Wednesday, February 24, 2021

US and allies to build 'China-free' tech supply chain- We're heading into a very different phase of world history

US and allies to build 'China-free' tech supply chain

And so it begins.

You're watching the beginning of the splitting of the world into two major power centers that aren't that different than what we had before the 1990's with 'communist' Russia, China and their vassal states.

The difference is that it's fascism that's in charge now. China may call itself communist, but it operates just like Stalin's fascist-like extreme version of communism.

And Russia, well, Putin IS Stalin all over again. He's running a mafia state (i.e. fascist state) and has been for over a decade.

The only difference between Hitler's fascist/Nazi Germany and todays fascist states is they're better at handling information in general and the media in particular both inside and outside of their respective spheres of influence. Especially China.

This is going to completely disrupt commerce, politics, education and pretty much everything that's been developed the last 30 years or so that's global in nature. Late stage capitalism is showing it's cracks more and more.

It's also going to fuel a re-charging of the military industrial complex like we haven't seen in decades.

All that's old is new again.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Funding Local News

I recently wrote an email to a few colleagues (one an executive at Google, one an executive at McClatchy Newspapers and one to a fellow I've worked on and off with in various media entities over the years). This post is based on that email.

Just for fun, I worked out a 'thing' that's been running through my head for a few months now. Particularly the last few weeks with the insanity happening with our government.

It's also obvious that the consolidation of the existing private news infrastructure is more than a little problematic. It's become dangerous to our democracy. The far left publication Jacobin actually did a pretty well reasoned and not too far left in it's analysis of the situation in an article published this week titled "Capitalist Finance Is Incompatible With A Free Press'. 

With the Chicago Tribune's publishing company on the verge of being swallowed up by the hedge fund industry, capitalism’s ongoing destruction of the free press through downsizing and asset-stripping has become the number one threat to American democracy.

I believe one of the base issues with the threats to our democracy we see now is a lack of common understanding of what's happening, particularly at a local level, and one of the primary reasons for this is a lack of local news that provides local news, opinion, commentary and investigative reporting as well as connecting local businesses with local consumers.

But you know all this. My guess is you've already had these thoughts and, like I just did, run some numbers.

When I look at what it would take to create a national network of local news entities, it's not cheap, but, it's not THAT expensive either. Not in todays world where Airb-n-b hit's a $100B valuation on day one.

I came up with a cost of around $6.7B a year using a really simple model (simple can be good: occams razor solutions tend to work best).

With that money you could put a local virtual newsroom (no office, all online), like the compass experiment, with real staff in each town, focused on that town and building trust in the system in that town.

I'll bet that either a private consortium of billionaires with a social conscience, large companies with a guilt complex and government, if we positioned it as a key to how you fix our broken social and political system and was essential to saving our democracy (because it damn well is), could put together that kind of money reasonably easily. Either through commitments they make to support it, or funding an endowment ($115B earning 6% would throw off that much each year).

There's about $20 trillion (with a T) sitting, uninvested, right now. $42 trillion in the stock market. All just in the US.

Harvard and Yale, between them, have over $70B in endowment funds, for instance. That's just two institutions.

I know R-------'s doing a lot along these lines with Google, but, I'm not sure just one company can do something like this and have it be trusted by people. Not in todays 'Big Tech is scary' world. I also think the Compass Experiment* is thinking along these lines, but, I don't think a hedge fund owner with it's tendency toward predatory capitalism will have much interest (or capacity) either.

Alternatively, I also think you could fund it by creating a national tax of some sort that we all paid into. It would work out to about $3.58 a month per US worker in the country ($43 a year), assuming about 156M working people (2018 number). That's about what we each pay now for our local public libraries (usually via a tax as well; sales tax in our town. Property tax in many others).

Anyway, I know it's a little nuts. I just wanted to get my thoughts down and see if it even made sense to anyone else. Feel free to ignore this if you think it's too out there.

Note: everyone did respond and the conversation is ongoing.

I also, still, think the idea of creating a Library Information District that includes a newsroom built into the new 21st century Public Library, is more than a little viable. 

