Thursday, March 27, 2008

Leave Your Egos At the Door

A couple of weekends ago, while indulging in my vice of entertainment television, I cringed as I watched two broadcast journalists make complete--for better lack of terms--asses of themselves. It's never good when you hear Joel McHale from E!'s the Soup mention a broadcast gone awry.

I'm not sure when it took place but the person who posted it on YouTube originally uploaded it last summer and noted it was from a few years back. Regardless, it was dug up by the Soup and aired again.

Let's just say both the anchor and the reporter took a few low jabs at each It's best if you take a look for yourself:

If there's one thing that annoys me in broadcast journalism it's the cheeky banter between anchors but this video takes it to another level and is a sad display of journalism. I can't lie and say I didn't laugh when I saw it but the initial reaction was my jaw dropping in disbelief.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Be Kind and Help a Reporter

Working in both public relations and print journalism, I understand both sides to the media. Clients want to get coverage and journalists want interesting stories and sources to support those stories. PR gets a lot of flack from the journalism side but the way I see it is journalists need PR just as much as PR needs journalists. It's a symbiotic relationship. Not that I'm saying reporters don't and can't come up with great stories on their own--that's so far from true. But the PR world can sometimes help nudge some new ideas into journalists' heads.

Why not support that symbiotic relationship with a site like Peter Shankman's Help a Reporter Web site? What started out as a Facebook group turned into a full Web site for the publicist who charges nothing for the service and wittingly noted that "the good Karma is immeasurable."

Okay, so some are going to be a little skeptical and question whether this will turn into a ploy for media-hungry publicists to go wild but Shankman is doing his best to ensure that this is a serious way for reporters to get the appropriate sources through the appropriate people.

On the site he states:

This is really the only thing I ask: By joining this list, just promise me and yourself that you'll ask yourself before you send a response: Is this response really on target? Is this response really going to help the journalist, or is this just a BS way for me to get my client in front of the reporter? If you have to think for more than three seconds, chances are, you shouldn't send the response.

This doesn't mean that there isn't potential for things to go awry as pointed out in this blog post from the New York Times' Small Business Blog, Shifting Careers. But with all projects, there's a risk of being taken advantage of.

Profnet has been a major player in linking together journalists and experts but the catch is PR professionals have to pay. Help a Reporter may bring some hefty competition given its no-cost stance.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Google Does Good

In tandem with my mid-term paper which examines how non-profits use a variety of different new media tools, I've been meaning to post about Google's launch of it's site for non-profits, simply called Google For Non-Profits.

Google announced the launch on March 18 on it's official Google blog so I'm a little late in posting but better late than never.

The self-dubbed "one-stop shop for tools to help advance your organization's mission in a smart, cost-efficient way" covers everything from grant writing with Google Docs to spreading an organization's message with Blogger. Other tools include YouTube's non-profit program, a checkout program for donations and Google Gadget Center where you can create your own gadget (it sounds like virtual arts & crafts for adults). Then, of course, there's the simple tools like using gmail.

The "Checkout" feature allows users to process online donations for free until 2009 and has no monthly, gateway or setup fees which is definitely a plus for non-profits.

They even have a feature for non-profits to share their stories about how Google has helped their non-profit grow.

One feature that I personally find interesting is the use of Google Maps and Google Earth to put an organization and its mission on the map (literally and figuratively). Using these maps can help demonstrate the scope of a problem. Take for instance, Google Earth's Crisis in Darfur Map (my topic for my final paper). It maps out the issue in an interactive way that really shows people the urgency of the genocide in Darfur. While this example is on a much larger scale, this type of technology can also be used on a more local level such as mapping out the amount of homeless children throughout the state of Massachusetts. This can further promote and educate people about a cause in a whole new way.

Google also provides helpful tutorials for each feature to make the process as easy as possible.

Hopefully this will be a useful tool for non-profits to make that leap into using technology to their advantage.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Tackling Technology the Non-Profit Way

*Mid-term Paper

In Nigeria, teenagers are learning about sex through cell phones--and it could be saving lives.

"Can the early signs of HIV show within a week of infection?” is one of the tens of thousands of anonymous SMS, or text, messages that have been sent in to the Learning about Living program, which is designed to spread education about sexuality and HIV/AIDS prevention. By providing answers to the questions teenagers would normally feel embarrassed or shy about through mobile phones, e-mail and a toll-free phone number, all at no cost, this program aims to educate teenagers through this mobile connection.

