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August 21 2012


Why Did So Many News Outlets Not Link to Pussy Riot Video?

The Russian punk band Pussy Riot must have done something really bad to merit a possible seven years in prison, I figured. Finding all descriptions of their behavior to be filled with euphemism, I wanted to see their offensive behavior myself.

Who do you turn to when you want to see the world as it is, rather than the world as others tell you it is? My parents would have turned on network television. Or read the Progress-Bulletin or Daily Report. I went to YouTube and searched for "PussyRiot" and watched what struck me as the video of the actions I had heard about second- and third-hand. The video, I thought, was edited in such a way that made both the church and the band look like victims, depending on your point of view. To me, that was a good indication of its authenticity.

But I don't really know, and I trust sources like the New York Times, and especially its reporters on the ground in Moscow, to tell me whether what I'm really seeing is accurate. So I next went to nytimes.com and its story. The Times had links to videos. But a quick look around the other five top news sites in the U.S showed that it was the only popular publication that linked to the videos of the band's action that landed it in prison for three months while awaiting trial. So why was the Times the only source to have linked to the video? And what does that news organization's unusual behavior mean?

a lack of links

The other sites -- Yahoo News, Huffington Post, ABC News, NBC News and USA Today -- failed me. These are sites that are both praised and vilified as "aggregators" or "MSM." But all made the same editorial decision -- and didn't help their audience see the key fact of this case for itself.

But I wonder why the link wasn't made? The people who work there are professionals. And I have no reason to believe they are more or less immoral than I am.

Going back more than a decade, academic studies have found that few news stories actually link to source information. In 2001, one in 23 stories about the Timothy McVeigh execution linked to external sources. And a 2010 study indicates that U.S. journalists are less inclined to link to foreign sources than domestic sources, with fewer than 1 percent of foreign new stories on U.S. news sites containing links in their stories.

So, why?

Two prominent academic studies seem to indicate that the presence of inbound and outbound links increase credibility in both professional and amateur sites. Are professional journalists unaware of those studies? Are they aware, but think they're bunk?

One study indicates that journalists don't link because they are concerned about the financial implications -- that users who leave the site will not return to drive up ad impressions. Another seems to indicate that U.S. journalists are particularly skeptical of foreign sources of news because they are less confident of their own ability to judge the credibility of foreign sources.

enhancing credibility

From my experience in online newsrooms, both those findings seem plausible. But they also seem incomplete. My own additional hypothesis is that hyperlinking has been left primarily to automation and that editors and reporters who've been asked for the last decade to "do more with less" have decided that links to original source material -- which, at least according to a few studies, enhance their credibility, are not worth their time.

But other studies have shown that hyperlinks in the text of a story distract readers -- even the small percentage of readers who click on the links -- and reduce reading comprehension. That said, I suspect the journalists who didn't include links to the Pussy Riots videos are completely unaware of such studies (which are summarized nicely throughout Nicholas Carr's book "The Shallows."

If there's credit to be given in The New York Times' decision to include the links in the story, then it goes to the reporter in Moscow, David Herzenhorn, according to three sources who work at the Times. The role that Herzenhorn played is important. This was a task not left to an editor or producer in New York, but one that the Moscow correspondent took upon himself. The links add to his credibility.

"I have to say I am completely floored that other news organizations would not link to the videos, since they explain so much about the story," Kyle Crichton, the editor who worked on the story, wrote to me in response to an email query.

My rather slack Friday afternoon efforts to obtain comment from other news organizations that didn't link to the videos yielded no responses. I still hope to hear from them in hopes of understanding whether the lack of links was merely an oversight or a conscious omission. Herzenhorn also did not reply to my email on late Friday.

The reporter -- and at this point he, rather than his employer, deserves credit for the links -- selected the more popular Russian-language versions on YouTube rather than the English subtitled versions, which had fewer views but would be more useful to the Times' English-language audience.

"There is some profanity on the soundtrack, so I presume that is why David chose not to include [the videos with English subtitles]," Crichton said in his email to me. "That strikes me as fair, since the text isn't as important as the overall spectacle of their 'performance.'"

the political impact of linking

I also wondered what the political impact of including such links might be. I've had
newsroom conversations about whether linking to a source constitutes endorsement. The modern version of this is manifested in newsroom social media policies that discourage journalists from re-tweeting information from sources and in Twitter bios that say "RT ≠ endorsement."

