Friday, December 23, 2011

Robert Blake Redux


Charged in 2002 with the murder of his wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, he made headlines around the world with his eventual acquittal and subsequent "wrongful death" civil judgement which bankrupted him.

Actor Robert Blake recently appeared on PBS' Tavis Smiley Show, to let us all understand that he's okay with "the boss," that he sleeps well, and that he has been "at the edge of that address," many times. It is a fascinating interview with a man who began a show business career as a child on Hal Roach's "Our Gang; Little Rascals" comedies, a feature film actor, then as an Emmy award winner on television's "Baretta" in the 1970's. A veteran of Hollywood, many film dévotées recall his riveting, 1967 portrayal of Perry Smith, the convicted killer of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. (Capote did extensive research with the actual killers to write what would be his last novel. In 2008, In Cold Blood was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".). 

Besides chronicling a life where art attempted to foreshadow life, perhaps the reason why this interview seems so compelling is beyond the personal history of the man on camera with Tavis, and beyond the fact that Blake made so many films at the studio where this interview takes place, ("It's like I came out of the La Brea Tar Pits as the ghost of Lot 3...") but it is also compelling in the vivid, street-level brush strokes Blake uses to paint his self-portrait during his own third act.

ROBERT BLAKE, interviewed by Tavis Smiley – video courtesy PBS

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bill Gates on Direct Examination

Microsoft attorney Jim Jardine speaks to KSL-TV's JOHN DALY and Fox13's BEN WINSLOW
photo ©2011 Michael Orton for ImageProviders - All Rights Reserved

via ImageProviders
story and photo ©2011 MICHAEL ORTON 
– all rights reserved

Salt Lake City –

On the witness stand in federal court, Bill Gates presented the picture of a focused and competent CEO commander responding to direct examination with precise recollection. Email correspondence presented during today's portion of the civil trial of Utah's Novell v. Gates' Microsoft Corporation were more than fifteen years old. The suit alleges that Microsoft conspired to manipulate the development of its Windows 95 operating system shell in such a manner that Novell's position in the personal computer software marketplace would be compromised, allowing Microsoft's products an unfair advantage. Litigation between the two companies, in various forms, has been underway since the turn of the century and from all accounts, both Gates and his attorneys have become quite comfortable with it.

Presently, Baltimore's Judge Frederick Motz from the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland is hearing the arguments and overseeing witness examination in Judge Dee Benson's federal courtroom in Salt Lake City. There, a jury of seven women and five men have been empaneled since October to listen to the evidence provided by attorneys representing both companies. Even with one of the world's richest men on the witness stand, the computer visionary who has been called "the Thomas Edison of our time," jurors seemed marginally engaged in what Gates had to say.

Dressed conservatively in a light grey suit, white shirt and gold tie, Gates described his executive management decisions while being questioned about email traffic as old as 1994 between his upper level managers and himself. The emails were generated during the Windows 95 operating system "shell" development and involved programming teams in Houston, Chicago and Seattle.  There was pressure to get the software published, Gates said, because the industry believed that "hardware would get better as companies thought [Win95] would help them sell more personal computers."

His legal team was attempting to evoke Gates' testimony about the nature of the operating system and the decisions that went into its rollout. When asked if, in his 32 years as Microsoft's CEO, he felt there were management "tradeoffs" to be considered during his company's software development and subsequent publication, Gates said, "There's a 'constant tension' between the idea that 'good programmers ship,' as opposed to programmers who continually revise their efforts."  Did they plan multimedia in their design? "No." Television? "We did not." Browser capabilities within Win95? "Not at all," said Gates, "We were making tradeoffs all along."

When it came to his testimony of the email interface characteristics of Microsoft's Win95 operating system, Gates addressed the jury directly. At least two appeared disinterested and were not looking at him at all. "Were you afraid of Novell's competition?" asked Microsoft's attorney during direct examination. "No," Gates flatly and firmly replied.

