There a good bit of continuing discussion about comments and how to manage them (see the link list below). One camp, of which newspapers and TV stations seem to be moving toward, are trying to find pain free ways to manage comments (technology solutions) or to elminate them. The problem: They're just so darn messy. Technology solutions alone are unlikely to be successful.
The other, mostly Internet news organizations, are putting more bodies (theirs or their users or both) to managing comments as a content resource. Whether they can create conversations instead of flame wars remains to be seen.
It is possible both strategies will succeed, at least in the sense of meeting the objectives of the people putting in the policies. Those that find comments altogether too messy will find ways to minimize or hide them. Those that want to use them to feed audience interest may be successful as well.
The question is whether "conversation management" is a core function of news organizations and their newsrooms or if they are still at heart one-way communicators?
NASCAR made perhaps one of the more novel copyright claims ever: Compassion.
Following the horrific crash during the Nationwide race Daytona on Saturday, spectator Tyler Andersen shot a video from the stands and uploaded it to YouTube.
NASCAR quickly had YouTube take down the video, later issuing a statement to The Verge:
"The fan video of the wreck on the final lap of today's NASCAR Nationwide Series race was blocked on YouTube out of respect for those injured in today's accident. Information on the status of those fans was unclear and the decision was made to err on the side of caution with this very serious incident."
Even for NASCAR, somewhat famous for the interpretations of its rules, this was a stretch. There's a lot of things that can be protected by copyrights and quite a bit of latitude in the use copyrighted material under Fair Use, but compassion is not one I've ever found.
For his part, Tyler Andersen understood:
Can fully understand why NASCAR took the video down. Meant no disrespect to any involved. Once again, keep all affected in your prayers.
NASCAR's like family, right. Except, no, it didn't have that right. While it can use the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to get videos of races removed, using it in the context of what clearly is a news event (AP reports at least 33 were injured) is overstepping the bounds.
"Second, even if NASCAR did have the right to pull the video under the DMCA, the right of the crowd to tell a tragic story should supersede it. The photographer, Tyler Andersen, was covering a news story unfolding around him, and he wanted to tell the world about it (he alerted ESPN on Twitter to his clip.)"
Some have pointed to the back of the ticket fine print, which says the ticket holder agrees NASCAR owns all images, sounds and video from the event. Whether restrictions like this are legal is a question. Media organizations have lobbied against them wherever they pop up and restrictions in sports media credentialing is a major and growing issue.
Beyond the legal issues, how practical is it? Nearly everyone has a cell phone capable of capturing images, sound and video. NASCAR owns every one of those photos and videos a fan capture while inside the track, even including that one of the drunk woman who took off her top?
Sure, NASCAR, MLB, the NFL, the NCAA and the roller derby league can own the media rights to their events so you can't set up your camera and live stream it. That's what ESPN pays big bucks for.
But what if the entertainment turns into news? None of those organizations can copyright news itself.
When the event turns into news, then Fair Use, the ability to use copyrighted work without permission or payment, should apply and it applies to citizens with cell phones just as much as the New York Times or CNN. The problem is Fair Use is a bit like what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography: "I know it when I see it."
"There are inescapable contradictions between a asserting a legal claim over recording everything that happens in a certain place, and then filling that place with tens of thousands of people with the capacity to shoot video and instantly upload it to the Internet. Especially when something newsworthy happens. And when your organization is already managing a strong social media effort that depends on interaction with fans. This is where the privatization and monetization of everything meets the democratization of the digital age."
Robert Scoble picked up a similar theme on Google+, wondering how that will play out in a day when everyone has something like Google Glass.
For its part, YouTube told the Washington Post's Erik Wemple the video was restored because:
"Our partners and users do not have the right to take down videos from YouTube unless they contain content which is copyright infringing, which is why we have reinstated the videos."
NASCAR should protect its financial assets, which include the broadcast of its events, but should not do so at the expense of news coverage or social media use. It should take a position that favors a broad interepretation of Fair Use.
Some 117 years ago, Adolph Ochs, who began his career in Knoxville before buying a newspaper in Chattanooga, published a set of principles for his newest newspaper in which he said it would "to give the news impartially, without fear or favor, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved."
Ochs, but 38 at the time, wrote that in The New York Times. It was a winning business model. "Without fear or favor" became a journalism credo that served journalism and the business of media well for over 100 years.
But former Newsweek editor, Pulitzer Prize winner and historian Jon Meacham said the course Ochs set may turn out to be a brief exception for journalism. The media of the 1700s and 1800s was highly partisan and the media seems to be returning to those roots today. That is where revenue is flowing, Meacham said, and you go hunting "where the ducks are."
He didn't mention them by name, but probably the biggest example of this trend are the news networks: Fox, MSNBC and CNN. CNN, which doesn't align itself with either conservative or liberal political point of view, trails in the ratings to the other two, which have adopted strategies with strong political points of view.
A trio or more of mediagroupshave been asking the NCAA to sit down and talk about changes it has ordered in the coverage of NCAA events that are detrimental to news organizations and their audiences.
So far, the NCAA just hasn't found the time for a sitdown; no doubt, busy counting the cash from some TV contract.
In an attempt to get some dialogue going, this letter was written by the American Society of News Editors' attorney, Kevin Goldberg, to outline the frustration with the NCAA's continued indifference to the requests and to put a spotlight on the changes the NCAA is putting in for the upcoming basketball tournaments.