Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ukraine protesters rally after attack on journalist Teyana Chornovil

Ukraine protesters rally after attack on journalist Teyana Chornovil
By Barbara Miller
ABC News
Dec. 27, 2013

Photo: Protesters hold photos of Tetyana Chornovil during a demonstration at the Internal Affairs Ministry. (AFP: Sergei Supinsky)

Journalist Teyana Chornovil was attacked in the early hours of Christmas morning, shortly after publishing an article on the alleged assets of the interior minister, Vitaly Zakharchenko.

Ms Chornovil, 34, has written a series of articles purporting to expose the wealth of senior government figures and was an active participant in the current wave of anti-government protests that were sparked by president Viktor Yanukovych's decision to turn away from a trade deal with the European Union.

Footage from a dashboard camera in Ms Chornovil's car appears to show the early stages of the attack and has reportedly been used to help track down the alleged attackers.

"A jeep ran into me, tried to smash into me. They broke my window, I jumped out of my car and tried to escape, but they caught me and started to beat me up," Ms Chornovil said.

Police say three men are now being questioned.

Footage uploaded to YouTube shows the journalist with a bloodied and bruised face being treated by medical staff.

The incident has sparked fresh protests in Kiev, with opposition groups gathering outside the Interior Ministry chanting: "Down with the bloody minister."

"I simply can't stand this injustice anymore, everyday so many people come out to protest, but nobody's listening to us," one protester said.

Mark Rachkevych, the business editor of the Kyiv Post newspaper, says the public is demanding those who ordered the attack are punished.

"The more they use force, the more radicalised protestors become," he told AM.

"The public wants the ones who ordered it - not [the] fall guys, not lower level people."

Hundreds of protesters are continuing to camp out around braziers on Kiev's Independence Square, swelled by weekly mass rallies of around 100,000 or more.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reform the New York Times! Media protecting companies tied to Chinese corruption

Reform the New York Times!
Media must stop protecting companies tied to Chinese corruption
U.S. corporations are complicit in Chinese corruption. Why are our newspapers so afraid to report the truth
Patrick L. Smith
Nov 23, 2013

Once upon a time, people on this side of the Pacific were encouraged to assume that China’s post-Mao economic reforms would make the land of 1.4 billion mostly miserable souls a democratic, equitable, orderly place. It always happens this way, after all: Open markets make open, free societies. Straight-line equation.

And this was why it was terrific that hundreds of multinational banks and manufacturers were investing in Chinese operations. Making China democratic was, when one truly got down to it, what all those CEOs wanted. You knew this was so: You read it in the newspapers.

Reading now about China’s latest reforms, announced the other day after a plenum of the Communist Party’s central committee, one is not treated even to the old pretense. Of course, one is not treated to the story, either — and certainly not any mention that the old pretense has turned out to be a pretense.

The story would be too much to take. Not to raise ignitable topics among readers of my previous column about how the New York Times shades the truth with quotation marks, but the story would require that reforms be changed to “reforms.” The story is that America and most of its people are heavily dependent upon, if not addicted to, the very system of suffocating control and exploitation they profess to regret.

Here it is in a phrase: We are all corrupt Communist Party apparatchiks now. And the moment comes when we have to recognize that we have been since the days of Deng way back in the 1980s. Why can I not read about this in my newspapers?

The reforms just announced by President Xi Jinping are supposed to be the greatest thing since Saran Wrap. (Is that made in China now, too?) Pundits and Sinologists compare them with the big reversals Deng Xiaoping initiated when Mao was dead two years and it was safe to come out of the closet with the getting-rich-is-glorious bit.

We await a full-dress document listing all of Xi’s reforms. So far we have some price liberalization, some reduction of investment restrictions, some increased competition for state-owned enterprises (known as SOE’s), and so on. All of this — the phrase now prompting a frisson in the financial press — is intended to “allow the market to play a decisive role in allocating resources,” as the central committee communiqué explained it.

I do not find markets especially reliable in allocating resources — ask a mergers-and-acquisitions man and then ask a schoolteacher — but we can leave this for a minute.

There are some social measures planned. Urban migrants will get equal treatment when they arrive in cities to find work. Farmers will be allowed to sell land when they surrender the village to join the urban drift. The item readers will have read about is the liberalization of the one-child-only policy, which was among Deng’s earliest reforms — excuse me, “reforms.”

