Thursday, December 28, 2006 Ink-Stained to Link-Strained: A Kvetch -

From Howard Kurtz:

"Isn't something lost if you can wall yourself off from views and information that challenge what you already believe? If everything is ordered a la carte? If -- and this really dates me as an ink-stained wretch -- you like turning the pages of a newspaper because you might bump into an unexpected story you would never have found online? If you and your family and your co-workers are plugged into parallel media universes?"

Friday, December 22, 2006 The Media Mob: 'Written by partisans to be read by the naive'

From John Bambenek:

"What blogs do accomplish, at least the few that actually try to be media instead of diary, is fact-check the 'objective journalists.' This is where the real contempt for bloggers comes from. Blogs have outted journalistic frauds that would have gone undiscovered despite all the checks and balances in the traditional media."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Online Journalism Review: Top mistakes made by new online publishers

From Robert Niles:

"Don't fall into the traps that have left too many other journalists muttering that 'no one can make money online.'" How Magazines Can Survive

From Bo Sacks:

"What we need is a new sustainable business model for the publishing industry. The barbarians are at the gate."

Comment: The problem is that publishers don't have faith in their "addictive editorial packages."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

BBC News: Blogging 'set to peak next year'

From BBC News:

"The blogging phenomenon is set to peak in 2007, according to technology predictions by analysts Gartner. The analysts said that during the middle of next year the number of blogs will level out at about 100 million."

Comment: Having worked as an industry analyst, I can tell you that this advice is about as accurate as today's weather forecast.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Center for Citizen Media: The Demise of the Professional Photojournalist

From Dan Gillmor:

"The pros who deal in breaking news have a problem. They can’t possibly compete in the media-sphere of the future. We’re entering a world of ubiquitous media creation and access. When the tools of creation and access are so profoundly democratized, and when updated business models connect the best creators with potential customers, many if not most of the pros will fight a losing battle to save their careers."

Media Daily News: Reuters Partners With Yahoo For Citizen Media Site

From Media Daily News:

"Citizen journalism got a major bump yesterday with the launch of "You Witness News," a joint venture of Reuters and Yahoo that allows amateur photojournalists an opportunity to submit their pictures and videos of newsworthy events."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Wikipedia Passes Another Test

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"'The experts' -- that is, the professors who read articles about their chief subjects of study -- 'found Wikipedia’s articles to be more credible than the nonexperts,' writes Mr. Chesney in First Monday. 'This suggests that the accuracy of Wikipedia is high.'"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

San Francisco Chronicle: What if online portals had nothing but 'digital fish wrap'?

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Newspapers cannot succeed as Internet ventures -- not on the scale they need to survive -- if they persist in using a business model predicated on giving away their news content and selling ads based on the audience that is drawn to free content."

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Editors' Weblog: Election day confirms blog credibility

From The Editors' Weblog

"Newspapers will have to get used to successful bloggers' newly-acquired credibility and to their own new role, not only providing news for blogs, but also complementing and using them for their own reports."

BBC News: Blogosphere sees healthy growth

From BBC News:

"The web's love affair with blogging shows no signs of abating according to the latest report from blog tracking firm Technorati."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Mass Inc.: Citizen journalism’s pied piper

"From Berkeley to Harvard, Dan Gillmor tries to bring the new media into being, without bringing down the old."

Monday, October 16, 2006

BBC News: Online world to get news bureau

From BBC News:

"Reuters has opened a virtual news agency in the Second Life online world."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hiatus (Updated)

Insert Tech Here is on hiatus while I retool the blog's focus. Stay tuned...

UPDATE (1/10/07): Okay, the blog's description has been updated to reflect the best solution I could come up with to maintain the blog:

This blog consists of links to and quotes from the most interesting stories I read about online media, citizen journalism, and the blogosphere. Each link should be accompanied by thoughtful commentary, but until I give up my day job, this is the best I can do. Besides, if Glenn Reynolds can get away with it, why can't I?

I found myself saving post after post as drafts because I didn't have time to comment on the interesting stories I found. I know lots of bloggers manage to make the time, but I just can't do it right now. But I still spend more time reading about online media, citizen journalism, and the blogosphere than most people I know, so I think I'm still providing some modicum of value. Hopefully I can get back to writing more substantial posts at some point.

For now, I'm publishing some of the draft posts I had been saving. Many of the stories are still interesting; if nothing else, I'm filling in the record.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

New York Times: New Republic Suspends an Editor for Attacks on Blog

From The New York Times:

"A senior editor at The New Republic was suspended and his blog was shut down on Friday after revelations that he was involved in anonymously attacking readers who criticized his posts. Lee Siegel, creator of the Lee Siegel on Culture blog for, was suspended indefinitely from the magazine..."

Comment: People, people -- stop taking random comments from strangers so seriously!

The Independent Institute: Nobody Killed The Newspaper

From The Independent Institute:

"The technology has helped accelerate this change, just as technology helped accelerate the transition from an agricultural to an industrial society or from an industrial to a service-dominated society. But technology is just a means. The crux of the matter is the people's perception that power is now in their hands. The barriers to entry into the information market have fallen and now citizens don't depend on editors to publicize their views or their stories."

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Washington Post: On YouTube, Charges of Security Flaws

From the Washington Post, via

"Michael De Kort was frustrated. The 41-year-old Lockheed Martin engineer had complained to his bosses. He had told his story to government investigators. He had called congressmen. But when no one seemed to be stepping up to correct what he saw as critical security flaws in a fleet of refurbished Coast Guard patrol boats, De Kort did just about the only thing left he could think of to get action: He made a video and posted it on"

Comment: And this is why citizen media, citizen journalism, whatever you want to call it, is winning.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Washington Post: Blogging Under The Radar

From the Washington Post:

"The fragile cease-fire still holds, but for wary Lebanese and Israelis the barrage of noise continues -- in cyberspace. By provoking a trade in words, the 33-day war in Lebanon didn't just wreak death and destruction. It also helped knock down a wall of silence."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Economist: More media, less news


"Newspapers are making progress with the internet, but most are still too timid, defensive or high-minded."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Financial Times: Computers write news at Thomson

From the Financial Times:

"First it was the typewriter, then the teleprinter. Now a US news service has found a way to replace human beings in the newsroom and is instead using computers to write some of its stories. Thomson Financial, the business information group, has been using computers to generate some stories since March and is so pleased with the results that it plans to expand the practice."

Comment: Having done this job myself, I can tell you that I'm surprised all market stories aren't being generated by computers at this point. A colleague and I came up with the idea to do Mad Libs style market stories while waiting in line to see the first Austin Powers movie.

Monday, August 14, 2006

New York Times: Ease of Alteration Creates Woes for Picture Editors

From the New York Times:

"The recent discovery that a Lebanese freelance photographer, Adnan Hajj, had manipulated pictures he took for Reuters has raised questions about the standards of photojournalism at a time of widespread digital photography."

