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June 17 2011


Via Twitter - #MuckReads: ProPublica's social way to share the best accountability reporting

ProPublica :: ProPublica readers can now share essential watchdog reporting with its reporters and readers using ProPublica's newest feature, #MuckReads. #MuckReads will curate the day's essential accountability stories, discovered and shared by our reporters and editors, and its readers—stories about the abuse of prisoneers, the education levels of country's legislators and the laundering of public funds.

Continue to read Amanda Michel, www.propublica.org

August 24 2010


Amateur media watchdogs helping keep newspapers in check

While a handful of established groups shoulder the responsibility of holding news and media organisations to account, the internet has fueled the growth of the individual online watchdog, according to an interesting post on the European Journalism Centre website.

Author Jamie Thunder, an Investigative Journalism MA student at City University uses several examples to illustrate the biggest media bloggers within the online community, such as Tabloid Watch, Five Chinese Crackers, Angry Mob and Enemies of Reason.

‘Watchdog’ groups are nothing new to the media. But these blogs are different. There’s no unifying political ideology, and they’re maintained alongside full-time jobs. They’re not run by media theorists or political activists – just individuals stirred to action by the daily iniquities of the press.

He says that while they accept their impact on the papers themselves will be minimal, it’s the online “groundswell” among readers which is where their power lies.

We all know the media landscape is shifting, and shifting fast – paywalls, user-generated content, and Wikileaks are just three recent developments. Yet little has been said about the increasing ability for non-journalists to analyse and publicise the press’s problems (…) And as long as newspapers keep misbehaving, they’re not going away.

See his full post here…Similar Posts:

August 19 2010



DSP Cover City Watchdog Cabinas rotas

Brilliant “show, don’t tell” front page!

Just checking.

And checking.

Like a city watchdog newspaper.

June 27 2010


Associated Press: How to do watchdog journalism

This video features Associated Press Washington bureau chief Ron Fournier and Accountability Editor Jim Drinkard. This video is a part of the YouTube Reporters’ Center. See more videos on how to report the news – and share your ideas – at www.youtube.com
Video Rating: 3 / 5

Moderator: Adrian Holovaty Panelists: Matt Waite, Maura Chace, Matt Croydon, Ben Welsh www.djangocon.org

January 15 2010


Local Bloggers Step Up to Watchdog Local Government

Traditionally, newspaper reporters were dispatched to cover the mundane proceedings of a local government in action: the city council meeting. But as the mainstream media grapples with its survival in the Internet era, the seats in the audience once occupied by full-time reporters are sometimes being filled by local bloggers and other citizen media outfits. They're using blogs and social media technologies like Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about important decisions, or to inspire action within their communities.

Chuck-Welch.gif"It's the time for the group formerly known as the readers to come out and do our part," said Chuck Welch, the editor of Lakeland Local, a citizen journalism site in Lakeland, Fla.

Welch is a former journalist at a local weekly in Louisville who's now a stay-at-home dad. He created Lakeland Local after his wife took a job in Lakeland and the family relocated. Welch wanted to get to know his new city, and soon grew dissatisfied with how the local newspaper, the Ledger (owned by The New York Times Co.), was covering a big story in the area.

"I thought the only way I could ensure that the story was being covered the way I wanted was just to go do it myself," Welch said.

Mobilizing the Community

Paul Roberts, editor of the site Blogging Belmont in Belmont, Mass., has also stepped up to cover and mobilize his community. He recently used Facebook and Twitter in tandem with his blog to get people to the polls in support of a debt exclusion school funding measure.

Paul-Roberts.gif"[The voter drive] got us some media attention, which was helpful in creating awareness about what was happening," Roberts said. "The exclusion passed by a wide margin. I don't think the social networking piece was decisive, but they are powerful tools."

Roberts, like Welch, is a former journalist. He currently works at a technology analyst firm, and was recently elected to serve as a school committee member. He created Blogging Belmont to establish a source of real-time information about everything that's going on in the Belmont political sphere, and as a resource for a community where the local media is comprised of a single two-person newspaper.

Roberts said he would like to integrate technologies with Blogging Belmont that allow visitors to the site to use their Facebook or Twitter account to log-in, making it easier to participate.

