Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Over and out

Welcome to the final wrapup of class blogs for "Beat Reporting: The Journalism of the Web." Many of you have done a terrific job this semester. Although I won't post here again, I do hope you'll keep blogging. It's a great way to hone your writing, to stay connected to the news and to show prospective employers what you've been doing.

I've enjoyed reading your work, and will continue to check in on what you're writing about.

"Fauxtography" smackdown. Celia Soudry shares some examples of anti-Israel bias in the media as presented by HonestReporting.com. She also shares her frustration with Blogger.com: "Unfortunately, blogger.com is not allowing me to upload any photos at this time, which is very frustrating — and takes so much away from this entry." Yes, indeed. That's why Media Nation is considering a possible move to WordPress.

The year in pictures. It may only be mid-December, but Boston.com has already uploaded its 2006 compilation of "The Year in Photos." Set aside some time — there are 91 pictures here. "So long, 2006," writes Chelsea Petersen. Wait a minute — I'm not ready.

Fluffer off his nutter. Chris Estrada concedes he might be losing it in blogging about the confluence of citizen journalism and fluff. In one of his more lucid moments, he writes, "There's always gonna be some sort of 'soft news,' but as citizen journalism and hyper-local coverage become bigger, the newspapers are going to have to put a serious check on things to keep their legitimate reputations intact."

Keeping an eye on Albany. Jessica Harding checks in on a blog devoted to what's going on in Albany, N.Y. Albany Eye, Jessica writes, is sometimes funny, sometimes mean — and could definitely be improved by opening itself up to comments from its readers.

Educational blogging. Michael Naughton discovers that the Scituate Public Schools have joined the Boston school system in starting a blog to keep students and parents informed. He also notices that Facebook has started a blog, which he sees as "yet another step toward world domination."

Politics as conversation. Rachel Slajda erupts in profane delight at former Washington Post reporter John Harris' interview with Jay Rosen about his new Web-based venture. Harris: "we’ll try to loosen the style and in the process tell readers more about what we know, what we think, and why we think it." Rachel: "@#!*$# fantastic!"

Mandatory advertising. This is insane. Ricky Thompson reports on a lawsuit filed by a newspaper publisher in Florida against a community college that pulled its advertising because of what college officials described as unfair coverage. Can advertiser boycotts really be outlawed?

Future sports podcaster. Thomas Chen reflects on his experience as a blogger this semester, and outlines plans for a sports-related blog/podcast that he hopes to unveil in the near future. "I think I have a co-host lined up and now it's just a matter of acquiring some audio tools and software and learning the ins and outs of podcasting," Tom says. "That's going to be my project during Christmas vacation and hopefully, I'll be able to launch in early January."

Fake site gets real. Adam Marschilok says that a Conan O'Brien joke about a non-existent Web site devoted to the love lives of lonely manatees is now actually up and running. He also observes that "60 Minutes" recently saved some graphic footage of Mixed Martial Arts fighting for the Web, and worries (as do I) that the Red Sox aren't going to sign Dice-K.

A streaming podcast. Not a contradiction in terms, writes Amy Costa, who says that Mercora is an innovative breakthrough. Amy also offers some advice on where to find underground music online, and is pleased that the Internet is wreaking havoc with the commercial media's marketing plans.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Daily Me, rebooted

In our weekly blog roundup, Chris Estrada and Rachel Slajda take a look at new sites that specialize in personalized news of one sort or another.

On a national and worldwide level, Chris examines a site called NewsVine, which he says is a little bit like Digg, only it remembers what you like and pushes more of it at you. "I'd definitely recommend for you to partake of the grapes from this Vine and see what you think," Chris writes.

Rachel goes local, checking out a site serving the Dallas-Fort Worth area called Pegasusnews.com. Her verdict: Tastes great, less filling. "Pegasus is lovely. The site uses bright colors and big buttons on the top for each section," she writes. "But the news content itself is a lot of fluff."

Elsewhere this week:

Paid citizen journalism. Rajashree Joshi reports that Yahoo and Reuters have embraced citizen photojournalism and video journalism — and, unlike the situation at YouTube, contributors can actually make money. Sounds interesting — but, in my limited experiment, I couldn't get the video to play.

