Archive | March, 2012

Tweet, Stream and Aggregate Your Way to Successful News Coverage

28 Mar

At least that’s what we’re being told.

The overall vibe I’m getting, which tends to freak me out, is that there’s only one correct way to cover news moving forward, and that’s utilizing these very specific social media tools. I find it extraordinarily alarming how quickly we’re able to accept that the average online reader doesn’t want to read longer articles, and therefore those are reserved for the print edition. Of course, this to me is backwards logic. The number of people getting their information online is rapidly growing, meanwhile print is dying. So the question is, if print media is nearing extinction, and we’re setting up a system of news where online stories are short, breaking news headlines without much depth, where will the depth go?

Personally, if i were a evil mastermind looking to dumb down the populace gradually, I would do something along the lines of what’s happening, which is to divert people’s attention with entertainment, while slowly filtering news through these same channels. But maybe I’ve just been watching “They Live” too much.

Of course, there’s always the “democratization” of news coverage. The great irony of this system as that if it were real it will all go down in flaming wreckage, because no one will be listening, and everyone will be screaming their opinions. However, the truth is that we’re still getting the majority of our information from the same sources we always have, but it’s just filtered through new channels.  Worse, because of budget cuts through most o the mainstream media, what type of journalists do you think will survive and stay on the payroll, a competent reporter who toes the company line, or a true investigative reporter who will dig out a story no matter where it leads?

Storify: Am I just grumpy or are people getting more rude?


The Glass is Half Empty, No Half Full, No wait…

28 Mar

I have to say that it’s pretty impressive to see two national newspapers take virtually opposite interpretations of the same study. It should also be pretty informative to anyone who’s aware of the two conflicting stories. Numbers and facts can always be manipulated to fit the purpose of the writer and shouldn’t be confused as absolute truths in themselves.

Personally, I thought the New York Times article, which read into the numbers negatively, was far more consistent with the overall coverage we’re presented about Afghanistan. The USA Today article read more like a PR piece from the U.S. military, insisting that things were getting better, despite a clearly divided public opinion. I felt the New York Times did a better job of reading the facts as being conflicted, and if anything negative, especially when, as they say, compared to a 2004 survey. That’s why for the compiled article I mostly drew from their article and drew only a few tidbits from the USA Today article.


Afghans Losing Faith in Nation’s Path, Poll Shows

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Afghans have lost a considerable amount of confidence in the direction of their country over the past two years, according to an extensive nationwide survey released Wednesday.

While the national mood remains positive on the whole, the number of people with negative or mixed views on the trajectory of the country has grown significantly since a similar survey in 2004, according to the Asia Foundation, which conducted both surveys.

“The number of Afghans who feel optimistic is lower than on the eve of the 2004 presidential elections,” the survey found.

In what is billed as the widest opinion poll conducted in Afghanistan, surveyed 6,226 Afghans 18 and older in person in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces over the summer. Financed by the United States Agency for International Development, the survey was conducted by the Asia Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, and by local partners.

The national mood was almost identical across the different ethnic groups, but varied according to region.

Security was the main source for optimism among those who said the country was headed in the right direction. But among those who expressed pessimism, more than half said the biggest problem was a lack of security, the Taliban threat and warlords. Indeed, two southern provinces were excluded from the survey due to extreme security problems.

Fifty-four percent said they felt more prosperous than they had under the Taliban, but 26 percent said they felt less well off. On a local level, unemployment was cited as the biggest problem.

Corruption, which is one of the main criticisms of the government, was less of a concern for respondents than unemployment and lack of services, with only 8 percent naming it as the biggest problem locally. But when asked specifically if corruption was a problem nationally, 77 percent of respondents said it was, and 60 percent said it had increased.

“I have never met one person, including the minister of the Interior, who trusted the Afghan National Police,” Barnett Rubin, who studies Afghanistan at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, said in an email.

George Varughese, who directed the poll for the Asia Foundation,  agrees that some of the results “appear to challenge the current wisdom on issues in Afghanistan,” but said, “We feel it is a solid, important piece of work, completed during a difficult time.”


News at the Speed of Tweets

21 Mar

So what is it about Twitter that makes it the next journalistic heavy hitter?

