Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Monthly Archives: January 2005
In their own words, “two nerdy girls” have decided to start a locally focused online publication. Cara and Katie are writing about it and other online news observations on their new blogs. Katie seems more interested in local news and Cara is studying convergence. Both topics of personal interest. I plan to keep an eye on what they’re up to.
I’m getting to where I enjoy photo blogging more than text blogging. I’ve always enjoyed photography, but it was always a hobby that costwise was well beyond my means. I’ve been fortunate to be gifted some very nice cameras, but the cost of film was prohibitive, not to mention that if you want to crop, dodge and burn, you need your own darkroom (read $$$$).
Until digital photography came along.
I’ve just posted pictures I took today in San Francisco on my buzznet. I hope you’ll take a look.
Digital video is pretty cool, too, though I don’t do as much with it as I should. Even though when I was a reporter I had no trouble marching up to a stranger and saying, “I’m with the Daily Planet and I have a question for you,” I seem to be way too shy to approach some guy on the street with, “I’m a blogger … ” Maybe I need to leave that sort of thing to the young and the hip.
Just got this e-mail from my old bandmate Dave Ybarra:
Sounds Like San DiegoIf you’re in San Diego, you should go to this. Folk Arts is one of the best record stores on the planet.
A Fundraiser For Folk Arts Records
Sunday January 30 2005
Sun Jan 30: SOUNDS LIKE SAN DIEGO – A fundraiser for integral San Diego mainstay Folk Arts Records, who recently lost their lease after decades on Adams Ave., featuring an evening of songs made famous throughout the years by San Diego performers, ably covered by some of San Diego’s best, including: Joey Harris, the Shambles, Rookie Card, The Truckee Brothers, Mark Decerbo & Four Eyes, Jose Sinatra, The Coyote Problem, Berkley Hart, Carol Ames, Gregory Page & Tom Brosseau, Lou & Virginia Curtiss, Derek Duplessie, 21 Grams, Modern Rhythm, Roy Ruiz Clayton, The Wild Truth , Billy Shaddox and surprise guests.
As he notes, a lot of journalist love this movie.
I’ve seen it. I love it. I’m not sure there’s enough journalist who would take an interest to make it’s release commercially viable. However, every journalist should see it. If you’re a journalist and you don’t love this movie, I question your suitability for the profession. Sure, it’s a bit of sap and pap, but the whole notion of “it’s the press, baby … and there’s nothing you can do to stop it … ” is the right touch of sentamentality about what motivates good reporters.
I still believe journalism is an honorable profession and that it should attract bright young people who believe in truth and justice. It should also attract people who feel compelled, absolutely compelled, to get the story out.
Is Deadline USA a great movie? Not by a long shot. The plot is a bit contrived and even by the standards of the day, the acting (except Bogart, of course) is a little stilted. I would also argue with Moe that it’s the best journalism movie ever. I’d put All the President’s Men, Citizen Kane and His Girl Friday ahead of it.
But I do have a poster of Deadline USA hanging in my office at work (along with a Kane poster).
I got the Moe link via Romenesko, who also links to this Moe column that mentions Deadline USA in context of Peter Hamill’s love of the movie (Hammill is one of my wife’s favorite authors). Also, this Bob Green column, which includes the key closing dialogue.
And all but the first quote in the IMDB listing are ones I contributed, including this favorite: “About this wanting to be a reporter, don’t ever change your mind. It may not be the oldest profession, but it’s the best.”
I’ll never be able to argue with that.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s on teevee every six months or so. Just set your Tivo to wait for it.
Recently, Phil turned 90.
He still cuts my hair.
Something powerful is at work here: The explosion of the global digital “back-channel.”
It’s a good piece that brings together a few of the elements of new media that are changing the world. Not discussed are P2P, TVIP and wireless devices.
Remember all of the hype about the World Wide Web back in 1995? And remember how with the dot com bust, the nay sayers were able to say, “See. Told you. Hype.” Well, it’s not hype now. It’s happening now. All of the world-changing potential of digital technology is coming to fruition, and the change seems to be accelerating, at least to me.
