Monday, June 6, 2011

Good Journalism

If you skip to 11:40 in the video, Jon Stewart talks to Bill Moyers about journalism and its present state. I know Bart will also appreciate the reference to Wayne Gretzky, and I think what Moyers says is so true.
I think it's interesting that Jon Stewart talks about journalism on his show because his entire show is based off the humor of how people receive their news. Jon Stewart has, unfortunately, or fortunately, become the main source of news for our generation and I think that we've lost sight of what news is meant to do.
Moyers talks about the issues that journalists face today and I happened to see the rerun on today and felt like sharing it with you guys because it's some of the issues we talked about in class this quarter.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Facebook: What we spend

When we discussed the idea of privacy, another topic that was introduced that frightened me was the idea of shopping history. Obviously with the idea of tracking devices online, it is a scary notion that we are constantly typing in our credit card number. I was deeply concerned when a student (I think Kevin) brought up the idea that Facebook had put up a way in which viewers can see what you have been spending with your credit card! This application was quickly taken down, but still, the idea that a company on such a grand scale as Facebook would think it okay to take somebody's shopping history and put in out in the open for anybody and everybody to see is extremely frightening. I think that we definitely need to be more careful regarding who we give specific information. We also talked about the ignorance of many people as to how much the cyber world actually knows about us, and to me, we need to realize that the answer is: most everything.

Kevin scared me

The way that Kevin has opened my eyes to the issues surrounding privacy and internet use has me questioning how I use tools online. I wish I knew half of the information that he did so that I could thoroughly educate myself, because I believe that is the problem: the public doesn't know about these issues.
And then reading about how Zuckerburg and Facebook hired a team to trash talk in order to his their trail just leads me to believe that there really is a issue for the public to be concerned about.
How does this seem logical on the fact that we have a whole Bill of Rights protecting us from the invasion of our privacy and other rights, but then in the online world we have none? Does this make sense? I think not.
I think, as we discussed in class, that there should be some sort of protection for consumers online. But even more importantly than that there should be education open to the public in order for them (meaning ALL online consumers) to learn about the issues, because a lot of people have no idea.
So, in summary, KEVIN TEACH US THE ISSUES! Ha, just kidding, but in reality it would be nice if there were a group that could get the attention of everyone on these important issues.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Message on Journalism Comes from a Weird Place

Okay, "gun to my head" my favorite genre of movies is romantic comedies.

Looks like I just got shot. I mean come on you are not clutching your Sno-Caps in suspense. You aren't gasping for air out of pure terror. You aren't weeping or sobbing uncontrollably (I'm not that sensitive guys). It is happy. The ending is safe and structured. And if the right "wingman" character is casted to waywardly aid his or her friend in their pursuit of love, you may gather a few giggles out of it.

So, that is precisely why I spent the night before Easter on the couch with my mother and sister viewing Morning Glory. It is a romantic comedy (surprise) starring Rachel McAdams (naturally), Diane Keaton (at least she was in the Godfather), and Harrison Ford. The latter sounds pretty badass. However, I'm here to assure you it wasn't.

I was shocked to discover as the movie wore on that it was extremely relevant to the modern media world. Harrison Ford plays a seasoned, grizzly veteran of the evening news desk. He champions hard news and content of journalistic value. He is paid by the network IBS (there's one of the giggles), but for the most part is retired from daily news.

McAdams plays an ambitious young producer who dreams of leading the Today Show from behind the scenes. She gets hired to salvage IBS' dreadful morning show and immediately fires Diane Keaton's co-host. She is given an ultimatum by the station to raise ratings to a certain level by a certain time, or the show would be pulled.

Through an arduous process of getting ridiculed and scoffed at, McAdams gets Ford to agree to co-anchor the morning show. What results is awful for ratings. Keaton attempts to show ersonality, while Ford sticks stubbornly to hard news stories. Eventually, the pair push the show to the brink of failure.

McAdams starts to turn the corner by sending their apprehensive and socially awkward weatherman across the country to participate in borderline stuntman activities. The ratings finally rise, though, when Ford does an investigative piece that leads to the arrest of the governor of New york (score one for journalism).

In the end, McAdams gets an offer from the Today Show and turns it down to work with Ford. At first, Ford was incredibly reluctant to embrace the entertainment side of the show. But in an emotional and tense moment at the end of the movie Ford caves in and makes his favorite egg breakfast dish on the air. Ultimately, it was the content that was the polar opposite of journalism that raised the ratings and pushed the show over the top.

Again, this was just a movie, but it still held some interesting insights to the television world. The Today Show is a great example. Matt Lauer and Ann Curry are capable of doing and have done tremendous journalistic work. However, it is their ability to do the other stuff that sets them apart.

Oh, I should mention that throughout the movie Rachel McAdams was falling in love. Regretfully, it was not with Harrison Ford. But him and Diane Keaton was a better match in the end anyway.

How one newspaper used Facebook to build readership ... and make money

We've engaged in a lot of discussion this quarter about the role social media plays in news. I came across this article today and thought it was worth sharing.

In this post, the editor of the Lake Country Sun (a weekly newspaper in Gradford, Texas) talks about how his newspaper used its Facebook page to spread news about wildfires in the area.

Mark Engebretson, the managing editor of the Sun, discusses Facebook and Twitter as tools for disseminating credible news that the community needed. His essay was published by the Texas Center for Community Journalism at Texas Christian University. I particularly liked the last paragraph:
As communications become more advanced, we must also advance. Newspapers will not become relics of a bygone era, but will remain as the written history of today for tomorrow’s generations. Tweets and Facebook postings will be lost, purged for more space, but the written word will last far into the future. The trick will be in dedicating the resources necessary to integrate the past with the present and prepare for the future.
Also worth noting: As traffic to the website surged because of Facebook and Twitter traffic, advertisers took note. Web advertising almost quadrupled, and new advertisers were also looking for space in the print product.

Engebretson made this observation:
By posting instant updates on Facebook that were accurate, The Sun gained not only exposure, but also credibility and that credibility is what added to the advertising revenue and will continue over the next several weeks.
Here is a link to the whole essay:

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I've thoroughly enjoyed our conversations regarding privacy throughout the last few classes, so I just wanted to give my opinion on the matter here on the blog. I think that I definitely agree with Kevin's sentiments that we need a broad reaching form of legislation to help alleviate cyber privacy issues, and issues with privacy in general. As a student in our class stated, legislation is fluid. Just because our technology is growing more rapidly than our legislation is, does not mean that we can't write legislation that will impact types of privacy that we have not come up with yet. A net-type of legislation can, and will help to improve protection that we will receive, and deter the ways in which companies are delving into our private lives.
On the other hand, I think that we need to remain cognizant of fact that we are the ones who give out this information the majority of the time. We give out our age, phone number, credit card number and religious affiliation. Not that we are entirely to blame, though we must realize that we are a contributing factor to the beast that is privacy violations.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to block cookies you don't want

Eerily related to our class discussion today, the website How to Geek has posted a step-by-step guide to disabling the cookies of decidedly more questionable nature. The post also gives us a quick, concise explanation of what a cookie is and what it does.

