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tv   Quartz Editor Kevin Delaney at UC Berkeley  CSPAN  April 25, 2019 2:20pm-3:31pm EDT

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testifies on the mueller report. his first appearance is wednesday, before the senate judiciary committee, at 10:00 a.m. eastern. then on thursday, he will speak to the house judiciary committee at a time to be determined. we will have live coverage of both hearings on c-span 3. you can also watch online at or listen live on the free c-span radio app. saturday night, president trump is holding a campaign rally, in green bay, wisconsin. skipping the annual white house correspondents dinner. tuesday, he instructed his administration to boycott the dinner. watch live coverage at president's rally, saturday, at 8:00 eastern. on c-span. and following the rally, watch live coverage at 9:30 eastern of the white house correspondents dipper with featured speaker, author and historian, ron churnow. next, kevin delaney, the founding editor of the economic
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analysis web site courts, discusses the future of digital journalism. from the university of california, berkeley, this runs just over an hour. >> good evening, everyone. my name is nicholas demanshoeau, director of the berkeley center for new media. the hosts with the graduate school of journ limb. of our lecture here tonight. it's my great pleasure to welcome kevin delaney to the art technology and culture lecture series. since ins finding in 19973 my colleague art goldberg the series is an etch pansion of part of the berkeley center for new media in 2005 has brought leading thinkers and practitioners at the intersection of the arts, culture, technology, and design, to the berkeley campus, since 2016 we have also been proud to
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participate in this evening's framing and organizing series, the arts and design mondays series, organized by the associate vice chancellor for the arts and design on campus, shannon jackson and her office. we are particularly grateful to shannon and the a plus d office for covering the rent at the berkeley art museum and pacific film archive, which helps us all speak to you in such a wonderful venue. thumbs up [ applause ] >> the lecture tonight, co-hosted with journalism, is the second in an annual series inaugurated with last year's conversation with frank fuller and nick thompson, on examining the future of the news media, and its role in shaping the future. i think it's particularly appropriate then that we also share tonight's conversation with the cameras of c-span, itself an important instrument of technology, and media in the public service, which is a very
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much in line with the larger mission of this great public university. i can think of few people more qualified to think about that's questions than the founding editor, kevin j. delaney. kevin co-founded the influential business news web site in 2012 and a time when the news media as a whole has been profoundly challenged by shifts in the global economy and the evolution of social media-driven information economies, it has thrived. kevin's grounding for the remarkable success of courts previously lies in his previous experience of the managing eder to of the "the wall street journal" web site where he successfully had efforts to have the online relationship with award winning features and also in the previous experience covering technology as a correspondent for the journal, in the bay area, and europe. courts' international strategy including a remarkable focus on
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india and africa, as two undercovered regions of the globe with thriving and voracious aud ynss for good journalism is part of its many remarkable strengths and is reflected also in kevin's current membership in the council on foreign relations. but if we are to truly ground kevin's current achievements in his values, i would tell another maybe slightly more embarrassing story. dy not know kevin well as an undergraduate even though we overlapped at yale for my first two years and his last. thankfully, we rectified the situation quickly after we both graduated around i got to know kevin in paris while i was living in lonlden after college. i know, tough luck. but even while two years behind him in school, i did very much know him by reputation. at the time, journalism at yale probably a bit like journalism everywhere at the time, was a very clubby affair. even though some of us were already discovering the internet in underground fluorescently lit computer labs, where somehow cigarette smoking was allowed
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but windows were not, above ground, there was only one very well established news source, the oldest college daily, with its clubhouse-like wood paneled building and blue chip rolodex of alumni connections. the yale daily news at the time was very much not available to all. rather, the assumption, or presumption, was that each yale undergraduate would pay for a subscription for a little rolled up piece of paper that would be inserted in your post office box on campus. not even where you lived. for even a resolutely middle class undergraduate like myself, the idea of spending money that i desperately needed for things like pizza and shoes on journalism was laughable. by the time i arrived on the campus, in fact, the yate daily news was so out of touch with the readership that subscriptions were declining and not to mention exhibiting an institution that was so alied
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with the traditional way of doing things that it rarely took power to task. into this gap started an up start publication, the weekly yale herald. enabled very much as kevin reminded me this evening very much enabled by technology, mcintosh desk top publishing and came under his leadership as the most muck raking presence on campus, accessible to be and responsible to the rodership. unlike the hierarchical ritual of paying dues, where you literally ascended from floor to floor over years of graduation, kevin created manifestly an environment that was truly an alternative culture to that. approachable. nonhierarchical. precip tive and fun. i remember it very distinctly as one of the first examples of had in my own career of the fact that all of those qualities were not just the opposite of excellence in work, but were in fact essential to them.