Gates' testimony in Salt Lake City is expected to continue tomorrow morning, including cross-examination by Novell's attorneys. The lawsuit seeks more than $1 billion dollars in damages alleged by Novell. When it merged with WordPerfect and purchased Quattro Pro from Borland in 1994, Novell's valuation was near $1 billion. Less than two years later, Novell sold WordPerfect and Quattro Pro to Corel for approximately $170 million.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Utah's Reapportionment Blues

Story and Video ©2011 ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved


Sure, everyone knows that Utah is a red state. SO RED, that the current president of the United States didn't even bother to campaign there in 2008. With the most recent census allowing Utah another seat in congress, (a feeble attempt to do that earlier, in exchange for their congressional delegation's support for D.C. statehood, failed miserably) the state's reapportionment committee held several weeks worth of meetings to solicit public input and place the process on display for the voters to witness and attempt to understand. Utah has enough democrats to send a congressman from their party to Washington more than once in the recent past, but their ability to do so in 2012 has likely perished now that the playing fields have been redefined to favor those with rabidly conservative, republican-only, views.

When it all came down to a special session of the state's legislature to adopt the four new congressional district boundaries, the minority leaders claimed it was only for a privileged few to decide without any compromise or credible opposition. Sophisticated computer analysis using census tract information, demographics and psychographics allowed districts to be drawn privately. This insured the votes required to send four conservative republicans from the Beehive State to congress with insufficient challenge, the democrats charged. Many claim that these "red meat" conservatives will go to congress praising the Tea Party – Don't Tread on Me platform for their constituents too lazy or underinformed to understand that taxation without representation is not even the precedent. (Do these pols even know there was a "Whiskey Rebellion?")

State Representative Ken Ivory (R-West Jordan) rose on the evening of the final adoption to declare that the evil federal government was taking dollars away from the state's schools via the designation of public lands as wilderness areas; so by his logic, Utah just had to send four conservatives back to congress to straighten everything out and save the children. He could have been speaking Japanese to the democrats who claim that public education is not a priority with their loyal opposition. (Indeed, their overwhelmingly republican legislature approved more funding for highways than education during the last lawmaking session, and several of the GOP are attempting to divert public monies to charter school organizations).

One of the few democrats on the reapportionment committee was state Senator Ben McAdams. He spoke to some of his constituents with an insider's view of just how gerrymandering works in a state where the dominant culture reveres virtuous principles like fairness and honesty and where this month, traditionally democratic Salt Lake County was carved and served up for the U.S. congress just the way the republicans wanted it to be. VIDEO:   

Utah State Senator BEN McADAMS on Reapportionment - Oct. 14, 2011
Video ©2011 MICHAEL ORTON for ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved

McAdams explained that at one point, the process stalemated for almost 48 hours even with a plurality on the republican side of the aisle. The problem, he said, was that the republican caucus didn't anticipate that so many egos in the Utah House of Representatives would want to run for congress – the big show. At that point it became a private, intramural skirmish while the democratic minority, along with the public, waited. Majority leaders are quick to point out that this is the way that the voters of their state want it. The seats don't belong to any party, they say. The seats belong "to the best candidates." Left in a district without any hope of re-election, Utah's lone democratic congressman, Jim Matheson, now ponders a run for U.S. Senate or even the governorship.

In the end, more than a million taxpayer dollars and several weeks effort came down to a last-minute designation that was unveiled only a few days before it was adopted without public input, created by party bosses, behind closed doors. With minority objections, one of the reddest states got even more red.

Especially in Utah, more might makes more right.


Then, more Utah reapportionment insight, including the republican view, here:

and here:

and more committee video here:

Friday, October 7, 2011

OccupySLC in the Rain

Video and story by Michael Orton

Some wore suits with neckties and wingtips. Some wore mountain gear. They had a late start compared to their counterparts in New York, where the movement had grown to more than ten thousand by this day. At Utah's capitol, approximately 250 people showed up even though the National Weather Service had warned that they'd be in the area's first big storm of the season. They came anyway. Unions, political parties, minority representatives as well as moms and pops who were just tired of what they called, "corporate greed."

The citizens' drumbeat was constant.

