Archive for the ‘blogs’ Category

Another NewAssignment.net Post

December 1, 2006

So, the NYS Legislature released a text file of all the “member items” from 2004-2005. The NYTimes reported on some of the more glaring items in the list earlier this week. But at least one website – I’m sure there are more – has begun the task of combing through the list more thoroughly. They’ve even converted the Legislature’s release into a searchable document.

It is slightly fun to troll through searching for strange, big-ticket items, like $100,000 “to assist with operating aid” at the National Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta. (Who knew there was a National Soccer Hall of Fame? Or that Marcelo Balboa moonlights from ESPN as a soccer ambassador? Kudos to Oneonta for that coup.) Or, the $50,000 that went to “recycle and renovate” a warehouse in Patchogue for use as an Elks Lodge.

That’s all good clean fun, but there is a problem. This document is huge and unwieldy! It would be nice to know how much Marcelo Balboa and those Elks may be collecting from state coffers via other “member items.” But, to do that we need a database.

Now, I’m sure that the Times will be working this thing over, finding all of the jewels that may be hidden within, but this seems like a perfect project for networked journalism. Jay Rosen, rally your mob to develop a people’s database of NYS “member items.” Maybe if we do it, the government will feel the need to release this stuff every year, not just every few decades. You could even give the database project a catchy name, like “The Marcelo Balboa Project” and get him on board as a celebrity sponsor, to raise interest.

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New blog, same as the old blog

October 10, 2006

For my second blog, I want to start a group blog covering the neighborhoods of SW Brooklyn – Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Red Hook.

I suppose that I could go ahead and launch a blog on something non-threatening like sports or music or books. I’m interested in all of those things, perhaps I’m interested enough to even blog about them on a semi-regular basis.

Why do I say non-threatening? I don’t mean any disrespect to those subjects or the people who cover them. In fact, all of those people I’ve linked to above do a much better job at covering those subjects than I ever could.

I say non-threatening because I fear that blogging now may prejudice my future career. I feel that I am too new to this journalism thing to commit myself to a certain subject or to voice strong opinions in them.

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

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.”

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.