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the next year the yale daily news gave in and started distributing itself for free and a broader media ecology began to thrive. as i discussed it with kevin, he faced what seemed like a difficult choice as an undergraduate. dedicated to a career in journalism since high school, every piece of advice he was et getting was to join the rolodex unlocking juggernaut of traditional media authority. instead, he decided to focus on readers. and on the news itself. and the best way to serve a changing audience in an increasingly economically, ethnically and culturally diverse undergraduate population. and kevin as i would like to think about it maybe didn't get what he thought he wanted but in fact, what we all actually needed. the beginning of a lifetime of optimism and innovation amidst a transforming media landscape. so not only has it all turned out okay for him, you think it very much has a greater chance
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for turning out okay for all of us as a result. to continue to have kevin's patient thoughtful intelligence creating supportive communities of journalists, to help support the rest of us, the way only journalism can. on behalf of myself, indeed edward wasserman of the journalism school, please join me in welcoming kevin j. delaney to berkeley. [ applause ] >> amazing introduction. very few people go as far back as your college newspaper. nicholas didn't mention that one of our great secrets is we covered intramural sports and the yale daily news could not be brought to cover intramural sports and so that was the secret circa 1993. thank you all for coming here tonight. i want to start by thanking nicholas, a dear friend, for bringing me back here to speak tonight. and also bringing me back to berkeley, where my family lived very happily for five years.
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when i think about what inter disciplinary thinking means, i think about nicholas. and i think my appreciation of inter-disciplinary thinking owes a lot to him. nicholas, my wife, a social entrepreneur, and nicholas somehow has managed to collaborate with both of us, despite lisa and i being actually in very separate fields so he is one of the smartest people i know and a real bridge. so thank you. and thank you for having me here. so i'm going to start by telling you about two people who are in some ways, are heroes of mine in the news industry. so the first one is maria ressa. so some of you may know her. she is the founder of a site called rapler. it's in the philippines. and has written pretty critically about president duterte and his civil rights, human rights abuses there. and in return for that, she finds herself now facing five
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criminal charges for tax evasion, that could lead up to ten years in jail. when i spoke to her recently, should he had to get permission from two separate judges in the philippines to actually travel outside of the country. but for all of that, maria said she was optimistic. but a few other journalists including jamal khashoggi, the "washington post" writer who as best we can tell was murdered by the saudi government, one of time's people of the year, you can see the cover here, and maria felt that her raised profile would help keep her safe. she had been speaking with facebook. she was optimistic that they had hired smart people and were serious about getting some of the abuses that were taking place on their platform under control. and i said to her, after all of that, after all of the abuses, after everything, after the mobilization of the duterte thug, the prop gan da that
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happened on facebook was she sure that she was optimistic about the future? >> yes, she was. >> and samir patil, in india, a five-year publication modeled on the atlantic and somewhat predictably he has fallen afoul of the government and people who are affiliated with the government, and samir is optimistic, too. as a wave of media layoffs and we will talk about them was announced in the u.s. recently, samir texted me, and he said, all this investment has helped everyone climb a learning curve. so while no individual company has made everything work, the components are clear. what is also clear is that quality is the only defensible editorial strategy. which means many things based on context. but original journalism is certainly a key element. and this is a surprise positive lesson. samir believes the media is
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wringing its hands to much and not seeing the opportunities it has uncovered. thought experiment, he texted, if buzz feed gets the same money, half a billion, it raised earlier, with all the collective learning until today, they would kick ass. as an aside, if anybody here is looking for a good way to support civil society in the face of strong men, you a tooug cracy, samir and maria, very worthy places to channel your investment. unnatural focus on opportunities too. as nicholas said, i co founed courts in 2012, with the backing of david bradley who owned the atlantic, a small band of us from places such as the economist, "the wall street journal," bloomberg and "new york times" assembled new kind of news organization focused on delivery to mobile devices and open to the social web. while building on the quality journalism and global world view, that the places we come
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from exhibited in their best moments. the last decade has been tough on important parts of the news landscape, particularly in local news. with a devastating loss of newsroom jobs and public accountability that those journalists used to bring. but in other areas, it is a remarkable age of journalism. and courts is one example at home. our web site at one point reached cloe close to 25 million readers in a nt mo, not that far from the size. "the wall street journal" and several times the size of the economist audience. roughly half of our readers come from outside of the u.s. and they include several million readers a month from india, and at times, over a million readers a month from africa, and as nicholas noted those are two places that we have targeted. there were 100 full time journalists on five different continents, we won a globe award, which sort of the business news equivalent of a pulitzer, and apple selected our app as one of the top ten apps of the year. court was was sold this summer
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at five years old to a japanese media company at a valuation approaching $100 million. significantly in excess of the investment required to create it. so quartz's story is one of the possibilities old up by the free web. the global distribution via facebook and other platforms that will succeed it. and the enthusiasm of advertisers to back new approaches to media. but before i turn to where i see news of the future, i feel like i need to further acknowledge the context of today. if anyone had fantasies that this digital news thing was especially easy, or lucrative, they probably were shattered in recent weeks, where they should have been. u.s. media organizations cut over 2,000 jobs just since the beginning of the year. with digital path finders, vice, buzz field, huffington post, among those firing journalists. writing in the guardian, emily bell of columbia university, concluded, a digital free market for journalism doesn't work.