I’m reading Gillmor’s book now, and going through his history of personal publishing, it brings up some painful memories — painful because I knew back then what I should have been doing, but I wasn’t doing it. I was trying to build businesses instead of acting on my instinct about personal publishing. I remember telling a group of fellow journalists in Washington D.C. that the Web was going to change information flow in ways we couldn’t totally understand at that moment, that somewhere there was the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs working away in his garage developing some information delivery platform that was going to profoundly effect us all, and that the Web made possible a new age of pamphleteers. Well, no one individual can get sole credit for the personal publishing revolution going on now, but the rest of what I said has proven essentially correct.
As much as I loved pontificating, you would have thought I would have started a personal Web site back then. What I wanted to do, but felt I didn’t have time for, would be a distraction, wouldn’t help my career, was start a Web site and publish a weekly opinion column. I should have done it. Now, I see, it probably would have been the best thing for my career I could have done.
Instead, I came to the blogging game late (stared April 2002).
One observation’s of Gillmor’s I want to touch on — how Sept. 11 changed blogging. I find it ironic that the enemies of freedom and democracy played such an important role of spurring on a democratic revolution that no terrorist will ever be able to stop. What the net is and where it’s going (P2P, as Gillmor notes, is an essential tool in protecting freedom) makes effectively ever quashing freedom an impossibility.
San Diego means a lot to me. It’s the place of my birth. Much of my family lives there, including my parents. The friends I’ve known the longest, I met in San Diego. San Diego is a place where my love of music was nurtured, and where I learned to play golf, and started smoking cigars and drinking gin, and the place I longed for during four lonely years in the USAF. It’s where I went to college and my favorite sports teams all play their home games there. And, of course, it’s also the place where I met and married my wife.
I love California. I’ve been to just about every corner of the state. I’ve lived in Lompoc and Santa Maria, and been to San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay, Paso Robles, Big Sur, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Redding, Sacramento, Fresno, Modesto, Bakersfield and spent at least a weekend a month for about a year prowling around Imperial Valley and the Borrego Desert. I’ve spent more Saturdays than I can count in Los Angeles. I’ve even spent a few hours once or twice in Orange County.
My career may eventually carry me away from California, and I would be okay with that, but I love this land with an ecosystem as varied, enigmatic and eclectic as the people who live here.
I will always call San Diego home, and to anybody reading this who might be involved in the decision, when the time comes, I want to be buried in El Cajon.
But Ventura is where I live, and more and more, day by day, I come to love it here. It doesn’t have the emotional ties San Diego pulls, but the longer I’m here, the less I miss my home town.
When Billie and I first moved here, we were struck by how friendly everybody was. And how little traffic there was. How there was less graffiti and trash in the streets. You could always find parking at the mall and not wait for a table at the best restaurants in town, or stand in line at the movies. We would tell people, “Ventura is just like San Diego, but with less crowding and fewer cars on the freeway, and less smog and less crime.”
We were fortunate to find a nice place three blocks from the ocean.
On its best days, palm-tree-laden Ventura is sun drenched and breezy.
In the aftermath of a month of rain, flooding and tragedy I’ve been reminded over the past three days just how beautiful Ventura can be. There are more days like these than there are of dreary darkness and wet pavement.
Like Paul, I can be content where I am or whatever my situation, but if I live another 60 years and spend them all in Ventura, I won’t taste the salt of a single tear.
The full-bodied original of the picture with this post can be viewed through this link. I snapped the picture after turning down a street I’d never been on before. I was awed by the pre-evening view of the calm Pacific and the brooding Channel Islands over a weed-spammed field and the swaying palm trees in the distance along Harbor Blvd.
I’ve done my fair share of media bashing. I have a particular anxiety about how journalism is practiced within the beltway and New York. But I take issue with this sentence from Prof. Reynolds:
If more journalists believed that their craft was that important, they’d be less willing to dilute it with efforts to shift opinion, wouldn’t they?
The implicit premise, as I take it, is that a good portion of journalists, if not most, practice a shaddy form of the profession, repeatedly infusing their reporting with political agendas.
I’ve worked at a variety of newspapers over the years, and freelanced for many more. I’ve been deeply involved in our professional organizations and I know reporters and editors all over the country. I can count on half of one hand the number of reporters I suspected of putting slant ahead of honest reporting.
As much as I am a critic of the beltway media, I would still bet that the majority of reporters there work hard to remain non-partisan observers.
That’s not to say that even good reporters don’t have blind spots to their own prejudices, but that’s very different from deliberate distortion, and I think even the blind spots are rarer than they seem.