Comment: Okay, here's a link to one of the doctored photos on Little Green Footballs. Anyone who knows more than the basics in Photoshop can see that this photo is doctored -- the smoke has clearly been enhanced using the clone tool. It is frankly impossible that the Reuters photo editors wouldn't have seen this if they looked at the photos for more than a nanosecond.

Friday, August 11, 2006

CJR Daily: Parroting the Party Line

From CJR Daily:

"But [the objective] method of reporting -- which is actually of somewhat recent vintage -- has some huge drawbacks. This is especially true for the casual news consumer who is trying to navigate her or his way through the rocky shoals of political reporting, with all of its competing agendas and professional spinners muddying the waters of public discourse."

Digital Tampering in the Media, Politics and Law

From Hany Farid's website:

"Photography, of course, lost its innocence many years ago. In as early as the 1920s, shortly after the first commercially available camera was introduced, Stalin had his enemies "air-brushed" out of photographs. With the advent of high-resolution digital cameras, powerful personal computers and sophisticated photo-editing software, the manipulation of digital images is becoming more common. Here, I have collected some examples of digital tampering in the media, politics, and the law."

NPR : Exciting Times in American Journalism

From NPR:

"One news junkie who's been around says mergers in old and new media are reinvigorating the profession -- and audiences."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Slate: How the Times makes local papers dumber

From Jack Shafer:

"Lisa M. George and Joel Waldfogel... found that the increased availability of the Times cut into the circulation of local newspapers among "targeted readers"—that is, well-educated readers—but that local newspaper readership increased among those not targeted by the Times—the less-educated. Finally, they found reason to believe local newspapers become more local wherever the Times invades."

Online Journalism Review: Online media's 'Californian' adventure

From Online Journalism Review:

"One newspaper in Bakersfield, Calif. shows how an old media company can work like a nimble dot-com."

AlterNet: You're the Director Now

From AlterNet:

"Welcome to the world of the Wikimentary -- where you're the director and the audience."

Monday, July 31, 2006 Moguls of New Media


"The MySpace member with a million 'friends.' The receptionist with a production deal. Some of the Web's amateur entertainers are becoming powerful players."

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Editor and Publisher: Survey says web editors win

From Editor and Publisher:

"If there was a pay winner on the paper, it's that guy who runs the Web site... The Inland survey found that the average base pay for an online editor jumped 8.1%, and increased 8.8% in total direct compensation."

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Blogger gets the story on controversial picture

Proof that some bloggers do act like journalists -- more than some professional journalists. AP photos of Israeli girls drawing on rockets bound for Lebanon has been making the rounds. The context is very unclear from the photos -- why are the children there with the military? Blogger Lisa Goldman decided to find out. She called the AP photographer, who told her the story but declined to speak on the record. So then she called a reporter from an Israeli paper who was also there, who told her the story on the record. Then she reported the story on her blog, calling the post "Putting things in perspective." You can agree or disagree with her perspective, but at least she took the time to find out what happened. Kudos, Lisa.

Condescension from CNN and the AP

Maybe I'm being petty, but this AP story on pissed me off for two reasons. First, CNN chose to categorize it under 'Offbeat News.' Other recent stories in this category include:

How much for date with Jessica Biel?
Snake joke could lead to jail
Real-bearded Santas flood toasty Missouri town

Granted, CNN also put the Russian president's recent gaffe in this category as well. But as far as I know, Putin isn't as well known for being a total embarrassment to his unwilling constituents. This isn't 'offbeat news.' It's highly inappropriate behavior from the supposed leader of the free world.

Ok, so if that's not annoying enough, let's look at the sixth and seventh paragraphs of the AP piece:
Many writers saw a sexist aspect to Bush's back rub. "This isn't a Sigma Chi kegger, it's the G-8 Summit," wrote blogger Christy Hardin Smith on

(Bush was actually in Delta Kappa Epsilon. Another Web 2.0 truism: Blogs are not always friendly with the facts.)

Wow, the AP must be really scared of the blogosphere if it feels the need to point out 'errors' like this. First of all, I suspect that Hardin Smith picked Sigma Chi arbitrarily -- she didn't mean that Bush was in Sigma Chi, just that he was in a frat. Second, as my husband pointed out (credit where credit is due), who says he never went to a Sigma Chi kegger?

Maybe I'm being the pot calling the kettle black by pointing out the AP's insignificant condescension, but then I'm supposed to be petty and vindictive, right? I am a blogger, after all.

Live from Lebanon: The rapid rise of a 'citizen journalist'

The MSM has been ramping up coverage of the crisis in the Middle East, World War III, the latest Israel-Lebanon conflict, or whatever you want to call it. But if you want an unfiltered, on the ground view of the situation, visit Manamania. As far as I can tell, the blogger is French and living in Lebanon. (I stand corrected -- cedarseed is Lebanese.) Her nickname is cedarseed, and she's hidden her bio "until it's safe to come out." Before July 12, she was blogging about getting an iDog, her trip to Madagascar, and the French being in the World Cup finals. Then, on the 12th, she posted an entry entitled "Sh*theads, all of them." (I can't link to it directly because she doesn't have permalinks turned on.)

Since then, she's posted almost 50 entries, almost all about the war/conflict/apocalypse. She's appeared on CNN. The number of comments on each post has jumped from a handful to more than 100. She's gone from 9 links to the blog to 72 (73 after this post) according to Technorati.

If it's not clear from all of this how different the world is today because of the Internet, read this quote from cedarseed:

"I suddenly find myself with dozens of new readers and I'm greatful for all the support and understanding I'm finding here. I've been telling people this is a huge difference with the 80s when we couldn't even call each other up on the phone, let alone communicate with the outside world. I'm so happy to see there are so many people out there willing to look at the events with a clear mind and make up their own opinion."

And for those who aren't clear on the value of 'citizen journalists,' here's her latest post:
Israeli warplanes raided the transmission antennas of TV stations as well as cellular phone stations in Fatka, Sannine and Terbol.

I heard this from two friends before it was even online – one who saw it happen from the beach, one who is in one of these areas and is now deprived of her phone because the network is down. This sucks. There's nothing worse than being cut off :( What''s next, I wonder?

I may not stop checking CNN, but I'm adding cedarseed to my 'Daily Surf' list. What does that say about journalism in the 21st century?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Where's the link?!!?!

It infuriates me whenever the MSM refuses to provide links to other sites in its articles. But the New York Times has started doing it (sometimes). So why the #@&@%^$ isn't there a link in this story??!?! I want to see the original report the article summarizes. Why wouldn't the Times want to provide that to its readers? I'm just going to copy the name of the organization and go to Google to find the link. I'm not going to stay on the Times' site just because they didn't give it to me. I know this technique must work sometimes, but it feels like a sleazy sales tactic, not a valid editorial decision.

By the way: here's the link to the report. I'll be blogging about it once I read it, considering the topic ('Bloggers: A portrait of the internet's new storytellers').

Which is more important: writing a book or getting it published?

Print-on-demand services are going mainstream, according to this article in the New York Times. With it, anyone can produce a book that's indistinguishable from one printed by a professional publishing house.

