Archive for September, 2006

Hillary for Voicemail Lady

September 25, 2006

I just got the most bizarre phone call. Hillary Clinton’s voice rang me up to ask for my support in November.

Okay, so that’s obviously not the weird part. Nor is it the timing, over a month before the election and her opponent…well, who’s running against her, again? She’s still got to run, even if the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

No, the weird part was the “interactivity” of the recorded call. Hillary’s voice made a pitch for three Democratic candidates running against Republican incumbents in the House of Representatives. She asked if (I paraphrase) ‘you are able to volunteer, press 1. If you can’t volunteer at this time, press 2.’

Hillary went on to remind me that I could volunteer from the comfort of my own home. Then, within the same press 1 / press 2 schema, she asked for my email address and reminded me to vote “next November.” (Shouldn’t it be “this November”?)

I know it’s a new age and it’s the Clintons, so redefining a relationship is nothing new. But, does a Hillary 2008 campaign really want to have its candidate one small step from saying, “To continue in English, please press 1?”

A week of “Muslims in America”

September 24, 2006

This is what I get for showering at the same time every morning, I suppose. Somehow I missed all of NPR’s Morning Edition series on Muslim life in America.

The series began on Monday, 09/11/2006 the fifth anniversary of 9/11, with a report from Chicago on the tension between being Muslim and being American.

As you’d expect, the NPR series has a wonderful variety of voices talking about the identity clash many Muslims and Arabs in America experience. They have one man saying that for him that clash “went away on 9/11.”
The second half of the interview features Ingrid Mattson, the first female leader Islamic Society of North America, who was just elected to the post.
Day Two – An in-depth profile of Sheik Hamza Yusuf. Born in California, Yusuf converted to Islam as a young man. Yusuf is a leading intellectual in the Muslim community and calls on his community to force extremism out of mosques.

Day Three – A segment on Arab American filmmakers who feel that 9/11, ironically, has given them greater opportunities to tell their stories. Now, Americans and Hollywood are interested in real Muslim stories and characters, not just bad guys or caricatures speaking gibberish. The filmmakers claim that most Arabs would describe America’s behavior over the last few years as “terrible” and “horrible.” At the same time, many of those same Arabs respect America as a land of unlimited opportunity.

Day Four – Interviews with two Muslim young women from Chicago who claim to be “Muslim first.” The theme in this piece doesn’t stray too far from a fairly common thread in the media and in books that posits that young Muslims identify too much as Muslims and not enough as “Americans.” But, don’t most teens and twenty-somethings tend to identify in this same way?

Day Five – In this last installment, NPR rightly continues its profile of the young women from Day Four: Assia and Iman Boundaoui.
Overall, NPR has given us an excellent portrait of Muslim life. Though it is not too hard hitting and doesn’t seem to really reach the anxiety that seems to be out there.

This publication exemplifies that anxiety. It is only available on IE 6.0 as a “web reader” and, thus, not a good model for online publishing, but Aramica is a faily accurate reflection of its audience in the things it chooses to report and others it chooses to ignore.

“I protect my sources”

September 24, 2006

Making news, indeed.
Reporter: Give me a call if you’re holding the Duckett boy

What, exactly, is this supposed to accomplish?

Circling Key West

September 20, 2006

“There are plenty of U.S. journalists, including me, who are eminently qualified to host TV programs that no one will ever see.”

– Carl Hiassen, Miami Herald

Romenesko links to Hiassen’s wonderful column on the Radio Marti et al. imbroglio. Even more wonderful than Hiassen, however, is the US government’s insistence on maintaining its ineffectual “broadcast” to Cuba.

Putting the Atlantic Yards online

September 17, 2006

I met Veronica Whaley last Sunday on Pacific Street, between 6th Avenue and Flatbush, as she was loading bags into the trunk of her car from a shopping trip to Atlantic Center. A resident of another, far-off neighborhood of Brooklyn, Whaley expressed her hope that the Atlantic Yards development would bring good jobs and housing to the area, but confessed to having some “mixed feelings.”