*Shortly after writing this to them, the Compass Experiment (a collaboration between McClatchy and Google) was disbanded. Apparently, the new hedge fund owners of McClatchy don't like Google and killed off the partnership.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Stepping down at Longmont Public Media


I'm the co-founder and have been the general manager at Longmont Public Media for the last year and, even though we had some bumps at the beginning, have deeply enjoyed the experience. 

It was a hell of a year to try and launch a new public access TV and Media makerspace (a global pandemic and all), but, we got it started up, we've got it running with a much better and more flexible technical infrastructure with far more reach (live web streaming, Facebook, YouTube and a ROKU app for smart TV's) and much more community content than was available before. Most importantly though is we have the basics required for long term success in place.

Why leave now? Because, this world of day to day media creation belongs to the next generation, not an old guy like me, so I'm handing off to my co-founder, Sergio Angeles. He'll be taking on the GM role as of Jan 1st, 2021.

He'll do great. Here's a link to the annoucement.

I'm going to call myself retired for awhile. I just had my 63rd birthday and taking some actual time off sounds like a good idea to me.

Scott Converse. Late 2020

Saturday, March 07, 2020

The Birth of Longmont Public Media

So, what have I been up to the last few months?

I didn't really write about it here because of all the red tape, NDA's, people involved and, frankly, drama, but our little group of media jammers bid on an RFP to take over our cities public access TV station in mid 2019 and we won.

We took over the Carnegie Library building, where our cities Public Access TV station lives, on Jan 1st, 2020.

Now, after being in existence for nine weeks and starting, pretty much, from scratch, we're making good progress at Longmont Public Media in creating a new kind of public access, educational, government coverage and local news/information media entity here in my hometown.

We've got the cable TV channels at CH8 and Ch880 working nicely as well as live streaming and archiving to our website, we've figured out mobile and remote broadcasting with modern tech, we're now covering all of the various government meetings that affect our civic life here (about 20 councils, boards and commissions each month with video/audio and full transcription services) as well as creating new regular and one-off shows about the community and we're building new membership for a media makerspace model that'll create an 'owned by the community and open to the community' media center for everyone.

This last part is essential. Having a deeply and widely involved community of engaged members is going to be essential to keeping public access media alive and well (funded) into the future.

If you're in the area, drop by and say hello. Our video, podcasting, internet streaming radio and recording studios as well as all our regular open to the public meetings and broadcast operations are at the Carnegie Library Building at 457 4th Ave. in Longmont CO.

We're open during regular hours of M-F 9 am to 5 pm, we have tours every Sat from Noon to 2pm and the space is generally open to the public whenever a supporting member is in the space.


Watch live:

Facebook page:

Become an LPM member:

We still operate the Longmont Observer as well, however, there are some changes coming in the near future. As things develop with the Observer, I'll update what's happening there in a future post.

Longer version of this post:

Friday, January 24, 2020

Just for the record...

This is just one of those housekeeping things.

I've heard several people take ownership (as in 'I made this') recently of things they may have been involved in but didn't start and in some cases didn't have much involvement with other than being present and watching the action.

If you're interested in who actually started something, look at the state it started in, and go to the Secretary of State website to find out who, actually, created the entity.  Here in Colorado you just go to the SoS website, click on the Business tab, click on 'search business database (under search and file, first bullet), enter the name of the entity, click on Articles of Incorporation, click on Filing history and documents and then click on the actual Articles of Incorporation (the first clickable link at the top). The name of the person who founded the entity is on that document. Often there are additional attached documents that have additional founder's names on them. Check for those as well. These are government records that can't be altered, only added to and amended (which is closely tracked by the Secretary of State agency with each change and amendment listed on the website)

.Here are three examples:

TinkerMill (Longmont's Makerspace).

Startup Longmont (the original startup focused entity in Longmont).

Longmont Startup Week (the first one that started it, done in 2015).

I don't really care much about this, but, I (obviously) care enough to write this post.  It's a bit irritating when you regularly hear from people how someone is taking credit for something they didn't do.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

We Can't Let Thousands of Local Newspapers Disappear ... Yang

I haven't really followed this guys campaign, but, I love the message he's got here.

This is less than 5 minutes and it's deeply important to our communities.

