Media Is Not a Spectator Sport: Notes for my talk

Halloween morning, Justin Crawford and I will be leading a discussion with journalism grad students at the University of Colorado. The topic we were given is rather amorphous: "blogging and citizen journalism."

Well the good thing about an amorphous assignment is that I can make of it pretty much what I choose. So that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Here are my notes for that talk. I’ve also posted Justin’s notes.

To start with, this past weekend I had the opportunity to speak with many journalism students at the annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists. I even taught some of them how to blog, so they could contribute to the unofficial SEJ2006 blog. I also got a chance to speak with many journalism educators. These are all very bright people.

Still, I got the strong impression that journalism education today remains focused almost entirely on traditional print/broadcast media — not just in terms of technology, but also by instilling a mindset which assumes a passive audience that absorbs news, rather than engaging an active community that contributes to news.

Here are a few thoughts and tips for how today’s journalism students (and other budding or not-so-budding journalists) can capitalize on a media landscape that has shifted strongly toward participation and conversation…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE over at The Right Conversation. You also can comment there, if you like.

Justin Crawford: Notes for his talk

As I mentioned, Halloween morning my colleague Justin Crawford and I are giving a talk to a class of journalism graduate students at the University of Colorado on the amorphous topic of blogs and citizen journalism. Here are some notes for Justin’s talk, What are blogs and why should you care?…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE over at The Right Conversation. You also can comment there if you like.

Wifi: When Will Conference Venues & Planners Realize It\’s a Must?

I go to a lot of media conferences, where attendees generally expect (or even need) wifi access in the conference areas — for filing or updating stories or blog posts, fast fact-checking, coordinating with editors, participating in chat-based coverage, etc.

Almost invariably, the hotel or conference center has no infrastructure for providing wifi in the conference areas — especially meeting rooms and ballrooms where events on the main agenda are taking place.

What is wrong with the hospitality industry? Yeah, wifi in the lobby is nice — but these days, it’s downright crucial to offer it in the meeting spaces…

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Running a Group Conference Blog: What I\’m Learning

This Tuesday I’m flying to Burlington, VT for my annual brain food festival — the conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ). I’ve been working with this group since 1990, and I have a lot of friends there, so this event is always a blast.

This year, I set up an unofficial SEJ2006 group weblog. It’s "unofficial" because it’s a strictly volunteer, independent effort by people who are either SEJ members, attending the conference (speakers, exhibitors, others, etc.) or who are working on the conference (staff, etc.). I did this mainly because it was more efficient to just set it up by myself, on my own, than to have to deal with any organization to get it done.

To be quite honest, this blog has been consuming much of my time this week. More than I’d intended — but this is an experimental project, and experiments always entail unforeseen resource demands as well as results. It’s OK, I’ve been learning a ton of useful stuff from this effort.

So if you’re considering setting up a blog in support of your conference, benefit from my experience. Here’s what I’ve learned, so far…

(READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE at my other weblog, The Right Conversation. You can also leave comments there, if you wish.)

10 Ideas: What To Post to a Conference Blog

I’ve been working hard lately to get the unofficial conference blog up and running for the 2006 conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Now that it’s up and the crew of volunteer bloggers is mostly trained in how to use our blogging tool, Typepad, they’re starting to request more guidance on content. Most of these contributing bloggers come from print media. They know how to write, but they’ve never blogged before — and most of them also have little or no experience in creating any content specifically for online media.

Consequently, they aren’t familiar with conference blogs. That’s fine — many people aren’t, although that’s starting to change. I’ve worked on some conference blogging efforts, so I’ve pulled together a list of 10 kinds of posts that work well on conference blogs.

As with any conversational-media effort, it helps to know your audience, as well as your community of contributors (both bloggers and commenters). What skills and expertise do they bring to the table? What do they want? Ultimately, that should be your guide.

Here’s my list…

(READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE at my other weblog, The Right Conversation. You can also leave comments there if you wish.)

Transparency vs. Payola: Weighing Risks

PayPerPost: Worth the risk?

Over at the Center for Citizen Media blog, I’ve joined an interesting conversation concerning the thorny issue of payola in online media. See: PayPerPost: A Cancer on the Blogosphere, or Merely Semi-Sleazy? by Dan Gillmor.

Background: The controversial online advertising service PayPerPost attracted considerable blog and media attention after it recently got $3 million in venture funding. In a nutshell, PayPerPost is an automated system where companies can advertise their sites, products, services, or brands through a network of approved bloggers who get paid $2 per qualifying post. That is, bloggers who sign on to PayPerPost agree to write about those advertisers.

PayPerPost reviews and approves those posts, which can be required to be positive. Although PayPerPost urges its bloggers to be "honest," it discourages them from disclosing their relationship with PayPerPost. So, ethically, everyone involved appears to be on thin ice — but when did ethics ever have much to do with the advertising business?

…Anyway, Dan Gillmor’s post on the PayPerPost flap nudged me to consider the issue of payola more closely. Here are a couple of comments I contributed to that discussion…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE over at my other blog, The Right Conversation
— If you wish to leave a comment on this post, you can do so there.

