Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Obama, Sundance and student films

You know how sometimes one link leads to another...?

Well, this morning I was reading about Barak Obama's recent New Hampshire appearance (I'm a N.H. native, so I tend to notice N.H. stories) in Salon.com...and isn't it interesting how much attention he's getting? I think it shows how hungry so many Americans are for a new path in this nation's politics and policies. But I digress....

Anyway, from Salon.com, I clicked on a banner ad for the Sundance Channel...I mean, how could resist a TV show called "One Punk Under God"? It looked kinda interesting, but perhaps not my cuppa tea...so I clicked on a link to Sundance's Second Life blog...and, yes, Sundance avatars (named Vincent and Maya, if you must know) will soon be appearing on a Second Life Island near you. And if you're interested, you're invited to tell the folks at Sundance what you'd like to see their avatars do (in a nice way, of course).

Then another Sundance link -- for the "College Television Awards" -- caught my eye, and ended up watching some very cool short films created by college students. My favorites were an animation, "Things That Go Bump in the Night," and a short film, "Trojan Cow."

Check them out!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

For once, Bush is right

President George W. Bush spoke honestly about the situation in Iraq this week. "This business about a graceful exit just simply has no realism to it," he said.

No shit, Sherlock. At this point, it's hard to picture any way we can exit Iraq gracefully. No doubt about it...it's going to be a mess.

Viral marketing

I was browsing through the latest San Jose area meet-ups list when I found one for the SF Advertising 2.0 meet-up next Tuesday.

The topic of the meeting will be viral marketing, and the group's meet-up page has links to some fun examples. Here are my favorites: Monk-e-mail and Waitin' Woes. Oh, and the Mentos video contest winners site.

So much fun stuff, so little time.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Reporting 2.0?

In Chron 2.0, an article posted last week on sfweekly.com, JMC lecturer Michael Stoll takes an in-depth look at the life and times of the San Francisco Chronicle. Overall, his article offers another fairly dismal view of the future of newspapers and journalism, pointing to continuing decreases in readership and increasing competition for ad revenues from the likes of craigslist.com.

But, as Stoll points out, at least the Chronicle is still hiring...unlike the Mercury News, which is about to slash its news staff again. As reported on the eastbayexpress.com blog:
Merc managers plan to lay off 40 editorial staffers on Monday night and Tuesday morning, along with another 61 workers in the newspaper’s other departments.... Management has remained tight-lipped...and the secrecy has put the 446 employees who received layoff-warning notices on edge. “It’s the largest layoff in Mercury News history – that I’m aware of,” said Luther Jackson, executive director of the San Jose Newspaper Guild.
Aspiring young journalists may want to take note of what the Chron is looking for in its reporters these days. Near the end of his article, Stoll notes that prospective Chron reporters are being asked to explain how they would make blogging, podcasting, and video a part of their news routines. Stoll also quotes Narda Zacchino, the paper's deputy managing editor, who says, "I think we think of ourselves not just as a newspaper anymore, but as a multimedia provider, not just in print but on the Web."

In the olden days, people used to tell ambitious youngsters, "Go West, young man, go West. Now I think it should be: "Go Web, youngster, go Web."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Professor Blogger

A sign of the times, perhaps?

According to BlogTogether, a blog for North Carolina bloggers and podcasters, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill is looking for a tenure-track prof who's a blogger.

An excerpt from the UNC ad says candidates should be "highly skilled in writing and editing online news, in blogging and in developing news content for the web.

Sounds like the future is now.

(Thanks to grad student Ryan Sholin for passing this on.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Still Spanning the Globe

I stumbled upon the end of an era this morning...the last "Spanning the Globe" segment by sportscaster Len Berman on the Today Show (at least that's what I thought...see note at end of this post).

When I was in college, I used to love watching Len Berman, who covered sports at WBZ-TV in Boston in the 1970s. I think that's when he started putting together his wacky "Spanning the Globe" sports clips. He later moved on to NBC...and I moved on to take my first reporting job in the middle of nowhere in the Midwest. It was a long way from home, and I was delighted to stumble across Berman and his "Spanning the Globe" sports report on a local NBC affiliate.

It's hard to believe now, but I was a bit of a sports fan when I was a kid. My Dad was an avid Boston Red Sox fan, and I remember Carl Yastrzemski, "the man we call Yaz" (yes, I can still sing it!), and the "impossible dream" summer of 1967, when the Red Sox came this close to winning the American League pennant. One of the things I'm truly grateful for is that my father lived long enough to see the Sox finally win the 2004 World Series.

For my Mom, it was the Boston Celtics. I remember the golden era of Coach Red Auerbach and legendary players like Larry Bird. When my Mom was in her 50s, she took her first cross-country road trip -- and one of the highlights for her was passing through the town of French Lick, Ind., the birthplace of Larry Bird.

Since then, sports have become so much harder edged and more commercial. Now I rarely pay attention to it, or miss it...except when a marker comes along like Berman's last "Spanning the Globe."

Note: Imagine my surprise at finding an email from Len Berman in my in-box this evening. He wrote:
Hi Cynthia......hopefully you'll be happy to hear that Al Roker was
just kidding this morning. "Spanning the World" is alive and well and
will next air on the Today Show December 13th.
Best regards,
Len Berman

How cool is that!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The BOBs: Best of the Blogs

The U.S. blog Sunlight Foundation won the top award for Best Weblog in the third annual Deutsche Welle Best of the Blogs (BOBs) Awards. The international blog competition is sponsored annually by Deutsche Welle, the German international broadcasting service.

The 2006 BOBs jury members said they admired the Sunlight Foundation blog for its work to increase transparency in government. They called the project "a positive example of how blogs can shape political discourse" and praised it for its potential to be adapted for use in other countries.

Here's one example cited of what that blog has accomplished:
The [Sunlight] Foundation helped bridge the ideological divide in the blogosphere by bringing together liberal and conservative bloggers in its "Exposing Earmarks" project. Volunteers tried to find more information on 1,800 earmarks -- or hidden funding -- inserted into a Labor bill. This effort led to a new transparency law in Congress mandating a publicly accessible online database with detailed information on all future spending bills in Congress.
BOB Awards were also presented for the best blogs in several different languages, including English, German, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese. PaidContent.org, which won the award for Best English Weblog, tracks the different business models being tried and tested in the realm of digital media.

In the Reporters Without Borders category, the BOBs first prize award was shared by two Persian-language blogs, the photo blog Kosoof, which publishes photos of Iranian dissidents with their families after their release from prison, and Hamed Mottaghis' Weblog Tanine Sokut, which focuses on human rights violations in Iran and issues not covered by Iran's national media.

The BOBs also named a top podcast, Mezumei Studio of China, and gave its coveted Blogwurst Award to Aref-Adib, an Iranian photo-commentary blog that I've already bookmarked for posterity.

