Editors Ink

A place to examine language and the state of journalism. And anything else that comes to mind.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Coming Together

From the WS Journal:

A Mixed Blessing

News Portals Like Google News and Topix
Attract the Masses, But Irk Some Editors

March 23, 2005

For years, news organizations have had a love-hate relationship with Web sites like Google News that aggregate articles from many sources. Newspapers and television stations like the traffic they get when such sites link to their online stories, but they don't like playing second fiddle to the Internet companies as a news destination.

Now, the relationship is growing more complex. Three big newspaper companies -- Gannett Co., Knight-Ridder Inc. and Tribune Co. -- have jointly purchased a majority stake in Topix.net, a Web site that aggregates headlines from more than 10,000 sources, including news sites and blogs. Together, the three newspaper giants operate more than 140 newspaper Web sites, many of which turn up on Topix searches. Topix said it won't give priority to stories from those sites in its index. Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

skewers the NYT on its Wi-Fi reporting:

March 19, 2005
NYT Catches the "Anonymous WiFi Is Evil" Bug

The New York Times runs an article in which law enforcement officials lament, somewhat breathlessly, that open wifi connections can be used, anonymously, by wrongdoers. The piece omits any mention of the benefits of these open wireless connections -- no-hassle connectivity anywhere the "default" community network is operating, and anonymous browsing and publication for those doing good, too.

Without a hint of irony, however:

Two federal law enforcement officials said on condition of anonymity that while they were not aware of specific cases, they believed that sophisticated terrorists might also be starting to exploit unsecured Wi-Fi connections.

Yes, even law enforcement needs anonymity sometimes.

The NYT said:

...But unsecured wireless networks are nonetheless being looked at by the authorities as a potential tool for furtive activities of many sorts, including terrorism. Two federal law enforcement officials said on condition of anonymity that while they were not aware of specific cases, they believed that sophisticated terrorists might also be starting to exploit unsecured Wi-Fi connections....

But, as Jack Shafer notes:

Never mind the pod of qualifiers swimming through in those two sentences—"being looked at"; "potential tool"; "not aware of specific cases"; "might"—look at the sourcing. "Two federal law enforcement officials said on condition of anonymity. …" Selzer points out the deep-dish irony of the Times citing anonymous sources about the imagined threats posed by anonymous Wi-Fi networks. Anonymous sources of unsubstantiated information, good. Anonymous Wi-Fi networks, bad.

Land of the Free, etc.

As free speech and thought have come under increasing pressure in recent years, the librarians have offered the stoutest defense, though not always successfully. Thanks for the link, Patriotboy.

Playgirl Editor's Grand Old Party

Drudge reports that an editor at Playgirl magazine claims she was fired for being a Republican and says this; if she edits the way she writes, she should have been fired on that basis alone:

PLAYGIRL editor-in-chief Michele Zipp has been stripped of her duties after she revealed how she voted Republican in the 2004 election.

Zipp, in an e-mail, claims she was fired after an onslaught of liberal backlash.

"Hello Drudge,

"After your coverage of my article about coming out and voting Republican, I did receive many letters of support from fellow Republican voters, but it was not without repercussions. Criticism from the liberal left ensued. A few days after the onslaught of liberal backlash, I was released from my duties at Playgirl magazine.

"After underlings expressed their disinterest of working for an outed Republican editor, I have a strong suspicion that my position was no longer valued by Playgirl executives. I also received a phone call from a leading official from Playgirl magazine, in which he stated with a laugh, "I wouldn't have hired you if I knew you were a Republican."

"I just wanted to let you know of the fear the liberal left has about a woman with power possessing Republican views."

Well, Secrecy for and by Some

Tom Curley of the AP correctly asks: Where is the outrage about government secrecy?

Lots of Data, No Privacy

The ACLU has put together one scary ad about the increasing collection of personal information and the lack of privacy.

Try It Again

I don't know how useful providing two ledes for a story might be but it's worth trying. The AP works as a cooperative, using material from member papers and its own staff, so I'm assuming that it will subject only its own staff to the two-lede plan and not try to co-opt member contributors. I'm guessing, too, this addresses the lack of a softer approach that vanished when the AP eliminated its AM-PM cycle and went to a 24-hour everything-is-brand-new approach.

Much of what AP has to offer its newspapers is already delivered for free on the Internet, so it may need to offer something extra to its client members.

