Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Alternative to Auld Lang Syne

I think this song would be a fine one to ring in any old new year... and the video alone is hypnotic... fine for an alcohol-free holiday (or a free-alcohol one).

YouTube - AIN'T WE CRAZY - Harry "MAC" McClintock - 1928

The lyrics are here and here.

And if you need an encore... another from Mac...

Thanks to for putting all of this audio history online.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Breaking Up Christmas Before It's Begun

A Christmas week online media adventure...

(With Dec. 26 update, appropriately enough.)
While I was still in a half-asleep Wednesday-morning fog, the clock radio and WVTF cut through with a short piece about the between-holidays tradition of "Breaking Up Christmas" music parties, and a pointer to, a Virginia Folklife Program website I hadn't run into before.

I didn't see the item itself on the Morning Edition rundown or WVTF sites. It ran a bit incongruously somewhere around the story about Larry McMurtry's "Literary Life", an interview with Liz Smith recalling "when gossip columns ruled," the news that Arnold Stang has died, and Frank Deford's speculation that multi-product spokesmodel Peyton Manning learned comedic timing from football. (Not the "hardest" of news this time of year.)

Update -- WVTF played the spot again on Saturday morning's Weekend VA, with this lead-in: "When Christmas is over, the fun is just getting started for many in Southern Appalachia. Virginia State Folklorist Jon Lohman has the story behind 'Breaking up Christmas,' a little-known tradition that takes place the week between Christmas and New Year's Day."

Searching for that passage helped me find the program -- and a new resource to bookmark. The segment turned out to be distributed via, the Public Radio Exchange, "a growing social network and community of listeners, producers, and stations collaborating to reshape public radio."

The organization has a blog, RSS feeds, Twitter feeds, and services for listeners as well as producers and stations. Cool... but back to Breaking Up Christmas...

Paul Brown and a fiddler whose name I've forgotten, at Pinewoods Camp c. 1978?The first time I heard the program, I suspected it might be by Paul Brown, but didn't think it was his voice on the item, although I was still half asleep. Paul's the banjo-pickin' NPR news guy who did a documentary on Breaking Up Christmas a dozen years ago (as mentioned here). I think he was the first person I heard play the tune by that name, too, when he was my banjo teacher for a week or two about 30 years ago (photo at right). I couldn't find a link to that documentary of his, but did discover that he's donated his archives to my alma mater down in Chapel Hill. Cool!

In my Googling around the subject, I also found a UNC educational resource for school teachers interested in using the Breaking Up Christmas tradition (and Paul's documentary) to get students writing about their own family or cultural traditions.

The Song of the Mountains page for its 2006 Breakin' Up Christmas party mentions Paul's project and includes this enigmatic lyric:
Hoo-ray Jake and Hoo-ray John,
Breakin' Up Christmas all night long.

Way back yonder a long time ago
The old folks danced the do-si-do.

Way down yonder alongside the creek
I seen Santy Claus washin' his feet.

Santa Claus come, done and gone,
Breakin' Up Christmas right along.

I also discovered the CD of Paul's program through a fan of his in Japan, although he or she doesn't seem to police the spam on that page much. Do Breaking Up Christmas and Viagra ads go together? Who knew?

One result of all this impromptu research: I headed up&down to Floyd to see if the CountryStore had a copy of the record. (It did; I bought a couple of copies -- one for me, one for Christmas giving.)

Video footnotes c/o YouTube: Two great versions of the tune (you'll have to wait a minute for the video on the second one... from the upper Appalachians around Ithaca)

(I first heard the Horse Flies at that same Pinewoods summer camp I met Paul! Time sure flies, and the Web pulls it together... web... flies... Horse Flies... must be a thread there.)

More update: House parties, jam sessions, folk music, public radio, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,, make an interesting cross-section of old and new media "social networking." The PRX organization I discovered in my online travels this week is another manifestation... and it has it's own online video item to explain what it's all about. Enjoy:

Friday, December 04, 2009

Online sales: Time travel department

OK, so the UK TV series Doctor Who is about time travel, but charging such a high price for a USED copy of next year's calendar is ridiculous...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

When will I have time to Wave?

Google Wave, that is. This semester has gone by too fast, but I now have an address on Google's still-in-beta "by invitation" collaborative/conversation system. I'm giving it a quick look, so that I can at least wave it at my students before the semester ends.

I was surprised to see how many public Wave discussions related to newspapers I found, once I'd figured out how to search for such things. See this L.A. Times article, How Google Wave could transform journalism, and other links below.

Wave is part e-mail, Wiki, chat, file-sharing and bulletin board. Once you're in, you can search for public Waves (ripples? currents? tides?) such as the daily ones the Chicago RedEye is running. I joined a Wave discussion of ideas for college media projects, which I'll share with Radford students as I get them invited. It already had a few dozen contributors.

Just after my invitation arrived (thanks to Mich Sineath at AEJMC), I stumbled on this article, which suggests that not having a ready-built community to wave with is a common complaint: What Users Like/Dislike About Google Wave along with this, Why Google Wave sucks, and why you will use it anyway

However, there are already 30 people in my GMail "contact" list with Wave accounts. On the other hand, I could say "only 30," since my contact list has more than 1,000 e-mail addresses. I wonder how many of them are in the same boat I'm in: "Intriguing new tool, but no time to use it right now."

My Wave account gives me eight invitations to send, and I'll divide them evenly between students and faculty. I'll seed some invites in my Web production classes next week and next semester, chain-letter style (invite one student, who can invite another, etc.), and do the same with our school website committee, then see if we can use it for a virtual meetings. I'm also intrigued by a plug-in called Bloggy that lets you post a conversation from Wave to a blog like this one... but I'll save that for later.

"Bloggy"? I see there are also "Embeddy," "Tweety" and "Trendy."

I wonder if someone has created a "Cutesy," but that might be redundant.

Here's the first batch of Wave links from my bookmark list:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

... with thanks to Mrs. G's family archive for putting this on YouTube, including clips from the movie... Should be a wonderful aid to digestion tomorrow.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pickin,' grinnin' and politickin' in Floyd, Va.

Pickin,' grinnin' and politickin' | Blue Ridge Muse

So Virginia is losing a harmonica-playing governor to the Democratic National Committee? Excellent pictures by Doug Thompson, but no audio... Sorry I missed another Friday night at the Country Store in Floyd.

I can't help wondering whether the Democratic tune was the old sea chantey, "Donkey Riding."

More likely candidates for an old-time fiddle-and-banjo jam might be "Flop Eared Mule," "Kickin' Mule" or "Whoa, Mule, Get Up in the Alley," which really is a harmonica favorite of mine... Alas, the only full-length mp3 I've found online does it on banjo.

