Thursday, March 29, 2007

Editor & Publisher: Surprise: Study Finds Online Users Finish More Stories Than Print Readers

From Editor & Publisher:

"In a surprise finding, online readers finish news stories more often than those who read in print, according to the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack study released Wednesday at the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference here. When readers chose to read an online story, they usually read an average of 77% of the story, compared to 62% in broadsheets and 57% in tabloids."

Comment: I'm certainly surprised, but not displeased...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Los Angeles Times: Blogs can top the presses

From the Los Angeles Times:

"It's 20 or so blocks up town to the heart of the media establishment, the Midtown towers that house the big newspaper, magazine and book publishers. And yet it was here in a neighborhood of bodegas and floral wholesalers that, over the last two months, one of the biggest news stories in the country — the Bush administration's firing of a group of U.S. attorneys — was pieced together by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo."

"The bloggers used the usual tools of good journalists everywhere — determination, insight, ingenuity — plus a powerful new force that was not available to reporters until blogging came along: the ability to communicate almost instantaneously with readers via the Internet and to deputize those readers as editorial researchers, in effect multiplying the reporting power by an order of magnitude."

Comment: It's so nice to see the MSM giving the blogosphere credit for doing quality journalism. This story could help the media turn the corner from the bloggers vs. journalists mindset to a collaborative environment where we actually end up with better journalism.

Huffington Post: New HuffPost Project: The Wisdom of the Crowd Hits the '08 Campaign Trail

From Arianna Huffington:

"For the last couple of months we have been talking with New York University journalism professor (and HuffPost blogger) Jay Rosen about teaming up with his experimental site,, to add a new dimension to the coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign. We are now ready to invite your participation. We are recruiting large groups of citizen journalists from around the country to cover the major presidential candidates."

Comment: This is getting traction pretty quickly -- I really hope it works. I think this concept of professional journalists and amateurs collaborating has a lot of potential.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

BBC News: Blog death threats spark debate

From BBC News:

"Prominent blogger Kathy Sierra has called on the blogosphere to combat the culture of abuse online. It follows a series of death threats which have forced her to cancel a public appearance and suspend her blog."

Comment: I obviously feel very badly for Ms. Sierra, and wish she had not been subjected to these threats. But I'm hesitant to accept the explanation that she is being attacked because she is a woman. I have worked in technology industry for 10 years and have frequently found myself as a lone female in a room full of men at conferences, meetings, etc. I have never run into the type of systematic "culture of attacking women" that Robert Scoble mentions in the BBC piece.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the plural of anecdote is not data - my experience doesn't mean there is no bias against women; but the attack on Ms. Sierra doesn't mean there is bias against women either.

Update: A lot of people have been calling for a blogger's code of ethics as a result of this incident. I meant to point out that proposed a code of ethics (Link to page in Google cache) in 2003. It doesn't specifically address harassment of other bloggers, but I'd rather see the blogosphere expand on existing efforts than start over. If not CyberJournalist's code, then let's modify the widely accepted SPJ Code of Ethics.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Salon: Israel goes on the virtual offensive

From Salon:

"Israel's official MySpace page was launched in January under the direction of officials from the Foreign Ministry."

San Francisco Chronicle: So who will get the story?

From the San Francisco Chronicle's David Lazarus:

"...the simple fact is that newspapers do the digging that most bloggers do not. The blogosphere -- a silly term coined by bloggers to legitimize their posturing -- is comprised by and large of people whose work consists of commenting on the work of others."

Comment: This column is Lazarus' response to the blogosphere's response to his earlier column in which he argued that, "It's time for newspapers to stop giving away the store." I had some critical things to say about the original column, and Lazarus saw fit to quote from my post in his latest column, in which he said he was surprised by bloggers' "sense of entitlement... when it came to benefiting from other people's work." (Note that he didn't seem to have any qualms about benefiting from my work.)

But let's look at this situation more rationally. The most important thing about this back and forth is just that -- Lazarus and the bloggers are having a conversation. Columnists can no longer lecture their readers without expecting a public (and published) response.