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farhud manju in "the new york times" said a same thing with a more tortured metaphor. he said working in digital media is like trying to build a fort out of marshmallows on a foundation made of marbles in a country ruled by capricious and tyrannical warring robots. so emily acknowledged that "the new york times" and "washington post" were succeeding thanks to their subscription models but argued that few others could replicate their brands or their resources. thomas jefferson wrote in 1787, were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, i should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. he wrote that in 1787. and for those of us who feel similarly, the current climate for media business can be discouraging. that's even before discussing a president who has called the press the enemy of the people. before discussing concerns that
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his accolades might heed that whistle and do what one does to enemies. attack them. kill them. hold them captive. and before getting into how trump hasn't fully acknowledged or condemned the saudi government's role in the killing of jamal khashoggi. so as nicholas previewed before, i have known that i wanted to be a journalist since a teenager, and this is in fact, the newsroom of the yale herald, circa 1993. i decided very early on, i wanted to spend my life contributing to our better understanding of the world, and each other. to knowing what is really going on as best we can. to hold the powerful accountable to. help channel humanity's better instincts. towards solutions. motivated by the pursuit of the truth. i've lived and worked in three different countries and married a citizen of a fourth. and some highly biased toward the free exchange of ideas and experiences. i view journalism as an important public service, one
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that's vital and worthy, even if there is not a great business model. where political and business leaders attack it, or even if the public professes not to test journalists, which is the truth. we can endeavor to do better and make things better and be trustworthy. so i come to this question of the future of news from that perspective. the future of news is likely hard, but it is not optional. so the pragmatic optimism and bravery of maria and samir anchors me as we turn from the fog of today and actually look ahead. so for starters, one thing i think we can say with certainty is that the dominance of the primary digital platforms for distribution of news today, facebook and google, will decrease. part of this is by choice. in its effort to curtail manipulation of its platform by propaganda and disinformation,
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facebook has also dramatically reduced the amount of news that people see on it. take words for example. in march, 2017, readers came via facebook and registered over 13 million page views on quartz. a year later, that was four million. a decline of roughly 70% in our act to reach readers via facebook. i should note that records reach us other ways and so thankfully quartz's audience has remained stable throughout this period. parts of this is also that facebook's various scandals and short comings seem to mean americans use it less. delete facebook may not be a tie dal wave but adults in american spend about 12% of their online time on facebook and a fifth less than two years ago, according to pivotal research. it is a certainty that facebook and google will be regulated by governments in europe, and likely here as well.
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roger mcnamee in his new book lays out some of the directions it could take from blocking facebook from acquiring any more companies, to using anti-trust law to actually break facebook into pieces. facebook will probably experience the hobbling of its business swagger that microsoft experienced 20 years ago. i understand people now, some people are embarrassed to work there. it will be harder it retain talent and this will create opportunities for new entrants. so we have an opportunity today, through our choice to select and shape the news platforms of tomorrow. there is apple news. an aggregation service which already reaches 90 million readers every month. flip board. quietly chugs along. it has 145 million readers a month. readit last year had 330 million monthly users. putting it at or above the level of twitter. interestingly, in the case of readit, it is human moderation
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rather than algorithms that drive the usage. each sub writer is moderated by volunteer users who may be better at ai, at finding and cure rating news. readit is not perfect, we know, this but the human hand in cure rating is an important signal and it points to the power of the important of humans in creating our information commons. then netflix and spotify. it is hard to imagine them not becoming news purveyors of some sort or another as they look to expand. spotify's acquisition of gymlit podcast studio for reportedly over $200 million is an explicit signal that spotify is moving from music and toward news. quartz has launched its own platform for news, an app for ios and android where you can catch up, and share and comment on the news. very deliberate choices about how it is structured.
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journalists actually cureate the home screen and select the stories that you see. comments are moderated. and you can only comment once per article. so you can't shout at other people in the comments in all caps like some people like to do. all of this is good. and it is a powerful signal that people want news and not just the filter bubble that facebook's algorithms might put them in the middle of. and on top of it, the chances of a foreign government's manipulation of our collective psyche to sway an election decrease when the news universe is more diverse, is structured to avoid manipulation, and includes human judgment as to what is actually true. i'm guessing that this will be a best seller on telegraph avenue if it is not already. this t-shirt. one enormous area that needs addressing is how all of these platforms, facebook and google included share revenues with the creators of news.
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news has been suffering from ad revenue siphoned from digital platforms. and facebook and google have spent together a total of $600 million in the next three years in supporting journalism but this is a sort of philanthropic capitalism that has been criticized. facebook and google have used surveillance capitalism to nab all of the new advertising dollars and that $600 million over three years representing the smallest fraction of their spoils. just 1% of their net income last year. facebook profits were $22 billion in 2018. google parent alphabet's worth $31 billion. so the shareholder maximizing silicon valley approach needs tempering. one question is whether any of the news platforms would engage in a serious reset on this front, rather than just charity aiming at appeasing governments and would-be critics in the media. facebook has said it can't, it won't solve the news media's problems. sure.