(This item marks a transition in the kind of content I'll be posting in this blog. I'll be doing my more serious and school-related posting at for now, with items more specifically about newspaper journalism at )

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

New AEJMC Newspaper Division Blog

I have yet another blog... this time with a co-editor, Bill Broun of East Stroudsburg University.

It's AEJMC Newspaper Division Blog at

For a half-dozen years I've posted all my blog items related to "newspapers" to a special-category blog section for members of the newspaper interest group ("division") of the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication, along with taking care of the group's home page,

Using blog categories as separate sites was something my old blog software, Radio Userland did automatically, but Userland is ending its blog hosting in a couple of months. So I figured it was time to switch to Blogger or WordPress.

Bill was already familiar with WordPress, and it was already conveniently installed on the server that houses our division home page. Randy Reddick from Texas Tech maintains the server, and gave us a hand with a "theme" for the site.

The division blog and home pages have separate addresses, but also have prominent cross-reference links. I've also created an archive of my old AEJMC Newspaper-related blog posts.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

LIFE magazine archives now searchable with Google Books

Not only was there life before television, before television -- and well into the TV era -- there was LIFE, the magazine.

With great photographers and weekly deadlines, it made a visual record of the 20th century, from Vol. 1, No. 1, Nov 23, 1936 (96 pages of text and pictures, mostly pictures).

Now it's all online and searchable with Google, up to the last of the regular weekly editions, Dec. 29, 1972's "The Year in Pictures" issue. You can select by date and cover or search by keyword.

Try it: LIFE - Google Books

Click "Search all issues" in the left column, or "Browse all issues" to flip through those memorable covers.

Search for photographers: Margaret Bourke-White shot the first cover; or try Robert Capa, W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier-Bresson or any other famous photojournalist whose name you remember. They're probably there.

Search for 20th century events -- wars, elections, outbreaks of peace...

Search for celebrities. Life liked initials: FDR, JFK, LBJ, MLK. For some, first names will do: Elvis (it'll find Presley, not Costello), Marilyn, Liz, Liza, Judy, Satchmo. Or try Hepburn (for both Audrey and Katharine in one click), Sinatra, Crosby, the Beatles, or Woodstock (add 1969 to narrow the search, or just go to the special edition).

If you haven't used Google's magazine search, that's probably because it's hidden in the "book search" section. For the ability to search by date as well as keywords and magazine titles:
  • Go to:
  • Click "Magazines" on the "Content" line.
  • Put a magazine title in the "Title" field (even though it says "Return books with the title...")
  • Enter your keywords and dates.
  • And, if you're like me, say goodbye to a Sunday afternoon.
From Google's front blurb for LIFE:
"LIFE Magazine is the treasured photographic magazine which chronicled the 20th Century. It now lives on at, the largest, most amazing collection of professional photography on the internet. Users can browse, search and view photos of today’s people and events. They have free access to share, print and post images for personal use."
Meanwhile, if you're looking for something NEW in the world of magazines, read this post by Rex Hammock: That Strange Light you’re seeing is the future of magazines -- and add both Rex and Derek Powazek to your blogger-bookmark list.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Is it too late for the Internet to melt our brains? | Salon Books

The author of a new book, A Better Pencil, says the threat of brain-melting goes farther back than Hulu, the Internet or television.

Dennis Baron, a professor of English and linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discusses culture-shifting technology in an interview with Salon Books, aptly titled Is the Internet melting our brains?
"So, what I'm trying to do is put the computer revolution into historical context to see how it fits with previous innovations in communication like pencils, like the printing press, like the clay tablet, like writing itself. A new communication technology does what old technology was able to do – sometimes better, sometimes in a little different way -- and I'm looking at how we make sense of all of this."
Salon's Vincent Rossmeier:
"Baron believes that social networking sites, blogs and the Internet are actually making us better writers and improving our ability to reach out to our fellow man. 'A Better Pencil' is both a defense of the digital revolution and a keen examination of how technology both improves and complicates our lives."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Too many blogs, but a gonzo idea...

For a possible new blog, I came up with a first post, mirrored below, that I thought might prompt some discussion. Comment here or there, either is OK. (For visitors from other Twitter flocks, AEJMC is the Association for Education in Journallism & Mass Communication.)

AEJMC Denver 2010 Convention

Event-design as Rorschach test... Am I the only one who mistook the jagged white Rocky Mountain profile ranging through next year's AEJMC Convention logo for a hint that the organization is fracturing? Or took it for an optimistic graph of media industries' ups and downs, showing a slight upturn on the right? On second thought, the line looks exciting, dangerous and cracked, which reminds me of someone...

Getting a crowd of journalism educators together in Hunter Thompson territory in August could be a lot of fun. I hope I can attend... (I hope anyone can attend, given the state of academic travel budgets, if my own institution is any indicator.)

Thinking of Hunter inspired a rewrite of this post and gave me a panel discussion idea for the event:

"Going Gonzo: From Uncle Duke to Johnny Depp, how do journalism faculty and today's students deal with Hunter S. Thompson's legacy?"

He's in my students' textbook, on a page headed, Journalism heroes, legends and folklore. He's relevant to bloggers and skeptics, rebels and iconoclasts, lefties -- and libertarian lovers of recreational firearms.

So let's make that a discussion question for any journalism educators who see this post: How DO you treat Hunter Thompson in your classes? Is he in the textbook you use? (In my case, it's a "yes" for Tim Harrower's Inside Reporting.) Is he discussed in writing classes? In magazine classes? Reporting classes? History classes? Ethics classes? Do students read him? What do they think?

Background: This paragraph was at the top of this post before the link to it slipped into the Twittersphere, referring to the part above. Rather than be accused of "burying the lead," I've turned things around.

About having multiple blogs. My old Radio Userland blog had an interesting feature: I could tag items with "category" names that actually became separate blogs. I used that to create a subset of my blog posts so that I could link some of them to the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication newspaper division's website, which I've been editing for a few years. I even had evidence that someone read it once or twice.

Now I've been wondering whether to use Blogger or WordPress to recreate that blog as a separate entity, possibly as a more formal adjunct to the Newspaper Division site, which I never seem to get around to updating in a timely fashion.

Among other things, I haven't been able to attend the last few AEJMC conventions, which makes it difficult to spread news about the organization. So here's an experiment: I'm going to point the division officers to a trial site or two and see what they think. With WordPress, I might be able to enlist a co-author or two. Here's the prototype, with a question about Hunter S. Thompson.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Old media to new, we're all old dogs trying to learn new tricks

I've belatedly discovered Jim Gaines' blog. He's a former managing editor of People, Time and Life magazines, now editor of FLYP (, which he calls "the first true multimedia publication online." I'll be watching both, and encouraging my students to do the same.