A cookie is simply a small file that a web site places on your computer to store information. The process itself is totally benign and can even be helpful when cookies do useful things like store your shopping cart information between sessions, save you from the hassle of logging into a site every time you open and close your browser, and other helpful time savers. The ones that give cookies a bad name track users without their explicit knowledge and help advertisers (among others) build profiles of users. Many people want to limit the amount of information that is gathered about them and do so by limited the kind of cookies that their browser accepts and/or retains.
From there, the site takes you through the settings menus of the three major browsers; Chrome, Firefox and IE. Granted, the methods outlined in the How to Geek post will require some extra curating work from you, the user, but I think you'll find some peace of mind in it.

Both Chrome and Firefox support private browsing in some shape or form. If you're a Chrome user, you have the option of browsing in Incognito Mode. If you use Firefox, you can use private browsing found in the privacy settings menu. The video below talks more about Chrome overall and focuses in on Incognito Mode at about the 1:25 mark.

Hopefully you'll find the How to Geek post helpful, and I encourage you all to read the whole thing. You can also visit the native site of your browser of choice for more information on what your privacy settings mean and how your information is used.

As we mentioned in class, there's no ON/OFF switch, no silver bullet, nothing that will handle and solve every Internet privacy issue, but it serves us all to better understand the technology and be more in control of our own private information.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Facebook secretly hires PR firm to throw mud at Google

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief, at a town hall-style meeting with President Obama last month. In the past, Mr. Zuckerberg has extolled the virtue of transparency.

Editor's note: Social media is all the rage. Micro-blogs like Twitter are increasingly popular and seen as alternatives to traditional news sources. Citizen journalism and social media are often pointed to as examples of how information will be both collected and disseminated in the future. But given what we have discussed and read in this class so far, is Facebook journalism? Or is it just a digital bulletin board? And would any self-respecting journalistic organization act along the lines of what is reported in this story? So what can we conclude about social media. It may be content and it may be popular - but is it journalism? Please respond to this post. - MT

NYT - For years, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has extolled the virtue of transparency, and he built Facebook accordingly. The social network requires people to use their real identity in large part because Mr. Zuckerberg says he believes that people behave better — and society will be better — if they cannot cloak their words or actions in anonymity.

“Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” Mr. Zuckerberg has said.

Now, Facebook is being taken to task for trying to conceal its own identity as it sought to coax reporters and technology experts to write critical stories about the privacy implications of a search feature, Social Circle, from its rival, Google.
The plan backfired after The Daily Beast revealed late Wednesday that Facebook, whose own privacy practices have long been criticized, was behind the effort. It didn’t help that some of the technology experts who were encouraged to criticize Google dismissed the privacy concerns around Social Circle as misplaced.

Facebook insiders, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter, said the company hired the well-known public relations firm Burson-Marsteller to suggest stories about Social Circle to reporters because it did not want the issue to turn into a Facebook versus Google story. Social Circle is an optional feature of Google search that uses publicly available information from social networks to personalize search results.

In a statement issued Thursday, Facebook said: “We wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles. We engaged Burson-Marsteller to focus attention on this issue, using publicly available information that could be independently verified by any media organization or analyst. The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.”

Companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere routinely approach reporters and analysts with stories about the so-called misdeeds of their competitors. But journalism and public relations experts criticized Facebook for doing so anonymously and insisting that Burson-Marsteller not reveal its identity.

Facebook, Foe of Anonymity, Is Forced to Explain a Secret -

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What is a citizen journalist?

I wanted to take the time to give my feedback on a question that was asked a while back in this blog regarding what a citizen journalist is. I am usually under the thinking that in order to be a journalist you must have specific training, tools and knowledge to complete this task. I think that most of my opinion most likely stems from the fact that I am a current journalism student paying thousands of dollars for a piece of paper that says I am a journalist, though I felt that the resources made available to me actually were what made me a journalist. My opinion has drastically changed. I feel as if the world of journalism in and of itself is changing, and as the way it stands now I think that there should almost be a new term made up for those journalists who have not been through the training, schooling that most professional journalists have one through. Maybe it is just my bitterness coming out, though I feel four plus years of me studying this craft does warrant some recognition! I am more than appreciative of the work that citizen journalists do, and the cause that they stand for, though I think that what they are capable of doing, and what students such as ourselves upon graduation are capable of doing are two different things. A citizen journalist has the same goal in mind, disseminating useful information, though writing style, technique and display of this information are things you can't just learn by yourself.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Google Suggest and public discourse

I recently ran across an interesting article about how Google starts dictating public discourse before the search button ever gets hit.

Last year, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison published the findings of a study involving the Google Suggest feature, which automatically fills in the search field based on what Google things you want to search for (or perhaps what they want you to search for).

Their research focused on searches involving nanotechnology. They found that, over time, Google Suggest steered those looking for information about nanotechnology toward articles about health-related research and away from other scientific and social applications that are more common (USA Today did a good job of explaining the scientific stuff in easy-to-understand terms).

The bottom line: Google is overemphasizing the role nanotechnology plays in health research.

Wisconsin communications expert Dietram Scheufele, one of the co-authors of the study, told USA Today that Google "is shaping the reality we experience in the suggestions that it makes, pointing us away from the most accurate information and toward the most popular." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

"I don't think Google is making us 'stupid' but we do see the potential for a self-reinforcing spiral in search suggestions away from the most accurate information toward the most popular," Scheufele later told USA Today. "The whole idea in science is to look at a lot of sources of information and form a comprehensive picture of the situation, not to any one 'best' paper."

The authors of the study speculated that the problems they found would translate to other topics, like politics. Makes sense to me - what do you think?

Here are the first few paragraphs of a news release explaining the Wisconsin study:


MADISON - By adding a subtle nudge to each of more than 1 billion search requests every day, Google may be steering the direction of public discussion.

Begin typing a word in the search box at, and the Google Suggest feature starts kicking in ideas - "tiger" begets "tiger woods," "tea" draws "tea party movement" and "craig" will summon "craigslist."

"It is meant to be helpful, but from a public discourse perspective it is worrisome," says Dominique Brossard, a University of Wisconsin-Madison life science communication professor.

Brossard and four colleagues studied Google's data for nanotechnology-related search terms and the associated Google suggestions from October 2008 to September 2009.

In a study published in the May issue of Materials Today, the researchers found a reversal in the top 10 nano search terms, with economic impact (word such as "stocks," "jobs" and "companies") searches giving way to health ("medicine" and "cancer") searches over the course of a year.

By the time August 2009 arrived, users who typed "nanotechnology" into the Google search box were getting a list of suggestions topped by "nanotechnology in medicine" despite the phrase's standing as the sixth-most popular nano search term.

On the Media's look at the future of the Internet

Greetings all,

I find myself constantly referencing this discussion held in February on an episode of NPR's "On the Media," and I thought it might be nice to share it with all of you. The show is made up of various experts offering opinions and research on the ways in which the Internet is changing the way we communicate with each other.