If a presidential candidate thinks this is important, it's closer to the public's awareness than I thought and that's a very good thing.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

We Need A New Kind Of Local Community Funded Newspaper- At The Public Library

A story on this our local NPR station did: "As News Deserts Encroach, One City Looks At A new Way To Fund Local Journalism"


Let's put unbiased local newsrooms into a place that's not obvious, but when you think of it, makes more sense than anywhere else: The local public library.

It's clear that libraries have become the center of unbiased non-profit information dissemination in America. It's where you go for guidance on how to find information on things you're interested in. It's also one of the few places in your city you can go to today and not be expected to buy something.

In a recent New York Times opinion piece by Eric Klinenberg, he makes the argument that we need to support our libraries more, not less.

Why not really focus on making them an integral component of our communities though?  Libraries all across America are moving toward this idea of being the primary information center for the community, regardless of information type.

Boulder, Colorado has a full-blown makerspace with tools and printers and laser cutters that are packed with patrons from the moment it opens to the moment it closes every day.

There are libraries where you can check out a laptop from a vending machine, or a drone, just like you can check out a book.

There are even libraries that provide 'newsletters on the happenings in the community' that turn into actual weekly's and online publications, fulfilling an essential need where towns have lost their local newspapers to the insatiable appetite of Google and Facebook pulling out almost all of the local advertising revenue, leaving little to nothing for real local newsrooms to operate on.

Personally, I'd like to see my local library take on the role of a local newsroom, producing information about what's going on in our community, just like local newspapers used to. Why a library? Because it's our communities long term memory. It stores the newspapers from 100 years ago. It keeps a record of our town's history and it provides guided access to information that's about facts, first and foremost.

To remove a book from a library because you don't like it requires you, almost, have to kill a librarian. They are badasses when it comes to unbiased access to information.

Can you think of a better place for a newsroom that's focused on local community information to existing? I can't.  Personal privacy, freedom of information and freedom of the press are key components of our society and all of those are enshrined in practice and law at American libraries.

Even what's left of our local newspapers are under attack by monied interests determined to squeeze out the last few cents of profit possible. Our community has a Digital First owned newspaper.  That, in turn, is owned by a hedge fund in NYC that could give two craps about news in my (or your) hometown.  They're sucking the final profits out of a dying business (local for-profit news). They shut down their office and not a single reporter from this shell of a newspaper has even a co-working space desk to operate from in our town now.  100,000 people. They work out of another city. The few reporters left cover multiple 'beats'. For us, the 5 or so reporters in the area cover 7 cities and 3 counties. A far cry from the dozens of professional journalists that used to cover Longmont.

Local news is essential and vital to the civic health of a town or city. Citie's that lose their newspapers and become news deserts (almost 2000 cities in America over the last 10 years have had this happen) see many costs to their communities from higher crime rates, more local political corruption, lower school scores, more opioid deaths and even higher borrowing costs for municipal bonds.

What better place than the local library to base a non-profit newsroom?

Libraries of the 21st century are becoming far more than places for just books. They are building out maker-spaces in their buildings now.  Some have community museums, high schools and senior centers in them. They're about community services, not just books, but what they're really about is knowledge sharing and learning. Newspapers are on that same continuum of knowledge sharing and learning that libraries have been brilliant at for centuries.

Just like a library, local news can help bind a community together.  It can inform and enlighten.  It should be accurate and honest and it should give us insight into our government, our schools, our businesses, our neighborhoods, and our town.  It can embody where we live and be the heartbeat and memory of what happened last week, a century ago, and everything in between.

Today's news organizations are under attack.  By the ruthless cold AI driven profit engines of social media like Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter where opinion and gossip have taken the place of actual vetted unbiased news, search engines and Amazon's desire to make all things publishing oriented available only through them and by government officials who cry 'fake news' and focus on large centralized for-profit news entities that are vulnerable to the whims of these politicians and advertisers.

Imagine 10,000 local distributed non-profit independent newsrooms focused on their community, housed in the local library, reporting on our day to day lives, for us.  No desire to sell you something.  No need to try and influence or convince.  Just news. Locally focused news on the mundane but essential components of our schools, our government, our businesses, our families and our friend's lives. These newsrooms would be untouchable by politicians or the advertising-driven for profit needs of today's news business model.

But how to fund it?  There is a way that could work in any town in America.  All they would need is a library, or the desire to have a library.