A rival low-cost laptop. Ricky Thompson finds that Intel is working on an alternative to the celebrated $150 laptop, and that Brazil is interested. He also checks in on the new CNBC.com as well as the Yahoo-Reuters citizen-journalism collaboration.

Multimedia ICA. Glenn Yoder is hugely impressed with Boston.com's multimedia package on the opening of the Institute of Contemporary Art. Among other things, the package includes the debut of Globe arts writer/blogger Geoff Edgers as a television correspondent.

The BBC's conversation-starter. Chelsea Petersen likes the BBC's "School Day 24," which gets students together from around the world to talk about everything from terrorism to marriage. She also praises a Los Angeles Times slideshow on "AIDS in Africa."

The never-ending season. Thomas Chen wraps up the Major League Baseball winter meetings, and how they're being covered online, from blogs to a photo gallery. "Oh, the Winter Meetings are every blogger's dream," Chen writes.

Media ups and downs. Evan Brunell points to recent stories that show television and online revenues are rising, whereas print revenues continue to fall. Still, he's dubious about an experiment at the Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press to play down print and pump up the Web.

Shop till you drop. Mike Naughton notes that BJ's Wholesale Club has finally embraced online shopping. And he's less than impressed with the new Boston School Department blog, saying it "reads very much like a stack of press releases abandoned on a newsroom fax machine."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Sunday blog roundup

I'm late in posting the weekly blog roundup — I've been editing the first drafts of your final projects. The good news is that I had a chance to go through all of them, so you'll be getting them back on Monday rather than Wednesday. With that, here is what you've been writing about online during the past week.

Third World laptops.
Adam Marschilok is taken with a New York Times story on a project to provide laptop computers to children in the Third World at a cost of just $150 apiece. Adam also notes that the Times discussion board allows readers to react to the story immediately. Indeed, as of Sunday at 4:45 p.m., there were already 350 comments.

Free speech isn't free. Celia Sourdy observes that expressing yourself on social networks such as MySpace and Facebook can get you fired. She also asks whether Muslims are being unfairly singled out, finds an odd report about a high-school fight triggered by MySpace, and offers a disturbing example of Craigslist-fueled child abuse.

But sometimes it is free. Chelsea Petersen is a lukewarm supporter of a court ruling that Web sites cannot be sued for libel successfully for material placed on their sites by third parties. "This, to me, is both good and bad news," Petersen writes — good for free speech, not so good for people wondering if what they read online is reliable.

Pulitzer Prizes 2.0. Chris Estrada reports that the Pulitzer Prize folks will now allow newspapers to submit various multimedia packages, including blogs, slideshows and videos. Chris also takes a look at an article that claims the New York Times Co. has flatly refused to sell the Boston Globe to a group headed by former GE chairman Jack Welch.

Press those words. Evan Brunell sets up a WordPress blog and finds it's incredibly easy. "Everyone who's on Blogger should just basically move over," he writes. (I know, I know, I just have to find the time.) Evan also recounts an unpleasant run-in he had with a contributor to his sports site, Most Valuable Network, over the abuse of a press pass.

Mitt and Mormonism. Glenn Yoder notes that Time magazine is taking a close look at how Gov. Mitt Romney's Mormon religion could affect his presidential campaign, a subject that has been explored locally for some time. (Here is the definitive piece, by the Phoenix's Adam Reilly.) Glenn is also a little unnerved by a CIA recruiting campaign and psyched over the new, tech-savvy Congress.

The Doctor is right on. Jane Mackay digs up some wisdom from Dr. Hunter S. Thompson that is as pertinent today as when he wrote it. Also, Jane loves a recent New Yorker profile of O.J. Simpson ghostwriter Pablo Fenjves, who appears to combine cheerful amorality with an acute awareness of his limitations.

From Swarthmore to Baghdad. And speaking of the New Yorker, Lisa Panora is impressed with a piece about "War News Radio," a student-radio production featuring telephone interviews with residents of Baghdad. Lisa also shares the joy of an ear-piercing teenager repellant that she is still young enough to hear.