Though the debate really only scratches the surface, it's a constructive exercise to examine all the good and bad that the Internet hath wrought. I hope you'll all give it a listen, and I hope it will help to inform the way you look at the Internet.

I've embedded the full show below, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

The citizen journalism debate continues

I thought this article was interesting. Rather, I should say I thought this blogpost was interesting, which I think it ironic considering we've been discussing the importance/integrity of blogs versus mainstream news articles.
But this blog debates the criteria of what a "citizen journalist" is an surrounding the recent events with Osama Bin Laden's death and the "breaking news" coming from Twitter users, I thought it was a good idea to read how other accountable journalists feel about the issue.

..How do you define a citizen journalist?

Posted by Federica Cherubini on May 6, 2011 at 3:28 PM

As already noted, the news of Osama Bin Laden's death, which has filled newspapers pages and monopolized every news stream, first spread onTwitter. Not only the first credible feedback came from a tweet by Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for former defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, but also the first feedback of any kind came from an IT consultant who lives close to Abbottabad, where the raid took place, and who live-tweeted the attack, even without knowing it.

Some then praised the role Twitter played, wondering if it could ever come to replace traditional media.

Dan Mitchell on the SF Weekly blog, addressing the issue, argued that "no, Twitter hasn't replaced CNN". With no intent of diminishing the role it played of what he called "the best real-time headline service yet invented and a place to come across news I wouldn't otherwise see", he however questioned if this could be called "citizen journalism".

He started from an article by Steve Myers of the Poynter Institute where the author noted how in 24 hours Sohaib Athar, the guy who live-tweeted the event, "went from someone who jokes with friends on Twitter and invites people to his coffee shop, to someone who broadcasts his thoughts to more than 86,000 followers".

"Good for him. But does having 86,000 followers make him a journalist? For that matter, did his real-time tweets of the events make him one?" wonders Mitchell. "Wondering on Twitter why there are helicopters flying around your neighbourhood isn't journalism."

Myers answered Mitchell explaining why he called Athar a citizen journalist.

"Athar is not a citizen journalist simply because he wondered about something on Twitter. Rather, he's a citizen journalist because when he came across an unusual event, he acted in a journalistic manner", he said.

He went on saying that Athar is a proper example of people who even if they aren't trained as journalists, undertake journalistic endeavors.

Journalists' job - at least once upon a time - was to go out of the newsroom to look for news, to report on events, to look for sources and news.
Citizen journalists find themselves in the place where the news is happening without having necessarily planned to be there, but then they act as journalists.

Athar, Myers noted, did not simply share his thoughts with friends. He observed something unusual and told others about it, answering questions, and sharing new information once he got them. He sought reports from news sources and shared them. He tried to analyse what was happening, citing his sources, even admitting they could be just rumours.

Witnessing something newsworthy alone doesn't make you a citizen journalist, Myers said. The next level is to share what you witnessed and digital tools allows us to share these information in a very pervasive and effective way. Other activities move you further up the ladder: seeking corroborating evidence, interviewing people, vetting sources, confirming information before sharing it, analyzing what happened, providing context. Each one is a specialized type of journalistic activity.

The difference with the past - he wrote - is that once this process was not evident, as the only thing to be shown was the final product. Twitter instead enabled journalists - whether professional or amateurs - to do this work in plain sight.

NPR's Andy Carvin acted as a one-man news agency, aggregating and curating tweets from the Arab World riots and he spent nights doing this job. He is a professional journalist. Athar is just a citizen one, Myers argued.

"What Athar did was journalistic. Social media brought it to the attention of professional journalists, who wrote about what he observed. Some of these stories simply noted that he heard some of the sounds of the raid. Others focused on the changing ways that we become informed about our world. Hundreds, if not thousands, of works of journalism were created as these professionals brought the news to their audiences", Myers wrote.

So is this "citizen journalists vs journalists" the simply new version of "bloggers vs journalists" debate, he wonders.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Influence of Social Media Presence on Businesses

I stumbled across an interesting article today in the WSJ talking about the amount of influence a business can have through a web presence without an actual website.

Since in class we’ve discusses a few times about this reliance between media and advertising, I thought it would be interesting to talk about advertising online and the influences certain forms of advertising can have on the web.

These days when we hear about a business for the first time, chances are the first place we will turn to check information about the business will be through the internet. As potential customers, we do this to find and learn information about the companies we hear about. Therefore, it is important for any business to have an online web presence these days.

According to the WSJ’s article, “A Web Presence Without a Website”, rather than investing the money and time to host and manage a website dedicated to their business, new entrepreneurs are taking increasing advantage of establishing a social media presence.

It’s an easy and cheap form of advertising when it comes to promoting any business. It puts part of spreading the message of a business in the hands of the customers (so there is always the risk a business’s message may bring negative exposure), but through social media, a business can gain exposure not through that business’s self-promotion, but through the people who have received goods or services through that business.

Businesses use social media to gain exposure for their products, services and brands. The alternative is traditional advertising, but social media is uniquely valuable to small businesses for two reasons. First, it’s cheaper. But it also ensures that people are hearing about your business from a source they trust more than an advertisement: friends and family.

Quite a few entrepreneurs have found success relying on social media to expand their business. Take Reid Travis of Panchero’s, for example. Travis promotes his restaurant through Facebook by claiming, “We’re not focused on marketing to our followers, fans and readers,” he says. “Our primary goal is to connect with them...the best advice I can give from my adventures in the social realm is to listen more than you talk and don’t be scared to let go of the reigns. You’re definitely not going to be able to control the entire message out there; be okay with that.”

Some businesses have even been able to see online sales go up in proportion to Twitter followers. Joe Johnston of Liberty Market will actually tweets regular customers asking them how the food was, for example.

“People ask me if we have ‘made money’ with Twitter. Absolutely yes. But not how most business think. We have solidified loyalty and have our name out there, front of mind. Because of that, many social media meet-ups use our place. Patience! One has to believe that increased loyalty and awareness are a key to business growth.”

There is no doubt that newspapers rely heavily on revenue from advertising to succeed, but with business’s relying on free and relatively easy-to-manage advertising methods through social media like Facebook and Twitter (and with customers consistently flocking to these sites to check a business’s reputation), how will this affect the newspaper industry?

Perhaps the drop in newspaper advertising may be due to the drop in circulation, but at the same time social media sites probably have an equal influence in the direction of the newspaper industry as well when it comes to advertising.

So although a lot of news is being geared toward an online direction, perhaps advertising should also be considered to have just as a powerful influence when it comes to the future of the newspaper industry.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is it ok to text that or do I have to talk to you?

I thought this article related to our discussion this week about when we draw the line on texting/Facebook posting/Tweeting. There are situations that definitely warrant at least a phone call. What do you think?