I wish Lazarus and others who share his mindset would see the journalist/blogger relationship as a way to increase his readers' engagement with the news, instead of fearing its effect on the newspaper industry. Whether he likes it or not, embracing this new paradigm is more likely to save newspapers than railing about bloggers' "sense of entitlement." Rather than writing another column, I'd suggest that Lazarus write to his editors, suggesting that the Chronicle should remove his column from the website. That way, he won't have to worry about leeches benefiting from his work -- or reading it, for that matter.

PBS MediaShift: Doomsayers Debunked--Serious Journalism Won't Die as Newsprint Fades

From Mark Glaser:

"Rather than looking at ways of trying to squeeze out more money by charging for content online or creating a consortium, journalists should start opening themselves up to new ways of newsgathering, hybrid pro-am efforts, and get readers involved. If they don’t, they have only themselves to blame for readers going elsewhere."

Comment: It's nice to see I'm not the only one who had some issues with David Lazarus' column.

Balkinization: Can Bush Assert Executive Privilege in the U.S. Attorney Controversy?

From Jack Balkin:

"Of course, that is one reason why Congress should push hard for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate criminal wrongdoing instead of relying solely on Congressional oversight hearings. It is important to recognize that even if the President otherwise had authority to fire the US Attorneys does not mean that the firings could not violate criminal laws like conspiracy or obstruction of justice if there was evidence that the firings were designed to forestall or to interfere with prosecutions."

Comment: This story is not about journalism in the Internet era per se, but it's relevant nonetheless. This is the first place I have seen a clear explanation about whether Bush can assert executive privilege in Gonzalezgate (that's not to say this information hasn't been published in an MSM article, but I haven't seen it, and I've been looking.)

That I had to learn this information from a blog is somewhat interesting, but it becomes much more interesting when you consider the blogger's identity. Balkin is currently Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment and the directory of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. He's one of those people reporters would be likely to call to get the answer to the question posed in the headline. Isn't it better to get the explanation directly from the expert? What service does a reporter provide if he/she just passes along a quote from Balkin in a news story?

I'm not saying reporters can't provide an important service; I'm saying that they often fill their articles with quotes from experts like Balkin. Under those circumstances, I'd rather get the explanation from the source himself.

Update: My bad -- evidently I missed this NY Times piece from March 19.

Washington Post: Bloggers Storm the Senatorial Gates

From the Washington Post's Capitol Briefing blog:

"In the latest sign of the growing strength of the liberal 'net roots' community, Senate Democrats have invited a trio of prominent bloggers into one of their formal, inside-the-Capitol luncheons for the first time. On Thursday, John Aravosis of AMERICAblog, David Waldman, a contributing editor at Daily Kos, and Duncan Black of Eschaton are slated to brief the Senate Democratic Policy Committee luncheon."

Red Herring: CBS, Fox Seek Citizen Reporters

From Red Herring:

"CBS News and Fox News on Monday signed up Neighborhood America to create social-networking technology that will help them attract user-generated news reports from citizen journalists around the United States. The privately held Naples, Florida-based company has been working with TV broadcasters such as ABC News, CNN, the Weather Channel, and Scripps’ HGTV to solicit user feedback and offer community features."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Huffington Post: Phil de Vellis, aka ParkRidge47: I Made the "Vote Different" Ad

From The Huffington Post:

"Hi. I'm Phil. I did it. And I'm proud of it. I made the "Vote Different" ad because I wanted to express my feelings about the Democratic primary, and because I wanted to show that an individual citizen can affect the process. There are thousands of other people who could have made this ad, and I guarantee that more ads like it--by people of all political persuasions--will follow."

Comment: I never expected his identity to come out so quickly. I'm a little disappointed to find out how closely tied his is to politics, but I have to give him props -- I wish I had thought of it.

Associated Press: "Clinton 1984" YouTube ad puts spotlight on guerrilla politics

From the AP via the Seattle Times:

"[Sen. Barack] Obama, appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" Monday night, said his campaign knew nothing about the origins of the anti-Clinton ad. 'Frankly, given what it looks like, we don't have the technical capacity to create something like this," he said. "It's pretty extraordinary.'"