Video of OccupySLC – ©2011 MICHAEL ORTON for ImageProviders. All Rights Reserved

So they assembled in the cold morning rain, and by the time they marched to the city's Pioneer Park more than a mile away, the mountains of northern Utah were showing their first blanket of snow. The placards got soggy, but the resolve remained undiluted because, like many others, they were concerned about the disparity of wealth in the nation. A couple of days before, Nick Kristoff of the New York Times had said that, "in effect, the banks have succeeded in socializing risk while privatizing profits."

These people agreed.

And nearby, lobbyists at the statehouse were requesting privileges at the capitol health club (presumably to be closer to the legislators) and to begin valet parking service there. Utah lawmakers had scheduled meetings on the following day to determine how a fourth congressional district would be defined, fueling rumours that the state's democratic party would be gerrymandered out of existence.

In Salt Lake City's Pioneer Park, the Utah demonstrators were pitching tents to stay awhile, to let people know that they meant business, too.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Herbert to Obama: "Give Me LESS Money!"

text and video by Michael Orton
©2011 ImageProviders – All Rights Reserved

Among the western states, perhaps nowhere is the Tea Party's state's rights song sung louder than in Utah, where Governor Gary Herbert recently hosted the National Governor's Association annual conference in July. Reporting on his state's record, he spoke of an exchange he had with Pres. Barack Obama were he made a case for helping Mr. Obama balance the federal budget.

Utah Governor GARY HERBERT on his state's relationship with federal monies
Video Running Time 1:27 – copyright 2011 ImageProviders

"I've talked with President Obama personally. I said I will take less [federal] money, I'll help you balance your budget. You give me lessmoney... but just take the darn strings off the money," pleaded Herbert. "Give me flexibility. We will find innovative ways to in fact make those dollars stretch. We'll do more with less. We've proven the state, we'll help you with your budget problems and we'll have a 'win-win' that's good for the taxpayers."

That assertion will make many Utahns proud, even if it proves to be a stumbling block to their understanding of why there are regulatory agencies organized at the federal level and why Utah is reliant on federal tax monies returning to their state. Since Utah's demographics reflect a "large family" orientation, education funding there has come under scrutiny for per-pupil spending.

The "strings" that most often are assailed by Herbert's republican legislature, among other ultra-conservatives and tea party advocates, are those imposed by federal agencies responsible for setting standards and regulations which some say benefit the entire nation and beyond. Earlier in the year, automakers in several states praised the EPA codification of vehicle emission standards because the manufacturers were not interested in having to respond to a salad of differing emissions and efficiency regulations imposed by individual state governments.

Utahns concerned about under-regulated oil and gas operations and pollution in their state may have been a minority there who helped to elect the nation's 44th president, and few believe that a republican elected to the White House in 2012 will be able to reverse actions taken to phase-out archaic methods of electricity production where more coal is mined than in Appalachia. Utah has a lot of coal to sell, and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has said that the Obama administration is not opposed to using it to generate electricity, but that as a nation "we should do it more wisely." This may assure Utah's conservatives and a legislature used to extraction royalties coming from public lands, even if they continue the republican criticism of environmental protection from the federal government. The greater Salt Lake City area, known as "the Wasatch Front," has been dealing with non-attainment status on air quality targets for several years.

Herbert admits that even with an unemployment rate 2 points below the nation's average, there are still too many out of work in his state, which adopted a one-word motto from its inception: "Industry." Describing the example his state has tried to set in areas of fiscal prudence and legislative responsibility, "I would say it this way," offers Herbert, "Utah is an island of tranquility in a sea of chaos."

"Because," says the governor, "of the dysfunctionality" in Washington, D.C., "There are areas where D.C. and other states have fallen away;" using parlance that describes apostasy in Utah on any Sunday, "They have lost their way from good principles."

"Congress is good at doing two things," Herbert asserted, "One: Doing nothing. That's the 'kick it down the road' attitude we've heard, and Two: Overreacting." His solution? In Utah, the governor cites political leadership bent on their own understanding of "fiscal prudence," which to many, including the governor, creates "certainty in the marketplace."

"So that [investment] capital says, 'Hey, that's a good place to go.'"