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but as it shows, chosen not to fully acknowledge its role in the structural problems, facing how people get their news, and how professionals are paid to produce it. so we are where we are. okay. looking forward, i predict that the news of the future will continue to break free from the constraints of newspaper manufacturing, from an earlier century, as it has over the last decade. until shockingly recently, articles were by default on the range of 700 words long, this was a standard unit of production, for news organizations, and part of it is if you're laying out a print newspaper, it's much easier to fit 700 word articles together. charts and photos all sat alongside articles in boxes, because the content management systems, the layout systems, could not actually process those things as part of the flow of the text. reporters didn't write their own headlines. because only the person laying metal type in the manufacturing
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part of the news process knew how many character spaces there were for the headline to fit, as this gentleman is doing right here. when i was a reporter, we still doesn't write headline, even though this guy had retired. years or decades before. so we have broken free of that. so it is much more mon to read an article that is a series of charts or photos, or gifs linked by writing. axios, an upstate news site, their journalism is largely bullet pointed text. quartz has an app and user, you may have the experience of being familiar with this, the experience chatting with someone about the news like you would in text messages and we have journalists that write the script for this. this is the app that apple said was one of the ten best apps of the year and we have a very loyal user base. news organizations increasingly use stories format that snapchat
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developed weaving text and video graphics. i love a 2,000 word feature article but believe it is positive that news is delivered in idioms that technology allows and users are accustomed to and freed from the newspaper manufacturing process finally. there are new and more interesting forms of journalism that we have yet to see, due to the limitations of previous platforms, and our preconceptions about what news actually looks like. and part of the reason that it is important that digital nus organizations thrive is that they're the places where it's most common to do this reinvention of news and how users experience it. i often tell our team at quartz that our biggest advantage, perhaps our own advantage against much bigger news organizations is that we're not sentimental about the form of news, about the way that it has always been produced. about the way that it has been manufactured. so apart from our app where you can chat about the news, one of my favorite samples is a quartz
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article a few years ago and you can see it. gap inc.'s quarterly earnings. one of the driest things you could write about. and other places wrote boring 700-word articles. you can see the headlines. quartz's reporter listened to the company earnings conference call, and wrote a 254-word article with a chart and the headline that you see. banana republic made a blazer with armholes to small for an average woman to get into. it told the story of gap inc.'s quality control problems succinctly and efficiently. the chart was sewn into the narrative. another example of moving beyond traditional media protection limitations is an email that we produced daily, called the quartz obsession and it goes deep on a single topic. what is interesting about it, in this context, is it is an email you that get that actually feels like a web page. you can watch short videos. you can take surveys, you can take quizzes. it's the length of a feature
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article but deconstructed and put back together for a rich efficient experience on your phone. so there is a lot more to do as we go forward. we have 5g wireless services launching this year. the importance of that is that it will provide high bandwidth near zero latency data transfer so mobile internet connection is in the a constraint for sending video to users phones. new demos of phones with folding screens to expand what you're reading. tv sets, despite, for as long as i can remember, being promised to be something more than just places where you watch television shows, have yet to move beyond that. and that's another area of promise. and then there's voice. so news organizations have done some great podcasts. but the potential for voice interaction around news and around journalism actually goes very far beyond that. so that is coming as well. will there be new or different media brands that succeed in these areas? yes. should there be? yes. but looking to the news of the
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future, it's hard not to get stuck on the question of what people actually want. news like democracy can be thought of as a conversation. and if the readers, consumers, users, citizens, don't want news, don't trust it, don't value it, then there is only so much that earnest journalists can do. there has been a clouding of truth, what is truth, alternative facts, truth is not truth, this is the hardest part to get our heads around. humans, biologically wired to like propaganda and filter bubbles, just like we like fat and sugar. for our survival, we need to overcome information obesity and giving people more information, like the calorie counties in restaurants, and nutrition labels, on prepared foods are one approach. brands used to be that seal of informational help. brands mike nelike news organizations like "the new york times" or the san francisco chronicle but the internet undermined the importance of the
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news brand as people see individual articles only in similar facebook formats but that seems to be changing "the new york times" suggests a startsup called news guard, you can see here, providing literally an informational nutritional label for news organizations which at the very least can feed into the signal of the platforms where it is distributed. and the daily mail, listed as unreliable until recently. which a lot of people heralded as an amazing gutsy achievement, although they have backtracked on that. relatedly, there needs to be an active comeback against the manipulation of our news. for years, most of us were too idealistic about the internet. it brought people together. they are super smart bloggers and an amazing thing called wikipedia, which created this rich knowledge, and ideas, with news here, but we didn't acknowledge the hacking and the manipulation and disinformation and surveillance that we all biologically are wired for and
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the internet platforms are steadily enabling, and various less naive people were pursuing the other platforms need to do everything they can do to structure themselves so they can avoid those problems. and resist the easy product -- and resist easy product design that manipulations our brains. this requires active effort by people in the industry and those who consume the news. i am happy that the media has been stripped of some of its arrogance. there is structural sexual harassment and poor treatment of women in television. for example, at cbs news and fox news. and it was symptomatic. the role of the media in both perpetuating and exposing the perpetrators of sexual harassment is one of the most vexing and inspiring things about me too. respect and equality are really important and lack of arrogance. i can say that roughly 65% of quartz's news room is female.