Comment: Wow. As the supposed representative for the new generation and the hippest candidate on the campaign trail, I'm shocked that Obama would think it a good idea to admit that his campaign doesn't have the 'technical capacity' to make something like the Clinton/1984 mashup video.

The New York Sun: New Technique Lets Bloggers Tackle Late-Night News Dumps

From The New York Sun:

"On Monday night, the Justice Department delivered to Congress more than 3,000 pages of e-mails, memos, and other records about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys. The handover came so late that many news organizations had to scramble to try to skim a few headlines from the files before latenight deadlines."

"Despite the late hour, readers of a liberal Web site,, tackled the task with gusto. They quickly began grabbing 50-page chunks of the scanned documents from a House of Representatives Internet server, analyzing them and excerpting them. The first post about the Department of Justice records hit the left-leaning news and commentary site at 1:04 a.m. Within half an hour, there were 50 summaries posted by readers gleaning the documents. By 4:30 a.m., more than 220 postings were up detailing various aspects of the files."

Comment:'s founder Joshua Micah Marshall has been credited with keeping the Gonzalez 8 story alive. Chalk up another journalistic win for the blogosphere.

Media is a Plural: Twenty Questions with Conde Nast Chief Tom Wallace

From Media is a Plural:

Interviewer: "What are your top three challenges at Conde Nast?

Wallace: "Well, first of all, taking these big and beautiful magazines into the Internet era…(pauses, smiles) can that be all three?"

On The Media: Good Day, Sunshine

From On The Media:

"If you’re wondering what your Congressperson has been up to lately, you can spend hours poring over hard-to-find government databases. Or you can visit a brand new website, where it’s all in one place. Sunlight Foundation technology advisor Micah Sifry unveils"

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

ABC News: Anti-Clinton '1984' Ad Spoof Climbs YouTube's Most Viewed

From ABC News:

"A remake of the seminal '1984' Apple ad spot for Macintosh featuring New York's junior senator as Big Brother has been making rounds on the Internet for the last two weeks. This time YouTube is the venue of choice and the ad spoof is well on its way to a million views."

Monday, March 19, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle: Who is the person behind the Clinton attack ad?

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"First it was talk radio, and then it was cable news – and now it's the blogs that are setting the agenda for the mainstream media," says [Tobe Berkowitz, interim professor of communications at Boston University – and a former advertising industry veteran]. "You can take something that you could never break into the news cycle with, and all of a sudden it's kaboom."

Sunday, March 18, 2007

CJR Daily: How TalkingPointsMemo Beat the Big Boys on the U.S. Attorney Story

From CJR Daily:

"It's almost too perfect. A mainstream reporter mocks a story a blogger has been working to break, asserting that 'it all makes perfect conspiratorial sense!', and that the blogger is 'seeing broad partisan conspiracies where none likely exist,' only to backtrack a few weeks later when the story explodes across the front pages of the major dailies."

Saturday, March 17, 2007

soundseeker: NYSoundmap

From soundseeker:

"The NYSoundmap is a map created by citizens that privileges the ear over the eye. The project reaches across the city's geographic, economic, educational, cultural and racial divides. It is at once a historical record and a subjective representation of the city. It is what each user wishes it to be and it is ever growing, ever changing and totally interactive."

Comment: This is a great example of content that could only be created on the web. And it's pretty cool...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

San Francisco Chronicle: Pay-to-play is one way to help save newspapers

From San Francisco Chronicle columnist David Lazarus:

"It's time for newspapers to stop giving away the store. We as an industry need to start charging for -- or at the very least controlling -- use of our products online... My thinking is that this is approaching a life-or-death struggle for newspapers, and an antitrust exemption may be the only way that the industry can smoothly make the transition to a digital future."