HSTV on Boston.com. Mike Naughton tells us that the Boston Globe's Web site, Boston.com, has begun to solicit user-submitted videos of high-school football games — an interesting citizen-journalism twist on an old standby. "Are home movies of little Billy's high-school football games just the beginning?" asks Naughton.

Podcasting politician. Rachel Slajda writes that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has begun to record three-minute video podcasts, and they've proved quite popular — except with the news media, which do not like the idea of a politician communicating directly with her constituents. Rachel also notes that two of the Washington Post's top political reporters are Web-bound.

The Little Red Wiki. Rajashree Joshi observes with some consternation that the Wikipedia entry for Mao Zedong differs considerably depending on whether you're reading it in Chinese or English. "It is hard to say whether this is deliberate because after all, Wikipedia is an open encyclopedia where viewers edit the information," she says.

Targeting informants. Thomas Chen views the notorious Web site Who's a Rat, reported on most recently by the Associated Press, and wonders about a site that endangers the lives of police informants. Still, he notes, "The documents and information that the site posts are of public record and no one's challenged the idea that the site is not protected by free speech."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Live from Central Ave

I'm blogging from the Barnes & Noble in Colonie, N.Y., right off Central Avenue — which just happens to be the subject of this Adam Marschilok post.

Adam recently demonstrated a multimedia feature for us from the Times Union Web site called "Central Ave: Broken Dreams, Second Chances." It traces Central Ave from the mean streets of downtown Albany to the malls of Colonie. If you've ever been to the Capital Region, it's worth checking out.

Also around the blogs this week:

The $100 trolley ride. Thomas Chen offers Thanksgiving greetings with the tale of a man who got lucky after overpaying just a bit for his ride on the Green Line. Tom also thinks Boston.com could have done a better job with a video of sports writer Nick Cafardo on such burning issues as whether the Red Sox will be able to unload Manny Ramírez this winter.

Sordid tales from the SGA. Ricky Thompson shares a new blog he found, the NU Governator, that purports to offer the inside dirt on Northeastern's Student Government Association. But Ricky is skeptical of how believable any of this stuff is, citing the "middle school" tone of the proceedings.

Citizen journalism in India. Rajashree Joshi discovers a site called Instablogs, which appears to be a citizen-journalism project based in North India that's focused more on news than it is on opinion-mongering. "On the whole," she writes, "I felt that although the quality of the reports was not all that great, the variety was good. It is definitely a good start."

Digg-ing trivia. Lisa Panora points to a story in Dow Jones MarketWatch, which reports that Digg's system of allowing users to rank stories by popularity could wind up further trivializing the mediascape. She also finds a strange tale of a lost mushroom-picker who was saved because rescue workers saw the glow of his iPod. Good thing it was charged up.

Save the Internet. Jane Mackay catches up with "net neutrality," the term favored by those who oppose an attempt by large corporations to turn the Internet into a multi-tiered system favoring — well, large corporations. She also discovers that the celebrated recent New York Times article on "Web 3.0" was actually 11 months late.

The F-word. That would be "finished," which is what Glenn Yoder says Michael "Kramer" Richards is following his racist, N-word-laden tirade at a comedy club. Glenn asks, "Didn't he learn anything from the decline of George Allen?" Apparently not. The lesson would be that, in the age of the Internet, everything you say can and will be recorded, uploaded and used against you.

Cable news crack-up. Chris Estrada says the debut of Al-Jazeera's new English-language channel and the upcoming launch of France 24 mark the further fragmentation of cable news into smaller and smaller niches. He also gives props to the Houston Chronicle for embracing YouTube rather than fearing it.

Has Yahoo got game? Chelsea Petersen wonders if Yahoo may have gotten back into the game against Google with its recently announced advertising partnership with seven newspaper chains. She also shares her thoughts on the explosion in Danvers, across the harbor from where she was staying that night (thanks for your concern, Chelsea; the Kennedys are fine), as well as on some fine photos by citizen journalists posted on Boston.com (which seem to have moved).

Don't call him a "graphic novelist." Celia Soudry catches an appearance by comic illustrator and writer Joe Sacco at the recent Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism. She also offers some observations on the college student behind TVNewser and weighs in on "the date from hell" — chronicled on the Web for your voyeuristic amusement.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Time once again for the weekly update from our student bloggers.

