One streaker gets plea bargain. Boulder cops defend their bullying

After I attended the Dec. 17 arraignment hearing for the 12 streakers cited by Boulder cops during the 10th annual Naked Pumpkin Run, I had a pretty busy week and didn’t have time to follow up further. Fortunately, The Colorado Daily did follow up on this case, reporting that one of the runners did accept the plea bargain offered by the Boulder District Attorney.

According to the Colorado Daily:

“[The runner] agreed Thursday to plead guilty to disorderly conduct, a petty offense. She agreed to undergo six months of unsupervised probation, eight hours of community service and pay $27 in court fees. She will not be required to register as a sex offender, and her record will be cleared if she doesn’t commit any crimes for at least six months.”

Also, Colorado Daily reported that according to prosecutor David Chavel:

“The agreement with [this defendant] would likely represent the same offer extended to all of the accused Halloween streakers. However, he said it would be ‘up to each individual’ to accept such an offer.”

“All of the cases are being handled separately, Chavel said, because some of the runners have attorneys and others do not. He said the remaining cases involving the naked runners are in negotiations with the Boulder District Attorney’s Office.”

What got me, though, was this statement from the Boulder Police Department quoted at the end of the Colorado Daily story. (Note: This statement does not appear to be on the Boulder Police Dept. web site, I’ll request a copy.)

“The decision was made by the District Attorney’s Office, which consulted with the department. Chief Mark Beckner believes this is an appropriate disposition. As for future violations, Boulder officers will continue to issue citations or make arrests based on the law as it is written. It is — and will remain — the province of the District Attorney’s Office to determine whether other charges are possible.”

…Correct me if I’m wrong, but this statement appears to mean that the Boulder cops intend to continue issuing indecent exposure citations to streakers — despite the fact that the DA’s office does not appear to consider that charge appropriate. Which means the cops can (and probably will) continue to bully and intimidate citizens through inappropriate charges — and leave it up to the DA and the courts to spend our resources to bring those charges back to reality.

There’s a much deeper issue at stake here beyond these cases, and it’s why I keep revisiting this story: Is this the kind of law enforcement we want to allow in Boulder?

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Can you commit journalism via Twitter?

Today on Twitter Tips, Jason Preston asks:

“Journalism requires that stories been constructed, facts be tied together, narratives presented, and context created. In short, journalism is the big picture.

“No one would argue that you can get the pig picture in 140 characters. But what about aggregate tweets? One person over a long time, or many people over a large subject?

“Is Twitter a viable, standalone medium for journalism?”

I think this quesion misses the mark regarding the nature of journalism. It confuses the package with the process. That’s understandable, because in the history of mainstream news, journalists and news organizations have often taken a “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” approach to revealing their own processes. When all the public sees is the product, it’s easy to assume that’s all there is to journalism.

Here’s the comment I left on his post:

Hmmmm…. I do journalism, and I know a lot of journalists, and I’ve seen what Twitter can do. It seems to me that any medium — from Twitter to broadcast news to smoke signals — has potential journalistic uses.

Journalism is a process, not just a product. For many professional journalists and other people who commit acts of journalism, Twitter is already an important part of their journalistic process (i.e., connecting with communities and sources, and gathering information). And it can also be part of the product (i.e., live coverage of events or breaking news, or updates to ongoing stories or issues)

So yes, Twitter CAN be a real news platform. As well as lots of other things. Just like a newspaper can be the Washington Post, the National Enquirer, or a free shopper’s guide. It all depends on what you choose to make of it.

And also: These days, almost no news medium is “standalone.” Every news org has a web presence, and many have a presence in social media, and also in embeddable media.

…That’s my take. What’s yours? Please comment below — or send a Twitter reply to @agahran

Working with Journalists: What’s in It for Geeks?

NOTE: This post originally appeared on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, and there are some comments over there. I’m reposting this here because, frankly, this site poses fewer hurdles to commenters, and I’d like to get some diverse discussion happening.

Earlier this week I wrote about the internal and external obstacles journalism schools face when trying to achieve collaboration with other academic departments (such as computer science). That spurred a pretty interesting discussion in the comments.

This discussion got me thinking: Right now, it’s becoming obvious to many journalists that our field sorely needs lots of top-notch, creative technologists. Developers for whom software is a medium, and an art form. Developers with a deep passion for information, credibility, fairness, usefulness, and free speech.

However, my impression is that, so far, it’s not nearly so obvious to most “geeks” (and I use that term with the utmost affection and respect, as do many geeks themselves) how they might benefit from collaborating with journalists, j-schools, and news organizations.

So if journalists need geeks, but right now they don’t need (or even necessarily want) us as much, the question becomes: What’s in this for the geeks? Why might they want to work with us? Where’s their incentive?… Continue reading

The myth of the creative class (Jeff Jarvis)

Just now, Jeff Jarvis posted something that resonates strongly with me. See: The myth of the creative class:

“We have believed – I have been taught — that there are two scarcities in society: talent and attention. There are only so many people with talent and we give their talent only so much attention — not enough of either.

“But we are shifting, too, from a culture of scarcity to one of abundance. That is the essence of the Google worldview: managing abundance. So let’s assume that instead of a scarcity there is an abundance of talent and a limitless will to create but it has been tamped down by an educational system that insists on sameness; starved by a mass economic system that rewarded only a few giants; and discouraged by a critical system that anointed a closed, small creative class. Now talent of many descriptions and levels can express itself and grow. We want to create and we want to be generous with our creations. And we will get the attention we deserve. That means that crap will be ignored. It just depends on your definition of crap.”

