Monday, November 17, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Test for Google Map exercise

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Here is the Google Map exercise we're going to on coffee.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Experimenting with Flickr

For Flickr slideshow, click here or on photo

I spent a few minutes during lunchtime today walking around Centennial Common and taking photos so that I could demonstrate how to create and link to a Flickr slideshow.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The last roundup

I'm spending my Friday evening at Jaho Coffee & Tea in downtown Salem, where I'm assembling our final blog roundup of the semester. This is one of my favorite writing spots, and I imagine I'll be putting in a lot of time here during the next four months.

Even though the semester is nearly over, I hope you'll continue blogging. It's a skill every journalist needs to master.

It's a leap year. And Bailey Clear wants us to know that means it's the Year of the Frog, species of which are disappearing at a disturbing rate because of environmental contamination. We're also moving into whale-watching season, a dangerous time for those vulnerable animals. Scientists are taking new steps to protect them.

Continuing with our animal theme, Bianca Strzelczyk considers the phenomenon of "doggie discrimination," and shares some information about the secret lives of rats, too. She thinks the just-opened Newseum is "one of the coolest museums ever created." OK, I'm convinced. Next time I'm in Washington, I'm going.

Information is power, and with power comes a desire for someone to come along and take it. With the Internet, says Brendan Gupta, that someone is the telephone companies, who want to gain control in return for installing fiber-optic transmission lines. Brendan also lays out his political agenda for a post-9/11 world.

Surprisingly, the demand for green housing has survived the housing slump, Brian Benson finds. And — in a return to our focus on critters — Brian tells us that the long Maine winter has created problems for the state's deer population: deer do not hibernate, and the deep snow pack has covered up their food supply.

Here is a difference between Candice Springer and me: she is obsessed with David Cook; I've never heard of David Cook. Whoever he is, Candice says he has done it again. She also checks in on Donald Trump's Miss USA contest, and wonders whether beauty queens who are black are held to a higher standard of behavior than those who are white. has put together a great page on the Boston Marathon, says Casey Ramsdell, who nevertheless wonders why the 26.2-mile race doesn't seem to be that big a deal this year. Casey also finds that the Patriots really did go 19-0, only not in the United States: the NFL sent the Pats' championship gear to poor countries around the world.

Chelsey Pieretti is a fan of both J.K. Rowling and the "Harry Potter" books, but she thinks Rowling is being selfish. Chelsey also ponders those clips of Hillary Clinton drinking: "I mean, if I'm going to base my feelings on a presidential hopeful on their shot-taking technique, I think I know a few people here at school who would get my vote."

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig and Players Association president Donald Fehr lost their chance to do something about steroids when they should have, says Danny Kowalski; but at least they're doing something now. Danny also takes a look at the relationship between Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain and his disabled father.

The city is being challenged on its anti-student housing restrictions, reports Derek Hawkins, who issues a challenge of his own to college newspapers: cover the story. He also takes a somewhat jaundiced view of whether the college press is obliged to cover student government — and an extremely jaundiced view of Twitter.

"Puppies make everything better," writes Eleni Himaras, which allows me to return to our theme. Eleni looks at Web-based databases that will help her find a puppy when she moves to Texas later this year. She also tells us about Teens in Print: Boston, a four-times-a-year paper put out by Boston school kids with the help of the Boston Globe.

Erin Cahill checks in on a recent panel discussion about "Reporting on Religion," sponsored by the Northeastern University School of Journalism. Erin notes that such coverage isn't necessarily restricted to the religion beat. As the controversy over Barack Obama's former pastor shows, religious literacy is valuable for any journalist.

The new Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, likes to brag about how comfortable he is with online technology and social networking, observes Erin Semagin Damio. By contrast, Erin shows us a clip of President Bush on CNBC in which he talks about how much he likes Google Earth — but he can't remember what it's called.

Is that a naked woman reflected in Dick Cheney's sunglasses? No, it's a hand casting a fly rod — and it's pretty obvious unless you've got a dirty mind, says Jessica MacNeil. She also profiles Mac Slocum, an Internet entrepreneur whose Web site, The Independent Publisher, is devoted to innovation in online journalism.

The Northeastern News could have done a better job with its headline on the student-government election, writes Jessica Torrez-Riley, adding that the paper saved the good stuff for the editorial page. She also hails the Harvard Crimson for diving into live-blogging, even though she's skeptical of the trend in general.

Kelly Sullivan is appalled by the story — now revealed to have been a fraud — of the Yale student who claimed to have transformed her repeated abortions into an art project. She also ponders the fate of "CBS Evening News" anchor Katie Couric, whose low ratings may soon force her out of the anchor chair once occupied by Walter Cronkite.

America's cocaine habit is destroying the national parks of Central and South America, reports Lisa Newman, who wonders whether there are other issues we ought to be worrying about instead. Lisa also ponders new state laws allowing the death penalty to be imposed for child rape, and wonders about the moral and logical implications.

Ninety-six years after it sunk, people are still wondering what really happened to the Titanic. Maureen McLaughlin looks at a New York Times story reporting that the problem wasn't the encounter with an iceberg per se but, rather, faulty rivets that could not withstand the force of the crash. Maureen also calls our attention to an undersea slide show.

Trying to make sense of the story about the third-graders who were allegedly plotting to hurt their teacher is difficult, notes Mitchell Esteller. What's important, he says, is to make sure the students understand the meaning of accountability. Mitchell also gives us a peek inside the dauntingly expensive "rubber room" for New York teachers accused of wrongdoing.