I teach my students, and write in Chapter 7 of "Producing Online News," that links in a story are akin to quotes. You're responsible for the facts of the source's statement, but not the opinions. And stories without links today seem as incomplete as stories without quotes from named sources have always been.

In foreign stories, though, links to banned material could have an effect on both the news
organization's ability to distribute news and on its reporters' ability to collect it. Crichton wasn't concerned.

"I don't think our including the videos will have any impact on our future ability to report in Russia," Crichton said in his email to me. "If it were Iran, maybe, but Russia isn't like that, yet."

What discussion to you have in your newsroom about including or excluding links? If you aren't having any, consider consulting with -- and funding -- the mass communication researchers who can help you make your journalism more credible, more memorable and more useful.

Related links:

April 15 2012


Nervous Kremlin seeks to purge Russia's internet of 'western' influences

Guardian :: Unlike other media, the Internet in Russia, has developed largely untouched by the arm of the state. The protests have prompted many to wonder: is that about to change? "It's too late to change things," said Anton Nossik, an internet guru. "Kids are now born into the internet and grew up in the internet. Like it or not, you have to embrace it." That is the view of most internet observers in Russia: that it's too late, and too technologically complicated, to institute a China-style firewall.

[Miriam Elder:] Unlike Vladimir Putin, many Russians have taken to the internet with great enthusiasm. Now liberals and gay rights activists are among those feeling the heat from the Kremlin.

Continue to read Miriam Elder, www.guardian.co.uk

Tags: Russia
Sponsored post

April 12 2012


China, India, Brazil, Russia, South Africa: Are they building legal barriers to social media?

Stuart Thomas wrote a niece overview about social media in: China, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa.

memeburn :: Are emerging market countries, notably the BRICS, clamping down on internet freedoms? Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vincent Cerf warned last year of an “authoritarian” trend particularly among certain emerging market countries.


Continue to read Stuart Thomas, memeburn.com

January 28 2012



INNOVATION is right now working with our Media Architects of Calau&Riera in Barcelona and our international network of Newsroom Management Consultants in almost a dozen of new integrated multimedia newsrooms, in United States, Latin America, Europe, and Middle East.

Watch here a short video clip with the key-elements of these “information-engine” and “digital first” multimedia newsrooms.

(In the picture, the Russian Ria Novosti super desk in Moscu)

December 19 2011


“I Am Putin’s Propaganda”, interviews with Russian journalists

OWNI :: Is it possible to challenge censors without losing your livelihood? Polina Bykhovskaya interviews the Russia men and women who wanted to change the world but ended up in the business of job preservation (their's and Putin's).

[Journalist A, working at NTV, owned by state gas behemoth Gazprom ]When you say ‘TV channel’, you assume a community of people. But there is no such communality, there is a divergence of interests. There is the management, who want to cover their backs, there are the compliant journalistic ‘bureaucrats’ and there are the partisans like us who are only tolerated because they liven up the pages. And ratings matter to the management.

Continue to read Polina Bykhovskaya, owni.eu

December 10 2011


Twitter, Facebook fuel anti-Putin protests in Russia

Forbes :: Anti-Putin protestors in Russia are using social media to organize demonstrations, continuing a worldwide trend in leveraging the Internet to effect political change. Monday’s protest in Moscow over alleged election fraud drew 5,000 people, a record number made possible by Facebook, Twitter and the Russian blogosphere.

Continue to read www.forbes.com


Russian protesters get Twitter-bombed

Discovery News :: As the protests in Russia demanding new parliamentary elections mount, Twitter-based chatter about them is being drowned out by PCs hijacked by hackers, say security experts. The pro-government messages were generated by thousands of Twitter accounts that had little activity beforehand. The hashtag is #триумфальная (Triumfalnaya), the name of the square where many protesters gathered.

