Media mending the vocabulary gap: Polyamory and the Boston Globe

Last weekend, the cover of the Boston Globe Sunday magazine featured a good story about a topic I know well: polyamory. In Love’s New Frontier, Globe writer Sandra Miller did a far better job explaining this approach to relationships than most mainstream publications do. No wide-eyed, mock-shock sensationalism.

As a polyamorous person, I was rather tickled that this topic got such prominent play. I figured: Cool! There goes a chunk of the vocabulary gap!

If you haven’t heard the term, polyamory means being open to having more than one intimate relationship at a time, with the full knowledge and consent of everyone involved.

Yes, I realize any new term sounds awkward until you get used to it. So: Get used to it. Because here’s what the vocabulary gap looks like to a poly person…

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Experiment: Great Live Event Coverage for Hire. What do you think?

As I mentioned in my previous post, today I’m liveblogging and tweeting a daylong Las Vegas event by Metzger Associates: Social Media for Executives. It’s a small event for a select group of executives representing several types of companies.

I’m doing this as a pilot test for a new professional service I’d like to start offering: Great live event coverage.

In my experience, most online event coverage isn’t so great. A few folks will be tweeting or blogging in several places, some hashtags will be used, but it’s all rather confusing and inconsistent to follow. Also, a lot of people tend to tweet items like “Jane Doe is speaking at this session now.” Uh-huh… AND….?

Liveblogging/tweeting has turned out to be a real strength of mine — I’m good at it, and I enjoy it. I’ve also had the good fortune to collect a sizable Twitter following among folks whose interests in media, business, and other fields overlap with mine — and who enjoy my particular blend of reporting, analysis, and attitude. (Or at least I guess they do, because every time I do live event coverage my Twitter posse swells noticeably and those folks tend to stick around afterward.)

I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter and CoverItLive. For instance, earlier this month for my client the Reynolds Journalism Institute I liveblogged/tweeted J-Lab’s Fund My Media Startup workshop at the 2009 Online News Association conference.

So, being a longtime entrepreneur always on the lookout for new opportunities, I’m looking for ways to offer live event coverage as a service for my clients. Today’s event is an experiment on this front.

I want to figure out how this service could work in a way that would appeal to my Twitter posse, maintain my integrity and independence, and provide value to clients who’d pay for it.

Here are some of the issues I’m wrestling with, that I’d welcome your thoughts on…

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My proposed session: What’s the Most You Can Do with Crappy Cell Phones?

Today I’m at MIT for the Future of News and Civic Media conference (at which the 2009 Knight News Challenge winners will be announced 3pm ET today).

Part of this conference will feature unconference-style sessions that the attendees are proposing and will run. Here’s my idea:

What’s the Most You Can Do with Crappy Cell Phones?

It seems to me that mobile media is a huge potential channel for community news, information, context, discussion, coordination, and action. But most people have really crappy low-end cell phones — with a bare-bones (or no) browser, little or no data plan, maybe no e-mail access. SMS may be as advanced as many of these phones get.

The people who use these phones depend on them. They also totally freak out when they don’t have them or if they get turned off for non-payment. That indicates the power of this media channel.

What is the most we can do to engage people interactively through low-end mobile technology? What works, what doesn’t, and what needs to be learned? How can low-end mobile be considered FIRST for the development of community/public service media projects?

What do you think of this topic? What areas should I cover? Let me know! Comment below.

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MediaCloud: Tracking How Stories Spread

Last week, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society launched Media Cloud, an intriguing tool that could help researches and others understand how stories spread through mainstream media and blogs.

According to Nieman Lab, “Media Cloud is a massive data set of news — compiled from newspapers, other established news organizations, and blogs — and a set of tools for analyzing those data.

Here’s what Berkman’s Ethan Zuckerman had to say about Media Cloud:


Ethan Zuckerman on Media Cloud from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

Some of the kinds of questions Media Cloud could eventually help answer:

  • How do specific stories evolve over time? What path do they take when they travel among blogs, newspapers, cable TV, or other sources?
  • What specific story topics won’t you hear about in [News Source X], at least compared to its competitors?
  • When [News Source Y] writes about Sarah Palin [or Pakistan, or school vouchers], what’s the context of their discussion? What are the words and phrases they surround that topic with?”

The obvious use of this project is to compare coverage by different types of media. But I think a deeper purpose may be served here: By tracking patterns of words used in news stories and blog posts, Media Cloud may illuminate how context and influence shape public understanding — in other words, how media and news affect people and communities.

This is important, because news and media do not exist for their own sake. It seems to me that the more we learn about how people are affected by — and affect — media, the better we’ll be able to craft effective media for the future.

(NOTE: I originally published this article in Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)

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