Look at this list, sketchy as it is. What do we have here from the desk of Comrade Xi? The correspondents in Beijing will not help you on this point.

These are top-down, technocratic adjustments intended to make China’s authoritarian-capitalist system work better (or “better”). It is the obvious point of the market adjustments. Most of the new social provisions are simply responses to labor shortages that will, if unaddressed, leave factories short of fodder and cause wages to rise.

Reforms alter institutions; they imply fundamental change in a society’s direction. What our press has just reported are “reforms.” They offer more efficient ways to exploit and control people within the social economy just as it is. They are mechanisms, not reforms. And this is why they meet with unanimous approval in the West. The China play is too good to change but at the margins.

It is almost as if Xi and his central committee comrades wanted to put this point as starkly as possible. Along with the economic “reforms” came a big one on the administrative side. Beijing is now to form a “National Security Commission” to concentrate power over domestic security, external intelligence, foreign policy, and military policy. Xi is likely to head this agency. My favorite detail: The model is a cross between our National Security Council and the National Security Agency. Something to be proud of in some quarters.

We come to what is missing from the reports of Xi and his “reforms.” We have no account of our complicity, our interest in Xi’s success as he fortifies and extends centralized power such that a one-party dictatorship can survive a carefully attenuated opening of the most profitable sectors of the social economy. It is because of our complicity that our press overstates the Chinese case: “Reforms” have to come across as reforms.

The Financial Times now runs headlines (Nov. 16, Page 3) of “hopes for a decade of radical change.” With respect for a newspaper I read regularly, this is misleading nonsense.

A couple of recent incidents in the press cast curious light. Ten days ago came a long piece revealing how Matt Winkler, the controversial (let us remain polite) editor in chief of Bloomberg News, spiked a year-long investigation of corrupt ties between a Chinese tycoon and senior C.P. officials. “If we run the story we’ll be kicked out of China,” one of the correspondents quoted his boss as saying in a late-night telephone call between New York and Hong Kong.

Winkler denies all, but then he would. (Transparency here: This columnist once wrote commentary for Winkler’s organization and got a variant of the same treatment.) If any reader can think of a lowlier example of depravity in the face of Chinese power and the profits earned therefrom, please use the comment box below.

It gets more curious. The Winkler story was leaked to and published by none other than the New York Times, which put it on Page One (Nov. 9). And curiouser still. Five days later the Times ran a huge takeout on — believe it — its investigation into how JPMorgan Chase had more or less bribed the daughter of Wen Jiabao, who was then premier, to win underwriting business for the China Railway Group, one of the larger SOE’s.

The Times item was by David Barboza, the paper’s Shanghai correspondent. (More transparency: Barboza was previously a colleague.) It is a remarkable piece of work; the graphic mapping the Wen family’s many imaginative corruptions must have cost thousands and a lot of legwork, and is well worth all of what was spent assembling it.

So far as I know, Barboza continues to live and file in Shanghai. The piece is remarkable (and devilishly timed to follow the Winkler revelation). A tip of the cap. But something is missing, making an untruth by omission.

The flow of under-the-table funds from Western banks and corporations is essential to Chinese corruption and those who benefit from it on both sides. Follow the logic out: It is one reason (of many, of course) that China is among the world’s most inequitable societies by way of income distribution. JPMorgan did but one thing differently: It got caught (which seems to be CEO Jamie Dimon’s special gift).

I find nothing radical in the thesis just described. It is a straight-up replica of what I used to call the Cold War social contract when I lived in Southeast Asia. Populations accept varying degrees of tyranny, political silence and across-the-board corruption among the elites, always with foreign funds to keep it all going. In exchange they receive a modicum of material comfort — TV’s, refrigerators and so on, usually the first they have ever owned.

I shorthand the deal as “shut up and change the channel.” You recall some of the names: Marcos, Suharto, Park Chung Hee, the amazing Kakuei Tanaka and his Lockheed scandal. I think Kaku-san actually did make green money sprout from trees before he was done.

To sum up: China under Xi Jinping does not represent a reform of this long-standing arrangement across the Pacific. Add his name to the list. And never leave home without your quotation marks.

