December 9, 2022

Archives for March 2009

Kundra Named As Federal CIO

Today, the Obama administration named Vivek Kundra as the Chief Information Officer of the U.S. government, a newly created position.

This is great news. Kundra, in his previous role as CTO of the District of Columbia, made great strides in opening the DC government by publishing government data. When he spoke at our Thursday Forum last fall, everyone was impressed by how quickly and effectively he had transformed the DC government’s approach to technology.

First, he set up an open Data Catalog, where lots of data collected by the DC government is freely available in standard formats. Second, he ran the Apps for Democracy contest, in which he challenged citizens to develop applications to take advantage of all the data that the DC government is publishing. The results were impressive—with 47 different apps submitted by citizens—and also inexpensive.

Most impressively, in doing this he overcame the natural inertia of big city government. The Federal government will be even harder to budge, but with the right support from the top, Kundra could bring a new level of openness and tech-friendliness to the government.

New Podcast: CITP Conversations

Over the last few months, as the pace of activity at CITP has increased, we’ve fielded a growing number of requests from points around the web, and around the world, for podcasts and other ways to “attend” our events virtually. We hear you, and we’re working on it.

Today, I’m very pleased to announce a new CITP podcast, which will carry audio of some of our events as well as brief conversations recorded expressly for the podcast feed. Currently, those conversations include one with Paul Ohm on Net Neutrality and the Wiretap Act, and another with Ed on “Rebooting our Cyber-Security Policy,” drawing on the themes of his recent Thursday Forum talk.

We are also working to offer more of our events in video formats, and we remain open to exploring additional options. Stay tuned!

RIP Rocky Mountain News

The Rocky Morning News, Colorado’s oldest newspaper, closed its doors Friday. On their front page they have this incredibly touching video:

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

The closing of a large institution like a daily newspaper is an incredibly sad event, and my heart goes out to all the people who suddenly find their lives upended by sudden unemployment. Many talented and dedicated employees lost their jobs today, and some of them will have to scramble to salvage their careers and support their families. The video does a great job of capturing the shock and sadness that the employees of the paper feel—not just because they lost their jobs, but also because in some sense they’re losing their life’s work.

With that said, I do think it’s unfortunate that part of the video was spent badmouthing people, like me, who don’t subscribe to newspapers. One gets the impression that newspapers are failing because kids these days are so obsessed with swapping gossip on MySpace that they’ve stopped reading “real” news. No doubt, some people fit that description, but I think the more common case is something like the opposite: those of us with the most voracious appetite for news have learned that newsprint simply can’t compete with the web for breadth, depth, or timeliness. When I pick up a newspaper, I’m struck by how limited it is: the stories are 12 to 36 hours old, the range of topics covered is fairly narrow, and there’s no way to dig deeper on the stories that interest me most. That’s not the fault of the newspaper’s editors and reporters; newsprint is just an inherently limited medium.

As more newspapers go out of business in the coming years, I think it’s important that our sympathy for individual employees not translate into the fetishization of newsprint as a medium. And it’s especially important that we not confuse newsprint as a medium with journalism as a profession. Newsprint and journalism have been strongly associated in the past, but this an accident of technology, not something inherent to journalism. Journalism—the process of gathering, summarizing, and disseminating information about current events—has been greatly enriched by the Internet. Journalists have vastly more tools available for gathering the news, and much more flexible tools for disseminating it. The replacement of static newspapers with dynamic web pages is progress.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not a painful process. The web’s advantages are no consolation for Rocky employees who have spent their careers building skills connected to a declining technology. And the technical superiority of web will be of little consolation to Denver area readers who will, in the short run, have less news and information available about their local communities. So my thoughts and sympathy today are with the employees of the Rocky Mountain News.