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Cover of the book. Click here for the  full cover with description and blurbs.

Revolutions in Communication is  all about  the printers, reporters, photographers, filmmakers, advertisers, PR practitioners, broadcasters, computer geeks, and all manner of rebels, thinkers and visionaries who were ahead of their times,  who led the times, and who created The Times.  This critically acclaimed survey of media history is now in a second edition.

The book surveys all major communications  disciplines,  including journalism, photography, cinema, advertising & public relations, radio, television, computing and networked media.

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Gene Roberts reflects

Gene Roberts and crew celebrates one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s many Pulitzer Prizes. (From Nieman via “The Newspaperman” by Roberts.)

Legendary editor Gene Roberts reflects on a lifetime in journalism in this Nieman Storyboard article May 5, 2017 by Julie Schwietert Collazo.

Some of his observations:

BBC’s WWII truth blitz

When BBC’s German language service began in 1938, the policy that seemed to hold the most promise was to tell the unvarnished truth, according to research reported in the Guardian recently.

In practice, telling the truth would mean that British defeats in battle would be reported accurately throughout the war, without exaggeration,  says Dr Vike Martina Plock of the department of English at Exeter University.

Plock discovered BBC memos at the archive center in Caversham Park, Reading.  “It is fascinating to see how the BBC provided the German public with accurate information during the war and thereby began to re-educate individuals who had been living, willingly or unwillingly, with 12 years of Nazi propaganda,” she told the Guardian. Continue reading

Science & Environmental Journalism

Science and environmental journalism in history — An ongoing project by Prof. Bill Kovarik — is available at this link.

Fake news and advertising boycotts

 Fake news needs to be curbed through targeted advertising boycotts, according to writers of recent  opinion articles in Slate and the New York Times.  A prime example: a Breitbart story about global “cooling” that misuses Weather Channel information. (See WC response video, right),

Consumer activism against Brietbart and other fake news sites is being organized at a Twitter site called Sleeping Giants, with the idea that most commercial companies are only accidentally placing ads on the sites.  According to the site:

We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars. Many companies don’t even know it’s happening. It’s time to tell them.

Sleeping Giants recommends that a screenshot of a commercial ad placed next to   Continue reading

What good is history?

On the witness stand in a libel trial, Henry Ford famously said:  “History is bunk.”  Ford was very good with machinery, but no one ever considered him a well-educated man.

Something rather like the “history is bunk” statement has led to a recent  academic  dustup among our cousins on the other side of the Atlantic.  On May 30, Patrick Johnston, Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, opined:  Society doesn’t need a 21-year-old who is a sixth century historian. It needs a 21-year-old who really understands how to analyse things, understands the tenets of leadership and contributing to society, who is a thinker and someone who has the potential to help society drive forward.’   

So, what if Johnston is right?  After all, what good is history?

According to Jonathan Healy, answering Johnston in June, 2016, history is interesting, important, skill-building stuff, but most of all, the profession that serves  as umpires when the politicians go out of bounds.

William H. McNeill, then-AHA president, expressed similar ideas in a 1985 essay.

The changing perspectives of historical understanding are the very best introduction we can have to the practical problems of real life.

Bravest new world

A new system in China is apparently “game-ifying” citizenship, giving you scores for social media participation and judging you over friendships.  According to Extra Credits, an outstanding video game discussion and education forum, this takes Orwellian thought control to a bizarre and potentially horrifying new level.

‘Every frame’s great take on Keaton

If you’re not familiar with Tony Zhou’s  “Every frame a painting” channel on YouTube and Vimeo, you’re in for a treat. Here’s a recent take on Buster Keaton, master of silent film comedy.     

Zhou, by the way, was interviewed recently in this Patreon podcast (uploaded to SoundCloud).

Arab Spring’s tragic aftermath

Protesters bleeding after Bahrain army opened fire, February 2011. (Mohamed CJ, Wikipedia)

The Arab Spring was supposed to usher in an era of greater political inclusion and freedom, including press freedom, writes Dana Priest in the Washington Post July 26.   “Instead, in every country but Tunisia, it has led to the opposite: the near-disappearance of independent news and opinion, especially about governments and their security forces.”

Pakistan’s most famous journalist lives like a fugitive, Priest reports in Part I of the series.   Reporters are jailed, harassed and killed all across the Arab world,   Priest reports in Part II.

The article, and other similar articles in the past few years, shows that circumventing media technologies have limits. They may be technologies of freedom, as Ithiel de Sola Poole once predicted, but they can also be technologies of repression.

“The Internet and social media sites were the Arab Spring’s oxygen. Activists and journalists — often it was hard to tell the difference — used the tools of their generation to get around the forces of the old guard. Their effectiveness stunned the security establishment. But the old guard has caught up technologically…”

 

In Paris …

I-Am-Charlie_Graphic

Information politics and oil wars

 

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World oil reserves were supposedly located mostly in the Middle East (green column). Source: BP, 2002.

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But now we know that was only one category of world oil reserve. (BP chart modified with 2000 USGS data).

By Bill Kovarik

One of the more painful lessons of recent  history involves the way money and  politics can slant  scientific information.

Take the curiously sudden abundance of fossil fuels.   Where we once had imminent shortages, and the need to go to war to protect the lifeblood of the world’s economy,   we now have an abundance of natural gas from fracking, heavy oil from Venezuela and unconventional oil from Canada’s tar sands. And much more to come from the Arctic and coasts of Africa.

How do we explain the sudden abundance of fossil fuels?

  • “We were wrong on peak oil,” said  George Monbiot of the Guardian in July, 2012.  “There’s enough to fry us all.”   Environmental strategies must change now because “the facts have changed,” he said. Continue reading