Footnote: At midweek, the Wall Street Journal reported that JPMorgan has just withdrawn as underwriter of a $2 billion stock offering in Hong Kong by a mainland institution called China Everbright Bank. This is rare in the merchant-banking game. It seems that JPMorgan hired a young man named Tang Xiaoping prior to getting its piece of cake. Tang’s dad is chairman of China Everbright Group, the state-backed owner of Everbright Bank. This is one of several such deals U.S. authorities are investigating under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Remember that? Congress passed it after Lockheed got caught bribing Tanaka, who was premier at the time (mid–1970s). What a footprint we leave at the other end of the Pacific.

Patrick Smith is the author of “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” was the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992. During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently to the New York Times, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Michael Hastings Sent Panicked Email Hours Before Car Crash

Michael Hastings Sent Panicked Email Hours Before Car Crash
By Daniel Politi
June 23, 2013
v Journalist Michael Hastings wrote an email to his colleagues hours before he died last week in which he said his “close friends and associates” were being interviewed by the FBI and he was going to “go off the radar for a bit.” The 33-year-old journalist said he was “onto a big story,” according to KTLA that publishes a copy of the email that Hastings sent at around 1 p.m. Monday June 17. Hastings died at around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in a fiery one-vehicle car crash. Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who knew Hastings from Afghanistan, supplied a copy of the email to the network.
v “It alarmed me very much,” Biggs, who was blind-copied on the email, said. “I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me.” The FBI has denied Hastings was under investigation. But WikiLeaks published a message on Twitter last week that said Hastings contacted the organization’s lawyers hours before he died, “saying the FBI was investigating him.”

The email with the subject “FBI Investigation, re: NSA” reads:

Hey [redacted] the Feds are interviewing my "close friends and associates." Perhaps if the authorities arrive "BuzzFeed GQ," er HQ, may be wise to immediately request legal counsel before any conversations or interviews about our news-gathering practices or related journalism issues.

Also: I'm onto a big story, and need to go off the radat for a bit.

All the best, and hope to see you all soon.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Qworty goes nuts on Wikipedia regarding Amanda Filipacchi

Writer Andrew Leonard of gets a bit defensive on behalf of the New York Times in the following article, although I do agree that editors at Wikipedia like Qworty have agendas other than the search for truth. Does Wikipedia have a way to demote editors who go out of control?

Wikipedia’s shame
Sexism isn't the problem at the online encyclopedia. The real corruption is the lust for revenge
By Andrew Leonard
Apr 29, 2013

Is Wikipedia sexist? Or is it merely an unreliable mess of angry, ax-wielding psychos engaged in agenda-driven editing? Or is it something much more complicated than that?

Last Wednesday, novelist Amanda Filipacchi published an Op-Ed in the New York Times recounting her discovery that Wikipedia editors were culling women authors from Wikipedia’s list of “American Novelists” and relegating them into their own subcategory: “American Women Novelists.”

“The intention appears to be to create a list of ‘American Novelists’ on Wikipedia that is made up almost entirely of men,” she wrote, noting that there was no “American Men Novelists” subcategory. (Although, amusingly, just such a category was created shortly after the Op-Ed appeared.)

In the furor that erupted on Wikipedia in response to Filipacchi’s article, it was quickly determined that the bad behavior she noticed appeared to be the work of a single misguided Wikipedia editor. One could argue that, if true, this made the Times’ headline “Wikipedia’s Sexism Toward Female Novelists” unfair and inaccurate. All of Wikipedia was being tarred by the unthinking stupidity of one bad editor.

But then things got a lot worse. In a follow-up Op-Ed published on Sunday, Filipacchi recounted the all-too-predictable reaction from aggrieved Wikipedia editors.

As soon as the Op-Ed article appeared, unhappy Wikipedia editors pounced on my Wikipedia page and started making alterations to it, erasing as much as they possibly could without (I assume) technically breaking the rules. They removed the links to outside sources, like interviews of me and reviews of my novels. Not surprisingly, they also removed the link to the Op-Ed article. At the same time, they put up a banner at the top of my page saying the page needed “additional citations for verifications.” Too bad they’d just taken out the useful sources.

Welcome to the age of “revenge editing.” The edits didn’t stop at Filipacchi’s page. Edits were also made to pages about her novels, stripping content from them on the grounds that they were overly self-promotional (a big Wikipedia no-no.) One editor, as recently as Monday morning, even started editing the pages devoted to Filpacchi’s parents, and slashed huge swaths from a page about the media conglomerate Hachette-Filipacchi, whose chairman emeritus happens to be Filipacchi’s father, Daniel Filipacchi.