Projects such as this are becoming more prevalent around the world, as the use of mobile phones has jumped from 1 billion in 2005 to 3.5 billion currently. In 2005, Katrin Verclas saw an opportunity within the surge of mobile connectivity and helped create a hub of information to further connect non-profit and non-governmental organizations.

Mobile Active, a global community for people who are using mobile technology for social change. As co-founder and coordinator, Verclas runs the Web site, manages its blog and helps plan conferences about the use of cell phones for social change. Learning about Living is one of the site’s featured programs.

“Mobile Active decreases the learning curve to inspire, to think creatively, provide resources and how-tos and break down those disciplinary fields,” she said.

Verclas, who is from Amherst, Mass. has been in the non-profit technology field for ten years and has a variety of different experience. Along with Mobile Active, she serves on the board of directors of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), a membership organization of non-profit technology professionals focused on connecting non-profits with each other and educating them on the use of technology. She has a background in IT management, IT in social change organizations and in philanthropy and has led several non-profit organizations. Currently, she’s working on a publication exploring mobile use in civil society with the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation Group. In addition, Verclas works as an independent consultant, working with non-profit organizations and foundations.

She has her hands full but has still managed to create this global community, depending on a variety of social media tools to keep it thriving. This is a feat that some non-profits have embraced wholeheartedly while others have struggled due to lack of resources.

Regardless, there is no denying that social media has played a major role in how nonprofits and social activists get their word out. According to a recent survey conducted by Eric Mattson and Nora Barnes at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, 75 percent of America’s largest charities were using some form of social media and 46 percent reported that social media is an important aspect to their fundraising strategy.

The study’s results were removed from the Internet as the link leading to the survey, which was posted on several Web sites, report that the file can not be found. However, numerous discussions about the results were found in Computerworld, a trade publication focusing on IT management for medium-to-large companies, Small Dots, a nonprofit technology blog by Beth Dunn and Global Neighbourhoods, a blog focused on how social media affects business and culture written by Shel Israel.

In an interview with Israel, Barnes noted the most popular form of social media for these charities is blogging. For Verclas, this is what keeps Mobile Active going as she looks for different advocacy campaigns using mobile phones while also depending on the site’s 3,000 registered users to pass along their own stories to be included in the blog. The site is starting to implement more types of social media tools including Google Video, YouTube, social networking sites such as Facebook and its own wiki.

“A volunteer network is hard to maintain,” she said comparing it to the art of plate spinning seen in the circus. “It feels like you have to keep spinning the more plates and channels you have. Partly because we’re not funded, it gets a little hard.

This is precisely the problem that smaller non-profits such as Mobile Active face. Small budgets and small staffs create a limited amount of resources as well as a disconnection with the technology.

“Most non-profit staffs aren’t as tech-advanced as the audiences they’re trying to reach are,” said Dunn, who is also director of communications for the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod. “There’s a resistance in the staff to use technology because they think their audience doesn’t use the technology.”

Despite being the largest hunger-relief agency in New England and one of the largest food banks in the country, the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) has found its outreach outside of traditional methods to be restricted. Although the organization launched its new Web site in January, it doesn’t have any form of interactivity for its viewers or any plans to make it more interactive

"Here in the non-profit world, we’re lacking in manpower to keep up with that,” said Heather Robb, the organization’s marketing manager.

The GBFB is attempting to take a different approach by using a new local social media Web service known as, which is free for non-profits. Set to launch in April in six markets including Boston, New York and San Francisco, good2gether serves as a platform for non-profits to link their volunteer opportunities and events as well as donation requests alongside related articles on newspaper Web sites. Organizations create their own profile and then it is distributed through good2gether’s Do Good Channels which can reach across Web sites for major media outlets, on corporate intranets, at social networks and on college and university Web sites.

The idea for good2gether came to Greg McHale, the company’s CEO, after Hurricane Katrina. As he was looking on for stories related to the storm, he noticed there were no direct links to non-profits that were helping victims. That’s when he figured that providing relevant information, such as volunteer opportunities to help victims of Katrina, right alongside articles talking about the topic could motivate more people to help while helping non-profits leverage free traffic, newspapers drive local content and ad revenue and sponsors deliver their message of commitment to social responsibility.