Continue to read Jesse Emspak, news.discovery.com

October 08 2011


#СПАСИБОПУТИНУЗАЭТО - Putin's birthday triggers Twitter flash mob

IBN :: LiRussian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who celebrated his 59th birthday on Friday, caused a Twitter flash mob with a hashtag devoted to his birthday topping the world's trends. The hashtag #СПАСИБОПУТИНУЗАЭТО, which can be translated as "thank Putin for that," appeared early Friday when the pro-Kremlin United Russia party's member, Vladimir Burmatov, decided to congratulate the premier with the ironic tweet: "The summer hasn't left Moscow yet, thank Putin for that."

Continue to read Dan Frommer, ibnlive.in.com

July 20 2011


Stop Human Trafficking in Russia: Video your App Idea and Enter the Challenge

NetHope, in partnership with USAID, GBI, and DNA, recently launched the Stop Human Trafficking App Challenge. This contest draws upon the thriving culture of innovation in Russia to respond to one of today’s most pressing development challenges – sex and labor trafficking. The contestants are invited to compete in a skills-based challenge to design and build innovative and functional mobile applications.

Target a Human Trafficking Issue

The application should be used to raise public awareness of trafficking, educate at-risk people, or provide services to victims and survivors. This contest is specifically designed for residents and organizations from Russia and Eastern European countries. To see the full list of countries and learn more about the eligibity criteria, visit the NetHope website. You can also follow the twitter hashtag for the challenge (#StopHTapp) to monitor challenge progress and engage in discussions around it.

Participate in the Challenge

The challenge participants are asked to

  1. Come up with a new mobile phone app idea
  2. Fill in the application brief
  3. Upload a two-minute video that demonstrates the functionality of the application

Work for Change and Win Big

One winning application will be implemented by an organization working to combat trafficking in Russia. There are also two cash awards for the winning apps. The grand prize equals US$15,000. The winner of the first prize will receive an amount equaling US$15,000. In addition, both winners will travel to the Annual Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September 2011.

We keep our fingers crossed for you!

July 02 2011


Europe - Germany leads online video viewing

ClickZ :: Internet users in Germany view more online video than in other major markets across the continent, according to data from comScore. Among the territories currently reported in the firm's Video Metrix measurement service, 44.9m unique viewers in the country watched online video, and also spent 19.6 hours viewing it than in any other during the month of April. Second in unique viewers is Russia 39,8m unique viewers in April, 2011.

Published July 1, 2011 

Continue to read Jack Marshall, www.clickz.com

June 14 2011


6m in the U.S, 1.52m in Canada, ... . Facebook's losing customers

Business Insider :: Something strange is going on: Facebook is losing customers. Lots of customers. According to Inside Facebook's data service, Facebook lost 6 million users in the U.S. in one month, dropping from 155.2 million to 149.4 million. It also lost 1.52 million users in Canada, dropping to 16.6 million -- that's an 8% drop, and 100,000 each in the U.K., Norway, and Russia.

Matt Rosoff, Business Insider: "But big drops in the countries where Facebook first became popular can't be good news -- it suggests that there is a saturation point where people begin to burn out on the service."

Via @GibranAshraf

Continue to read Matt Rosoff, www.businessinsider.com

June 02 2011


CPJ’s 2011 Impunity Index: where journalists are slain and killers go free

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) :: Russia and Mexico, two of the world’s most murderous countries for the press, are heading in different directions in combating deadly anti-press violence. CPJ's Impunity Index found improvement in Russia as journalist murders ebbed but deadly anti-press violence continued to climb in Mexico.

Clipped from: cpj.org (share this clip)

The Committee to Project Journalists' Impunity Index calculates unsolved journalist murders as a percentage of each country’s population.

Continue to read cpj.org

January 13 2011


SochiReporter Becomes Major Russian Media Player in 2010

2010 was a very good year for us at SochiReporter SochiReporter.ru. In late December we took time to analyze the year's achievements and, to be frank, I was excited about the list of various activities SochiReporter initiated or participated in.

Of course, I try to be cautious about praising myself and our team too much, as satisfaction is always a killer of development and a friend of stagnation. The undeniable good news, however, is that SochiReporter launched in the fall of 2009 and we managed to reach some serious heights in 2010, especially on the marketing side of the product.