As is usually the case with Wikipedia, high-profile “revenge editing” clearly motivated by animus tends to draw a lot of attention. A frequent result: ludicrous “edit wars” in which successive revisions are undone in rapid succession. Eventually, someone higher up in the chain of hierarchy steps in and freezes a page in which an edit war is occurring, or some measure of consensus is reached after a lot of shouting. Indeed, hardcore Wikipedia advocates argue that no matter how dumb or ugly the original bad edit or mistake might have been, the process, carried out in the open for all to see, generally results, in the long run, in something more closely resembling truth than what we might see in more mainstream approaches to knowledge assembly.

Wikipedia’s saving grace is that all the edit wars — all the ugly evidence of “revenge editing” — is preserved for eternity for anyone curious enough to investigate in the “talk pages” that reveal precisely how Wikipedia’s knowledge is constructed. A review of the talk pages associated with the various Filipacchi-related Wikipedia pages edited after the Op-Ed’s publication reveals the vast majority of the anti-Filipacchi edits to have been made by just one person, a Wikipedia editor who goes by the user-name “Qworty.”

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Self-publishing is the future — and great for writers

I strongly recommend clicking on the title below to see all the great links on the Salon site.

Hugh Howey: Self-publishing is the future — and great for writers
Books have changed forever, and that's good. Writers will find readers and make more money going it alone, like me
By Hugh Howey
Apr 4, 2013

Contrary to recent reports, I am not the story of self-publishing.

The story of self-publishing is Jan Strnad, a 62-year-old educator hoping to retire in four years. To do so is going to require supplemental income, which he is currently earning from his self-published novels. In 2012, Jan made $11,406.31 from his work. That’s more than double what he made from the same book in the six months it was available from Kensington, a major publisher. He has since released a second work and now makes around $2,000 a month, even though you’ve never heard of him.

Rachel Schurig has sold 100,000 e-books and made six figures last year. She is the story of self-publishing. Rick Gualtieri cleared over $25,000 in 2012 from his writing. He says it’s like getting a Christmas bonus every month. Amanda Brice is an intellectual property attorney for the federal government. In her spare time, she writes teen mysteries and adult romantic comedies. She averages $750 a month with her work.

Like Schurig, Robert J. Crane is quickly moving from midlist to A-list. When Robert shared his earnings with me late last year, his monthly income had gone from $110.29 in June to $13,000+ in November. He was making more in a month than many debut authors are likely to receive as an advance from a major publisher. And he still owned his rights. His earnings have only gone up since.

Right now you are probably thinking that these anecdotes of self-publishing success are the result of my having cherry-picked the winners. In fact, these stories appear in this exact order in my private message inbox over at Kindle Boards. The only sampling bias is that these writers responded to a thread I started titled: “The Self Published Authors I Want to Hear From.” I wanted to know how many forum members were making $100 to $500 a month. My suspicion was that it was more than any of us realized. Every response I received started with a variation of: “I’m actually making a lot more than that.”

My fascination with this story began back when major media outlets like Entertainment Weekly and Wired magazine called to interview me. Perhaps the transition from near-minimum-wage bookseller to New York Times bestseller was too surreal for me to embrace, but my reaction to these entreaties was that I couldn’t possibly be the real story. For every outlier like myself or Bella Andre or Amanda Hocking, there must be hundreds of people doing well enough with their writing to pay a few bills. The more time I spent online in various writing forums, the more this hunch hardened into a real theory. People I interacted with every day were appearing on bestseller lists or emailing me for advice on handling calls from agents. The hundreds appeared to be thousands. And this could only be a fraction of the actual number.

My call for anecdotes was my first attempt to find data to support this theory. Before I wrote this article, the first thing I did was click on a random page of my private message inbox. I received such a flood from that forum post that any page likely would have worked, and the first one did. I could regale you with hundreds of accounts of publishing success, all from people you’ve never heard of, all making more than most traditionally published authors, and all messaging me within a few hours of my call to arms. The story, I started to realize, was much bigger than I had thought.