"There is a huge amount of potential there, but as of yet, my integration between the blog and other media are pretty loose," Roberts said. "I talk to a lot of folks that are pretty frequent readers of the blog and they are still trying to wrap their brain around what Twitter is and why it exists. So I'm not sure the urgent need is there to build the bridges to Facebook and Twitter as it might be if my audience was different."

Political Leaders Taking Notice

Technology is making citizen journalism easier, but of course there is currently little, if any, money in covering local government. Without any financial incentive, how do you get the average citizen to spend their time live blogging or sending out tweets during a public meeting? And unlike the inclination to tweet about an accident on the highway, school board and city council meetings just aren't that sexy, despite their importance.

"I think that it is good for a democracy, but the trouble is that it is an awful waste of time and there's not a whole lot of ways to pay for it," said Tommy Duncan, a Tampa, Fla. blogger and editor of Sticks of Fire. "Live blogging would probably be helpful in many cases, but I don't know if it can be justified financially."

There is some reward in the fact that politicians are beginning to notice the presence of local bloggers. Cincinnati Councilman Chris Bortz said citizen journalists can offer communities additional access to political leaders.

Chris-Bortz.gif"I know a few of the bloggers fairly well and it's nice because it is a good source for me as well," Bortz said. "If I feel like I'd like to get something out and maybe it's too difficult to get in the local paper, I can often email the bloggers and ask them if I can post a guest blog, and they are often eager to do it."

Perhaps the biggest potential for citizen journalists who are focused on local government is the interactivity promised by Twitter or Facebook. They can receive instant feedback and encouragement from readers and fellow citizens.

"I've gotten questions from the readers because they might have more experience or they might have an insight that I didn't have," Chuck Welch said. "In the past it was thought that a story had to be completely finished before you printed it in the newspaper. Today you put the information out there and you update and add to it as you learn more. News is a process. You put it out there and let the audience help you build on it. It's more fun to work back and forth with the readers."

He said the end result is that local government officials know they're still being held accountable.

"I think there are cases now where city council or city staff might be more cognizant that just because the newspaper reporter is not in the room it doesn't mean the community is not going to learn about whatever it is they are doing," Welch said.

Steven Davy is a freelance journalist, and freelance radio reporter/producer. He regularly covers the defense industry and security related issues for UPI. Additionally he hosts a current affairs news magazine radio show called the Nonchalant Café Hour which broadcasts live in Kalamazoo, Mich. Steven recently created Exploring Conversations as a multimedia website examining the language of music for his graduate thesis project at Michigan State University.

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December 09 2009


NYTPicker Covers New York Times Like a Wet Blanket

On Sunday, the New York Times published an Editors' Note detailing a conflict of interest:

The "Place" feature about Miami in the T magazine travel issue on Nov. 22 included a reference to the 8 oz. Burger Bar. The writer has had a long personal relationship with a co-owner of the restaurant; had editors known of that connection, the restaurant would not have been included in the article.

One thing the note didn't disclose was that this personal relationship was first identified and publicized by the NYTPicker, an anonymous group blog (and Twitter account) that has been keeping tabs on the New York Times for a little over a year. During its relatively brief existence, the site's hundreds of posts have demonstrated that its authors have a breadth and depth of insight into the paper.

Just last week, the NYTPicker raised some serious and legitimate questions about a new book edited by Gretchen Morgenson, the Times' Pulitzer Prize-winning business columnist.

The NYTPicker has also demonstrated a talent for spotting overused phrases by Times headline writers; it celebrated the work of Times journalist Robin Toner after she died late last year; and it has been diligent about tracking the work -- and titles -- of technology columnist David Pogue.

If you're interested in the Times, you need to read the NYTPicker. Here's how the site describes itself and the people who write for it:

This website devotes itself exclusively to the goings-on inside the New York Times -- the newspaper and the institution itself. Written by a team of journalists who prefer to work in anonymity, The NYTPicker reports daily on the internal workings of the nation's top newspaper, and comments on its content.