Writers don't even need to know desktop publishing anymore. A new service called has created Booksmart, software that makes laying out a book as easy as creating a blog or a Word document. It doesn't provide any of the flexibility of Quark or InDesign (each page must conform to one of the provided templates), but it doesn't have a steep learning curve or price either. Even in its first incarnation, I think the options offered in Booksmart would satisfy most writers (if not designers or layout specialists.)

So the question becomes: what matters more, writing the book or publishing it? It's true that getting past the gauntlet of editors and getting a book contract is a very difficult task. But there's something to be said for someone who manages to put in the effort to see a book through to its conclusion. The reader will have to decide for themselves if the book is worth the paper it's printed on. I'm not saying there isn't still value in the professional publishing model. But that value is decreasing as technology improves.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

India blocks blogs

In a disappointing move, India joined countries including China and Iran in blocking access to web sites, many of which were blogs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

It is unclear if the move is a result of the recent bombings in Mumbai, the timing makes this seem likely. I wish world leaders would read up on the importance of free speech in the creation of democracy. Why must they insist on trading freedom for security?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Amateur photographer wins citizen journalism award

Nokia and the UK Press Gazette have awarded the first citizen journalism award to a photographer who captured the aftermath of the July 7 London bombings.

Here's the most important line from the BBC's story about the awards:

"Increasingly the well-known pictures of significant events around the world, such as the bombings in London on 7 July 2005, are coming from citizens rather than professional photographers."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Best political campaign ad ever

Ned Lamont, who's challenging Joe Lieberman in the Democratic Senate primary in Connecticut, has released the best political campaign ad ever, entitled Ned Lamont has a messy desk. It's a fabulous parody of political attack ads. Watch it -- you'll have the unfamiliar experience of laughing (happily, not bitterly) at a political ad.

Physicists calculate the half-life of online news

More interesting research from Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, a physicist at the University of Notre Dame who introduced the concept of scale-free networks.

Basically, Barabasi has extended the concept to online news. He studied traffic to a Hungarian news and entertainment portal and found that half of the visitors who will ever read a news story have read it within 36 hours of publication. The most interesting implication of this is described in this article about the research:

"The short life of a news item -- combined with random visiting patterns of readers -- implies that people could miss a significant fraction of news by not visiting the portal when a new document is first displayed, which is why publishers like to provide e-mail news alerts. The results also show that people read a particular web page not just because it looks interesting but because it can be accessed easily."

Of course, some stories can resurface after months or even years, as Slate columnist Jack Shafer discovered recently.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Boston Globe latest to merge online/offline staff

Following in the footsteps of the Miami Herald and many other newspapers, the Boston Globe now plans to consolidate its online and print editorials staffs.

Ten years from now this will be the norm, IMHO.

Author advocates nonprofit newspaper ownership

With Knight Ridder dismantled and the Tribune company on its way to the chopping block, at least one writer has brought up the idea of nonprofit newspaper ownership. I've advocated this idea for some time and am glad to see others advocating it as well. Here's an extract:

"In that case, if some rich person is looking for a legacy and immortality, what better way than to buy a newspaper and set it up so that it will always be independent? Hey, it could be more rewarding than owning a local sports franchise."

Link to Chicago Tribune article (registration required)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales tackles political discourse

Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, launched a new wiki today. His goal for this site is no less grand than it is for Wikipedia. This time, he's out to change political discourse for the better.

The site is called Campaigns Wikia. The name isn't as elegant as Wikipedia, but its mission is even more idealistic and important. Here are two quotes from the site's mission statement:

"I am launching today a new Wikia website aimed at being a central meeting ground for people on all sides of the political spectrum who think that it is time for politics to become more participatory, and more intelligent."

"I will frankly admit right up front: I don't know how to make politics healthier. But, I believe that you do. I believe that together we can work, this very election season, to force campaigns to use wikis and blogs to organize, discuss, manage, lead and be led by their volunteers."

I don't know if what Wales is proposing can be done, but I know it needs to be done if we are to reclaim our democracy from the corporate/political establishment. Besides, I'm a sucker for idealism. So I've signed up as a 'participating blogger.' I'm not even sure what that means yet, but I want to go on the record in support of Wales' lofty and admirable goals.

Impressive weasel words regarding signing statements

Trying to remind themselves (and everyone else) why they exist, senators on the Judiciary Committee held hearings on the president's use of 'signing statements,' which are intended to interpret laws passed by Congress.

The signing statement debate is nothing new, but I had to give a grudging nod to the quality of the weasel words produced by the underling Bush sent to appease the senators at the hearing. Here's deputy assistant attorney general Michelle Boardman, as quoted in New York Times:

"Michelle Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general, said the statements were 'not an abuse of power.'

Rather, Ms. Boardman said, the president has the responsibility to make sure the Constitution is upheld. He uses signing statements, she argued, to 'save' statutes from being found unconstitutional. And he reserves the right, she said, only to raise questions about a law 'that could in some unknown future application' be declared unconstitutional.

'It is often not at all the situation that the president doesn't intend to enact the bill,' Ms. Boardman said."

Double negatives -- a classic. But my favorite is the explanation that the President is just trying to 'save' statutes from being found unconstitutional 'in some unknown future application.' That's disgustingly impressive (or impressively disgusting, take your pick.)

Sen. Ted Stevens explains the Internet

This is exactly why I don't trust the government to regulate the Internet. Take a look at how Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) thinks the Internet works:

"...the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material."

What irritates me most is that he thinks he knows how the Internet works. Would he stand up on the Senate floor and explain the theory of relativity or the history of the Mongol Empire without having ever read anything about the subject? Then again, maybe he would - I'm constantly flabbergasted by what people think they know.

Read more at Wired's 27B Stroke 6 blog

Monday, July 03, 2006

Trading blind faith in politicians for blind faith in editors

Jeff Jarvis makes a good point in his article entitled, "The Conversation We Should Be Having About Secrets":

"[The editors of the New York Times] say that it is right and necessary for the press to report on what government is doing -- and, of course, I agree -- but they do not address the limits of that, other than to say that they know their own limits and that they have not revealed other secrets in the past. So shouldn't we know those limits as well? For if we don't, then aren't we merely trading blind faith in politicians, properly balanced by the press, with blind faith in editors, balanced by nothing more than government attacks -- and now, perhaps, bloggers?"

As I've argued before, transparency is one of the best ways for the MSM to restore credibility with news consumers. How can the New York Times be so good at investigative journalism without understanding the story about their own newspaper (and their entire industry) that's staring them right in the face?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Blaming the messenger

The Washington Post's Richard Morin penned a column today entitled 'Jon Stewart, Enemy of Democracy?' The headline refers to a report published by two political scientists who found that "young people who watch Stewart's faux news program, "The Daily Show," develop cynical views about politics and politicians that could lead them to just say no to voting."

'Could lead.' It's amazing to me how many people who report on statistics don't know that correlation doesn't equal causality. In fact, the study didn't even say that Daily Show watchers vote less, just that they "expressed less trust in the electoral system and more cynical views of the news media." Well, I don't particularly trust the electoral system, I am cynical about the news media, AND I vote (I wish that would fit on a bumper sticker.)