The new Web site iConflict could be a great way to keep track of news from hot spots around the world, says Stacey Perlman; but she adds that, so far, the idea is better than the execution. Stacey also describes Ushahidi, a system that allows Kenyans to report on violence resulting from the tumult over the December election.

I'm not sure I want USA Today bugging me via AIM, but Stephen Asay gives McPaper credit for doing it in a reasonably spritely manner. Stephen also digs up a remarkable post about the ethics of photo editing, linking to two shots of high school football players that are literally as different as night and day.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Your final projects

Last night I finished editing your final projects and returned them to you. As you'll see, they're not graded, but you'll find extensive comments as well as suggestions on organization and further reporting you should do.

The deadline for e-mailing your rewrite to me is Monday, April 21, at 10 a.m. Monday is a holiday, and I will not be on campus that day. But I will be working. If you need to reach me that day, you can do so by e-mail or by calling my cell phone.

Every project I read is either already a good story or can become one with some extra work. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind as you work on your rewrites:
  • What I've done so far consists of structural editing and a little bit of copy editing. I have not checked the spelling of proper names. Please — triple-check every name via Google, Facebook or whatever. Each botched name will cost you a letter grade. Make sure you get full credit for your hard work.
  • Your story should be around 2,500 words long; include interviews with at least eight people; links to at least 10 sources of outside information; and three embedded pieces of art, whether they are photos, videos or illustrations.
  • Your rewrite should include a memo of, say, 300 to 500 words on additional ways that you could make your story a more fully realized piece of Web journalism. Is there, for instance, some way that you could incorporate a Google map? Is there an online presentation you could put together that would allow readers to add their own content? What Web features could you include that would help you develop follow-up stories? Please do not send me your memo as a separate document; rather, include it at the bottom of your story.
Let's aim for a strong finish.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Search for free art

Here is the link to Wikimedia Commons, a great resource for finding freely available public-domain photos, art, video and sound.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Our final guest speaker

Our final guest speaker of the semester, Kimberly Atkins, will join us this Wednesday for the last part of our class. Atkins, a lawyer, is a staff reporter and blogger for Lawyers USA in Washington. Before that, she covered politics and wrote a political blog for the Boston Herald. For my money, her blogging on the governor's race in 2006 was more interesting than what appeared in the print edition of the Herald because of its immediacy and Atkins' conversational tone.

Please have a look at Atkins' blog, DC Dicta, and read through her posts for the last week or so. How does blogging help a journalist to be a better reporter? To what extend is a reporter's blogging becoming as important a part of his or her job as fully reported stories? Have social-networking tools such as LinkedIn helped her do her job?

Monday, April 7, 2008

Re-editing the agenda with NewsTrust

For the past week we've been immersing ourselves in NewsTrust, a social-networking site that bills itself as "Your guide to good journalism."

Last Wednesday Rory O'Connor, NewsTrust's editorial director, led us in a presentation and workshop, highlights of which you can see in the embedded video below. Since then, we've been posting and rating stories related to the global economy, which was NewsTrust's featured topic.

NewsTrust's strength is also its weakness. Unlike Digg, which simply allows you to vote on whether you like or don't like a story, NewsTrust asks users to rate stories on a wide range of criteria, including whether you think the news organization is reliable, how well sourced the story is, whether it's fair and whether the story offers enough context.

In all, there are 12 different criteria, each of them demanding a rating of one to five stars. Though you may leave any particular criterion blank if you choose, that's still a lot — and you haven't even gotten to writing a comment, adding tags and filling in several other forms. That's quite a bit of work.

Still, the idea is a good one. It's a way for ordinary readers — well, ordinary readers who happen to be news junkies — to re-edit the news, to judge for themselves what are the best and most important stories rather than relying on the editors of the New York Times, the BBC or what have you. Some readers who don't want to submit or even rate stories may be intrigued by the idea of tapping into the wisdom of the NewsTrust community to find news they might otherwise never see.

According to O'Connor, testing has showed that journalists and non-journalists give stories similar ratings, which suggests that the NewsTrust system, though cumbersome, actually works. Perhaps the biggest drawback at the moment is the NewsTrust demographic, which O'Connor compares to the PBS audience: well-educated, aging and very liberal. Lack of ideological balance could hinder NewsTrust from becoming the well-respected guide to which its founders aspire. They understand the problem and are hoping to come up with some solutions.

Another interesting feature is that users themselves are rated in terms of how transparent they are about their backgrounds, how often they submit and rate stories and what other users think of their ratings. This, as well as community judgments about the reliability of different news sources, all gets figured into the algorithm that comes up with a score for any given story.

According to my students' blogs, NewsTrust could be improved if it were less text-heavy and loaded more quickly.

As more people begin to use NewsTrust, its ratings should become more useful. I've submitted and reviewed several stories and felt like I was shouting into the wind, as no one else rated them. I do think it would be interesting if there were some way of knowing how many other people had at least read the story.

Social networking is the hottest trend in media today. By trying to combine social networking with serious journalism, the founders of NewsTrust have hit upon one of the more promising experiments in online journalism.

Home stretch

I caught up with your blog posts this afternoon, and in most cases I'm impressed at the breadth and depth of what you've been writing about. The deadline for your final projects is this Wednesday before class. After that, you'll have one week to keep blogging for your grade. So if you're running behind, that will be a good opportunity to catch up.