SochiReporter is a citizen journalism platform that reports on the preparations for the Olympics, by the people and for the people. As a result of our efforts, the site is today one of the most advanced websites in Sochi, especially when it comes to interactive tools, features, and design. Its possibilities and potential are enormous and still to be realized in many ways. SochiReporter is the best Drupal website in Sochi and one of the best Drupal sites in all of Russia, according to the Russian Drupal community and the local programming community. Right from the start, the project was designed to be much more than just a blog, or a news wire; we envisioned it as a multi-functional tool that can also be an educational platform. SochiReporter is the first global initiative to build a unified digital archive of the multimedia resources about the preparation of the host city for the Olympics.

Stories about the transformation of the city were abundant in 2010. Just recently we received a report about the demolition of the "iron flea market," where an office and shopping center will soon be built. Citizen reporters are able to express how these kinds of changes affect the daily lives of residents.

2010 Highlights

SochiReporter enjoyed wide media coverage from both traditional and online media. Our site was featured in about 300 online media articles, 13 TV reports (that were aired 30 times), and over 20 newspaper stories. Here's a quick list of some of the key activities I engaged in over the past year:

  • I organized roundtables and participated in a number of professional conferences, presenting SochiReporter in Russia and worldwide.
  • I negotiated with and attracted our first partners.
  • I worked to raise the number of users, utilizing social media and other platforms to spread the word.
  • I communicated with potential advertisers, delivering presentations in their offices and meeting with them in other venues.
  • I worked to diversify the number of topics covered on the website, and increase the brand awareness nationally and globally.

To put it in a nutshell, my activities were aimed at strengthening our young brand.

sochireporter gpics.bmp

And here's a look back at some of the highlights from 2010:

January: Cooperating with McDonald's
SochiReporter supported McDonald's International Child Day on November 20. The Ronald McDonald Foundation is working to open child-care rooms in Russian hospitals all over the country (about 10 rooms are already open). SochiReporter, along with just a few other media outlets, helped with charity activities that raised 10 million rubles towards opening three more rooms in three other Russian cities. We partnered with McDonald's for a similar project early this year.

January: A Mobile Journalist School for the Students of Sochi
We organized a two-day seminar offering tips on how to blog, use social networking, and generate content. Professors from the faculty of journalism at Moscow State University took part as lecturers.

February: Sochi Winter Music Conference
SochiReporter was selected to be a media partner of the fifth Sochi Winter Music Conference, a two-day business forum and three-day music program. SWMC brings together well-known figures in show business, music journalists, DJs, producers, promoters, record company owners and managers, radio and TV presenters, brand managers, and music festival organizers. These creative, active and talented people are also sophisticated web users. Thanks to this collaboration, all of the 1,500 participants left with a SochiReporter leaflet in their conference bag.

February: Winter Olympics in Vancouver
SochiReporter participated in the Fresh Media Olympics conference. I Skyped into the conference from Sochi to connect with the dozens of bloggers and citizen reporters who gathered to cover the Winter Olympics.

June: Kinotavr
SochiReporter was selected to be the media partner of Russia's second largest film festival, Kinotavr. We were the only Sochi media to be named a media partner. (Other media partners were big Moscow-based media outlets as the Channel 5, STS, Hello! Magazine, etc.).

June: MIT Center for Future Civic Media Conference
This conference was one of the highlights of the year. After attending, I spent a week in Nebraska as the first Innovator in Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Journalism School, where I met with students and faculty members and presented SochiReporter.

October: Abandon Normal Devices
I presented SochiReporter at the Abandon Normal Devices festival of new cinema and digital culture in Manchester, U.K. I also participated in the one-day #Media2012 conference.

October: Paralympics Action
SochiReporter reporters organized Paralympics Action to spread knowledge about the Paralympics and the Paralympic values in Sochi. This event was also aimed at supporting the creation of an accessible environment for disabled people. SochiReporter will continue to work on this important theme.

English Translation, Roundtables, Mapping
In 2010, SochiReporter started translating citizen journalists' posts into English. We also organized a number of roundtable discussions, including one on how residents of the city can unite on the web to fight smoking. I also spoke at a World Health Organization anti-smoking symposium in Sochi, I also moderated a roundtable on user-generated content at Michigan State University. Participants were the heads of seven leading Russian Internet sites. We continued our collaboration with Kodak, which saw digital cameras given to our citizen reporters. We also worked with Kodak to outline a Moscow replica of SochiReporter. Finally, back in Sochi, we initiated and fostered the creation of the OpenStreetMap of Sochi, which you can see below.


