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June 18 2013

11:56

How do you ensure busy journalists see important tweets? Introducing 'The retweeter'

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Owning an story can be hard on social media when you operate a subscription model. Not all of our followers or fans have access to The Times or The Sunday Times and therefore can’t access the full article when you post a link from an account like @thetimes or @thesundaytimes. This means that people often read a rewritten version of our story on another news site. 

We thought about how we could change this and realised that our best weapon was our journalists, each with their own network of followers and fans. But we were asking a lot to expect them to keep track of stories breaking on social media (especially when on deadline) so we knew we needed a way of making it easy for them.

We enlisted the help of Alex Muller, a clever chap who up until recently for News International’s R&D Labs and now works over at gov.uk. We tasked him to come up with an easy way to send HTML email from company Gmail accounts inside the browser.

Alex used a copy of the Google Apps script available here which prompts the user for a recipient, a subject and gives space to input HTML email. The script authenticates against the Google Apps account you’re currently signed in with, and uses that to send the email.

He then created an HTML template to display a single tweet inside an
email, and used Twitter’s Web Intents to add links to simplify the
process for journalists and others to retweet - one click in the email,
and then one confirmation click on twitter.com to complete the action.

It’s a simple solution to the problem, and manages to sidestep some
headaches with authenticating a third-party application to send email from Gmail (which would have significantly increased the time required for the project).

The result of using ‘The retweeter’ is that our big stories reach more people. For example, The Sunday Times Insight team had a big story on lobbying in Westminster which was retweeted by 30 people, most of whom were Sunday Times staff. Twitter analytics showed us that this tweet had reach three times greater than our usual tweets.

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So if you see a Times or Sunday Times journalist retweet a big story, there’s a good chance we used ‘The retweeter’ to make it easy for them to do so. We’ll continue to use it on our big stories and perhaps look at developing a similar version for other networks where we see an opportunity. 

Thanks for reading.

- @benwhitelaw

May 24 2013

14:27

#sholinonrap on Clayton Christensen

It’s been a good week for guest speakers here at the office. Gary Vaynerchuk was here on Tuesday, and Clayton Christensen spoke yesterday. Pretty much a coincidence, I think, as their talks were part of two different programs here, but I think Christensen would happily cite @garyvee as an example of his theories in action.

So Gary was fun, but I was looking forward to Christensen. There’s a not-too-thin logical chain where I have a job in this industry because of his research getting into the hands of certain early online news adopters.

When Gary spoke, I think I promised Sean Blanda I would give Christensen the #sholinonrap treatment.

@seanblanda oh Sean I’m really not feeling #sholinonrap today. Maybe tomorrow when Clayton Christensen is here.

— Ryan Sholin (@ryansholin) May 21, 2013

I had my dates mixed up, but you get the picture.

For the uninitiated, “#sholinonrap” is how Sean responds on Twitter or Facebook or wherever, whenever I make some sort of hip-hop reference. Last time Sean was here at the office for some sort of panel, I gave him the treatment, tweeting about the panel in the form of rap lyrics.

And not only was it fun, but it was also a disciplined approach to note-taking that forced me to do three things:

  1. Pay attention.
  2. Boil down complex topics into simple, 140-character-or-less approximations of lines of verse, complete with rhymes and flow where possible. (I am not an expert at this, kids.)
  3. Show my work by tweeting it.

In other words, an efficient and entertaining (for me, anyway) bit of exercise for my brain.

So yesterday during Christensen’s talk, I found a nondescript spot in the audience between a VP of News and a Social Media Editor and did my thing. It went okay.

Many, many thanks to Chris Amico for whipping up a Storify of #christensenonrap before I even had a chance to get back to my desk to prep for my next meeting. Here it is:

[View the story "#christensenonrap" on Storify]

###

I had a couple interesting conversations later in the day about why Christensen might not have been too excited about answering direct questions about how this applies to the news business.

One reason might be that the American Press Institute (hi y’all!) spent a few years of research on how Christensen’s theories about disruptive innovation fit into the news business. Newspaper Next. You might have heard of it. Maybe not. Here are a few useful links. (Some of these are remarkably useful.)

Plenty to peruse there over your holiday weekend, eh? Anyway, hope you enjoyed this episode of #sholinonrap. Beast!

 

Tags: Media

April 16 2013

01:35

A media attack

The attack on the Boston Marathon was designed to maximize media coverage: a popular event with cameras everywhere and a narrative that will be sure to follow about innocent enjoyment henceforth ruined by danger.

For years, we’ve been told to fear this: an attack on a football game or at Disneyland or in a mall, someplace without fear before. Instead, it happened at the marathon. No matter who committed this crime, a precedent is now set for those that unfortunately will follow. Now every time there is a popular event with many cameras that is open — not easily contained like a stadium — we will be taught to worry.

A few weeks ago in New Delhi, I stayed in a hotel that happened to be owned by the same company that suffered the terrorist attack in Mumbai. Every car coming in was searched; every guest went through a metal detector; every guest’s bag went through an X-ray. We’re accustomed to such circumstantial security in America: If a shoe is used to make a bomb, all shoes are dangerous. In India, hotels are dangerous. In America, not just office buildings and airports but now public events are threatened.

But the new factor this time — versus 9/11 or London’s bombings or Mumbai’s attacks or even the Atlanta Olympics’ — is the assured presence of media cameras at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. This was the media-centered attack.

But here’s a touch of irony: On prime-time TV, the three major networks didn’t alter their programming to continue covering this event. That tells us that terrorism is worth wall-to-wall coverage somewhere between two and 3,000 deaths. Boston, apparently, wasn’t big enough.

But at least on cable news, there is plenty of video of the blast and its immediate aftermath to loop over and over and over again.

March 25 2013

11:00

How One Student Went Mobile-Only for a Day on Campus

Recently, Reese News Lab students have conducted experiments in living without a smartphone and social media.

NYT ipad.jpg

But because the lab is working on a project on producing media for mobile devices, I thought it was time that someone tried a computer blackout. I'd give up my laptop for a day, navigating the UNC campus with just an iPhone and an iPad (with a Bluetooth keyboard). I figured that way, I could find out how mobile-friendly the world really is.

