[This review was originally posted at the Nieman Journalism Lab on Aug. 31, 2012.]
Apple's big patent win
: A U.S. grand jury returned a patent verdict in Apple's favor last Friday that could have vast implications for mobile media production and consumption. The jury ordered Samsung to pay Apple more than $1 billion for violating Apple's patents for smartphone design, a ruling that could cause several phone makers to tweak or scrap their smartphone designs, which, as The New York Times noted
, are largely based on Apple's concepts.
Apple followed the ruling up by asking the U.S. government to ban eight Samsung phones
, including several of its signature Galaxy line, from the country. Its CEO, Tim Cook, called the ruling
a win for innovators, while Samsung called it a loss
for consumers and asserted
that they're the ones innovating, while Apple is trying to maintain its market dominance through litigation.
As for the big picture of what this ruling means, The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal's quick roundup
of a variety of perspectives is the place to start. The Guardian's Dan Gillmor was discouraged
by what the ruling will do to competition in the smartphone market, giving over more of the industry over to Apple's draconian policies: "Even more than Microsoft during that company's most ruthless days in the 1990s, Apple wants control over how we use technology."
And Forbes' Haydn Shaughnessy
and GigaOM's Mathew Ingram
both lamented the ruthlessness with which patents are being applied to technology design, stifling innovation across the field.
On the other hand, as The New York Times reported
, this decision could be the "kick in the pants" that cellphone manufacturers need to create more innovative design, rather than just modeling after Apple. For consumers, this could mean fewer phones and a slower turnaround time between models, as the San Jose Mercury News reported
The two third parties most affected by the decision seem to Microsoft and Google. The conventional wisdom, as CNET's Jessica Dolcourt and Roger Cheng
and ReadWriteWeb's Mark Hachman
explained, is that manufacturers who have been making phones on Google's Android platform (the primary competitor to Apple's iOS) will flee to Microsoft's fledgling Windows Phone, which is free from Apple patent conflict — though Hachman pointed out that Windows Phone still has to attract a critical mass of users, too.
As for Google, Kara Swisher of All Things D said they have to be fearing for their mobile lives
right now, while Charles Arthur of The Guardian argued
that the Samsung case is something of a proxy war between Apple and Google. Arthur contended that Android will still have the upper hand overseas, but Google can only hope for a quick, clean settlement with Apple to salvage its U.S. share. Brian Proffitt of ReadWriteWeb, on the other hand, said this decision could be a blessing in disguise
for Google if it entices phone developers to stick closer to the Android platform.
How should the conventions be covered?
: The Republican National Convention may not have even been the biggest U.S. story of the week (that'd be Hurricane Isaac), but it generated a great deal of discussion about the role of the political press in an increasingly hostile political climate. About 15,000 journalists
were expected to descend on Tampa to cover the event, at the same time that many political observers were wondering whether party conventions are even necessary at all
That sentiment extended, of course, to the media's coverage of the conventions. The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman said the conventions are an example of one doomed institution
(the traditional news media) tripping all over itself to cover another one, and j-prof Jeff Jarvis called the convention saturation coverage a waste of money
that only serves editorial ego, rather than readers. The New York Times' David Carr went the next step further
and said that since the conventions are just a tightly scripted, faux-reality event, journalists might want to take cues from reality TV producers about how to approach them.
But Reuters' Jack Shafer said covering conventions could pay practical dividends for reporters
in the form of glimpses at future presidential candidates and connections with grassroots-level party organizers, and j-prof Dan Kennedy told reporters
to keep their coverage fresh by getting out of the convention hall and looking for stories.
CNN faced a particular conundrum in its convention coverage when two attendees hurled nuts and racial taunts
at a black CNN camerawoman (they were subsequently kicked out of the convention). The Washington Post's Erik Wemple said CNN should err on the side
of covering the story in detail, while Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo said CNN's commitment to appearing neutral placed it in an awkward spot
in this instance.
The conventions also continued to spur the ongoing discussion on fact-checking and the proper approach to political falsehoods. The Romney campaign defended running a factually inaccurate ad
by saying it wouldn't let itself "be dictated by fact-checkers." Several convention speeches, especially vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan's, contained glaring inaccuracies, which were rather uncharacteristically pointed out
by mainstream media outlets. The Atlantic's James Fallows
and Poynter's Andrew Beaujon
wondered if we're starting to see journalists adjust to a post-truth political world, and j-prof Jay Rosen noted
that this does seem to be a real shift for the political press.
Still, The New Republic's Alec MacGillis found that most people at the convention seemed uninterested in errors of fact
and suggested those issues are seen as simply the domain of the old-school media. The Columbia Journalism Review's Brendan Nyhan urged news orgs to go further than fact-checking
in their anti-falsehood efforts, and media consultant Dan Conover said fact-checking will always fail
if it's done from the viewlessness of journalistic objectivity. "Just as surveyors must establish a reference point before they begin measuring property lines, so too must journalists find and announce a meaningful perspective before they attempt to measure truth,"
Reddit as political forum
: President Barack Obama made a surprise appearance on an "Ask Me Anything" thread
on the social-news site Reddit, answering 10 questions
submitted by Reddit users and making a minor bit of news
in the process. Poynter's Andrew Beaujon summarized the story
and initial reactions well.
