Teaching Examples

Blogging where you come from, where you live
September 30, 2006, 10:55 pm
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Metroblogging is a site of many blogs. What they have in common, apart from an identical look and feel (pretty generic, actually), is that each blog is really about a place. I mean, really. About. A place.

From San Francisco to Bangkok, from Karachi to Toronto, Metblogs are a hyper-local look at what’s going on in the city. Our hand-picked core of regional bloggers give each site a new perspective on daily life; less calendar listings, more friendly advice.

The site, founded in 2003, carries advertising on the individual blogs. The ads are not too obtrusive. The writing is mostly interesting, more in some cases than in others.

I find it an intriguing idea because the founders have what might be considered an editorial vision. They are sponsoring a theme at JPG Magazine right now — the theme is “Hometown.”

I also listened to a good interview with one of the Metroblogging founders, Sean Bonner, published as a podcast at the Baltimore Sun site (Sept. 20, 2006), which further convinced me that the folks behind the site do have a cool idea.

This idea behind Metroblogging tapped into something I was thinking about two days ago, as I went digging around for Dan Gillmor’s blog. It was almost impossible to find. (How bizarre is that? Dan Gillmor’s blog is hard to find!) Now that it’s on Backfence, Gillmor’s blog — which lately has been all about the Hewlett Packard news — is buried in a local ghetto (the Palo Alto section).

Think about it. Gillmor won a worldwide audience for his blog about technology at the San Jose Mercury News. He went on to write an excellent book about citizen journalism (We the Media), which also has a worldwide audience. But at Backfence, he’s shoved into a little back alley — even though he still writes about the world.

One thing that stands out about the Metroblogging blogs: They are personal. Sure, the bloggers might comment on the world from time to time, but mostly, they are looking out their own window and writing about what they see.

Update (Oct. 1): Journalists should take a look at this post from Karachi. Notice how many comments there are! What struck me especially is the community feeling of this conversation — about a car wreck! Also note the news value of the photos from the scene, and finally, the follow-up link (near the end of the comments) to a news story that provides the names of the victims.

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Which OS for journalism students?
September 29, 2006, 7:29 pm
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The Mac-vs.-PC argument is as old as … well, as 1984. I have not owned a Mac since 1997, so don’t count me in the “Mac fanatics” category (although I do have a MacBook Pro on order, after living a Windows-only life for seven years). But the argument is at least worth listening to, especially today, when Macs come standard with software such as iMovie and GarageBand that makes it easy to create multimedia content.

In The Mystery Of Medill’s Missing Macs, reporter Janessa Goldbeck writes about the OS preferences of two online journalists — Kevin Sites of “Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone” and Tim Richardson of the Naples Daily News. Goldbeck’s inquiries were inspired by the switch from Macs to PCs by Medill, one of the most highly regarded journalism schools in the United States.

According to this page, the recommended computer for new Medill students is a Lenovo ThinkPad Z61m with “2.0GHz Intel Core Duo Processor T2500, 1.5GB RAM, 100GB hard drive, DVD±RW, 10/100/1000 Ethernet, WiFi802.11a/b/g, fingerprint reader, Microsoft® Windows® XP Professional [and] 15.4-in. WSXGA+ display” for the low educational price of $2,572.49. Mm-hmm.

The Missouri School of Journalism — another very well regarded U.S. j-school — now requires all of its students to BYOM (bring your own Mac):

The minimum recommended configuration is a wireless laptop computer with the Microsoft Office suite of software. … Students are encouraged to acquire wireless laptop technology from Apple, which the School has designated as its preferred provider, but students also will have a choice of a Windows-based alternative. Last year, 99.5 percent of incoming students chose the Apple option. …

Q. What if I prefer a Windows-based machine?
A. That’s an option, but it’s one we do not recommend unless you plan to make a career of computer-assisted reporting. By the time you purchase photo, audio and video software for a PC, you probably will have spent more than you would if buying a comparable Apple Computer. Buy a PC if you prefer to do so, but make sure it is wireless and has Microsoft Office. Almost 100 percent of last year’s freshmen chose Apple computers.

The Missouri page gives the estimated price of the recommended laptop, including software, as “$1,400 or less.”

At my university, we are still primarily Windows and Dell, which has been the case for a number of years. Certain students in our program have access to special Mac labs, but most of our students have Windows computers at present.

Update (Sept. 30): Very informative comments have been posted here from working journalists. Check them out!

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Yahoo! acquires JumpCut video sharing site
September 29, 2006, 6:11 pm
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Interesting observations about the buy here and here.

You can edit your videos at JumpCut, which differentiates it from YouTube.

Previous post about video sharing sites at this blog.