Before I could attempt this task, though, I knew I had to plan carefully. I had to make sure it wouldn't interfere with my schoolwork, and I tried to account for as many problems as I could beforehand.

I knew I would be unable to print because UNC's printing program requires you to install specific hardware. I also would lose access to a good word-processing program. So I added all the documents I needed to my Google Drive and converted them into PDFs. I also knew I'd lose access to Spotify, so I downloaded MixerBox, which makes playlists of YouTube videos. Set with my arsenal of solutions, I felt confident that this day would be relatively easy, but I quickly discovered that you can't account for everything.

A mobile-only day begins

When I awoke on the day of my experiment, I was pleased to have no trouble going through my routine of checking emails and Twitter. All of the mobile sites I encountered were effective and easy to navigate. But my positivity about the day was soon shattered by the first text I received: a free Redbox code. I don't have a TV in my room, so without my laptop, a disc was useless. This was the first omen that Netflix would be my saving grace later.

With a sense of dread, I embarked on the rest of my day. I immediately noticed how much lighter my backpack was without a laptop, so at least there was one perk. In class, I was already used to doing the reading on my iPad. It was after class that I ran into trouble.

Help! No tabs!

Sticking to my Thursday routine, I headed to the Reese News Lab. However, I realized that doing any kind of research was going to be hard. When I am on a computer, I love using tabs and multiple windows. I can read something in my browser and take notes on it in a Word document. As I write this, I have open six Word documents, Spotify, an Excel spreadsheet and four windows in Google Chrome (31 tabs) open. And yes, those numbers were higher until I was embarrassed by how much I had open and decided to close a few.

In the lab, I decided to scroll through Twitter and Facebook to find the latest news. As I tapped through articles, though, I realized how much I missed the tab and find features. Links in both of these apps opened a new page within the app. However, these pages were slow and harder to navigate. Multimedia components from places like the Wall Street Journal were especially troublesome as I tried to navigate their normally mobile-friendly site within these other apps. Also, I couldn't just search for keywords on any page. Rather, I had to search for terms line-by-line.

Frustrated, I decided that I just wanted a break and opted to try the USA Today crossword, but I hit another road block. I couldn't access it on my Safari app: USA Today requires mobile users to purchase its crossword app. I'm a college student, so thanks, but no thanks.

All eyes on screens

I headed to the Student Union. Although I saw plenty of people I knew there, they all were engrossed by whatever was on their computer screens. The screen blocked them from social interactions.

I headed back to my room around 5 p.m. to charge my phone, which was already in the red. I turned on Netflix, but I quickly got antsy. I needed something else to do simultaneously so that I wasn't just mindlessly watching a TV show. I couldn't do any work on my iPad while I had Netflix running, so I resorted to cleaning. This lasted for an hour or so until I decided I just needed to get out and go to dinner.

But the problem wasn't over. After dinner, I started to try to teach myself HTML/CSS with Codecademy. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to attempt a few more courses, but in a rather ironic turn of events, I found the site was not mobile-friendly. All of the site's features worked on my iPad, but it was not easy to navigate and use. Even with my keyboard, which hides the onscreen keyboard, the site responded by zooming in too much. Sure, most people aren't coding from mobile devices now, but why can't we?

After facing yet another disappointment, I spent the rest of the night using my iPad to watch Netflix and my phone as a second screen, where I could read articles and play games,. But I still never found an adequate solution. I couldn't even clean out my inbox from my phone easily, as the mail app tries to archive messages rather than delete them. I opted to go to bed early knowing that as soon as I woke up Friday, I could have my laptop back.

Lessons learned

So what did I learn?

  1. It's expensive to use only mobile devices. While content is often free for desktop users, mobile users are forced to buy apps to access the same content.
  2. Mobile devices make multitasking harder.
  3. We miss social interactions and are less observant hiding behind computer screens.
  4. We can still perform most of our daily routines on mobile devices. In fact, most of the sites we interact with have a mobile-friendly version.

And when I finally did check my laptop, I found I hadn't really missed anything. Sure, I was unable to get ahead on my work, but I had still been connected to the rest of the world. So could I learn to survive without a laptop? Absolutely. Do I want to try it? Not in the slightest.

Lincoln Pennington is a freshman in the journalism school at UNC Chapel Hill with a second major in political science. He works as a staffer for reesenews.org and tweets from @Lincoln_Ross. He is a politics junkie interested in the future of the media and hopes to work in D.C. upon graduation in 2016.

This story originally appeared on Reese News Lab.

reeselablogo.jpgReese News Lab is an experimental news and research project based at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The lab was established in 2010 with a gift from the estate of journalism school alum Reese Felts. Our mission is to push past the boundaries of media today, refine best practices and embrace the risks of experimentation. We do this through: collaborating with researchers, students, the public and industry partners; producing tested, academically grounded insights for media professionals; and providing engaging content. We pursue projects that enable us to create engaging content and to answer research questions about the digital media environment. All of our projects are programmed, designed, reported, packaged and edited by a staff of undergraduate and graduate students.

September 05 2012

13:43

Why Fact-Checking Has Taken Root in This Year's Election

We are all fact-checkers now.

For years, Americans' political press has been stuck in a fact-free model of neutrality, often covering even the most obvious lies as "one side" of a dispute. From Swift Boats and global warming to Iraq's nonexistent WMDs, this coverage shrouds even rudimentary empirical claims in a fog of truthiness. But that may be changing.

As this year's presidential campaign enters the homestretch after Labor Day, a new, aggressive model of fact-checking appears to be taking root. It is fast, aggressive and sometimes even outraged about falsehoods on the campaign trail.

Take Paul Ryan's convention address last week. Ryan offered several misleading statements and a few obvious lies -- falsehoods that he had to know were false -- although there's nothing new about politicians lying. Just look at Ryan's fellow running mates: Sarah Palin lied about the Bridge to Nowhere in her convention address, for example, while during a nationally televised debate, Dick Cheney falsely said he had never met John Edwards, and Edwards falsely charged that the Bush administration lobbied to cut combat pay. They faced mild corrections and very little collateral damage for those high-profile statements.