No toons for Trillin.
Celia Soudry blogs an appearance by Calvin Trillin at the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism, and learns that the New Yorker writer isn't too keen on Wikipedia. Why? Someone wrote that Trillin likes comic books. He doesn't. But the current Wikipedia entry on Trillin seems to get it right.

You get what you pay for. Chelsea Petersen writes about Jay Rosen's talk at the Berkman Center earlier this week on NewAssignment.Net, his experiment in open-source journalism. Petersen's wondering how much of a contribution volunteer activists can make to journalism, writing that "it's my own personal belief that nothing really comes for free."

A podcast in defense of print. Chris Estrada likes Ted Landphair's Voice of America commentary on the threat posed to newspapers by technology. But he also thinks it pretty amusing that you can listen to Landphair's lament as streaming audio, or download it in two different formats. Et tu, Ted?

The definition of futility. Like many bloggers, Evan Brunell can't believe that journalist/lawyer Peter Scheer was serious when he suggested that news organizations withhold their content from free portals such as Yahoo News and AOL for 24 hours. "Look around," Brunell writes. "You're in 2006. You're way out of your element as a newspaper dinosaur."

Bidding for ad revenue. Glenn Yoder points to an Editor & Publisher article about a new way for newspapers to sell advertising that sounds an awful lot like an auction — except that "it's not really an auction," according to the guy who started it. Yoder's encouraged, though he'd prefer the days when "big bosses puffed cigars lit by flaming $100 bills pulled from the piles of money forklifted in from advertising profits." Hmm. When was that?

Cell-phone documentary. Jane Mackay reports on a cell-phone video on YouTube, made in the Powell Library at UCLA, that shows an Iranian-American getting repeatedly shocked with a Taser gun. It's hard to tell what the young man did wrong other than not having an ID and not leaving quickly enough to suit the campus police. Just one piece of the story, obviously, but powerful.

Censorship renewed. Calvin Trillin might not mind, but Lisa Panora does: It seems that the Chinese government's decision to stop censoring Wikipedia, celebrated in the media earlier this week, lasted for about a day before the shackles were put on once again. "It is hard to say how long the so-called Great Firewall of China can last in a world that thrives on communication," Panora writes.

Craft over code. Mike Naughton is pleased to learn that editors in online newsrooms are more interested in journalism-school graduates who can write stories than in those who have mastered the arcana of cascading style sheets. "It's hard to deny that the findings are a relief for those of us spending time and a lot of money in journalism schools learning the basics of the craft," Naughton says.

Facebook goes Globe-al. Rachel Slajda notices that the Boston Globe's Web site, Boston.com, now offers the option of letting you share stories you like through Facebook. I tried it with a Globe story, and it now appears on my Facebook "Profile" page. If I wanted to, I could also e-mail it to Facebook friends. I've got to say, though, that this doesn't strike me as the most compelling use of technology.

The Matsuzaka watch. Thomas Chen shows us Boston.com's "Scott Boras countdown clock," an up-to-the-second meter of how long the Red Sox have to sign Japanese pitching phenom Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose agent is the notoriously difficult Boras. Chen also shares some video of a Japanese batter swinging and missing at a Matsuzaka delivery.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Jay Rosen on Media Nation

I've posted my report on Jay Rosen's appearance at the Berkman Center. I hope that those of you who were able to attend thought it was worthwhile. If you couldn't make it, please watch the video. It hasn't been uploaded yet, but it should be here later in the week.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Web 2.0 is so 2006

Look out: At a time when we're all still trying to wrap our minds around the participatory Internet that's come to be known as Web 2.0, heading straight toward us is Web 3.0. John Markoff writes about it today in the New York Times.

Markoff's article is pretty interesting, but a little short on explaining exactly what Web 3.0 is. Apparently there is some, uh, disagreement. Look it up in Wikipedia and you get this: "This page has been deleted, and protected to prevent re-creation."

Essentially, though, Web 3.0 is about thinking of the Web as a giant database, and being able to use it to get answers to highly specific questions that are asked in plain English. Given that online journalism is becoming increasingly database-driven, Web 3.0 is a development worth watching.