When I told her that, according to the current plan to “demap” certain streets in the footprint, the section of Pacific Street where she had parked her car would be center court of the Nets arena by October 2009, Ms. Whaley’s jaw dropped: “No, really?”

Most Brooklynites have an opinion about AY, but from my unscientific experience it seems that the further you move from the “footprint” of the Atlantic Yards, the less people know about how big the project will be and how much it will change that 7 block section of Brooklyn (leaving aside any spill-over effects it may have on other neighborhoods). Several blogs have covered the Atlantic Yards project very well, and even given some graphical perspective on how big the buildings will be.

Atlantic Yards Footprint MapHowever, I think that there could be much more done to give a fuller picture online of how the project will change the footprint area. The tools available online can really give a sense of how the space will change, that straight print, radio or even video alone cannot provide. An interactive treatment of Atlantic Yards should include:

  • Video, interviews with current residents, non-residents, construction workers, future residents.
  • Photographic slideshows – before (current buildings, blighted and not) and after, panoramics
  • Interactive maps of the footprint
    • Current population and real estate data compared to Ratner’s proposals
    • Current traffic patterns compared to Ratner’s proposals
    • Follow-ups on each with actual data, before and after
  • Timelines: Of proposal process and how the plan has changed AND of the projected construction timeline
  • Links to the outside, to “get involved”

What not to do:

  • No Audio
  • No need for RAW footage or photo outtakes
  • This would be a deep story, no need for a thin version
  • No polls or surveys

Mosques on Mainstreet or Lost?

September 10, 2006

I’m interested in how the media covers Islamic communities in the US. Namely, how a venue like Beliefnet covers the potential for “homegrown” terrorism in muslim communities in America as compared to coverage in the NYTimes of a different angle of the same story. I feel that this issues faced by this community and the issues that this community raises for society at large are largely underreported. But, I may also work on this in Craft so I’m not sure if it’s okay to blog about this here. An open question for this new environment…

If that doesn’t work out, similar to Annaliese, I’d like to kill two birds with one stone. I know that I don’t have enough time to watch tv every Wednesday, but Lost has become required viewing. However, I don’t just want to cover the coverage of the show in the media, good bad or ugly. Lost has developed a cult following not unlike Star Trek and Twin Peaks and an online life that is somewhat unprecedented (at least to my untrained eye).

I would look at how Lost fans cover the show and aggregate information, commentary and theories, see Lostpedia. Also, there is the online “alternate reality game” The Lost Experience, which is run, in part, by producers of the show. The Lost producers have woven passing references to theories, events and characters from Lostpedia and the ARG and have stated that those venues inform the actual scripts. Lately, an ARG candybar has shown up on eBay. I found myself wondering if Channel3000 is even a real tv station! Would the Lost producers create a fake news website to run a silly story about their fake chocolate bars being auctioned? Nah.

Fact Check OUR Ass.

September 10, 2006

Just a quick thought from this weekend’s “On the Media” show, which included an appearance by Jay Rosen. In discussing his NewAssignment.net project and how online journalists will build their own standards of credibility, Rosen suggested a new approach to fact-checking. The quote from Rosen below begins about half-way through the segment:

“We’re not going to try and go about building trust online in the same way that a mainstream news organization goes about it. We’ll have other ways. For example, NewAssignment.net will probably practice a form of factchecking that exceeds what you would find at a daily newspaper. And we’ll organize networks of people to do that.

What we need to figure out is how is this newfound ability for people to share information horizontally going to affect the vertical synthesizing of information that professional journalism has been totally dedicated to.”

That’s a wonderful way of conceiving a new relationship with the audience that this new, liberating technology provides.

This idea of asking, and even organizing the blogging element of your readership to help you get the story right, fits in perfectly with the 5th tenet of Kovach & Rosenstiel’s “Journalism of Verification”: “not only should they [journalists] be skeptical of what they see and hear from others, but just as important, they should be skeptical about their ability to know what it really means.”

Journalist-free journalism

September 5, 2006

After re-reading Lemann’s NYer article, and the back-and-forth at “Comment is Free” I’m left wondering what Lemann has offered us. His best contributions come in the concluding paragraphs and seem painfully obvious: that the internet is “potentially…the best reporting medium ever invented” and that more reporters should move there.