You’d expect that the most common sight I see on the George Mason University campus is Patriot green & gold. It isn’t. I walk from class to class, I run around covering stories, and the sight more common than a sea of school colors is a sea of thumbs fidgeting furiously with a mobile phone.
I’m sure some of them are smartphones – probably a lot of them, really – and I’ll grant they may be checking Twitter or Facebook or an ESPN app. But I feel like I can say (with confidence) that seven times out of 10, the pair of thumbs I see is probably sending a text. It makes me wonder what people are saying. And since you may be one of those numbers, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the appropriateness of content in text form.
We’re building a habit—texting is becoming a norm for our communication, and I worry. Sometimes, it’s just not the best way to say something. It’s not always, well, humanly appropriate. Here are my thoughts on the subject, from both observation and, yes, experience.
Hey where u at
Appropriateness: Awesome. Perfect. This is what texting is for: communicating short info, like where a roommate is, quickly and efficiently.
Sorry missed call. In class. What up?
Appropriateness: Yes! You got this. Another great example—you should definitely text when calling isn’t an option. (Some professors may not like you for this, but meh, if you’re subtle, it’s often better than screwing around on a laptop).
Reminder: Our group meets @ Mason statue @ 2.
Appropriateness: Yeah, sure. If the person you’re sending it to is forgetful. I kind of hope that people are good at keeping track of their schedule (Google Cal and reminders all the way, folks) but yeah, sure.
Hey think ur getting groceries. If so, don’t forget the milk, bro.
Appropriateness: Sure. Calling works for this too though. Simple requests are good, they can save time. They can also get excessive.
Hey what you doing Sat night
Appropriateness: Err… Context? This could be peachy keen, or a big no-no. Who are you sending something so ambiguous to? A girl you’ve been hanging out with who may not know where your “friendship” sits? Think about this one. Content can’t always speak to tone or inflection.
Hey we need to talk
Appropriateness: Nope. Nope, thinking this can’t be good. This is either entirely misleading, or doesn’t help solve your problem. With some exception, notifying someone via text that you need to have “a talk” often causes stress and anxiety. Most situations can wait until you can physically talk to that recipient. If not, call them.
Something I’ve been wanting to tell you… i love u.
Appropriateness: Oh hell no. Why would you do that? Worse than notifying someone of an impending conversation of emotional concern via text is using pixels of words (and even emoticons) to actually try to convey them. Sorry, however comforting, there’s just little chance you’re going to get the response you want. Most what you want to say is probably said by your body, and written all over your face, not just some data on a screen. Also, do you really want to gamble and risk a sub-discussion on “Did you really have to text me that?”
Hey mom, went to ER. Don’t worry though.
Appropriateness: . . . Texts are short. Some situations can’t be explained in short form. Ones that involve physical harm, those need to take the long-form. They need explaining. They need to be expressed in a setting where there can be immediate back and forth. And hold up, don’t think that means Facebook chat is fair game either. If something involves how you’re physically or mentally doing, people want to judge from all their senses, or at least as many as they can. Please give a call or Skype.
And now I leave you with the golden text. Remember it, write it down, save it as a quick key or something.
Can you call when you get a chance?
Appropriateness: You can’t go wrong with this. When thinking about sending a text, for the future’s sake, judge the purpose of it. If you need to get a simple piece of information that doesn’t demand an immediate response, or if calling isn’t an option because of the situation you’re in, that’s when texting works best. All other times, I suggest fighting the urge—dial a number and just call. If you can’t reach them, ask them to reach you.
(Caveat: I say all this, but don’t you dare leave me a voicemail. Why couldn’t you text me “call me” or you’re the nuts and bolts of your message? I’d save like three minutes.)
Kevin Loker is a junior anthropology major at George Mason University, where he is executive editor of the school’s online news site He’s also an intern for events and conferences at the Washington Post and a blogger at’s 10,000 Words. Follow him on Twitter for news and conversation related to journalism, technology and society.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blame the search engine for our national stupidity ?

Author Nicholas Carr notes that we may be reading more than ever before. And consumers have benefited enormously, no doubt, from having easy access to information that a decade or two ago would have taken considerable legwork to obtain. We can credit technology for some of this fact - cable modems, wireless phones and fast computers. The rest of the credit goes to Goggle and its development of the modern search engine. Goggle algorithms do a remarkable job of finding and rank ordering information for Web surfers.

But is there a downside to how this information is organized and presented? Carr notes that Goggle finds and rank orders information not on the basis of page views, not on the basis of what you want to see. This approach permits Google to sell more advertising. So, rather than adding to diversity of thought and a wider spectrum of ideas, the search engine is ironically narrowing the searcher's field of vision.

My question is this: What impact is the science of search having on our current (lack of) political discourse and the public's literacy when it comes to current events? We have moved from a nation with a middle class made up of Democrats, Republicans and independents to one that is torn torn by extremism, violence, hatred and bigotry. What were once simple debates are now the subject of verbal combat and roadblocks. (Witness the recent debates in Congress on the deficit.) And we seem to be less informed, or maybe more misinformed is a better term, when it comes to current events.

Carr and other critics are saying the Internet is playing a role here by narrowing (not expanding) the searcher's field of vision. Weren't we all supposed to be better informed? If the Internet has made us so much better informed then why do people believe OBama isn't a U.S. citizen? Or why do Americans believe that corporate taxes need to be slashed when in fact 50% of U.S. companies pay no tax? Obviously the media plays a role here (see Daily Show clip), but what role does the search engine play in shaping public attitudes given what Carr has to say about it?

Please offer your thoughts about what role does the Internet and the science of search play given that our discussion about how search engines tend to narrow-cast the results and make us less informed on national issues. Refer to the Carr articles as necessary to craft your argument(s).

Monday, April 25, 2011

Will integrity succeed??

I thought this was an interesting article about how the newspaper industry has changed (under the pressure of business men like we've been talking about) and how some are looking toward the internet to fix the integrity that has been lost with this "money-mindedness." I thought this guy sounded really genuine and wonder how his new site will thrive, or if it even will.

The following is a guest post from Nicholas White, the CEO of The Daily Dot, a new startup in community journalism. White leaves a long lineage of newspaper men and women in his family to join digital media and explains why.

Six months ago, I quit my family's 179-year-old newspaper company. I left not because newspapers are crumbling -- though they are -- but because the very thing that has made the old industry so fragile offers hope for the future of journalism.

daily dog grab.jpg

I quit to start an entirely new newspaper: an experiment in media called The Daily Dot.

Everything you know about this failing industry is wrong. Which is to say, it's right, but it's also not why the industry is failing.

Growing Up with Newspapers

I grew up in the news business. My family has owned and operated small-town newspapers for six generations. You can see the history of the entire industry in the United States in the history of my family: why it once was great, what's wrong with it now, and why I'm starting the newspaper of the future to save it.

if mack.jpg

My great-great-granduncle I. F. Mack bought our first paper, the 47-year-old Sandusky Register, in 1869. He was a "free lance" or "bad boy" (depending on whom you asked) of the old school, and he was a fixture of the local scene. In 1891, the Detroit Free Press said, "He runs a Republican morning newspaper in the city of Sandusky, Ohio. The town and county are both Democratic, but still the Register lives on, a credit to a larger city. Mr. Mack is one of the most brilliant paragraphers in the country and maintains a paying business because more people desire to see what he says than they do for the news in the paper."

