links for 2008-12-13

  • "Earlier this week the Pulitzer Prize Board initiated another milestone when it announced that it would expand the prestigious prize to online-only news organizations for all 14 of its journalism categories.

    "Though it has accepted online content for various categories for years, prior to this announcement, entrants were required to have a print newspaper publication in order to be considered. This news means that more organizations will be able to compete for the award, but the ambiguity of the announcement leaves some wondering which online-only publications will be eligible. For instance, under these new guidelines would Marshall and TPM be able to submit their work?"

  • Clay Shirky's take: "Dehnadi and Bornat's thesis is that the single biggest predictor of likely aptitude for programming is a deep comfort with meaninglessness"

    They wrote: "To write a computer program you have to come to terms with this, to accept that whatever you might want the program to mean, the machine will blindly follow its meaningless rules and come to some meaningless conclusion. In the test the consistent group showed a pre-acceptance of this fact: they are capable of seeing mathematical calculation problems in terms of rules, and can follow those rules wheresoever they may lead. The inconsistent group, on the other hand, looks for meaning where it is not. The blank group knows that it is looking at meaninglessness, and refuses to deal with it."

  • Do you have what it takes to be a geek? "This test predicts ability to program with very high accuracy before the subjects have ever seen a program or a programming language. … All teachers of programming find that their results display a 'double hump'. It is as if there are two populations: those who can, and those who cannot, each with its own independent bell curve. Almost all research into programming teaching and learning have concentrated on teaching: change the language, change the application area, use an IDE and work on motivation. None of it works, and the double hump persists. We have a test which picks out the population that can program, before the course begins. We can pick apart the double hump. You probably don't believe this, but you will after you hear the talk. We don't know exactly how/why it works, but we have some good theories."

Tipsheet Approach to News: The Launching Point IS the Point

Typically news is presented in narrative story format (text, audio, or video). Often, that works well enough. But what about when people want to dig into issues on their own? What if they want to learn more about how the news connects to their lives, communities, or interests? Generally, packaged news stories don’t support that leap. It generally requires a fair amount of reading between the lines, initiative, research skills, and time — significant obstacles for most folks.

The growing number of citizen journalists (of various flavors) obviously are willing to do at least some of this work — but they don’t always know how to find what they’re seeking, or have sufficient context to even know what might be worth pursuing beyond the narrative line chosen for a packaged news story. Also, lots of people who have no desire to be citizen journalists still occasionally get interested enough in some news stories to want to check them out further first-hand. They just need encouragement, and some help getting started.

Therefore, it helps to consider that news doesn’t always have to be a finished story. In some cases, or for some people, a launching point might be even more intriguing, useful, and engaging. Here’s one option for doing that…
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links for 2008-12-12

  • Denver Post's parent company now in serious financial trouble, just as the Rocky goes up for sale. Could Denver be a no-paper town soon?

    "Moody's said it calculates Denver-based MediaNews Group's leverage ratio as more than 8 times debt to EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization). When Tribune sought bankruptcy refuge earlier this week, it was widely reported it feared violating its credit agreement covenants of 9 times EBITDA.

    "By far, the largest debtholder of MediaNews is our partner, which is a lot different than Tribune," the spokesman said, referring to Hearst Corporation, which holds a stake in some 115 MediaNews newspapers published outside of California. Tribune debt is held mostly by banks, with some debt securities trading publicly."

Jon Stewart: What’s black and white and completely over?

links for 2008-12-11

Windy Citizen Uses Cool Tools to Cover Blagojevich

As the ripples spread from Chicago’s latest corruption drama, the community news site Windy Citizen is trying some innovative, fun approaches to online coverage and commentary. They did this using free online tools that anyone can use.

Here’s what one of these tools can create:

More about what Windy Citizen is doing on this front…
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Fun interactive visual tools: Why should journalists care?

Last week I wrote a lot about various interactive visual tools that can help people connect differently or more deeply with news and information. This was for a session I led at a Knight Digital Media Center seminar for the leaders of the News21 project.

Yeah, so what? Why should journalists and news organizations care about these tools? How can this help their communities, journalism, and (most critical right now) business opportunities? What’s in it for journos and news brands?

That’s what Meabh Ritchie, a reporter for the U.K. Press Gazette asked me to clarify. She’s writing a story on this, and I’ll link to it when it’s up in February 2009. The short answer is: This stuff is effective and (more importantly) FUN! — for journalists and news audiences.

But here’s the full version of my answer…

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