Prior to that, he dismisses “hyper-local” blogs for being too “small and specialized.” But size wasn’t a consideration when he sought to chop the myth of the monolithic MSM, so favored by bloggers, down to its appropriate size. I was struck by the strange nostalgia for late-20th C. journalism in this graph:

“What the prophets of Internet journalism believe themselves to be fighting against – journalism in the hands of an enthroned few, who speak in a voice of phony, unearned authority to the passive masses – is, as a historical phenomenon, mainly a straw man. Even after the Second World War, some American cities still had several furiously battling papers, on the model of “The Front Page.” There were always small political magazines of all persuasions, and books written in the spirit of the old pamphlets, and, later in the twentieth century, alternative weeklies and dissenting journalists like I. F. Stone.”

Some American cities? Small political magazines? Books? Alternative weeklies? No offense to I.F. Stone, but the presence of a few dissenting voices does not a healthy, diversified media environment make. In attacking the bloggers’ strawman, Lemann constructs his own.

As Lemann suggests in his CiF post, perhaps GSJ students shouldn’t be biting into these weighty future-of-the-business issues. Perhaps we should be focussed exclusively on learning the craft.

“We do not focus on the business side of journalism in the way that Jarvis would like us to. That is partly because the founder of the school, Joseph Pulitzer, though a genius at business himself, insisted that this should not be a school of publishing. It is partly because our students want to be reporters after they leave, and mainly get jobs as reporters.”

Fair enough. But, then, he goes on:

“We will, however, in just a few months launch an executive leadership program, and its participants – top managers of news organisations – will spend a lot of their time here thinking about how journalism can meet its economic challenges.”

Do we really need another confab of executives generating lists of lessons learned and what the kids seem to want? Is that what will push journalism forward? Or, might it be useful to get the people who will bring professional reporting to the Internet to start thinking about what that means?

Jarvis, Lemann and…The Dead Kennedys

September 4, 2006

While trolling the comments in Jeff’s first response to “Amateur Hour” I came across a link to this site.

Looks like a good idea, I’d certainly go back when some of the pieces they’ve solicited have posted.  More importantly, however, at the end of their intro video, they play a great snippet from a Dead Kennedys song. It has been too many years…iTunes here I come.

We, the enemy

September 4, 2006

The unique value of journalism remains today what it has always been: honest, accurate, reliable transmission of information. By imposing tough standards on what and how he reports, by gaining and maintaining the trust of his audience, the journalist stands apart from the mere gossips, the pr shills, and the partisan hacks.

When we talk about blogging though, most of us see the latter three categories. All that we see is the gossip, shilling, hackery, and the occasional bout of amateur brilliance. We don’t see journalism at all.

But, those lesser categories have always stood alongside true journalism in the traditional media (newspapers have their gossip columns, tv morning news is a product placement bonanza, talk radio is a snake pit). So, why do we only think of gossips, shills, hacks and amateurs when we think of bloggers?

Because we are stuck in our historical moment; because those other categories of news purveyors have flooded into this new media, while journalists, for the most part, have stayed away. Indeed, as Joe points out, a real antagonism and mistrust has arisen between journalists and bloggers. Bloggers and journalists each think the other is the enemy. In the coming months and years, that will all change. Journalists will bring their standards and ethics to blogging (and, hopefully, kill that ugly little word).

Will journalism change by moving to this new medium? Will the journalist’s standards and relationships with the audience, sources, and the business end of journalism need to be revised? Yes, undoubtedly. And, why shouldn’t it? Online publishing via blogs, is perhaps the most revolutionary innovation in human communication since the era of Gutenberg and Caxton.

Just as Craigslist broke the newspaper monopoly on the classifieds, the internet and blogs have broken an even more fundamental monopoly held by traditional media: the monopoly on us, the journalists. Journalists should embrace the flexibility offered by these new tools, for they will set us free.

Though it may not look that way now, blogs are part of the solution, not the problem.