He left the Register to R.C. Snyder, his son-in-law, who owned the Norwalk Reflector 16 miles to the south. He was a small man who strode the avenues of Norwalk and Sandusky, Ohio, swinging his cane like a boulevardier's rapier. He kept a stub pencil and ends of newsprint in his pocket in case news broke out wherever he found himself. His daily column chronicled the comings and goings about town, a favorite feature of which were the antics of his grandson and the Pleasant Street Gang. He was also a shrewd businessman and he bought out the competition or put them out of business, and we became monopolies.

When Snyder died shortly before World War II, my grandfather was in Washington, so my great-grandmother took over. We had nearly lost everything in 1929, but we didn't lay off a single employee during the Great Depression, even though we had to print our own money, good only in town, to stay afloat. Mambi inherited that huge burden, and at less than five feet tall, she handled the company's debt collections personally and with all the mercy and compassion of a loan shark.

Twenty years after she died, my father still heard complaints about her behavior, such as the time she walked into a haberdashery on Main Street during business hours, stood in the middle of the sales floor, and loudly announced that she wouldn't be leaving until she got the money she was owed. But she handed down a company that was debt-free.

My grandfather ran the papers when he returned from Washington. He published his son's school report cards in the paper (D average). That may not have been great parenting, but he wanted everyone in town to know that we printed the news, all of it, and without exception.

Publishers Not from the Community

For more than a century, these newspapers were of, by, and for the people that lived in their communities.

And community is why the newspaper business is falling apart.

Some blame lies with the industry. Dad (Dudley White, Jr.) took over the newspapers in 1957. He started buying other newspapers across the country, and we became a chain, like everyone else. He remained publisher of his hometown papers, and he continued to run the editorial page where he advocated for things like a university campus (successful) and an effort to combine town and township (unsuccessful).

In his mid-40s though, he moved to California. That was OK because a good community man took his place.

Today, as a result of my father and my cousin's leadership, the company owns 12 newspapers and 10 radio stations. Eventually, as the company grew, publishers mostly stopped being community men and women. They merely paused in the towns they covered -- keeping the lid on things until they got a better offer, a bigger town, and a larger paycheck. The publisher today who's an authentic member of his community -- and I am privileged to know a few -- is rare indeed.

The internal problem, however, is not nearly so large as the fact that the world beyond our insular industry is changing. Community itself has moved. People don't swing their canes on Main Street anymore, and if someone did, he wouldn't hit a soul.

That doesn't mean community is gone, however. Wherever people get together and talk, and form relationships and social structures and identities, you've got a community.

We may once have defined it by geography, but it wasn't ever really about breathing the same air: It was about the ethereal bonds between people.

Redefining Place

And today, people are forming those bonds in ways that transcend and redefine the concept of place.

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Nicholas White

So what is community about today? I wish I could tell you. Human nature is such that we can't imagine anything that is truly new -- at least, not all at once. Most of the time, we just rearrange images of the past whenever we attempt to see the future.

Stumbling our way toward the inevitable requires a leap of faith. The Daily Dot, a new publication we announced recently, is my leap. The Daily Dot will swing its cane on the main streets and thoroughfares of the online community.

There are communities in Facebook and Reddit and Etsy today just as surely as there was a community in Sandusky, Ohio, 142 years ago. But right now they're living without the benefit of community journalism. The Daily Dot is going to change that. We're going to report what happens in those communities, up and out of those communities, just the way my great-great grand-uncle did. When news breaks in Tumblr or the kids get up to tricks in 4Chan, we'll be there with our stubs of newsprint to tell the story.

This is what we mean by calling The Daily Dot the hometown newspaper of the world wide web. There are stories waiting to be told, issues discussed, and communities defined by their collective senses of interests, concerns, and even histories. These are the aspects that have always been foundational to a sense of community for my family, and as we migrate to a world of digital natives and experience more of our lives online, The Daily Dot will be the paper of record for these emerging territories.

Community Journalism in a Digital World

I trust that if we keep following people into the places where they gather to trade gossip, argue the issues, seek inspiration, and share lives, then we will also find communities in need of quality journalism. And rather than simply covering the web from broad and outside perspectives like other publications, The Daily Dot is conceived from the outset to be of, by and for the web -- which is, after all, the largest community in the world.

We will be carrying the tradition of local community-based journalism into the digital world, a professional coverage, practice and ethics coupled with the kind of local interaction and engagement required of a relevant and meaningful news source. Yet local to us means the digital communities that are today every bit as vibrant as those geographically defined localities.

Unfortunately, geography is forged into the very foundation of the newspaper business, in its heavy iron presses and fleets of trucks, and in the deeply etched mindsets of its journalists. It may be that the industry as we've known it for the last century has to disintegrate so that the reportage it sustained can survive and flourish.

The only reason I walked away from my family's generations-long heritage serving communities is because I thought I could better carry on that work through a startup. If that sounds crazy, well, my father is fond of saying, "You don't have to be a genius to run a newspaper. You just have to have brass f---ing balls."

If you think community and journalism matter, or if you live any part of your life online, I want you to join us. Go to and sign up for our newsletter. There are stories waiting to be told.

Nicholas White is the co-founder and CEO of The Daily Dot, the hometown newspaper of the world wide web.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

What is the secret formula for reviving newspapers ?

Can Newspapers be saved? And should we attempt to save them? Obviously, the business model needs to be changed. But what should replace the traditional newspaper model? What follows is an excellent column by New York Times Media Writer David Carr about his own hometown newspaper (The Minneapolis Star-Tribune) and attempts to revive it. As part of your readings this week you will review the Atlantic article, "How to Save News." We have already discussed the fact that most the content on the Web is generated by reporters at newspapers. Given this fact, can we just say: good riddance to newspapers? What will be the impact on news? And what will be the impact on our democratic society if newspapers and serious reporting cease to exist? I would like for you to address these questions and look at both the costs and the benefits of newspapers. Review this column, the readings for this week and the corresponding video I have posted here relating to whether the government should get involved and bail out newspapers. Your post is due by next Tuesday April 26. - MT

By David Carr

NYT - In 2008, when I last saw Michael Klingensmith, he was sitting in a corner office on the 34th floor of the Time Warner building, one of three powerful executives who controlled Time Inc., the biggest magazine publisher in the world.

It was the only company that Mr. Klingensmith, an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, had ever worked for. After three decades, including stops at Sports Illustrated and Time, he was on the short list to become the next chief executive. When the job went to Ann Moore, he hung in for a while as executive vice president in charge of strategy and acquisitions. “It was a real job, it just wasn’t a very fun one,” he said.

So in 2008 at the age of 55, he took early retirement. He could have gone to work at any publisher in Manhattan, but instead, after a short time as a consultant, he moved to Minneapolis to become the publisher of The Star Tribune.

It wasn’t a move to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The newspaper had been through years of upheaval, churning through bankruptcy, publishers and lots of layoffs.

