Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Free Press' Cafe: Around the publisher's ruse, Part 2

Yesterday's piece about Dan Lett's involvement in the Free Press Cafe and how it relates to journalism ethics and the existing citizen journalism/blogging community received tons of support. Free Press readers aren't as gullible as some people would like them to be, and sense something fishy is going on with this deal. They are not wrong. 

Lett's newfound praise for the citizen journalism program at CNC on Monday lacked any mention about a key role that citizen journalists play in the media landscape.

Holding the media to account. 

Part of the reason many of us get into this and putting ourselves out there is challenging the established narrative, a role MSM increasingly does not play. Not surprisingly, no "training sessions" have been held on this important aspect of the existing community. The most recent "training session/event" will be a town hall adressing if Winnipeg is a compassionate city. Aww. 

Dan Lett's tune changed over the years in his opinions of citizen journalists. He has been quite critical for a long time on the way the blogosphere functions, from The Sausage Factory circa 2008: 

The blogosphere, on the other hand, is often dominated by commentary about how mainstream news organizations missed stories, or did bad stories, or spelled stuff wrong, or made mistakes in fact. Fair enough - there is no purpose in denying that all that happens.

But IMHO, it doesn’t make for compelling content...

Au contraire, to a newspaper journalist it most likely does not make compelling content. However the number of visitors of my post yesterday suggests otherwise. My overhearing of complete strangers within earshot talking about my post says otherwise. The kind of thing that happened on Monday with the Cafe for sale and the Free Press pumping it up raised people's bullshit-o-metres. They looked for information elsewhere.

It is as easy for Lett to criticize me as it is for me to criticize him. But suddenly, Lett isn't criticizing the citizen journalism/alternative media scene. Now, in 2013, it is a great thing. As long as citizen journalists are trained at his Cafe. 

In 2009, Lett quoted me from a long-ago blog post where I analyzed how many of my posts in one year were based off a story originally in a newspaper. This post of mine was attractive to Lett because it backed up his claim that bloggers "just" draft off the MSM, that our content is not compelling, implying that we are somehow of less worth. Yet if I were to say Lett's piece on Monday about how great CNC is that happens at the Cafe counts as compelling journalism content, I must have a degree from a journalism school somewhere.

Nearly 5 years ago, in January 2008 (no longer available, drawing from my inbox) Dan Lett opined:
But isn’t the beauty of the on-line journalism community the fact that technology is helping citizen journalists jump into the game with old-school, bricks-and-mortar news outlets?
If citizen journalists could compete 5 years ago, then why do they need training now? It could have something to do with a former Editor of the Free Press helping shut down the only non-FreeP-endorsed citizen journalism training platform that existed, which has been well documented.

The criticism from Lett seems to have ended at the infusion of $400k into a program that is run out of a Cafe that he, and apparently some of his colleagues, own, operate, or have a financial interest in. He may claim he makes no profit from CNC events at the Cafe and that may be true. Events don't pay directly; they bring people into the Cafe. Lett & Co just lose less money.

Mb Prof Planners Institute rocks breakfast on capital region transportation plan  

As if to compliment the Bob Cox sidebar on Monday's paper assuring prospective buyers the Free Press partnership ensures success, Dan Lett is tweeting a photo of a Cafe full of people attending an event the day after (remember the Cafe is for sale! Look at all the people the Free Press can help attract to the business!). Which Lett is a part owner of, and is trying to sell, and just a day prior was using his platform as a journalist to reach hundreds of thousands of readers to tell them about the amazing citizen journalism program, where he brings the light of journalistic integrity to us blogging hacks, at the Cafe. 

But Lett is not the only one whose undisclosed relationship - and before being confronted by an online commenter, it appears his stake was never found within the Free Press archives - with the News Cafe has compromised the journalistic integrity of the Free Press. This is a lot bigger than just Lett's "very small share" of the Cafe, and not only about Dan Lett and his need to sell the restaurant "entity."

There are others higher up the food chain who have a keen interest in closing that chapter of their failed business book.

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