I believe the vast majority of journalists care deeply about their craft, their ethics and their calling to be the eyes and ears of the people who depend on their reports.
It’s fine to bash bad reporting, but it’s a mistake, I think, to broadbrush the profession.
Ken Layne offers directions and background for tourists heading to San Diego with an interest in sites of murder and suicide. He mentions three infamous crimes, but if wants visitors to find ghosts of mass death, I would include a four-block area of North Park around Dwight and Nile streets.
On a clear-skied Monday morning, Sept. 25, 1978, a Cessna being flown by a student pilot, collided with PSA Flight 182. On the ground, some people slept, a few tended to their gardens or hurried off to work. In North Park, homes and apartments are tight against each other, so the neighborhood is thickly populated. But Monday is a work day, and North Park has never been a haven for the leisure class, so most of the dwellings were empty that morning. When the jet hit the ground, a four-block area burst into flames, yet only seven people on the ground were killed. There were 144 people on the Flight 182 and all perished.
I heard about the crash from classmates before I ever saw the news. A few of them had seen the plane go down. My high school, Grossmont, in La Mesa, is probably about 20 miles from the crash site. I was in gym class at the time of the crash, but on that particular day, we were playing basketball indoors. When I got home that afternoon, my mom had the news on, transfixed by the horror of burning homes and black skies on TV. I guess the initial TV coverage was pretty graphic, but I never saw that. A picture of some burned out homes can be seen on this page.
The photo of the plane going down was taken by an amature photographer who was refueling his car at a nearby gas station. The Evening Tribune, which ran the picture that afternoon big and wide, won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the tragedy.
I first visited the neighborhood a few months after the crash. There was nothing there. It was a sad, lonely place. Now, homes have been rebuilt and if you didn’t know about the crash, you wouldn’t recognize the place as a site of disaster, even the architecture is totally different from the surrounding homes.
The city mothers and fathers of El Cajon did their best to ruin that city. And by that city, I mean downtown. They tore down nice old buildings and put up ugly ones. The mayor was on a quixotic quest to make El Cajon more like La Jolla. She didn’t even get a cheap version of Santee.
At the beginning of my journalism career, I covered Ocean Beach in San Diego. The merchants’ association there decided they wanted to do something about their flagging fortunes and essentially voted a tax on themselves. They persuaded the City Council to let them start a facade rebate program, and the city chipped in some community block grant money. The goal was to preserve the character and embrace the town for what it is — a haven for second-hand bookstores, antique shops and clothing boutiques, with the occasional jewelry and flower shop. OB also had its dive bars, funky restaurants and odd gift emporiums. None of the businesses felt threatened by the improvements because it was clear the intention was to make business better, not different.
Slowly, Ocean Beach evolved into something that was a lot closer to La Jolla than Santee. Sure, some of the old businesses couldn’t afford the rising rents because of the improved business climate, but many survived and thrived, and the news businesses that came in complimented OB’s essential culture. OB is busier, looks nicer and attracts a wealthier class of clientele than it did 15 years ago.
It’s the tale of two redevelopment projects — one that embraced the strength of the community and another that rejected it. One succeeded and one failed. It’s a lesson I’ve long felt Ventura would do well to pay heed to.
I’ve heard rumblings for as long as I’ve lived up here that the City Council wants to get rid of downtown’s thrift shops and second-hand stores. I say, don’t ruin downtown by driving out its most essential businesses. Thrift stores are to an aging downtown what Macy’s and Robinsons-May are to shopping malls — anchors that create traffic for the other businesses. Contrary to conventional wisdom, thrift stores attract the affluent and the artistic most of all. Sure, the poor use them, too, but is it a crime for poor people come downtown?
One anchor stores in downtown Ventura is Trueblood’s. It’s bills itself as a collectables shop, but it’s really a funky and unique house of American culture featuring an odd assortment of the sublime and the crass of American commercialism on its shelves and walls.
Johnny Trueblood, a local musician and free spirit, has operated the shop for 30 years. By September, Trueblood will close the doors for the last time. He may reopen again somewhere else, but the rent along Main Street is getting too rich. He doubts he’ll stay in Ventura.
I guess I can’t really blame the city for this one, since officials can’t stop a landlord from raising the rent, but it’s a sad passing.
I was in Johnny’s store today and I’ve posted some pictures to a special Buzznet gallery.