Friday, March 11, 2011

I've moved

Hi there! If you came to this page by Googling me (thanks!), this was a blog I kept during a web journalism course in college. As you can see, it's rather outdated.

I've done a lot since. Come visit me and find out what I've been up to via my web site, Hope to see you there!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pull it, sir.

Found on the Pulitzer Prize site's FAQ page:

18. How is "Pulitzer" pronounced?
The correct pronunciation is "PULL it sir."

Bravo to the Times

I might be late on this, but I just discovered a new button on the bottom of some stories. It says Sphere It! next to a little blue logo. When you click, up pops a window with links to blog posts and articles related to the story you just read.
Holy mackerel, Charlie. There's been tons of debate about whether news sites should link to outside content, with many resisting. The point of this new-fangled Interweb, said the publishers, is to bring money into your news site, and only your news site. And here's The New York Times, with a story on Wikipedia, linking to similar stories on Yahoo!News, and ..., not to mention on outside blogs, often seen as some sort of vicious enemy to the mainstream media.
Sphere, if you're unaware (as was I), is a blog search engine that claims to be different from - and better than - Technorati or Google's blog searcher. Sphere says its search tool weeds out spam and other junk blogs, leaving you with actually relevant results, not to mention listed related books, etc., and recommending blogs.
Sounds pretty good. This is an unscientific test, of course, but when I searched my last name I found only two results in the past six months, both of them spam. Maybe if more people were blogging about Slajda, this wouldn't be a problem. Hop to it, folks! Technorati, on the other hand, tends to bring up tons o' spam, lots of Xanga posts about my uncle the high-school English teacher, and links to the Northeastern News, which I write a column for.
Anyway. Bravo, I suppose, to the New York Times for letting go of their fears and linking to stories written by those not on the company payroll. It should be mentioned that Sphere It! only seems to appear at the bottom of stories in the technology section - perhaps us tech nerds and new media geeks are the ones to test this whole thing out on. And then we run off and blog about it, and those appear in Sphere, and ... ah, the new media cycle of life and gossip.
On a basically unrelated note, I'd also like to mention that the Times has a fun research gadget in all its stories. If you double click any word, a pop-up appears with background information from Click on Louisville, Ky., and get a dictionary definition, an encyclopedia entry, the local weather and some other tidbits. Click on the word "growing," part of the phrase "growing pains," and you get a definition, the historic background of the idiom, and a medical definition. Sometimes it gets a little crazy, highlighting whole sentences or separating names ("Jimmy Wales" brought me information on either crowbars or the country, depending on which name I clicked), but like I said, fun.
Again, bravo to the times.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Back up and running!

Well, it's been a while. But there's plenty to talk about ... and my friends can only handle so much media-related discussion.
Number One. Apparently there's a new glossy mag coming out, aimed at the oh-so-lucrative baby boomers and dubbed Obit. That's right, folks. A magazine devoted to nothing but delicious death notices ... and, of course, advertising. I first read about it in Alex Beam's column. The 'zines founders describe their forthcoming product thusly, on their slick but still content-void web site:
A magazine that we hope will be the hottest thing in periodicals since the
golden years of Esquire and Playboy, that will leave an indelible mark on
American society, and, frankly, will be a damn good read.

As one who's written very nearly 1,000 obits, I understand the allure and importance of writing about the dear departed. But still ... this is pretty damn funny.
Number Two. The Fox News Channel this Sunday unveiled its news parody show, "The 1/2 Hour News Hour." I didn't catch it but I did enjoy the benefits of YouTube: check clips out here and here. It's really, really bad. It offends me, not as someone with liberal leanings, not as a journalist, but as someone with a sense of humor.
And on that note, how about a NEWS channel that lays claims to lofty objectivity and fairness running a FAKE NEWS show? "The Daily Show" runs on Comedy Central.
That's all for now.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Good idea!

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about Washington Post staffers, John Harris and Jim VandeHei, leaving the bastion of political journalism for the world of the online, with a big budget and some (supposedly) serious talent behind them.
Jay Rosen interviewed Harris for PressThink and asked him, what's so revolutionary about this new Allbritton-financed adventure?

Jay Rosen: You guys said Allbritton was sold on your “non-traditional”
approach to news from political Washington. What traditions will you be breaking
with to produce it, and why would you depart from them?
John Harris: I have long puzzled over a phenomenon about many reporters, one that I am sure is true for me also. They tend to be more interesting in conversation than they are to read in the paper. I think one reason for that is that the typical newspaper story continues to be written with a kind of austere, voice-of-God detachment. This muffles personality, humor, accumulated insight—all the reasons reporters tend to be fun to talk to. When it’s appropriate—not in every story but in
many—we’ll try to loosen the style and in the process tell readers more about
what we know, what we think, and why we think it.

This is, excuse the language, fucking fantastic. In all the commentary and criticism and guessing about how to save the news in this new media world, so few people look at the actual journalism - the reporting, the writing, all of it. It's refreshing to see someone talking about changing the way we do things on a basic level.

As far as what Harris was talking about, I absolutely agree. The right calls the media out on its "liberal bias," so reporters and editors push even harder for objectivity (not to mention things like the Jayson Blair debacle, which some are still recovering from psychologically). As a result, most stories turn out so dry that even if they're about something really important - how contractors are wasting millions on unfinished projects in Iraq, for example - a reader doesn't get the sense of the importance. There's no outrage on behalf of the reporter, and for many that means there's no outrage for the reader. But being pissed about something like that is not, I think, bias. It's perfectly legitimate and, provided they have all the facts, there's no way someone could say it's biased.