For just a taste of Aref-Adib, a recent post shows a noose labeled with the names of Mideast nations and the caption: "Saddam verdict didn't give Bush the big swing he was hoping for!"

More than 5,500 blogs in 10 languages were nominated for this year's BOBs by internet users from around the world. That's double the number nominated last year.

Nominees were first vetted by an international jury of bloggers, independent journalists and media experts, who created a shortlist of 10 nominees in each of the contest's 15 categories. Then the nominations were opened up to the public for three weeks of voting. The BOBs includes both jury awards and user awards.

One of this year's jurors was from the Bay Area: Lisa Stone, an organizer of the locally based BlogHer conference. She gives her take on the BOBs, including the user-named favorite English Weblog, Black Looks by Sokari Ekine, on a post on the BlogHer site.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Now for something completely different...

Check out this seriously entertaining blog post, Chutzpah, Truffles & Alain Ducasse, or this one, My New Favorite Restaurant, on Adam Roberts ' Amateur Gourmet blog.

These posts are kind of like a cross between a restaurant review and a comic book, and they really hit the spot. Delicious fun!

(I found this link on Guy Kawasaki's blog, How to Change the World: A Practical Blog for Impractical People, after clicking over to read a post I saw mentioned on Micro Persuasion...no wonder I'm not getting caught up on my grading.)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Road trip team

A former PR student of mine, Abel Habtegeorgis, popped by my office this afternoon. He just wanted to say "hi" and remind me that he and his two teammates will be speaking on campus tomorrow about their summer adventures traveling for the PBS series "Roadtrip Nation."

As you may recall from an earlier post in The JMC Journal blog, Habtegeorgis hit the road for six weeks this summer in a green Roadtrip Nation RV with two other SJSU students -- Cairo Person, a journalism major, and Kisura Hendrix, a PolySci major -- to interview interesting people. Two other teams, from Emory University and Concordia University in Montreal, also participated in the program. Their travels and interviews, caught on film, are being made into a PBS documentary.

Habtegeorgis, Henrix and Person will talk about their travels and the people they interviewed at 12 noon tomorrow in the Umunhum Room of the Student Union at SJSU. They'll also show some of their clips from the upcoming documentary.

Be there or be square!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Words and their consequences

“Anybody who is in a position to serve this country ought to understand the consequences of words,” said the man who just last week insisted that he hadn't just spent the past year telling us to "stay the course" in that growing disaster known as Iraq. Did he forget about TV cameras?

Bush also spent yesterday campaigning, insisting that we are going to win in Iraq. He also praised Donald Rumsfeld, asserting that his secretary of defense is doing a fine job. Yeah, right.

Do we need any more reasons to send the president a strong message (a.k.a. a Democratic majority) in the upcoming election?

Halloween fun

Don't be late to class or the schoolmarm will rap your knuckles!

I sure had fun dressing up on Halloween in a vintage hat and retro clothes. Note my "schoolmarm" props: the slate and wooden ruler (a Coca Cola collectible) are out of the attic (does it sound like I've been watching too much Antiques Roadshow?).

Many thanks to the J-school students who humored me in class, as I waved my ruler at them and generally tried to act like a stern schoolmarm of yore. (Maybe the candy helped.)

For more fun Halloween shots, check out the Spartan Daily's Halloween on Campus slide show.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Most important things you can read this week

As you prepare to vote next week (unless, like me, you've already voted absentee), here's some food for thought:
  • After Pat's Birthday -- If you haven't yet read this scorching essay by Kevin Tillman, posted on truthdig.com, you should. It is past time, as the saying goes, to "speak truth to power."
  • "The Army has recently completed a new center in San Antonio specializing in amputation, [called] the Intrepid Center...." -- This passing mention came in the next-to-the-last paragraph of a lovely NYT article about service dogs being trained to assist disabled veterans of the Iraq War. Just think about that. Then think about the more than 100 U.S. service members killed this month alone, and who knows how many more severely injured and disabled for life. This is the Iraq War. No plan, no strategy, no way out. No end in sight. Don't you think it's time to shake up the deadly status quo in DC?
Challenge authority. Do good. Make a difference.

Friday, October 27, 2006

What's that smell?

I first thing I noticed was a small group of people, four or five, clustered under a tree, some kneeling, some bending over at the waist, picking up something off the ground. Then, when I got closer, I got a whiff of that smell.

"Eew," said a passing student. "What is that? Did somebody throw up?"

Not a bad guess. The sidewalk was littered with small golden-orange blobs of something...and the odor was, well, foul.

It reminded me of dog doo...you know, the pungent fresh-laid, mustardy kind that gets lodged in the treads of your shoes at the worst possible moment...like when you're on your way to a nice restaurant, or late for a meeting...when you're headed to the kind of place where a big stink and a yellow crust on the bottom of your shoe will tend to get noticed. That kind.

But clearly, this was more than one dog could doo. And why were these people picking it up?

They all wore plastic gloves, at least on the hand that was doing the picking...a wise move, I thought, considering. I stepped off the sidewalk and spotted more blobs on the grass under the tree.

"What are they?" I asked the nearest person, an older Asian woman. She glanced up, but decided to ignore me.

I paused a moment, watching as they gathered the foul golden blobs and placed them in plastic cups and old plastic grocery sacks. A breeze rustled the leaves of the tree overhead, and more golden blobs fell to the ground. Ah! One question answered.

A woman wearing a scarf was piling hers on sheets of newspaper laid atop of a brick wall. She separated each fleshy golden blob from its inner core -- a seed? a nut? -- and put it in a small blue bag.

I tried again. "What are these?

"Ginko," she said.

"What do you use them for?"

Her English was heavily accented and somewhat limited (hey, my Chinese is non-existent), but the gist of it is that she makes a dessert out of it...the meat of the nut, that is, not the stinky, pulpy flesh.

First, she said, you have to remove the seed from the flesh, and wash the seed and let it dry. Then you crack the seed open, remove the nut meat, and pound it into a paste that can be used in cooking.

Must be a very special dish to be worth all that work and all that smell.

Another woman scooched down on the ground beneath the tree, processing a pile of the golden fruit. It was her first time harvesting Ginkos, she said, and she was doing it for her mother and grandmother who remembered harvesting Ginko fruit in China. You can buy them sometimes at the market for about $3 per pound, she added, but they aren't as fresh and freshness is important.

She continued separating the seeds from the smelly pulp, dropping them one by one into a large plastic Jamba Juice cup. I thanked her, took a couple pictures, and continued on my way.

When I got to my chiropractor's office a few minutes later, I realized I'd brought something with me.

"Eew, what's that smell?"

I hurried to the restroom, grabbed some paper towels and tried to wipe the yellow pulpy residue off the soles of my shoes. But even if you rinse the soles of your shoes under a faucet, that yellow crap stays in the cracks.

I sure hope the smell goes away when it dries.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Say it isn't so, Steve!

Talk about disillusioned! It turns out that one of my favorite bloggers, Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion (and of Edelman PR), has lately been a party to PR fraud.