What does concern me, though, is that AP could be heading down the road toward longer stories just as newspapers are pushing harder at shorter stories, smaller newshole, quicker reads for young readers who have no patience with scene setters or slow approaches.

Monday, March 21, 2005

I wonder how effective the response of the mainstream media will be to some of these "citizen journalism" sites that are popping up. They have all kinds of potential, both good and bad, though I'm inclined to see a lot of good. I suspect, too, that some of these will go the way of such sites as about.com and be swallowed up, once their business and subscription viability has been established. While the msm be smart enough to see why people might turn to this kind of journalism or just react and try to kill it?

Here are two, taking somewhat different approaches:


Pegasus News

And then a third offers further detail, promising to go live in about a week,
Now Public, according to Cyberjournalist.net

A new multimedia "citizen journalism" site called NowPublic is getting ready to launch. The site will allow readers to "assign" stories to reporters; sign up to be a reporter; file photographs, video and MP3s; and "build your own newsroom" and follow the news with "watchlists."

According to the beta version of the site, which is now password-protected, here's how the site will work:

First, a member logs in and opens an assignment for a reporter. Once the assignment is opened, it appears on the homepage of all reporters (provided they are logged in) in the area.
Once a reporter has filed a photograph, video or MP3, then the assignment becomes a news story and appears in the developing news section and within the appropriate categories.

And, this is from one of the guys behind Now Public:
This is Michael Tippett (one of the guys behind NowPublic). Here's our offical blurb:

"The news is now public thanks to new technology like camera phones, digital cameras, blogging tools, and RSS standards. NowPublic combines the functionality of these emerging tools to let people investigate, produce, and publish news that they care about.

With NowPublic, bloggers and citizen journalists can automatically dispatch reporters and photographers to the site of a news story anywhere in the world. At the same time photographers can safely distribute, manage, license and sell their work through NowPublic's portable, point-of-sale smart media format.

News readers can compare real-time, breaking stories to other coverage on the web and in the media, and because all NowPublic content is accessible and sortable into multiple and specific RSS feeds, reports are circulated back into the blogosphere."

If anyone wants more information about the site please don't hesitate to ping me.

Posted by Micheal Tippett March 21, 2005 11:43 AM

Back to the issue of the choice of pictures in the Schiavo case, and I'll expand it to words, too.

The cable networks seem especially fond of loaded words, such as "saving Terri Schiavo" and have been reporting, in rather breathless tones, on the progress of the bill to intervene in the case, as it went through the Congress and on to Bush's desk.

One particularly breathless TV "reporter" seemed to think she was reporting on a basketball game, recounting the score as the House votes were tallied, talking about the rush to get the bill to Bush's desk in tones that clearly showed this action to be a positive development.

That contrasts starkly with the reporting by some local reporters, who obviously have covered the case and are familiar with the long, long legal battle and the multiple decisions supporting Michael Schiavo.

The choice of language is, in this case, even more inflammatory than the sloppy language about "saving" or "reforming" Social Security.

And how the heck did this happen? This man was refused care in part because his family couldn't pay. And now?

Facility takes in man on ventilator
Change of heart by San Antonio home ends the fight between his family, St. Luke's
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle

A Friendswood man in a persistent vegetative state was transferred to a nursing home in San Antonio on Sunday, ending a battle between St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital and his family over whether to take him off life support.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

If giving an honest account of a war too difficult, then why bother going? You can bet the foreign press is telling what it's like, and a handful of reporters scattered throughout the US media is, too. But it is too often lost in the noise about the spectacular "successes" of the war.

Isn't continuing to use military terminology--i.e., IEDs instead of "bombs" just cluttering up the matter?

While we're at it, for the sake of all of us, including the soldiers, isn't it time to quit calling all of them heroes? This labeling started Sept.11, with the fire fighters and police, and continues to this day. What happens when they must confront the fact that they don't feel heroic, that their actions aren't always heroic, and in fact, some of it is downright despicable?

War Reporting Censored...by the reporters

Many media outlets have self-censored their reporting on the conflict in Iraq because of concern about public reaction to graphic images and details about the war. Many journalists said vigorous discussions about what, how and where to publish were conducted, in an attempt to balance fair reporting with audience sensitivities.