Of course, you’ll see articles lamenting the paucity of sales most self-published books enjoy, but there’s a problem with comparing average self-published sales with traditionally published books. In self-publishing, the slush pile is made available to readers. These comparisons between the two paths take the tip of one iceberg (the books that made it through the gauntlet and into bookstores) with an entire iceberg (all self-published books). It’s not a fair comparison.

Another problem with the data that disparages self-publishing is that much of it comes from the age of self-pub authors having to print hundreds of books and warehouse them in their garages. These tales of literary woe will include all the people who simply wrote and published a book to tick off a task on a bucket list. Or those who wanted to share a memoir with family and friends. Or those who only had a single book in them. Or those who gave up after completing that first novel. Or those who chose to write in a genre that has a very limited readership.

I celebrate writing for any of these reasons — I wish more people wrote more often. But what fascinates me as a self-published author are not those who publish a single novel but rather those who approach this as a major hobby, a second job or even a career. Those who take their writing seriously, who publish more than one title a year and do this year after year, are finding real success with their art. They are earning hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. I’ve watched several online friends go from publishing their first books to hitting the New York Times bestseller list. I’ve watched even more get themselves out of debt while pursuing a lifelong dream. There’s a silent mob out there making hundreds of dollars a month while doing something they love, and this should be celebrated.

None of this is meant to say that everyone who self-publishes — even those who study the craft, take their work seriously, and produce a constant stream of material — will find material success. There is also luck involved and the fickle tastes of readers. But what is becoming more apparent with every passing day is that you have a better chance of paying a bill or two through self-publishing than you do through any other means of publication.

Many of you are no doubt wiping beverage spittle off your computer screens right now. Some of you are probably angry at hearing this. You may think that this is post hoc reasoning from one of the people who had success happen to him. Except that I was espousing this view well before my own works took off. It seemed logical to me then, and it seems logical to me now. As soon as the cost of distribution and production both hit zero, the game changed. It just took a while for everyone to realize it (we’re still waiting on a few laggards, but they’ll catch on eventually).

Let’s compare music and literature for a moment. No, not the industries, which are following similar disruptions due to the arrival of the digital age, I mean the people who make music and those who craft literature. Let’s look at the artists.

How many people teach themselves to play the guitar? We celebrate this, don’t we? Even as they go through the callous-building phase, we admire anyone who learns the grammar of chords and then strings these phrases together into music. They begin by playing cover tunes the way an aspiring author might write fan fiction. They go on to strum on the sidewalk with a hat by their feet much like someone might blog and hope for a donation. They play small venues on open-mic nights that we can think of as free books on Smashwords. They get a few paying gigs, which is like self-publishing on Amazon. They hope to gain a following, local at first. Maybe they’ll get invited to open for a bigger act, which would be akin to scoring a blurb from a bestselling author. Perhaps a scout will see them live or on YouTube, like an agent noticing an author on a bestseller list. This is how artists are born. They are self-made. They perform for people. They learn and improve as they do both.

The old route for literary success looks stodgy and outdated by comparison. You write in a vacuum or for a professor who frowns on genre; you workshop with other writers; you craft a query letter; you appeal to the tastes of an intern at a literary agency; you claw your way out of the slush pile; you hope to win over an editor at a major publishing house; your book comes out a year later and sits spine-out on a bookshelf for six months; it gets returned to the publisher and goes out of print; you start over. The general reader is a mile away from you in this process. You never had a chance to be heard by the only people who truly matter.

With self-publishing, you learn your craft while producing material. You win over your fans directly. You own all of your rights, and your works stay fresh and available for your lifetime (and beyond). Nothing goes out of print. I think this advantage is difficult to fully appreciate. My bestselling work was my eighth or ninth title. As soon as it took off, the rest of my material took off with it. To the reader, it was all brand-new. To those being born today who will become avid readers 15 years from now, those works will still be brand-new. My entire oeuvre will always be in print and always earning me something. Nothing is pulled and returned from the digital bookshelf.

Another advantage is price. I recommended a book to readers recently, only to discover that the e-book was priced at $12.99! I can’t believe publishers do this to themselves. But then, they have to worry about competing with their other products. If they price their backlist too low, the fear is that readers will ignore the works currently being promoted. When John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee series came out at $11.99, they lost a customer: Me. At $2.99, I would have purchased every single one of those classics. I doubt I would have actually read them (again), but I would have bought them. They would have competed with nothing; the electrons wouldn’t clutter my house; the price would be impulse territory. It all comes back to the fear that the e-book will cannibalize a print copy or a more recent title. When you self-publish, you care about your work more than anyone else ever will. That means pricing it to gain as many readers as possible.