Eew! Say it isn't so, Steve!

In case you've been stuck in the same closet I've apparently been in, and missed all the ruckus, Edelman PR created a couple of fake blogs or "flogs" (some call them "astroturf") for its client, Wal-Mart (gee, why am I not surprised!).

You can read all about it in this article on BusinessWeek.com, which first exposed the fraud. BW notes:
It all started last month, when a folksy blog called Wal-Marting Across America was set up. The site featured the musings of a couple known only as Jim and Laura as they drove cross country in an RV, and included regular interviews with Wal-Mart workers, who were dependably happy about the company and their working conditions.
But it turned out "Jim and Laura" weren't real RVers, or real bloggers...they were paid schills for Wal-Mart.

Apparently Edelman PR organized the RV trip and accompanying "flog" through a fake-populist group called Working Families for Wal-Mart, which BW notes is funded by Wal-Mart. Once BW pulled back the curtains and exposed the fraud, it took Edelman over a week to admit to making it all up...so much for its vaunted quick-response crisis communications.

For a tongue-in-cheek (or maybe not) rant on this situation, check out strumpette's call for Edelman and Rubel to resign.

A bit extreme? Maybe. But I do seem to recall some sections of the PRSA Code of Ethics that relate to this kind of situation. For example:
HONESTY: We adhere to the highest standards of accuracy and truth in advancing the interests of those we represent and in communicating with the public.
Yeah, right. Well, as much as I enjoy reading Rubel's explorations of new/social media, maybe he needs to take a "time out" to brush up on the basics.

Friday, October 13, 2006

$5 million new media challenge

"Turn the web on its head. Show us how online news can help people improve their lives and shape their communities."

That's the challenge recently issued by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It's called the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge, and it's a worldwide call for new ideas, pilot projects, commercial products and leadership initiatives that will improve the flow of information and news in the public interest.

To back up its challenge, the foundation is putting its money where its mouth is...in 2007, it plans to award $5 million to those individuals, organizations or businesses that can show how their ideas will transform community life.

Interested? The deadline for applying and submitting a letter of inquiry is Dec. 31, 2006.

The categories for this initiative are:
  • Ideas
  • Pilot project
  • Leadership
  • Commercial products and investments
  • Open (for great ideas that don't seem to fit in the other categories)
Specifically, the Knight Foundation is looking for:
  • New ways to understand news and act on it, including new ways to collect, prepare and distribute information, news and journalism that reveals hard-to-know facts, identifies common problems, clarifies community issues and points out practical courses of action.

  • New ways for people to communicate interactively to better understand one another, to generate real passion in solving local problems and to share the know-how they need to improve their communities;

  • New ways for people to use information, news and journalism to imagine their collective possibilities as communities, and to set and reach common community goals.
Also be sure to check out what they're not looking for, so you don't waste their time...or yours.

Questions? Check out their FAQ page. Think you've got the next big idea? Here's how to apply.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Seize the donuts, seize the day!

If I had kids in college, or thinking about going to college, this is the commentary I'd urge them to read: Seize the Weight by Marisha Pessl. You can find it in today's New York Times.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Time to enlist??

As I was signing off last night, after putting up my post about the Mozilla guy, open-source marketing and the pop-up stopping Firefox browser (which I almost always use), I found a surprise under my window: an Army recruiting pop-up!

I almost never see a pop-up, unless I happen to click on the wrong button by mistake. So my first thought was, "How did that get here?" And I took a screenshot (left).

Then I wondered, "What site did I cruise tonight that might have harbored an Army pop-up?" Maybe it was when I read Sidney Blumenthal's "At War, In Denial" on Salon.com. You think?

I mean, I know the Army is getting desperate for recruits, but if they're now targeting 50-plus, out-of-shape female academics who sometimes need a cane to walk...well, they're more desperate than I thought. Especially since I think the war in Iraq is a lost cause, and our commander in chief has gone off the deep end.

Think I should reqest an Army Info Pack?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Make like Mozilla...with viral marketing

If you want make like Mozilla, it helps to have a compelling product that's a good value and solves an annoying problem. It also helps if you trust your users, and arm them with the tools they need to spread the word.

That's what Asa Dotzler says, and he should know. As community coordinator of the Spread Firefox project for Mozilla, he's been one of the innovators of open source marketing.

Dotzler, who spoke Sept. 21 in Palo Alto, Calif., at the Third Thursday meet-up, first got involved with Mozilla as a volunteer beta tester. His avocation turned into a career.

Compelling? Well, Firefox offered something the dominant browser, Internet Explorer, didn't -- a solution to those annoying pop-ups.

A good value? Well, free is a pretty good.

The result? A lot of people tried it, liked it, and told their friends. (Hey, that's how I heard about it. Thank you, Steve Greene!)

The next step, Dotzler said, is to help your users spread the word.

For example, when positive comments started appearing in blogs about Firefox, Dotzler asked one well-known blogger who'd said he liked the new browser to put a "get Firefox" button on his blog. The blogger agreed. So he asked more bloggers -- about 100 of them -- and within 24 hours, 85 of them had put up a button.

It was working, but it took a lot of time and effort to identify and contact all those bloggers.So they asked Firefox users to help automate the process. Several volunteered and worked together to make it happen.

"You need to put it in their hands," he said. "Let them be that engine."

It was also a Firefox user who suggested asking fellow users to raise money for an ad to celebrate shipping Firefox 1.0. They gave themselves a month to raise the needed funds, but they got twice as much as they needed in just two weeks. So they decided on a two-page ad in the New York Times, with one page listing the names of everyone who'd helped to get Firefox off the ground, and one offering user testimonials about what makes Firefox special.

Dotzler said the ad initially created just a small uptick in Firefox users...but, as the ad itself became news, those numbers kept growing.

Recently, when Mozilla put out a call to Firefox users to create some 30-second ads, it got 280 submissions...about five or six times as many as they'd expected. Of those, Dotzler said, about 60 were broadcast quality and five were truly "top-notch." He hopes Mozilla will be the first open-source company to run a user-made ad.

The best way to go into a volunteer project like this is without any preconceptions, Dotzler said. Otherwise, you tend to end up with token attempts at user involvement...like the recent Chevy "make your own ad" web promotion. Those kinds of efforts can backfire, he said, like the Chevy promotion did when some folks found ways to create negative Chevy ads out of the promo clips Chevy provided.

A better example, Dotzler said, is CurrentTV, which requires advertisers to let viewers to participate in creating advertisements. The result, he said, has been ads that offer an authenticity missing in most commercials today.

It's really hard to fake authenticity, he added, so why not let your users take the lead?

P.S. For college students looking for internships, Dotzler noted, "You don't have to ask Mozilla for an internship...you can just come in and do it, and get credit for what you've done." Dotzler said he writes lots of letters of recommendation for college students who've worked on Firefox.

