Tag Archives: Journalism

Intellectual property: the Open-Source debate & making your work public

A few weeks ago, the other section had the pleasure of video-chatting with Liz Henry, who knows about both the technological and written field and is currently a web producer for BlogHer. (Visit her  blog).  The chat, although on time restraint, was educational and Ms. Henry is certainly someone excited and invested in her career. She had a lot to say regarding both the idea of open source code as well as advice regarding breaking into one’s field of interest.

The open source debate is one that, as Liz Henry explained, has been going on for a while. “Open source is a development method for software that harnesses the power of distributed peer review and transparency of process. The promise of open source is better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and an end to predatory vendor lock-in.” An article in Wired published in 2004 discusses Sun Microsystem’s internal debate about open-sourcing the code for Java. At the JavaOne conference, Rob Gingell, chairman of the Java Community Process stated, “If open source is the answer, then please tell me the problem.”

While criticized, there is a fair amount of people in support of the overall idea. Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a California public benefit corporation that “is actively involved in Open Source community-building, education, and public advocacy to promote awareness and the importance of non-proprietary software.” One of their important activities is to act “as a standards body, maintaining the Open Source Definition for the good of the community. The Open Source Initiative Approved License trademark and program creates a nexus of trust around which developers, users, corporations and governments can organize open-source cooperation.” It is still a question on how open-source, or, as Ms. Henry noted, “free software” as others refer to the idea as, will mature, but the debate is primarily on language and does not seem to be ending anytime soon.

Liz Henry also explained that as far as generating interest in one’s field, she encouraged posting one’s work and pushing its existence on the public. When you put more work out there for people to use and reflect upon, the more notice it can receive, and the more chance one can have of the right people noticing it. It follows that when your work is on the web, it’s also there for forever, while an article in a small publication will get recognition, the web can keep it in the forefront of someone’s memory for the length of its availability, and where intellectual property is concerned, Liz Henry advocated for publicizing one’s work for creative purposes.

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“Coloring the News”

As a political science major, with interest ultimately founded in political journalism, the discovery of Coloring the News: How Political Correctness Has Corrupted American Journalism by William McGowan raises questions about the seemingly over-political correctness in journalism of late. He argues that “the on-going media crusade for diversity has made American journalism weaker, particularly on complex stories involving race, gay rights, feminism, affirmative action and immigration.” He claims that journalism today “encourag[es] a narrow orthodoxy that restricts debate and affirms identity politics” fostering a “journalistic climate in which important reporting is… skewed.”

His criticism looks at the world of journalism in a new way; when before political correctness and respect for the representation of minorities was not involved enough in the media, McGowan argues that it is present too often, that it has “colored,” double meaning intended, how news outlets deliver the news. For example, McGowan introduces how some news organizations use “bureaucratic instruments…. [to] monitor racial, ethnic, and sexual fairness,” such as the Gannett chain, which has a system to evaluate their editors and reporters based on how many minority faces appear in photographs and how many minority voices are quoted.

Such a system is striking; that a news outlet has and readily uses a system to ensure equal representation, though designed perhaps with good intentions, should not be in place. Equal representation should not be forced, but should naturally occur – at least that is what the utopian ideal is. On one level McGowan’s argument is intriguing; he continues that the reason alternative news has garnered so much popularity is the fact that there is a “perception of bias in ‘mainstream’ media [which] has fueled” programs such as talk radio and Fox News; however, on the other hand, it is important to encourage minority representation – but one cannot over-indulge it.

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