Governor Herbert will present his budget for 2012 to his legislature in December, and said "I expect it will be a good blueprint of correct prioritization. We'll put the amount of money that we ought to be putting into transportation that will be appropriate. We'll put the amount of money that needs to go into education and the growth pressures we feel to fund the growth in education, to make sure that's a priority." He went on to describe budget priorities for "Health and human services, the 'safety net' aspects, as well as our beautiful vistas and venues that we call our state parks." On the latter funding for his state's parks, he deferred some of the solution to private interest capital and foundation money.

This coming December, many eyes will be on the budget proposals Governor Herbert specifies, especially the funding amounts contributed by federal agencies like the U.S. Department of Transportation, whose director personally brought funds to the Beehive State that were allocated for ongoing light rail and mass transit projects earlier in the year. Excluding several million dollars in education funding and the unique situation Utah enjoys with their Schools and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, there are many federal dollars coming into the state from the USDA, the NSA and other agencies which will likely not be acknowledged in the governor's budget or the minds of the arch conservatives in his bi-cameral, monocultured state house.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Living the Future Today

Content developed by ImageProviders
Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Closely linked to the future of journalism, the regulation and development of the worldwide web is of serious interest to those who seek truth and communicate it. Educators, researchers, elected officials and journalists all should have some kind of situational awareness as we proceed along the timeline now well into the 21st century. Some say that private industry should provide the answer, but as has been shown before, often that leads to "natural monopolies" which can avoid the interests of the public and make only a few players wealthy beyond anyone's imagination.

Welcome to Gig.U, and Internet2 and the next iteration of the internet. Once the world's first packet switching network developed as the ARPANET by the Department of Defense, the web is now emerging as a super-broadband infrastructure among research universities. (Are you listening, @UUtah and @uscannenberg ?) ImageProviders asked Elise Kohn (formerly assigned to the FCC as policy advisor) to comment on the latest effort at Gig.U. Not one to use words when a thousand pictures will do, we came up with the following material that explains the current thinking on the development of a new, worldwide web.

You're welcome.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Film Review: The Help (Aug 10 in US and UK)

Viola Davis in "The Help" photo courtesy of Dreamworks ©2011

review by Michael Orton
copyright 2011 ImageProviders
All Rights Reserved

At the Sundance Film Festival this past January, a memorable appearance by Harry Belafonte offered the young filmmakers in attendance a personal understanding of his involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and of his fervent desire that above anything else, they be society's radicals (his emphasis). Citing the Works Progress Administration and the work of Dorthea Lange and Ben Shahn, he described artists as "the caretakers of truth," and perhaps even guardians of our culture and he said that "radical thought is the energy of the Universe."

Harry Belafonte (right) "sitting"

Belafonte told those assembled that day that he felt he had been "fortunate to interface with the harbingers of radical thinking," people like Eleanor Roosevelt and Paul Robeson. "The power of art is not to portray life as it is, but life as it should be..." but he also warned, "To be a radical is to be an outcast. We definitely paid a price."

These themes multiply the force and effect of the Tate Taylor film version of Kathryn Stockett's 2009 debut novel, "The Help," a story set in and about Jackson, Mississippi and the Jim Crow south. With breakout performances by Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis (note that several Oscar nominations are predicted, here), and with Stockett's author adequately played by ingenue Emma Stone, the film also contains a stunningly appropriate cameo by none other than Cicely Tyson herself. When Ms. Tyson takes the screen, one feels as though history has indeed come alive. Allison Janney offers a welcome presence as part of Jackson Mississippi's plantation establishment and Sissy Spacek's unabashed comic relief allows the overarching social tension to be almost welcome.

(l to r) Bryce Dallas Howard, Sissy Spacek and Octavia Spencer in "The Help"

America in the sixties included television's "Andy Griffith Show" for those privileged enough to have "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Leave It to Beaver" memories of their childhood, they were  idyllic for some but not for all during that convulsive time of our nation's history. Ironically, one of the most caustic characters in the story is very well delivered by Bryce Dallas Howard a generation after her father (director Ron Howard) was Andy Griffiths' cherubic "Opie" in the Mayberry series of the sixties. 