I am also a devoted fan of The Daily Show. Besides making me laugh and shake my head, I love Stewart's presentation of the news because he says what I am already thinking. For example, he had this to say last night about the Senate's failure to raise the minimum wage: "Kudos to Congress for literally taking a giant shit on the poorest people in the country! They deserve it!"

Now, many people are going to say I shouldn't be a journalism professor if I think that's good journalism. Let me be clear - The Daily Show is unlikely to replace The New York Times in uncovering government secrets such as today's report on another invasion of American's privacy involving banking transactions. But listening to the bland, 'I don't have an opinion about this' way that the MSM reports on these kinds of stories makes me MORE cynical about the system than listening to Stewart, who at least reminds me that there are other people in the country who recognize the absurdity of many of the headlines we read everyday.

From what I understand, the political scientists' study showed clips from The Daily Show and the CBS Evening News to two groups of college students, and found that the group who watched The Daily Show had more negative attitudes towards both candidates. I have serious doubts about this methodology. I'd rather see a study that surveys students' attitudes about politics and civic engagement, and then records their media consumption in a comprehensive way, such as what the Ball State University's Middletown Media Studies have done. Maybe I should put my money where my mouth is and get started on that research.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Washington Post issues video cameras to reporters

In 1998, reporters at the Washington Post laughed when newly appointed managing editor Steve Coll predicted the reporters would soon be carrying video cameras.

As this article in the Washingtonian indicates, they're not laughing now. The Post has started issuing digital video cameras to reporters in metro bureaus. About a quarter of their international bureau reporters already carry video cameras.

And the MSM takes another step into the 21st century.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Spokesman-Review shows readers how the sausage is made

In a brilliant move, the Spokane, Wash. daily newspaper is now webcasting its daily editorial meetings. I think transparency is one of the best ways for the MSM to restore credibility with news consumers. I hope this experiment is successful.

Link to Editor & Publisher article.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

BBC 2, NY Times 0

Both the BBC and the NY Times published stories concerning three suicides on June 10 at the Guantanamo detention camp. Here are the headlines (the BBC ran two separate stories):

NY Times: 3 Prisoners Commit Suicide at Guantanamo

BBC: Guantanamo suicides 'acts of war'

BBC: Guantanamo suicides a 'PR move'

Journalism doesn't have too many universal rules, but one is that 'man bites dog' is bigger news than 'dog bites man,' since the former happens rarely while the latter is far from unusual.

So which seems more newsworthy to you - the suicides of three more men held in a high security prison with no idea when or if they will be released (regardless of whether they deserve to be there or not), or the fact that Guantanamo's commander, Rear Admiral Harry Harris, believes that these suicides amount to an act of war?

"I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of warfare waged against us," Harris is quoted as saying.

According to the military, there have been at least 44 suicide attempts at the Guantanamo camp since January 2002 (41 cited in the linked article plus the three recent deaths; there may have been more in between.) It's still news, but it doesn't explain why the Times didn't mention Harris' quote until the sixth paragraph of their story.

Then there's the comment about suicides being a 'good PR move to draw attention,' which came from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy. The BBC wrote an additional story about that comment; as far as I can tell the Times hasn't mentioned it yet.

Maybe this type of coverage from the Times is meant to counter accusations of liberal bias. It certainly isn't doing anything for the Gray Lady's credibility.

Tangentially, I think I'm starting to understand America's problem in the war on terror: the military thinks that killing yourself is an act of war, and the diplomats think it's good PR.

That could explain why the administration doesn't understand why more and more people are upset about the death toll: an estimated 40,000 dead Iraqis, 2,416 dead soldiers, and 71 dead journalists (more than in WWII).

Saturday, June 10, 2006

NSA wants to mine MySpace info

According to New Scientist, the NSA is considering collecting information from social networking sites such as MySpace and Friendster to add to their growing database of information about American citizens.

I am vehemently opposed to the NSA tracking phone calls and Internet traffic, but I don't have any problem with this project. People need to understand that, when they post information on a public website (like MySpace), it's as if they went into the middle of Times Square and shouted the info into a megaphone.

I only object to eavesdropping in places where I have some reasonable expectation of privacy. People posting pictures and info about themselves on MySpace shouldn't have that expectation, although many do.

Friday, June 09, 2006

'Real journalism is happening in the blogosphere'

Great piece on CBS News' Public Eye blog from blogger and New York magazine contributing editor Greg Sargent. Here's the kicker:

"The fact that real journalism is happening in the blogosphere is something that mainstream media figures simply are going to have to acknowledge sooner or later. And if they did it sooner, rather than later, they'd be doing themselves a very big favor indeed."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

OJR interview: "J-schools need to get way more technical"

The Online Journalism Review is running a fabulous interview with Adrian Holovaty, a 'journalist/programmer' as he calls himself. Holovaty is encouraging journalism schools to partner with computer science departments to help automate the three most basic tasks journalists do, namely:

1. Gather information
2. Distill information
3. Present information

"A graduate of a journalism school should be a master of collecting data -- whether the old-fashioned way (by talking to humans) or through automated means," Holovaty says.

I'm sorry to say that this idea would scare the pants off of most of my students. But I hope to help them understand the new realities of the journalism industry, and the new skills they will have to master to be successful. Wish me luck.

Senators question harassment of deceased reporter's family over classified documents

The FBI has been after deceased investigative reporter Jack Anderson's family to turn over his records because they contain classified information. The family, bravely and rightly, has refused. It wanted to donate Anderson's papers to George Washington University. The FBI hasn't gotten a subpoena for the documents yet, but the family says it is willing to risk contempt of court charges if the FBI comes around again with a search warrant.

Amazingly, this latest abuse of executive power has actually attracted the interest of Congress. According to this New York Times article, "The Senate Judiciary Committee gave the Bush administration a new lashing Tuesday over its use of executive power, citing the FBI's posthumous probe of columnist Jack Anderson and questioning the notion that espionage laws might allow the prosecution of journalists who publish classified information."

If the FBI wins this case, do you think they'll be restricting themselves to demanding the record of deceased journalists for long? How long before they knock on Seymour Hersh's door?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Journalists: Follow the money (online)

More signs that the future of journalism is online - advertising dollars continue to shift from print to the web, according to this New York Times article.

This quote from the Times article sums up the situation:

"Right now, the news industry is trying to hold on to the past, and Brian [Tierney, the new owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer] knows that you just can't do it," said Mary Meder, the president of Harmelin Media, a media-buying agency in Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Hysterical journalism school commencement address

I believe the term for Gene Weingarten's commencement address to graduates from the University of Maryland College of Journalism is "whistling in the dark." Another term would be 'hysterical.' The lede sets the tone:

"I want to congratulate you all upon your graduation from the University of Maryland College of Journalism, and wish you luck as you prepare to embark on exciting careers in telemarketing or large-appliance repair."

Read on...