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roughly 50 me% of our readers i female, which is rare for a business publication. we're engaged in a multiyear journalism project called "how we'll win," which is about the role we all play in getting to fair, equitable society in workplaces. and for what it's worth, i'm not totally surprised by the failure of or the cuts at vice, buzzfeed and elsewhere, huffington post. mike had trouble reaching a big advertising base with its generous offering and bet its future on facebook video well after it was clear that wasn't a wise thing to do. vice is a tv studio and is reorganizing itself as such. buzzfeed is cutting to reach profitability, which it hopes to do. quartz was profitable in our fourth year in 2016, and after a few years of investments, has a business plan to return to
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profitability. acti axios has operated in individual years, at least. it's probably not coincidental that all of the ones i've just mentioned have some connection to business news, which professionals and investors are willing to pay for, and advertisers are willing to pay premiums to appear next to. business news has an audience whose self interest is tied to truth, even if it's sometimes uncomfortable. and some of the homes to the best journalism historically have been places like the "wall street journal", "new york times." some of the best has been business journalism. reporting on corruption at th theranos. i argue the problems that we are
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tackled are ones of public policy, accountability and relevance to all of us. it's vital we understand the future of work, health care, finance, technology, cities, taxation, and related topics that business news organizations are covering. could the successful business model for business news anchored by subscriptions and lucrative advertising be applied to other areas in difficulty such as local news? i don't know the answer. but i think it has some promise, especially if there's a niche market. when there is a niche market to serve and people are willing to pay. there are other nonbusiness examples of news organizations thriving. such as the athletic, the sports journal, the skin, game let, the podcasting studio that spotify just acquired. b corps and nonprofits like vt digger are valuable models, as well. so i think the people proclaiming the end of the
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digital news business have too short a time frame, or a failure of imagination. it's not easy, but as samir said, the surprise-positive lesson is that quality is the only defensible editorial strategy, and original journalism is certainly a key element. quartz had an important experience not long after a launch in 2012. linkedin was sending lots of readers to quartz, hundreds of thousands per month, which was a lot at a time for us, featuring headlines and people we click through to actually come to quartz. then all of a sudden that number dropped to close to zero. you can see it on the chart here. linkedin had actually launched something which it called influencers and they asked people like richard branson to write posts on linkedin itself. so kind of from one day to the next, linkedin stopped sending people to places like quartz and harvard business review and sent them to posts on linkedin itself
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written by people like richard branson. if we had overoptimized our content to work on linkedin, this would have been existential. but we're young. we just rolled with it and focused on other places like facebook, having learned an important lesson. the quality of the content, the journalism, the creativity, the ideas were all you could really control over the long-term. and you had to be pragmatic about the cycles of products and platforms and consumer habits. i think it's possible to be realistic about things like that, but also remain engaged and anchored in some optimism. as samir said, the components of what can work are clear and editorial quality is an anchor for that. and i wasn't kidding earlier when i said that maria and samir could use your support. and, in fact, all of us can play a role in this by buying quality journalism, whether it's a newspaper or subscription to a
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website or sending money to someone like maria. i think the news of the future can get better, but we have to want it to. thank you. [ applause ] >> so because i forgot to do so earlier, i will explain what will happen now. kevin will join me here on stage. some of you have already put questions on index cards. some of you will continue to do so. we'll have ushers bringing those up to the front of the house. and we'll look forward to sharing a conversation with you for the next half hour or so. >> so while we're waiting for our first questions to come up, i thought i would bring our conversation back to one we had here at the berkeley center for new media last year on the 53rd
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anniversary of the berkeley free speech movement, and only as it turned out a week after mill oppose list's vast hacking of the university and its appearance in the public press to make a global media event out of 14 people assembling for ten minutes in front of sproul hall. so this is the question of the dynamics of attention versus content that as we were discussing tim woo has talked about how the media landscape of today fundamentally changes things like speech and free speech. and i wanted to get your thoughts on that and how it's affected the business of journalism as well. >> yeah. i think it's a really interesting question and dynamic as tim has pointed out that our basic assumptions about free speech are actually not well equipped to handle. so the first amendment was basically the assumption around the first amendment was around
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protecting speech from government suppression, basically. but as nicholas was saying, what we see now is another tactic that's increasingly common, and we've seen this a lot on facebook and on twitter and a lot of these platforms. it's not that you're actually suppressing the speech. you're actually just flooding people's attention with other competing things which may or may not be true. that are in opposition to this. and so you all know this. this is the misinformation and the propaganda. some people throw up their arms and say i really don't know what to believe. and the effect is very similar to if you unplugged the computer or took away the printing press. the original speech actually just can't survive, can't break through on the platforms that are optimized for the -- the spread of this other kind of speech. so i think the implications for what we all should want to see
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in the future of journalism, the future of news, is that there needs to be humans. and so there needs to be human curators who can break through this kind of flood of information in some cases. and interestingly, it's a direction that facebook actually was going in. they had the trending topics on facebook which had humans who, from the sea of speech were actually pulling out things they thought were true and interesting and relevant for the people who came to facebook's home page. and crazily, in the -- in the face of flooding of this information comments, facebook fired the humans who were out of that, pulling the items that were true and worthy of our attention. >> this leads in well to the next question and our first audience question. i'll also say, if you feel a
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question coming over you, just raise your hand and if you don't already have an index card, we'll get you one and if you are holding up an index card, we'll take it from you. the next question, and i'll expand a little bit. the questioner asks, does quartz use any ai tools, or computational automation tasks or want to? and maybe you can expand even on the impact and potential impact of machine intelligence on journalism. i know bloomberg already has ai writing business articles being done by reporters, you know, even five or ten years ago. >> yeah. so the answer to the question -- so there are some news organizations that are using ai to basically write articles or using machine learning and doing simple things like financial earnings releases, translating charts into articles, some basic sports things. if you read a box score, you can actually translate it into a templated article about these things. so there is some of that going on. we got a grant -- i'm really excited. we just announced a ai studio at
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quartz. it's based on a grant from the knight foundation. and the project is to use ai in tools in the pursuit of journalism. so it's not like taking data and then having machines write articles that could pass for human written articles. it's actually giving journalists super powers in their reporting to come through big data sets and find patterns in facts that they're compiling and so forth. so the answer to the question, it's not a -- it's not a capability that we have now, but we have literally just hired some journalists and programmers to start working on this, and think that it's really super interesting and we should put these ai super powers to work in the pursuit of truth. >>. >> here's a question that you
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and i have also discussed as very relevant here in the bay area, which has to do with those global questions, but also with the effect of technology to cause what the questioner calls the almost total collapse of local journalism. adding my little hometown newspaper kept an eye on the politicians who ran local government and no one is doing that now. >> yeah. i mean, this is a big issue and i think it is one of the great civic tragedies of our day, what's happened to local news and accountability journalism. and this is an area where facebook and google are adding some financial support. but, you know, it's not going to be the answer to what we need here. there are some -- i don't know the answer, so i should start by saying that. and i'm not super qualified to tell you how local news is going to be saved. but there are some really interesting examples of ways in which people are pursuing this.