I hope 2011 is just as exciting and eventful.

December 01 2010


State-run papers from China and Russia buy convincing advertorial sections on the WaPo’s website

Clicking around the Washington Post, you stumble onto the types of stories you’d expect a national newspaper to cover, like “Judges free homeowners from foreclosure mess” or “Obama reaches out in Indonesia.” But then you might come across something like “A panda dream that comes true,” a story about young people from around the world becoming “pandassadors” on a panda breeding reserve in China. One of those stories is just not quite like the others. And there’s a good reason. The “pandassador” story wasn’t written or edited by anyone at the Post, but, instead, by China’s state-run English language newspaper, China Daily.

The Washington Post hosts a “paid supplement” section called China Watch on its domain (chinawatch.washingtonpost.com). On the right-hand side of the China Watch logo appears the tagline “a Paid Supplement to The Washington Post.” But beyond that line, there are few visual clues that the stories aren’t written or edited by the Post. (China Daily has run large display ads on the Post homepage directing readers to the section.)

The structure is the same as other Post sections. It has its own sub-categories of content, like business, politics, opinion, and multimedia. The bylined stories can be shared on Twitter or Facebook. You can leave a comment. There are traditional display ads within the section — for China Daily’s own site. In a way, it’s a site within a site, a digital translation of the advertorial insert you might find in a print-edition newspaper. But online, that insert is seamlessly embedded into the the broader publication.

When reached via email, Jennifer Lee, communications manager for the Washington Post, said: “China Watch is a print and online paid advertising section. It is clearly labeled as advertising so readers know the content is not produced by The Washington Post newsroom. China Watch’s advertising campaign runs through September 2011 and will be updated by the advertising department.”

She also noted that this is not the first time the Post has sold a government-backed publication space on their site. The Post has been hosting a section called Russia Now since 2007. Like the China Watch section, Russia Now’s logo includes the line “a paid supplement to the Washington Post.” It’s a product of Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the Russian government newspaper that runs the “official decrees, statements and documents of state bodies.” The “About Us” page on the Post section doesn’t mention that part, but describes the Gazeta as simply “the leading Russian daily.” It boasts publishing headlines in newspapers around the globe.

By comparison, here’s how China Watch is described on its “About us” page:

China Watch, previously known as Reports from China, is a paid supplement to the Washington Post, and is presented by China Daily. The international project started in 1996, and went online in 2010. It selects for the American readers the latest and in-depth news and analysis about China’s business, society and culture.

And here’s the description of China Daily:

China Daily is the national English-language newspaper in China and is one of the most authoritative newspapers in the country. It serves as a key reference point for media and society worldwide. China Daily (US Edition) is the North American version of China Daily. Launched in 2009 and published Monday through Friday, the US Edition was created to provide news about China tailored to the North American readers.

It’s also James Fallows’ favorite state-run publication, which, he notes, is “always touchingly earnest in its surface demeanor but often with a different message underneath.”

That same surface demeanor is everywhere on China Watch (à la “pandassadors”), plus that pro-China propaganda flavor. (Take, for example, a story in the business section about the handful of steps government should take to effectively intervene in the rare minerals industry.) And Russia Now has a similar earnest, upbeat feel (“Young designers freshen Moscow’s catwalk”).

Russia Now and China Daily did not get back to the Lab on a request for comment.

Regardless of whether China or Russia are winning over American readers, the content-as-advertisement strategy is an example of a trend that was around long before the web came along, but that’s been amplified by the financial realities of the digital world: the blurring of lines between advertising and editorial. Forbes recently took some heat after its first corporate-written blog launched. And this spring we wrote about Main Street Connect, a well-funded startup that hopes to make local news profitable by changing the distinction between content and advertising.

In a time when display ads are in what feel like infinite supply, and other traditional sources of revenue are fading away, publishers must experiment with new ways to profit from their content. The question is, will the supped-up advertorial pay off, and, even if it does, will it be worth it?

September 14 2010


English-Language Content a Boon to SochiReporter in Russia

On Monday, September 27, SochiReporter will begin publishing in English.