This time, however, reporters did not let Ryan off the hook by noncommittally airing criticism ("opponents disagreed with his claims"), or reducing corrections to one of those stand-alone sidebars evaluating distortions ("three Pinocchios for the deficit commission history"). Instead, several authoritative accounts of Ryan's address decided that his falsehoods were a key part of the news Ryan made, as these headlines show:

washpostryanspeech.png

Mr. Ryan's Misleading Speech (Washington Post)
Deficit Vow Lacks Specifics (A.P.)

Paul Ryan Address: Convention Speech Built On Demonstrably Misleading Assertions (Huffington Post)

Opinionated commenters were even harsher, focusing more on factual failure than ideological differences. Taken together, the overwhelming verdict on Ryan's speech was that he should not be believed. (By one online measurement, on the day after the speech, the most widely cited convention articles led with the falsehoods.)

The Ryan-Romney campaign's misleading welfare ads have drawn similar media condemnation. Ditto for the false claims that Obama raised taxes on middle-class Americans and, more darkly, the recurring, false suggestion that he was born abroad.

This newfound vigor for reporting facts over false equivalency -- the very "truth vigilantism" that a New York Times public editor once presented as an optional challenge for today's press -- looks like a mainstay on the campaign trail.

Yet after years of complaints from media critics and ridicule from the media's unofficial ombudsmen on Comedy Central, why is this happening now? A few interlocking trends suggest the reasons are both structural -- campaigning in a digital era -- and parochial, given the strengths of the two nominees.

Fact-Checking Has Gone Viral

This is the first national race in which Twitter is fundamentally altering campaign coverage. The message-sharing platform has upended how most political reporters watch the campaign.

Newt Gingrich used to deride Washington conventional wisdom as the product of what 500 people said to each other over lunch -- nowadays, it's more like what those people retweet. The pack mentality remains, but the backchannel is more visible and more subject to pushback. For reporters, that means fact-checking is not only faster, but it draws from a wider array of sources.

Returning to Ryan's speech, for example, many of the most retweeted items from that night were not jokes or partisan attacks. They were simple messages about fact-checking. "Factory mentioned by Paul Ryan actually announced it's closing before Obama took office," declared a typical example from the Washington Post.

When that kind of information goes viral, it instantly stokes press and public attention on the politician's fibs, and crowdsources part of a reporter's homework. Separating exaggeration from dissembling takes time, but reporters can draw on credible Twitter sources for a head start. That makes it easier to instantly report the "news" of the candidate's statements and a factual counternarrative.

The Press Oligopoly is Ending

While bloggers have been nipping at reporters for several campaign cycles, they have now fully arrived as credentialed colleagues. Some of today's most successful campaign "bloggers," like Nate Silver, promoted to the New York Times from the open-source user diaries of Daily Kos, or Ezra Klein, who joined the Washington Post after an impressive stint blogging for the American Prospect, specialize in providing quantifiable facts at breakneck speed. The interpretative emphasis is on evidence over opinion: Charts rule and canards are usually debunked _ before_ the regurgitation that politicians take for granted. It's a different orientation than conventional campaign coverage, which often celebrates the horse race and prizes direct access to the principals, no matter what they are saying. And as empiricist blogging is integrated into the elite press, it provides credentialed competition that can both impact and supplant the conventional model.

"The fact-checking franchise has grown from a handful of specialists," Jay Rosen, an NYU journalism professor, told MediaShift via email, "to something that every full-service news operation should do." The contribution from sites and bloggers devoted to fact-checking, he said, "probably accounts for some of the intensity" of online fact-checking this cycle.

But still, you can't fact-check much unless the facts are routinely in danger.

Romney, Obama and the Truth War

Finally, beyond any structural shifts, this year's campaign also features two nominees with message strategies that have now been specifically honed to address today's fact-checkers.

Romney is icing them out while Obama is cultivating them.

Faced with nearly unanimous rebukes for its welfare attack, the Romney campaign doubled down, making several more ads with the same claim. Then, its pollster flatly told the press that the campaign would not have its strategy "dictated by fact checkers." That gambit -- call it honesty about dishonesty or "cynical postmodernism" -- may have taunted some reporters into even more assertive truth-squading. According to one source familiar with the White House's thinking, Team Romney's strategic mistake was not the lying, but offending the press.

For its part, the Obama campaign is now invested in veracity as a core attack. The president has plenty of impact over what issues are newsworthy, and his campaign is arguing that spin, lies and exaggerations show that the Romney-Ryan ticket can't be trusted. As Buzzfeed's Ben Smith recently argued, this "pants on fire politics" aims to bend the premium on accuracy into a political advantage. Smith said reporters should be wary of attempts to referee larger policy disagreements as if they were mere factual disputes. That's not going to be easy.

Ari Melber is an attorney, correspondent for The Nation magazine, and contributing columnist to Politico. During the 2008 presidential election, Melber traveled with the Obama Campaign on special assignment for The Washington Independent. In 2010, he authored a 74-page special report for techPresident analyzing the first year of Organizing for America, the 13-million person network that grew out of the 2008 presidential campaign, which Northwestern political scientist Daniel Galvin called "the most comprehensive and insightful account of Obama's 'Organizing for America' to date." Melber has contributed chapters to the books "America Now," (St. Martins, 2009) and "At Issue: Affirmative Action," (Cengage, 2009), and has been a featured speaker at Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Columbia and NYU, among other institutions. Melber has also served as a Legislative Aide in the U.S. Senate and as a national staff member of the 2004 John Kerry Presidential Campaign. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a J.D. from Cornell Law School, where he was an editor of the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy. (Contact via www.arimelber.com).

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

August 23 2012

16:03

August 17 2012

14:00

Next Knight News Challenge Calls for Mobile Visionaries

The Knight Foundation, which now offers three rounds of its News Challenge instead of one competition per year, just announced the theme of its next contest: mobile. This round focuses on funding innovators who are using mobile to change the face of the media industry.

iphone sky.jpg

Considerable growth in mobile Internet usage over the past few years has meant the way in which people consume news is undoubtedly shifting -- so it's not much of a surprise that mobile would be the theme of one of this year's rounds. In fact, several mobile players have already been the recipients of past News Challenge awards -- think MobileActive, FrontlineSMS, as well as Watchup, Behavio and Peepol.tv, which were winners of the round on networks.