Couric confessions

I have a confession to make. I haven't watched Katie Couric yet in her new gig on the CBS Evening News.

I'm feminist enough to think it's a milestone, but jaded enough to think that winning the top seat in a dying medium isn't much of a prize.

Of course, I've got plenty of excuses for not watching. I isten to the news on NPR while I'm driving...I usually check the news online when I check my email...I get the NYT delivered to my email box...and I have afternoon classes this semester, so I'm not usually home when the evening news comes on (whenever that is...it's been so long since I actually watched a national newscast that I'm not sure).

But the truth is that I just find it hard to get too worked up over Couric being on the CBS Evening News. Wish I could, but it's just not there. Maybe I'm just not a big fan of happy talk.

Now if she'd decided to leave the networks behind and move over to the web instead...well, that would be another story.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Registered to vote?

If you're eliglible to vote but haven't yet registered, you still have time...October 23 is the deadline to register for the Nov. 7 election. But please don't wait until the last minute -- register now!

To get you started, here are links to the League of Women Voters' Smart Voter web pages for Santa Clara County and San Mateo County, as well as the Secretary of State's voter registration web page. The LWV's Smart Voter pages include county-by-county information on the fall electoral contests.
If you'd like to get your hands on a voter registration form, just ask me -- I'll be bringing voter registration forms to campus over the next two weeks, as part of a voter registration effort sponsored by my church.
Pondering those propositions?

If you're becoming bewildered by the burgeoning barrage of political ads -- all of which seem to be trashing one state proposition or another -- you'll appreciate the LWV's helpful directory of the 14 state propositions that will appear on the November ballot.

The LWV's short nonpartisan proposition summaries are a good way to get past the hype and name-calling and find out what those propositions are really about...and make up your own mind on how to vote. Links to the full text of each proposition are included.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Scoble answers JMC students' questions

Questions? Yes, we had plenty of questions for Blogger Robert Scoble, of Scobelizer fame, when he spoke at JMC Tuesday evening. Scoble came to the SJSU campus to speak to Journalism 163 students. Here's a sampling:

Are news outlets mainly going to be aggregators in the future, or are they still going to create content?

Some of both, Scoble said, pointing out that Newsweek broke the HP story, not a blogger. It's also hard for a blogger to cover Iraq, he added. Big city newspapers and news brands will survive.

However, that doesn't mean he thinks newsprint will survive.

News brands will stick around, but you're not likely to read it on paper, Scoble said. Newprint is expensive, and so is home delivery, so he thinks the paper side of the news business is going away.

"I do not read paper," Scoble said. "I don't subscribe to it, I don't read it. Because I can get tomorrow's news today (online)."

"I doubt that any one in this class is going to get hired to work on a newspaper," he added, though they may get hired by a newspaper's online side to work for the newspaper brand.

Is MS Office dead? (A loaded question for the former Microsoft evangelist!)

"I don't use Word anymore," Scoble said. "For me, Word is dead. I moved my usage pattern from Word onto Wordpress."

Does he worry about privacy, now that he's become so well known?

"Privacy? I take the Madonna approach," Scoble said. "I'm going to exploit my privacy before anyone else does...everything's out there."

However, he said privacy is going to be a problem, particularly with the MySpace crowd as they come of age to enter the job market.

"Something in society is tilting," Scoble said, adding that in his last four interviews, his interviewers had printed out some of his blog posts and had questions about why he'd said what he said. One of them had about 20 pages of his blog printed out and highlighted.

What that means, Scoble said, is that bloggers and the MySpace generation have got to start thinking in terms of "what's this going to look like in 20 years." On the other hand, he noted, for a lot of media employers, if they can't find you in Google, they're not interested in hiring you.

"Instructors here used to work with students to get lots of clips," Scoble said. "Now, it's blogs."

Is a blog as important as a clip?

Sixty thousand times more important, he said, noting one link from Digg can bring 60 to 80 thousand people to your blog. For example, that's what happened when word got out that he was leaving Microsoft. In addition, if a blog gets linked to, it shows up [on Google and in Technorati]. And, he added, if it's a good blog, others will link to it.

What makes a good blog?

A good blog is passionate and authoritative, said Scoble. It uses links to background information and source information to help establish its credibility and authority.

How is online writing different?

It's a little bit different kind of journalism, Scoble said, not always inverted pyramid style. When you're wriitng for print, you don't have links and you usually don't have photos. Online, there's no length limit. You can put a podcast up with your story, and include photos...and that will get you more links than just repurposing print copy online. It makes it interactive. If you're online, it's almost a necessity to get more media...photos, a video clip, audio...to make it more of a package.

Still hungering for more? Check out JMC student Andrew Venegas' blog post on Scoble's visit (a different take, a better headline), as well as links to his podcast and video of Scoble's presentation to the class. Or download Steve Sloan's podcast of our pre-class conversation with Scoble over burgers and beer.

Pretexting: A lie is a lie

A man after my own heart...that's Scott Herhold, a Mercury News columnist who calls a spade a spade in today's column.

Writing about the Hewlett Packard scandal, he points out that "pretexting" is a gentle euphemism for a less than gentile activity: LYING. That's what the HP scandal is really about. Lying and deceit.

Lying to get access to someone else's private records. Spying on your own colleagues. Caring more about corporate secrecy than honor. And lying to the public about not realizing that your lies and deceits are wrong. (At least I assume that last one is a lie...but maybe HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn simply has no moral compass...no, wait a minute, that's another euphemism, isn't it? Maybe she's just a liar.)

In the future, Herhold suggests simply substituting the word "lying" whenever you see the word "pretexting" in a news article or commentary. Go ahead and give it a try. Works like a charm.

Monday, September 11, 2006

1, 2, 3...OK, GO

Reporting "live" from Ithaca, NY, Prof. Steve Greene sent me this link to a "music exercise" video, which I pass on for your edification and enjoyment: OK GO on treadmills.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New media experiments

NPR's On The Media looks at several aspects of new media this week, including:
  • an experiment with citizen journalism called NewAssignment.net from NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen
  • a blogger who's experimenting with video blogging by doing a two-minute daily webcast called The Show
A link from The Show took me to eyespot, a new online video editing/mixing site (it's in beta) that's free and looks pretty interesting. It's got a variety of video clips (including vintage TV commercials) and music available for mixing with your own stuff. Check it out.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Time for fundamental change?

When I roam the blogosphere, I often find a couple new posts or blogs that are worth remembering and passing on. Here's the latest:
If you want to start thinking differently about how newspapers can leverage the power of the web, try reading Adrian Holovaty's "A Fundamental Way Newspaper Sites Need to Change."

Holovaty, an internet developer with a journalism background who is editor of editorial innovations at washingtonpost.com, suggests journalists should stop being so "story-centric" and start focusing on structuring information so that it can be repurposed. Yes, we're talking databases.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Insomniac ravings #1

Okay, so it's four in the morning and I've been tossing and turning since my eyes popped open at 2:30. I finally decide to just get up and do something semi-productive, like blog. It's only my second insomniac night in a row, but already it's getting old.

