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October 08 2011


Starbucks rolls out free WiFi in the UK

The Next Web :: Starbucks is rolling out free WiFi to 650 locations in the UK. Whereas previously, a Starbucks card and a log-in was required for free WiFi access, from today anyone can jump on the chain’s network freely. Starbucks confirmed the move in a tweet today, saying that hundreds of its locations were covered by the move, so this isn’t a complete country-wide rollout as yet.

Continue to read Martin Bryant, thenextweb.com

August 28 2011


In the age of information accessibility but without access information is still tragically "rare"

Niemanlab :: Over the past few years, the fledgling field of the digital humanities has made significant strides with a number of ambitious digitization projects bringing online rare cultural artifacts — manuscripts, canvases, celluloid, marginalia — that used to rot away in institutional archives. But while these efforts, both government-subsidized and privately initiated, may have made a wealth of information accessible, it’s an entirely different story to ask how many people these materials have reached — how many people have actually gained access to them — and it’s one that harks back to the shifting relationship between scarcity and value.

[Maria Popova, Niemanlab:] Because in a culture where abundance has replaced scarcity as our era’s greatest information problem, without these human sensemakers and curiosity sherpas, even the most abundant and accessible information can remain tragically “rare.”

Continue to read Maria Popova, www.niemanlab.org

December 10 2010


Massachusetts to Allow Live Twittering, Blogging in Courts

A big step forward took place this week for Order in the Court 2.0. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced a major proposal to change the state's "Cameras in the Courtroom statute", SJC Rule 1:19. Everything you'd want to know about the change is reflected in the name of the new rule. It's now called "Electronic Access to the Courts."

The current "cameras in the courtroom" statute applied to what are now considered mainstream media. Media with prior notification to the court were allowed to record audio, video and still images from the courts. The statute allows for one still camera and one videotape camera in a set position in the courtroom. Members of the media pool the material gathered in court and distribute it amongst themselves based upon mutually agreed upon rules. The court is not involved in the distribution of this material.

The proposed rule takes into consideration the new technological and journalistic realities that currently exist. The rule also expands the definition of media. In addition to mainstream news sources, the new rule allows "organizations that regularly gather, prepare, photograph, record, write, edit, report or publish news or information about matters of public interest for dissemination to the public, and to journalists who regularly perform a similar function."

In other words, web news editors, reporters and bloggers would have the same privileges as traditional media outlets. In addition to electronic recording devices like still and video cameras, journalists will be able to use their laptops and smartphones to cover the state's courts. The journalists will be allowed to transmit text, audio and video through these devices allowing them to provide live coverage of the courts.

All members of the media, large and small, would be required to register with the state's chief public information officer. The registration requires that the member of the media comply with the rules outlined in the new statute and that they regularly report news in some form. The statute is intentionally broad in its definition of what constitutes a member of the media and allows the state court's public information officer to make the final determination.

h2. The Making of Rule 1:19

Generally speaking, the writing of new laws is often compared to the sausage making process. As a member of the subcommittee for the state's Supreme Judicial Court Judicial-Media Committee that wrote the amendment to the rule, I can tell you this wasn't the case.

In addition to me, the subcommittee was made up of representatives from Boston's two major dailies, the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, as well as representatives from the Associated Press, WCVB-TV and Lawyer's Weekly. Representing the state's non-mainstream media was Adam Gaffin, the editor of Universal Hub, one of the city's most prolific and respected news blogs. Also on the subcommittee were state judges, clerks and lawyers representing courts across the Commonwealth.

Here are the three main topics of the discussion over the roughly six months that it took to come up with the proposed rule change.

1. Electronic Equipment
The conversation on this topic focused on the kind of equipment that would be permitted in court. It was quickly agreed that whatever technology that was introduced inside, the courtroom would maintain the decorum necessary for the judicial process to take place. That means turning off the ringers on mobile phones. Laptops are be permitted as long as the sound of a clacking keyboard is not disruptive. Also, an additional camera position will be provided for non-mainstream media so that these journalists can be afforded the same electronic access as their mainstream counterparts. The use of smartphones will be permitted for texting and photographing the activity going on in court.

2. Who is a Journalist?
This discussion was very involved and thoughtful. It was gratifying to see how important it was for all members of the committee to broaden the definition of who would be permitted to cover the courts. In my opinion, members of the court have an unfair reputation for limiting access to court proceedings. The primary concern of the court is that the public's right to be informed does not interfere with the public's right to a fair trial. All the representatives from the court on the committee felt very strongly that what goes on in court is made as public as possible.