I hope you will continue blogging after the semester ends.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

NewsTrust assignment

I want to thank Rory O'Connor for the terrific presentation/workshop he led on NewsTrust today. As promised, here, in writing, is what I'm going to ask of you for the rest of this week into Monday.
  • You may put your blogging on hold. Exception: I asked each of you to post a blog item about NewsTrust in advance of today. If you haven't done that yet, please do so now.
  • O'Connor has asked us to submit (and rate) at least one story a day to NewsTrust on the featured topic, the global economy. A lot of you are very good at scouring for information from mainstream and non-mainstream news sources, the Web sites of nonprofit organizations and the like, so this is a chance to put your skills to work. Please rate a few stories that are already on NewsTrust, too.
  • You've all been very busy with pulling together your final projects. So I'll give you a chance to catch your breath on Monday by spending the last hour submitting a story or two to NewsTrust and rating articles.
Have a good weekend.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Getting to know NewsTrust

You've all now become registered users of NewsTrust. (If you were not with us today, please go to the site and sign up.) Before class on Wednesday, I would like all of you to post an item to your blogs about your experience with NewsTrust.

Among the activities you might try: filling in more information about yourself so that your transparency rating rises; rating a few stories; and submitting a story so that others in the community can rate it. What do you like about the site? What do you think could be improved?

Remember, on Wednesday we'll be having a presentation and workshop on NewsTrust led by the editor, Rory O'Connor. Please go to Room 90 in the basement of Snell Library — the library itself, and not the classroom annex.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday night blog roundup

I haven't done this for a while, so I thought I'd post a few highlights of what you've all been writing about. Many of you have posted your midterm feature stories. I'm really struck by how much better they look online than in Word. Just to be different, I'll post in reverse alphabetical order by first name.

The Los Angeles Times really stepped in it this week by linking rap artist Sean "Puffy" Combs to the 1994 shooting of fellow rapper Tupac Shakur on the basis of documents that turned out to be phony. Stephen Asay takes a look at how the Smoking Gun got to the bottom of it.

My jaw dropped in amazement and horror as I watched a clip from a local newscast in which the anchor and the reporter went at it live over each other's journalistic chops. As Stacey Perlman notes, no happy-talk banter here. Yet that probably would have been preferable.

There's nothing humorous about child molestation. But, as Mitchell Esteller learns, there's something at least a little bit humorous about a child molester claiming in his defense that he himself had been molested by the legendary Bigfoot in New Hampshire when he was a child.

Maureen McLaughlin has been poking around 9Neighbors, a local news aggregation/social-networking site. She's particularly taken with the photo section, which gives residents a chance to share their pictures with the community.

If you think "Yugoslavia" begins with "U," then you won't get the video Lisa Newman has posted in which Americans are asked about their knowledge of foreign countries. But when the State Department can't even find Angorra, well, what do u — uh, you — expect?

Abraham Lincoln his getting a new look on the $5 bill. Kelly Sullivan likes the purple "5," and suggests pink for the $100 bill — with a tiara for Ben Franklin.

Google Maps are changing the face of online journalism. Jessica Torrez-Riley finds that the Tufts Daily has put together its own Google map of crime in the surrounding neighborhood, complete with synopses and links to more in-depth stories.

I believe it was Ben Alper who said that Dr. Jack Kevorkian is the only candidate for Congress who begins his rallies by saying, "Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today." Jessica MacNeil considers the candidacy of "Dr. Death," and wonders if it's possible that he might actually win.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is already one of the most Web-savvy mainstream journalists around. Now he's started a Facebook page, Erin Semagin Damio tells us. Kristof is singing our song, saying, "I’m a firm believer that the best business model for newspapers in the future has less to do with dead trees than with social networks."

Ron Paul's insurgent campaign for the Republican presidential nomination has faded, but Erin Cahill writes that what he has to say is important, though unconventional. Abolishing the IRS and pulling the United States out of the U.N. certainly amounts to change, she says.

Eleni Himaras clues us in on, which is dedicated to "[p]rolonging the slow death of newspapers" by calling our attention to great examples of narrative journalism. She also tells us a secret: she's not a huge fan of multimedia journalism.

Barack Obama has essentially won the Democratic nomination, says Derek Hawkins — he'll almost certainly finish the primary season with more votes and more delegates than Hillary Clinton. Which is why, he predicts, Obama's youthful supporters will be enraged if the superdelegates move toward Clinton.

Danny Kowalski takes a look at 9Neighbors, a site that aggregates local news and blog posts and allows users to vote on what items are the most interesting and/or important. Is it journalism? Yes and no, he says.

Chelsea Clinton recently snapped at a student who'd asked her whether her father's infidelity had harmed her mother's "credibility." Chelsey Pieretti thinks Chelsea was within her rights, noting that she was just 18 when the Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998 became public.

Just because the Red Sox were playing baseball before the sun had come up doesn't mean that Casey Ramsdell missed any of the action. Quite the contrary. She set her alarm for 5:45 a.m. and caught the action live from Japan. And she's not, she tell us, a morning person.

Candice Springer also takes note of the Chelsea Clinton story, but leans toward a different view — namely, that if she's going to take to the campaign trail on behalf of her mother, then she should be expected to answer questions just like anyone else.

There's a connection between maple-syrup production and global warming, Brian Benson writes, as sugar-maple trees are migrating north. How pronounced is this? In the 1950s, 80 percent of the world's maple syrup came from the United States and 20 percent from Canada. Today, those percentages are reversed.