But what could have been a quixotic last fling has turned into something far more impressive: The Star Tribune is adding readers — the Sunday circulation grew 5.7 percent in the last audit and will most likely be up again a bit in the audit that will be out in few weeks — the business is making money and, get this, distributing money from its profit-sharing plan to its employees.

It helps that Mr. Klingensmith is a local boy. He grew up in “friendly Fridley,” a suburb of Minneapolis, and he is a serious Twins fan. He traded deeply paneled rooms with a view of Rockefeller Center and its fabled skating rink for a fourth-floor office festooned with Twins memorabilia and a view of the staff parking lots, one of which is decorated with a statue of Joe Mauer of the Twins, a local hero, and another of Lucy from Peanuts, reading a newspaper.

Even Lucy probably notices that it’s a smaller newspaper than it used to be. Once a reliable moneymaker for the Cowles family, The Star Tribune was sold to McClatchy for $1.2 billion in 1998. As the midsize newspaper business tumbled, The Star Tribune became a drag on earnings for McClatchy and it was sold to Avista Capital Partners for $530 million at the end of 2006.

The private equity firm loaded $500 million in debt on the property just before revenue dropped by almost half. There were extensive layoffs, interim publishers, and in January 2009 the newspaper, the nation’s 15th largest, filed for bankruptcy. Like Mr. Klingensmith, I grew up reading the newspaper and I found it gut-wrenching to watch.

The newspaper ended up in the hands of its creditors, including the investment firm Angelo, Gordon and Company, which also has stakes in the Tribune Company and Philadelphia newspapers.

By the time Mr. Klingensmith said yes to the publisher’s job at the start of 2010, $500 million in debt had been reduced to $100 million in the reorganization, costs were way down because of the cuts, and revenues from both advertising and circulation had begun to crawl back.

The reason the company had profits to share is that while ad revenue was down 9 percent in 2010, it was far less than the 15 percent that had been budgeted. According to David Brauer, who covers the paper for MinnPost, a local news site, the difference yielded more than $30 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization in 2010. And daily circulation has remained essentially flat even though the price of the daily newspaper was raised to 75 cents from 50 cents in May. The Sunday newspaper, which did not increase in price, has gone from a low of about 477,000 in September 2009 to 504,600 in September 2010, according to audit reports.

“When I was talking to them about the job, I looked at the financials and thought it had a good shot,” Mr. Klingensmith said. “I actually thought that newspapers have a lot more life in them than they get credit for.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Secondary Sources: THE WARZONE

How do we sort out which information is trustworthy in the online world? And does using online information make our jobs harder?

For my blog, I have a pre-post policy to keep my news accurate:

-News must be from an official source. (Granted, an "official source" in music writing is often a press release, but it's cold fact, nonetheless, selling something or not).

-If it is not posted by an official source, I must be able to find at least three trustworthy sources to back the information before I believe it.

-NEVER trust a rogue statement from a Twitter or Tumblr user floating in space without a link. It's PROBABLY a rumor.

-Avoid stories with "facts" that cannot be confirmed at all costs.

I don't think it takes a genius to know better than to trust something on first-read. However, when a source is perceived as "reliable," people do, and chaos blossoms through the online world.

For example, the U.K.'s NME is a magazine of which many think favorably. However, in recent months, the magazine's website has snipped quotes from the band upon which I primarily report to make fear-stirring implications out of statements that, taken at their own value and not condensed, definitely were not saying what the magazine made them imply.

Not cool, NME.

There was an easy way to figure out the original quotes (NME had used secondary sources): I searched for them! It's ridiculously simple, but the online reader is both lazy and apt to jump to Twitter and re-post the incorrect information.

As a person who oversees some communities within a music fanbase, it makes my life Hell. I'm always sure to go right back at the offending spinners with the facts, tell them why they're wrong, and - if possible - make them change it. It feels like war sometimes.

Check out what I call my battle process in this online world.

In the aforelinked (I know it's not a word, but it should be) blog entry, I describe the process I went through in tracing back sources to find out how misinformation was spread.

I found a misquote on a website which had not linked to the secondary source from which it had gotten information. Ah-ha! Indicator one of mischief: quotations that you know the source you're reading didn't get itself without attribution to the source that actually did get them.

Eventually, I spoke to the writer and traced it to another trusted music magazine that should know better, Metal Hammer.

Moral of the story: Don't read anything just once. Keep looking. Even magazines which post online content seem to have a disregard for truth in favor of drama and hits.

-Cassie Whitt

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Secondary Sources Online

In online media the use of secondary sources has become almost second nature.

Bloggers have mastered the art of using linking to accredit primary sources of information, and media outlets have found themselves resorting to similar techniques to stay in competition with each other.

Look no further than or where several stories can be found that are directly attributed to other media outlets. Phrases like "The Boston Globe reports" or "Report:" have become commonplace waysto inform a consumer while bypassing credbility issues.

I believe such reporting is neither unethical or unjust. It is simply efficient. When an online consumer comes to your outlet for the latest information that they want to learn, you better get it to them any way you can. The online environment has heightened the competition of media immensely.

Also, the sooner you run the "facts" from a secondary source on your site the sooner you can begin investigating further. This allows you to speculate, give your audience possible implications, and drive content that takes the consumer's mind further into the story.

Getting the information from a secondary source down allows you to potentially keep the consumer on your site.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Sourcing Code

As journalists coming into the ever changing world of the Internet, we've been faced with a task that is normally distributed to an entire room of people. Fact and source checking, editing, as well as creating and editing graphics to go in our stories.

Perhaps the most important of these, as of late, is the validity of the sources we use in our stories. As time consuming and tedious as it can be, checking the usefulness of your sources is essential to writing a good, interesting, and, above all, true story.

Choosing sources who have no agenda or bias is impossible, and it makes our jobs that much harder to write an objective story. Even as a journalist, it's almost impossible to write a completely unbiased/objective story, and having sources that are as close to uninvolved as possible only helps to make our jobs that little bit easier.

The use of secondary sources is something that, I believe, you must take on a case-by-case basis. If you take the time to check what they were cited as saying was not taken out of context or completely false, there should be no problem with using it. However, the point brought up by Tatge with our responsibility to readers is a good one. I think that, as journalists, we have a certain responsibility to our readers to dig for the information and report it from our perspective. However, I think including other journalists' viewpoints on an issue can bring a dynamic to our story as well give credibility to other journalists that we feel our readers should be reading.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Time Warner Cable and Viacom Seek Ruling on iPad App

Editor's Note: This story is interesting on several levels. Remember how old media always had control of content? It told you what the news was and when you could read or view it. Then the Internet came of age. Now, we see new battlegrounds forming with some of the same old players. Technology has changed how media is delivered, but has it really improved the content we as consumers receive? And are media companies all that different from the past? The faces may be different, but the issues seemed to be similar. Most companies want to earn the biggest profits possible. Big profits often boils down to having something people want and then limiting access so you can control pricing. But to limit access you need to be in control of the technology or platform that delivers the content. It used to be TV stations or newspapers. In the case of the story that follows this comment, we are talking about access to the iPad. So even as technology advances and offers more opportunities are we bound to see new limits on what we can view, read, download or purchase? We seem to be going in a circle. Are we really ahead? - MT

NYT - Time Warner Cable and Viacom each filed lawsuits on Thursday that seek to resolve a stormy dispute in the television business over the right to stream channels to new devices like iPads.

