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.

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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.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Crazy World of Online Journalism

Welcome to Online Journalism. This is a class blog where students will be posting comments and answering questions about class readings and lectures. The course is Jour 416-516 offered at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

During the the next 10 weeks, we will examine the impact of the Web on the field of journalism.

To help kick things off, I am posting a story from the New York Times that appeared last year that looks at how reporters and editors are frantic and fatigued. As my spouse, Julie, who works at the Chicago Tribune, put it recently, "You walk into work and they turn on the fire hose."

As a reporter, I used to get months to do an investigative story. Those days are gone as reporters work on three or four stories at once, attempting to produce content for multiple deadlines and multiple platforms.

The notion of Politico as journalistic sweatshop is pure myth, say John Harris, editor in chief, left, and Jim VandeHei, executive editor.

In a World of Online News, Burnout Starts Younger

NYT - ARLINGTON, Va. — In most newsrooms, the joke would have been obvious.

It was April Fools’ Day last year, and Politico’s top two editors sent an e-mail message to their staff advising of a new 5 a.m. start time for all reporters.

“These pre-sunrise hours are often the best time to reach top officials or their aides,” the editors wrote, adding that reporters should try to carve out personal time “if you need it,” in the midafternoon when Internet traffic slows down.

But rather than laugh, more than a few reporters stared at the e-mail message in a panicked state of disbelief.“There were several people who didn’t think it was a joke. One girl actually cried,” said Anne Schroeder Mullins, who wrote for Politico until May, when she left to start her own public relations firm. “I definitely had people coming up to me asking me if it was true.”

Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.

Tracking how many people view articles, and then rewarding — or shaming — writers based on those results has become increasingly common in old and new media newsrooms. The Christian Science Monitor now sends a daily e-mail message to its staff that lists the number of page views for each article on the paper’s Web site that day.