Blog me liberty, or blog me death?

OK, everyone put on your blue facepaint and your best Scottish accent, and shout along with me, “The enemy may take our lives, but they will never take OUR FREEDOM!!” Thank goodness I live in a country where I have the freedom to write whatever I want in my blog (whether anyone reads it or not is another matter). Unlike Iran, where the parliament is debating a bill that adds blogging to the list of crimes punishable by execution. Well, that is, “establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy,” according to a post in ReadWriteWeb.

Blogging is apparently very popular in Iran, where a new generation of young people frequently challenge the old, hyper-conservative religious government (hmm, don’t read much about those young people in the press). The Committee to Protect Bloggers says that Iran is “among the worst offenders in terms of harassing, arresting and imprisoning bloggers, as well as students.”

ReadWriteWeb says it “condemn(s) the application of the death penalty to bloggers as itself an abhorent crime. Cultural relativism has its place, but this isn’t it. We want to offer our support to the new generation of Iranian young people struggling for freedom online and elsewhere, in any way we can, short of a US invasion of the country.” Hear, hear!

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Journalists: Business is not a dirty word

At the Future of Journalism Conference at Harvard last week, 100 journalism researchers and professors heard repeated messages that the mainstream media must embrace, not fight, the blogosphere and that serious reporting can survive by catering to niche audiences. Here is a summary of a report on the conference from the journalism institute Poynter.org (the full report is here).

Carl Sessions Stepp, a University of Maryland journalism professor, said journalists should consider themselves entrepreneurs and find ways to make more money from existing news services like archives. From Gutenberg to Google, he added, “Young marginal upstarts with great ideas is a journalistic tradition.”

Robert G. Picard from Sweden’s Jonkoping University, said that although journalists hate the words “business” and “money,” they must develop new revenue streams. He said news organizations should abandon their “all you can eat buffet” offerings of mediocre coverage of all subjects. Instead, Picard said, they should provide higher quality news for smaller audiences, present information in various media, and reuse and reconfigure existing content.

Clyde Bentley, a Missouri School of Journalism professor, said, “we’ve had our head in the sand” about the blogosphere’s impact.

The debate over bloggers’ influence “is over,” he said. “Blogging is a numbers game. It’s there and we’ll just have to deal with it.” Noting that 120,000 new blogs a day dwarf the country’s 1,427 dailies, he said editors should treat the blogosphere like a giant wire service.

Bentley said that while consumer demand for content decreases, their demand for content navigation increases. “There will always be a place for the journalist who can craft a story better than anyone else, but there will be a bigger place for the journalist who can help media consumers find the information they want.”