From that point on, every Monday will see us publish new exclusive stories about ongoing preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and about life in four of the Big Sochi main areas: Central Sochi, Adler, Khosta and Lazarevskoye. (We will be translating the Russian posts submitted by our citizen journalists.)

Vancouver Test Case

As I previously wrote on Idea Lab, we began testing an English version of SochiReporter during the Vancouver Olympics. We then hired Yuliya Talmazan, a Russian-speaker from Vancouver who worked as an editor at NowPublic, to cover the Olympics for us. We wanted to see what English content would do for our traffic. Simply put, it had a significant effect, driving our traffic up over 300 percent.

Yes, those weeks in February were a hot time for anything Olympics-related. Thousands of people were surfing the web looking for the information about the Games. Our headlines were crafted and customized according to SEO principles in order to attract that traffic and deliver news about what was going on in Vancouver with the Russian team.

We are currently in the process of translating content for our English version, as August and September saw the significant rise in the number of posts at SochiReporter. What makes me especially happy is that the journalistic quality of stories has improved -- that's partly why I made the decision to start translating into English. At first, we will translate about 60 to 70 percent of every post in order to convey the core idea of the story.

SochiReporter.Ru Posts

We're very happy with how the posts on our site are starting to evolve. To give just a few examples, we've received a story about the public hearings related to the reconstruction of the Sochi embankment; the transformation and rebuilding of one of the city's main hotels; the opening of a new center that will provide municipal services to the citizens of Sochi; the creation of an open-air fitness club; a mini-golf championship in Sochi; the arrival of new wolves at the nature reserve; and the start of an around-the-world voyage of a famous sailor and an honored citizen of Sochi and Newport, R.I., Victor Yazikov; and many, many more.

Another interesting story was about Sochi residents who were collecting the clothes and other donations for residents of central Russian towns who lost their houses in the fierce summer peat fires.

All of these stories inspired discussion at SochiReporter.Ru.

May 27 2010


SochiReporter Helps Transform Sochi in Preparation for Olympics

I recently spoke with a friend of mine here in Sochi, Russia. She is a specialist in modernizing the technological infrastructure of sanatoriums, which were the places where lucky Soviet working class heroes would be sent to rest and relax. (Think of them as health spas.)

It's a challenge to transform the Soviet-era sanatoriums. For example, her job entails computerizing the files and data and modernizing the registration of new clients. But she said it's exciting work. For her, the most enjoyable part of the job is organizing courses for the staff (doctors, waiters, janitors) who at first seem dazed and confused by the changes and new technology. Gradually, their puzzlement gives way to excitement. "How come we were doing this job manually for so many years?" they eventually ask.

I can definitely relate to her experience, as can many people who are trying to modernize different aspects of Sochi culture and society for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games. It's not just about the modernization of the sanatoriums; it's about every aspect of the locals' lifestyle and the character of the infrastructure. Of course, this is what makes this process of transformation so exciting.

Our project, SochiReporter, a hyper-local citizen news website, is working to create an archive of these changes -- an archive that is built by and for locals. It's never boring, but there is still much work and learning to be done.

Over the last several weeks we have been working at mastering our own technology. We added new features to the site, expanded the social networking component, added links to SochiReporter groups on other social networks, and will add more changes over the next two weeks. Also of note is that the website is loading much faster, partly because of some back-end work, and partly because the new 4G WiMax Internet service called Yota that was launched in Sochi at the end of March.

Becoming a Journalist-Entrepreneur

I have become part of the new breed of journalists-turned-entrepreneurs, and I'm finding a certain amount of pleasure in this lifestyle, crazy though it is.

First of all, I am living between two cities: Sochi and Moscow. Being in Sochi means working with contributors and the people who actually submit content to the website, and promoting the project at the local level. Moscow is a bigger source of financing, a business hub where I can meet with advertisers who might be interested in supporting SochiReporter.

Our team has recently been working on developing a sustainable business model, as the Knight Foundation grant money that enabled us to launch the project and start the experiment will soon run out.

Being an entrepreneur means being simultaneously responsive to two mobile phones, an iPad, a laptop and even a fax machine. It also means being very open to new collaborations and projects. You need to be open to taking risks, and adept at using the knowledge you acquired in traditional media reporting and applying it to new media.