“It’s an incredible opportunity as you’re reading an article about Katrina, Darfur, cancer and in each one of those stories is an opportunity for you to get involved,” said McHale.

This is what the GBFB hopes good2gether will do for its cause as it is always in need of more volunteers as well as money and food donations. Robb noted that the organization alone doesn’t have the ability to reach out in that capacity but a platform like good2gether is a useful tool to implement.

Another interesting aspect is the effect it could have on newspapers which are trying to get more traffic to their Web sites.

"There’s not a single newspaper in the country that’s not looking to go local,” said McHale. “Newspapers are desperate for local content and this makes their news product more useful.”

Dunn, who recently wrote about good2gether in her blog, sees a lot of promise in a business model like McHale’s and said it is a win-win situation for non-profits.

It seems like it would be foolish not to get involved in it for a non-profit,” she said. “It is an interesting concept to be able to offer people the opportunity to take action right away.”

Just as McHale has found a way to use new media to help non-profits adapt, another non-profit organization has been steadily adjusting in its attempt to shed light on human rights issues. Long before streaming online video was even a twinkle in the eyes of tech-geeks everywhere, Peter Gabriel, singer for the now defunct band Genesis and now a solo musician, understood the power that video can have. In 1992, he launched Witness, an international human rights organization that uses video and online technologies to expose human rights violations.

Using a video advocacy model, Witness provides human rights groups with the technology, equipment and training to create successful video campaigns. It also helps human rights groups devise a strategy to reach out to its targeted audience usually consisting of policy and decision-makers within local governments.

Now, with online videos within everyone’s reach, it made sense for Witness to move its campaign videos online but the organization also saw an opportunity for expansion. Last November Witness, launched The Hub, a global platform for human rights where anyone can upload videos, audio or photos and find ways to connect people to resources, advocacy groups, campaigns and actions. Serving a much broader audience than Witness, the site had 5 million hits within the first two months of launching.

“It’s sort of an acknowledgment of a continuance of our video advocacy model,” said Matisse Bustos Hawkes, communications and outreach coordinator for Witness. “It’s not about being a YouTube model for human rights. It’s to create more open space.”

Bustos Hawkes, like Verclas, has a vast amount of experience in the non-profit field. Based in New York, she has seven years under her belt developing and implementing communications strategies specifically focusing on campaigns led by the use of visual media for social change.

While online video has been used for shallow, pointless causes such as Chris Crocker’s cry for people to leave disheveled pop-star Britney Spears alone, it has the potential to do much more, especially in terms for international coverage.

“When [online] video was up there at first, it was a big deal. The amount of international coverage has diminished since the 2,000s and even the late 90s. It’s opened a window to the world,” said Bustos Hawkes.

Whether an organization is trying to open a window to the world or just shine a little extra light in their corner of the world, blogs are the perfect place for non profits to get a hold on understanding how to use social media, said Dunn. More than a third of the charities in the UMass Dartmouth survey report using blogs and 62 percent of respondents say they are very familiar with it.

But before writing a blog, it’s necessary to start reading them first.

“It’s really important to be a listener first—to be a consumer first of the media,” said Dunn.

She also suggested starting out at Web sites such as the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN).

Other considerations, she noted, is for non-profits to not invest in social media as a brand but rather as an individual. For example, people don’t want to see the American Red Cross with a Twitter account; said Dunn. They want to see a person affiliated with the American Red Cross. There’s a level of personal connection needed.

The intimidation of technology can easily overshadow the benefits of using social media tools, especially when a non-profit is pitching them to its board of directors. Dunn suggests focusing more on the objective and outcomes of using such tools instead of the tools themselves. By more clearly identifying how these online instruments can further the cause, it’s more likely that the board of directors will actually get on board with the organization.

Verclas is still busy spinning all of her “plates,” managing the blog and wiki, aggregating content and networking through social media sites such as Facebook, Orkut (a popular site in Brazil) and Twitter. Not to mention she’s currently planning a conference in South Africa.

Not everyone involved in the non-profit sector may have the technology experience Verclas has, but there are plenty of resources to help organizations choose which tools are right for them.

Verclas can be the first to testify that after figuring out what works best, it’s just a matter of balancing them all:

"You have to keep them spinning in order for them to be effective."