I've been down this path before, but it's been a while...back to when my Dad was still alive and I was worrying about him...back when my Mom was still living at home and we all worried about dealing with her descent into Alzheimer's. Usually, after an hour or so of rolling around in bed, I'd get up and have a cup of tea and read for a while. Then I could usually get back to sleep. We'll see if blogging has the same effect.

Sometimes, in the wee hours of the morning, the hooting of the neighborhood owls would keep me company. Not tonight...I checked.

Not sure what's got my brain in a spin cycle, but I decide I might need a night owl pic to accompany this post. I Google-search "night owl" and come up with a lot of pictures of night goggles and monoculars...not quite what I had in mind...but wait, there's more (in fact, pages more).

I like this one, an album cover from some classical music company in the U.K. The blurb promises: "At the end of a long day, and on into the night, this lovely album of relaxing music will help banish those cares and worries and promote a calm and tranquil atmosphere."

Hmm, sounds good...soothing even...but then my
restless brain notices another offering, "Gentle Classics for an Indulgent Moment." Oh yeah, that should soothe the fevered brow.

But on I scroll, relentlessly, to the "Music for a Great Cook" collection, which bills itself as both "Baroque" and "cheerful music to cook by." Is such a thing even possible? This one offers "twenty-one tasty tracks (to) let the inspiration fall upon you as you chop and grind, boil and fry!" (I kid you not...could I make stuff like this up? I'm not that creative, especially not at this hour of the morning...though, on the other hand, there does seem to be something about the dark stillness of the early morning hours that allows unfettered brain farts to emerge without the censorship that usually accompanies broad daylight...and sometimes, it seems, the result is creative.)

Onward. I notice a section called "Music for Gardeners." Hey, I'm a gardener! Gotta look. The headliner? It's "Music for a Lady Gardener," which offers a collection of "timeless musical souvenirs (that) will delight the lady gardener, and perhaps her husband too!" (And what century is this?)

And then, my favorite: "Music for a Great Garden." It's billed as "an album of fragrant songs and instrumental pieces" whose titles include 'Greensleeves,' 'Summer is acumen in' and 'Where the Bee sucks.'

Oh my.

And on that note, dear reader, I think I must leave you and try to get back to sleep. Good night.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Brush up on your Shakespeare

If you want to improve your writing, here's some good advice: Read. Read a lot. Read good books.

To guide you on the righteous reading path and find out what to look for along the way, you might want to start with the aptly named Francine Prose's book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and Those Who Want to Write Them, which was reviewed in this Sunday's New York Times Book Review .

Prose notes that one difficulty faced by writing teachers like me is the lack of interest many students show in reading. I agree. I think one of the best ways to improve your writing is to read...and pay attention to what you read...what works, what doesn't, how they do it.

Prose points out that writers have always learned from their predecessors: “They studied meter with Ovid, plot construction with Homer, comedy with Aristophanes.” In other words, says reviewer Emily Barton, it helps to read the masters: “You can assume that if a writer’s work has survived for centuries, there are reasons why this is so, explanations that have nothing to do with a conspiracy of academics plotting to resuscitate a zombie army of dead white males.”

Reading Shakespeare and other "dead white males" is certainly a worthwhile endeavor, but there are plenty of good modern writers out there too. Click on my profile to see some of my favorite authors.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Category of Duh!

A News Flash from today's New York Times:
"Americans increasingly see the war in Iraq as distinct from the fight against terrorism, and nearly half believe President Bush has focused too much on Iraq to the exclusion of other threats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

"The poll found that 51 percent of those surveyed saw no link between the war in Iraq and the broader antiterror effort, a jump of 10 percentage points since June. That increase comes despite the regular insistence of Mr. Bush and Congressional Republicans that the two are intertwined and should be seen as complementary elements of a strategy to prevent domestic terrorism."
Maybe you really can't fool all the people all the time. I was beginning to wonder.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Lessig, Warhol and the Web

I've been thinking about Stanford professor Lawrence Lessig's keynote presentation at the recent AEJMC conference, but I wasn't sure what I wanted to say about it (except that it was great) until I saw the Andy Warhol Dream America exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art last week.

That's when it hit me -- if Andy Warhol was alive today, he would be taking images and video clips off the Web and transforming them into little snippets of art and commentary...and probably getting threatened with copyright infringement lawsuits.

Without strong exceptions for fair use in our copyright laws, we would have missed out on some of the most iconic images of our times...Marilyn, Mao, Mick, and the electric chair series.

Honestly, I've never been much of a Warhol fan...the Campbell's Soup thing never struck me as particularly interesting or inspired, and viewing just one of the Marilyn silkscreens left me lukewarm. But it is different seeing the images in person.

When you see several Marilyn or Mao silkscreens together, and see how the colors change from one silkscreen to the next, but certain facial features remain constant -- with Marilyn, her lips, eyes and eyebrows...with Mao, his lips, eyes and nose -- it is much more evocative and interesting.

And Warhol's images of Mick Jagger, with their swathes of collage and color and hand-drawn lines that override parts of the silkscreened photograph...well, I found those images quite compelling...and I'm not even a Rolling Stones fan.

The original Jagger photographs were Warhol's own, but many of the images he used for his silkscreens were simply lifted from the public sphere and reworked. He culled stills from films and took photos from newspapers, magazines and press kits to use as the basis of his artwork. Today, if he copied those same images online, it would be called theft and he'd be fighting copyright infringement lawsuits instead of creating art.

For example, how is "The Grey Album" really that different from Warhol's Marilyn and Mao series? DJ Danger Mouse's 2004 album, which mixed raps from Jay-Z's "The Black Album" with iconic rifs from The Beatles' "White Album," was ranked as best album of the year by Entertainment Weekly. In both cases, the artists took existing materials and transformed them into something new. But Danger Mouse was called a bootlegger and hit with "cease and desist" orders, while (to my knowledge) Warhol was not.

In his AEJMC keynote, "Is Writing Allowed?", Lessig spoke of the flowering of digital and online creativity...of how the Web and digital media are fostering creativity among regular folks, not just artists and movie directors with Hollywood budgets. He spoke of the Web as a disruptive technology, one that's undermining the existing "Read Only" (RO) media and entertainment industry.

The Web and digital media promise to let the control of our culture pass from the tight fists of government and industries into the open hands of the rest of us. It promises to turn our world into a "Read/Write" (R/W) culture, Lessig said, where we can all create, share and consume media products.

One of Lessig's more entertaining examples: the Bush-Blair Love Song, an inspired bit of video commentary that mixes news clips and pop music.

Blogs, on the other hand, draw upon an older tradition: text. In blogs, he noted, the remix of text is free -- no permission is required. It's unregulated, and it's flourishing.

While some people say that most blogs are crap, Lessig said the real value of blogs is that millions of people regularly sit down and their ideas into their own words...and onto the net.