In "The Help," white hot performances including a revelatory soliloquy, delivered with piercing effect by Ms. Davis, help us truly understand that those famous years were not idyllic for everyone who lived through them. This is the transcendent effect of "The Help," and one that will definitely be recognized during Oscar's upcoming "For Your Consideration" season beginning in just six months. (Perhaps it is significant to note here that the nation's general election will occur only eight months after the Oscars are awarded this coming March).

And after viewing and feeling this story, which forcefully reminds us of how far we've come as a nation, one might conclude that as strenuous and painful as it was, the effort of Harry Belafonte, Martin Luther King and those other harbingers of radical thinking, was just The Help we needed.

"The Help" a DreamWorks release of a Reliance Big Entertainment feature

from the novel by Kathryn Stockett
screenplay by Tate Taylor
directed by Tate Taylor

The film is far better than this trailer portrays it to be...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Future of Journalism Utah?

by Michael Orton
copyright 2011 – all rights reserved

Salt Lake City –
First filed July 26, 2011

There is a saying among courtroom reporters who acknowledge the influence of journalism that “even judges read the newspapers.” It would be difficult to find many or any judges who would admit doing so prior to a ruling. Being informed is one thing, being influenced is another. Judges cite case law and legal precedent, yes. Newspapers, no.

In a packed federal courtroom for the district of Utah, Judge Dee Benson listened attentively to pre-sentencing arguments in the matter of The United States v. Timothy DeChristopher, the environmental activist convicted of disrupting a BLM lease auction under fraudulent pretense.

Judge Benson allowed Patrick Shea, one of DeChristopher’s attorneys to lead off. Then DeChristopher spoke on his own behalf, then John Huber spoke for the prosecution, followed by a rebuttal summation and plea for “creative” leniency by defense counsel Ron Yengich.

Then it was the judge’s turn to make some comments on the case and pronounce DeChristopher’s sentence. During his attempt to “do something appropriate,” as a penalty, Benson, with 20 years on the bench, did something quite unusual for a federal judge justifying the imprisonment of the accused: He quoted the Deseret News, the wholly-owned newspaper of Utah’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). “Civil disobedience cannot be the order of the day,” noted Benson before sending DeChristopher to federal prison for two years and fining him $10,000.

Utah’s independent daily, The Salt Lake Tribune, (owned by the Denver-based Media NewsGroup) had issued an editorial that day calling anything more than a token sentence an act of “retribution,” given other public figures in Utah who had blatantly violated federal laws governing public lands, and who had not even been indicted. This overt influence of Utah’s dominant culture, through its church-owned media, left many in the courtroom stunned.

The Flailing Model in Legacy Media

“Stop the presses,” says Marc Andreessen, founder of Netscape. “Stop them right now,” he says with an emphatic index finger diving to the table. He says that because he feels the business of newspapers is a losing proposition and will continue to be. He describes it as a failing industry that is still scrambling to make sense of itself. “It is an industry that is struggling to be profitable amidst post-recession economic realities, the accelerating adoption of new technologies… and the growing number of people who have something to say to the connected world,” …many of whom were present in that Utah courtroom.

Journalism may not be “in trouble,” as much as it is “in revision.” Yes, 20,000 journalism jobs were lost in 2010 and newspapers have closed in major metro markets such as Denver, Baltimore and Cincinnati. But just like typewriting has changed in the past 25 years, so has a media profession which began with wooden type and handbills. This is not to say that the investigative reporter or the city council watchdog are job descriptions of the past. Where we will find them and when are the real issues of the new media.

“Information distribution via newspapers is based on an industrial age paradigm using fossil fuels to obtain wood turned into pulp and then paper using assembly-line methods and child labor for distribution,” observes Ric Cantrell, who, before becoming Utah Senate President Michael Waddoups’ Chief Deputy, coordinated communications for the state’s senate majority. The implication is unavoidable, especially in Utah, where broadband has penetrated three out of four households. Endorsements by federal judges notwithstanding, many newspapers as we have known them are on life support in this part of the information age.

