Media & Journalism Grab Bag, Dec. 24

Here are some more items about news, media, and journalism that have caught my interest recently.

TOP OF THIS LIST: BBC bamboozled by spoof site: On Dec. 3, the venerable TV news show BBC World broadcast an interview with Jude Finisterra, who claimed to be a spokesperson for Dow Chemical. The topic was the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster. (Several years ago Dow acquired Union Carbide, the company whose plant in Bhopal, India killed thousands and injured more than 100,000 in the world’s worst industrial disaster.) In the interview, Finisterra offered a $12 billion (US) settlement to the 120,000 surviving victims of the Bhopal disaster. Trouble is, Finisterra is a hoaxster – one of the notorious Yes Men. See BBC reputation hit by Bhopal interview hoax, The Guardian, Dec. 4.

How did this happen? According to the Guardian, “…A producer on BBC World had been asked to book a representative from Dow for the 20th anniversary of the disaster. He went to the Dow website, and was directed to the media relations section. Email correspondence and phone calls followed, which resulted in yesterday’s interview with Mr Finisterra from the corporation’s Paris office. It appears that part of the Dow website had been hijacked in a detailed and carefully planned operation.”

Read the rest of this list…

  1. What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers, by Steve Outing, Poynter Online, Dec. 23. My favorite part: “News is a conversation.” Exactly! See also Outing’s second article in this series, What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists.
  2. You Can Blog, but You Can’t Hide, by Eugene Volokh, New York Times op-ed, Dec. 2. Here’s a thorny issue: If bloggers can be considered journalists (at least in some cases), then should they enjoy the same protections as journalists? And exactly what kinds of protections do journalists really have, anyway? Read the column. Then see what Steve Rubel and Allan Jenkins had to say about it. Volokh also has been exploring this issue further in his own weblog, The Volokh Conspiracy.
  3. Free press? Yeah, right… Apparently, the US federal government has moved to make it difficult for American publishers to publish works by foreign dissidents. See Foreign dissidents facing U.S. hurdles to publishing, by Scott Martelle of the Los Angeles Times, syndicated Dec. 8 to the Seattle Times. Excerpt: “In an apparent reversal of decades of U.S. practice, recent federal Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations bar American companies from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they first obtain U.S. government approval. The restriction, condemned by critics as a violation of the First Amendment, means that books and other works banned by some totalitarian regimes cannot be published freely in the United States.” I kid you not. This just floors me. (Thanks to DragonPage for this link.)
  4. Wikinews. From the team behind Wikipedia, here’s a new wiki where citizen journalists can publish independent reporting. Independent Media Center because of how wikis handle updating, commenting, community review, and linking. I especially like how they create a table of contents that organizes background, timelines, and other kinds of info related to an issue. So far, article quality can be a bit haphazard, and some pieces do little more than parrot or summarize stories from mainstream sources such as AP. Still, it’s an intriguing project. I’ll be curious to see how it develops. (Thanks to Wiremine for this link.)
  5. How blogs can complement local news: I live in Boulder, CO – and the next town to the northeast is Longmont, CO. Longmont is a pretty big town, and it’s sprawling fast. One controversial development is a housing community currently planned by LifeBridge, a Christian megachurch on the outskirts of Longmont. Nearby residents (both rural and in existing neighborhoods) have been eyeing this ambitious project warily. However, the local papers have largely ignored this project. I learned about it through the work of Longmont-based blogger Brandon Fuller, who’s been attending public meetings and posting summaries and updates from a citizen’s perspective. Well done, Fuller! (For context, here is Lifebridge’s FAQ about the project.)
  6. APME Survey: Newspaper Readers Use Blogs Cautiously, by Ryan Pitts, Poynter Online, Oct. 13. Intriguing quote from one survey respondent (emphasis added): “Readers get a greater overall view of the news, said Michael Hodges of Nashua, NH, because each blogger speaks in the context of one big conversation. ‘In the aggregate, bloggers are much more balanced because they instantly call one another on bias, slant, errors in logic, and inadequate information. It’s a network effect that is better than the mainstream ‘networks.'” So then, does the blogosphere have a hive mind? Maybe…
  7. Associated Press Managing Editors’ (APME) National Credibility Roundtables Project: This is an intriguing series of events, and the source of the survey listed in the previous item in this list. From what I gather, this project conducts reader surveys and then holds roundable events involving media experts to interpret the results. It’s unclear from the web site whether more events in this series are currently planned, but if so this is well worth watching.
  8. Technorati NewsTalk: From all around the blogosphere, a continuously updated list of the most-discussed news stories and related conversations in the last 12 hours. Intriguing context on current events.
  9. National Digital Newspaper Program: The US National Endowment for the Humanities has begun a 20-year project to create “a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers from all the states and U.S. territories published between 1836 and 1922. This searchable database will be permanently maintained at the Library of Congress (LC) and be freely accessible via the Internet.”
  10. Pirate radio is alive and well in my town. Check out KBFR Radio Free Boulder, “Radio so good it’s illegal.” It’s a pirate radio station that broadcasts from a van in my town, Boulder CO. They also stream webcasts. Gotta love it. Take that, FCC!
  11. News.com Supports Trackback and Pingback: Back on Feb. 24 I wrote, “I would love it if mainstream news sites would send TrackBack pings to sites they link to from stories, and if they would publish at the end of each story a list of TrackBack pings that story has received.” Well, looks like News.com has done it. Cool!