The Web offers all the flexibility and freedom that cable television lacks. Brendan Gupta argues that the solution is to bring the two together by replacing the cable box with a high-speed Internet connection.

We are remarkably unaffected by the war in Iraq, notes Bianca Strzelczyk. We shouldn't be, she writes, observing that we have now lost 4,000 American lives (and many more Iraqi lives) since the war began five years ago.

For those of you who are sick of the water-skiing squirrel, Bailey Clear offers something much more entertaining — a dancing sea lion. She's also been helping with its editing, and getting results.

Student makes Universal Hub

Jessica Torrez-Riley's blog gets picked up by Universal Hub.

Monday, March 24, 2008

NewsTrust next week

Next week we will be taking a close look at, a social-networking experiment that seeks to apply the wisdom of the crowds to serious journalism. Please make sure you are able to attend class next Wednesday, April 2, when NewsTrust editor Rory O'Connor will lead a presentation and hands-on workshop.
We'll meet in 90 Snell Library. If you've never been in that room, enter the library — not the classroom annex, but the actual library — and go downstairs one flight. The room will be directly in front of you.

There will be a follow-up assignment in the next few days following the class.

"Religion in the News"

I want to call your attention to a panel discussion that will be held next Wednesday, April 2. Titled "Religion in the News: What Future Reporters and Editors Need to Know," the discussion will take place in the Ballroom at the Curry Student Center from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This would make a good extra-credit assignment. Panelists will be:
  • Benjamin Hubbard, chair emeritus of comparative religion at California State University, Fullerton.
  • Debra Mason, executive director of the Religion Newswriters Association and director of the Center for Religion, the Professions and the Public at the University of Missouri, Columbia.
  • Munir Shaikh, executive director of the California-based Institute on Religion and Civic Values.
The moderator will be Prof. Stephen Burgard, director of our School of Journalism and author of "Hallowed Ground: Rediscovering Our Spiritual Roots."

Should you choose to cover this as an extra-credit assignment, please write a 500-word blog post in which you quote at least three people. Since there are three panelists, that ought to be easy. To be counted for extra credit, you must post by the end of the week.

Final project guidelines

We've talked about this in class, but I thought I ought to put it in writing. Your final project is due on Wednesday, April 9, at the beginning of class. It is identical to the midterm project with three exceptions:
  • It is to be 2,500 words long
  • You should quote at least eight people
  • You should include 10 links to offsite information
For any other questions, please see the midterm guidelines. Of course, you can always contact me as well.

There will be a mandatory rewrite due sometime during finals week, at a date and time TBA.

If there's one vital piece of information I can impart to you, it is this: Please give me what you consider to be a finished story on April 9. If you hand me a story that is significantly short and does not quote at least eight people, that will affect your final grade.

More important, I won't be able to do the kind of structural editing that will help you turn in a better story when you rewrite it. Instead, I'll be trying to figure out how you should go about doing what you should have done on the first draft.

I saw some excellent ideas on your story memos, so I'm looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

News-feature slides online

I've posted the PowerPoint on the elements of a news-feature.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Some good news for the news business

The State of the News Media report released by the Project for Excellence in Journalism this week shows that the economic pressures facing the newspaper business are severe and getting worse. Yet there's a significant silver lining: add print and online readers together, and newspapers are reaching as large an audience as ever. You might be interested in my thoughts, published last night in the Guardian.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Citizen journalism and jobs

"Off the Bus," the citizen-journalism project at Huffington Post, is looking for a professional journalist to make sense of it all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Getting to know your 9Neighbors

This Wednesday we'll hear from Rick Burnes, the co-founder of Faneuil Media, who will demonstrate and discuss 9Neighbors. A local-news aggregation site, 9Neighbors pulls in news from five cities and towns (why not nine?) in the Boston area from traditional news sources, blogs and the like. Participants vote on which stories are the most important to them, with stories getting the most votes rising to the top of the heap.

There's also a 9Neighbors blog with information about the project, including a link to a do-it-yourself pothole map.

The site raises some questions that I hope you'll think about for Rick's appearance:
  • In what ways is 9Neighbors journalism?
  • In what ways is it not journalism?
  • Is there a role for professional journalists in a project like 9Neighbors?
  • Should mainstream news organizations welcome links from 9Neighbors in order to drive traffic to their sites? Or might they look at 9Neighbors as a free rider?
Rick would also like to learn about what you think 9Neighbors does well and how you think it could be improved.

Online collectivism

No doubt you have heard the phrase "the wisdom of the crowds" to describe why blogland tends to be self-correcting, or why Wikipedia is accurate most of the time. That raises a question: Does the madness of the mob become the wisdom of the crowd when you give everyone a laptop?

Derek Hawkins today will discuss the ideas of the computer scientist Jaron Lanier (left), who has cast a dubious eye on the online collective. Here is an essay that Lanier wrote for Time magazine in December 2006. It's a quick read. If you'd like to dig deeper, Lanier explains his views more fully in a piece titled "Digital Maoism."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Further thoughts on your final project