Giving Newspapers a Chance

We recently decided to start giving the local Sochi papers, which don't have an online presence, an opportunity to place their content on our site. This section is called News and it's where we mostly have content from RSS feeds. It's separate from the Reports section, which is filled with reports from citizens and includes original content.

The editor of the first Sochi paper to go on our site is extremely happy about the arrangement. He had been seeking a presence on the web. For our part, we'll see how things go and will probably partner with additional local media. However, our main goal is to provide our content to local media. We hope to expand those possibilities by enabling people to submit reports and photos via mobile phone. Right now, people aren't able to upload content using their phone, though they can read the site.


Just a final word about marketing, as it is now one of our primary goals. With the site now built and working, we are focused on telling people about it and getting them to use it. One way of doing that is by being part of big events in the area. We were recently chosen as a media sponsor for one of the biggest annual movie festivals in Russia, Kinotavr. It will take place in Sochi from June 6 to 13.

We are the only Sochi-based media outlet to be among the sponsors. The rest are Moscow-based media outlets. We will receive some very cool promotion during the event and the SochiReporter logo will be present in the Kinotavr daily newsletter, its brochures and on its website.

March 19 2010


NGOs as newsmakers: Russian-Georgian conflict edition

VIENNA — In August 2008, two wars unfolded in South Ossetia. Georgian newspapers and television stations reported an aggressive, unprovoked Russian invasion of their country. Russians, meanwhile, watched images and read tales of Georgian troops committing genocide.

For a brief period, Georgians could flip between TV stations to watch both versions. Soon, access to the Russian media ended. (Russians could not access Georgian TV and few Russians would be able to read Georgian print media.)

Margarita Akhvlediani, a longtime war correspondent and editor in chief of Go Group/Eyewitness Studio, studied the coordinated PR campaign by Georgia, the ensuing media coverage of the conflict by both Georgian and Russian media, and the role of NGOs in the information cycle. She presented some of her findings and related research at the Milton Wolf Seminar on the future of news and NGOs here in Vienna this morning. Her conclusion: International NGOs are critical to the dissemination of information in war and crisis zones.

Akhvlediani described a tale that came to symbolize the conflict for many Russians. According to the war story, dozens of Georgian villagers, seeking safety in a local church, died when Georgian soldiers burned the church to the ground. Human Rights Watch looked into the story, spending three months traveling to villages throughout the region looking for the church. Eventually, Human Rights Watch concluded: “…numerous Ossetian villagers interviewed by Human Rights Watch in [the] village said they never heard about, let alone witnessed, such an incident.”

Akhvlediani argues that this independent research serves as an important fact check on one-sided reporting happening by both sides of the conflict. Local NGOs, Akhvlediani explained, found themselves in a similar situation as local media — unwilling or unable to report a rounded look at the conflict, instead presenting a single point of view.

Western media, which parachuted in to cover the conflict, by and large provided a biased take, too, especially at the start of the conflict, according to fellow panelist Andrei Zolotov, editor-in-chief of Russia Profile (and a former Nieman Fellow). Many journalists seemed happy to latch onto the underdog narrative the Georgia government had pushed, he said. (Two dozen press releases went out in the first few days of the conflict, seeking to shore up Western support for Georgia). “It’s a very easy story to sell,” Zolotov said.

The work of Human Rights Watch, which took three months, is an unlikely project for any outlet, even the best-off newspapers. It’s an example of an ongoing theme we’ve covered this week: How can NGOs be newsmakers?

March 12 2010


9 Tools to Help Live-Stream Your Newsroom

"We'd like to write blog posts, but don't have time."

That's the oft-heard lament in newsrooms. More and more traditional journalists recognize the benefits of blogging and social media, but many just can't figure out how to add them to their existing workload.

I have a solution that seems to work in our newsroom. When faced with this issue, I recommend colleagues do everything they usually do, such as have brainstorming sessions, take part in editorial meetings, do research and collect web links -- except now they should do it publicly.

So now, for example, brainstorming can be done with a wiki-like tool, and notes from a meeting or background research can become a blog post. Instead of saving bookmarks as private "favorites" in a web browser, you can publish them as social bookmarks. Ideas and discussions can be expressed as blog posts or as status updates on social networks.