Reading back through his blog posts, this passage caught my eye... I should put it on my office door with a "me too" at the end.
I am the old guy working hard to learn everything, from everyone. I was lucky to leave print when I did, but I take no pleasure in watching the fall of “dead tree” media.
That item is headlined Eyes Wide Shut, but the one that got me reading his stuff in the first place is the latest The Story Is Dead. Long Live the Story, where he observes that "The story is not dead, it's just suffering..."
"The reason is that publishers, journalists and other story tellers have been slow to adapt to a digital world with lots of newfangled pens and pencils, including audio, video, full-motion infographics, Flash animation, various forms of interactivity—and, of course, words, the better the better.

"Some of us have confused the availability of new tools with the need for a new theory of knowledge. To be sure, our moment is revolutionary, and the media disruption we are experiencing now will have revolutionary outcomes. But the story in this revolution is like the axe in the transition from stone to bronze: We still used axes. The edge just got a lot sharper."

His post is partly a response to one by Vin Crosbie, someone I've known for years, and I don't think he was declaring the death of storytelling... but many a good conversation has started with some kind of miscommunication or misreading, especially online where we tend to skim and miss some nuances.

If I read them correctly, Vin was arguing that "stories" aren't the only (or best) way online media can convey some of the things that "local news" sites and newspapers publish in newspaper-story form... while Jim is arguing that storytellers should embrace new media and learn to use them well. I don't think those two ideas conflict.

In fact, putting the two side by side makes me want to go dust off Mitchell Stephens' book, "The Rise of the Image, the Fall of the Word," and also go search the Web for any more-recent reflections he's had on the state of storytelling. But not this afternoon.

Footnote: For students following my advice to look at FLYP; after you form your own opinions, also look at Is FLYP the Future? and Multimedia Magazine Finds New Ways... and if you're ready to start learning multimedia reporting tools yourself, download a copy of Mindy McAdams' Reporter's Guide to Multimedia Proficiency. It's free, all 42 printable pages, but you don't have to print them -- the links in the PDF document work from with Preview or Adobe Reader.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Journalism students across the globe share a reporting project

This looks very interesting... An online discussion among journalism students has produced a road map for a "global collaborative reporting project."

The timely topic is health, with sub-topics for feature writers, beginning reporters, "data miners" and investigative reporters.

Suzanne Yada at at San Jose State University has this page about the project: Journalism students across the globe, here is your reporting assignment.

Sarah Jackson at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in British Columbia has this: Eye to eye: #Collegejourn crew is planning a global collaborative journalism project

Josh Halliday at the University of Sunderland (UK) posted the plans to the Online Journalism Blog: The CollegeJourn global reporting project.

That "#Collegejourn" they mention is a Twitter "hashtag," the key to an online discussion conducted via Twitter.

Some participants also will be using the UK site Help Me Investigate, which I haven't had time to investigate myself. (It's partly the work of Paul Bradshaw, online journalism prof at Birmingham City University and publisher of that Online Journalism Blog mentioned above.)

Maybe between h1n1 flu (my school just had its first case) and the U.S. health insurance debate, enough journalism students have become health-issue conscious and will take up the challenge to come up with school newspaper and school website stories, class projects... or maybe to get something published in the off-campus media.

Coincidentally, there's a free 60-minute webinar Wednesday (Sept. 9) on Health Reform Coverage: The Key Issues with Trudy Lieberman, contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review; Kay Lazar of The Boston Globe; Karen Tumulty of TIME; and Robert Laszewski of Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review. Mike Hoyt, editor of CJR, will moderate. Register in advance at the link above. The webinar is also accepting early questions.

Here are a few other places students might browse for health-reporting inspiration:

Friday, September 04, 2009

100 Best Blogs for Journalism Students??

2013 Update: Better late than never, after four years,  I have just received an email note from the keepers of this site saying that they plan a substantial redesign, and requesting that I remove the link to its old address. 

Just a little bit of critical thinking will help journalism students identify the flaws in this list of the 100 Best Blogs for Journalism Students. [Link removed by request.]

Here are my top 10 clues:

10. It misspells the name of #14 Harvard's Nieman Foundation and Nieman Journalism Lab. (Remember "i before e..."?)

9. It identifies the #12 Columbia Journalism Review as a blog in the "educators" category, when it's a leading magazine in the field.

8. The site is entirely silent about its ranking methodology. Stacking a bunch of categories, starting with "general" and "educators," suggests that numerical rank isn't really the point. And UK journalism blogs are omitted. (See this UK list.)

7. There is no contact information to respond to the creator of the list.
The "reply" area at the bottom of the list says you must be logged in to comment, but offers no way to log in.

6. Descriptions of the sites are very thin, often just the keywords from a site's self-description (including mine).

5. The name of the blog is "Learn-gasm." How serious can you take that?

4. The list does not include a link to this page, at either or , which has been my main blog for the past year.

3. The list also does not include a link to or, the archive of my old blog posts, whose original server is being discontinued later this year.

2. The list does link to that old blog of mine (#10), on its soon to be discontinued server.

1. Last but not least, it lists my blog (that old one) in the world's top 10 blogs for journalism students! Gotta be something wrong there.

Actually, the list of 100 does include a lot of blogs that journalism students should know about, even mine. I'm happy to be in such good company, but can't imagine how I wound up above most of them (including those Harvard and Columbia sites, Mindy McAdams, Jeff Jarvis at CUNY, Jay Rosen at NYU, and many more.

Here's an idea: Take the numbers off the list, replace them with bullets, and run some program to randomize the order! (But, in my case, if this essay doesn't get me bumped off the list entirely, please use my current address or its shortcut,, not the one that will evaporate in December. )

Monday, August 31, 2009

Picking the best in online journalism

Here are the finalists for the 2009 Online Journalism Awards by the Online News Association.

Close to 100 sites are on the finalist list under dozens of award categories, from major news organization sites (,,, to individual stories and multimedia presentations, all organized by topic and size.

Candidates for the Knight Award for Public Service include one site I've blogged about before, The Chauncey Bailey Project, named for -- and continuing the work of -- a former newsroom colleague of mine who was murdered while on the job in Oakland, Calif.

Other public service nominees are Michael J. Berens and Ken Armstrong at The Seattle Times, for Culture of Resistance
, The Toronto Star, for Crime and Punishment, and The Wisconsin State Journal for Down to a Whisper: State's Native Languages Threatened with Loss.

