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?