I call this approach "live-streaming the newsroom." It was the subject of a three-day workshop I recently gave in Moscow. I was brought there by two Russian media NGOs: Eurasia-Media, the media training department of the New Eurasia Foundation, and the Foundation for Independent Radio Broadcasting (FNR).

Below is an overview of the tools we used and discussed during the workshop. We also put them into use to cover the "end of the line" of several Moscow subway lines (an approach that was inspired by a project by The New York Times).

Tools for (Almost) Instantaneous Blogging

  • Mindmaps In preparing the project, I published a MindMeister mindmap that charted out various social media tools. The map was published as an open wiki, and, as a result, people have added useful information. My colleague and co-organizer Charles Maynes at FNR also translated some key nodes into Russian. For the Moscow subway project, we made yet another mindmap.
  • Posterous/Tumblr Between classic blogging and micro-blogging services such as Twitter, there are new possibilities that allow for rapid blogging in short or long formats that also incorporate multimedia. We used "Posterous"http://www.Posterous.com, though we also could have used Tumblr. These platforms enable bloggers to post using email. Simply attach pictures, audio files or a link to YouTube, and Posterous integrates it all into a post. Here's how we used it on our workshop blog, newsroomru.
  • RSS Reader While preparing the workshop -- and during the workshop -- I used Google Reader as a feed reader and Diigo as social bookmark platform. I like the fact that Diigo enables you to create public or private groups. Have a look at the MixedRealities group.
  • Twitter During the event, I commented on the workshop using Twitter. I used the hashtags #newsroom and #newsroomru.
  • Photo/Video Sharing Flickr is extremely useful for various reasons: You can select the appropriate Creative Commons license for re-publishing pictures, and publishing pictures on Flickr can also attract new visitors to your site or blog. For video, we used YouTube. We shot using semi-professional videocameras as well as the Flip video camera, which enables fast and easy recording, editing and publishing.
  • Audio Sharing Are your colleagues still hesitant to write their own blog posts? Talk to them and record your conversation using AudioBoo (using either a laptop or an iPhone), and publish the result instantaneously via Posterous.
  • Chats Why not discuss coverage, or even the preparation of coverage, in a moderated chat session? We tried out CoverItLive on the workshop blog (on Posterous) and it worked perfectly. Within the CoverItLive interface, you can integrate streaming video (I showed Ustream), Twitter feeds and Twitter lists.
  • Twitter I think it's essential to recontextualize services like Twitter. For example, try curating with Twitter by using lists. Posterous can also be recontextualized by easily integrating into some of the major blogging platforms. Diigo, Twitter, Flickr etc can also be aggregated in a FriendFeed stream, which one can embed easily on a site or blog. No scripting knowledge required...
  • Community We also thought about how to keep in contact after the workshop ends and the participating journalists go home. Then there's the larger question of how to set up a platform for your media community. We used Ning to create the newsroomru group. Maybe we'll also use Second Life for synchronous immersive encounters in the future. (I also briefly demonstrated Second Life, which recently made it much easier to integrate web content.)


All the above mentioned tools only become game changers in the newsroom if journalists stop thinking that they should only publish a nearly perfect, finished product. Newsgathering is an ongoing process. It's great to publish perfectly crafted articles, videos and audio -- but this should not stop us from streaming the production process.

It will, of course, be difficult to do this for some investigative work; but I think many projects can benefit from bringing your community into the brainstorming phase. It hardly takes any time at all.

Most of the things a journalist does to cover his or her beat can be live-streamed using the above mentioned tools, among many others. The value is that the audience will give you helpful suggestions, and practicing transparency will lead to increased credibility.


How do you integrate social media into the workflow of the newsroom? Which other tools would you use? And don't forget that you can still add to our social media mindmap wiki!

Roland Legrand is in charge of Internet and new media at Mediafin, the publisher of leading Belgian business newspapers De Tijd and L'Echo. He studied applied economics and philosophy. After a brief teaching experience, he became a financial journalist working for the Belgian wire service Belga and subsequently for Mediafin. He works in Brussels, and lives in Antwerp with his wife Liesbeth.

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