ONA says many of the finalists are "pushing the envelope of innovation in digital storytelling and information sharing."

Student online journalism projects up for awards are:

Small Team

Large Team
The winners will be announced at the 2009 ONA Conference and Online Journalism Awards Banquet on Oct. 3, at the Hilton San Francisco. The organization's partner in the awards is the School of Communication at the University of Miami.

More information about the awards, judging and organizations is available in the ONA press release.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maybe I need a new look, with fewer words

My home page has grown and grown since its early incarnations at Wordle: Dr. Bob Stepno UNC and Mindspring. I really should break it into a less verbose, multi-page, standards compliant, CSS supported, thoroughly modern website. But it works as-is, even on my Palm TX and my OLPC XO, and there are so many other things to do... including teaching a couple batches of students to do a better job of staying up to date.

But I did try pumping all that text into Wordle to see what would happen, as a "cool Web 2.0 tools" demo for my class. The result isn't bad as a self-portrait, but I think it needs more music and dancing. Kinda like my life.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are you a Web designer? Sure.

Just in time for my fall course on Web design, author, Peachpit book-publishing company blogger and Web designer Jason Cranford Teague has a nice overview of the state of site-building today, under the title "Everyone is a Web Designer."

He lists skills Web designers do and don't need today, differences between being a "Web designer" and a "professional Web developer," and the need for designers to "understand what a developer does and how they are doing it."

Something similar is going on at online newspapers and related forms of journalism: Depending on the size of the organization, one person doesn't always have to do everything. But team members need to know each other's abilities, responsibilities and needs. Some are Web designers, Web developers, database-savvy journalists, "backpack journalists" with multimedia skills, or editors responsible for quality control and pulling it all together.

Speaking of backpack journalism, here's an online example of what a couple of "text-oriented" journalists accomplished in their first day using an inexpensive audio recorder and digital camera, a free audio-editing program (Audacity) and an inexpensive slideshow-creation program (Soundslides). Their (ok, our) training was part of a Freedom Forum Diversity Institute "bootcamp" earlier this month.

Also just in time for my new Web design course, I stumbled on a Ze Frank video from a few years ago that you might call "a meditation on contemporary Web aesthetics." I call it "don't be ugly."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Online college media sites and resources

With a new semester rapidly approaching, here are a few links I hope the editors of student media websites already have on their bookmark lists. A few are old friends; the others are places I'm just starting to explore. I may add a few more over the next week. Quoted comments are from the sites themselves:

Society of Professional Journalists
"The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s most broad-based journalism organization, dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior." (Annual convention coming up Aug. 27-30 in Indianapolis. Also see its Student Resources page.)
Innovation in College Media
"The Center for Innovation in College Media is a non-profit think-tank that was created to help college student media adapt and flourish in the new media environment." (Also see this MediaShift column by founder Bryan Murley.)
Journalism 2.0
"Mark Briggs coined the term Journalism 2.0 in 2005 when he was invited to write a book about digital literacy for journalists based on a training program he had created at The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash. Mark is currently working on an updated version of the book, to be published by CQPress in fall 2009." (The original is still online here.)
"A professional reporting community for journalists... helps journalists of all stripes find peers with experience dealing with a particular topic, story or source."
Collaborative Journalism | Publish2
"Link Journalism: Bring the best of the web to your readers. Complement your reporting with links to relevant and interesting content." (Newest feature: Social Journalism.)
"CoPress empowers student newsrooms to hack the future of journalism." It has a blog, forum and wiki as well as selling hosting service to college newspapers.
Associate Collegiate Press
"ACP is the oldest and largest national membership organization for college student journalists. Since 1921, we've offered our members resources to help their publications - newspapers, yearbooks, magazines, broadcast programs, and online publications - improve."
Education Writers Association
"The Education Writers Association is the professional organization of education reporters and editors. We support the ongoing professional development of journalists as part of our mission to help improve the quality of education reporting in the United States." (That's a link to its higher education resource page; the group also offers $30 memberships for students. Faculty have to pay $100!)
HigherEd Watch
"Analysis, reporting and commentary on the world of higher education, with a focus on college access, affordability, and quality." (A blog at the New America Foundation.)
The Chronicle of Higher Education
"the No. 1 source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators. Based in Washington, D.C., The Chronicle has more than 70 full-time writers and editors, as well as 17 foreign correspondents around the world." (Long-standing place where professors look for jobs. Some content is free with registration, some for paid subscribers only.)
Inside Higher Ed
"Inside Higher Ed is the online source for news, opinion and jobs for all of higher education. Whether you're an adjunct or a vice president, a grad student or an eminence grise, we've got what you need to thrive in your job or find a better one..." (All free... challenging the Chronicle since 2004, without killing trees.)
Global Student Journalists
" online meeting place for student journalists from around the world. Students currently enrolled in a recognized post-secondary Journalism program, anywhere in the world, can create a profile and begin connecting with other student journalists. Members can network, share ideas, upload projects and receive feedback on their work." (New, started by journalism students in Canada.)
... and, last only because I've mentioned Mindy's RGMP recently:

Teaching Online Journalism
"Notes from the classroom and observations about today's practice of journalism online," by Mindy McAdams, including her Reporter's Guide to Multimedia Proficiency (RGMP).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Watchdog leaves Hartford Courant, growling

One of the first reporters I worked with has just landed in The New York Times, but it's not good news. The headline is Hartford Courant Lays Off Consumer Columnist, and the story starts like this:
"The Hartford Courant and its former consumer columnist, George Gombossy, agree on one thing: that Mr. Gombossy was laid off this month. But was it because he would not stop unfavorable articles about advertisers, or because his job was simply eliminated?"
George became the Courant's Willimantic bureau chief 40 years ago this summer, the same week that I became "the other guy in the Willimantic bureau." I went on to be a bureau chief, too, and made it to education editor before leaving the paper to go into education full-time, one way or another. George did a lot more at the Courant -- went on to be its business editor for a dozen years, among other things.

He has held out through two corporate takeovers (Times Mirror, then Tribune Corp.) numerous buyouts, layoffs and shrinkage at "the nation's oldest newspaper in continuous publication." The most recent cutbacks included bringing the paper and a Tribune TV station under the same management.

These days, most readers know George as the Courant's consumer watchdog. It looks like he's done good work following-up reader complaints, keeping a good relationship with the state's attorney general, exposing faulty products and questionable business practices, and saving people some money.

Now he's started his own blog as and is talking about making it a nonprofit operation, and about suing the paper, the more civilized equivalent of "going to the mattresses," in the Corleone family. He's quoted by the Associated Press as saying new managers are "destroying the Courant instead of saving it" and that he hopes to stop them.