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i mentioned berkeley side and vt digger, which are both really interesting endeavors to actually figure this out. you all know that b corp is interesting, vermont nonprofit, a bunch of journalists got laid from a newspaper in vermont and found funding a combination of corporate sponsorship and foundation funding and membership, and they have $1.5 million a year operating budget. and they're able to actually do a lot of the accountability journalism that local newspapers did very valuably. so we're still trying to figure this out. people need to care in communities. they can't just expect this to happen without citizens providing support in one way or another. but there are models out there that i think are showing the way, often with nonprofit
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foundation support to actually make this work. >> this relates directly to another question, which is as journalism struggles for profitability, how do you feel about billionaires like bezos getting into media or news business. lorraine jobs bought another part of "the atlantic." what's the -- is this for good or ill? or some combination? >> i think, you know, at our moment in history, i think it's hard to say that this is a bad thing. billionaires deploying their money to pay for professional journalists. i think there are some better questions you could pose about this. you know, what if the billionaires control the news? is that a good thing? what biases are they going to bring to coverage over time, whether through explicit or
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implicit signals to the people who are running the organizations that ultimately they employ? and so i'm -- i think we have to be honest about the questions that are involved. but i'm really in general enthusiastic about billionaires deploying their money to -- to employee journalists, as long as journalists do real reporting that we all read. "the atlantic" hired something like 100 staff over the last year, thanks to the new ownership of lore even powell jobs. i think that's a good thing. and you know, again, there are some caveats and i think over time we need to hold them accountable to good stewardship of these organizations. but in the moment, it's hard to complain about how they're deploying their money. >> i would step in to actually also make a direct connection to the university, and even the public university, where we're
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increasingly dependent on philanthropy and donations, which brings with it also the need for continued vigilance and accountability, but is not something we could do without. >> yeah. and journalists are generally pretty cranky and see through a lot of things, just as a group -- if you know any journalists, you probably could say that. so i'm sure that marc benioff is not getting super cozy treatment from the rank and file in the news room at "time." >> here's another question about money. do you worry that the shift to pay walls and subscriptions excludes those who can't afford it and leaves a class of people in the dark? >> i totally do. i think that's a really, really big issue. and it's on parallel with local news that if everything -- if all news of quality requires you to pay for it, then people who can't pay for it are left out
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of -- left out of having access to that. i think that's a really big issue. you know, our own approach at quartz has been that we -- the bulk of the content -- what we've traditionally produced is free. we have added membership as something areas
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of -- >> it's a good question. one thing i would say to start is that it's been really important for us to have journalists who come from a place covering the place. and so our model is not to have people from brooklyn and then put them in lagos or put them in dehli. so this is not exactly the question, but i think in terms of the sort of neo colonial intrusion of a larger global media power on the information ecosystem of a country like malawi, i think our approach is coherent with recognizing the talent and the values of the place. i think our audiences are not the same, and our audience -- interestingly, our audience for
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content in africa and india sort of mixes in with the global content. so one super interesting thing we -- a few years ago we analyzed what people in africa -- readers of quartz in africa are reading, as best as we could tell. and they were reading the african coverage. they're reading u.s. coverage. a lot of it was tech coverage. and they were reading a lot of coverage about india. and so that wasn't something that i actually expected to see. that our readers in africa were actually among the most voracious consumers of the news we're producing in india. there is some similar economic development, you know, phases. there is an indian diaspora in africa. i don't think that we're competing directly with the local news organizations in africa, necessarily. but i also respect the -- i think it's a good question.