The site's authors refused to provide even a few hints as to their identities, but they did, for the first time, agree to answer questions via email. As a result, we now know that six people write for the site, they describe themselves as "reporters," and they aren't impressed with the work of Thomas L. Friedman. On top of that, they're a pretty funny group.


Why did you start the site?

We came up with the name "NYTPicker" and realized it didn't really work for our soft-core porn idea.

How many people visit the site per day?


We average about 1,000 to 1,500 hits a day, but have had a few 10,000-hit days. Depends on what we write about, who links to us, and whether we use that sexy photo of Maureen Dowd in a lounge chair.

Do you get a lot of traffic from folks inside the Times?

Um, yes.

Do you consider the site to be a watchdog of the Times? Why or why not?

We're not media critics. We're journalists who love the NYT and hope our stories improve it. We report on aspects of coverage NYT readers might not otherwise know or think about.

One common theme on the site seems to be conflicts of interest. You often point out how the personal and professional relationships of Times reporters and editors appear to play a role in coverage. Do you see this as a big problem at the paper? And do you think it's worse at the Times compared to other media organizations?

We're not writing an institutional history of the NYT -- we're covering it day to day. We point out the problems when we find them. They don't seem to be going away.

You often display a decent amount of insider knowledge. A recent example would be the fact that you knew about Times freelancer Suzy Buckley's old boyfriend. Does this kind of information come from sources inside the Times? Or do your contributors have a handle on this stuff on their own?

We're reporters. We don't talk about our sources.

How has the site changed over the course of its first year of publishing?

We're more selective about posts now than in the beginning. We only publish when we've got a story, or angle, you won't find anywhere else.

Is there one post that you'd highlight as your best work?

We liked the story we did on Brad Stone's page-one trend piece, the one that was filled with quotes from friends and colleagues. We were also proud of our stories about the NYT's deeply-flawed Caroline Kennedy coverage, and our reporting on the Maureen Dowd plagiarism scandal. We still haven't gotten any comment from the NYT about whether the paper investigated Dowd's explanation, which wasn't very plausible.

Our biggest scoop? Probably when we discovered that the anagram for "New York Times" was "Write, Monkeys."

Have you received any official reaction from the Times?

When Catherine Mathis, the NYT's recently-departed spokeswoman, answered our emails, she always wrote, "Dear NYTPicker." That was sweet. We liked her.

What is your biggest issue of concern at the paper right now?

That changes every day. We read the paper every morning with an open mind, looking for stories, angles, ideas, and funny bylines. The NYT used to have funnier bylines. We miss Serge Schmemann. We hope we'll be seeing more stories from David Belcher.

We've also been working very hard on a story about the difference between Kirk Johnson and Dirk Johnson. That should be ready shortly.

Who is the paper's best columnist and why?

Philip Adler on bridge. Last week he ended his column with the line, "The imponderables of bridge keep us thinking and playing." That's freaking genius.

thomas friedman.jpg

Who is its worst and why?

Thomas L. Friedman. Do we really need to explain?

You recently contacted sports editor Tom Jolly and received an official comment from him. Did he have any specific reaction to being contacted by your site? Was he familiar with it?

We asked him a few questions, and he answered. Simple as that.

Where does the Times excel in terms of its journalism, and where does it fall short?

Too many stories about texting and driving. We get it. It's dangerous. We'll stop.

Can you give me a preview of the top candidates for the Worst NYT Story of 2009 award?

It all depends on what happens next in "The Puppy Diaries."

Why do you need to remain anonymous?

Mom thinks we're doing our homework and we don't want to get in trouble.

I noticed that a comment on your one-year anniversary post read, "Congratulations on a year of anonymity and cowardice!" Do you regularly face criticism for this decision?

Once every few weeks, social media editor Jennifer Preston calls us cowards and invites us to lunch. Otherwise, not really.

How many people write for the blog?


What can you tell me about them? (Where at the Times did they work, did any of you take buyouts, are any of you current employees, etc.?)

We're all very attractive.

How many people are answering these questions?

Four. Two of us have declined to comment.

Craig Silverman is an award-winning journalist and author and an associate editor at MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is the founder and editor of Regret The Error, the author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, and a weekly columnist for Columbia Journalism Review. Follow him on Twitter at @CraigSilverman.

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