In a more mundane sense, George says mattresses played a part in his leaving the Courant. Here's the AP version: Hartford Courant columnist alleges his departure tied to critical column about advertiser.

The advertiser in question was a big mattress store, the kind that places big ads in newspapers and television, and sometimes draws consumer complaints about bedbug infestations.

The Courant's memos about George's departure are on his blog, headlined "Courant Spin on Watchdog departure."

Along with his remaining Watchdog columns on, you'll find "The Watchdog's Consumer Resource List," which I'd recommend to journalism students interested in following in watchdog pawprints, looking for local equivalents to the Connecticut offices on his list.

Finally, if you're itching to find out more about bedbugs and mattresses, the "Is this really a new mattress?" question has been the subject of consumer complaints and news investigations for more than a dozen years. A Times story a few years ago pointed out that even new mattresses from reputable stores can pick up bedbugs if they spend a day in a delivery truck carrying away other customers' old mattresses... Those are not the kind you'd want to "go to."

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Quite a Rugmap: Do it yourself multimedia journalism education

For her online Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency, University of Florida journalism professor of Web wizardry Mindy McAdams has spent six months compiling a terrific collection of links, lessons and sage advice for would-be multimedia reporters and producers.

(She abbreviates the heading "RGMP" at the top of each page, which I either read as "RCMP" and expect the Mounties, or want to pronounce "rugmap." hence the odd headline on this item. Come to think of it, we've been weaving the World Wide Web so long that we might call it a World Wide Rug.)

The 15 RGMP pages are part of her Teaching Online Journalism blog, where the concluding episode landed today: RGMP 15: Maintain and update your skills.

A key quote:
"... let go of your self-defeating ideas about how you are 'not a computer person,' or how 'computers don't like me.' These attitudes are killing you and your future in journalism."
As she mentions, many well-known practitioners and teachers of online journalism skills have learned how to do what they do on their own, or informally -- from other Web sites, online tutorials and workshops. Even today, when most journalism programs have courses in digital media, every formal college class has to stop somewhere -- but the technology keeps going.

Part of the agenda for digital media students has to be coping with change -- new technologies, new versions of old ones, and new stories to tell. With all of the new things Flashing and Twittering and Huluing around, Mindy makes an especially good point about setting priorities, weighing what to learn. She suggests asking yourself these questions about that shiny new thing:
  • What will you use it for?
  • How well does it fit with your other skill sets?
  • And above all — is it a skill that is going to be relevant for a long time?
The topics discussed on her 15 RGMP posts are the basics of multimedia -- Web publishing (with a blog), digital audio editing and publishing (with a podcast), photography and basic photo editing, video and low-cost video editing, and putting it all together to tell stories. Take a look, starting at the beginning:
For the list of all 15, see the last episode:

Monday, August 03, 2009

Guiding journalists into social networking

The Journalist's Guide to Facebook is the latest in a series of compilations about online social networking for journalists at the "Social Media Guide" website called

Among the others (also listed at the end of the Facebook article) are:
Speaking of online journalism, congratulations to the Roanoke Times ( for being cited by the Associated Press Managing Editors Awards in the "convergence" category for its interactive tour of new $66 million Taubman Museum of Art. The announcement is here on page 2 of the award story. (Roanoke Times editor Carole Tarrant's name is at the top of that page because she was a judge in another category of the competition, listed on the previous page.)

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Life with newspapers... and without

Technology PR and marketing consultant and blogger Renee Blodgett still dreams about newspapers, and has written an essay about their role -- in England, at least -- in defining social class and community and meeting other needs: Down the avenue: Who Shot the Paperboy?

Her column, in turn, inspired Chris O'Brien to write a piece encouraging news organizations to focus on local community via the Web and somehow reinvent enough of a local marketplace to support multi-platform professional newsrooms, "as part of local news ecosystem": How Passion for Newspapers Points to a Way Forward.

Since I taught a media history class last semester, those two blog items reminded me of something has preserved online. For a look at newspaper audience dedication the Web -- and before TV -- see what happened when New York delivery drivers went on strike 54 years ago:
Internet Archive: 17 Days: The Story of Newspaper History in the Making.

Do watch it... You'll be struck (no pun intended) by not only how many people were willing to line up around the block for a paper during the truckers' strike, but how many papers there were, each with its dedicated audience, much like the London scene Renee describes. That strike, during the last summer of World War II, inspired some serious studies of the audience view of a newspaper's varied "uses and gratifications" -- most of which are met by many different media today.

The 1945 model was still good and strong 20 or so years later when I delivered the Daily Hampshire Gazette around the edges of the Smith College campus. Now I live in an even smaller college town, where the local twice-weekly paper has dropped its price to 25 cents and its reporting staff appears to be one person. The bigger regional paper doesn't seem to give any reporter time to get to know the community. (There have been four in the two years I've lived here.)

Historically, what has been important to readers? Using the headline examples from Renee's London paper for examples, even the 1945 New York crowd was interested in news-you-can-use like "Quest for the perfect bottom," and in being entertained by crime-story sensationalism like "Bright City Star in Death Plunge." Those probably were all higher on the audience agenda than investigative reporting or watchdog coverage of government and big business. So were the "hatched, matched and dispatched" stuff of community (births, weddings, obituaries), the local police blotter and court coverage, along with local help-wanted ads, apt-to-let ads and car-for-sale ads.

Putting that all in one dead-tree package with national and world news sold papers, and it sold local display ads, enough to pay the salaries of a large enough staff to do more civic-minded, public-service investigation, fact-gathering and reporting -- if the publisher was so inclined.

We still have all the pieces... some being taken by blogs, TV (online or off), CraigsList, Amazon, Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter... but figuring out where to put the rest, and how to pay for it, is quite a puzzle, especially on a local and regional level.

NPR is often mentioned as a model of non-profit funding that might be adapted by local news websites and citizen journalism projects. (The New Haven Independent is still my favorite.) It will be interesting to see what NPR itself accomplishes with its new

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Workaround for archiving my "Other Journalism" blog

As discussed at Workaround for lack of sftp in Radio Userland

This is more technical than most things I post here, but it may help some folks who find themselves in a similar situation.

I've been using another blogging software, Radio Userland, for seven years, but the company's "" hosting service and its software updates are both being discontinued in December. Rather than have seven years' work disappear into the cosmic bitbucket, I decided to archive the site as

( is a shortcut to this current blog -- and in the future will remain a shortcut to whatever blogging site I'm using most.)

As mentioned below, none of this would have been possible without help from Richard Silverman, the keeper of the server that hosts my pages.