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>> actually, one last thing. one thing we've tried to do is actually bring the tools of quartz to local news rooms in africa. i shouldn't forget this. so we had an initiative two years ago which we called "atlas for africa." we have a charting platform and it's called "atlas," a tools journalists can use to make charts. it's free, and we got a grant and actually went into -- quartz staff went into a bunch of news rooms across the sub sahara and africa and shared the tool with the news rooms and talked about how they could use it in their work. >> so it's a good segue to our next question, which is about new tools in journalism, or new kind of media phenomena shaping how we consume information. there's two separate questions, but i'll put them together. one is the prominence of sort of self-publishing aggregators
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represented by medium that are kind of -- the questioner says they seem to be trying to do a rollup of long-form journalism as a place for that kind of extended content. and then the second question is your -- your thoughts on user comments themselves, as what -- on articles in terms of what they do to discourse. and you talked a little bit about how you tried to get them to improve versus to mean it. but i would be interested in thinking about those new together, related to one of the most interesting parts of your talk, which is the ability of digital platforms to give us fundamentally new containers for information. >> i think, like -- one of the things that we said in that sort of initial letter when we launched quartz to our readers was that we believed that collectively our readers knew much more than we ever would. and i think as a journalist or
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as a news organization, that has to be the starting point for you. you don't own the truth and then there are people outside. and so we've tried over the years to find ways to actually bring our readers into the content. at one point, we had -- we had allowed people to annotate quartz's articles. and so the idea was that you could respond to a specific section of the article, and ideally you would say, and here's a link to this amazing data source on this point. or you guys got this wrong, here's how you could fix it. it turns out that, like, there are not a lot of people who want to spend their days annotating quartz articles. we discovered for good and bad. but it's a premise that we actually remain pretty committed to. and as i mentioned, we've launched this platform, which is an app that actually does have commenting on the news. and it's pretty constructive.
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we've done a few things that i think are key structural reasons for it to work. so the first thing we've done is we've recruited a bunch of people to comment regularly. and so this is people like roger mcnamee, and sue desmond helmand, head of the gates foundation. the chinese ai expert investor. and so they're commenting in a really, like, interesting way and kind of signaling the type of civic conversation that we're looking for. anyone can comment, but it felt important to have some people who could model this sort of conversation. the second thing is, as i mentioned, it's structured so you can only comment once. so you can't shout back and forth at other people. and it turns out that that actually makes a huge difference. if you can't go back and forth
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with someone about whether -- about trump or obama or whoever you want to sort of shout about, it leads to more civil conversation. and then the last thing is we have journalists who are moderating the conversations. and so when people are -- aren't behaving civilly, we can push their comments down, so people don't see them. there's this great thing called shadow banning, which means that the person who left the profane or angry comment still sees the comment themselves, but no one else sees it. [ laughter ] so that means they don't get mad at us, because they don't realize we have taken it down. so there are lots of techniques. so we're going to -- later this year, we're going to try and bring this back to the articles on and see if we can't, like, get commenting right for once. so -- and then the first part of the question was medium. >> i was maybe trying a little
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too eagerly to synthesize between questions. but the relationship between platforms like medium for -- >> yeah. >> the intrusion on the regular news business or the relationship to it. >> i think, as you can tell from my remarks earlier, i think it's better to have more platforms with earnest people trying to create places where people go and read long-form journalism. i think that's a really -- you know, that's a really good thing. the truth -- you know, as you saw, quartz's readership from facebook went like this. and our readership from linkedin went like this. and then like this. and, you know, as you can see, individual platforms can greatly affect whether their users actually find a publications content on that platform. but the truth is that people want to read stuff. and so despite all of these
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things happening, we still have tens of millions of readers every month who come to quartz, despite those sort of scary charts that i showed you. and so i think a medium as another place that allows people to find stuff they're hungry for and i think that's a good thing. >> what do you think of the -- the question referred or -- or made an implication that someone in a previous age, someone like jeff bezos would have had to collaborate with a journalist for his sort of dear mr. pecker letter, but instead was able to put it out there as himself. do you think that makes the world a better place or is just the nature of news in our time? >> it would have been a really complicated journalistic assignment to get. to get that call from jeff bezos and translate that into a family-friendly article.
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so i think it's a fact. and, like, fine. he wrote a really kind of bold and funny post on medium. and if there is no journalist as an midterm immediate mediary, he could have put it on a press release or press wire. i don't know, that doesn't bother me. >> this is a berkeley question, but also a question at the heart of a lot of our -- at the intersection of hopes and fears, let's say, about news. which is what if or do you think there is a chance that business news for at least the financial elite is the only business news that survives? do you think that is the prospect that we face? >> i don't think so. and i think it's because there are other examples of categories of people. and you may not find this like
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any more reassuring. but paid or journalism for sports enthusiasts apparently has a bright future. journalism for millennial women apparently has a bright future. and you can go kind of down the categories. you know, podcasting actually -- we just had some examples with anchor and gimlet being acquired by spotify. really super powerful platform there, has a pretty bite future as far as i can tell. and so i don't know that the categories of journalism that are financially viable, independent of support from members, philanthropists, foundations, good souls is -- i don't know how infinite that category of journalism is.
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but it's definitely bigger than just business journalism. >> so the -- we're going to finish with our last two questions. more inside the business of journalism. one is -- which i'm interested in the question, as well. how has quartz managed to avoid the curse of the, quote, pivot to video? and where does moving images and other forms of interactive media factor into your long game or even your medium game. >> yeah. quartz has some great journalists who are working on video. we have this show which happens to be distributed on facebook, where we weekly do field reporting in -- and we've done a bunch in china and in africa and the latest one was in lisbon, in talking to people about how the rise of airbnb and people wanting to act like locals when they're tourists has basically destroyed lisbon for a lot of the people who live there. and so we have some great
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original journalism that's going on there. we didn't pivot to video and stake our entire future on it. we see it more as one of the ways in which we are journalists and one of the forms in which our journalism takes. i wish that video was a lot easier. so it's pretty expensive. it's from a business standpoint. and this idea that there is a kind of magical model for how you -- how you finance it is, like, clearly not been true. and painfully demonstrated that. there is -- there are business models around distribution. so television channels, netflix, hulu, amazon, are paying for video content. and that's among the things that we think about. we've had one of our stories as being optioned for a tv series. another one is being shopped as a documentary for someplace.