LISA CARRICABURU of the Salt Lake Tribune -- Photo copyright 2011 ImageProviders

So when Lisa Carricaburu, the assistant managing editor of the Salt Lake Tribune says, “the journalist’s role is changing immensely right now,” is she observing that journalism students graduating in the 21st century have learned to write the basics of HTML coding, or does she really mean that the journalists’ systems and delivery are changing immensely right now? Has their role in society really changed very much?

“Agency shops,” like the Los Angeles Times and the Valley News and Green Sheet of years ago, adopted the efficiencies of scale economies for profit after the Newspaper Agency Corporation came into existence. Competing newspapers simply couldn’t support two different delivery channels, but society recognized the value of two different points of editorial view and patronized them. An agency shop was one served by the same distribution company as its competitor. Two different papers were delivered by one “paperboy,” often on a bicycle working in the neighborhood before or after school. For some, it was a good gig while it lasted.

“Newsies” photo courtesy of Disney Pictures Marketing -- all rights reserved

This is when Utah’s Deseret News first looked toward becoming the Deseret Morning News, after being an evening paper for decades. Today, the distributor for Utah’s major dailies is a company called “Media One,” and has diversified into real estate brokerage and employment agency functions. In the 21st century, their warehouse in Salt Lake City is a shell of its former self. Much of what was transported by trucks in the wee Utah hours (including the daily New York Times, also printed for western distribution in Salt Lake City) is now transmitted at the speed of light, and updated several times per day.

Reporting Technologies

As analog communications technologies were overcome by the digital wave that began in the nineteen eighties, entire careers depreciated and worker expertise became obsolete. Can this be said of journalism? Yes and no…

If electronic devices like laptop computers, smartphones, tablet e-readers and others are considered fully depreciated and even obsolete within three years, and with software outdated even faster, a provocative question with an uncertain answer is surely, “What is the future of journalism?” A panel of local reporters and editors recently assembled in Salt Lake City and tried to illuminate that topic by taking a few steps into that tunnel at the end of the light.

L to R: Ben Winslow, Jeff Robinson, Lois Collins and Lisa Carricaburu

In that panel, Ms. Carricaburu declared that “What we [journalists] do, is worthy of pay, as opposed to what is often happening where journalism is treated as something that everyone can do and doesn’t have value to it.” Perhaps, but to those who witnessed the crackdown in the former Soviet Union, where police were flown in from Moscow to quell an autoworkers’ rebellion, or where dissidents in Iran pleaded with Twitter’s management to forestall a planned Twitter maintenance shutdown until their protest could be organized, directed and reported, citizen journalists and their newmedia most certainly have value with their audience. More recently, the last of the pharaohs was undone by “social media practitioners” in Egypt who couldn’t have cared less for remuneration but who did see their work as their calling. Because they’re being paid, a whole generation of “Mommy Bloggers” who have lured brands like Johnson & Johnson, MacDonalds, Hanes and Aveda (it goes on) to sponsor their websites now must be some kind of “journalists,” with that view.

Lois Collins of the Deseret Morning News

“Community is what is subject to definition because [journalism] goes out broader and broader as technology progresses,” offers Lois Collins of the Deseret Morning News, “Journalism, practiced well, is a good set of eyes and ears in the community to help you be grounded and know what’s going on around you.” Hence the Twitter messages emanating from Tarir Square, Yemen and now Bahrain must be viewed as some kind of journalism or at least “reportage,” right? “Live Tweeting,” as it has come to be known, is a valid way of receiving the news, as evidenced during Utah’s 2011 legislative season and subsequent re-districting discussions. The hashtag has come of age, and very rapidly so.

“We do have to deliver the news any way people want it,” says Ms. Carricaburu, “It’s a moving target, and we’re always trying to figure out what’s next and what our role is.”

That hasn’t always been the case, even in the days well before the digital doorstep. In fact, in its earliest relationship with government, journalists and newspapers were steeped in partisanship and bias, a notion that would be tempered by professional organizations and emerging efforts at ethical standards as reporters’ reach, frequency and sophistication increased.