Let me offer a few more details about your final project. There's really nothing mysterious about it — in a way, it's not much different from a Journalism 2 final project, except that you need to identify a topic related to Web journalism and/or new media, and include some Web-based features. Here are a few thoughts:
  • You should seek to do your feature on a topic you haven't written about before. This is not to be an extension of your midterm feature. Yes, it can be related in some way, but I certainly don't want you doing a story in which you would go back and re-interview the same people.
  • The length is to be about 2,500 words. That's not quite double the length of your midterm, which was 1,500 words. Again, J2 final projects are typically 2,000 to 2,500 words long, so you've done this before.
  • You will be required to interview at least seven or eight people and include probably 10 or so links. My inclination is to stick with the same number of photo/video enhancements — three — but I haven't made a final decision.
I know some of you are struggling with topics. It's easier than you think, and those who have come visiting me looking for help have found that it's really not all that hard. The secret to a good, meaningful feature story is to start with the specific and then seek to place that within a broader context. Here are some midterm feature topics that were especially successful:
  • A profile of Monica Collins, a dog lover who writes the blog Ask Dog Lady.
  • A story about a Wentworth student who started a blog about the political situation in Burma, his home country.
  • A feature about how two large newspapers are letting readers set up blogs on their Web sites.
You really could do a story on just about any blog or Web site you stumble across during your Web-surfing. Think about what interests you. Beer? Find a good Web site or blog on beer, track down the person or persons who started it, make sure you'll be able to interview him or them, and you're off and running.

For Monday, please identify your topic, tell me what your story will be about (to the best that you're able to) and three people you plan to interview. One page, single-spaced.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Radio Boston" this Friday

"Radio Boston," an hour-long weekly program on WBUR (90.9), will devote its show this Friday to the future of the newspaper business, pegged to ongoing downsizing at the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald. The show is broadcast at 1 p.m. and repeated on Saturday at 1 p.m., but you'll probably rather listen on the show's Web site.

Some of you may be looking for an extra-credit assignment. Here's one that I think would work well. Listen to "Radio Boston" and write a 500-word post for your blog. In addition to the broadcast, bring in at least two other sources of relevant information — with links, of course. If you choose to do this, please do it before class on Monday.

It looks like I'm going to be one of the participants, but don't let that sway you. In fact, when you write your blog post, I'd much prefer if you emphasize the other panelists.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Update for this week

We have a real treat in store for Wednesday. Lisa Williams, founder of the groundbreaking local blog H2otown, which covers Watertown, will be with us for the last part of the class. Williams is a nationally recognized authority on hyperlocal blogs.

Working with Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media and Jay Rosen of New York University, she also runs a site called, which tracks local blogs across the country and around the world.

Because of Williams' visit, I am taking some of our reading out of order. A couple of years ago I wrote a profile of Williams for CommonWealth Magazine, which I want you to read before Wednesday. You should also spend some time with H2otown and Placeblogger. Be prepared with comments and questions.

Two other things you need to be aware of:
  • Next Monday, March 17, your one-page story memo for your final project is due. Your final project will be very much like your 1,500 mid-term story, only longer — in the range of 2,500 words. In your memo, please tell me what the subject of your story will be and identify at least three people whom you'll interview. Show me that you've done some pre-reporting — do the work you need to do now so that you'll know you can bring this story to fruition.
  • Just a reminder that your blogs will count for 20 percent of your grade at the end of the semester. To repeat, I'm looking for at least three decent-length (350 words or so) items each week. If you haven't been doing that, you need to get moving. Watch your grammar and especially your spelling. Please don't post long videos with little or none of your own commentary. If you think a video is worth posting, tell us why, and tell us something about it.
Photo of Williams (cc) by Steve Garfield, and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spring-break blogging

Blogger is being tricky tonight. It wiped out a roundup of your blogs I had been writing, and then gave me an error message when I tried to post a shorter item. So let me just say — quickly, before I crash again — that some of you kept up blogging during spring break, and I read some excellent items tonight. See you all tomorrow.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Globe downsizes, spares

The Boston Globe has announced another round of reductions as the business model for newspapers continues to deteriorate. But, in something of a silver lining, publisher Steve Ainsley says will be spared. Obviously the online component is where the Globe's future will be, as we could see with Emily Sweeney's visit to our class yesterday.

Tough times for journalists — but if you can develop your social-networking, blogging and multimedia skills, you'll be in far better shape for what comes next.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Here are my snow pictures

Hoping to see yours soon. Click on the picture for a Flickr slide show. These were taken earlier today in Magnolia, down by the ocean.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Trekking through blogland

I don't know what you've been doing with your Friday night, but I've been spending mine catching up with your blogs. I haven't written a round-up this time. Instead, I've left a comment on every blog that has new content.

Most of you are doing very well. If you haven't posted lately, you need to jump in. Don't make this a bigger deal than it really is. Once you start banging out items three times a week, you'll find that it becomes second nature and doesn't take all that much time.

Maybe we can see who posts the best snow picture for Monday's class. Hmmm ... I suppose I should, too. I'll try to remember to bring my camera outside tomorrow morning while I'm shoveling.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Blogger now compatible with Safari

If you're a Mac user who prefers Safari, Blogger now reports that version 3 of Safari is compatible. This fixes a longstanding issue. You may have made the switch from Safari to Firefox earlier in the semester. If you prefer Firefox, fine. But if you miss Safari, you might want to give it another try.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Polk for crowdsourcing

Josh Marshall and the gang at Talking Points Memo have won a coveted Polk Award for their coverage of the U.S. attorneys scandal of 2007, which eventually led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Will Bunch calls it a "landmark day for bloggers," and it is. But it's also a landmark day for a certain kind of journalism.

You see, the TPM folks did not do that much original reporting. Rather, they relentlessly kept a spotlight on what other news organizations were uncovering and watched patterns emerge that weren't necessarily visible to those covering just a small piece of the story. This is crowdsourcing — reporting based on the work of many people, including your readers.