"Barring that, I agree with [University of Minnesota media ethics professor Jane] Kirtley at the University of Minnesota. If newspapers aren't going to collectively reach into the pockets of online readers, they should at least focus their attention on other Internet players that are profiting from newspapers' content... Bloggers and Web sites are entitled to what is called fair use of copyrighted material... But I frequently see blogs that include entire stories or columns (my own included). Obviously a newspaper can't go after all such violators. But the big ones need to play by the rules."

Comment: Sorry for the chopped up excerpt, but I didn't want to run afoul of fair use rules. Simply put, Lazarus' proposal is what's colloquially known as closing the barn door after the cow has left. I agree that the only way newspapers could start charging for content now is if they collude in violation of anti-trust law. Here's my thing with that idea -- every industry since the buggy whip manufacturers (and there are probably earlier examples) has tried to prevent new technology from ruining their business model. But sometimes progress requires that old technology make way for the new.

I'm not suggesting that journalists are obsolete, or that they've been replaced by bloggers. But I don't think that fighting to protect their traditional business model is going to save newspapers. The industry has to fundamentally rethink the process of producing and disseminating news in the Internet era. I know that's easier said than done, but it's better to start working on it now instead of spending years fighting a futile battle.

As for Kirtley's idea, I do agree that blogs shouldn't be allowed to republish entire stories. But I don't think most A-list bloggers are doing that. If the newspaper industry can find one, then they should file a Viacom-Google style lawsuit so we can get that out of the way. The bottom line is that it's not going to make a difference how those lawsuits turn out. Shutting down Napster didn't stop people from sharing music. Shutting down YouTube is not going to stop people from posting TV shows online. And shutting down 100 A-list blogs is not going to save the newspaper industry.

AssignmentZero: Pro-Am Journalism Takes off With Launch of Assignment Zero

From AssignmentZero's launch press release:

"Wired News ( and today announce the launch of Assignment Zero (, an attempt to bring together professional writers and editors with citizen journalists to collaborate on reporting and writing about the rise of crowdsourcing on the Web. Inspired by the open source movement, the goal of Assignment Zero is to develop a working model of an open newsroom."

Comment: and AssignmentZero are the brainchildren of Jay Rosen (no relation), a professor at my alma mater. I'm very interested in this idea of 'hybrid' journalism, where a professional journalist works with a pool of amateurs. I can't say I'm overly impressed by the current assignments, but I can understand that they want to start with some softball pieces before trying to tackle anything juicier.

Reuters: Stop surfing, make friends, students told

From Reuters:

"One of India's top engineering schools has restricted Internet access in its hostels, saying addiction to surfing, gaming and blogging was affecting students' performance, making them reclusive and even suicidal. Authorities at the elite Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai said students had stopped socializing and many were late for morning classes or slept through them."

Comment: Ok - I don't believe the Internet makes people antisocial, but I know there is some research that indicates otherwise. I don't think I've ever seen research indicating it makes people suicidal. In any case, the school should have stopped at that when justifying cutting off Internet access. If they believe that the Internet is what's making students late for morning classes -- regardless of what the students themselves say -- then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Los Angeles Times: Blogging for dollars raises questions of online ethics

From the Los Angeles Times:

"Thousands of bloggers are writing sponsored posts touting such diverse topics as diamonds, digital cameras and drug clinics. The bloggers are spurred by new marketing middlemen such as PayPerPost Inc. that connect advertisers with mom-and-pop webmasters. Some of their fellow bloggers are critical, saying the industry is polluting the blog world and misleading consumers by blurring the line between advertising and unbiased opinion."

Comment: This is an unhelpful trend for those of us trying to make the case for the credibility of online media, but it is also inevitable -- if there's money lying around, someone will stoop to pick it up.

On a related note, I am amused by the reporter's use of the paradoxical phrase "unbiased opinion."

CJR Daily: Who's A Journalist? ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

From CJR Daily:

"Apparently, we haven't heard the last of the tired debate, 'Are bloggers journalists?' It seems that every few months, in casting about for something to write, media critics get themselves all in a twist over this question when in fact it just might be the single most overblown issue in contemporary journalism."

