Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fighting for journalism's future

File this under best-laid plans.

The idea originally was to travel post-Thanksgiving to Washington, D.C., to help auto-less daughter get ready for an overseas assignment. (You can't buy everything you need at the CVS Pharmacy located atop the nearest Metro subway stop. Eventually, you have to travel to Target in the 'burbs.)

Then, once she was in-flight, I could use her apartment as a base of operation for exploring job options in D.C. And, given the timing of the trip, I could also indulge a bit of wonkiness: taking in the Federal Trade Commission workshop on the future of journalism in the Internet age.

Ah, if only...

A Monday morning networking breakfast at the National Press Club was interrupted by a fire alarm and a cellphone call. The former was only a drill, but we nevertheless had to descend the stairs from the 13th-floor premises, cutting short the slim hour allocated for networking. The latter canceled a planned networking lunch that day, and took several e-mail exchanges to reschedule.

Then another e-mail moved a nice-to-finally-meet-you meeting with a prospective employer up a day, to Tuesday. The networking lunch formerly scheduled on Monday became a late-Wednesday coffee date instead. Both changes blew my plans to attend the FTC workshop in person, as those of us who pre-registered were told the early bird would get the seat and the rest would watch via videoconference in a hall a few blocks away.

So I cut my losses and saved the Metro fare by logging on to the webcast when I could. The morning session of the first day is here (bear with the intro video); you can get access to the other sessions here. (One downside to the webcast was its nearly stationary camera, meaning none of the speakers' data slides was shown as they talked.)

Big on the first day were appearances by News Corp.'s Rupert Murdoch and Huffington Post's Arianna Huffington. Their presentations were critiqued by New Haven Independent Editor Paul Bass, who himself was a panelist on the second day of the workshop. Or you can listen for yourself on the FTC webcast: Murdoch is introduced at about 57 minutes; Huffington at about 2 hours, 45 minutes.

The workshop ran for two days, from about 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Officials said it will be followed in the spring by more workshops focused on some of the policy issues related to journalism today: changes to copyright law or cross-ownership restrictions, for instance.

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