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Walking the Tightrope

In print journalism's current state of "transitioning" or "adapting" or whatever anyone would like to call it, I sort of picture it wobbling up on a tightrope as everyone watches in silence, waiting for it to fall to its demise.

In the effort of keeping the physical paper alive, there's been a lot of discussion (especially right here from me) about focusing on local content. So, I found it interesting when I read this article from MediaShift questioning how far newspapers should go with local news. Should national and international news be left for other outlets? Some expert's assessments suggest that newspapers can go too far in their local coverage and readers still want that extended national and international coverage--even it is not in-depth.

I completely agree. It makes me think of those pesky little Boston Metro papers scattered all over the T because commuters are too lazy to dispose of them in the proper manner. There are many a times when I was able to get my daily dose of news--local, national and international--just by grabbing the Metro and reading a few headlines and small articles (and then throwing it in the recycling or trash bin!).

We need to have that connection to the rest of the country and the world. While in-depth coverage is a necessity, it's not always a possibility for every outlet, especially the smaller ones, but eliminating it completely is not the solution. Although many get their news coverage online not everyone does as the article makes a valid point about:

“The grand assumption behind this is that everyone’s reading their news on the Internet,” wrote Mike Ho. “Certainly MediaShift readers are. But not everyone is, and here’s where it gets hairy. The Internet-connected community, while getting larger, still excludes large swaths of the population based both on age and socio-economic status. If local papers skimp on national news because ‘everyone’s getting it online,’ they’re forgetting that not everyone is online, not even in the net-savvy San Francisco Bay Area, the readership for the example you cite.”

Basically the print industry just needs to find its balance--between local and non-local and print and new media. It's a wobbly time for the field of journalism but it seems to be holding its arms out at both sides keeping everyone in suspense.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Nowadays there is a strong focus on local content so it makes sense that as circulation and ad revenue decline and foreign and national bureaus all but disappear, newspapers jump on the bandwagon. But it seems communities are coming together and forming their own online forums where news and insights are shared and people are connected.

In class, we heard from Lisa Williams who created the local blog site H2otown and during WBUR's broadcast of its weekly show, Radion Boston, Cape Cod Today was featured. Even Boston has a site--9Neighbors--run by Rick Burnes, co-founder of Faneuil Media.

It's a community-ranked news site where Bostonians can share their pictures, blogs and news all while connecting and making friends. The site even has its own blog where Burnes posts about different projects the site will launch and helpful tips for users.

I particularly liked its newest endeavor, its Pothole Map where users can submit those pesky potholes throughout the city streets which are displayed using Google Maps.

I found some other interesting local information such as the fact that Martin Scorsese will be in East Boston shooting for his new film Ashecliffe. Shooting will be near Sumner Street. How ironic-- I use to live on Sumner Street. There goes my big chance at becoming an extra. I wasn't a fan of living in Eastie but it sure would have made it better if there were some movies being filmed right off my street while I was there!

Projects such as these do have the potential to create some competition for newspapers although I don't see it as a threat. It's an interesting alternative to the smaller issues that won't be covered by newspapers but mean a lot to the community. Take for instance, the deplorable service provided by Comcast (besides my own horror stories, I've heard too many to count from other customers) and the fact that there is virtually no other cable company to choose from throughout most of the city. Even Universal Hub commented on it. Both stories were pulled onto
9Neighbors along with other issues specific to communities throughout the Bean. These are most likely not going to be covered by the mainstream media.

For more pinpointed local coverage and for a little connectivity to those in the community, these sites offer a great way for people to communicate.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

WBUR's Radio Boston--Breaking News

It seems everyone in the world of journalism is talking about the future of print media...or better yet, if print media even has a future. This was the topic of WBUR's weekly show, Radio Boston with host David Boeri. The show included commentary from the media world including former Boston Globe assistant editor, Stephen Kurkjian and Northeastern University professor and Media Nation blogger, Dan Kennedy.

Amidst the Globe's recent announcement for its voluntary buyout program, which will reduce the staff by 80 people, the newspaper, along with other struggling Boston paper, the Herald, is trying its best to adapt to the new media world. But circulation and job cuts have continued to drop throughout the years.

On the show, Boston Globe editor Marty Baron joined the discussion for a couple of minutes. He noted that this is a time for reinvention, saying, "We are in a new world--a new media world, an it's increasingly a digital world--and we have to adapt to that."