We'll be talking about crowdsourcing more in a few weeks. This week, though, keep in mind what Dan Gillmor says in the excerpt from "We the Media" that we're reading: "I take it for granted ... that my readers know more than I do — and this is a liberating, not threatening, fact of journalistic life."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Social-networking analysis

Here are some links that came up during our discussion of social-networking analysis last Wednesday:
Investigative Reporters and Editors offers a section of social-networking analysis resources.

Catching up with your blogs

It's hard to believe that the semester is almost half over. Most of you are doing a good job with your blogs. Remember, I'm looking for an average of three items a week of roughly 350 words per item. If you haven't been doing that, now is a good time to begin.

I want to encourage you to comment more on each other's blogs. I occasionally run into such comments, but not nearly often enough. I'd also like to see at least an occasional item in which you go out, do some reporting and take a picture. Items like that are a nice break from the usual practice of finding something that interests you, linking to it and commenting.

Please proofread your work and double-check your links. I'm surprised to run into its/it's errors. Remember, its is possessive, while it's is simply a contraction for it is.

Here's a round-up of what you've all being doing.

Bailey Clear
has found some unsettling journalism about the plight of sharks, whose numbers are being reduced because their fins are a delicacy in Asia. She also tells us about a video that documents what could be purchased with the money the U.S. government is spending on the war in Iraq.

Everybody's excited about beagles following Uno's win at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, and Bianca Strzelczyk is no exception, telling us here and here about the action. She's also impressed with an unusually young political pundit.

Brendan Gupta weighs in with a long list of government scandals. He also tells us why he likes Barack Obama, and why he liked Dennis Kucinich before Kucinich ended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.

A gigantic, rusting crane in Quincy is being used as a nest by falcons. Brian Benson explains why environmentalists are hoping to move the falcons before mating season starts. Brian is also startled to learn that Popular Science has ranked Boston as the third-greenest city in the United States.

Valentine's Day was a day for celebrity-couple break-ups at the New York Post, says Candice Springer. But what does it say that I've never heard of most of the celebrities? Candice also tells us that she liked Kanye West's performance at the Grammys. But his speech? Eh, not so much.

Even a sports junkie like Casey Ramsdell would sometimes rather look at pictures of athletes than read about them, which is why she's full of praise for She also ponders the high cost of attending Patriots game, and thinks back to the days when her father paid considerably less to take her to games.

Nobody missed Polaroid cameras until they were gone, including Chelsey Pieretti, who admits that she prefers her digital camera but laments the Polaroid's passing. She also informs us that Flava Flav is back on VH1, and observes that "the only instantly apparent benefit to dating him is never having to wear a watch."

Danny Kowalski tracks the spreading story over the Patriots' alleged spying over the years, noting that U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Philadelphia Eagles, is demanding some answers. Danny is also impressed at the way StubHub has revolutionized ticket purchases. All you need is money.

In a series of posts starting here, Derek Hawkins has been following coverage of the Northern Illinois University tragedy in the Northern Star, the student-run campus newspaper. He also notes that the Daily Free Press, at Boston University, is covering a story he wrote about last fall — professors who impose their political opinions on students.

Eleni Himaras is picking up some HTML and content-management skills while working on campus, hoping it will make her more marketable. She also tells of a pretty interesting exchange she had with investigative reporter Bill Dedman, which led to her figuring out how to put together a PivotTable presentation in Microsoft Excel.

Craigslist recently posted a photo of what looks like the world's largest snake, which prompted this response by Erica Tochin. Bad news: The snake is lost. In Boston. With the Patriots' loss now in the rear-view mirror, Erica is also looking forward to spring training and the Red Sox.

Erin Cahill points to a serious ethical problem: Advertising that looks like journalism. In this case, she notes, advertorial content from Beth Israel runs on the Web site for WCVB-TV (Channel 5) without any labeling to indicate that it's a paid ad. Erin also likes the PostSecret blog, explaining that it's connected her to strangers across the country.

Some serious on-campus hypocrisy at Duke University is the subject of this post by Erin Semagin Damio. After the lacrosse-team fiasco, she notes, university officials banned strippers from university events — yet they recently allowed a "Sex Workers Art Show" that sounds pretty offensive. Erin has also been blogging high-school basketball games.

The Hollywood writers' strike is over, and Jessica MacNeil observes that the outcome marks another step in the transition of television from broadcast and cable to the Internet. Also, Jessica tells us a little bit about Herbie Hancock following his surprise "Album of the Year" win at the Grammys.

Jessica Torrez-Riley has been relentless in her quest to find out why the Boston Globe has been replaced with USA Today on campus this semester, writing, "I prefer the Globe and prefer to support the local paper that at least sometimes covers news about Northeastern." She also assesses the Patriot Ledger's redesign, both on her blog and at Wired Journalists.

How would you like your most embarrassing phone call uploaded onto the Web for everyone to listen to? That's what Kelly Sullivan says happened in Fairfax, Va., when the wife of a school official chewed out a student, only to find out later that she was being recorded.

Lisa Newman explores the phenomenon of people who can't stand Hillary Clinton, and how that's playing out on the Web. "Hillary's supporters would probably walk out in front of a bus for her," she says, "and her opposition would gladly push her in front of one." Lisa also introduces us to an interesting form of, uh, journalism called "Red State Updates."