Ever since the Internet gained household status and saw the print media industry go hurtling toward its demise, there has been a new savior of journalism. Frankly, digital natives don’t get too much news from print media anyway, and many seem happy to see the newspaper industry folding. The answer from these fine folks is that the Internet holds all the answers, and though there’s no business model available to financially support actual investigative journalists, the future of news coverage is, apparently, bright. Journalist themselves in this equation are considered pretty much useless, relics of an outdated time, good for propagating the myths generated by the main stream media. OK, so maybe this isn’t a majority opinion, but there does seem to be a stunning ability on the part of the public to overlook the importance of journalists for knowing how to investigate and report on a story.

Twitter is one of many new tools allowing Internet advocates to proclaim that citizens can report their own news. They herald Twitter as a critical component of the Arab Spring and determine that only street level observers can say what’s really going on, and that tweeting it is the most efficient way to do it. They say journalists are an unnecessary filter; however, eyewitness accounts aren’t always concrete proof either. The spread of misinformation seems to be able to run rampant in the Twitter-verse without anyone to fact check people’s claims, which can also lead to mob mentality. Such was the case in the multi-front attack that took down the anti-piracy bill SOPA.

Of course, there’s the undeniable fact that Twitter is the fastest way to publish information. When video is linked to a Twitter feed and shows exactly what’s going, there is a more proof. Not always clear proof, but proof nonetheless. However, it comes in handy when for communicating on the ground level, as even a famous drummer proved.

Oh yeah, and #neighborssuck

Source Credibility of the Citizen Journalist

21 Mar

With Twitter being hailed as the next crucial component for the future of journalism, newsrooms are rapidly deciding what style should be taken to the world of tweets. BBC takes a more an informal approach, and actively tries to get their Twitter followers to participate in the news gathering process and give their account of what happened.  Meanwhile, RTE News takes a more traditional route and presents a quick synopsis of the story with a link to their coverage of the event.

The RTE News approach is unlikely to garner  much praise for its participation in social media, where as the BBC is actively engaging its readers. The downside to the BBC approach is a question of credibility.  By soliciting responses from its readers, there seems to be a greater risk of having fabricated stories by attention hungry citizens. People have made up stories time and again, and removing the responsibility associated with being a journalist and leaving it to citizens seems like a great way to spread rumors. On the other hand, developing fact checker programs will decrease the risks associated with false assertions; however, faulty first-hand accounts can’t be stopped no matter how good the software checking it.

Twitter Redefines Privacy

21 Mar

I get a lot of enjoyment turning on the news. Fox News in particular is always good for a few chuckles.  Its coverage of the Tea Party and, to a lesser extent, the Occupy movements illustrates the great irony growing in America. People seem to be railing against the government for many reasons, and for some the solution means less government involvement.  Big brother may be watching you drive, which has drawn a fair amount of protest, but people seem to have little problem with some of the other Orwellian prophecies coming true. As people demand for less government, they simultaneously demand that it fixes our problems, and at the same time, play the role of the dutiful citizen in exposing their fellow countrymen.

Although it’s starting with seemingly innocuous gossip stories, America’s fascination with social media, Twitter in particular, is seriously infringing on privacy rights. Of course, the  “citizen journalist,” who shared the story of the arguing couple to  the Twitter world, would argue that the couple was in a public place and thus were fair game. My feeling is that, although a solid lawyer will keep you safe on those grounds, destroying privacy is pretty reprehensible on a moral level. There’s no doubt in my mind that this story was not a matter of public concern, this young couple was having a a heated argument and uploading it for people out of ear shot  was simply unacceptable.

Poligraft and the digital papertrail

12 Mar

Some of the tools on the Internet are truly remarkable for keeping track of who’s contributing what to whom.  Lots of websites like PolitiFact and are especially popular during election years. And this is a good thing. Having the ability to easily check on the assertions that politicians toss out like confetti.  Because these tools are so excusable, it’s also particularly  useful for journalists, who can check the facts and filter this down to the readers.

Poligraft is a rather specific fact checking site, which aims at tracing the monetary contributions to each candidate. It’s extremely useful for keeping an eye on wo people are getting their money from to fund their campaigns.

For example, I used an article from the New York Times about the Republican primaries and the candidates battling for votes in the south. The article basically strives to describe the complex contest for the approval of southern voters between Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

Running the url for the story through Poligraft brought a list of the major names in the article and a quick glance pie chart for seeing where their contributions come from. In addition, there is an option to get more information on each person in the sidebar. All in all it’s a quick and efficient tool for tracking campaign finances.