Some observers saw it as a symbolically important moment in Internet politics. All Things D's Eric Johnson said the Reddit appearance will be a boost to Obama
regardless of what he said (or didn't say) because the web has become that political town hall it was predicted to be in the '90s. O'Reilly Media's Alex Howard said it raised intriguing possibilities
for allowing citizens to interact with powerful figures with the support of digital communities, and GigaOM's Mathew Ingram compared it favorably
to presidential press conferences.
On the other side, The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal said Reddit just puts a tech-savvy gloss
on the same packaged elision we're used to seeing from politicians: "In the 10 answers Obama gave, there was not a single one that'd be interesting to Redditors if it had appeared somewhere else," he wrote, concluding, "Tech is not the answer to the problems of modern politics."
Slate identified 10 intriguing Redditors' questions
Obama left unanswered, and The Verge's Adrianne Jeffries pointed out that Reddit is quite a friendly audience
for Obama. Meanwhile, Jeff Sonderman of Poynter provided journalists with a guide to using Reddit
Bias and boundaries at the Times
: Buffalo News editor Margaret Sullivan is preparing to take over as public editor
for The New York Times, but outgoing public editor Arthur Brisbane made one last round of headlines with his goodbye column
, in which he urged the Times to be more transparent and dinged the paper for its "political and cultural progressivism" which bleeds through on certain topics. J-prof Jay Rosen pointed out a couple of oddities
in Brisbane's observation — that he didn't acknowledge that former public editor Daniel Okrent has famously made this criticism already
, and that he also called for greater transparency, which Rosen said seemed at odds with the criticism for bias.
Erik Wemple of the Washington Post questioned Brisbane's assertion
that Occupy Wall Street was one of those issues that the Times treated as a cause. Times executive editor Jill Abramson also objected
to Brisbane's statement, and Andrew Beaujon of Poynter brought up the fact
, often overlooked in the bias wars, that the Times "does metric tons of reporting every day."
Brisbane had one last snafu to weigh in on when Judicial Watch
reported (via Politico
) that a Times reporter forwarded an advance copy of a Maureen Dowd column to a CIA spokeswoman. Brisbane condemned the move
as a breach of reporter-source and news-editorial boundaries, but others saw something deeper and more ominous at work: At The Guardian, Glenn Greenwald called it a symptom of collusion
between the Times and the CIA, and Dan Gillmor saw it as evidence
that the Times' true bias is in favor of the powerful.
Ethics in a citizen-driven media world
: Two people were killed in a shooting on a sidewalk near the Empire State Building last Friday, a very public location that left news orgs with difficult decisions about whether to run graphic images of the shooting. Poynter's Jeff Sonderman put together a review
of numerous news sites' visual presentation of the story, and Mashable's Lance Ulanoff explained
why he chose not to run a graphic photo.
Most of the questions about how news orgs handled the incident centered on The New York Times, which ran a particularly arresting image of the shooting victim. A Times spokesperson told Jim Romenesko
the Times found the picture newsworthy particularly because it "shows the result and impact of a public act of violence," and Poynter's Kenny Irby
and Andrew Beaujon
both approved of the image based on a similar rationale.
Bonnie Bernstein of On the Media talked to the observer
who took the photo, who wasn't a professional. J-prof Jeff Jarvis said we should expect to see more
graphic material like this as we shift toward news content that's provided by non-professionals. "I think we’ve become much too accustomed to mediated news, to a world sanitized for our protection,"
: This week was quite a bit less busy than the last two, but there was still plenty to check out below the radar:
— A few Twitter notes: Twitter went a bit further in prioritizing its own user experience by removing the names of the apps
from which tweets came from the tweets themselves. GigaOM's Mathew Ingram
and tech blogger Dave Winer
both explored Twitter's increasingly complex relationship with media organizations. Meanwhile, Twitter filed an appeal
on behalf of an Occupy protester whose tweets were requested by the state of New York.
— Several months after announcing it would drop to non-daily delivery at its newspapers in New Orleans and Alabama, Newhouse announced similar changes
at its papers in Syracuse, N.Y., and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Poynter has the details
and the two papers' circulation background
. The American Journalism Review's Lindsay Kalter examined
how print cutbacks have gone at Newhouse's paper in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
— After quite a bit of speculation, The New York Times Co. sold About.com this week
to Barry Diller's IAC, which also owns Newsweek and The Daily Beast. Business Insider showed
what kind of a drain About had been to the Times.
— Finally, three useful pieces on Twitter for journalists: Digital First's Steve Buttry gave 10 arguments
for Twitter's usefulness to journalists (for the Twitter-phobe in your life), Amy Gahran of the Knight Digital Media Center gave some advice on curating Twitter content
, and Poynter's Mallary Tenore highlighted
some of Twitter's lessons for writing well in tight spaces.