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, 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:

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.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A Good Day at JMC

Today was one of those days that makes me glad to be a teacher.

My Journalism 61A students came in today for their "final," which entailed revising their features, and then reformatting them, adding some subheads and hyperlinks, and saving them as web pages. They finished up by posting their stories on the 61A student web page. Not bad for an hour and half of work.

We had fun doing it, and there's always such a sense of accomplishment when you get the job done and see your name in print. And I like being able to be able to send everybody off feeling satisfied and happy. Maybe I just like full-circle endings.

As you browse through their stories, be sure to check out Joel Bridgeman's Can SJSU Football Suvive?, Danielle Ferree's Graduating On Time?, Ekene Ikeme's The Full College Experience is Expensive, Drew Nickolson's Skateboarding: A Trip Too Far, and Carl Ponzio's The Price of Four Letters.

Oh, and here's the class pic. Notice how relieved everyone looks now that the semester is done!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Help give JOUR 163 a makeover

Journalism 163 is getting a makeover! This former broadcasting class will debut in the fall as New Media in Journalism...and we'd like your suggestions on what it ought to include.

Interested? Then please join JMC alum and SJSU IT consultant Steve Sloan, who's scheduled to teach one section of the class, and Cynthia McCune, JMC webmaster, for a "geek dinner/meetup" at Tony Soprano's, 87 E. San Fernando Street, at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 23. Sloan and McCune will spring for the first round of pizzas.

Here's what we want to know: How do you, as students (our customers!) envision such a class, and what would you like to see included in it? We'd like to hear from as many JMC students (and alums!) as possible to reflect the wide range of media interests and levels of tech experience in our School. In other words, you don't need to be a geek to come!

Sloan plans to record the conversation and podcast it...the first of what he hopes will be the first of several podcasts on this subject.

Be there or be square!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some good news for J-school grads

Newspapers may be on the ropes, but J-schools are doing just fine...and so are many new grads. That's the gist of an article in today's New York Times.

This year, the article notes, the nation's journalism schools "will churn out more graduates than ever into a job market that is perhaps more welcoming to entry-level multimedia-taskers than it is to veterans who began their careers hunting and pecking on Olivetti typewriters."

Some estabished J-schools are expanding enrollments and increasing their multimedia offerings; Yale is even starting a new journalism program.

The article says new grads with the right skills are now replacing many old-school reporters. The article quotes Richard J. Roth, senior associate dean of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, who said:
"They're just buying out the people who are earning at the top and replacing them with people at the bottom, but those people at the bottom know how to put up podcasts and video."

Also quoted was Mike McKean, chairman of Missouri's convergence journalism faculty, who said,
"Things are changing so quickly that it's not so much about learning a particular tool or software. It's more about an attitude of working in teams and producing content for different audiences."
Food for thought.