The germ of this idea came from a fellow named Simon Galperin who wrote an article in the Columbia Journalism Review titled "Journalism is a public service. Why don't we fund it like one?"

Why not indeed?  But convincing a local community to create a 'Communication Information District', as Galperin proposes, is currently a hard sell.  Not because it's a bad idea, but, because it's a new idea.  New ideas are hard to grasp by large groups of people and can often take a very long time to be accepted by the general public.

But libraries don't have this problem.

Why not put every library in America into its own special tax district (as many libraries already are) to fund that library.  As part of that library create a local newsroom with a staff of reporters and editors with a video and audio editing capability (also accessible to everyone in the community to use) to cover the day to day happenings in that town?  Covering the local government, schools, businesses, social life, and entertainment. Acting as a place that holds together the community.

This 'newsroom' entity could also replace the aging network of underused public access TV studios that were funded decades ago by the Cable Communication Act of 1984.  Part of that act was to create PEG (public education and government access) stations.  Although these stations/studios once were an important part of local media in communities across the country, they, along with the rapidly accelerating 'cutting the cord' activities of people nationwide have made cable TV, and by extension, local cable franchise fee supported public tv studios, far less relevant in day to day society.

Today, video on the internet has replaced the old TV model.  Just as podcasts have taken a larger and larger roll in place of traditional analog radio stations.

A video and audio production studio in a library isn't just a good idea, it's something that's already happening across the country. Just look at White Plains NY's library who moved their cable access studios into the local library.

Libraries are already repositories of newspapers (if they can find them nowadays... often, they aren't even available anymore, or the hedge funds want to charge 10's of thousands of dollars for the right to access them), why not make them the home of non-partisan, locally focused news, as well as the archiver of it.

You could set this up as part of the Library Special Tax district (well established laws in all states) and protect it's independence with a set percentage of the tax districts money that can't be taken away by the libraries board (creating journalist integrity and the essential ability to not be influenced by anything other than the needs of the community) and writing into the library tax district bylaws protections for the integrity and independence of the newsroom to ensure the newsrooms focuses on the needs of the community and not any special interests.

For those who wonder if tax dollars can effectively be used to create quality balanced news, you don't need to look any further than what many believe is the best news organization in the world: The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), which is funded mostly by taxes on the countries citizens and the selling of it's content (produced by the tax-funded divisions) internationally.

Communities that lose their local newspapers all suffer.  A recent study done by the University of Notre Dame and the Universtiy of Illinois found that cities without locally active newspapers shouldered higher costs across the board.  From lower test scores in local schools to higher crime rates and even higher borrowing rates for things like city bonds to fund public works projects. They even see substantially less civic engagement as outlined in an article titled "When local newspapers shrink fewer people bother to run for mayor"

As Jacob Passy writes in MarketWatch"Higher taxpayer costs can come about in other ways. The closure of a local newspaper was also shown to lead to high government wages, more government employees and higher taxes per capita. “Local newspapers hold their governments accountable,” the researchers wrote. “The loss of monitoring that results from newspaper closures is associated with increased government inefficiencies.”

It's likely that it would even save money for local government.  Today, our city spends at least 10's of thousands of dollars on advertising and subscriptions in the for-profit hedge fund owned newspaper as well as money paying for 'public notices' that are required by law be published in a local newspaper. All of that money is currently taken out of the city of Longmont and sent back to billionaire hedge fund owners in NYC.  Why not spend that money with this newsroom?  A paper version could easily be created that contained these public notices, available at the library, through USPS subscriptions and, of course, online (available to the entire population of the city from their phones).

And all that money spent by the city would stay in the city.

Public notices are a requirement for all cities in America and make it even easier to justify the creation of local newsroom and publication housed at your local library.

The level of civic engagement and transparency in communities with this kind of hybrid local non-profit newsroom and library institution could both replace the dying newspaper business of yesteryear and provide a new vibrant way for cities and towns across America to better take care of both themselves and their residents.

I don't know if this is something that will come about, but, I do think that this may be one of the best solutions to fixing a problem that's fast approaching our community and other communities across the country.

Update 5/10/19: An article published on this and what's happening in our community in the Columbia Journalism Review:

US and allies to build 'China-free' tech supply chain- We're heading into a very different phase of world history

US and allies to build 'China-free' tech supply chain