Saturday, June 03, 2006

MSM pays the price for lack of federal shield law

Rather than expose confidential sources, five news organizations have agreed to pay $750,000 to Wen Ho Lee, the Los Alamos scientist wrongly accused of espionage.

Why should the media have to pay for the government's false allegations? Because, in the absence of a federal shield law protecting journalists' sources, the news organizations were being fined $500 a day for refusing to identify the people in the government who gave them detailed background information about Lee, including financial records and the results of his polygraph tests.

Media watchers are far from happy with the settlement. The the New York Times article about the settlement contains two representative quotes:

"It's a huge disappointment, and it's certainly not an ideal resolution. But it's probably as good as we could have expected under the circumstances." -- Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

"These are very strange times in which we are living, and it does appear that sometimes decisions have to be made that would have been unthinkable five years ago. But to make a payment in settlement in this context strikes me as an admission that the media are acting in concert with the government." -- Jane E. Kirtley, a professor of media law and ethics at the University of Minnesota

Not all the media organizations involved in the case were willing to pay. CNN chose to spend $1 million to defend its reporter rather than contribute to the settlement.
"We parted ways because we had a philosophical disagreement over whether it was appropriate to pay money to Wen Ho Lee or anyone else to get out from under a subpoena," said Laurie Goldberg, a CNN spokewoman.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Free speech in the USA: We're not lost yet

I was very encouraged to read about the release of The War Tapes, a documentary shot by soldiers in Iraq. The film won the award for best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival and opens to the public today in New York City.

The hardest thing for me to believe after watching the trailer was that the military had allowed the film to be released. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the military had asked the director to come to Iraq.

The New Hampshire National Guard offered director Deborah Scranton the opportunity to 'embed' as a filmmaker. "I called the public affairs officer and asked if I could give cameras to the soldiers instead," she said. "He said yes...but it would be up to me to get soldiers to volunteer to work on the project."

According to the film's press notes, the only footage the military refused to let them include in the film was of dead insurgents after a firefight.

As long as things like this can still happen, I have faith that the First Amendment is thankfully still alive and kicking in the United States.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Belief in free speech put to the test

Like most people, I have been disgusted by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, which has been organizing protests at soldier's funerals because they believe the deaths are God's way of punishing America for allowing the 'sodomites' to live among us.

However, I have to agree with Rick Martinez's column from the News & Observer opposing President Bush's signing of the Respect for Fallen Heroes Act, which prevents protests at military funerals. From Martinez:

"The women and men who put on the uniform each day have dedicated their service to defending and preserving freedom. The Respect for Fallen Heroes Act, signed on Memorial Day, restricts the fundamental element of that very freedom: free speech. By weakening that cornerstone right we cheapen the lives we seek to honor."

To protect free speech, we have to protect speech we vehemently disagree with. The God Hate Fags folks certainly fall into this category, but I have to support their right to speak out. Any other position would be hypocrisy.

The real heroes are the motorcyclists who have been using their 'voices' to counteract the protesters. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, the antidote to any speech is more speech, not less. Even if that speech is the roar of motorcycle engines.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Campaign against Internet censorship

As much as I complain about the attacks on free speech going on in this country, Americans still have far more rights than most of the rest of the world's citizens. Amnesty International has started a new website/campaign designed to publicize the ways in which governments are censoring and filtering the web and even jailing their citizens for web publications.

Here's the pledge Amnesty is asking people to sign regarding Internet freedom:

"I believe the internet should be a force for political freedom, not repression. People have the right to seek and receive information and to express their peaceful beliefs online without fear or interference. I call on governments to stop the unwarranted restriction of freedom of expression on the internet and on companies to stop helping them do it."

Link to BBC story about Amnesty's campaign

As I've mentioned before, Amnesty is far from the only group to focus attention on worldwide censorship and repression. Sadly, one of the best -- the Committee to Protect Bloggers -- ceased operations just two weeks ago due to a lack of funding. Here's a sad but true quote from the founder's explanation of why he shut down the blog:
"I am, however, more worried than ever that free speech is less and less a priority for the overwhelming majority of the world’s citizens."

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Congress wakes up; the NY Times notices

The New York Times' editorial on May 26 begins this way:

"Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives have achieved an almost unprecedented level of bipartisanship in denouncing the F.B.I.'s search of a congressman's office. They talk angrily about the separation of powers and the implications of having an executive branch agency make a foray into a lawmaker's official space. Our first question is where all these concerned constitutionalists have been for the last five years."

I've been wondering the same thing for a while (of course I'm far from the only one.)

It's nice to see the MSM focusing on this problem too.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Court rules bloggers are covered by reporter's shield law

Wired reports that a California appeals court has ruled that bloggers who published information about upcoming Apple products are protected by California's reporter's shield law.

"We decline the implicit invitation to embroil ourselves in questions of what constitutes 'legitimate journalis(m).' The shield law is intended to protect the gathering and dissemination of news, and that is what petitioners did here," the court wrote.

It's nice to have some good news to report for a change.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Congressional culture of hypocrisy

From the Roanoke Times:

"When they found out the Bush administration was listening in on some Americans' international phone calls without bothering to obtain a warrant, most Republicans in Congress yawned.... But the FBI gets a lawful warrant to search the office of a representative allegedly caught on videotape accepting a $100,000 bribe and suddenly, GOP leaders in Congress sputter that the Bush administration is overreaching."

Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), is outraged that the FBI violated the sanctity of his office. But if I follow Congress' logic on the NSA's collection of phone numbers, why is he afraid if he has nothing to hide?

And after all the squabbling, invective, wasted time and money, Congress is managed to act together on this issue. They are demanding the return of Jefferson's papers from the FBI. How about you all demand the return of Americans' privacy first, and then we can talk about returning legally obtained papers?

Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert had the gall to say that the papers had been 'unconstitutionally seized.' Oh, you remember what the Constitution is, do you?

ACLU begins national campaign against NSA spying

The American Civil Liberties Union launched a national campaign urging citizens to contact the FCC and state and local representatives to demand an investigation of phone companies' collusion with the NSA.

Of course, the FCC preemptively declined to investigate the NSA's gross invasion of American's privacy, citing the impossibility of obtaining the classified information necessary, just as the Justice Department did earlier.

At least one FCC commissioner, Michael Copps, disagrees with the commission's decision. "We need to be certain that the companies over which the FCC has public interest oversight have not gone – or been asked to go – to a place where they should not be," he said in a statement.

Lest you think my outrage over the NSA's actions is partisan, I just went to the Democratic National Committee's home page to see what they have to say about the situation. On the home page, at least, the answer is NOTHING. They have features about the CIA leak scandal, energy prices, a meeting between DNC chairman Howard Dean and Democratic mayors, and comments from Dean on a host of other issues, including the Federal Marriage Amendment, the death of Lloyd Bentsen, and the 'Harmful Republican Voter ID Law in Missouri.' They even have a link to the video of Dean's appearance on the Daily Show.

A search of the DNC website using the term 'NSA' turned up a handful of pages, most focusing on the fact that Bush 'misled the American public.' Here's what I have to say to Dean and the Democrats -- what the hell is wrong with you people?