Over the course of many conversations, it was determined that a member of the media would have to establish that they regularly cover the courts or cover news associated with court proceedings. The greatest concern on the part of the judiciary is that a party involved with one aspect of a particular case or issue before the court would present themselves as members of the media. The concern of the judges and clerks was that these individuals could potentially disrupt court proceedings. The greatest fear around this issue came from judges who worked in the family court. They have seen cases of husbands coming into the court claiming to be members of the media who attempt to intimidate or disrupt the court's business. The members of the judiciary were concerned that greater access could create an environment that could exacerbate this problem.

3. Registration vs. Certification
Most of this discussion centered around whether journalists would have to register or be certified by the court. It took a while to get consensus on this issue. Members of the legal community and representatives from the judiciary felt it made sense to require advanced certification before a journalist could report from court. They felt this certification process would increase the accountability of the media working in the courtroom. Members of the media felt it would create unnecessary barriers of entry into the courts. The members of the media were concerned with who would be in charge of certification, and the criteria that would be used to grant certification.

Over several meetings, the members of the subcommittee agreed that registration would be a more streamlined process. Many of us on the committee envisioned the process as similar to how one registers to use a new piece of software. An individual would be required to provide contact information, to demonstrate that they are acting as a legitimate member of the media, and agree to comply with the rules that preserve the rights of individuals before the court. Though the registration process seems like a distinction without much of a difference from certification, the subcommittee agreed that it would increase access to the courts, which after all was the purpose of this rule in the first place.

Now What?

The proposed rule to change Rule 1:19 now is open to public comment until January 28, 2011. You can register your thoughts in the comment section of this blog, but you should also let the courts know how you feel about the proposed rule by going here.

In my next post, I'll write about the impact the amended Rule 1:19 will have on Order in the Court 2.0. You can get a preview of its impact on the project in an interview I did with Lawyers Weekly. You can can also read related coverage from WBUR.

July 02 2010


This Week in Review: Weigel and new journalism values, Google News gets personal, and Kos’ poll problem

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

Finding a place for a new breed of journalist: Laura touched on the resignation of Washington Post reporter Dave Weigel in last week’s review, and several of the questions she raised were ones people have been batting around in the week since then. Here’s what happened (and for those of you looking for a more narrative version, Jay Rosen has you covered via audio): Weigel, who writes a blog for the Post on the conservative movement, wrote a few emails on an off-the-record journalists’ listserv called Journolist bashing a few members of that movement (most notably Matt Drudge and Ron Paul). Those emails were leaked, the conservative blogosphere went nuts, and Weigel apologized, then resigned from the Post the next day. Journolist founder Ezra Klein shut the listserv down, and Weigel was apologetic in his own postmortem of the situation, attributing his comments to hubris toward conservatives designed to get other journalists to like him.

This was The Flap That Launched A Thousand Blog Posts, so I’ll be sticking to the journalistic angles that came up, rather than the political ones. A lot of those issues seemed to come back to two posts by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg that included attacks on Weigel by anonymous Post staffers, the tone of which is best summed up by Goldberg’s own words: “The sad truth is that the Washington Post, in its general desperation for page views, now hires people who came up in journalism without much adult supervision, and without the proper amount of toilet-training.” (Goldberg did quickly back down a bit.) Fellow Post blogger Greg Sargent defended Weigel (and Klein, a young Post blogger who’s an outspoken liberal) by arguing that just because they express opinions doesn’t make them any less of a reporter. New media guru Jeff Jarvis decried the “myth of the opinionless man” that Weigel was bound to, and Salon’s Ned Resnikoff called for the end of neutral reporting, urging journalists to simply disclose their biases to the public instead.

Several other observers posited that many of the problems with this situation stemmed from a false dichotomy between “reporting” and “opinion.” That compartmentalization was best expressed by Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander, who asked of the Post’s bloggers, “Are they neutral reporters or ideologues?” (He proposed that the Post have one of each cover conservatives.) The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf said the Post is imposing binary categories on its reporters that don’t fit real life, when the two in fact aren’t mutually exclusive. Blogging historian and former Salon editor Scott Rosenberg made a similar point, suggesting Post “simply lets them be bloggers — writers with a point of view that emerges, post by post.” The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait pointed out that the Post has created a type of writer that it doesn’t know what to do with, while Jim Henley offered a helpful definition of the “blog-reporter ethos” that those writers embody.

Finally, a few other points well worth pondering: Nate Silver, whose opinionated political blog FiveThirtyEight just got picked up by The New York Times, marveled at how much more outrageous the response seemed to be than the comments themselves and wondered if even opinions expressed in private are now considered enough to disqualify a reporter. John McQuaid saw the episode as evidence that journalism traditionalists and the “view from nowhere” political press still rule in Washington, and the Columbia Journalism Review’s Greg Marx saw in the conflict a backlash against a new generation of journalists who emphasize personal voice, as well as “an opportunity to establish a new set of journalistic values” — fair-mindedness and intellectual honesty backed by serious reporting, rather than a veneer of impartiality.

