Sunshine Week, March 13-19: Acceptable advocacy for journalists

For several years, I’ve loved Sunshine Week — a campaign by the American Society of News Editors to call for more government transparency.  It’s one of the few times that journalists and news orgs are willing to engage in direct activism, which makes for a lot of amusing verbal gymnastics.

Today at the Knight Digital Media Center, I wrote about new advocacy/awareness tool from Sunshine Week: a model proclamation that news orgs and other activists/advocates can customize, publish, and challenge specific government officials and agencies to adopt. It gets into specifics, at least to some extent.

See: Sunshine Week shows how to call for open government

It’s a good start, but here’s what else I’d love to see from Sunshine Week…

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More break-the-story-box news tools: Andy Carvin, Twitter, and Egypt

Form follows function — which is why when traditional journalism tries to shoehorn fast-breaking, multidirectional events that unfold via social media into traditional narrative stories, it often flattens (and sometimes skews) the experience.

This is why I like tools that allow reporters and others to break “story box” by creating real-time collages that combine original reporting and commentary with curated contributions from social media and elsewhere.

The past month, NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin has been doing this via Twitter — first for the Tunisia uprising, and now with the Egyptian revolution. Today Berkman Center research Ethan Zuckerman published an excellent interview with Carvin exploring why he’s been posting an average of 400 tweets daily for the last month, and what others can learn from his efforts.

I summarized some highlights from this interview that might especially interest news professionals over at the Knight Digital Media Center site.

See: How NPR’s Andy Carvin is using Twitter to tell Egypt’s story

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Reader Discussion Guide Excerpts

I just finished reading a killer classic fiction mashup (literally), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s a parody of the Jane Austen novel (which I tried to read in college and found unbearably tedious).

I must admit, though: The addition of a Night of the Living Dead-style zombie plague made all the endless fretting and plotting over how to present  oneself as appropriately marriageable in polite society surprisingly entertaining and understandable.

Because the thing is: The strictures of British aristocratic society — particularly how women were held in chattel status, and the ceaseless power plays of verbal indirection — were indeed nightmarish, soul-destroying, and cannibalistic.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider this book a seminal feminist treatise. (God knows we need more entertaining seminal works of feminism!)

If you read this book (and I recommend it) don’t miss the reader’s discussion guide at the end. It contains 10 questions. Here are a couple of my favorites…

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Chicago Tribune Story Idea Survey: Good Idea, Poorly Executed

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Flags wave in the wind ...
(Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that it has halted a “short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published.”

The project — a collaboration between the paper’s editorial and marketing departments — was stopped because reporters raised journalistic concerns. Originally it had only surveyed selected “would-be readers” about general topics and previous Tribune coverage. But in the last two weeks, participants had begun being surveyed about their preferences on synopses of stories currently in the works.

In all, 55 reporters and editors voiced their complaint in a letter to Tribune editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt. The letter “expressed concern that providing story information to those outside the newsroom prior to publication seemed ‘to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way.'”

Here’s more detail about how the research was conducted: “Surveys were sent by e-mail to around 9,000 would-be readers on two occasions. About 500 responded to each, indicating which of 10 story ideas they preferred. Kern said the stories ‘tended to be news features,’ and the results never made it to him or had any impact in how stories were handled.”

I can understand the reporters’ complaint if their story ideas were shared outside the newsroom without their prior knowledge and consent. However, if that consent can be obtained, I personally think this type of research could be surprisingly useful. Especially if the people being surveyed truly represent younger people (i.e., the news organization’s future market) as well as demographics that historically have not been well served by the news organization…

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What’s “Media?” Time to Update Default Assumptions

Yesterday it occurred to me — as I heard about yet another “multimedia workshop” for journalists — how dated and useless the term “multimedia” has become. It’s now normal for media content types to be mixed. It’s also normal for anyone working in media to be expected to create and integrate various types of content (text, audio, photos, video, mapping/locative) as well as delivery channels (print, Web, radio, TV, podcast, social media, e-mail, SMS, embeddable, mobile applications, widgets, e-readers, etc.).

