is a fraught political cauldron, with underlings struggling to align with him, stay in his favour and undercut everyone else who is trying: “a nest of vipers”, in the description of an outside consultant brought in to work on one of the paper’s big redesign projects.)

[…]

His is an absolute, pre-modern sort of power, faith-based and exclusionary. You believe or you don’t. You are in or you are out.

Why bother to wonder about Rusbridger proving himself capable of, say, redesigning his role so that his position as editor-in-chief would have to be ratified by members of a mutualised Guardian voting in a referendum? Because, being optimistic, we hope that we and Wolff are mistaken – and that neither age nor personality will scupper his ambition to make a true mark on history.

… In our next entry, we will consider how much richer the cultural contribution of a mutualised Guardian would be.

Notes from the post-print transition, 3: can members of a cooperative be ‘more equal’ than others without turning it into Animal Farm?

Poldo, MIL22

clouds, morselising 1

‘Morselizing’ (see below) – photographs: MIL22 (vanishingly small dog); postgutenberg[at]gmail.com

Generals only ever exist as temps in Switzerland, in the army in which all Swiss men must do a stint of compulsory training and service. As the Wikipedia explains:

General (Gen) – General (Gen); général (gén); general (gen); generale (gen): The rank is only assigned during time of war, when the Federal Assembly chooses one general to command the entire Swiss military. Otherwise the word “general” is not used.

This convention seemed worth drawing attention to after we read late last month, in The New York Times, about research confirming what everyone knows: that while people think equality ideal, they quake at the prospect of dispensing with a hierarchy. They fear that it amounts to inviting in chaos with open arms. This clichéd view of flat organisations — and of cooperatives — will soon look fuddy-duddyish and irrelevant, as young innovators we have mentioned here fashion tools to make collaboration and collective decision-making swifter and less fraught.

The second half of Matthew Hutson’s article – ‘Espousing Equality, but Embracing a Hierarchy’ — showed that other organisers have the same idea as the Swiss military of using transitional hierarchies as means to particular ends.

Increasingly, companies are valuing diverse input and turning to flatter structures. But even companies that supposedly deplore the value of hierarchy have status and power differentials, formally or informally.

The video game company Valve seems like a symbol for the flat organization. Valve posted its handbook for new employees online in 2012. “We don’t have any management, and nobody ‘reports to’ anybody else,” it says. […] Yet Valve has temporary team leaders who help coordinate projects, and employees rank one another when calculating compensation.

The design firm IDEO also aims for flatness but retains an element of verticality. “The idea of a flat hierarchy is a little bit of a myth that we even tell ourselves within IDEO,” Duane Bray, a partner, told me.

For instance, employees progress through four “levels of impact”: At the “individual” level they focus on their core skill set; at the “team” level they start to have responsibility for others; at the “portfolio” level they look at how collections of projects come together; and at the “enterprise” level they connect globally and take all of IDEO into account in their decisions.

Cameron Anderson, a psychologist at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, has written about the dysfunctions of hierarchy and encourages his M.B.A. students to pursue flatness — but not to its ultimate end. “It’s often useful to have at least one person who serves a role of leader,” he said, “even if that role is more of a coordinating function.”

Making the pigs temporary hierarchs in Animal Farm – to do particular jobs or serve particular functions with an expiration date, then revert to equality — could have dispensed with this objection of T. S. Eliot’s when he, like other top-tier publishers, rejected George Orwell’s manuscript: Animal Farm- TS Eliot And that is all we have to say in this entry – using the slow season to experiment with ‘morselizing’ thoughts, research findings and arguments, a neologism apparently invented by a wonderfully named Canadian professor of media studies, Sidneyeve Matrix.

That seems exactly the right prescription for our new attention spans, shorter than the life of a firefly, and our endlessly interrupted reading — about which Tim Parks was recently complaining in The New York Review of Books. 'morselizing'- SIDNEYEVE MATRIX slide

Notes from the post-print transition, 2: astonishing confirmation — from medicine — that cooperatives fit the 21st-century’s zeitgeist

postgutenberg@gmail.com
Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 23.22.56

Media resisting the unavoidable bow to the democratic future of media ownership are being shown up in Britain by, of all people, the bean-counters of medicine — the traditionally conservative, cautious and slow-moving top managers of the country’s most cherished public institution, the roughly £100 billion ($171 billion) National Health Service.

The pinch-me-I’m-dreaming headline at the top of The Independent’s home page on Monday read: ‘New government policy for the NHS could allow doctors and nurses to “own” hospitals’.