The Globe's attempt at adaptation is evident in its Web site which serves as a dominant news source in the Boston area. These types of newspaper sites are popping up all over and have proved valuable as an Associated Press article reports that online audiences grew about 6 percent for newspapers in 2007. The problem is, Kurkjian points out, finding a proper online business model that will earn newspapers a profit.

For now, the Globe has focused on its local coverage and cut back on its foreign and national coverage. Kurkjian thinks this is a good way for newspapers to stay afloat--by focusing on beats and continuing with enterprise and investigative journalism.

But newspapers like the Cape Cod Times have received competition in local coverage from sites like Cape Cod Today, a site run by blogger Walter Brooks which is made up of 150 Cape Cod bloggers that cover local stories.

Through reporting by WBUR's Meghna Chakrabarti, it's clear that there is a disconnect between "old media" journalists and "new media" journalists. There is a misconception that bloggers are writing "in their pajamas and slippers from the basement of their mother's house" (as one Cape Cod Today blogger noted).

I have to admit, I'm currently in my pajamas and, yes, in my basement. But not my mother's basement. My bedroom just happens to be in the basement of my apartment. But regardless, that doesn't mean there aren't a lot of legitimate blogging journalists.

Kennedy pointed out that it was a blogger (Joshua Marshall of Talking Points Memo) that won the George Polk Award. It was a big step for new media and it was covered in a New York Times article appropriately titled, Blogger, Sans Pajamas, Rakes Muck and a Prize.

The role of blogging was recently discussed in class and there seemed to be a general consensus that there is a range of blogging which serves all different purposes. On the lower tier, there are blogs like mine and millions of others that share their thoughts on every subject under the sun. It provides connectivity and communication. On a middle tier, there are those like newspaper blogs which act as a supplement of more information for news stories. On a higher tier there are blogs like TPM that serve a purpose of original reporting and investigating to find the latest news. They are journalists in every sense of the word. This kind of variety makes the role of blogging very ambiguous in the world of journalism but it's safe to say there is value in it.

New media has the newspaper business shaking but it is those that embrace it that will be able to benefit from it. The Washington Post launched a series called The Future of Journalism and recently interviewed Jim Brady, the executive editor of When asked if he thinks digital journalism is a complete breakaway from traditional standards or a part of the continuity, I thought he summed it up well:

I think it's part of the continuity. New forms of delivery come up and previously existing forms need to adapt to these changes. There are now new forms of journalism and storytelling through video, picture galleries, databases and more. It's just a different way to deliver information. But in the past print, TV and radio have all figured out how to adapt and reposition themselves when new channels have emerged. Digital neither compromises nor changes the standards for journalism.

Radio Boston's discussion was an interesting one and provided a lot of insight into the current issues of newspapers. There is indeed much that has changed and much that will continue to change and it's not easy to predict where the road will take journalism. Let's just say it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Purpose of Puppets and Video Resumes

I recently had the chance to experience the hilariously raunchy Broadway musical Avenue Q at the Colonial Theatre and found its satirical theme of finding one's purpose in life to be quite ironic.

As the cast (including Princeton, a recent college grad) sings about being broke, unemployed and dreaming of finding that purpose, I couldn't help but laugh as I realized I'm sort of in the same position. I'm still dependent on my parents, I'm only an intern who will soon need to find a job and I might not be trying to find my purpose in the deep, philosophical way but I'm wondering how long it's going to take to find a job and where that job is going to be.

So it's no surprise that I've been beefing up my resume, getting my portfolio and references lined up and of course, searching the possible job prospects that are out there. But I always have to wonder, how will I, among the hoards of other candidates, stand out to employers?

I'm confident that with my experience (three 6-month co-ops and an 8-month part-time internship at newspapers and PR agencies) and my education at Northeastern, that I have a lot to offer and will eventually find a job once I start looking. (I won't start until April or May since I will be heading off to Europe for three weeks and won't be able to work until June).

Regardless, there are a variety of ways for students to display their work. I came across a video resume on YouTube and was surprised that given all of the emphasis on video and multimedia in my classes, that I hadn't considered this before. I won't be heading out and creating one as I'm not a fan of the camera but for those who don't get camera shy, this is a great method.

The video I stumbled across was for a videographer who will be graduating this May.