"We know that we (and our kids) have grown attached to our mobile devices," Knight's John Bracken and Christopher Sopher wrote in a blog post announcing the round, "but we have less clarity about the ways people are using them, or might use them, as citizens, content producers and consumers to tell, share and receive stories."

move over, data

The announcement of the next theme comes as round 2, which focuses on data, moves onto the next stage. The round is now closed for submissions, and Knight's team of advisers has selected 16 finalists. They'll be doing interviews and video chats with the finalists over the next couple of weeks. Winners of the data round will be announced in September.

"We've focused the News Challenge this year on big opportunities in news and information -- networks, data and now mobile," Bracken and Sopher wrote in their post. "In some ways, mobile represents both the greatest need and greatest potential for individual citizens and news organizations."

The mobile round will be open to applicants starting on August 29, and Knight will accept entries until September 10.

August 15 2012

14:00

Massachusetts Courts Allow Citizen Journalists to Register to Live-Blog

The information office of the highest court in Massachusetts just launched a new online registration process for citizens and news organizations wishing to use cameras and other electronic equipment to cover court hearings throughout the state.

gavel.jpg

The process is a lead-in for amended courtroom media rules that become effective next month. Key changes to Rule 1:19, the state's cameras-in-the-courtroom statute, include:

  • A redefining of the media to include citizen journalists "who are regularly engaged in the reporting and publishing of news or information about matters of public interest," and
  • Allowance, with permission of the judge, to use laptop computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices to cover the proceedings, including live-blogging.

Once a news media organization or individual has registered, the state will return a signed acknowledgment form which must be presented alongside photo ID to courthouse officials if electronic devices would be brought into a courthouse or courtroom.

Additionally, as is the current policy, the news media must request permission beforehand from the presiding judge to use a pool camera or electronic device in the courtroom during those proceedings.

The SJC's amended Rule 1:19 is effective on September 17, 2012.

Joe Spurr is a multimedia journalist and a web developer. Before coming to WBUR, he was the staff web developer for San Diego's NPR station, which he helped completely overhaul in 2009. He pioneered the station's adoption of Twitter and Google "My Maps" which culminated during the 2007 California wildfires, built layered, interactive maps to help track the drug-related murder surge in Tijuana, and produced in a roving, three-person skeleton crew from the DNC and RNC in 2008. Joe is a Boston native, a graduate of Northeastern University, and a former freelance reporter at The Boston Globe.

This post originally appeared on the OpenCourt blog.

August 09 2012

15:50

July 30 2012

14:14

July 27 2012

14:04

This Week in Review: Reddit and news orgs’ shooting coverage, and Yahoo and Twitter’s identities

The Aurora shooting, Reddit, and citizen journalism’s value: Much of this week’s news has been related to last week’s shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater that killed 12 and injured dozens. Poynter tracked the spread of the news of the late-night shooting, and the site that got the most recognition for thorough reporting of the news as it broke was the social-news site Reddit. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon rounded up the range of coverage on Reddit, which included photos, comment threads with people who were in the theater, and comprehensive, continually updated timelines.

Those timelines drew particular attention from media observers: The Atlantic’s Megan Garber marveled at their empathy through thoroughness, and BuzzFeed’s John Herrman and NPR’s Elise Hu talked to the timelines’ author — an 18-year-old named Morgan Jones — with Herrman calling him “the go-to source in the story,” and Poynter’s Alan Stamm held him up as a model for aspiring journalists.

As The New York Times described, the site’s users also unearthed some details about the alleged shooter that the traditional news media missed. Adweek talked about Reddit’s reporting capabilities with the site’s general manager, Erik Martin, who said Reddit wasn’t designed to be a breaking-news source, but its users have used its tools for journalistic purposes anyway.

Several writers praised Reddit’s ability to cover breaking news collaboratively in such an effective way. Keith Wagstaff of Time wrote that “no news organization or social media site currently offers an experience that’s concurrently as immediate, engaging and thorough as the one offered by Reddit,” and in a pair of posts, GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram remarked on Reddit’s ability to act as a verification hub and to allow readers to interact with people involved in news stories, and offered a defense of “citizen journalism” such as Reddit’s.

At Salon, Michael Barthel took issue with the praise for Reddit and citizen journalism, arguing that it isn’t immune from the same criticism the traditional media and that it’s “doing more or less the exact same thing that traditional journalism has always done, except not as reliably or sustainably.” J-prof Jay Rosen countered the piece with a Salon post of his own arguing that no one is saying citizen journalism will replace professional journalism.

Some traditional media organizations were also recognized for their skill in covering the story — the Denver Post’s Twitter coverage was run in part by its Digital First new curation team, and Digital First’s Steve Buttry drew tips for news organizations from the Post’s Twitter coverage, while Poynter looked at how the Post covered the news without a copy desk. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple also highlighted the coverage of Denver’s 9News TV.

How to cover tragedy carefully and sensibly: But traditional news organizations were also responsible for some serious missteps and some eyeroll-inducing coverage of the Aurora shooting, too. ABC News’ Brian Ross misidentified the shooter as a Tea Party member who had the same name, a mistake which Poynter’s Craig Silverman said the network made insufficient efforts to correct and apologize for.

Rem Rieder of the American Journalism Review and Steve Myers of Poynter pinned the blame for Ross’ and similar errors on the practice of incremental or “process” reporting, in which news is reported, bit by bit, as it comes in, then later confirmed or corrected. Rieder said he doesn’t find the practice “a very confidence-inducing or satisfying approach to journalism,” and Myers described how disclaimers and corrections can be separated from initial reports on Twitter.

Beyond that specific error, coverage of the event and its aftermath followed a predictable path of sensational coverage and unfounded speculation. The New York Times’ David Carr lamented that pattern in shooting coverage, concluding that many of the problems stem from the news media’s desire to answer the question that can’t be answered: “Why?”