Studs Terkel rules

I have been a huge fan of Studs Terkel since I read Working while studying sociology at Indiana University as an undergrad. I attended his speech at NYU while I was working on my master's degree. I am not one for autographs (I may own three or four autographed books out of 2,000+) but I wanted to get my copy of My American Century autographed by him. Unfortunately, he had to leave early because his wife fell ill.

But after today's news, my feelings for the nonagenarian have gone beyond respect. I want to hug him. Terkel has filed suit against AT&T to prevent the company from given his phone records to the NSA without a court order.

Here's what he had to say about the suit:

"Having been blacklisted from working in television during the McCarthy era, I know the harm of government using private corporations to intrude into the lives of innocent Americans. When government uses the telephone companies to create massive databases of all our phone calls it has gone too far."

Hear, hear.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Attorney General claims the right to violate the First Amendment

Here's the lede from CNN's story on Attorney General Albert Gonzalez's 'comments':

"Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes journalists can be prosecuted for publishing classified information, citing an obligation to national security."

It just gets worse from there.
"He added that the First Amendment right of a free press should not be absolute when it comes to national security."

I'm not a lawyer, but I think Gonzalez should take a look at this article on the State Department's website, written by James Goodale, the attorney who defended the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers case (which also involved classified information).
"The protection of the First Amendment extends beyond press reports concerning major government policies and well-known public figures. The Supreme Court has held that if the press "lawfully obtains truthful information about a matter of public significance then [the government] may not constitutionally punish publication of the information, absent a need to further a state interest of the highest order," Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co., 443 U.S. 97 (1979)."

And here's the conclusion to Mr. Goodale's article:
"As the cases discussed above illustrate, over the course of the 20th century the Supreme Court has breathed life into the text of the First Amendment by upholding the right of the press to pursue its mission, no matter how odious that mission might seem to those in power. The courts have imposed some limits on this liberty, and questions remain as to how far this liberty will extend to new media, and to some of the more aggressive efforts employed by journalists to obtain the news. Still, I am confident that the Supreme Court will continue to recognize that, as Justice Stewart wrote in the Pentagon Papers case, "without an informed and free press there cannot be an enlightened people."

What is it going to take to stop this administration from destroying the Constitution of the United States?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Report: Iran to force Jews to wear yellow badges?!? (updated)

UPDATE: At the moment (Sunday, May 21), it looks like the story is bogus. I certainly hope so.

Every time I think I've sunk to a new low of cynicism, something comes along to prove me wrong. This time, it's the Naz... I mean the Iranians.

It seems the Iranian parliament has allegedly approved a law that would require all members of other religions to wear colored badges -- yellow for Jews, red for Christians, and blue for Zoroastrians. Well, the Muslims did start the practice in the first place.

The Iranians are denying the report so far, but representatives from the U.S., Canada, and Australia have already addressed the issue.

On this one, everyone has to get together. To be honest, I've been having a hard time getting motivated to write my state representatives about opposition to the Bush administration's policies because both of our Senators are Democrats and our one Congressman is a pretty moderate Republican. But on this issue, I have written to all three.

If the report is true, then I am convinced we invaded the wrong country.

No data is safe, or, it's not just the phone companies

It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone: law enforcement officers have been using the Patriot Act and general angst about terrorism to demand data from a wide variety of businesses, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal (free access). Here are a few choice snippets:

"Banks, Internet-service providers and other companies that possess large amounts of data on their customers say that police and intelligence agencies have been increasingly coming to them looking for tidbits of information that could help them stop everything from money launderers to pedophiles and terrorists."

"Corporate counsel that used to see law-enforcement-related requests five times a year are now getting them sometimes dozens of times a day,' says Susan Hackett, a senior vice president and top attorney for the Association of Corporate Counsel, which represents the legal departments of leading U.S. companies."

"According to AOL executives, the most common requests in criminal cases relate to crimes against children, including abuse, abductions, and child pornography. Close behind are cases dealing with identity theft and other computer crimes. Sometimes the police requests are highly targeted and scrupulously legalistic, while other times they were seen by the company as little more than sloppy fishing expeditions. AOL says that most requests get turned down." (Emphasis added)

I know someone's going to say that it's good that the law can protect people from identity theft, let alone children from abuse. But this argument just reminds me of the poem about failure to protect Jews in Nazi Germany:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

Today they're protecting children and your identity. Tomorrow they'll be protecting personal property. When do the ends stop justifying the means?

Learning from history

Insightful post on the Huffington Post from Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago. He points out that we need to ask ourselves what responsibility we have as citizens to preserve our civil liberties. He also puts this question in historical context: as a people, we have failed to ask this question before and regretted it later:

"Throughout our history, Americans have silently approved serious, sometimes grievous abuses of civil liberties, only later to bemoan their failure to act responsibly. During the Cold War, the public failed to challenge the witch-hunts of Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un-American Activities; during World War II, most Americans sanctioned the mass internment of Japanese-Americans; during the post-World War I Red Scare, the public cheered on the deportation of thousands of innocent aliens; and during World War I, most Americans approved the criminal prosecution of thousands of individuals for criticizing the war or the draft. After every one of these episodes, the public came to acknowledge its error and promised not to repeat the mistake again." (Emphasis added)

To quote George Santayana, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." We are sadly repeating history now. I hope we don't have to wait until 2009 to stop.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Sliding down the slippery slope

Here's an example of why I'm so worried about the NSA's call database: ABC News is reporting that the government is tracking some of its reporters' phone calls, according to an FBI source. If someone could explain to me how this wouldn't have a chilling effect and therefore diminish our First Amendment rights, please let me know.

The Columbia Journalism Review has been reporting on the suspicion that the government has been tracking journalists' phone calls since the beginning of the year. Here's a quote from their reaction to today's news:

"What is somewhat surprising is that everyone is so shocked about this latest revelation. As CJR Daily has been reporting since January, the latest twist has been hinted at before -- and downright alleged in two lawsuits against the Bush administration -- but memories have proved exceedingly short."

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Not worried about the phone call database? Consider it in context

Wired compiled a terrifying list of the programs we know of that potentially violate Americans' civil liberties. If you're not concerned about any one of them, what about when you consider them as a whole?

William Gibson's response to the database debacle

Boing Boing quotes William Gibson speaking on a radio show about the database debacle:

"I keep seeing that in the lower discourse of the Internet, people saying, 'Oh, they're doing it anyway.' In some way our culture believes that, and it's a real problem, because evidently they haven't been doing it anyway, and now that they've started, we really need to pay attention and muster some kind of viable political response."

Surveillance and wiretapping are not the same thing

A lot of the apologists for the database debacle have been quick to point out that the NSA isn't wiretapping domestic calls. But that doesn't mean what they're doing isn't surveillance. Just in case there are any doubts, let's review the definitions. From

Surveillance: "Close observation of a person or group, especially one under suspicion."

Wiretapping: "A concealed listening or recording device connected to a communications circuit."

I certainly don't want the government listening to my calls. But I don't want them surveilling me either. Do you?