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so those are ways in which you can kind of creatively finance further investment in journalism. >> and then the last question i think is a wonderful one to end on and a very sincere question from our most cherished community at berkeley, which is our students. what can a student or a student of journalism do to be well-prepared for whatever the future of news is to bring? how can we both leaders and co conspi conspirators in innovation? >> that's a great question. thanks. i think the thing that basically when we all go to how we -- we at quartz -- what we're looking for in journalists, which may be one way to answer. like, we look at our journalists. can they write some basic things? do they have some relevant experience to what we would be looking to do? and then the fundamental thing
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for me, and when i'm interviewing journalists who are coming to work at quartz, the fundamental thing that i look for is, is this a curious person? because more than training in a specific video production technique or cms or whatever the specific tactic you can learn, if you're not a fundamentally curious person, you're going to really struggle to excel in this profession. and so when i talk to journalists in this context, i'll say -- i'll try and just get them talking. talking about stories. and see, is this person just curious about things? and one of the most memorable times was speaking with ann kyoto, who is quartz's design reporter. and she started -- she came in and was telling me -- before she started, she is telling me about a trip where she had gone to
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minute manila, and she said i went to the philippines to do some reporting, and she said i actually -- while i was there, i went to this neighborhood in manila where there are forgers, and you can hire these forgers to forge a passport or driver's license or -- and so she got a pulitzer prize certificate forged with her name. this is pretty cool. and then she said, you know, there are actually these really sort of archaic forms of clicker feed that are practiced and preserved in this neighborhood in the philippines, because they're used on diplomas. so this sort of form of calligraphy. so these philippine forgery artists preserving these ancient forms of calligraphy. and i thought this is super interesting. we're going to hire you and
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you're going to write both of these stories. and she said, yeah, i was there in a typhoon and it was really interesting, because i was taking a car to the airport, and all of the road to the airport is lined with billboards on, you know, just kind of standard billboards. and the billboards themselves had actually been removed, because they were afraid that the -- they would basically take flight in the typhoon and endanger people. she said but it was super fascinating visually, because there is the -- these kind of exoskeletons of the billboards were still there, these rusting steel skeletons. and she said, you know, it's as if the skeleton of our commercial society was laid bare. and she had taken a bunch of photos on instagram. and so -- and i was like, you have to write that story. after we hire you. and so the answer to -- the long way of answering the question, but the answer is you have to be a good writer, and reading is, i
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think, for any young person, especially journalists, is the number one thing you can do to -- for self improvement. reading books. reading long form journalism. but beyond that sort of gaining any experiences you can and actually testing yourself on just how curious you are is another, like, key thing to do, if you aspire to be a successful journalist. >> that is a great note to end on. i would like to ask you all to join me in thank kevin delaney very much. >> thank you for having me. [ applause ]
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tonight, american history tv is in prime time. we'll focus on the three-mile island nuclear accident, which took place 40 years ago. the partial meltdown in 1979 near harrisburg, pennsylvania, is considered the most serious nuclear power accident in u.s. history. we look back at the incident with the cbs news documentary from the period, "fallout from three mile island." that's followed by an american history tv and washington journal co production with guest samuel walker, author of "three mile island" and eric epstein, chair of three mile island
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alert, who talked about his experiences at the time and how the community is marking the 40th anniversary. watch that tonight, beginning at 8:00 eastern, here on c-span3's american history tv. and on book tv in prime time, it's discussions on political memoirs. we'll begin with ken starr and his book, "contempt: a memoir of the clinton investigations." senator doug jones on "bending toward justice." george papadopoulos on "deep state target." william burns on "the back channel" and robert brown's "you can't go wrongdoing right." it starts tonight at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 2. looking ahead to next week, attorney general william barr testifies on the mueller report. his first appearance is wednesday at 10:00 a.m. eastern. then on thursday, he'll speak to the house judiciary committee at a time to be determined. we'll have live coverage of both
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hearings on c-span3. you can also watch online at or listen live on the free c-span radio app. once, tv was simply three giant networks and a government-supported service called pbs. then in 1979, a small network with an unusual name rolled out a big idea. let viewers decide all on their own what was important to them. c-span opened the doors to washington policymaking for all to see, bringing unfiltered content from congress and beyond. in the age of power to the people, this was true people power. in the 40 years since, the landscape has clearly changed. there is no monolithic media, broadcasting has given way to narrow casting, youtube stars are a thing. but c-span's big idea is more relevant today than ever. no government money supports c-span. its nonpartisan coverage of
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washington is a service by your cable or satellite provider. c-span is your unfiltered view of government, so you can make up your own mind. the complete guide to congress is now available. it has lots of details about the house and senate for the current session of congress. contact and bio information about every senator and representative. plus, information about congressional committees, state governors and the cabinet. the 2019 congressional directory is a handy spiral-bound guide. order your copy from the c-span online store for $18.95. the new democrat coalition action fund recently hosted a policy conference with several democratic members of congress to discuss their party's agenda for the current congressional session, as well as what issues they say need to be addressed heading into the 2020 election cycle.


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