"I believe in copyright," Lessig said, but we forget that the original purpose of copyright law was to provide incentives to create and "permit artists to be independent of patrons." It was not to provide perpetual income for heirs and corporations.

But industry-sponsored "net neutrality" and "broadcast treaty" legislation, along with draconian enforcement of the Digital Millennium Copyright law (with almost no allowances for "fair use"), are threatening to blight that budding digital creativity.

If we continue to let our representatives legislate the Internet to death, and lacerate fair usage, we will end up making the Web safe for commercial speech and little else. And that would be a sad end for such a promising new medium.

Monday, August 21, 2006

New class - Journalism 163

Steve Sloan and I visited this afternoon about Journalism 163, a revised JMC class that will focus on using Web 2.0 technologies and multimedia in journalism and media-related fields. This hands-on class will meet Tuesdays at 6 p.m. in DBH 226 (I was told we may have to meet in DBH 224 for the first session, but it's next door so we'll be easy to find).

Steve recorded our discussion and posted it as a podcast at his SJSU Tech on a Mission blog. Here's the direct link to his podcast: http://www.edupodder.com/podcast/163_intro.mp3

Steve has also set up a class blog for J163 on Wordpress (we thought we'd branch out and try some new blog software). You can find it at: http://jmc163.wordpress.com/

Although Steve is the official instructor for this class, I'm tagging along as team-teacher because I think it looks like a lot of fun...and because I'd like teach this class next semester when JMC begins offering multiple sections of it. So if you can't fit it into your schedule this fall, sign up for the spring semester.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Just for fun...headline mania

A friend e-mailed these to me, with the question: "Doesn't anyone proofread anymore???" (Good question. I sometimes wonder that myself.) I don't know if these headlines are real, but they made me laugh so I'm passing them on.


Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says
[No, really?]

Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
[That'll stop 'em. ]

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
[What a guy!]

Miners Refuse to Work after Death
[Good-for-nothing lazy so-and-sos!]

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
[See if that works any better than a fair trial!]

War Dims Hope for Peace
[I can see where it might have that effect!]

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
[You think?]

Enfield (London) Couple Slain; Police Suspect Homicide
[They may be on to something!]

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges!
[You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?]

New Study of Obesity Looks for Larger Test Group
[Weren't they fat enough?!]

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
[Taste like chicken?]

Local High School Dropouts Cut In Half
[Chainsaw Massacre all over again!]

Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
[Boy, are they tall!]

...And the winner is:
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Fun at ZeroOne artfest

I had fun wandering around downtown San Jose with a friend yesterday, looking at some of the ZeroOne ArtFest exhibits. Some of my favorites included...

...the synchronized dancing forks at the "picnic in the park" (a.k.a. the LiveForm:Telekinetics) exhibit.

...the infrared monolith (a.k.a. the Screens Exposing Employed Narratives exhibit, at right), where San Jose residents' responses to the question "what is the fruit of your labor?" could only be seen through a digital camera or other "digital capture device."

...the ankle-high patterns of motion and color created by the "400 radio networked, solar powered, self sustainable intelligent analogue pixels" of Ping Genius Loci.

...the digital memories chamber (a.k.a the 'Mission Eternity' exhibit, at left), where you are surrounded by walls of digital images so enlarged and pixelated that they're almost past seeing (a digital camera helps bring these back into focus too).

...and, finally, the images projected onto the facade of the city hall rotunda were just fabulous. This exhibit is titled "Digital Kakejiku," which we are told can be translated as "a moving digital-hanging scroll." Mostly, it was just beautiful...an interplay of slowing changing colors and patterns on the glass and metal framing of the dome. It was amazing to see dozens of people hanging around the city hall courtyard so late at night just to watch the show...like watching fireworks, without the noise.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The one where I get interviewed at BlogHer

While I was at the BlogHer conference last week, dangling my feet in the hotel pool after hobnobbing during the welcome reception, I was approached by a man with a video camera.

It was Brian Shields, online news manager at KRON4, who was covering the conference and interviewing some of the women of BlogHer...including me!

On a web page titled "The People of BlogHer 2006," he's posted links to interviews with about a dozen BlogHer attendees as well as other stories on the conference. Scroll down the section labeled "Meet the Bloggers Part 1" and you'll find his interview with me...it's just a little ways below his interview with Arianna Huffington. How cool is that!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


An article by David Hazinski in the August issue of the Convergence Newsletter, published by the University of South Carolina, suggests we should "Emerge, Don’t Converge."

Hazinski, who teaches broadcast news at Grady College, University of Georgia, points out that "while both print and broadcast gain advantages from Web-based expansion, broadcasters really get little out of a marriage with print...so it is basically a one-way street, not a partnership."

While a broadcast story can easily be made into a print, Web or radio story, he notes the reverse doesn't hold true for Web and print stories. He continues:
The issue isn’t “print and broadcast and the Web,” the issue is the Web or, more specifically, Internet-based distribution. Print and broadcast are both rapidly losing audience to online journalism. Dozens of studies say this isn’t just about distribution but a migration to a different kind of journalism, one that addresses smaller, more discreet rather than mass audiences. Convergence doesn’t address that trend.
It's hard for us old-schoolers to let go of what we know, but new mediums require new approaches...and the web is a new medium. What the web is not is a combination of all our existing mediums, wrapped into one neat little package. In fact, if there's one thing the web is not, it's a neat little package. The web is messy...like the world.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Blogher: Thoughts on the journalism's future

During a podcasting "how to" session led by Susan Kitchens, who blogs at 2020Hindsight.org, I recorded a short interview with San Jose Mercury News reporter Elise Ackerman.

Here's a link to my first podcast, a seven-minute discussion of the future of journalism with Elise Ackerman.

Making blogs more accessible

At this morning's "Primp Your Blog" session at BlogHer, presenter Skye Kilean spoke about ways to make your blog more accessible to users with disabilities. Kilean writes the Flooded Lizard Kingdom blog. She had some good info, especially for those of us in education.

Kilean described her presentation as "how we add 'wheelchair ramps' to our blogs." Here are some of her suggestions:

Using text, links, colors: avoid uninformative links (such as click here, click on this, etc.). It's better to use a bigger click target (that is, more words, especially descriptive words such as "story on endangered bats"). Links that automatically open a new window can be disconcerting to visually impaired users. Make sure links change color when once they've been clicked so people can keep track of what they've already viewed; also remember some people are colorblind so use other cues, like boldface not just color change, to indicate visited links.

Images: Label photos so visually impaired people get information on key images they can't see. Use brief informative text to label images; remember, screenreaders read the "alt" label, but don't always read the title info. To make a screen reader skip a non-vital image, use alt=_ (leaving a space "_" tells the screenreader to skip this image). Blogger.com includes an "alt" area to describe pictures; edit them in the "edit html" tab.

Spam: Anti-spam measures to stop spam comments can make things difficult for people with visual impairments. Blogger has recently added an audio option for this.