The twin advantages of price and permanence made it easy for me to walk away from offers from major publishers. Even when those offers soared into the seven figures, there was no chance that I would give up a monthly income for the rest of my life for a one-time payment, especially when that payment meant that in six months, my work would be seen as competition to whatever was newly released. The print-only deal I signed with Simon & Schuster was advantageous because my physical sales, even at thousands of dollars a month, were a fraction of my total self-published earnings. Digital is where it’s at, and even major publishers understand this.

That’s why the self-publishing community shook its collective head over a recent story here on Salon. A professed self-publishing failure turned out not to have an e-book available. Old thinking like this has no place in today’s publishing world. For all the author of that piece knows, his story might find its audience 10 years from now and hit every bestseller list. The chances aren’t great, of course, because he only wrote one novel, gave it mere months to succeed, and chose the medium least suited to discoverability. That’s how it used to work. It no longer has to.

Here’s the reality: How you publish will not significantly affect the quality of your story. If it needs a ton of work, it’s not going to make it out of the slush pile anyway. These days, manuscripts need to be perfect before they’re submitted to agents or before you self-publish, so don’t fool yourself into thinking a rough draft can become a great novel with the help of an agent or editor. It’s simply not likely to happen. Your book will be your book no matter what path you take. It won’t suddenly be horrible because you self-publish it, and it won’t be amazing just because some agent or editor seems to think so. It will need to prove itself to readers one way or the other, whichever path you take.

There are two possibilities. Your book might be in the top 1 percent of what readers are looking for — whether by the magic of your plot or the grace of your prose — in which case you are far better off self-publishing. You’ll make more money sooner, and you’ll own the rights when it comes time to negotiate with publishers (if you even care to). If, on the other hand, your work isn’t in the top 1 percent, it won’t escape the clutches of the slush pile. Your only hope in this case is to self-publish. Which means there isn’t a scenario in which I would recommend an author begin his or her career with a traditional publisher. Not a one. Even Jim Carrey is going the self-pub route with his children’s book, and he’ll make a mint because of it. The new top-down approach is to self-publish and retain ownership. The course of last resort would be to sign away your rights for the rest of your life.

Louis C.K. proved this for comedy. The better you are, the better it pays to produce and own your own work. If you’re not on that level, producing it yourself is the only option. Only option or best option. It’s that simple.

“But I only want to write,” you might say. “I don’t want to be a publisher.” Well, good luck. Even if you land with a major publishing house, the success of your work will depend on you knowing this business and embracing all the challenges that a self-published author faces. There are only a handful of authors in the world who can make a living writing and passing along those words to someone else and not doing a single other thing. Most people who attempt this method teach creative writing for a living, and not because they want to. Promotion will be up to you. Your publisher will want to see your social media presence before they offer you a book deal. Learning the ins and outs of self-publishing before signing with a major house is the best training imaginable. Not doing so would be like a hopeful race car driver not caring what’s under the hood. I’ve been shocked to discover, having worked with major publishers, that many of my self-published friends know more about the current publishing landscape than industry veterans with decades of experience. The more you learn and the more you keep an open mind, the better your chances for success.

The rest of this story will be written in the coming years. It is early yet, but I predict that more and more people will find success by self-publishing first and proving themselves to small audiences. They will follow the route of other artists who work their way up from small beginnings rather than hoping to blow it out on their first attempt on the stage. I’ve already heard from authors who gave up on self-publishing only to have their still-available works bloom years later and earn them real money. Some books will be like locusts, emerging by some fickle whim long after they were forgotten. What will matter for those books and those authors will be that the work was created and made available, and neither of those feats will expire.

Aspiring authors email me all the time asking for advice, and I tell them the same thing: I found success because I wrote for the love of writing. I self-published simply because I wanted to own my work and I wanted to make it available to readers. I expected nothing. I wrote as one might garden or knit, simply because they enjoy the act of creation. The fact that I pay my bills — a feat growing more and more common by the day — is an unexpected bonus. I’d be doing this on the street with a hat by my feet if I had to. I’d be building callouses and nodding my thanks to anyone who tossed a coin my way. Sure, it would be crazy to think I might become the next Clapton or Hendrix, but for every outlier like that, there are thousands of musicians playing steady gigs on the weekends, loving what they do, and paying a few bills as a result. Finally, the same can be said of authors. And that’s the real story of self-publishing.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Jan Caldwell of San Diego Sheriff's Dept. disses bloggers because they "could be" 800-pound disabled men wearing fuzzy slippers, working at home on an Apple laptop

My favorite part of the following article is when VOSD's Kelly Bennett confesses to working at home on her Apple Laptop wearing slippers.