The Atlantic’s J.J. Gould urged media outlets and consumers to start shaming organizations that cover such events exploitatively, and numerous people circulated a 2009 video by the BBC’s Charlie Brooker that illustrated how to (and how not to) cover a mass shooting properly, which New Statesman compared to Britain’s newspapers. Jay Rosen, meanwhile, criticized the excitement that characterized so much of the coverage.

The ethics of quote approval and draft sharing: Following last week’s New York Times story on news organizations allowing candidates and their staffs to approve their quotes, more news orgs were establishing or reiterating their policies barring those practices this week, including Bloomberg, McClatchy, and National Journal. The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple parsed through a few common quoting and negotiation practices, and the Journal’s Ron Fournier told him the key element differentiating what’s OK from what’s not is who has control.

Meanwhile, a Washington Post journalist caught some flak after the Texas Observer reported that he shared drafts of a story with University of Texas officials and allowed them to suggest edits that ended up in the story. Post editor Marcus Brauchli ultimately decreed that future draft-sharing would have to be approved by an editor.

In the ensuing discussion on draft sharing, the reporter had some defenders, including Poynter ethicist Kelly McBride in the Observer story. Poynter’s Andrew Beaujon noted that the story contained quite a bit information that was unfavorable to the university, while the Post’s Erik Wemple defended the practice of draft sharing in general, saying that a refusal to do so affirms journalists’ arrogance. “It’s a convention built on the idea that journalists are so brilliant that they can get a complicated set of facts and circumstances dead-bang right on the first try without feedback from the people who know the topic best.”

What exactly is Yahoo?: A week after ex-Googler Marissa Mayer took over as Yahoo CEO, she’s begun to inspire confidence in the troops there, according to All Things D’s Kara Swisher, while Wired’s Steven Levy reported on the army of ex-Google managers Mayer could lure to Yahoo. The New York Times’ David Carr said the key question for Yahoo — as it has been for so many web companies before it — is, what is it, exactly? He concluded that Yahoo is (among other things) in the news business, but by accident more than anything.

Tim Carmody of The Verge said that question — especially whether it’s a media or tech company — could be shaped in part by where it moves most of its operations. He reported that Mayer may move many of Yahoo’s media execs to New York, making it a place where it could pursue both its media and tech sides. Ad Age’s Jason Del Rey and Michael Learmonth said Yahoo’s future is in creating more high-quality products, an area in which it hasn’t spent much money recently.

Twitter moves further toward media: We were also asking the “What is it?” question this week about another company: Twitter. The Wall Street Journal reported (paywalled) on Twitter’s plans to build out around big events, as Twitter announced the first of those partnerships — a hub for curating conversation about the Olympics with NBCUniversal. Meanwhile, Adweek reported that Twitter is in talks with Hollywood producers about launching original web shows a la “The Real World.”

In a series of posts, GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram wrote about Twitter’s move toward being a media outlet, saying that it doesn’t really need media outlets such as NBCUniversal to coordinate event-based coverage, that Twitter is moving toward an Apple- or Facebook-esque “walled garden” approach with regard to developers, and that producing ad-driven content like web shows gets away from Twitter’s core aims.

Meanwhile, The New York Times’ Nick Bilton asked whether Twitter is a media or tech company, concluding that it looks an awful lot like a media company. NYU j-prof Jay Rosen posed that Twitter is “a new kind of media company that doesn’t make any content.” Slate’s Matt Yglesias said the media/tech distinction isn’t a good one — the real distinction is between companies that sell a product and ones that sell an audience, and Twitter is quite clearly the latter.

Reading roundup: Here are the most interesting smaller stories going on this week:

— A couple of updates on the ongoing News Corp. saga: Rupert Murdoch resigned from the board of News International, his British newspaper division, and Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast explained why Murdoch is loosening his grip on his newspapers. Meanwhile, former News International head Rebekah Brooks was charged in the phone hacking scandal, and the Telegraph wondered if the charges could lead to a deeper U.S. investigation. The New York Times wrote about the case’s impact on British newspaper culture.

— A few WikiLeaks developments: A judge ruled that the diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks are still secret, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted that U.S. government officials are now talking about the possibility of prosecuting news organizations like The New York Times in addition to WikiLeaks for publishing classified information. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram urged journalists to support WikiLeaks’ First Amendment rights, and the Times’ Bill Keller followed suit.

— Barry Diller, whose IAC now owns most of the Newsweek/Daily Beast partnership, said in an earnings call that he might eliminate part or all of Newsweek’s print edition as soon as the end of this year. Newsweek editor Tina Brown tried to calm her staff down, and the New York Observer’s Foster Kamer detailed the now-ended Sidney Harman era at the magazine.

— The New York Times Co. released its second-quarter figures this week and posted a loss, thanks to declining digital ad sales, even as digital subscriptions for the Times and its Boston Globe are up. As New York magazine’s Joe Coscarelli put up, the Times is beginning to be supported by its readers more than its advertisers.

— Finally, a very thoughtful piece here at the Lab from Jonathan Stray, who suggested three principles by which to design personalized news experiences: interest, effects, and agency.

Photos of Aurora theater by Algr, quotation mark by Quinn Dombrowski, and Yahoo ice sculpture by Randy Stewart used under a Creative Commons license.

July 26 2012

16:35

NBC Debuts "Multi-Platform News Organization" at London 2012 Olympics

The recent news that MSNBC.com has become NBCNews.com is much more than a name change, it means that all the digital resources of NBC News, its cable networks and owned televison are unified online as a new, "multi-platform news organization," explains Vivian Schiller, Chief Digital Officer of NBC News in this interview with Beet.TV

That new capability will be on display as NBC News covers the the London 2012 Olympics.  Coverage will be surfaced on NBC sites, social sites and via Storify, Schiller says.

Also in this interview, Schiller predicts the emergence of multi-screen consumpution of news.

We interviewed her Wednesday at the headquarters of NBC News in New York.

Andy Plesser

 

 

April 26 2012

13:12

How 'Screenularity' Will Destroy Television as We Know It

Yesterday I announced the next project I'm going to work on which will focus on mobile news consumption. As a result, I've been thinking a lot about screens.