Before we get to the reasoning behind that proposal, let us quickly say that inviting readers and commenters – reader-commenters — to become part-owners of media organisations through subscriptions that would also be financial shares — making them small-scale co-owners – is an actual need in this sector, though not in British medicine. The flow of cash into the NHS is assured. It comes from taxpayers. But, as last week’s entry in this blog noted, the advertising revenue on which print journalism depends to pay its bills looks increasingly shaky as a supreme cash cow for online publishing, as it elbows print out of the way.

Moving towards co-ownership — or ‘mutualisation’ — is the one step that the boldest experimenters with new media structures are resisting. Declining to go that far, we pointed out last month, is the single disappointment in the otherwise wildly impressive reports about De Correspondent – the new Dutch publishing enterprise putting commenters at front and centre-stage in its publishing scheme. Nick Denton, the serial online media entrepreneur – most famous for co-founding Gawker in 2003 with Elizabeth Spiers – has perfectly expressed what we also believe, in describing his many excellent adventures in media redesign to Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab:

“Publishing should be a collaboration between authors and their smartest readers. … And at some point the distinction should become meaningless.”

These smartest readers are most likely to devote all the time they can to the success of an online publishing enterprise – whether a startup or a famous name in the news business ‘flipping’ co-ownership of a part or the whole of its web site to commenters – if they can justify that to themselves with the hope of sharing in its financial success, some day. Denton’s schemes allow reader-commenters to share the stage with professional writers and journalists. They are designed to make readers feel part of a larger family or club, and – as in the De Correspondent plan — to improve the quality of information disseminated on his sites, and the range of expertise on which it draws.

Giving performance and efficiency a gigantic boost is the ambition behind the remarkable news about the proposal for British medicine:

Ministers are drawing up plans to allow doctors and nurses to own and run the hospitals they work in as part of a radical blueprint to change the way the NHS is run.

Under proposals to be floated tomorrow, staff could be able to take over hospitals and other NHS responsibilities and run them as new mutual companies in the style of the department store chain John Lewis.

Staff would then become “shareholders” in the new company with the power to dismiss the chief executive and board members as well as set policy and targets for the new organisation.

Ministers are not ruling out the possibility that staff could even be given a financial stake in the organisations for which they work – sharing bonuses if their hospital makes a profit on NHS work. The new policy comes after an independent review, led by the independent think-tank the King’s Fund, found what it described as “compelling evidence” that NHS organisations with high levels of staff engagement delivered better quality care. […] Ministers have been particularly taken by the success of Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, which had been losing £10m a year and had very low levels of patient satisfaction until taken over by the private provider Circle, which manages it for the NHS. Circle is owned jointly by the staff who work for it and private-equity funders.

… We hope that the people in charge of making the rules for the ‘mutualised’ British hospitals will take care to head off any possibility of repeating one grave mistake in American medicine — allowing doctors to invest in medical testing laboratories, rightly blamed for countless unnecessary tests ordered by many of those doctors. These are notoriously a large part of the explanation for America’s expensive and inefficient health care.

The chief fear for the democratic redesign of media is that it will lead to the collapse of cultural standards; that it will usher in a depressing age of mediocrity. Again, the right rules have to be drafted to ensure that this does not happen. Who says that any such effort would lack supporters? Who says that the least talented co-owners of a media enterprise will not wish to celebrate and promote their most talented comrades, attracting honour, fame and new members?

A few weeks ago, there was news of opera-lovers panicking about performances in some places accompanied not by live musicians but digital recordings. A New York Times reader said, in a letter to the editor:

Live music is being performed by an ever-shrinking elite corps of musicians. This trend cannot be reversed. But it will bottom out. There will always be a market for elite musicians … On some level we want to see humans demonstrating their mastery.

 Who would disagree?

Notes from the post-print transition, 1: the advertising moonshot of Google’s Larry Page and Private Eye’s meerkat phobia

Meerkat to the Eye: ‘You surely don't mean, me?’ - postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

Meerkat to the Eye: ‘You surely don’t mean, me?’
- postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

Anyone sensible who, for decades, has bought nothing expensive without consulting Britain’s Which? (owned by the Consumers’ Association) or Consumer Reports in the U.S. (owned by Consumers Union) can understand Larry Page’s apparent belief, over a decade ago, that conventional advertising would soon be obsolete.

Advertising equals lifeblood in the traditional economic model for newspapers and magazines – the scheme that will soon look pre-historic. In a splendid Business Insider profile, in a section about the early years of the company Page co-founded with Sergey Brin, a far-out idea – known as a moonshot, at the search engine colossus — is described:

… [A]fter Google had become the Internet’s most successful advertising business, Page decided the company should destroy the advertising agency industry. To his thinking, it was obviously a highly inefficient system that could be erased with the help of technology. Not only did the company opt not to take on this battle, but [other top Google executives] did their best to make sure none of Google’s many important ad-agency clients caught wind of Page’s ideas on the topic.