This makes sense. A videographer creating a video resume. But I looked a little further and found an engineer's video resume.

They're both completely different but yet effective. Of course, the handy paper resume will always be needed but this is definitely a more creative way to feature yourself--especially for journalism students who are learning new multimedia tools to create these types of packages. So learning these skills to create journalistic stories may just help them find a job. While a candidate's portfolio will speak for itself, those interpersonal and communication skills are what video resumes will get through to prospective employers.

Time explored the video resume in this February 2007 article, noting the collaboration between online job boards such as Jobster and social networking sites like Facebook to launch career sites featuring video resumes.

One issue raised by Time was the possibility of discrimination based on gender, race and age, although there have been no cases thus far. It does open the possibility and then there is the argument that those lacking the technology may therefore lack access to the job:

But George Lenard, a St. Louis, Mo., employment lawyer, can envision a case centered on "disparate impact." If an employer requires applications by video, then those without video cameras and broadband-equipped computers might argue they lacked access. Of course, he adds, the live interview process is hardly infallible. He cites a 2000 Princeton study that examined orchestras' penchant for hiring male musicians as an example of "disparate treatment." When screens were put up--now a common practice in auditions--the gender skewing disappeared.

All issues aside, the idea of the video resume completely changes the job seeking strategy. No one is able to predict for sure whether this will take over or simply be a flash in the pan but with the increasing technology and the need to stand out in a crowd, video resumes offer a solution.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Driving For A Cause

The oppression of women in the Middle East is no secret. So when I stumbled across this BBC article about women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia who posted a video on YouTube to protest against the ban for women to drive cars, I found it to be a testament to the good that video can do.

Although Saudi women are allowed to drive in residential areas, they are not allowed to drive on main highways. The woman in this three minute video defied Saudi law and drove directly onto forbidden territory.

The video was posted to commemorate International Women's Day.

It might not be the most interesting video in the world (and unless you speak Arabic, you can't understand it) but it is a bold move by these women.

It's simple and short but here it is:

As she drove, the BBC reports she said:

Many women in this society are able to drive cars, and many of our male relatives don't mind us driving...I hope that by next year's International Woman's Day, this ban on us will be lifted.

The most recent example of citizen journalism's effect on society is the turmoil in Burma which came to a high point this past fall. The Wall Street Journal covered the peak in citizen journalists in this article. The surge in blogs, pictures and videos and text messages helped bring the civil unrest in Burma to the forefront and helped shed light on the power of citizen journalism.

People can visit Burma's YouTube channel, Burma Digest to view the efforts made by everyday people.

If people in Burma are able to utilize new media in this way, perhaps there is a chance for women in the Middle East to do so as well. In fact, the woman in the video, Wajeha Al Huwaider has had quite the experience challenging the Saudi government.

It's easy to get bogged down in the meaningless amount of videos out there, so I found it refreshing to see something so simple yet so daring posted online. A basic task such as driving on a highway is nothing people in the United States think about but yet this video is garnering coverage from all over.

It's a small but bold reminder on the power that new media is having in the world.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Sequel To My Class Presentation

After I presented in class the other day about the Spokesman Review's Transparent Newsroom (which I also blogged about last month) I came across a blog post from Mark S. Luckie's 10,000 Words which tackles the subject of opening the newsroom to the public. Luckie honed in more specifically on news meetings rather than the S-R's more broad attempt through blogging in addition to broadcasting its news meetings over the web.

The post attests to the exact dilemma as discussed in class: what is the value of doing this? He suggested the same point that I made during class that the value lies in reducing the misconception that we the media are the bad guys. He writes:

We all know there are conspiracy theories abound that reckon "the media" has this agenda or that slant or is trying to sway the public in way or another. In reality, most of us are just nice guys trying to perform a service to the global community. Its sad to say, but a great deal of the public doesn't recognize that.

Luckie's solution to the problem is making meetings open to the public. Clearly this has the potential to cause some problems as he is quick to point out that this is not the answer for every newsroom noting, it could "create more trouble rather than lessen it."

Regardless, the idea here is it's at least something to explore.

Professor Kennedy brought up the valid point in class that opening meetings to the public could present some sticky situations should a sensitive story break. Let's say there's a tip that a governor is involved in a prostitution ring (Oh, wait...that already happened!) But you get my drift. Sensitive information on a story can't always be revealed to the public if journalists are to do their jobs correctly. What if the allegations in a potential story are wrong?