Ms. Jan Caldwell
Public Affairs Director

Sheriff's Department: No Shoes, No Fancy Degree, No Service
Feb 22, 2013
by Sara Libby
Voice of San Diego

By Jan Caldwell's standards, I am a Very Serious Journalist.

This has very little to do with the fact that I run a news publication.

It has more to do with the fact that I'm nice (almost always), svelte, not disabled and have a fancy journalism school degree. Oh, one more thing: As a Very Serious Journalist, I always wear Very Serious Footwear.

Caldwell, the spokeswoman for the San Diego Sheriff's Department, spoke earlier this week at an event called Grade the Media, put on by the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional journalists. (I didn't attend the event — I caught Caldwell's remarks on YouTube.)

There, she warned reporters of her No. 1 rule if they want to get information about the county's chief law enforcement agency: "My first point I want to make is: Be nice to me. I mean, seriously, be nice to me. Because I'm a mirror, and I will reflect how you treat me. If you are rude, if you are obnoxious, if you are demanding, if you call me a liar, I will probably not talk to you anymore."

Golden rule, got it. There's something a little unsettling about someone sternly ordering niceness and demanding that reporters not demand. But taken at face value, those aren't unreasonable requests.

Then Caldwell takes a turn. She says that it's time to revisit the issue of journalist credentials, because "you can sit with your Apple laptop in your fuzzy slippers, you can be an 800-pound, disabled man that can't get out of bed and be a journalist, because you can blog something. Does that give you the right, because you blog, in your fuzzy slippers out of your bedroom, and you don't go out and you haven't gotten that degree, should you be called a journalist?"

Disregard the fact that Caldwell went from insisting on niceness to vilifying the obese and the disabled in the next breath.

The stereotype of bloggers as slovenly basement dwellers is incredibly antiquated. Seriously, people were complaining about how antiquated it was years ago.

Bloggers rule the world. The New Republic wrote this month that blogger extraordinaire Ezra Klein's Wonkblog has, "arguably become the [Washington] Post’s most successful project, bringing in over four million page views every month."

But blogs that aren't hosted by the Washington Post are still perfectly legitimate. It's the journalism that's produced — how it's presented, the service it performs — that matters.

Voice of San Diego itself, by virtue of being an online-only venture, is probably considered a blog by some people. Kelly Bennett has admitted to occasionally wearing slippers while working from home. On her Apple laptop.

And though Caldwell described bloggers with by far the most disdain, she wasn't alone on the panel in expressing old-school notions of the media.

Darren Pudgil, who served as spokesman for former Mayor Jerry Sanders, said he too is very discerning about who he gives information to.

"We look at the entity. What type of audience does a media outlet have? What type of reach do they have? … Most of the bloggers are a little out there, and aren't informed and have agendas," Pudgil said.

I may be a Very Serious Journalist, but I think I'm missing something.

Even if there are thousands of these elusive, basement-dwelling, slippers-sporting, uninformed bloggers beating down the doors of local public affairs officers (I mean metaphorically, of course, you can't beat down doors in slippers and without leaving the basement), wouldn't they be precisely the people whose writing would be improved with the help of a robust, accurate source of information from their government?

This database lists the position of "public affairs officer, sheriff" for the County of San Diego at an annual salary of $68,640 to $131,040. If the county is paying someone upward of $130,000 to disseminate information, he or she should feel obligated to answer anyone with a notepad and an earnest question (asked nicely), whether they live in a basement, a mansion or a storm drain.

Caldwell and Pudgil aren't the first to confuse legitimate, journalism-performing bloggers with the rest of the vast, amorphous, anonymous internet. But given that they communicate with the press for a living, you'd think they'd have a better idea of who the press is.

I asked a few of my Very Serious Journalist friends what they thought made someone a Very Serious Journalist.

