Journalists use blog entitled “The Stress-Telegram” to, well, beg the audience to pretty please pay attention to them again…

I’m rooting for these guys, I really am.  I useta know a buncha guys at the Long Beach Press-Telegram, back in the days when it was a Knight-Ridder paper, and the Long Beach economy hadn’t yet completely imploded.  It seemed like a fairly decent place to work – then again, my post-collegiate journalistic experience at the time was limited to the Arizona Republic in the Duke Tully aftermath, the Caracas Daily Journal during a “Red Scare” where the publishers bugged our union meetings and threw us to the wolves when then government complained about us not dutifully printing their bullshit propaganda.  So maybe things there were not quite as rosy as they appeared to me at the time … but they certainly sound worse now.

I mean, the posts there have an edge of hysteria and desperation about them. Check this out:

the company’s egregious proposals of zero-substandard wage increases, a
wage freeze anytime during the term of the new contract and its demand
for the right to outsource any and all jobs — all regressive proposals
designed to screw rank and file workers at a time when MediaNews
continues to buy up more papers.

Not exactly warm&fuzzy kum-bay-ya singing going on here. It’s sad to see the effects of the circulation decline (round up all the usual suspects for The Blame Game on that one) are still being felt in newsrooms across the country.  Since most of my case studies have been about newspapers where things are going right, where they’ve decided to innovate and take bold action to try to reverse the course, I haven’t come into contact much with the miserable side of newspapering.  This blog certainly brings it all home, thought. 

The image that keeps popping into my head is of a group of beleaguered refugees in Darfur, gathering around a laptop, furiously pounding out messages about how they’re getting picked off one by one, and that they hope that somewhere out there, someone is listening and gives a shit, and will do something to stop the carnage.  Well, so far that really hasn’t happened in Darfur, and judging by the increasingly shrill and gloomy nature of the posts on The Stress-Telegram, the calvary ain’t exactly coming over the hill for the journalists neither.

On the other hand, I contrasted this rather grim reading with the news item I ran across on TechCrunch about the success the New York Times has had since it abandoned the paywall, and opened up its pages.

According to comScore, it gained 7.5 million readers worldwide from the
end of August through the end of October (November numbers are not out
yet). That is a 64 percent jump (to a total of 19.4 million). Similarly
worldwide monthly pageviews surged 52 percent in that time period to
181 million. Other major news outlets like (4.4
million readers in October), the (3.6 million, with a
subscriber wall), and (3.2 million) saw gains as well during
the Fall, but nothing as dramatic as the

I keep bouncing between the “too little, too late” position about newspapers – that basically, the U.S. papers had a golden opportunity that ended about 2003, and that there’s really nothing they can do now to stem the bleeding … and a “well, maybe they can survive as brands, but not on paper” guarded optimism.

I guess it’s because I’m still chewing my way through the portentous scribings of what Mack Reed calls “puddle-headed prognosticators” in the WAN “Future of Newspapers 2020” report.  Like milk in the fridge, I pretty much take on the flavor of whatever you stick me next to … well, at least until I gnaw my way through the turgid prose of the next article.  I need time to digest all this crystal ball gazing, and to formulate my own reactions to the cavalcade of visions of the future.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to a very interesting effort to use Web 2.0 in a way that really does seek to help out people who are being picked off, one by one … human rights workers in danger zones around the world who are trying to prevent more Darfur/Bosnia/North Korea/fillintheblank situations are trying to form a “Befriend a Campaigner in Danger” social network.  They admit that they need to work on coming up with a catchier title – anyone out there with skillz in marketing wanna give them a hand?

Here’s the concept:

Basically, we (as in the BCD team) get in touch with a human rights
campaigner who has access to an Internet connection (personal or
cybercafe) and voice/video recording and downloading apparatus (more
commonly called a mobile phone with a camera! Though webcams are also

We introduce them to Facebook (which is great for building up
social networks) and give them help on how to create a blog and upload
videos and voice recordings.It is then up to the campaigner to
create regular blogs, documenting his (or her) life, his work, his
concerns. Anything safe for public consumption which won’t put his life
in any more danger than it is at present.

The idea is to create
a following of readers who have become interested in the life of this
person, much as they would be with any blogger (and given it’s a
blogger who is campaigning for people’s lives at great personal risk,
this is pretty interesting stuff!) Then should the campaigner report
that his life is in greater danger (on his page or directly to his
contact in BCD, which for this description is myself), we update his
blog with instructions for people across the world to respond in the
same way that other support networks do, by petitioning the government,
police and other authorities to investigate, to press government
representatives into action and so on, until the danger for the
campaigner is past.

If the campaigner should stop updating, a
friend, fellow campaigner, NGO rep, family member or other trustworthy
contact could be notified and asked to visit the person’s house. If he
is not present they can then inform us and we’ll raise an alert to
those in his network. The same goes if the campaigner should continue
updating in text but stop providing video/voice blogs – this is just in
case someone has gotten hold of the campaigner’s Facebook details and
is masquerading as him.

I realize that I’ve gone rather far afield from my initial subject and impetus for a blog post – but I think that a social network built with technology dedicated to helping out those who stick themselves in harm’s way is a helluvan idea, and one that I have seen happening in fits and starts, at a grass-roots level, in Moscow/Russia. 

They have hit upon a key here to helping themselves – using a blog to chronicle a person’s life, telling the story of that person’s life, and not just the big romantic Struggle Against Injustice, but a blog about all the little minutia of daily life … well, that can really work wonders.

A little girl did that in Amsterdam about 60 years ago.  Her name was Anne Frank, and what differentiates her from the other 12 million people who went into the ovens is that we know her story, because of the touching diary, written in her own voice, that survived her… and that has made millions of people since know and care.

I think they are onto something here, and I think that I am going to try to help out – well, help out in ways that are more than just a simple blog post.

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