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When hunting down the truth turns deadly, the Committee to Protect Journalists comes to the rescue

By Michael Hurtig
Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

The Committee to Protect Journalists

by Brian Bruegge

Every day, stories of war, political unrest, and oppression reach us from places across the globe. We are able to hear news about the uprising in Syria, the violence of Mexican drug cartels, or protests in Egypt just by picking up the newspaper or going online. Yet we often have little knowledge of the dangerous and even lethal conditions that many journalists face to bring us this information.

In recent weeks, several journalists have been murdered or killed in the crossfire of conflict in countries such as Syria and Somalia. Already this year, thirteen journalists have been killed as a result of their work. Yet journalists do not need to face these challenges alone, thanks to the help of organizations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which works to expose and prevent these dangers to members of the press.

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Update: El Sistema continues its success in Venezuela and abroad

By Michael Hurtig
Monday, February 27th, 2012

Last year at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning Conference, we covered a panel that was held on the topic of El Sistema – a highly admired and emulated program developed in Venezuela to improve the lives of children through classical music. El Sistema began 33 years ago, and as evidenced by last year’s panel, the program has gone on to inspire a great number of teachers and musicians both here in the United States and elsewhere across the world.

In Venezuela, the program continues to thrive and currently provides 310,000 children free access to musical instruments and instruction, according to a recent New York Times report. By 2015 the program’s founder José Antonio Abreu hopes to increase this number to 500,000. The success has been enough to earn it government support to the measure of approximately $64 million annually, in addition to a large base of financial support from private donors and foundations.

Here in the United States, the example of El Sistema has inspired organizations such as El Sistema USA to attempt to recreate the success of the program among American children. Across borders, the core philosophy of El Sistema remains the same: using music to foster cooperation, dedication, and feelings of community among children. The program’s goal: to raise children above some of the poverty and adversity they may face, brightening their future.

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A National Paywall for online news that works

By Michael Hurtig
Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

An internet start-up from Slovakia may have figured out how to get people to pay for news online.  The full story at The Columbia Journalism Review.

Watch an interview with the company’s founder and CEO, Tomas Bella:

Interview with Tomas Bella, CEO of Piano Media from Bill Baker Blog on Vimeo.

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Mixed-Up files and demigods: For children, the first visit to the museum can be on TV or between the pages of a book.

By Michael Hurtig
Monday, February 13th, 2012

source: Wikimedia commons

Anyone who has read E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler fondly recalls the “behind-the-scenes” view into the Metropolitan Museum of Art provided by Claudia and Jamie’s extended sleepover there. Published in 1967, this book is often one of the ways children first become aware of and excited about the Met. Over 40 years later, it is still one of the most asked-about by children visiting the museum.

Sesame Street’s “Don’t Eat the Pictures,” which took the entire cast of characters on a field trip to the Met, is another example. With its launch in 1969, Sesame Street marked a milestone in the use of media for education, and this special episode, which aired on PBS in 1983, continued that mission, exposing and introducing young viewers to the wonders of the Met’s collections.

As 21st century mass media culture has continued to develop, more and more people have realized the power of literature and/or films to engage children in learning and exploring new subjects or new places. Read More …

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How is media reshaping our consciousness?

By Michael Hurtig
Monday, February 13th, 2012

“All of us have become the unwitting workforce for social change.” -Marshall McLuhan

Lincoln Douglas debates (source: wikimedia commons)

In nineteenth century America, it was common for citizens to gather and listen to dense political oratory for hours at a time.  At the first of the famous debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in 1858, Lincoln proposed that the debate be split in half to make it easier on the audience.  The two men would share the podium for just four hours before lunch and three hours after—even with the break, an excruciating stretch of time by today’s standards.  Yet the crowd that day reportedly listened with rapt attention for the full seven hours, only breaking their silence to express support or disagreement, or to applaud a well-turned phrase.  Nineteenth century audiences regularly gathered by the thousands to perform similar feats of sustained attention.[1] Neither Lincoln nor Douglas were considered prolix, yet just one of Lincoln’s responses that day ran to over sixteen thousand spoken words.

In contrast, the entire televised debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in September of 1960 ran to fewer than ten thousand words. Read More …

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Newspapers and books fight for a niche in evolving digital ecosystem

By Michael Hurtig
Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

A thing of the past? (credit: Susan Lesch)

In five years–though maybe not four months, as the Atlantic proposes–print editions of even the most venerable papers could join phone booths, video store late fees and Saturday mail delivery as quaint relics of the past.

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Weekly Media News Briefing, January 23rd-27th

By Michael Hurtig
Friday, January 27th, 2012

Nielsen ratings have been the industry standard measure of tv audiences since the Nielsen Company introduced their proprietary television market research service in 1950. Accordingly, advertisers and networks have used these numbers to gauge the success and failure of programming.

Now, as the technology to pinpoint audience sizes and different kinds of viewer engagement explodes, so has market research – and many new companies offering services each with their own take on what constitutes viewer engagement have begun to dot the industry landscape.

One such notable company is BlueFin Labs, founded in 2008, a product of MIT’s Media Lab. BlueFin measures audience engagement across social media to give a better snapshot of audience response to television shows. A video explaining their model is below, take a look to get a better idea of the big picture surrounding the new approach to understanding television audiences.

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Weekly Media News Briefing, January 16th-20th

By Michael Hurtig
Friday, January 20th, 2012

As major media and entertainment sites invest in original content, the cloud of niche programming and new shows available exclusively online is growing. While prominent sites like the Huffington Post, and the Daily Beast are all featuring new video content on their sites in a bid to establish themselves as serious players in the convergent media space, Netflix, Hulu, and others are making deals which will see exclusive, high-budget shows incorporated with their other offerings, almost all of which have to this point been sourced from studios or other independent content creators.

With these new investments comes not only an experiment, but a deluge of original scripted and non-scripted programming – and this isn’t only happening online. Throughout 2011 the cable industry saw an upsurge in original programming as channels sought to keep themselves relevant in an era when running re-runs is slowly becoming a less popular practice.

What does this mean for viewers? While it may become trickier to navigate the video and entertainment ecosystem, competition is greater than ever, and this means viewers may end up with more high quality programming that’s relevant to them.

Read More …

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Weekly Media News Briefing, January 9th-13th

By Michael Hurtig
Friday, January 13th, 2012

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Youtube’s Robert Kyncl spoke on the company’s new approach to premium content. The future of premium internet video, a distribution pipeline which Kyncl says will take a 75% share of the total video market by 2020, Read More …

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With the Vegetable Orchestra, music is more than just food for the soul

By Michael Hurtig
Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

For the musicians of the Vegetable Orchestra, peppers make up horns, hollow pumpkins replace drum sets, and bound celery sticks resemble guitars. In an age when music is defined by its viral prevalence, The Vegetable Orchestra is literally going back to its roots.

The eleven-person orchestra records and performs all of its music by using fresh vegetables as instruments. Read More …

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