The Tribune Co. is the subject of this post by Maureen McLaughlin, who reports that real-estate mogul Sam Zell, the new chief executive, plans to cut as many as 500 jobs at the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and its other publications. She also tells us that drivers will soon have to pay $50 a day to bring gas-guzzlers into London

Mitchell Esteller is intrigued by Harvard University's plan to stop charging tuition to all but its wealthiest students, and wonders what implications that might have for Northeastern. He is also skeptical of a proposal by President Bush to set aside $300 million for families to send their children to private or religious schools.

New England Cable News founder Phil Balboni's plan to start a foreign-news service called Global News Enterprises caught Stacey Perlman's eye. "It's a good step for journalism as it's sad to say that in 2008 the United States still doesn't have a site like this," Perlman writes. She also considers the new Washington Independent, an experiment in nonprofit journalism.

Stephen Asay is interested in Amazon's newish e-book reader, the Kindle. "I love reading a book or a magazine. The tactile experience is one of many enjoyable aspects for me," he writes. "And yet I find myself really wanting a Kindle." Stephen is also impressed with the way Popular Science magazine's Web site was recently remade.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

"Film Your Issue"

Those of you who are already making videos will be hugely interested in "Film Your Issue," a journalism contest for people between the ages of 14 and 24. The idea is to make a two-minute video. Deadline is April 14.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Feature-story guidelines

I've posted the guidelines for your 1,500-word feature story, which is due on Wednesday, Feb. 27. I've also added a link to the guidelines from the course documents, in the right-hand sidebar. We'll talk about this in class tomorrow.

And the winner is ...

Our own Brendan Gupta was the 1,000th person to sign up with Wired Journalists. Brendan wins a free lifetime membership — unless, of course, they start charging.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Picture this

Just a brief note to remind you of the Polling Place Photo Project at Whether you can vote in Boston or not, I really encourage you to participate in this experiment in pro/am citizen journalism. I'm going to give it a try. Although I can't find a list of polling places online, I did find a search engine that will give you the polling place for any address in Massachusetts. Or you can call the Boston Election Department at 617-635-3767. But that seems so old-fashioned.

I hope to show what a few of you uploaded in class next Wednesday.

As we also discussed, you can search for photos and other creative works that you can use in your blogs at Creative Commons. This is an innovative way for copyright-holders to let members of the public know that they can re-use their work as long as they follow certain rules.

Finally, here is the Oregonian presentation on Lovelle Svart's life and death that Eleni Himaras shared with us today. And here is the F-Stop Journal, part of BU's Daily Free Press, which Jessica Torrez-Riley demonstrated last Wednesday.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Some more blogging tips

I caught up with your blogs earlier today. Most of you are posting some very good items with lots of links. I've noticed that many of you are having minor issues with AP style and basic formatting. Here are a few things that come up with some regularity:
  • You should always capitalize the names of political parties: the Democratic Party, Republicans and the like.
  • The Internet is always capitalized.
  • Web site is two words, with a capital "W," according to AP style.
Also, I'm still seeing some posts with no spaces between paragraphs, which make them hard to read. Just hit the return key twice after each graf rather than once.

Watch your links. You should always check them either in the Blogger preview window or after you post. Remember, you can always go back and edit your post. I've run into a few links that don't work. The easiest way to form a link is to copy it from the address bar and then paste it into the Blogger link box.

Work on getting some art into your posts if you're not already doing so. Search Google Images. There are some copyright issues that we need to be aware of, which we'll talk about soon. But a lot of what you'll find is public domain.

Example: If you want a photo of President Bush, enter "George W. Bush" in Google Images. The first few images you'll find are of his official government portrait, which you are free to use. You'll often find that that's the case.

An important part of blogging is the give-and-take between you and your readers. By next week, I would like to see all of you post at least one comment on one of your classmates' blogs.

Scratching a niche

The Washington Post Co., which already owns the politics-and-culture webzine Slate, has unveiled another niche online publication. The Root, aimed at African-Americans and co-founded with Henry Louis Gates Jr., is a high-quality attempt to blend journalism and geneology, according to this story in the New York Times. It's a way for the Post to pull in new readers who might not be interested in the newspaper, and it's a smart strategy.

The multimedia journalist

I want to call your attention to a post I put up on Media Nation last night. It's about a longtime print reporter and editor at a local weekly who's embraced multimedia journalism. This isn't just the future of community newspapers — it's the present. I did it in the form of a how-to, complete with Flickr slideshow and audio interview. We'll be talking about it in class today, but if you get a chance to check it out beforehand, you should.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Following up Wednesday's class

Here is the link to the White House News Photographers Association's contest winners, including Travis Fox's multimedia package for WashingtonPost .com on the crisis in Darfur. You should also take a look at Adrian Holovaty's

Over in the "External Links" sidebar I've added Jeff Jarvis' Buzz Machine blog and Snipshot, the online photo-editing program that I demonstrated yesterday. You should definitely sample Buzz Machine. Jarvis is one of the most widely quoted observers of the new-media scene. His writing style tends to be somewhat unhinged, but he's a fun read and he knows what he's talking about.

I want to take another shot at explaining the purpose of editing images before uploading them, especially images that you find on the Web. As I said, Blogger will resize these images for you. But by editing them, you can accomplish two things: (1) you can crop them so that they look exactly the way you'd like; and (2) you can reduce the file size, so that they'll load quickly for readers.

Whether you use Snipshot or an image-editing program of your own, I find that 400 pixels is a good width for a photo that is going to take up the full column on your blog; 300 pixels works pretty well for a horizontal image if you're going to wrap text around it (the image above is exactly 300 pixels); and 200 pixels is generally OK for a vertical with text wrapped around it. But you should experiment. Make sure you save it as a JPEG file so it will be as compressed as possible.