His seems like a straightforward, logical conclusion to anyone who believes – as we do at post-Gutenberg – that

… the perfect search engine would understand whatever your need is. It would understand everything in the world deeply [and] give you back kind of exactly what you need.

That is also a quotation of Page, in the same article.

Private Eye — writing more frankly than any other print publication about the hopelessness of trying to carry the advertising-dependent print model for economic survival into the digital future – has had riveting news in recent ‘Ad Nauseam’ columns, information we have seen nowhere else. … Essential reading, even if the last snippet seems proof of a bizarre phobia at the indispensable satirical magazine – or, possibly, a regrettable instance of inter-species prejudice:

- from Private Eye, No. 1367, 30 May – 12 June, 2014:

The latest digital advertising medium to have its efficacy questioned is video ads.

Recent research suggests that nearly 60 percent of them are never seen by a human being, which does rather post the question as to what media buyers are actually paid for.

- from Private Eye, No. 1369, 27 June -10 July 2014:

Facebook recently admitted what everyone in advertising had already twigged – that no one is reading anything brands put on Facebook any more.

The company posted a long explanation for this, protesting loudly against the idea that it could possibly have anything to do with selling more ads, suggesting instead that it was a problem of there simply being too much ‘branded content’ on the platform. This is all well and good, except a) that problem is entirely of Facebook’s making, given that it has spent seven years telling all brands they have to be on there (without adequately explaining why); and b) all its solutions for brands to get over this issue involve, er, buying more adverts.

- from Private Eye, No. 1367, 30 May – 12 June, 2014:

The latest terrifying vision of the future comes via Personal Neuro, a company which is working with Google Glass to produce wearable technology, which can monitor a wearer’s brainwaves, gauge their mood or state of mind – and feed adverts directly into their eyeballs based on that data!

Welcome to a future in which you will never be able to escape that bloody meerkat, however hard you try

If Personal Neuro is real, not just a vision that came swimming into editorial brains at the Eye after a lavish liquid lunch, why does a Google search turn up no information about this Canadian startup in any other well-known print organ?

A surprising — but long overdue — condemnation of censorship by the press from The Guardian … and summer sign-watching

- postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

CENSORS in THE PRESS

‘Comment is free’, 30 June 2014

Let us hope that the admirably honest George Monbiot, with his huge following, can get this subject the attention it deserves. Regular readers have seen almost everything in his Guardian blog post on Monday here on post-Gutenberg.com — and his concluding sentence, two years ago, in ‘Censorship by the Press‘. We wrote that after some frustrating months of drawing attention to this problem:

Why is The Guardian censoring debate about press reform and ignoring the Lord Chief Justice’s endorsement of citizen journalism?

The solution proposed by the commenter ‘Natacha’ in her reaction beneath the Monbiot piece defines this blog’s very raison d’être: censors IN the press - NATACHA See:

Loomio: open-source tools from young New Zealand techies to make the dream of practical, efficient, sexy cooperatives come true

Just a short post, for today. We have been on the road, watching for signs – and here is one of our rewards: SIGN w freeway postgutenberg@gmail.com get happy 3

- photographs: postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

– photographs: postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

On media’s stage, a scenery shift: De Correspondent shows off thrilling new props verging on a ‘keiretsu-cooperative’; a NY Times columnist tugs the curtain on the old set

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Betwixt and between: stage hands at work - postgutenberg [at] gmail.com

Betwixt and between: stage hands at work
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A group of Dutch media innovators – inevitably, young, as noted here last week – has created an actual, working prototype of what we expect to be a popular style of organisation for publishing in the near future. It has no advertising. It is financed by reasonably-priced subscriptions. Most important of all, it puts commenters on articles – the people it prefers to refer to as ‘contributors’ – at the centre of its enterprise, treating them as honoured extensions of its founding family. Wondermooi. That is exactly what we recommended in 2010 when, in keeping with the fuzzier usage of the time we referred to this same constituency as ‘bloggers’ — or ‘blogger-commenters,’ after a critic rightly demanded a clarification.

We did not foresee a big, ambitious media venture being able to do without advertising so soon. Nor did we anticipate that one would launch itself with crowdfunding, which Kickstarter was just beginning to turn into a household word four years ago. De Correspondent raised a breathtaking $1.7 million between March and September last year. In a post in April on the site of Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, Loes Witschge reported a remarkable feat in a country with a population of just 16 million:

On March 18, [Rob] Wijnberg, former editor-in-chief of the young-adult-targeted newspaper nrc.next, proposed his idea for a new online journalism platform on Dutch national television. Within 24 hours, his team had raised half its goal, and after eight days, Wijnberg got an earlier than expected go-ahead: 15,000 had subscribed, and many had added donations on top of their subscription fee. In just over a week, in a small country, the Dutch crowdfunding project De Correspondent had raised over €1 million (about $1.3 million).