Template-related stuff: Put sidebar on right so visually impaired people get your blog content read to them first, not your sidebar info. Put text size in percentages (Blogger already does this), not specific point sizes, for those who need larger text sizes.

For further information, Kilean recommends Bulletproof Web Design, a book by Dan Cederholm. She has also posted this information and more on her blog, with links to good and bad examples and additional resources.

Basking in BlogHer

After weeks without blogging (my summer vacation, I guess), I am back. It's BlogHer time!

The second annual BlogHer conference in San Jose is just now getting underway. And the thing that is so amazing is being surrounded by so many geeky women wielding laptops. Wow! Some men are here too, but they are so outnumbered. It's fun to be in the majority for a change.

The first session I'm attending is called "Primp Your Blog." Let's see if I can find out how to make my basic blogspot baby a little more 'purty ' and user-friendly.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Bees are Back

The bees are back and buzzing around the eaves of DBH again. The next thing you know, we'll have honey dripping from the upstairs ceilings again too.

Last July, when JMC staff found a puddle of honey in the Update News office, and a telltale ooze of honey from the ceiling, they called the Bee Man, David Williams, for help. I happened to be on campus the day Williams set up his extension ladder and climbed up two stories worth of rungs to spray DBH's eaves and rout the swarming bees.

Here are some shots of the Bee Man at work at DBH, clad in his protective white suit and bee hood:

I was reminded of this today when I read in the Mercury News that the Bee Man had died recently of colon cancer. He was just 58.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Losing control?

One of the more interesting blogs I peruse periodically is Micro Persuasion by Steve Rubel of Edelman. He recently spent a day in Paris (geez, life is tough) meeting with European marketers and PR pros who specialize in online communications.

In spite of their cultural differences, he found they all shared one concern: loss of control! Here's an excerpt:

Control is the lingua franca that unites us all. Every single person around the table shared an experience of how communicators are concerned about losing control. They simply don't want to give it up. While it was somewhat refreshing to hear that we all are dealing with similar issues, you could also see that the dominoes are starting to fall. We shared lots of inspiring success stories that give hope that bit by bit, we are all changing mindsets together.

I don't blame marketers/PR pros for being afraid to lose control. Nobody wants to. However, the genie is out of the bottle. We can't put it back. We need to look this gorilla in the eye and accept it. We need to embrace this change and do so globally.

Fear of losing control...the need (and the reluctance) to embrace change...where have I heard that before? Wait a minute -- it's the story of my life! On second thought, maybe it's the story of everybody's life. Must mean marketers are people too.

To read the rest, here's the permalink.

Disgraceful? I call it heroic

President Bush called the recent New York Times article that revealed the administration is tracking international financial transactions "disgraceful." I call it heroic.

The Times did what the media is supposed to do -- they told us what our government is doing. That's especially important when our government is secretly doing things that are unethical and illegal...and when there's so much pressure to give the administration our unquestioning support.

As I recall, it wasn't that long ago that Bush got mad when word seeped out that his administration was tapping our international phone calls, without a warrant or judicical oversight. Then, of course, we found out that it wasn't just our international calls they were monitoring, it was domestic calls too. Oh yeah, and later we found out that they're trying to monitor all our e-mails and web browsing trails too.

Given the latest revelation, how much do you wanna bet they're only tracking international financial transactions? Fat chance.

Yeah, I know some consider it unpatriotic to question anything done in the name of the war on terror (and that includes the president, apparently). But we didn't get to be known as "the land of the free and the home of the brave" by acting like a bunch of stupid, compliant sheep. Our nation's founders weren't afraid to question authority, and we shouldn't be either.

Today's NYT editorial page offered a strong defense of the story, noting that this latest revelation about the administration's spying program "looks like part of an alarming pattern." Here's an excerpt from that editorial, "Patriotism and the Press":
Ever since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has taken the necessity of heightened vigilance against terrorism and turned it into a rationale for an extraordinarily powerful executive branch, exempt from the normal checks and balances of our system of government. It has created powerful new tools of surveillance and refused, almost as a matter of principle, to use normal procedures that would acknowledge that either Congress or the courts have an oversight role.

...A half-century ago, the country endured a long period of amorphous, global vigilance against an enemy who was suspected of boring from within, and history suggests that under those conditions, it is easy to err on the side of security and secrecy. The free press has a central place in the Constitution because it can provide information the public needs to make things right again. Even if it runs the risk of being labeled unpatriotic in the process.

We need to run that risk. Democracy is too important to leave to the politicians.

Monday, June 19, 2006

A road map for PR majors

A senior VP at a major PR agency says it remains "puzzlingly difficult" to find qualified early-career PR candidates.

Writing in his 21st Century Communications blog, Marcel Goldstein of Ogilvy PR Worldwide says university and internship training now gives most young PR professionals a good understanding of communication theory and the mechanics of public relations. But many, he adds, are lacking three key "starting gate" skills.

What's lacking?
  1. Writing skills: "Few read enough and read enough of quality to become good writers."
  2. Studiousness: "Success in our career requires a thirst for learning."
  3. Agility: "A new public relations professional must be flexible, adaptable and quick to comprehend the need to change in client and team situations."
A road map for PR majors, perhaps?

To read the rest of Goldstein's comments, here's a link to his blog.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Delusions of privacy

"All good things must come to an end," notes an editorial in today's New York Times, "including the chance to post lascivious photographs and diary entries on the Internet without repercussions."

Reflecting on recent reports that many companies have gone from "Googling" their job applicants to checking in social media sites like Facebook and MySpace, the NYT editorialist wrote:

A recent survey found that more than a third of large American companies read their employees' outbound e-mail, and just under a third fired someone as a result. We are only just beginning to wake up to the wider ramifications of the Internet on the personal and the confidential. In the meantime, don't leave a digital trail. That photograph from your friend's party could be more than just embarrassing. It might cost you your dream job.

This particularly struck home to me after running across a post on Weblogg-ed yesterday on "Adults and MySpace" while browsing through some of the blogs linked to the BlogHer site. In that post, Will Richardson talked about how hypocritical it is for us adults to get our knickers in twist over what young people are posting on MySpace when we know they're being exposed daily to ads, videos, films and TV shows that are full of bad behavior, sex and violence.

To illustrate his point, Richardson linked to an explicit advertisement and to a MySpace page that curled my hair (so maybe I'm easily shocked), and wrote:

...repeat those images about 500,000 times until (kids) get old enough to put up a MySpace site and watch what happens.

Some youthful indiscretions can be overlooked (hey, our president admits to "youthful indiscretions" well into his 30s), but it's harder when they can be Googled indefinitely on the web.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Web politics

Is the internet going to do for Democrats and other progressives what talk radio has done for the Republican Right? That's the idea behind an commentary on Daily Kos's convention in today's NYT. Here's an excerpt:

There are some cultural reasons why Democrats may be more attracted to the Internet. Democrats, as a group, may have warmer feelings about science and technology, or perhaps they are attracted to the decentralized, anti-authoritarian nature of blogs and e-mail (the exact opposite of a show like Rush Limbaugh's, where the host speaks and the "dittoheads" take it all in).