I tried to post this whole description in Userland's support forum, but either a momentary Web glitch or a length-limitation gave me an error message... so I posted a shorter message and linked it here.

The details:

If someone snuck an sftp function into Radio Userland and I never found it, don't tell me... It would have saved me the day's work described here.

Radio Userland was a pioneer blogging package, but has become old-fashioned in a few ways, most notably its lack of support for secure file-transfer with SSH or SFTP. Meanwhile, my personal Web domain's sysadmin hasn't allowed plain FTP on our server.

That's perfectly understandable: He's a card-carrying security expert who has written two books on the subject ( for one).

So I've used Userland's hosting all these years. After all, it was already included in the annual $40 license for the software -- quite a bargain by any standard.

Now, with Radio apparently headed off the air for good, I wanted to at least archive my old posts for future reference. I do link to some of them now and then. This post is to share the results.

Basically, I found a way to create a copy of the rendered site on my own machine, zip it up, SFTP the .zip file to the server, and unzip it there. I used a Mac; I assume you can do something similar with a PC. Most of these details will make sense only to other users of Radio Userland with the program open in a browser window. (Good bye to the rest of you reading.)

In Radio, I edited the preferences within the blog to turn off commenting, since I won't have a comment engine attached to the archival copy. I also edited the main template to identify the site as "2002-2009 blog page archive." The rest of the instructions below use the Radio page "Preferences > Basic Preferences >
FTP option"

In the Mac's System Preferences for Sharing, I turned on File Sharing and set its Options to use FTP. (That's the part that must be different under Windows.)

Then I followed these steps:

1. I set Radio to ftp to the localhost Server "" with a folder Path of "/users/bob/oldblog/" on my Mac. (If I remember correctly, Radio created that folder for me when the process began.) I identified the eventual destination URL as "" -- clicked "Submit" to save those preferences, then (to be on the safe side) quit and restarted Radio to make sure the setting took...

2. From the Radio menu, chose "Publish/Entire Website" -- which took a long time. (I left home while it worked.)

The resulting collection of nested files looked complete.

3. After some trial-and-error, I used BareBones' free editor TextWrangler's multifile global search and replace to change all the embedded explicit href links within the blog, changing them from to

I also used a series of global searches to correct a glitch that left out the slash between ...oldblog/ and subdirectory names like .../oldblog/stories/... or .../oldblog/categories/... (Probably my fault: I left out the slash at the end of ".../oldblog/ in Radio's "Path" setting above.)

(Aside: I bought the same company's more powerful BBEdit for my other Mac, but just had TextWrangler on this laptop and was pleasantly surprised to find the full search-and-replace command.)

4. I used the Mac's built in archive command to turn the whole file structure into a zip file.

5. Then I used (also free) FileZilla to upload to our Linux server,

6. I used the Mac's Terminal and SSH to log into the server and unzip the file, then..

7. Returned to FileZilla to set world-readable privileges through all those folders. (The Unix equivalent, I guess, would be a recursive "chmod" command.) In FileZilla you Right-click the main folder's name to get to the privilege-setting menu.

FileZilla took a very long time -- more than an hour! -- to work its way through the site, since it sets each individual file. A more experienced Unix commandline user probably has a faster way, but I had bothered Richard enough for one day.

In fact, there may be ten easier ways to do ALL of this, but for a not-ubergeek, my approach seems to have worked.

Meanwhile, I've already had this Blogger blog for years, so I'm using that (with an alias of At some point I may install WordPress on my server at that address. I may even explore the arcane rituals involved in exporting the Radio blog to a MoveableType file, then importing it to WordPress. There are instructions for those things floating around the Web, thanks to other former Radio Userland users. But I've had enough geek-type summer fun for now.

Stop in and tell me if you see anything missing!

formerly (and until December)

Monday, July 27, 2009

They is coming! They is coming! Or is they?

"The case of the singular 'they'" sounds like a Sherlock Holmes story.

After discussions of the same subject on Twitter and CNN, here's some fascinating history of English grammar in The New York Times: On Language - All-Purpose Pronoun.

The authors, subbing for William Safire, are Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman, who once titled a book “Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language.”

"They," they say, was once acceptable as an indefinite singular pronoun.

The surprise: The authors blame an 18th century feminist grammarian for our abandoning a once-acceptable "they" in sentences like, "We don't know the murderer's identity, but they may strike again." The result was years of misleading (and sexist) use of "he" as a synonym for "he or she."

However, O'Conner and Kellerman say it looks like "they" may be on its way back:

" many people now use they in the old singular way that dictionaries and usage guides are taking a critical look at the prohibition against it. R. W. Burchfield, editor of The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, has written that it’s only a matter of time before this practice becomes standard English: 'The process now seems irreversible.'
"Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) already finds the singular they acceptable 'even in literary and formal contexts,' but the Usage Panel of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed.) isn’t there yet."

If asked about this by [a student] (students), I probably would tell (them) [her or him] to listen to the sentence and make up (their) [his or her] own mind (minds) about "they" -- or consider rewording everything to avoid jarring people whose ears are tuned to one sound or the other.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Goodbye to some books at

Alas, some old friends have disappeared from one of my favorite free online reference sites...

The "Welcome to" page now carries this note:
"Due to financial and usage considerations the reference works licensed from Columbia University Press and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have been removed as of June 2009."

The word "usage" is ironic: My favorite among the missing items is The Columbia Guide to Standard American English by Kenneth G. Wilson, who I knew first as a wise, frank and good-humored professor at the University of Connecticut. He was vice president when I was a reporter covering the campus, and I just noticed that his career at UConn spanned 38 years, a "school spirit" you don't see often. He passed away in 2003.

Oops, that should be "whom I knew," shouldn't it? I'm mortified.

Fortunately, Wilson's 6,500-entry book about the language is still available as a searchable electronic edition for card-holders at subscribing libraries, including our McConnell Library at Radford.

And continues to publish other mostly copyright-free, but still useful, resources for students, writers and researchers... as long as they can tolerate pop-up ads (with audio) telling them they have won $1,000 giftcard from a discount retailer. (I didn't see a quick place at Bartleby to look up the Latin "caveat emptor" or Tom Waits' more contemporary line, "The large print giveth, and the small print taketh away.")

Included on the long list of titles are the Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction, the Cambridge History of English and American Literature (18 vols., 1907-21) and The Oxford Shakespeare. Harvard, Cambridge and Oxford -- not bad pedigrees, if you don't mind lurking in the early twentieth century.

For American English, Bartleby still has Strunk's The Elements of Style (1918, not the later edition expanded by E.B. White) and Mencken's The American Language (1921), and for that other kind it has Fowler's The King's English, up-to-date... as of 1908.