Cable companies like Time Warner Cable say their existing contracts with channel owners like Viacom cover devices like iPads that can be turned into television sets. Some of the channels owners disagree, and they have been exchanging threats with Time Warner Cable ever since its TWCableTV app was released in mid-March.

When Viacom, Scripps Networks, Fox Cable Networks and Discovery Communications threatened legal action a week ago, Time Warner Cable temporarily removed their channels from the app. But it said it would pursue legal options, and on Thursday afternoon, the company filed a request for a declaratory judgment in favor of its app — and against Viacom — in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The company’s general counsel said Time Warner Cable was “asking the court to confirm our view” that the company has the rights to in-home viewing of channels on any screen.

Minutes later, Viacom said it had filed its own suit in the same court for breach of contract and copyright violations.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Cold World of Web Journalism

Forget glamour. Forget riches or in some cases even a paycheck. It is cold out there when it comes to jobs and pay in the Web world. Especially when your company is sold, merged or bought out. In the case of Huffington Post- AOL merger, nearly all the AOL staff was dumped. Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post are darlings of the Web world. Some say she is a "genius." But much of her success is attributed to her employees. They are a talented bunch who helped build the company with little or no pay. Such is the world of the Web - low pay, no benefits and often terrible working conditions. Why would anyone want to do these jobs? Good question. This is not what they often teach you in journalism school. - MT

This comes from Ad Age's Matthew Creamer:

The piss-poor manner in which AOL's army of regular freelancers were treated after the Huffington Post purchase is captured by Carter Maness writing for The Awl. After leaving a corporate job in 2008 to, possibly quixotically, start a music journalism career, he latched on with AOL. All seemed OK until Arianna rolled up, her presence unleashing a depressing torrent of corporate lethargy, indecision and miscommunication that ultimately resulted in him getting canned. He was notified in a letter than began with an almost flirty "Hi there." I wonder if we expect more humanity from media companies than we do other corporations. Perhaps it's time to stop that. Anyway, here's the kicker:

Hi there! Over my two-year tenure at AOL, I published over 350,000 words in approximately 900 posts -- at least three novels worth of words. This was met with a blanket termination, with zero notice, in the form of an email that didn't even include my actual name. Freelancers know they are just a number, but AOL really went out of their way to demonstrate that. Rest assured!

The toughest part is that it's now near impossible for us to gain satisfaction from the merger's probable failure. Tim Armstrong is already rich. Arianna Huffington is already rich. Those that treated the Mighty AOL Freelance Army like so much trash to be taken out have already gotten paid on our backs. At least we were "greatly appreciated" for helping them out.

Well, I suppose Mr. Maness could write for Forbes. Now there's even a manual for how to get a blogging job there. It was penned by Susannah Breslin, who after being downsized herself was hired by Forbes to write "Pink Slipped," a blog whose subject matter should relatively obvious. The second tip of five tips served up by Ms. Breslin encourages one to "be a hustler":

At my last job, I was an editor, but I was also part of the marketing team. I generated multiple blog posts daily, did a brief stretch as a copy editor, and worked with freelance contributors. I was also tasked with increasing site traffic. I used a variety of means to drive traffic to the site. The site had very, very ambitious traffic goals. We met those goals in a variety of ways, from social media to relationships with blogger influencers to partner sites. That means I am familiar with how to drive traffic to a blog or site. This is what it means to be an online writer today. If you think that is sad, corrupting, or indicates the demise of journalism, I suppose you are a more moral person than I am. These days, it's not enough to be a good writer online. You have to be a smart marketer, your own content factory, your own publicist. If you can do it all, you are golden. If you cannot, you are screwed.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Churnalism is defined as a "news article based closely on a press release." This isn't a new practice, but I thought it would dovetail with the questions Tatge brings up in "The Internet: Will We Ever Be Able To Trust It?" (Plus, I love portmanteaus. Don't you?)

To view churnalism in action, visit and paste in some text. The engine will try to determine if the content from the article came from a press release. There are some pretty sketchy-looking examples in the "most viewed" tab. Sadly, this only works for a few dozen U.K. news sources. If someone has a U.S.-based churnalism site, post it here for us to play with.

A few years ago, I had a sit-down with a family friend and mentor of mine who made the leap from journalism to public relations. We went through a copy of the Cincinatti Enquirer and picked out the stories and information that were likely sourced from a press release. It was a surprising and illuminating exercise.

Personally, I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with using press releases as a source in news stories. I think churnalism happens when journalists plagiarize, don't confirm the information in the press release and don't use other sources -- or any combination thereof. As AWiche said in "Sorting out the mess," "Everyone has a personal agenda." This has always been true of sources, with or without the platform of the Internet. At least with press releases, the agenda is a little more transparent.

We discussed objectivity very briefly this week, and several people brought up the concept of transparency as a compliment to objectivity. I hope that as long as we're transparent, cautious and sparing in our sourcing of press releases, we can avoid the pitfalls of churnalism. I would like to think that the same strategies work for other sources and avoiding other unethical -isms.

Sorting out the mess

Everyone has a personal agenda.

My belief is that there are three key questions to ask yourself about a source. 1) It is important to determine where sources are coming from, 2) if they have a bias toward the topic your story is about, and 3) what their intentions are in answering questions. Of course there are people out there who use media outlets for personal use (getting a specific message out, lashing out against others, or just trying to get their name know) and it's pertinent that as journalists we know who we're talking to.

I've dealt with sources before who have tried to make me incorporate one thing into my story, when in the first place the questions I was asking had nothing to do with their own agenda for the story. As a journalist I feel it is my duty to give information to the public that is informative and newsworthy. Some stories stem from topics that lead to sources who obviously do not have the credibility worthy writing about. Therefore, we need to seek out credible, trusted sources who have the same values to give informative insight to the public.

With the popularity of online sources now it's also necessary to go back to an online's original source and make sure it's credible. With blogs and such this can be hard, which is why I think it's just as easy to seek out a living person, or a representative of a source to use as your quote.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Internet: Will We Ever Be Able To Trust It?

Editor's note: The Internet is reshaping many things - two of the biggest are how we shop and communicate. For journalists, the Internet is an indispensable tool. It gives us unparalleled access to information. It allows us to connect with sources we ordinarily would have no access to. We can do extensive research. And we can access, post and send large amounts of information at speeds that weren't even dreamed of 5 or 10 years ago.