In the future, consumers will not make a distinction between their television, phone or computer screens. The only difference will be the size of each screen, its placement and, therefore, what you most likely do with it. 

iphone sky.jpg

But one will not call the handheld-sized screen their "mobile phone." That you might use it to make phone calls will be happenstance. You will just as easily make a call on the 15-inch screen at your desk or the 40-inch screen in the living room.

Let's call this future moment the "Screenularity." It is the moment in the future when, as a consumer, there's no distinction in functionality between the various screens we interact with. Much like Matt Thompson's "Speakularity," this will be a watershed moment for how we consume information and, therefore, journalism.

THE DEATH KNELL OF TELEVISION

For the entire television industry as we know it, this will be a back-breaking moment. It's not a question of "if" but "when." We see early signs of it in Netflix and Hulu, but the cracks in the dam haven't even started to show. For national broadcast journalism organizations like CNN, Fox and MSNBC, it will create a lot of disruption. For local broadcast journalism, it will leave them utterly decimated. 

Local broadcast journalism simply has no added value when compared with the wealth of information on the Internet. They rely on personality-less hosts that talk at you (not with you). Combine this with high overhead to do local reporting about topics many people simply don't care about, and you can start to see how this looks bleak for local broadcast affiliates. Breaking news is broken. Local broadcast websites are offensively bad and nowhere near competing on the open web. Their continued existence relies on the fact that the majority of people still get their news from television. But once the Screenularity hits, that will no longer be the case. There won't be a "television" just various screens. People will get their "lean back" information from the same screen they can engage with. Dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria!

THEY'RE NOT HAVING THIS CONVERSATION

Whether you love or hate the "future of news" crowd, we should admit that it's painfully devoid of broadcast journalism. I am not 100 percent sure why. I've heard Jay Rosen give a decent explanation, and it can be summarized as: "They just don't care, it's not in their interest."

I'm not saying there aren't any folks within broadcast who are forward-thinking. But considering the disproportionate size of their organizations/budgets/audience to more traditional print mediums, they are painfully absent from conversations about the future of the industry. From what I can observe, the television journalism world has no interest in the future-of-news conversation, and their websites speak louder about this than any defense they could possibly make. This is dangerous, because the majority of people still get their news from local broadcast networks. There is no plan b. There is no fallout shelter.

A DANGEROUS IDEA

For this month's Carnival of Journalism the question is: "What's a dangerous idea to save journalism." Mine is the Screenularity. Local broadcast outfits need to operate as if it's here. I recognize this is dangerous, because it assumes that an industry will disrupt itself. That inherently means there will be danger involved. People will lose their jobs. Organizations will falter and crumble. But others will come out the other end and reinvent an industry on their own terms.

Media companies must become technology companies so they can create the platforms that define the type of media they produce. If they're the ones who create the platforms, they will continue to create media on their own terms.

If local news broadcasters don't embrace the Screenularity and create the platforms themselves, they'd better hope that somebody else does it for them. And "hope" is a horrible strategy. That's what leads to complaints about "Google" or "Craigslist" killing journalism. All they did was create platforms that define the type of media produced. If you aren't creating those platforms then you have no excuse to complain about the terms those organizations create.

April 19 2012

14:00

Socializing the Space Shuttle's Farewell

More than a decade ago, I was driving down a Tampa, Fla., street when I saw one of the most amazing things I'd ever seen -- and may ever see. A space shuttle, piggybacked on a jumbo jet, came out of nowhere and seemed to fill the entire sky. It was massive -- seeing it on TV was one thing, but seeing how incredibly big it was compared with its surroundings was staggering.

In those days, before social media, I could only tell my friends, not show them. So when I saw the recent Twitter chatter about the Discovery's farewell flight from Kennedy Space Center to Washington, D.C., where it will be displayed at the Smithsonian, I was elated. People could not only share what they saw -- they could share the experience itself.

personalizing a historic moment

News organizations used Twitter to let people know they were carrying it live. But once the 747 bearing the shuttle touched down, and the news cycle went back to normal, witnesses to history were still uploading fresh videos. Many showed how the fighter jet accompanying the flight looked as small as a housefly in comparison.

People shot photos and videos from rooftops, balconies, windows and the ground. Many videos posted on YouTube and other sites included dialog that captured the witnesses' exuberance and awe.

Everyone from members of Congress to us common folk took to Twitter to share their emotions. "Sad to see Discovery retire as it flies over DC," tweeted Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. "America needs a space program we can believe in again."

"Not when there are people on Earth who can be helped with all that money saved," replied one follower.

Hashtags including "SpotTheShuttle" and "Discovery" helped people follow conversations including words such as "beautiful," "incredible," "patriotic" and "amazing." Instagram pictures had effects that emphasized the event's historic nature.

But few things are so serious that they can't be put into an appropriately skewed perspective. When I see the Shuttle atop the 747, I can't help but think about a baby koala on its mother's back. Others take a more common-sense approach.

"If the shuttle can sit on a plane, I'm calling bullshit on overweight luggage," tweeted D.C. resident Alison McQuade.

People will have many more chances to shoot and share images of the Shuttle Discovery. But never again can photos be taken of it in flight. I for one am glad that social media exists to give us the opportunity to share and "socialize" the experience.

Terri Thornton, a former reporter and TV news producer, owns Thornton Communications, an award-winning PR and social media firm. She is also a freelance editor for Strategic Finance and Management Accounting Quarterly.

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April 16 2012

14:00

Minmini News Uses FrontlineSMS to Share Women's Social Knowledge in Sri Lanka

This post is a guest column written by FrontlineSMS user Ananda Galappatti, editor of Minmini News, a women's news network in Sri Lanka.

Minmini News.jpgMinmini News is a local SMS news service for women in the Batticaloa District of Eastern Sri Lanka. Batticaloa is the poorest district of Sri Lanka, still slowly emerging from the destruction of a three decade-long civil war that ended in 2009.