Ditto for the terms “new media” and even “online media”, which imply that channels other than print and broadcast are somehow separate or niche.

The best take on why it’s important to update and integrate assumptions about the nature of media (and how that affects news) is shown in this hilarious skit from Landline.TV:

Here’s where media is at today: In the current integrated media ecosystem, every print and broadcast organization has an Internet and mobile presence — and most of these now go beyond bare “shovelware”. Also, more and more of these organizations are distributing their content online first, making print and broadcast secondary channels (if not secondary markets). In contrast, most media outlets and public discussion venues that began life on the Internet do not have a print or broadcast presence. These vastly outnumber print and broadcast media outlets.

Consequently, when you consider the number and diversity of media outlets, print and broadcast media have become the exception — not the rule…

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HuffPost’s citizen journalism standards: links required (News orgs, take a hint)

huffpostLast week the Huffington Post posted its standards for citizen journalism. It’s a pretty short, basic list — just six requirements — that reads like journalism 101.

However, many news organizations still could take a lesson from the second item on HuffPost‘s list:

2. Do research and include links to back it up. Whether you are referencing a quote, statistic, or specific event, you should include a link that supports your statement. If you’re not sure, it’s better to lean on the cautious side. More links enhance the piece and let readers know where you’re coming from.”

It amazes me how often I still see mainstream news stories which completely lack links, or which ghettoize links in a box in a sidebar or at the bottom of the story…

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Public Media Collaborative, Mar. 11 meeting, Berkeley

Scott Rosenberg, Susan Mernit, and lots of other smart people chatting at the Mar. 11 Public Media Collaborative meeting, Berkeley.

Scott Rosenberg, Susan Mernit, and lots of other smart people chatting at the Mar. 11 Public Media Collaborative meeting, Berkeley.

Last night I attended a meeting of the Bay Area Public Media Collaborative. I’m impressed by how this group is pulling together significant and diverse energy and talent.

The point? To “bring together bloggers, journalists, technologists, media and environmental justice folks, community organizers and activists from around the Bay area to explore and discuss social justice and emerging technology issues in a way that links theory and practice.”

One nonprofit group represented there last night, Independent Arts and Media, is planning a Journalism Innovations Expo II. Collaborative members discussed tacking a social/online media train-the-trainers Barcamp-style event onto the beginning or end of the expo.

I live-tweeted last night’s meeting. Here’s what I posted… Continue reading

My She’s Geeky Tweets: Series Index

Last weekend, I attended She’s Geeky at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. This unconference, organized by Kaliya Hamlin, is “for all women who are interested in technology” — although it touched on several other types of geekiness as well.

I live-tweeted the sessions I attended, and here is the index to my tweetstreams from each session. I’ll be posting them over the next few days. The ones with live “my tweeks” links are ready to read. The rest, I’m still producing — although in the meantime I’m linking to existing notes posted to She’s Geeky site (where available).

This order does not reflect the order in which the sessions I attended occurred. I’m just posting in an order that makes sense to me. Enjoy.

…Of course, I couldn’t attend every session — but lots of other attendees took notes too, and plenty of folks tweeted this event using the hashtag ShesGeeky.

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She’s Geeky: Great Opportunity To Step Outside Journo Culture

Computer History Museum Logo
Image by vanderwal via Flickr

I’ve written before about how the culture of traditional journalism tends to be rather insular, self-referential and — increasingly — toxic. This is especially true of the events that journalists typically attend, and the communities with which they typically mix.

Journalists mainly go to conferences specifically about journalism or specifically for journalists. While they also attend other events, this is usually for research or reporting — not to be “part of the crowd.”

…And that, I think, is a huge missed opportunity. Increasingly, community building and team building are becoming core skills for a career in journalism. The fast-shifting news business requires that journalists personally know and be able to work well with technologies, business people, marketers, community organizers, financiers, nonprofits and advocates, and other people from complementary fields. Every profession has its own culture and its own events. Attending these events — not just for aloof observation, but in order to join those communities — can be a great way to expand your career options.

Today and tomorrow I’m attending an event that represents a perfect opportunity to connect with geek culture. It’s She’s Geeky, a periodic “unconference” held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA…

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