One, a journalism fellow at Harvard, said his criteria included "curiosity, tenacity and skepticism. … I think serious journalists must have a sense of civic duty and believe that their work serves the public interest."...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

UT Lite: Buzz Woolley, Irwin Jacobs and yet another news organization in San Diego: Investigative Newsource

Mayor Bob Filner and "philanthropist" Buzz Woolley

The San Diego Union-Tribune's Doug Manchester isn't the only guy in San Diego who is willing to pony up lots of money to influence opinion. Buzz Woolley and Irwin Jacobs are definitely less rabid than Manchester. They fund a "UT Lite" version of the news at Voice of San Diego and Investigative Newsource. However, all three news outlets conceal pretty much the same stuff.

Bob and Buzz

By Matt Potter
San Diego Reader
Jan. 9, 2013

Investigative Newsource, San Diego’s smallest nonprofit online-news operation, managed to grow its cash a bit in 2011, according to an annual charitable disclosure report filed in August with the Internal Revenue Service and recently posted online by Guidestar.Org. Newsource was put together by former Union-Tribune editor Karin Winner and her close friend and ex-U-T coworker Lorie Hearn during one of many rounds of staff cuts made by then-U-T owner Platinum Equity.

Housed in a small free office at San Diego State University, it became most famous last year for going after then-Democratic congressman Bob Filner over assertions he made in an interview that San Diego’s port had “zero commerce.”...Some Filner backers later said the mayoral candidate had been engaging in a bit of rhetorical hyperbole [Maura Larkins comment: that's pretty obvious] and claimed bias on the part of the two former U-T journalists and the TV station, whose multimillion-dollar high-tech newsroom was paid for by and is named after Qualcomm billionaire Irwin Jacobs. The influential La Jollan ended up backing GOP city councilman Carl DeMaio against Filner in the mayor’s race.

According to its IRS filing, Newsource took in $381,800 in contributions and grants in 2011. (Federal law does not require disclosure of the source of the cash.) That was up from 2010, when the nonprofit received $214,800 from unnamed donors. [I wonder who the donors are. Hmmm. Let me guess.] Newsource ended the year with assets and fund balances of $227,577, the report says. Salaries, other compensation, and employee benefits totaled $212,956. The disclosure says that no one at the organization got more than $100,000 in compensation.

A section on the form for listing compensation of “Officers Directors, Trustees , Key Employees, and Highest Compensated Employees” is blank.

Hearn didn’t respond to a request for more information left at her office.

As president of the board, Winner, who works for free (according to the disclosure), is reported to put in 15 hours a week. Other board members include Mary Walshok, the UCSD extension honcho with many other local connections who is also on the board of La Jolla’s Girard Foundation, the nonprofit run by Voice of San Diego founder R.B. “Buzz” Woolley, where she has been paid $5000 a year for her service, disclosures have shown.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Freelance journalist and American News sue San Diego Police Department for refusing press credentials

Unfortunately, stopping the practice of issuing credentials will not solve the problem of fair access for journalists. The police can still throw people out of press conferences and other news sites if they don't like their reporting.

Cops want press credential lawsuit dismissed
Dana Littlefield
January 5, 2013

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge is considering requests by the San Diego Police and county Sheriff’s departments to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two freelance journalists who claim the agencies unfairly prevented them from gathering news.

The lawsuit was filed in September on behalf of James “J.C.” Playford, a freelance photojournalist and videographer from Ramona, and Edward Peruta, owner of Connecticut-based American News and Information Services.

In it, they claim the law enforcement agencies tried to censor Playford, who files information to American News, by threatening to arrest him, taking his cameras and denying him a press credential. They also contend that by issuing the only press credentials recognized by law enforcement throughout the county, the Police Department is unfairly designating which news services receive “the most up-to-date and reliable information.”

San Diego Police Chief Bill Landsdowne has said that the press passes allow the media to get close to crime scenes and gain access to news conferences while maintaining order and preventing other citizens from interfering with investigations.

But Lansdowne said the credentialing process could use an update. He also said the department is considering whether to get out of the credentialing business.

Last week, he said the matter is on hold pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department announced last month it was discontinuing the issuing of credentials to members of the news media.

Department officials said in a statement that “with the advancement in digital media and the proliferation of bloggers, podcasters and freelancers, it has become challenging to determine who should receive a press pass.”