By this spring, the group had 24,000 subscribers – the proportional equivalent of 450,000 in the US, Wijnberg says — each paying roughly $80 (€60) for the privilege.

Now this, you might agree, is seriously important news. Print media are desperate for a viable new economic model. So, has The New York Times written about De Correspondent? Er, … no, unless we’ve been using the wrong search terms, hunting for evidence. The Guardian, another of the most-visited sites on the net? The Telegraph? The Independent? The Economist? Apparently not – and anyone who has proof to the contrary must please leave a comment with appropriate links beneath this post. … Oh, and there is no point in trying to look up its history on the Wikipedia for anyone irritated by having to make do with a machine translation from Dutch.

We only learnt of De Correspondent’s existence in checking that search engines were keeping up with our last entry on post-Gutenberg, using, for search tags, ‘new media’ and ‘business model’. Its own site is naturally the best guide to its modus operandi, but the applause it richly deserves is to be found exclusively on new media sites of the likes of Journalism.co.uk, Gigaom and MediaGazer. On the Medium blogging platform, Ernst-Jan Pfauth , another founder, explains under the headline ‘Why we see journalists as conversation leaders and readers as expert contributors’:

Every reader is an expert at something

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about news sites shutting down their comments sections, since readers’ contributions are often too obtrusive (read Mathew Ingrams excellent post about this).

Here in Amsterdam, we sincerely regret these developments, since we believe that modern journalists shouldn’t see their readers as a passive group of annoying followers. Instead, they should regard readers as a potential gold mine of expert information. That’s why, at De Correspondent, we encourage our journalists to function as conversation leaders and our members as expert contributors.

At De Correspondent, we owe our very existence to our members, since we launched our Dutch ad-free journalism platform after raising a total of 1.7 million dollars with a world record breaking crowd-funding campaign. We encourage our correspondents — who all have their own niche — to tell the stories that they feel are important, instead of just following the hype cycle of the news.

He also said:

We end every article with a question to our members

In our custom-built editor Respondens, we have a special field called ‘Oproep’ (which translates to ‘Call-up’). Correspondents can use that field to make explicit what they would like to know from their readers. The call shows up underneath the article and steers the contributions in the direction the correspondent finds journalistically most relevant.

We invite members to write guest articles

We continuously invite our members to write guest posts. […]

There is no mention of turning those subscribers into shareholders and running De Correspondent as a cooperative – yet. That might be an idea for another group to try, one we hope will give us the sort of laugh these Dutchmen did in setting out their names — well-established in Netherlands media before they banded together — as follows: Rob Wijnberg (1982), Harald Dunnink (1981), Sebastian Kersten (1976), and Ernst-Jan Pfauth (1986).

Advertising their birth years, you might suppose, amounts to a sign reading, Oldies Keep Out. But, not quite. The first part of ‘the keiretsu-cooperative’ in the paper that started this blog in 2010 referred to the Japanese name for a network of firms collaborating as trading partners, in a proposal for a news site (long-established or new) sharing the initial expense of starting and running a subscriber-owned cooperative with a partner in, say, book publishing. De Correspondent says it is working with:

De Groene Amsterdammer (founded in 1877) … a weekly magazine of ideas and opinion; it is perhaps best comparable to the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books[…] De Groene Amsterdammer will share some of its content as well as its editorial and investigative resources with De Correspondent.

… and …

Momkai (founded in 2002) … an independent, digital creative agency in the Netherlands that is renowned for its ability to combine conceptual thinking, design and technology in the creation of online formats and campaigns. Momkai is founding partner and responsible for the brand, the website, the identity and the campaigns. Momkai also created a new publishing framework and editor for De Correspondent called Respondens.

… Well, well, well – we thought, spotting Monday’s column in The New York Times by its media correspondent, David Carr: this De Correspondent has not been born a moment too soon. Snippets that stood out in the column, a review of a new book — a roman à clef about New York newshounds by Michael Hastings, a journalist killed tragically young in the 2003 Iraq war:

… [P]oliticians and journalists are now neck and neck in a race to the bottom of public trust. According to a poll released by Gallup last week, fewer than a quarter of news consumers trust what they read, watch or click on, a historic low.

… Much has changed since the period Mr. Hastings chronicles, most notably that the audience has fled established print outlets …

… The public is less prone to the allure of Great Men pontificating from inside a magazine, the television or behind a lectern at a news conference. The jig is up.

The public is ready to share the stage, onto which De Correspondent has invited it to step up and join fully in the action. Bravo for the courage to try out a new idea — never mind if the degree to which it has succeeded so far is hard to judge for those of us who cannot read in Dutch. And a hat tip to David Carr for facing the facts, refusing to bury his head in the sand, and telling us what he sees — truthfully.