Throughout the war, and following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that struck Batticaloa's coastline, women played a crucial role in responding to the difficult circumstances that their families and communities had to endure. The same is true now, during the difficult recovery period after the war. However, the important concerns and remarkable experiences of women in Batticaloa are rarely reflected in the mainstream media that reaches their towns and villages. The news they receive, it seems, is not produced with them in mind.

Developing a model

In mid-2010, a small informal group associated with women's groups in Batticaloa decided to trial a model for sourcing, producing and sharing news relevant to women of the area. This model was tested through two pilot-testing phases in 2011, with small groups of 15-30 readers, who also served as the sources of news.

The data from the pilot phase showed that not only were readers overwhelming positive about the service, but that it exposed them to novel and useful information, and had some influence on their perspectives. Minmini Seithihal (translation: Firefly News) went public in August 2011.

The model tested continues to be used, and is directly based around sourcing news from the strong network of women community workers in different parts of the district. News information is collected, fact-checked, and written up in text messages by a central "news team" of one or two women. The prepared news messages can then be reviewed by an editor, and between one and three messages are sent out to readers (who subscribe to the service via text message) through FrontlineSMS each day.

Bringing meaning to events

Minmini News delivers a broad range of content to its readers. It provides information about public services relevant to women, as well as information relevant to livelihoods and cost of living. Minmini News also covers local crises, such as flood disasters or local conflicts between neighboring communities. In addition, it reports on services for gender-based violence and challenges faced by women in post-conflict recovery.

In all its coverage, Minmini News has tried to highlight the meaning that the events or processes have for the lives of women -- often drawing attention to individual stories to convey this. Rather than provide explicit editorial commentary on issues, typically a series of thematically related SMS stories are used to provide a series of factual reports for readers to interpret themselves. Stories are sourced from the team of volunteer "reporters," and also from readers.

The impact on readers and women

Independent interviews with readers and the women who have contributed to Minmini News have shown that the service is appreciated, and that it has changed relationships to consumption and sharing of news and information. One reader said, "It is difficult for me or others to go out and get news in our environment. Now we all have mobile phones in our hands, so it is good to get news from where we are [located]."

In another remarkable case, after hearing a news story via Minmini News, a community worker assisted a family to file a report on a woman who had been missing in the Middle East for over a year. When she was traced, it was found that she had been severely maltreated, and she was repatriated for care and recovery at home. Many of the effects of Minmini News are more subtle than this, but it's clear women subscribing to the service feel that the way they've engaged with mainstream media has changed, and they are more sensitive to issues related to women's lives and rights.

Learn More

Minmini News is now entering a new phase, with active recruitment of women readers in rural communities in Batticaloa, bringing new opportunities in terms of prospects for broader sources of news -- but also new challenges. To learn more about the model of this mobile news service, see some examples of content, and hear more about Minmini News' plans for the future, visit the FrontlineSMS blog.

Ananda Galappatti is a medical anthropologist and a practitioner in the field of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in situations of emergency and chronic adversity. He is a co-founder of the journal Intervention, the online network mhpss.net and the social business The Good Practice Group. Ananda lives in the town of Batticaloa on the East coast of Sri Lanka, where he volunteers as an editor for Minmini News.

March 29 2012

01:01

MIT's Jason Pontin: Media "Platform Agnosticism" is Dead, Long Live "Platform Committed"

VIEQUES, PR -- For media companies to succeed, they need to operate on the platforms they know best, not distribute content on places which are not their core businesses.

Instead of being "platform agnostic," they need to be "platform committed," says Jason Pontin, Editor-in-Chief of MIT's Technology Review, in summarizing one of the major themes explored at the Beet.TV Executive Retreat earlier this month.

The "death" of so-called platform agnosticism was put forth in the event's keynote address by Vivian Schiller, Chief Technology Officer of NBC News.

In this round-up, Pontin points to another major theme of the retreat, the progress around video search and discovery.

The Uniquess of the #BeetRetreat

In his column in today's MediaPost, Taboola CEO Adam Singolda writes about our extraordinary event in Vieques.  See our slide show of photos from the event below.

Andy Plesser

Editor's Note:  Many thanks to Jason for his help as a moderator and for his contributions as a participant.  AP

 

March 27 2012

14:00

How Media-Savvy Activists Report From the Front Lines in Syria

In Syria, many activists and citizen journalists fill a media void and contribute to the global conversation on the uprising there by capturing and sharing their own footage. They're organized, trained, smart, strategic, and promote media -- much of it mobile -- with a purpose.

banyas.jpg

Mass demonstrations and state violence continue in Syria. Authorities are largely banning foreign reporters and have arrested Syrian journalists and bloggers. Outside of the country, many news outlets that report on the major events there cite "Syrian activists" as the source of information. Day-to-day events in cities around the country come to our attention largely because of the activists and citizen journalists who are systematically providing information to news outlets worldwide.

Thus, perhaps the way the term "citizen journalism" has been used to date is a misnomer in the context of recent events in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain. Activists on the ground and online don't just happen to capture and record media because they're in the right place at the right time. Instead, they systematically gather, and strategically disseminate media.

It may be time for a new term -- "activist media" who are reporting from the front lines -- that describes the organized media campaigns waged by these activists in a place where traditional media is largely absent.

a media revolution

A report from Channel 4 News noted that a "a band of brand-new, out-of-nowhere, self-styled TV news reporters has sprung up in besieged Syrian cities," contributing to a media revolution. The article highlighted the video below, in which a video journalist from the Baba al-Sebaa area of Homs reported, all the while dodging bullets toward the end of the video.

But videos like these are more than just valuable content. They're part of a cogent global narrative from a well-informed and well-equipped group of activists who use mobile phones to live-stream, video record, Skype, and take photos in very strategic ways to provide witness and testimony to the events in Syria. They inform a public outside of the country, as well as reinforce activism in many areas within Syria, conveying the story of an opposition movement.

Most of the reporting is, of course, coming from the front lines. But organizations both in and outside of the country are offering support and training, with mainstream media outlets publishing and pushing citizen content to a larger global audience to help reinforce the narrative of the rebellion.