Comment: It seems to me that every few months, in casting about for something to write, media critics whine about how bored they are by what I consider to be the ongoing, valid, and vibrant debate about who qualifies as a journalist in the new media world. This question is far from answered, as the writer illustrates in his piece.

Reuters: Viacom in $1 bln copyright suit vs Google, YouTube

From Reuters via Yahoo News:

"Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. said on Tuesday that it was suing Google Inc. and its Internet video-sharing site YouTube for more than $1 billion over unauthorized use of its programming online."

Comment: I think this is actually a good thing - big companies need to duke it out in court because that's the only way our outdated intellectual property laws are going to be updated to apply to the 21st century.

ZDNet: Adobe to take Photoshop online

From ZDNet:

"Hoping to get a jump on Google and other competitors, Adobe Systems plans to release a hosted version of its popular Photoshop image-editing application within six months, the company's chief executive said Tuesday."

Comment: This is a great idea, but the devil is in the details. We'll have to see how they implement it and what it costs...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007 Judge dismisses libel claim against conservative blogger

From the First Amendment Center:

"A district judge has dismissed a libel lawsuit against a conservative blogger, saying the man's political Web site had the same legal protections as newspapers and traditional broadcasters against lawsuits by public figures."

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Guardian: Students marked on writing in Wikipedia

From The Guardian:

"Wikipedia - banned by some academics as a source for student essays - has been made compulsory reading (and writing) for a new course at the University of East Anglia. Students are assessed on editing and writing articles on Middle East politics for the online encyclopaedia, which is open to contributions from anyone. Nicola Pratt, a lecturer in international relations, said she used to be "one of the disgruntled crown of academics who berate students for using Wikipedia in their essays" but is now convinced it can be a great opportunity for students to see at first hand how knowledge is produced."

Comment: I try not to make a point of tooting my own horn, but I've given my online journalism students the option to earn up to 10 points of extra credit toward their final grade by finding and fixing factual errors on Wikipedia - one point per error. I'd love to know how Dr. Pratt got a story written about this...

Enough whining though - I think it's a great idea, particularly given the sometimes irrational enmity most professors feel toward Wikipedia.

Thursday, March 08, 2007 Net Gain for the News Business?

From the Project for Excellence in Journalism:

"A new Pew survey may offer some good news to a journalism industry eagerly seeking new and younger customers. People in the rapidly growing ranks of wireless Internet users are more likely to retrieve news online than those who access the web in other ways."

Comment: The disappointing thing about this study is that it lumps wireless laptop users in with people who access the Internet via cell phone, PDF, or Blackberry. Talk about mixing apples and oranges.

Gelf Magazine: What the Press Loses in Translation

From Gelf Magazine:

"Foreign correspondents often rely on local amateurs—or their own language skills—to interpret the statements of their sources for readers. Confusion sometimes ensues."

Comment: As someone who has translated a (yet unpublished) novel and written about the theoretical debates among translators (PDF), I'm very concerned if this story is true -- we could be basing many of our opinions about what world leaders say and what the rest of the world thinks about us on poor translations. It would be interesting to put together a repository of translated quotes and have them verified by multiple experts in translation. The only group I know of that focuses on this is MEMRI.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Essjay, the Ersatz Academic

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

"Like most of the controversies that swirl around Wikipedia, the incident has wider ramifications than a simple personal dispute. Mr. Wales is right that Essjay's autobiographical fabrications don't change the quality of his contributions to the site. And it would seem like an overreach for a site that thrives on anonymous editing to ban someone for misrepresenting his or her identity. But the incident is clearly damaging to Wikipedia's credibility -- especially with professors who will now note that one of the site's most visible academics has turned out to be a fraud."

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Wired News: I Bought Votes on Digg

From Wired News:

"I can tell you exactly how a pointless blog full of poorly written, incoherent commentary made it to the front page on Digg. I paid people to do it. What's more, my bought votes lured honest Diggers to vote for it too. All told, I wound up with a 'popular' story that earned 124 diggs -- more than half of them unpaid. I also had 29 (unpaid) comments, 12 of which were positive."

Comment: This is the dark side of the wisdom of crowds and the challenge caused by anonymity.