Oh, there's also Gray's Anatomy... the book, that is... 20th ed., 1918, where you can look up pictures of body parts they don't show on the television version.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In search of critical optimists

KSU anthropology professor Mike Wesch reports back from a Personal Democracy Forum at Lincoln Center, borrowing the phrase "critical optimism" to describe the crowd of "amazingly creative and concerned global citizens" he met there -- a pretty good description of Wesch himself, and of Paul Jones at UNC, whose Facebook post pointed me to this video of Wesch's talk. Coincidentally, Wesch starts out talking about the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, which Paul may have assigned to a class I was in a dozen years ago.

Digital Ethnography: Toward a New Future of “Whatever...” (Higher def version of the video at Wesch's own site.)

More of his comments on the Personal Democracy Forum audience:
"They were all continually trying to figure out where we are, where we might be going, and the possible downsides and dangers of new technologies so we can use the new technologies to serve human purposes. In other words, it was my kind of crowd."

Friday, July 10, 2009

What we get from good reporters and critical readers

In Who Needs the NY Times? We All Do. Still, Jim Sleeper points out what a newspaper can do by supporting excellent reporters, even if the same institution has critics who consider it guilty of a laundry list of sins from stodginess to dishonesty.

To make his case, Sleeper discusses three stories and a column that demonstrate reporters' skills, Times resources
and something extra:
Because Sleeper wrote his defense of the Times in the Talking Points Memo Cafe forum, there's a thoughtful discussion at the end of his column, and unlike too many online writers, he makes it a conversation. I get the impression that some of the participants didn't follow his advice and go read the Times stories themselves. I'm going to go do that now that I've bookmarked them.

This morning, however, I've been distracted by following links to other articles by Sleeper, a writer and teacher with a long resume, on topics ranging from Thucydides and the value of classical education to George Orwell, Tocqueville and journalism.

I've bookmarked his page of articles on News Media, the Public Sphere and the Phantom Public, surprised and embarrassed that I haven't read his stuff before.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Education 2029 and New Liberal Arts

Here's a look at post-Google education 20 years from now, by Tim Carmody at Snarkmarket, echoing the way his fellow Snarkers got the media thinking about the post-Google future five years ago in Epic 2015.

Tim's piece is part of a Chronicle of Higher Education conversation, "The Faculty of the Future: Leaner, Meaner, More Innovative, Less Secure," which non-subscribers can read for $10. However, Tim put a no-subscription-required version of his contribution on the Snarkmarket site. It starts like this:
"How is academe different in 2029? Let's begin with the basics: reading, writing, and teaching. If anything, Google is even more important. The 2009 author/publisher settlements that allowed Google to sell full access to its book collections didn't revolutionize books in retail, but subscription sales to institutions did fundamentally alter the way libraries think about their digital and analog collections. Access to comprehensive digital libraries allows teachers at any institution to compile virtual syllabi on the fly, seamlessly integrating readings, assignments, communication, and composition."
Speaking of education and Epic 2015, Robin Sloane and friends have a print/online book out, titled "New Liberal Arts," as mentioned at Snarkmarket. Here's a direct link -- and a chance to get in on the ground floor of an interesting print-first, PDF-later model.

Small sense of deja vu and gratification: I like seeing journalism on a list of liberal arts.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Off to run 'Tell the Truth and Run'

Will today's students pay attention to a 98-year-old on a July morning when they could be at the beach?

As substitute prof for a summer school "Media & Society" class tomorrow, I get to show, watch and discuss the film George Seldes: Tell the Truth and Run. (George is the 98-year-old, not me. At least he was 98 when interviewed for the film. He lived to be 104.)

I first saw the film in 1997, when Rick Goldsmith presented it at a conference in San Francisco. His work was nominated for an Oscar back then, but although well reviewed, it had a tough fight against story of the Ali-Frazier "Rumble in the Jungle," which took the prize that year.

For this course, Seldes is a more appropriate battler than Ali -- as a journalist, as a media critic, and as self-publisher of his "In Fact" newsletter.

Discussion question: How much did he have in common with some of today's bloggers and citizen journalists?

For students who want to get right to the source, some of Seldes's writings are online at PublicEye and, including Ten Tests for a Free Press.

That could be a good segue into another piece of early press criticism, Upton Sinclair's The Brass Check, which is also available online.

And the film quotes I.F. Stone, who called Seldes "the father of the alternative press," which might inspire some of the students to peek at Stone's own online archives.

Here's a bit of the blurb ran about the documentary, probably from the original press announcement. Students should learn the names...:
"Seldes at age 98 is the centerpiece of the film: remarkably engaging,witty and still impassioned about his ideas and ideals. Ralph Nader, Victor Navasky, Ben Bagdikian, Daniel Ellsberg, Nat Hentoff and Jeff Cohen, among others, provide incisive commentary. Stunning archival footage and over 500 headlines, photographs and articles provide a rich historical backdrop."
Hmm. It just dawned on me that one of the narrators of "Tell the Truth and Run" is back in the news this summer. I wonder if the students will recognize his voice. They're probably too young to remember Lou Grant.

Information overload department:
By way of introducing one of Seldes' themes to the class, I should bring my banjo and sing this song... But I'll be kind and just play Pete Seeger's clip of one verse, then read the more pertinent verse about "Press-titution."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Journalism needs pros, amateurs, devout agnostics

Ellen Hume, one of my favorite authors and thinkers on media-future issues for almost 15 years, is leaving the Center for Future Civic Media at MIT.

Coincidentally, there's a conference this week at MIT on "The future of news and civic media," and Hume's parting message is full of food for thought: The future of news?. A veteran of both the Wall Street Journal and PBS, Hume says major news organizations are still needed, even while many of today's fine journalists have never set foot inside any mainstream media organization.

  • "Joshua Micah Marshall is I.F. Stone2.0 ("

  • "Twitter is dazzling, as a headline service and a conversation. But I need more than Twitter, YouTube and my Facebook social network to understand this complicated world."

  • "My bottom line has always been: how can people understand their real choices for shaping their own lives and communities? How can the flow of news actually promote personal and community agency? This is why the future of journalism and civic media are important to me."

  • "If the best and brightest young folks don’t value agnostic, professional journalism, even a dozen new business models won’t work for long."

  • "I am waiting for a public relations campaign to argue the virtues of Kovach and Rosenstiel-style journalism (, combined with a comprehensive news literacy curriculum at all levels, in all countries, that invites people to produce, consume and pay for public service news."