So it's clear that there is some discretion that needs to be taken. Journalists will need to feel out what is for the public's viewing. The danger lies in overcompensating and creating a stiff environment that looks staged. With a few minor adjustments suggested by Luckie (i.e. "tucking in those shirts and cutting down on the in-jokes and swearing") keeping it relaxed and natural can be productive for both the public and the newsroom.

Experimenting is a good way to find out and as noted earlier by Luckie (it deserves repeating), this isn't for every media outlet but it's time to admit that the newsroom is changing.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Practicing What Educators Teach...Even If They Don't

A journalism student at the Medill School (Northwestern University) has made a bit of a splash in the journalism world after challenging dean John Lavine's use of anonymous quotes in the university's alumni publication, Medill magazine. David Spett, a senior journalism major questioned the quotes praising an advertising course which appeared in the publication's 2007 spring issue.

Spett drew from his own education at Medill which has taught him (and has been a golden rule throughout all of journalism) that anonymous quotes should be avoided at all costs. He therefore raised an eyebrow at the dean's use of them for a simple letter from the dean which provided an update on what the university's current students are doing in the world of journalism.

The quotes in question have received attention from Washington Post and Chicago Tribune websites, as well as coverage in Editor&Publisher, Poynter's Romenesko blog. Here's one of them:

I came to Medill because I want to inform people and make things better. Journalism is the best way for me to do that, but I sure felt good about this class. It is one of the best I've taken, and I learned many things in it that apply as much to truth-telling in journalism as to this campaign to save teenage drivers.

Spett interviewed all 29 of the students that were in the class Lavine referred to in the article and every one of them said that the dean hadn't interviewed them. Click here for his column about the scandal in the Daily Northwestern. Click here for Lavine's article.

The dean was later cleared by the provost, Daniel Linzer who agreed with the results of the committee that reviewed the situation, concluding there was not enough evidence to show that the quotes were fabricated.

The Online Journalism Review spoke with Spett about his recent ethical uprising in this article, noting that "this 'readers as fact-checkers' thing is catching on."

Despite a little backlash from against him, Spett's challenge to his dean is a good one. There is little, if any, reason to have used anonymous quotes in the article in question. There is no possibility of harm to the sources or any top-secret information being revealed. If there was a legitimate reason, a proper disclosure as to why would be needed.

While refers to the whole scandal as inane and comments that "these J-school people just CANNOT SHUT UP ABOUT IT," I see the importance of it as a student. If we're taught about the integrity of journalism and the leaders in our education don't practice the very thing they are preaching, it is unsettling, even if it is just an alumni magazine, as Gawker is quick to point out.

Spett did his job as a journalist and as we've discussed in class, others are taking up the task of fact checking as well with sites like the St. Petersburg Times' which investigates the claims made in political stories.

Keeping journalism in check can only be possible if the standards are followed at all times.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Get Blogged

Given our class discussion a couple of weeks ago about how to search blogs, I thought it would be appropriate to point out that the new blog directory, launched earlier this week.

Click here for some coverage from the social networking blog, Mashable.

Our class discussion focused around sites like technorati and Google's Blog Search and the different capabilities to search blog content. Blogged, on the other hand, serves more as a directory where users are allowed to search through different categories to search for blogs that cover specific topics.

I recently used it at work to find blogs that covered a specific topic for a research project for one of my clients and found it to be relatively useful. It provides a nice round-up of a variety of different categories whether users go through the categories provided on the site or use the search tool to type in a customized search. When users click on a blog in a search, the site also lists other blogs that are related to the one they are looking at.

Users also have the ability to create profiles and list the blogs they frequent adding a type of social bookmarking aspect to the site.

Blogs are ranked on an editorial scale based on frequency of updates and the quality of writing, according to an article on Webware. The article also noted the team will replace its ratings with user ratings if they get enough user reviews.

It's a helpful site for finding blogs on specific topics and finding blogs similar to the ones you already read so give it a chance and get blogged.

On a quick note: My posts might be a little sparse within the next week simply because I'm enjoying my last Spring Break before I enter into a world where Spring Break doesn't exist. Given it's my first one in four years since I was always on co-op during the spring semester, I'm going to take advantage of it.