But with any new technology, there are other effects on society. Some of these are just starting to surface. Two areas worth mentioning: freedom of expression and our right to privacy. There is an ongoing debate over whether people should be allowed to post items anonymously - even if those comments defame the reputation of a business or individual. Another major area that has come into question is the accuracy of the information we are viewing. The two go hand-in-hand. Since anyone can post whatever they want, they can use the Internet to settle a score. Some people engage in this behavior. For the viewer, it is often difficult to determine the accuracy of what has been posted. Is it true? Is it a product pitch?

Sometimes it is hard to tell what is true and what is false. In the past, information was edited, checked and reporters were called upon to attribute their sources. This is not to say there never was a problem with the information. But media organizations (newspapers, TV stations, etc.) had rigorous policies dealing with corrections. Bad journalists were weeded out.

In the Internet world, everyone is a journalist (re: citizen journalists). Everyone has a megaphone. It is easy to disguise yourself and the true intention of what you are posting.

Some might argue that the Internet encourages people to post whatever they want no matter what it says (True or False).

Beyond mere opinion, the Internet offers financial incentives. The more outrageous the information, the more inflammatory the opinion, the more risque the video - the more attention (hits/views) the information receives. More views translates into an ability to reap financial profits in the form advertising.

The impact of this shift in behavior is just starting to emerge. You will read about later in this quarter about a businessman who loves it when people attack his practices and file complaints online because it improves his ranking in Google, leading to more customers. It may be perverse, but it works.

One previous post I made to this blog talks about female teens who transmit naked photos of themselves in an effect to gain attention (and acceptance) from male teens. The story I have posted here from the New York Times deals with an entire industry that is emerging designed to erase a digital past. The negative information may be true or untrue. We are all aware of Internet hoaxes .

But there is a social cost here, too. If someone posts negative (or untrue) information about you online, it can be harmful to you in both your social and professional life. What do you do? Internet posts can't easily be erased.I would like you to review this post and the links I have provided here. Next, I would like each of you to comment (and post) your thoughts about the challenges we face as journalists in an Internet era.

Journalists are required to check and make sure the information they use is factual and by all means accurate. But if much of the information we read/view is provided by people with an axe to grind and is filled with personal opinion and innuendo, how can we reliably use that information? How do we sort our whether what is simply reprocessed information with a new "spin" or angle?

And are we best serving the public by using secondary sources (another story or post) in any story we write or post we make? Doesn't the Internet in some ways make our job harder because of the difficulty it poses in checking the original source of a tip, post or story? Please post your thoughts and be detailed in your answers. - MT

Bryce Tom of Metal Rabbit Media.

NYT -THE Internet never forgets.

Just ask the New York City teacher who recently divorced his wife of five years. Drop his name into Google, and his ex-wife appears in pictures of vacations and Christmas parties. “It’s difficult when you’re trying to date and your ex is still in the picture, so to speak,” said the teacher, who didn’t want to make matters worse by having his name in a newspaper.

The same goes for Bryan, an advertising executive in New York City. He is an accomplished online marketer and New York University professor, but search his name, and one of the first Web results is a press release from the United States attorney’s office. Eight years earlier, he was charged with wrongfully receiving 9/11 grant money. “Even after all these years,” those links remained, said Bryan, who paid a $2,000 fine.

And then there is the Philadelphia physiologist who became unwittingly linked to a consumer advocacy site, when it listed him as a graduate of a distance learning school that was shut down. “I felt totally victimized because there was nothing I could do,” said the physiologist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want added attention. “My case load started to dry up.”

At first, some tried manipulating the Web results on their own, by doing things like manually deleting photos from Flickr, revising Facebook pages and asking bloggers to remove offending posts. But like a metastasized cancer, the incriminating data had embedded itself into the nether reaches of cyberspace, etched into archives, algorithms and a web of hyperlinks.

After failing to rid the negative sites on their own, most turned to a new breed of Web specialists known as online reputation managers, who offer to expunge negative posts, bury unfavorable search results and monitor a client’s virtual image.

Comments from readers:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Girl’s Nude Photo, and Altered Lives

Technology is clearly altering the way we communicate - in both good and bad ways. The changes have big implications for journalists and society. Ten years ago - who thought cell phones would have cameras? Or that people would be using them take pictures in locker rooms or to distribute naked photos of themselves? - MT

Elizabeth Colón and Jon Reid gave a presentation about the consequences of sending risqué photos and text messages after three students were charged in a sexting case at their school. Neither was involved in the case.

NYT - LACEY, Wash. — One day last winter Margarite posed naked before her bathroom mirror, held up her cellphone and took a picture. Then she sent the full-length frontal photo to Isaiah, her new boyfriend.

Both were in eighth grade.

They broke up soon after. A few weeks later, Isaiah forwarded the photo to another eighth-grade girl, once a friend of Margarite’s. Around 11 o’clock at night, that girl slapped a text message on it.

“Ho Alert!” she typed. “If you think this girl is a whore, then text this to all your friends.” Then she clicked open the long list of contacts on her phone and pressed “send.”

In less than 24 hours, the effect was as if Margarite, 14, had sauntered naked down the hallways of the four middle schools in this racially and economically diverse suburb of the state capital, Olympia. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of students had received her photo and forwarded it.

In short order, students would be handcuffed and humiliated, parents mortified and lessons learned at a harsh cost. Only then would the community try to turn the fiasco into an opportunity to educate.

Around the country, law enforcement officials and educators are struggling with how to confront minors who “sext,” an imprecise term that refers to sending sexual photos, videos or texts from one cellphone to another.

But adults face a hard truth. For teenagers, who have ready access to technology and are growing up in a culture that celebrates body flaunting, sexting is laughably easy, unremarkable and even compelling: the primary reason teenagers sext is to look cool and sexy to someone they find attractive.

A Wiki Takes Aim at Obama

Karl Rove helped conceive the political group Crossroads.

NYT - Steven J. Law, the president of Crossroads GPS, a well-financed conservative political group with ties to Karl Rove, had a revelation a few months ago while watching television news.

“WikiLeaks suddenly became a household name,” he said, and he thought, “Amid all of this bad behavior, there is a certain genius going on there.”

Last week, in an attempt to tap into that genius, Crossroads began, a collaborative Web site intended to create a database of freedom of information requests that scrutinize the actions of the Obama administration.

Many companies and organizations, including the United States Army, have seized on the Wikipedia model to encourage their members to build up information collaboratively. This seems to be an early effort to use the idea behind WikiLeaks, a repository of secretive or difficult-to-obtain documents, for a specific political end.

In much the same way news outlets have tried to harness social networking tools to improve their reports and then popularize them, Crossroads GPS is experimenting with a system of distributed accountability (or distributed opposition research, if you prefer).

“One of the advantages of the wiki platform that led us to want to develop the site,” Mr. Law said, is that you can “crowd-source both the information and analysis of the information.”

Crossroads GPS, or Grassroots Policy Strategies, is a political group conceived in part by Mr. Rove after he left the Bush White House in 2007. Because of its tax designation it is supposed to focus primarily on issues rather than candidates, and Mr. Law described how Wikicountability was concentrating on topics like health care and high speed rail. The organization was the vehicle for millions of dollars of ads during the 2010 Congressional campaign.