N. Korean \”Nuke Test\” — Find the Right Sources Before Rattling Sabers

Washington top story Oct. 9, 2006
Did today’s lead online head from jump the gun?

Today, in the numerous U.S. news stories speculating about North Korea’s as-yet-unconfirmed nuclear test, I’ve noticed a glaring omission: The acronym CTBTO (sometimes CTBO).

That stands for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization — the body that runs the International Monitoring System (IMS), which is how scientists around the world keep a continuous lookout for nuclear blasts.

I learned about the CTBTO and IMS back in 2004, during a two-minute Google expedition. At the time there were widespread reports of a mysterious mushroom cloud over North Korea. (Remember that, anyone?) After hearing that report, my first question was whether scientists had indeed confirmed whether they’d observed the signature seismic, radiological, and other evidence that accompanies and identifies any nuclear blast. All I could find in the news were vague, threatened, and threatening statements, mostly from government officials — with the exception of exemplary 2004 coverage from the New Scientist.

Given the deserved black eye many news organizations had taken over lax investigation of Bush administration claims of WMDs in Iraq years earlier, this apparently widespread reliance on government officialdom, rather than appropriate scientific bodies, bugged me enough that I wrote about it in Contentious: North Korean Blast, WMD Echoes, and Missed News Opportunities.

At the time I was amazed that I discovered which sources could give a definitive confirmation on a nuclear blast report in less than two minutes at Google, yet no mainstream news coverage I saw indicated any attempt to get comment from CTBTO (or from appropriate government contacts specifically about what they’d heard from CTBTO).

Looking at today’s headlines, I’m dismayed that this particular bit of journalistic history appears to be repeating itself. So far…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE at the Poynter Institute’s weblog E-Media Tidbits

Blogging Gets Bumpy, and that\’s OK

Recently, PR blogger Kami Huyse published an interesting article: 5 Tips to Avoid Comment Hell: Dealing with Trolls. There, she posed a crucial question for new bloggers who are nervous about allowing comments on their blogs:

"I have had many clients ask me about the risks of blogging. How do you keep competitors and arch enemies from taking over the conversation and dissolving the ‘conversation’ into a shouting match?"

Her answers:

  1. Moderate comments.
  2. Have a written comment policy to manage expectations.
  3. Be in it for the long haul.
  4. Ban grossly abusive comments, but let most negative comments ride.
  5. Turn comments off if necessary, preferably temporarily.

A few quibbles notwithstanding, I mostly agree with Kami’s advice.

That said, I also believe it’s important for everyone who chooses to participate in conversational media to learn how to handle the inevitable unpleasant bumps of conflict and even flames.That’s not something you can learn theoretically. Personally I think you need to live through it. Only then can you put Kami’s advice into balanced practice. Otherwise, you might be tempted to protect yourself into total vulnerability.

Of course, surviving public conversational conflicts is not fun — but it’s crucial. If there’s one thing you learn fast in conversational media, it’s that you can never really control the conversation. Most of it happens in venues that are beyond your control, anyway The best you can do is influence it.

I raised that issue in this comment to Kami’s post…

READ THE REST of this article over at my other blog, The Right Conversation

Help Request: My Gmail May Have Been Hacked

This morning, my e-mail (which I access via Google’s Gmail service) got weird on me. About 90 minutes ago I started receiving a ton of bounces for messages I never sent.

I figured that maybe some spammer spoofed my e-mail address in the Reply-To field — that happens to nearly everyone sometime, and there’s not much you can do to prevent that. (If you got spam with my name or address on it, rest assured it wasn’t from me.)

But then I looked in Gmail and realized that some messages I’d sent and received this morning were missing. I’ve never had missing mail in Gmail, and I’m 100% certain I did not delete these messages. They’re gone, they’re not even in the trash.

I’m thinking maybe someone hacked into my Gmail account, sent spam, and then deleted the spam from my sent mail and from the trash.

I immediately switched to another strong password, but I’m still concerned: If the person who hacked my account remained logged in while I changed my password, I’d think they could then switch my password — locking me out of my own account. They also could delete more of my mail, or send more fraudulent messages.

I tried to contact Google to ask them how I could avoid this problem. To my amazement and dismay, the only help Google offers for Gmail (as far as I could find) was login assistance. That page says, “The Gmail Team will not respond to inquiries submitted through this form that are unrelated to login problems.”

Wow, that’s real nice. I’d think “Don’t be negligent” would be part of “Don’t be evil,” but I guess not…

Anyway, if you know anything about the inner workings of Gmail, I’d like to know:

  • How can I tell whether anyone else is logged in to my account when I’m logged in? I’d like to know when it’s really safe to change my password.
  • Is there any way for me or Google to recover e-mail deleted from my account today? I’d assume they have master backups.
  • Is there any way to get support from Google on this matter?

  • Has this happened to anyone else?

Thanks a bunch. If you have answers, please comment below or e-mail me.