The media-savvy activists use a number of astute dissemination strategies: Photos and videos are shared across multiple platforms alongside additional text context or transcripts, and often have metadata such as time, date, and location stamps. Content is being uploaded hourly, and often live, on any number of social media sites, blogs and live-streaming video services like Bambuser. And where Internet or mobile network access are shut down, footage is collected and distributed via alternatives such as the old-fashioned sneakernet.

You can read the complete story here on the Mobile Media Toolkit. We highlight ways that activists and citizens are strategically capturing, crafting and sharing news, as well as the organizations that help support their work.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Syria-Frames-of-Freedom and licensed under Creative Commons. 

February 09 2012

20:44

CBS Interactive Readies Three-Day Grammy Build-up, Lands GM & Target as Sponsors

CBS is kicking off a robust slate of pre-Grammys programming online starting on Friday February 10 for the three days leading up to the music industry awards night on Sunday February 12, said Marc DeBevoise, Senior VP and General Manager, Entertainment, at CBS Interactive in this interview with Beet.TV

CBS has signed on Target and GM as the lead sponsors for the extended online coverage prior to the event.

CBS is also offering a Grammys mobile app for iPhones, iPads and Android devices. DeBevoise explained that the expanded online video and new media efforts serve two purposes -- they help promote the on-air telecast and also give CBS a chance to connect with viewers in a new way. The three-day online coverage includes live streaming of pre-Grammy events such as pre-show concerts.

He expects usage to peak during the three hours of live red carpet coverage before the award show itself. But once the awards show starts, viewers will need to tune into the broadcast channel.

Daisy Whitney

 

February 03 2012

14:23

Arianna Huffington's Vision of Interactive Video Journalism

The Huffington Post, which has galvanized a massive community of millions of content creators who engage via comments, "likes," tweets and thousands of guest blog posts, will soon participate in an ambitious linear video network, says Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media in this interview with Beet.TV

While produced in sophisticated studios in New York and Los Angeles with hosts and dedicated talent, a substantial part of the HuffPost Streaming Network will be integrating live, one-on-one and group dialogues and debates from the community, says Huffington.  

Lead stories will be open to participants joining the conversations via webcams, smart phones and tablets using Skype, Google+ Hangouts and other means.

At a news Manhattan press conference on Thursday, the company showed a demonstration of how multiple conversations are moderated by a host then coupled on a screen. 

The demo also showed a high degree of interactivity within the show screen - allowing viewers to click on social sharing tools and dynamic links to related content.  

Huffington says the show will launch with 12 hours of daily programming this summer, eventually going to 24 hours.   Surely creating compelling programming on this scale is not a small task.   if Huffington can galvanize participation around video as she has around text, this could be big.

Coming later today will be our interview with HuffPost co-founder and video chief Roy Sekoff.  For more on the launch, read this piece by David Kaplan of TVExchanger

Andy Plesser

Disclosure:  Beet.TV has a video syndication arrangement with AOL, the parent of Huffington Post Media.

 

 

Tags: Media

January 21 2012

16:08

Where Gutenberg worked

I took a detour on a trip to Europe so I could visit Mainz and the Gutenberg Museum, having become obsessed with the great man and his magnificent disruption as both an inventor and an entrepreneur.

It was awe-inspiring to stand before the first known page of his printing (a snippet from the Sibylline prophesy, found in the binding of another book). It’s not beautiful; betas rarely are. But next to it is the culmination of Gutenberg’s art in three of his his Bibles, his masterpieces.

Another case captured my imagination. In it were the indulgences the Catholic Church could make and sell at scale, thanks to printing. Next to them were three of Martin Luther’s pamphlets, which he could also print at scale and it is that scale that enabled him to so disrupt the Church.

Also in that case were political broadsides printed by Gutenberg’s successors–his funder, Johann Fust, who called the startup’s debt and took over the business–in a battle between two bishops in Mainz. I write in Public Parts:

The press quickly made an impact on the political structure of society. According to Albert Kapr’s definitive biography, Johann Gutenberg: The Man and his Invention, among the earliest nonreligious publications produced in the great man’s shop by his successors—Johann Fust and his son-in-law Peter Schöffer—were political pamphlets. A series of broadsides from each side of a church fight to control the city of Mainz were published on the same presses in 1461, demonstrating from the start that this tool of publicness, like most to follow, was neutral and agnostic. “All these pamphlets were aimed at gaining public support for the respective protagonists and defaming their opponents,” Kapr writes. “To the matériel of warfare—halberds, rapiers, swords, harquebuses and cannon—psychological weapons had been added, which could be delivered by means of the printing press.” Here we see publishing’s nascent role in the birth of media, propaganda and the public sphere they would influence.

On another floor was an exhibit about newspapers and their predecessors, including small publications called posts. Pardon my blog-centric view of that, but I quite like that on blogs, we also have posts. I was struck by the continuum of media on display there and the reminder that neither print nor newspapers were forever; they were each invented. Each may be replaced. Soon, I’ll post a piece I’ve been working on about Gutenberg as probably the first technology entrepreneur. In it, I note that printing by impressing ink on paper may be seeing its twilight, replaced by ink-jet technologies just as photography on paper has been replaced by digital.

Mind you, books and printing will not disappear. After my visit to the museum, I had the great privilege of having lunch with Bertram Schmidt-Friderichs, thanks to a connection made via Twitter by his wife and partner, Karin Schmidt-Friderichs. They run a wonderful small press, Verlag Hermann Schmidt Mainz, publishing and printing beautiful small books about art and typography. Where better in the world to do that? Bertram said that books will continue but as special, premium products. I agree. In that, they recapture Gutenberg’s original vision of print as beauty.

At the museum, I was lucky to be around as a TV crew was filming a demonstration of the technologies in Gutenberg’s pressroom. The press already existed for olives, grapes, and paper; Gutenberg had to adapt it for printing. Ink already existed, of course, but Gutenberg had to adapt that, too, to his needs. But his critical and unsung invention was the hand-held mold that enabled Gutenberg to make fonts–thousands of letters needed for the Bible–quickly and consistently. It required ingenious design and no small expertise in metallurgy and I was delighted to finally see one in action, below.

IMG_1220

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