Required Reading for the Digital Newsroom

There was a huge media event this weekend, and I’m not talking about the Oscars. It was when NASCAR took to YouTube and had a fan video of a crash taken down, in the name of the DMCA.

The posted video, showing parts of the crash not viewable in the official NASCAR version,  stayed down, although copies of it circulated on sites like Deadspin. Later, Google put the videos back up; NASCAR must have realized what a silly, corporate idea ti was to block the video just as news of the crash broke.

 The DMCA, and intellectual property online, is one of those looming questions surrounding digital journalism. I found myself embroiled in a lighthearted, but serious debate with another tech-minded friend about who was right in this case and its implications. Both of us found ourselves quoting and recommending books to each other by the end of it when we decided to agree to disagree. And it reminded me of how many really good, insightful books there are about copyright and digital culture that should be “required reading” for anyone with an email account.

In the name of a mid-winter Thursday, here are a couple to curl up with this weekend:

1. Copyright Culture

My favorite primer on copyright culture is Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars by William Patry. It’s an older book from 2009, but it’s readable history of copyright in the States is illuminating. It’s not so much taking a stand on one side (although he tends copy-left) as it is an overall summary of both sides and sets up a good way to think about acts like the DMCA and how to reform them. Other must reads, if you haven’t already, are almost anything by Lawrence Lessig, the godfather of Free Culture. Remix is already a bit dated, if only because the book consistently warns that restrictive copyright laws aren’t good for “the Children,” but I suppose whatever works to garner readers. However, the philosophy behind making art profitable in the digital economy is right on.

 2. Twitter Pundits

I know I’m a bookworm, and these are not new releases, but did you ever get around to reading Jeff Jarvis’ Public Parts? It’s available as an e-book and audio book, which I think would be a good choice for this book since it’s narrative is fun, lively, and has that “made for a podcast” sort of feel. He goes through various points – from Google Maps to Twitter – and I think his point is that the sharing that we all do makes us better, personally and as a community. It’s the antidote to the The Shallows (Nicholas Carr) or You Are Not a Gadget (Jaron Lanier), books that posit more insidious effects of online culture.

If Jarvis inspires, go back a little and pick  up Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, one of the first books, I think, to really lay out how the culture has changed for journalists. It would be fun to see what’s held up and what’s changed since it’s publishing in 2008.

 3. Theoretically Speaking

I’m still only halfway through this one, but it’s already worth sharing. Henry Jenkins is the man behind Convergence Culture Consortium, which brought together media studies academics and industry thinkers, movers and shakers. His newest book, co-authored with Sam Ford and Joshua Green, Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture should be passed around the newsroom. It’s not as easy a read as Lessig or Jarvis, but it’s a fresh take on viral and participatory media. He talks about everything from “why media spreads,” to “designing for spreadability” and what constitutes “meaningful participation online” anyway. From the intro:

 This book is not designed as a handbook to teach the creative industries how to make more moeny by leveraging the growing platforms of Web 2.0. Similarly, rather than design a guide for viral media success, we question the cultural logic of “viral media in ways that point out how such models harm audiences, content creators, and marketers.


So now I’ve shared my stash with you, what industry reads are you getting into? Anything you’re looking forward to? Do, tell!