  • "Fair, important, earth-shaking journalism is actually hard to do. It’s harder than simply repeating what anyone tells you, or selecting the facts that support your own biases. That is what all the fuss is about as newspapers around the country collapse and die."

Read the whole thing.

More about Ellen Hume.

More about the Future of news & civic media conference at MIT.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer fun for journalism students and grads

Mark Luckie has an inspiring list of 30 Things You Should Do This Summer for journalism school grads, most of which involve getting practice with new online journalism tools... and they are perfectly good ideas for students a year or three away from graduation.

Meanwhile, the Society of Professional Journalists has a "Journalist's Toolbox Update," with more than 30 resources for reporters, editors and teachers -- from online social network tools to background articles on swine flu and government contractors in Iraq. Exploring any of those would be a good idea, too...

As Luckie puts it, "You could spend this summer working on your killer tan... or you could use the downtime to get heads up on the thousands of other grads competing for journalism jobs."

I added a footnote to his post, suggesting that many journalism grads would also profit from the less technological activity of reading some really good journalism -- both to experience the writing and to think about how the reporting was done. I'm working on Max Frankel's autobiography, "The Times of My Life, and My Life with The Times," myself. Gay Talese's "The Kingdom and the Power" and David Halberstam's "The Powers that Be" are old favorites for J-school grads who haven't read them yet.

Here are some source lists:

Those last Pulitzer examples include stories you can read online. The book-length suggestions, on the other hand, are easier to take to the beach.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Searching & graphing public data using Google

A new data-visualization feature was added to Google search a couple of months ago, while I wasn't paying attention to anything but end-of-semester work. The system uses the latest official statistics available from government agencies, and Google is soliciting more data.

Luckily my Twitter feed brought a couple of tips about it today. Very cool. Try typing "unemployment rate" or "population" in a Google search window, followed by the name of your city or county. This would be very useful for journalism students, once it works as advertised. (See note below.)

Related posts:
Problem:The click-through enlarged graphs shown in the video work for "population radford va" but when I search for "unemployment rate radford va" the enlarged graph page comes up blank. The same happens with the two searches demonstrated by Google. I posted a note in a Google forum asking whether the unemployment data search is broken... and will update this when I get more info. (Or just follow that link to the forum to see if there's any discussion.)

On the population data search, a left column allows you to add other counties or states to the expanded graph, as shown in the video. Using the same technique with unemployment data would be even more interesting, so I hope they get it working.

Footnote: The search should be "population placename, st" or "unemployment data placename, st" -- if you leave out the word "data" in the unemployment search, or include it in the population search, you don't get the data graph. The comma appears to be optional. Also, in some localities, such as Radford, independent city names work with or without the word "city." County searches also work with or without the word "county." (New York City, however, is not the same kind of thing. Apparently "New York County" is only part one of five in the city -- 1.6 million of its 8.2 million people. See U.S. Census QuickFacts. )

Friday, June 19, 2009

Browsing ideas for Boston's news future

In August the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication will make Boston the scene of its annual convention.
Newcomers might want to start browsing through these two serious discussions of possible futures for The Boston Globe. Both authors suggest paying more attention to the company's Web site.

(If you haven't been following the drama, the Globe is currently owned by The New York Times, which has put it up for sale after rough negotiations with the paper's unions.)
The newspaper's section of the Globe Web site is technically
For more browsing: The Globe's main competition is The Boston Herald. One or both of those articles mention a third daily, a free paper aimed mostly at subway-riders, the Metro.

The city's old-established "alternative" weekly is The Phoenix. When I lived there 10 years ago an alternative-alternative was just getting started, the Weekly Dig, probably a reference to the city's "Big Dig" monumental tunnel-building that was going on at the time.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A risible or banal glut of shibboleths for the feckless?

If you have accidentally double-clicked on any word in an online New York Times story recently, you've seen a question-mark icon indicating that one more click will get you a definition of the word. That's a huge improvement over the previous version of the "feature," which went straight to the dictionary after that second click, interrupting anyone with a twitchy mouse finger, including a journalism professor trying to highlight a well-turned phrase or tightly-edited lead for class discussion.
But here's another bonus: Now that a good many of those mistaken clicks have been eliminated, the Times is able to compile a list of the words people look up... including some word choices that aren't in the news writing textbooks.
  • My favorite copy editor, Pam Robinson, at Words at Work, found most of these links, including a "Wordle" map of the terms and a list of reasonably correct definitions, rescued from the depths of Metafilter's discussion thread.
No word on when the Times might add the click-for-definition feature to the print edition.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Finding time for life and "Life Inc."

Summer reading: I think it was the Frontline documentary "Merchants of Cool" that first put Douglass Rushkoff's reporting and analysis on my radar. I hope I can make time this summer for his new book, Life Inc: How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back. The book is a call for small-scale activism, for local community, for "reconnecting with real people, places, and value."

(Will people will only see the first two words of the title and assume it's about a photo magazine, a breakfast cereal, or a board game?)

Here's a "Merchants of Cool" crossover observation from one of the Life Inc. online chapter excerpts:
"With no other choice available, we grow up partnering with corporations for our very identities. A kid's selection of sneaker brand says more about him than his creative- writing assignments do, and is approached with greater care."
Along with the sample chapters, this is the first book I've noticed using online video previews... (The first one starts with a 15-second burst of tuning-across-the-dial static, which almost convinced me the clip or my Web connection was faulty, but the noise goes away.)

Episodic videos on Vimeo:

Life Inc. Dispatch 01: Crisis as Opportunity from Douglas Rushkoff on Vimeo.

More at

A blurb from another of my favorite authors:
“Read this book if you want to understand how the current economic meltdown started 400 years ago, how so much of what you consider to be a natural evolution of daily life was carefully designed to profit a few, and how corporatism has so colonized every part of life that most of us don’t even recognize how our lives and fortunes are channeled and manipulated by it. Rushkoff is going to be attacked as a communist, but that gets his point wrong. Look at his references — he has meticulously documented his argument. I love that Rushkoff isn’t afraid to think big — very big. He took on the media more than a decade ago. Then he took on Judaism. But now he’s chosen a larger target — the corporation.” -- Howard Rheingold - author, Smart Mobs

So, is Rushkoff out to start a movement? I'd say yes, but he says no -- at least from the excerpts I've skimmed -- that the whole point is to work close to home, "reinvesting in local reality"...
"We’d each like to launch a national movement, create the website that teaches the world how to build community from the bottom up, develop the curriculum that saves public schools, or devise the clever antimarketing media campaign that breaks the spell of advertising once and for all... The temptation to save the whole world—and get the credit—comes at the expense of steps we might better take to make our immediate world a more fruitful, engaging, sustainable, and satisfying place."