This is so, so true…   One of the things that I find most encouraging about this era of media evolution is that every day I encounter a wider variety of unexpected jewels. Many of them are rough, or nascent. But they’re there, and I can find them if I look for them.

Even more importantly, I get to discover what resonates with me — and with other individuals. I don’t have to just settle for the kind of content I’m “supposed” to like (i.e., serious objective journalism, crisp professional audio, slickly produced video). I can focus on what I really like — and what has meaning to me. By getting to define my own criteria for “quality content,” I get to challenge my assumptions and expand my concept of who I am, and who I could be. My world is much richer for it.

This is exactly why I’ve always enjoyed going to see local music performances practically at random, while abhorring commercial radio for music discovery.


CJR: Dissent Deficit

Looks like Columbia Journalism Review may be starting to grow a spine once more. Today its editorial board has this to say:

“Dissent needs to go mainstream. It is already clear that a wide range of new and looming realities of the twenty-first century will demand creative and even radical new ideas from America about who we are, how we live, and how we deal with the rest of the world. Even Fareed Zakaria, in his fairly optimistic new book, The Post-American World, worries that America’s sclerotic political system (the “sensationalist” press included) is too consumed with trivia and sustaining the status quo to respond effectively to a world in which, as he writes, “on every dimension—industrial, financial, educational, social, cultural—the distribution of power is…moving away from American dominance.”

Thanks to Kim Pearson for the tip.

Collaboration Takes Many Forms

Just after I was talking to my business partner Adam Glenn about how journalists need to learn more about the culture and skills of collaboration (remember, the news biz is steeped in competitiveness — often to the point of paranoia), my musician friend Mark Brummer sends me this video:

See how much fun collaboration can be? Play with it!

Dale Willman on radio in Indonesia

Dale Willman
Borobudur, a Buddhist temple on the island of Java.

For a change of pace, here’s an audio podcast. My good friend and environmental journalism colleague Dale Willman just got back from a three-week trip to Indonesia where he was training radio journalists there how to do an environmental radio show — and just how to do radio production, period.

Yesterday Dale and I had a fun conversation about his trip, the state of media in Indonesia, and why text messaging is so popular there.

Listen now! (Or right-click to download)

Dale Willman
In the studio: One of the Indonesian radio journalists Dale helped to train.

Toxic Journo Culture Oozes Across Blogosphere

E-Media Tidbits on Poynter.org
My Tidbits post yesterday seemed to resonate with a lot of journalists. Check out the comments .

My E-Media Tidbits post yesterday, Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren’t We Having More Fun?) (cross-posted to Contentious.com) has gotten many comments and also picked up wider traction. Here are the various people who’ve added substantive comments of their own to this public conversation. Check them out!

  1. Raising hell and having fun , by Charlotte Anne Lucas (A breakfast conversation I had with Charlotte Anne last weekend in Las Vegas actually gave me the motivation to write that article. Thanks!)
  2. Curiosity and journalism , by James McPherson
  3. The only journalism that counts is by mainstream news , by Mike Gregory
  4. Giv mig journalistik med Bøvl og Begejstring , by Kim Elrose
  5. Carpe diem, baby! by Sanjay Bhatt
  6. Journalists, Keep the Change , by Craig Stoltz
  7. The Capital Times Moves From Print to Online , by Kim Pearson
  8. It’s not whining if we have a good reason , on Smays.com
  9. Learning to love change , by Charlie Beckett

I’ll add more later as I find them. Glad my piece was useful to so many folks!

Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren’t We Having More Fun?)

Despair, Inc.
Remind you of any journalists you know?…

(NOTE: I originally posted this article on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. But I thought Contentious readers might be interested in it, too.)

Most of what I do is help journalists and news orgs wrap their brains around the Internet. Generally I enjoy that work. Lately, though, I’ve been getting quite aggravated at the close-minded and helpless attitudes I’m *still* encountering from too many journalists about how the media landscape is changing. Those attitudes are revealed by statements, decisions, actions, and inaction which belie assumptions such as:

  • The only journalism that counts is that done by mainstream news orgs, especially in print or broadcast form. Alternative, independent, online, collaborative, community, and other approaches to news are assumed to be inferior or even dangerous.
  • Priesthood syndrome: Traditional journalists are the sole source of news that can and should be trusted — which gives them a privileged and sacred role that society is ethically obligated to support.
  • Journalists and journalism cannot survive without traditional news orgs, which offer the only reliable, ethical, and credible support for a journalistic career.
  • Real journalists *only* do journalism. They don’t dirty their hands or distract themselves with business and business models, learning new tools, building community, finding new approaches to defining and covering news, etc. As Louisville Courier-Journal staffer Mark Schaver said just this morning on Twitter, “[Now] is not a good time [for journalists] if you don’t want your journalism values infected with marketing values.”
  • Journalistic status and authority demands aloofness. This leads to myriad problems such as believing you’re smarter than most people in your community; refusing to “compromise” yourself professionally by engaging in frank public conversation with your community; and using objectivity as an excuse to be uncaring, cynical, or disdainful.
  • Good journalism doesn’t change much. So if it is changing significantly, it must be dying. Which in turn means the world is in big trouble, and probably deserves what it will get.

There’s a common problem with all these assumptions: They directly cut off options from consideration. This severely limits the ability of journalists and journalism to adapt and thrive…

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