Here is a picture of the class I’m teaching at Hong Kong University:
Saturday, Oct. 30–Godot Hasn’t Entered the Building
So. It’s no decision today in the Microsoft antitrust case. That means I and another zillion journalists, lawyers and tech industry folks will be speculating for at least another week over what Judge Jackson will actually say.
Why isn’t someone in Vegas turning this into a formal betting play? What are the odds the judge will find that Microsoft a) has a monopoly in the relevant market and b) has used its market power to maintain and/or extend the monopoly? I don’t wager on this sort of thing, but if the judge rules there’s no monopoly you can bet on this: Such a decision, if not overturned by a higher court or Congress, would effectively end antitrust enforcement in the Digital Age. You may like or dislike that idea, but those are the stakes here, folks.
Here’s a riddle: What do Microsoft and Vegas casinos have in common? Answer: Unless you’re creative or lucky, if you play their game they’ll end up with some of your money.
Wonder What They’re Talking About…
Friday, Oct. 29 —
A few days after Dow Jones added Microsoft to the list of 30 stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the two companies were partners, co-sponsoring a technology-oriented conference in Hong Kong. The list of speakers for the day-long event included Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s demonstrative president, so I stopped by the opulent downtown hotel where the gathering took place.
I was tossed out. The event, apparently a high-level schmooze for executives of companies with which Dow Jones and Microsoft do business, was closed to the press — except, of course, people who worked for the Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones media properties.
Do I need to explain the irony? Or note that this kind of thing tends to reinforce suspicions — unfounded ones, in my view — that the Journal is a bit cozy with the folks who run the company with the highest market capitalization in the world? Nah.
(Follow-up: A friend at the Journal strongly objects to the “cozy” crack, calling it unfair. We agree on many things, but not this one.)
What I’m Going to Talk About…
Friday, Oct. 29 —
Tomorrow morning I give my first Hong Kong University class to journalism students, many of whom are professionals earning advanced degrees. The course is about journalism and new media. Andrew Lih, a professor at Columbia University, taught the first part. Now it’s my turn, and my role is to talk about this brave new world from the perspective of someone who a) is a working journalist; b) lives and works in Silicon Valley; and c) is trying to practice some of the new-media stuff he preaches.
I’m going to kick off with a discussion of the implications of this new medium, from a Valley perspective. It’s almost impossible to overstate the long-term impact of the Valley and other technology centers on this craft and business. We in the traditional media worry that the Net is irrevocably eroding our business model, and it may well do that. We worry about Net ethical and accuracy standards, which often seem to be lacking. Then we look at the bright side, and note our wider access to information and sources, and the benefits of closer contact with our readers (listeners/viewer/etc.). All are part of this emerging mix.
But we are just one more business looking at the Net and wondering about something even more scary — whether we are all going to have to live on Internet Time for the rest of our lives, and whether our kids and grandkids will, too. We may have no choice, but it’s not all that attractive a prospect.
Internet Time is an adrenaline rush, no doubt. But I fear for a culture where the need for speed all but kills the opportunity for reflection. And I loathe the Valley’s popular saying that paranoia is a requirement for survival. It may be true, but paranoia is not an admirable trait. It’s a sickness. What should I be telling these students?
And what can they tell me? I’m expecting to learn from them, from the questions they ask and the after-class talks I hope we’ll have. When I talk about paranoia in business — including the journalism business — I have to keep in mind that my context is somewhat provincial.
I’m an American. I grew up with a First Amendment, in a nation where threats to journalists pale next to the things reporters and editors face elsewhere. I recall that a little over a decade ago I spent an academic year on a fellowship with about a dozen other journalists from around the U.S. and the world. One of our group was from the Philippines. He was assassinated after he returned home, apparently in retaliation for something he’d written.