Google News gets a makeover: For the first time since it was launched in 2002, Google News got a significant redesign this week. Now, a little ways down from the top of the page is what Google called “the new heart of the homepage” — a personalized “News for you” section. That area can be adjusted to highlight or hide subjects, individual news topics, or certain news sources. The redesign is also emphasizing its Spotlight section of in-depth stories, as well as user-bookmarked stories. Search Engine Land has a nice visual overview of what’s changed.

The Lab’s Megan Garber also has a helpful summary of the changes, noting that “the new site is trying to balance two major, and often conflicting, goals of news consumption: personalization and serendipity.” All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka wondered how many people are actually going to take the time to customize their page, under the idea that anybody news-savvy enough to do so is probably getting their news through a more comprehensive source like RSS or Twitter. Jay Rosen wanted to know what news sources people choose to see less of. Meanwhile, in an interview with MediaBistro, Google News lead engineer Krishna Bharat gave a good picture of where Google News has been and where it’s heading. And it’s worth noting that the comments we’ve gotten on the change have been wildly negative.

A possible polling fraud revealed: For the past year and a half, the liberal political blog Daily Kos has been running a weekly poll, something that’s reasonably significant because, well, it’s a blog doing something that only traditional news organizations have historically done. This week, Kos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga wrote that he will be suing Research 2000, the company that conducted the polls for the blog. The decision was based on a report done by three independent analysts that found some serious anomalies that seem to be indicators that polls might be fraudulent. Zuniga renounced his work based on Research 2000’s polls and said, “I no longer have any confidence in any of it, and neither should anyone else.”

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent detailed the planned suit, including a clear accusation from Kos’ lawyer that the polls were fraudulent, not just sloppy: “They handed us fiction and told us it was fact. … It’s pretty damn clear that numbers were fabricated, and that the polling that we paid for was not performed.” Research 2000 president Del Ali asserted the properness of his polls, and his lawyer called the fraud allegation “absurd” and threatened to countersue. Polling expert Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, who began his blog as a Kos commenter, echoed the study’s concerns, then was hit with a cease-and-desist letter from Research 2000’s attorney. Meanwhile, Yahoo’s John Cook laid out Research 2000’s troubled financial history.

This may seem like just a messy he-said, she-said lawsuit involving two individual organizations, but as Sargent and The New York Times pointed out, Research 2000’s work is cited by a number of mainstream news organizations (including the Post), and this could cause people to begin asking serious questions about the reliability of polling data. As trust in journalistic institutions wanes, the para-journalistic institution of polling may be about to take a big credibility hit here, too.

How much do reporters need to disclose?: Conversation about last week’s Rolling Stone story on Gen. Stanley McChrystal continued to trickle out, especially regarding that tricky relationship between journalists and their sources. CBS foreign correspondent Lara Logan stoked much of it when she criticized the article’s author, Michael Hastings, for being dishonest about his intentions and violating an unspoken agreement not to report the informal banter of military officials. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald saw the argument as a perfect contrast between adversarial watchdog journalism and journalism built on access, and Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi came out firing with a characteristically inspired rant against Logan’s argument: “According to Logan, not only are reporters not supposed to disclose their agendas to sources at all times, but in the case of covering the military, one isn’t even supposed to have an agenda that might upset the brass!”

The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson backed Taibbi up, but DailyFinance’s Jeff Bercovici rapped Taibbi’s knuckles for his disregard for the facts. Military and media blogger Jamie McIntyre found a spot in between Logan and Taibbi in ruling on their claims point by point. Politico takes a look at the entire discussion, paying special attention to how relationships work for other military reporters and what this flap might mean for them in the future. On another angle, the Lab’s Jason Fry used the story to examine whether the fragmentation of content is going to end up killing some news brands.

Reading roundup: We’ve had a longer-than-usual review this week, so I’ll fly through some things and get you on your way to the weekend. There’s still some really fascinating stuff to get to, though:

— A newly released Harvard study found that newspapers overwhelmingly referred to waterboarding as torture until the George W. Bush administration began defining it as something other than torture, at which point their description of it became much less harsh. (They still largely described it as torture when other countries were doing it, though.) The study prompted quite a bit of anger about the American media’s “craven cowardice” and subservience to government, as well as its unwillingness to “express opinion” by calling a spade a spade. James Joyner noted that it’s complicated and The New York Times said that calling it torture was taking sides, though the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent said not calling it torture is taking a side, too.

— I was gone last week, so I didn’t get a chance to highlight this thoughtful post by the Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf on what it takes to replace the local beat reporter. As for the newspaper itself, the folks at Reason gave you a section-by-section guide to replacing your daily newspaper.

— Finally, in the you-must-bookmark-this category: Former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee put together an indispensable glossary of tech terms for journalists. Whether you’re working on the web or not, I’d advise reading it and digging deeper into any of the terms you still don’t quite understand.

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