A Reason-able voice on the database debacle

Libertarian magazine Reason should have been the first place I checked for a reasonable reaction to the phone call database scandal. I'm sure they'll cover it thoroughly in an upcoming issue of the magazine, but here's what they've had to say so far on their blog:

"So one problem with polls indicating that most Americans are perfectly OK with all this is that they should be asking not only how people feel about what the adminstration has done so far (or what it is has admitted to doing so far) but how they feel about what it or future administrations could do based on Bush's sweeping assertion of unchecked executive power... If the executive branch could be trusted to use the data only for the limited purposes suggested by Bush's comments, it would not be such a big deal. But since neither is the case, it is a big deal."

Recall that the USA Today story says that CIA, FBI, and DEA could have access to the database. I continue to shudder.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

First of many posts on NSA call database

I've been struggling all day not to go off half-cocked about this situation, but I haven't found the words yet to describe how I feel about today's revelation by USA Today. So for now, I'll just point out one quote from an extremely reputable source: security guru Bruce Schneier:

"Who you're talking to often matters much more than what you're saying."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bird flu film fears...

My 'favorite' quote from the Dept. of Health and Human Services' Viewer Guide to 'Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America':

"It is a work of fiction designed to entertain, not a factual accounting of a real-life event."

The unintentional irony is breathtaking.

Oversimplification all around

Richard Cohen of the Washington Post writes that his column declaring Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House correspondents' dinner 'unfunny' generated more than 3,500 emails, mostly negative. I agree with him that the email writers (if he is characterizing them accurately) oversimplify the story if they think that finding Colbert unfunny means that Cohen is 'Bush's lap dog,' and that the emailers may well have been egged on by various blogs.

But Cohen is guilty over oversimplification as well. To wit:

"What to make of all this? First, it's not about Colbert. His show has an audience of about 1 million -- not exactly 'American Idol' numbers. Second, it marks the end of a silly pretense about interactive media: We give you our e-mail addresses and then, in theory, we have this nice chat. Forget about it. Not only is e-mail too often a kind of epistolary spitball, but there's no way I can even read the 3,506 e-mails now backed up in my queue -- seven more since I started writing this column." (emphasis added)

If Cohen wants to attribute the flood of emails to a 'digital lynch mob,' that's fine with me. Flame wars certainly can get very ugly. But if he believes that the shift away from MSM-style lecturing to new media-style conversations is a 'silly pretense,' he might want to take a look at the latest newspaper circulation numbers.

Furthermore, by choosing to focus on the emails, Cohen buried his column's real lead:

"The e-mails pulse in my queue, emanating raw hatred. This spells trouble -- not for Bush or, in 2008, the next GOP presidential candidate, but for Democrats. The anger festering on the Democratic left will be taken out on the Democratic middle. (Watch out, Hillary!) I have seen this anger before -- back in the Vietnam War era. That's when the antiwar wing of the Democratic Party helped elect Richard Nixon. In this way, they managed to prolong the very war they so hated."

It's disappointing that Cohen, a 'professional journalist', allowed a (relatively) small number of 'idiots' (his word) and their 'raw, untreated and disease-laden verbal sewage' to drag his focus away from the far more important matters at hand: are the administration's domestic and foreign policies good for the country, and will the current level of anger at the administration result in success or failure for its opponents in the 2006 and 2008 elections?

Monday, May 08, 2006

La la la la la I can't hear you

In case you thought the accusations that this administration refuses to listen to criticism were overstated, The Smoking Gun has found some additional evidence. In March, the site posted a copy of Vice President Dick Cheney's requirements for his Downtime Suite when he travels.

Among other more mundane, demands, the Vice President requires that "all the televisions need to be preset to the Fox News Channel."

At least he reads the New York Times the Washington Post, which have been known to publish reports deemed treasonous by Bush supporters.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A case study in web credibility

I was just checking on the news when I saw a startling headline from the Times of London: 'Israel foils plot to kill Palestinian president.' I clicked through to the story, got the basics, then went back to Google News to see what other news sources had to say about it.

I couldn't find any. Google News said the story had been posted 55 minutes earlier. But there was nothing else on Google News about it, nor was there any mention on CNN, The New York Times, or Al Jazeera.

So I decided to wait a few hours and check back -- if it's true, I thought to myself, other news sources will pick up the story.

That thought made me realize something: web credibility isn't about trusting any single source of news. As my husband said when I explained this to him, it's about trusting news sources in the aggregate. I don't have to decide if I think the Times is a sufficiently credible source to believe the story despite the lack of other evidence. I just have to trust in the news media (new and old) as a whole.

And I do. I don't think any one news source is completely credible; but I do believe that, given the breadth and depth with of information at our fingertips, the truth will come out in the end. That's a comforting thought.

Update: There have now been a few stories in other international papers about the assassination attempt, but they all seem to quote The Times report. Even Ha'aretz couldn't independently confirm the report. For now, this story has to be relegated to the realm of rumor.

You got your chocolate in my peanut butter! Blogburst, blogs, and the MSM

Now here's a good idea: Blogburst. The new service from Austin, TX based Pluck Corp. evaluates blogs for quality and then syndicates them to newspapers for use on their websites. Bloggers don't get paid (yet), but it can help deliver traffic, which translates into dollars for blogs with advertising.

Link to AP story on San Jose Mercury

Thursday, May 04, 2006

SF Chronicle: 'Stephen Colbert has brass cojones'

The Chronicle's headline pretty much sums it up - whether you loved his performance (as I did) or hated it, you can't disagree with the chutzpah it took to target the most powerful man in the world when he's sitting less than 10 feet away.

There are more stories about the performance than I can count (over 20,000 posts on Technorati). But here's one more quote I couldn't resist, from The Guardian's Sidney Blumenthal:

"The most scathing public critique of the Bush presidency and the complicity of a craven press corps was delivered at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday by a comedian. Bush was reported afterwards to be seething, while the press corps responded with stone-cold silence. In many of their reports of the event they airbrushed out the joker."

I'm starting to think we should add a class called Introduction to Satire to our curriculum here at the journalism school.

Belated recognition of World Press Freedom Day

I wanted to post a link to this site on Tuesday, but it said the material was embargoed until Wednesday, which was World Press Freedom Day. Sadly, I got tied up in two projects yesterday and completely forgot. It's a testament to the freedom we have here and a reminder that just because we are free, we can't forget that much of the rest of the world isn't.

I can't link to it directly, but check out the cartoons on the World Association of Newspapers site -- mouse over them to see larger versions if you don't want to download them.

Also don't forget to send a protest letter to one of the most repressive regimes (look for the Protest Letter button on the page.) I picked Hu Jintao.

Senate tries to mandate free, online access to publicly-funded research

According to the Washington Post, two Senators (one R, one D) have introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, which would force publishers of federally-funded research to make that research publicly available, for free, online, six months after publication.

Based on the limited academic research I've done, I can tell you it's incredibly frustrating not to be able to get access to research papers. As Newton said, all researchers stand on the shoulders of giants -- all contributions to knowledge should be available, particularly if funded by taxpayers.

