Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Dying to write

Much is made how journalists, like politicians, are some of the least trustworthy people out there. Hacks, muckrackers, paparazzi, leeches on the rich and famous. And yes, we have those among us.

But step outside Europe and North America for a moment, if you can. For 2006 may well go down in the annals of journalism as being one of the bloodiest years ever for journalists around the world.

According to separate reports released by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), a near record number of journalists were killed last year.

IFJ recorded at least 155 murders, assassinations and unexplained deaths in 2006. The conflict in Iraq accounted for 68 of the deaths. Violence in Latin America, particularly in Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela, claimed the lives of 37 media staff, while in Asia, attacks in the Philippines and Sri Lanka pushed the death toll to 34.

IFJ's statistics include media staff - fixers, drivers, technicians, security staff and translators - and those whose murders may not be directly related to their work.

CPJ recorded 55 journalists killed in 2006, two short of its record high of 57 in 2004. It also recorded 27 deaths in which it has not been confirmed whether they were work-related. CPJ only counts journalists killed in direct reprisal for their work, in crossfire, or while carrying out a dangerous assignment.

Everytime you castigate this profession, remember: we don't just work in the rich West; we don't just sell out innocent people. Consider that in repressive regimes; during times of trouble, the censor's axe, the President's wrath and the dungeons of the dictator too often visit the unsung heroes of the pen.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Publishing revolution?

The Guardian in the UK reports that a machine that electronically stores 2.5 million books - that can then be printed and bound in less than seven minutes - is to be launched early next year. It prints in any language and has an upper limit of 550 pages. The 'Espresso' will be launched first in several US libraries. The company behind the project - On Demand Books - predicts that, within five years, it will be able to reproduce every book ever published.

For many years, arguments have ranged back and forth about the revolutionary power of print on demand. From promises of a break with traditional publishing models, to allowing wider access to literature in less developed countries, is POD now making its breakthrough?