June 15, 2005

Maureen Dowd Stacy Schiff Raises a Warning Flag [5:53 pm]

An acknowledged followup to Frank Rich’s earlier op-ed: The Interactive Truth

If you are 6 years old and both your parents read one online, you can be forgiven for not knowing what a newspaper is. You would also be on to something. The news has slipped its moorings. It is no longer held captive by two-inch columns of type or a sonorous 6 p.m. baritone. It has gone on the lam. Anyone can be a reporter - or a book reviewer, TV star, museum guide, podcaster or pundit.

This week The Los Angeles Times announced [pdf] its intention to exile the square and stodgy voice of authority farther yet. The paper will launch an interactive editorial page. “We’ll have some editorials where you can go online and edit an editorial to your satisfaction,” the page’s editor says. “It’s the ultimate in reader participation,” explains his boss, Michael Kinsley. Let’s hope the interactive editorial will lead directly to the interactive tax return. On the other hand, I hope we might stop short before we get to structural engineering and brain surgery. Some of us like our truth the way we like our martinis: dry and straight up.

Kinsley takes as his model Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute, and which grows by accretion and consensus. Relatedly, it takes as its premise the idea that “facts” belong between quotation marks. It’s a winning formula; Wikipedia is one of the Web’s most popular sites. I asked a teenager if he understood that it carries a disclaimer; Wikipedia “can’t guarantee the validity of the information found here.” “That’s just so that no one will sue them,” he shrugged. As to the content: “It’s all true, mostly.”

What if we all vote on the truth? We don’t need to, because we will be overruled by what becomes a legend most: entertainment.

Another view on the LATimes’ plan: Abolish Michael Kinsley! Why editorial pages are obsolete. Also, Slashdot’s Editorial Wiki Debuts At LA Times

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Challenging the Conventional Retail Channels [8:08 am]

Morissette in Starbucks LP row

A Canadian music retailer has refused to stock Alanis Morissette’s records in protest at an exclusivity agreement with the coffee giant Starbucks.

The singer has given the coffee chain exclusive rights to sell her new album in the US and Canada for the first six weeks of release.

In response, HMV Canada has removed all of her records from its stores.

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McDonald’s Testing CD Kiosks [7:59 am]

Burgers and CD burners? McDonald’s flagship tries hip

Inside, repairs to the digital-media centers reduced geeks to gawkers as the restaurant filled at lunchtime on a recent day. When working, the BlazeNet machines allow customers to search a library of 40,000 songs and create a custom CD for 99 cents a song. Other kiosks let them surf the Web, print out photos in six seconds or get ring tones instantly.

The machines’ high cost may keep them becoming a regular sight at McDonald’s. But with a trial in Germany having gone well, Whitman said there’s a possibility the company will install some at other U.S. restaurants.

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