Makes sense to me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The web journalism we've been hoping for?

Are we finally getting a glimpse of journalism's future?

Award-winning business journalist Christopher Carey is leaving the St. Louis Post-Dispatch to start a new investigative business journalism site, Sharesleuth.com, devoted to exposing stock fraud and corporate malfeasance.

The venture is being backed financially by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a billionaire entrepreneur whose current holdings include HDNet, HDNet Films, Magnolia Pictures, 2929 Productions and the Landmark Theatres chain.

It sounds promising. I've been wondering how investigative journalism could survive in an era when the mainstream media seem cowed by the Bush administration and hamstrung by the financial interests of their corporate owners. Perhaps enterprising reporters like Carey and "investment angels" like Cuban will help create a new model of journalism.

As reported in Talking Biz News and in Romanesko's PoynterOnline blog, Carey's blog-style news site will spotlight "questionable companies and activities, and dig deeply into the people and tales behind them." Sharesleuth.com will take a multimedia approach, using the Web and Cuban’s television network and movie-production capabilities.

I'm hot again!

After years of being ignored by marketers, I just found out I'm hot again. And, no, it's not another hot flash.

According to a recent NYT article, over-the-hill consumers like me are a hot growth market for internet sales.

That shouldn't come as a surprise. The article cites U.S. Census Bureau figures showing those of us who are over 50 now make up 40 percent of the U.S. population, hold 75 percent of the nation's financial assets, and account for 55 percent of all consumer spending. But marketers still tend to focus on the 18-to-34-year-old market.

"A lot of companies have an antiquated way of looking at older people, which makes little sense when you look at how much more disposable income they have now," said Heather Dougherty, an analyst with Nielsen/NetRatings.

The article also quotes Howard Byck, vice president of business development for AARP Services (no, I haven't joined yet), who said, "...In many ways marketers have taken the 50-plus market for granted. The reality is that you can't do that anymore."

I can't wait to be wooed again!

Monday, June 12, 2006

A word to the wise

Be careful what you post. It could come back to haunt you.

According to a recent NYT article, more and more companies aren't just "googling" their job candidates, they're also checking out social networking sites like MySpace and Friendster:
Many companies that recruit on college campuses have been using search engines like Google and Yahoo to conduct background checks on seniors looking for their first job. But now, college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster, where college students often post risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy.

When viewed by corporate recruiters or admissions officials at graduate and professional schools, such pages can make students look immature and unprofessional, at best.

Remember, the web is not a private place.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Microsoft's loss is SV's gain

It's only appropriate that the news broke in blogs. Microsoft is losing The Scobleizer, a.k.a. blogger Robert Scoble, a JMC alum who's returning to Silicon Valley for a podcasting gig.

As reported Saturday in blogs like TechCrunch, and Sunday in a Reuters story in the WashingtonPost.com (datelined Monday), Scoble plans to join PodTech.net, a Menlo Park, Calif., start-up that has begun podcasting video interviews of "technology industry luminaries." He will be vice president of content, in charge of creating shows.

Scoble helped bring blogging into the mainstream...and into the PR/marketing mix of a growing number of organizations. Maybe he'll do the same for podcasting.

In the Reuters article, Scoble offered some advice to other corporate bloggers who wish to keep their day jobs:
"Understand your company's culture before you start mouthing off. When you start breaking the rules, you better know you are breaking the rules."
Sound advice.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

First the good news...

I was heartened by the California appeals court ruling this week in a case that pitted bloggers' rights to protect their sources against Apple Computer's right to protect its trade secrets.

I think the appeals court rightly decided that Apple's right to know who leaked product information ends where the First Amendment begins. The appeals court essentially said online and print journalists are equally protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and that Web sites are covered by California's shield law protecting the confidentiality of journalists' sources.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation called it a "huge win." EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl, who argued the case before the appeals court last month, said the decision was "a victory for the rights of journalists, whether online or offline, and for the public at large."

Blogger Pamela Jones of Groklaw.net, which filed an amicus brief in the case, described it as "a *huge* win!" She added, "Now journalists can feel safe knowing that they can protect their sources’ identity no matter in which medium they choose to disseminate news."

Here's an excerpt from the opinion:
"We can think of no workable test or principle that would distinguish 'legitimate' from 'illegitimate' news. Any attempt by courts to draw such a distinction would imperil a fundamental purpose of the First Amendment" which guarantees freedom of the press."

Link to PDF of the full decision in this case: http://www.eff.org/Censorship/Apple_v_Does/H028579.pdf

Now for the bad news...

The Bush administration appears to be misusing the Patriot Act to track the phone calls of journalists who are reporting on its domestic spying program and allegations of secret prisons in Europe, including reporters at ABC News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.

Under the Patriot Act, the administration can use
a National Security Letter (NSL) to get phone records without having to go through a judge or notify the people involved...which means journalists won't find out about it until it's too late to get an injunction to protect their sources. No more Judith Millers. Why bother to threaten reporters with jail time for not revealing their sources when you can just secretly tap their phones or get their phone records and find out who they've been calling...and who's been calling them.

Remember when we were told domestic spying was just about tracking terrorists?

Writing in his The Online Beat blog, John Nichols of
The Nation said, "If the administration has begun reviewing the telephone calls of reporters not to catch lawbreakers but to prevent revelations of its own lawlessness, then this White House has strayed onto dangerous political turf."

Pointing to President Nixon's enemies list, which included a number of well-known journalists, Nichols noted that "the Bush-Cheney administration would not be the first to go after journalists in order to protect itself from challenges to its authority."

To see what news reporters are saying about the situation, check out Joe Strupp's article in Editor & Publisher.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

PR template for the Internet age?

As I was cruising Shel Holtz's PR blog this evening, I found a reference to a new "web 2.0" version of the venerable press release.

Developed by Shift Communications, a PR agency with offices in San Francisco and Boston, this "next generation" press release features re-mixable content and background information in a hyperlinked format. Here's how Shift describes it:
"This radically different format is more à la carte menu than standard press release. In a non-linear fashion, it ties together narrative, quotes and various multimedia (RSS, social bookmarking, photos, etc.) on one page. Journalists and bloggers can 're-mix' the elements into the story THEY want to write."
I looked it over and it looks good: clear organization, clean layout, multimedia links. Even better, Shift is making this new press release template available for free as a downloadable PDF, with no strings attached.

However, Holz wonders, "How many traditional PR practitioners are savvy enough about the changes occurring in the media and communication space to even recognize this is a good idea, no less be aware that the Shift template exists?"

I can't do much to reach traditional PR practitioners, but I can get the word out to some of the next generation by posting a link on my PR class web page.