In addition, journalists used their Internet sites to post material different from what was printed in newspapers or broadcast on TV or radio programs. Nearly one-third of news outlets used their Web sites to disseminate materials online that were not first published or broadcast elsewhere by the organization. In most cases reporters and editors posted additional information online such as photographic essays, extended interviews and behind-the-scenes reporter accounts.

These are some of the conclusions from research conducted by American University School of Communication professors MJ Bear and Jane Hall. More than 200 American and international journalists completed the anonymous, online survey in September and October 2004.

Journalists were asked about coverage from March 2003 through September 2004. While the research covered events from the beginning of the conflict through the first 15 months of the occupation, it focused primarily on decision-making during major events such as the release of the Abu Ghraib prison photographs and the images showing the deaths of four American contractors in Fallujah.

Al Tompkins, as usual, as a great point about the use of Schiavo's pictures.

As the Terri Schiavo case moves into a new pitched emotional debate, I urge all journalists to carefully consider what video and pictures they use to depict this woman who has been described by doctors as being either in a persistent vegetative state or a permanent vegetative state since 1990.

The images and file tape that we use repeatedly in our newscasts, Webcasts and on our newspaper and Webpages affect how the public (and probably legislators) think about her ability to communicate or respond to others.


Frank Rich on Fake News

Enron: Patron Saint of Bush's Fake News

Published: March 20, 2005

JUST when Americans are being told it's safe to hand over their savings to Wall Street again, he's baaaack! Looking not unlike Chucky, the demented doll of perennial B-horror-movie renown, Ken Lay has crawled out of Houston's shadows for a media curtain call.

His trial is still months away, but there he was last Sunday on "60 Minutes," saying he knew nothin' 'bout nothin' that went down at Enron. This week he is heading toward the best-seller list, as an involuntary star of "Conspiracy of Fools," the New York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald's epic account of the multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme anointed America's "most innovative company" (six years in a row by Fortune magazine). Coming soon, the feature film: Alex Gibney's "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room," a documentary seen at Sundance, goes into national release next month. As long as you're not among those whose 401(k)'s and pensions were wiped out, it's morbidly entertaining. In one surreal high point, Mr. Lay likens investigations of Enron to terrorist attacks on America. For farce, there's the sight of a beaming Alan Greenspan as he accepts the "Enron Award for Distinguished Public Service" only days after Enron has confessed to filing five years of bogus financial reports. Then again, given the implicit quid pro quo in this smarmy tableau, maybe that's the Enron drama's answer to a sex scene.

AFP v. Google

AFP sues Google for news aggregation

Agence France Presse (AFP) has sued Google under claims the Internet search giant included AFP's copyrighted photos, news headlines and stories on its news site without permission. , Google news, which is still in beta, uses technology to aggregate headlines, pictures (sometimes) and part of the first paragraph of news stories from thousands of websites.

The French news service is seeking damages of at least $17.5 million. AFP, which has its headquarters in Paris and bureaus around the world, is one of the major global news agencies.

To me it sounds pretty weird since Google uses only first sentence of the news article attracting lots of visitors to the website.

The First Commandment--Do Some Reporting

Kudos to Jeffrey Weiss for discovering the history of the placement of some Ten Commandments monuments. He's dug a bit deeper to find the facts about the controversial subject of religious items on public property. Shouldn't this be reported out on a local level?

Many Commandments monuments started out as movie promotion

The Dallas Morning News
DALLAS - (KRT) - Many of the Ten Commandments monuments found across America started out, partly, as a movie promotion.

Back in 1946, E.J. Ruegemer was a juvenile court judge in Minnesota. He used to tell a story about a delinquent boy who came into his court and didn't know what the Ten Commandments were.

Judge Ruegemer had an idea: print up copies for courtrooms and classrooms.

His project, taken up by an organization called the Fraternal Order of Eagles, eventually got the attention of Cecil B. DeMille, the legendary director whose epic The Ten Commandments hit theaters in 1956.

The two men found Catholic, Jewish and Protestant scholars willing to come up with a version of the Commandments that incorporated all three traditions. (In different texts, the Commandments have different wordings, even different numberings.)

About 4,000 granite slabs were eventually placed by the Fraternal Order of Eagles. They include the one in Austin that the Supreme Court is considering - and one in Fair Park in Dallas.

The stars of the movie, Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner and Martha Scott, attended many of the dedications.