Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Beer, Blogs And Bias
from the i'll-drink-to-that dept
The Wall Street Journal has an article focusing on a blog set up by Miller Brewing Company called Brew Blog. There are a few different, interesting points worth discussing here. First, the blog isn't used as a blog about what's going on at Miller Brewing. Instead, Miller hired an experienced reporter, and told him to just cover the beer industry as if he were a beat reporter. In other words, it's reporting news -- and even breaking stories on the competition. In fact, it revealed that main rival Anheuser-Busch was planning a new beer before A-B was able to make the announcement itself. This is certainly a recognition of how content is advertising. The blog clearly isn't "advertorial." It's full-on reporting about the industry, in a way that's interesting and relevant to those in the industry.

What may be even more interesting, though, is what the article says about journalism. In an age in which journalists are whining that their jobs are disappearing, here's yet another example of where suddenly there are new types of jobs for journalists appearing every day. But, even more interesting, is a quote at the end of the article highlighted by David Card. It's from Harry Schuhmacher, the editor and publisher of a fee-based trade publication on the beer industry:

"I tell Miller you're subsidizing a free publication, and it hurts the trade press," he says. "But they don't care."...Mr. Schuhmacher adds that he writes fewer positive pieces about Miller than he once did because he knows Brew Blog will always publish the same stories.

Think about this for a bit. People complain that when you have a company-sponsored publication it will inevitably be biased -- but the sponsorship of that site is totally open and in the clear. The site's content stands for itself. Yet, at the same time, a supposedly "objective" traditional journalist is admitting that he writes fewer stories about Miller because he's upset that it's competing with his own publication. From that, it would certainly seem like the Brew Blog is a lot more credible (it's biases are out in the open), while this fee-based trade pub admits that story choices are sometimes based on personal vendettas.

Copyright Scholar Kicked Out Of Canadian Copyright Panel
from the fair-and-balanced dept
US entertainment industry interests have been pushing for quite some time to get stronger copyright laws in Canada, despite plenty of questions about why they're needed. Thanks to folks like Michael Geist, who has repeatedly shined light on attempts to rush these efforts through, some of these efforts have been set aside until there can be more public debate. But, of course, the industry never rests, and as it's looking to get stricter copyright laws in place in Canada, it doesn't much want to hear from critics who have facts on their side. Geist points us to the rather ridiculous news that a supposedly non-partisan, independent organization called the Public Policy Forum has uninvited a well known expert, Howard Knopf, on Canadian copyright from a symposium being held today. Knopf was going to do a presentation explaining why Canadian copyright law is already stronger and better than US copyright law, and why the US ought to be copying Canada's law, rather than the other way around. However, Knopf believes that PPF was pressured to remove him from the schedule, including removing him from a panel where he planned to debate these issues with a registered lobbyist of the entertainment industry. It's a lot easier to get questionable laws passed when you silence the critics.

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