Anyway, way to go Harris. I said it before: I hope this works.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

When horses fly.

Pegasus (, another experiment in user-oriented content management on a news site, launched this week out of Dallas, Texas. The general idea is you sign up and Pegasus tracks which stories you click on. (Most of which are hyper-local.) Once it gets enough information (how much is enough, I'm not sure), it starts listing stories you might be interested in. If you read a lot of stories about a certain school, say, or lots of restaurant reviews, it'll list those stories first in their respective sections. Also, you can register in a certain neighborhood, and Pegasus can start directing you to those stories immediately, without gathering info about where you click the most.
It seems like a good idea, and the people down in Texas compare themselves to Amazon's book and music recommendations, except with news. Plus, the layout is inviting and simple. Layouts at other "cutting-edge" news sites, like Digg and the Fort-Myers News Press, are cluttered and look somewhat sketchy, as if viruses are lurking behind every link. Those turn me off immediately; I just want to get away from those sites as fast as possible. But Pegasus is lovely. The site uses bright colors and big buttons on the top for each section: Metro, Business, Living, etc. The top stories are listed along the left, by section (this is, I imagine, where "The Daily You" stories will be); on the right there's a calendar, a list of today's events, and the latest user comments - interspersed with ads, of course.
But the news content itself is a lot of fluff. Well, not fluff per se, but the stories are very short, often written in first person and often riding the coattails of reporting done by other Dallas sources. The news stories come off more like blog posts, and I'm not sure that's what Pegasus is going for.
Also of note: no news video on the site, but several of the ads come with YouTube spots. One, for a new "healthy" Dallas-brewed beer, is a local newscast about said beer. Another is a dramatic video of a "laptop deathmatch" party at a local bar for New Year's Eve. These aren't really short, either; the deathmatch one lasts a minute and a half.
Also, a banner ad on the site encourages people to register for The Daily You feature, because, "all the cool kids are doing it." The graphic is a cartoon of two teenagers; one is smoking, and offering a cigarette to the other.
(On a sidenote, I can't seem to get links up correctly, so if you're interested, you'll have to poke around yourself.)

Friday, December 01, 2006

die Podcasten.

Earlier this year, German Chancellor Angela Merkel became perhaps the first head of state to begin addressing her country through video podcasts. The three-minute spots are available weekly, and according to the government's press office (according to Wired Magazine), are downloaded 200,000 times a week. That's decent, even if the spoofs on YouTube have an equal (or greater) following.
What I found interesting about Wired's story is this quote from a critic of the podcasts, democracy analyst Sascha Kneip:
"The real target group isn't people under 35 [the people who podcast] but journalists and professional observers ... It's a way to set the political agenda."
True. But isn't that the way political rhetoric works? When our own dear President G.W. Bush makes a speech at an Elks Lodge in Minnesota, or a farmers' convention in Kansas, his "real target group" is not the few hundred or thousand people in front of him. Sure, he wants their support, especially in an election age when every vote very literally counts, but he's speaking to a much bigger audience. Sound bytes will be picked up by broadcast stations; quotes will be scribbled in notepads by the print journalism set. Hell, Bush might even get a spot on YouTube. Those bytes and quotes might be aired on the evening news or appear in the next day's paper, and of course will be available all over the Web -- but if it's not a major speech or prime campaigning time (and if the president doesn't do anything extraordinarily dumb, like the door fiasco in China last year), those bits and pieces will probably only appear where political junkies and reporters will be looking. So whether Bush's speech to a bunch of Rotarians in Maine hits the mainstream media or, more likely, just the people with a vested interest, he's speaking to more than the Bangor Rotary Club and he's indeed setting a political agenda.
So Merkel may be pretending to talk directly to the German people, when really, she's just talking to the Berlin insiders. But so what? All politicians do it, and have way before video podcasts came around.
Speaking of which, when will we see the W. Podcast? I wouldn't hold my breath, not with the YouTube crowd waiting, poised, to mock him six ways to Sunday.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another step into unknown territory...

Two top Washington Post staffers -- the national political editor, John Harris, and reporter Jim VandeHei -- are leaving the Post for a new, Web-based, multimedia venture into covering politics. The new project, still unnamed but part of Allbritton Communications, is about as multi as media gets, incorporating TV stations, a Congress-insider newspaper to be launched in January and a Web site tying it all together.
And these guys were top of the food chain at The Paper you go to for political news. Or maybe the paper you used to go to. VandeHei and Harris were apparently offered some good green to stay, as well as control of the Post's online political realm. But Allbritton is really backing their new thing, letting VandeHei hire six reporters at salaries that he says are better than anything at the Post or even the New York Times.
Plus, they'll be flying those reporters around the campaign trail. I almost want to add, "Just like real reporters!" It seems some are treating these guys like pariahs for leaving such an institution for the Internet -- and some are downright offended.
Will this nameless venture succeed? Revolutionize news media? Provide a path for others to follow? Beat the Times and the Post in political coverage? Maybe. It could be nothing more than an expensive, hare-brained scheme, but the move does at least show the momentum behind the New Media movement and the faith (some) journalists and businesspeople have in it.
I hope they do a good job.