What makes for a good blog post? It really can be anything. Most of your posts ought to point to some content that you find interesting, offering a link, an excerpt of the content and your own commentary. The best posts pull together several different pieces of content, allowing you to draw connections that wouldn't have occurred to the reader on her own.

But please notice that I said "most," not "all." An occasional personal essay is fine. And on-the-ground journalism is something I always encourage. If you go see a speaker, write it up, making sure to find worthwhile links to enhance your report. Take a photo with your cell phone and add it. If you can shoot a short video of something, you can upload it to YouTube and embed it in your blog.

Although blogs are generally written with more attitude and opinion than news stories, stick to your journalistic standards. Get the spelling right, especially of people's names. Follow AP style. When you are applying for a job, you want your blog to make a positive statement about your qualifications.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Image uploading and editing

Here are a couple of photos of our class. Today we are learning a bit about how to upload photos to We are also experimenting with, a free, online image-editing program.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Profile of Michael Yon

The New York Times today has a profile of Michael Yon, the best-known and most respected of the so-called war bloggers. The money quote:
[H]e created a niche outlet that is better reported than most blogs, and more opinionated than most news reporting, with enough first-hand observation, clarity and skepticism to put many professional journalists to shame.
You can find Yon's blog here.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Your blogs are now linked

I've added your blogs to the right-hand sidebar, so please have a look. If you're having trouble getting started, read what some of your classmates are doing. It's far more important that you start blogging than wait to come up with the perfect subject.

If you run across something interesting in a newspaper or magazine, online or on television, write about it. Use Google to find links. It might take you a couple of weeks to find a subject that you want to keep returning to. But once you get in the blogging flow, you'll find that it comes more easily.

I've also subscribed to all your blogs with my RSS aggregator, so I'll know whenever you've posted anything new.

One thing you ought to do is spend a little time spiffing up your sidebar with links and other content. I'd like to see all of you add a link to this blog. That way, it will be easy for us to navigate back and jump off to other student blogs.

Finally, I've created a separate section called "Course documents." You'll find our Syllabus and Online Reading List, as well as the PowerPoint slides on "The Six Circles of Web Journalism." You might want to download it, because you'll find links to everything I demonstrated in class.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Facebook founder on "60 Minutes"

Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old founder of Facebook, was profiled Sunday on the CBS News program "60 Minutes." Here's a clip:

More than anything, reporter Leslie Stahl seemed impressed with Zuckerberg's age. Tech columnist Kara Swisher also appeared, criticizing Zuckerberg for a recent Facebook advertising program that he had to abandon in the face of protests.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Setting up our blogs

Hope everyone is dug out from yesterday's snow storm. It wasn't a big deal, but the timing would have made for a miserable commute.

Tomorrow we'll be setting up our blogs. If you already have one, you can repurpose it for this class. I'm going to be demonstrating how to set up a blog with Blogger, but you can use anything you like. Probably the most viable alternative is Each is free and easy to get started with.

I still don't have a good feel for how many people we're ultimately going to have in our class. If you're one of the folks whom I've asked to bring a wireless laptop every day, tomorrow will be a must.

I also hope you've begun reading "Journalism 2.0," by Mark Briggs. It really is a terrific resource. Every young journalist — and every old journalist — needs to understand the tools Briggs describes, and his book will give you an introduction to many of the themes we'll be talking about this semester. I've added a link to Briggs' blog at right.

Although "Journalism 2.0" is a free PDF, you might find it's worth moving onto a flash drive and bringing to Gnomon Copy for a printout. I find that PDFs are hard to read on screen — maybe you do, too.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New journalism, old politics

Given how badly the mainstream media performed during the past week in predicting — and virtually celebrating — the demise of Hillary Clinton, here are a couple of alternatives.

The first is Purple States, a citizen-journalism initiative in which ordinary people are traveling the country to interview presidential candidates, as well as actual voters, about their concerns and how the political system can address them. Here's a story on Purple States that appeared recently in the New Haven Independent, in itself an interesting new-media entity.

Where are the jobs in such a venture? Behind the camera. Although the citizens are the stars of Purple States, in fact, a heavy dose of professional journalism is needed to generate fully edited video reports and to help frame the stories in ways that are worthwhile for viewers. Purple States is a good example of pro-am collaboration.

The second is Political Lunch, a very different idea compared to Purple States. Political Lunch is a project put together by two young, entrepreneurial journalists who are carving out a niche for themselves outside the traditional media.

The site was featured in a Jan. 5 story in the New York Times on the expanding market for short videos that people can watch at noontime while they're eating lunch at their desks. Unlike Purple States, Political Lunch could be criticized for being as superficial as the mainstream media to which it is an alternative. But it's a good demonstration of the kinds of opportunities that are open to young journalists willing to try something new.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Beyond "EPIC 2015"

Brendan Gupta passes along "Prometeus: The Future of Media." Definitely worth a look.

Though it's not as news-oriented as "EPIC 2015," it's a little more up-to-date — and a lot more out there.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The magic wand

Steve Outing has a good column in Editor & Publisher in which he asks news-industry people: "If I had a magic wand with me today, what would you have me do with it to solve one or more of your company's problems?"

As you'll see, the answers revolve around blogging, social networking and the notion of journalists as facilitators of an ongoing conversation. (Via Romenesko.)