The journalism trade now has a cadre of “backpacker” journalists who, operating alone, can file a story from a daypack containing a solid-state video camera, a laptop computer and a cellular or satellite phone, from anywhere in the world (with very limited exceptions). News producers and editors have embraced the “multi-media journalist” model, where advances in communications demand that a cub reporter know the basics of HTML5 coding. Why? Because today, when the story originates electronically, those who insist on reading the inked version are at least 12hrs behind the breaking stories when the newsprint hits their driveway or newsstand. When was the last time you bought an ink ribbon for a typewriter, if you ever did?

Current Governance and Management of Journalism

In the U.S., the discussion of the role of government in regulating the internet as medium for news outlets has centered around the concept of “net neutrality,” where the big corporate players like Comcast and the telecommunications companies would prefer more profit when more bandwidth is required (esp. in the distribution of news and entertainment). Consumer advocates resist this metering or tiered pricing, saying that the internet, developed by the government, should work for people, not corporations. The Obama administration has promoted the concept of “The Internet Bill of Rights,” and uses it in discussions with emerging democracies in many parts of the world.

At the regional level, and in an era of radically changing workflows and job descriptions, people like Clark Gilbert of Deseret Digital Media (including the Deseret Morning News) are revising the human architecture of news and information systems. Owned by the LDS (Mormon) church, the new structure of Mr. Gilbert’s newsroom is being watched closely by his industry. Breaking news is often assigned to both electronic and print reporters, so that the story can be prepared for distribution on subsidiary outlets including KSL-TV, the Deseret Morning News, and corporate websites simultaneously. Longform, or “investigative” assignments can also be covered by multi-platform teams of reporters for the same efficient purposes. A third level of reporting at DDM is comprised of freelance, sub-contracting information gatherers who are part of the variable cost budget.

News economics in the Information Age

In a post-recession business climate, monetizing an online information enterprise is as daunting as any startup, but with fewer barriers to entry. Starting a WordPress template and puting your words, pictures and video in front of the entire connected world, is not the chore it once was when Andreessen's Mosaic and file transfer protocol was more difficult to understand. Until Rupert Murdoch announced that the online edition of the Wall Street Journal would not be given away, the online consumer has had little responsibility in acquiring content from their favorite columnists and reporters. When the New York Times decided to put a paywall in front of their online content and charge for “all access,” the industry decided that there might be a model worth pursuing. As porous as it may be, the NYT online edition is pushing its way toward a breakeven point, and adjustments along that path are expected.

Arianna Huffington and Tim Armstrong explained some of the reasoning behind their recent merger of The Huffington Post and America Online. “To us, the history of the internet has been about platform development. As that has matured to its present state, we feel that the internet will now focus on content curation,” noted Ms. Huffington, whose online enterprise had been purchased by Mr. Armstrong for a reported 315 million U.S. dollars. Controversies about that aside, it represents an indelible fact that the journalistic landscape is changing.

This does not mean the kind of mindless aggregation assembled by online publications like, where RSS feeds offer an automated view of what is currently floating in cyberspace, will and should prevail. It does mean, as veteran journalist James O’Shea notes, that “the answer is out there, perhaps in a fledgling not-for-profit operation like the Chicago News Cooperative,” (Mr. O’Shea’s company) or in the currently popular notion of “entrepreneurial journalism,” which is the hottest topic in the hottest j-schools in America. O’Shea says that the new model is emerging with an audience that “is small, discerning and willing to pay if the information is good and the reporting is solid.”

There lies the future of news in Utah and perhaps the world.