Of course, the usual suspects are fighting the bill:

But Patricia S. Schroeder, president and chief executive of the Association of American Publishers, promised a fight. "It is frustrating that we can't seem to get across to people how expensive it is to do the peer review, edit these articles and put them into a form everyone can understand," Schroeder said.

In the age of the Internet, everyone wants everything free, Schroeder said. "But we can't figure out what exactly the business model would be. And if you just got the raw research, you wouldn't have a clue" how to use it, she said.

You can't figure out the business model? Why don't you call the RIAA or the MPAA? They seem to have it all figured out. And, Ms. Schroeder, do me a favor -- let me decide whether I would 'have a clue.' You don't seem qualified to make that determination.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

All hail Stephen Colbert, master of irony

If you haven't seen Stephen Colbert's speech at the Washington Correspondent's Dinner, run, don't walk, to C-SPAN and prepare to hear a comic genius speak truth to power.

Colbert shocked the politicos and the Washington journalism establishment by unleashing his razor-sharp irony on the unsuspecting crowd. Here are two quotes from Salon's glowing review:

"His imitation of the quintessential GOP talking head -- Bill O'Reilly meets Scott McClellan -- uncovered the inner workings of the ever-cheapening discourse that passes for political debate."

"They invited Colbert to speak for levity, not because they wanted to be criticized. As a tribe, we journalists are all, at heart, creatures of this silly conversation. We trade in talking points and consultant-speak. We too often depend on empty language for our daily bread, and -- worse -- we sometimes mistake it for reality. Colbert was attacking us as well."

And here's another from Dependable Renegade:

"Stephen Colbert displayed more guts in ten minutes of performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner than the entire Bush family has in their collective lifetime."

I'm proud to say I'm a member of the Colbert Nation.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Video killed the newspaper reporter

This interesting special report from Editor & Publisher echoes what I have been hearing from newspaper editors -- daily newspaper reporters are increasingly being asked to provide multimedia elements, particularly video, with all of their stories.

Here's a quote from Argus Leader reporter Megan Myers: "There has been a concerted effort by the home office to get video with just about every story."

And another from Mary Beth Schneider from The Indianapolis Star: "It used to be that as a newsroom reporter, you had time to reflect and write the story. Now we still have to reflect, but we don't have the time."

It's a far cry from the days when I was sent to the mall with a camera to get reaction to the State of the Union speech and a picture of each person who was willing to talk to me and had watched the State of the Union speech (there weren't many, as I'm sure you can imagine.) But it's reality for today's reporters.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Plagiarism doesn't have to be word for word

Publisher Little, Brown and Co. finally got their act together and pulled 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed..." from the shelves.

Lesson the first: Plagiarism doesn't have to be word for word. Author Kaavya Viswanathan changed nouns and verbs throughout the passages she stole from Megan McCafferty, but the similarities are still blindingly clear.

Lesson the second: Teenagers shouldn't get $500,000 book contracts.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Quote of the month

"What the hell is the point of having this means of communication if we are not going to write about what people need to know? We can write about dating when we have our freedom back."
--Dinesh Wagle, co-founder of United We Blog! for a Democratic Nepal

Link to article about Nagle and UWB

I've been thinking the same thing ever since I heard this story (Link to PDF transcript) about Guantanamo on This American Life.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Update on Apple vs. online journalists

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) testified to a California appeals court that "denying protections for confidential sources would deliver a dangerous blow to online journalism and independent media."

I really hate it when I have to criticize Apple...


The glorious fecundity of new media

From The Economist:

"The ease with which the internet spreads wrong-headedness — to say nothing of lies and slander — is offset by the ease with which it spreads insights and ideas. To regret the glorious fecundity of new media is to choose the hushed reverence of the cathedral over the din of the bazaar.

I couldn't have said it better myself (seriously).


McClatchy CEO: Newspapers should deliver news 24/7

McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt is calling for newspapers to deliver news 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via the Internet.

How long before they stop publishing on paper?

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Where I've been

I haven't disappeared - I've just been recovering from my first academic paper presentation, which I gave at the International Association of Online Communicators conference (That's me in the picture.)

My paper was entitled, "The Credibility Exchange Effect: How Linking Influences Web Credibility." I'll be posting it as soon as I check with the conference organizers...

In any case, I'm hoping to start posting regularly this week now that the conference is over. So please check back soon!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

The changing relationship between journalists and their audience

Interesting column by Eric Deggans, media critic for the St. Petersburg Times and author of the blog Media In The Mirror.

Here's a quote:

Hartman's project has exposed, in an offhand way, the twin forces challenging every news outlet in America: an increasingly savvy news audience and digital technology which allows them more control over their news sources than ever.

So let's ask a heretical question. Why not allow people to choose more than fun, frothy features?

Why not indeed?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Federal employee investigated for sedition; MSM yawns

I've got a million other things I should be doing, but this one is too rich to pass up. Shortly after Hurricane Katrina, A VA nurse wrote a letter to the editor of Alibi, an alternative newsweekly in New Mexico. Here's the quote that got her in trouble, I think:

We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times.

(Emphasis added)

Well, her bosses at the VA decided this might constitute sedition, so they took her work computer to see if she had used government property to write the letter. Although she was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, the New Mexico ACLU is demanding an apology.

This is something I would expect to happen in a country like, say, Singapore, but I thought we had this thing called the First Amendment that protected us from this kind of nonsense.

Anyway, the story doesn't end there. Although the Associated Press lived up to its end of the reporting bargain, the MSM has declined so far to run the story, as far as I can tell.

How in the world is this not a newsworthy story? I guess that whole news judgment thing I learned in school didn't take. Or maybe the rules have changed since I graduated in 1998.

In case you're unfamiliar with the concept of sedition, here's the definition. As the Wikipedia entry indicates, "The term is deprecated in most countries, though equivalent language may still be in use in totalitarian and fascist jurisdictions." Hmmm....

But according to FindLaw, the U.S. Code still includes laws against "Treason, Sedition, and Subversive Activities." IANAL, but this section is the closest I could find to what Ms. Berg may have been accused of.

Ok then, since I work for the state, if I say that I think that any idiots in the U.S. government who are running around investigating people for sedition should be frogmarched out of the country, I guess I can expect a call from the FBI. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

State of the Blogosphere

Dave Sifry, founder of Technorati, has posted his latest State of the Blogosphere. The enormity of the blogosphere is evident; the data he presents is also extremely relevant to my ongoing research.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Blogging is hard!

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted anything new this year - it is really hard to keep a blog current and stay on top of the rest of your life at the same time! My excuse at the moment is that I am working on a research project regarding how bloggers 'borrow' credibility from more established sites via hyperlinks. I'll be presenting a paper on the subject at the first conference of the International Association Of Online Communicators in March. The paper is due Feb. 22, so I'll be back to the blog sometime after that!

In the meantime, I've posted some links I'd be saving to write about - I didn't check them all but they should still be active for the most part - they're all interesting stories, so read what someone else has to say about the blogosphere.