Michael Orton is a native of Salt Lake City. He has earned degrees from UCLA and the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California, and has worked with national media organizations including CBS and ABC Television. He is currently a freelance multi-media journalist working between Denver and Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Utah’s New Office of Energy Development

by Michael Orton
Licensed through ImageProviders


Appearing on Tuesday before the Utah State House of Representatives’ natural resources committee, Rep. Roger Barrus (R-Davis) presented House bill 475 which, he said, “puts into place a new “Office of Energy Development in our state.” Along with the bill which easily passed his committee, Amanda Smith was introduced as the governor’s new energy advisor, assuming a role previously held by Dr. Diane Nielson whose background was in geology and mineral exploration. Presently overseeing both the Utah Department of Environmental Quality and the new energy development position, Ms. Smith will rely upon her background in law and her experience with public lands and conservation in the dual role until other appointees can be named. In an online press release issued Monday, the Governor's office indicated that his confidence in Ms. Smith was born from her ability to find common ground between a very diversely motivated group of stakeholders in a state with vast energy resources.

Rep. Barrus, an environmental engineer, testified that his bill “gives us the framework in which the Office of Energy Development can be created, and the governor’s energy advisor will appoint a director who will be over the office and will also appoint staff members as they are needed, but will do that within the existing budget.” This fiscal reality and the present-day limitations of Ms. Smith's assignment leaves the development of her newly created office wide open in a state which leads others in its efforts at economic recovery.

The governor's office had previously announced that his newest "energy initiative" would be available Wednesday, March 2, but late Tuesday the press conference scheduled for that purpose was cancelled until mid-March "due to scheduling conflicts." The governor had been in Washington testifying before congressional committees on both healthcare and "The Impact of the [Obama] Administration's Wild Lands Order on Jobs and Economic Growth."

Video coverage of the committee hearing and testimony is available via ImageProviders.


Ashlee Buchholz, who coordinates information for the governor on this topic, indicates that his latest energy initiative document will now be released on March 18, 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011

Utah Governor to Roll Out Energy Initiative

by Michael Orton
licensed via Creative Commons


Ted Wilson, Utah Governor Gary Herbert's energy task force chairman, introduced Amanda Smith as the state's new "energy advisor" to a group of environmental stakeholders this morning and then both described their governor's latest energy initiative, scheduled to be released to the public on Wednesday, March 2. Ms. Smith, originally a Jon Huntsman, Jr. appointee, was previously the head of  Utah's Department of Environmental Quality and it was unclear if a new appointee to lead the UDEQ would be announced mid-week as well.

Noting that the original initiative draft from the 2010 meetings had been "pretty well beaten up by just about everybody" who held an interest, Wilson, a former mayor of Salt Lake City and avid outdoorsman, described the forthcoming document as Governor Herbert's "Ten Year Energy Initiative," and included the input offered at public hearings held throughout the state during the previous summer. Wilson stated that the revised initiative contained "a lot of renewables," but conceded that "not very many Americans are changing their way of life," leaving the activist stakeholders to wonder if this latest initiative would continue to favor commercial extraction industries. Utah is a major coal producer with significant natural resources contributing to its economic development even before it achieved statehood in 1896.

Lieutenant Governor Herbert succeeded Jon Huntsman, Jr. when the latter accepted an appointment by the Obama administration as ambassador to China in 2009. A realtor and former commissioner in Utah County south of Salt Lake, Gary Herbert was elected in his own right last November to a four-year term and came under significant criticism by the scientific community when he questioned the veracity of climate change last year. Wilson indicated that in the new initiative, Governor Herbert now accepts that he will be "governing the state on a warming planet."

Herbert is in Washington, D.C. this week, and many expect the republican governor to plea for the sovereignty of his state's public lands in testimony before a republican-dominated congressional hearing. That address is scheduled for tomorrow and Wilson said, "it will not be very nice" toward the Obama administration. The Bureau of Land Management currently oversees approximately 20 million acres in the state of Utah, and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has recently described the designation of "wild lands" creating uncertainties for future management and leases by the commercial interests of Utah's coal, oil and gas producers. Wilson also indicated that the new initiative addresses the state's position on finite water resources in a new era of energy development.

Ms. Smith added that the new initiative "looks pretty different than the 2010 draft." She described the substance of the document as a set of recommendations covering eight areas with guiding principles "that consider energy development and its public health, environmental and economic impacts, regardless of the type of lens through which those are viewed."


At the conclusion of this 55 minute meeting, Mr. Wilson and Ms. Smith were asked if the new initiative contained any time-specific goals or objectives. They replied that it did not.