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Using a timeline to tell a story
September 29, 2006, 1:30 pm
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In multimedia journalism packages, we have a lot of choices for how to present the information. For stories that persist over time — especially those that go back for months or even years — a graphical timeline can be a great solution to the puzzle of presentation. Online, an animated timeline can be even better.

Atentados de Al Qaeda
This timeline is part of a package created last year by El País, one of the great newspapers of Madrid. It is inside the segment titled “Atentados de Al Qaeda” (“Attacks by Al Qaeda”). The full package is “Londres, Atacada” (“London, Attacked”).

Atentados de Al Qaeda
You want to make the story clear and manageable to the reader. You must avoid “mystery meat” navigation — that is, a timeline that doesn’t give them anything but the time information. Never make people click into something with no clue as to what they will get by clicking!

I found this timeline to be very clear and easy to use. There are 12 tiny squares for each year, each representing a month. If any attacks occurred in a given month, that square is red. Below the square, a number tells us how many separate attacks took place in that month. Clicking a red square causes a pulsing red dot to appear on the world map, and details about the earliest attack appear on the left. When more than one attack is indicated on the map, you can click each location to see its unique details.

The timeline also indicates any square you have already clicked by making it turn dark. That’s a rare feature to see in Flash animations, and it’s very good for the user.

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Internet in China: What’s new?
September 28, 2006, 1:45 pm
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Rebecca MacKinnon has posted a bunch of fresh links to diverse news items about the Internet in China, government control and blogging (17.5 million people! Imagine it!) at her blog, RConversation.

MacKinnon (formerly a bureau chief for CNN in Japan and China) is a co-founder of Global Voices Online, the international citizens media site that recently won the big $10,000 annual award in the Knight-Batten competition.

Add to her links China’s tight rein on online growth, from the BBC (part of a substantial package on today’s China):

Much has been made of the so-called Great Firewall of China that censors what people see using technology built in to the country’s basic net infrastructure. …

But despite the sophistication of these technologies, they are not infallible. …

The web addresses of proxies, that help users see banned pages, are well known. Many activist organisations in the West help pass on the addresses of these pages and set up new ones when old ones are shut down.

Equally there are programs produced by firm such as Dynaweb and Ultrareach that let people see banned sites and get e-mail from overseas.

A new report from Amnesty International states:

Broad and vaguely defined ‘state secrets’ and ‘subversion’ charges in the Criminal Law continue to be used to arbitrarily detain and prosecute journalists, editors and Internet users. While foreign journalists are generally detained for short periods and may face expulsion, Chinese journalists and writers often face much harsher treatment for reporting on issues deemed sensitive by the authorities.

I keep an eye on China, hoping they become more like us in this respect — and also hoping we do not become more like them.

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6-week course in online journalism
September 27, 2006, 6:04 pm
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Journalists from developing countries can apply for a fellowship to attend Internet for Journalists, a course from May 14 to June 22, 2007, in the Netherlands.

The deadline for applications is Oct. 1, 2006.

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Pondering the Internet’s future
September 27, 2006, 2:37 pm
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What effects will the Internet have on social, political and economic life in the year 2020? This is the big question posed by a new Pew study.

You can read the summary or the full report (PDF file).

Brief biographies for 250 of the 742 respondents can be found in pages 95-115 of the PDF (or pages 84-104, as numbered). While there are many well-known names — including Reva Basch, Gordon Bell, Cory Doctorow, Esther Dyson, Alex Halavais, Bob Metcalfe, Mark Poster, Sheizaf Rafaeli, Howard Rheingold, Douglas Rushkoff, Paul Saffo, and Danny Sullivan — many other names that I would expect to see (e.g., Yochai Benkler, Brenda Laurel, Larry Lessig, Pierre Lévy, Lisa Nakamura, Saskia Sassen, Sherry Turkle, Paul Virilio) are missing.

That doesn’t necessarily mean anything; the report says that the list represents only “some of the top participants who were willing to be quoted on the record for one or more of their statements in answer to the survey.”

Dozens of additional internet leaders/stakeholders preferred to remain anonymous, keeping their comments off the record; you will not see their names here although they did participate in the survey.

I found the manner in which the study was conducted to be very interesting. On page iii (page 4 of the PDF), there’s an easy-to-read grid that summarizes the respondents’ reactions to seven future scenarios. The percentage of respondents who agreed vs. disagreed with any given scenario is not overwhelming (ranging from 3 to 17 percentage points difference, except in the final case). The greatest divergence is for the seventh scenario:

Some Luddites/Refuseniks will commit terror acts: By 2020, the people left behind (many by their own choice) by accelerating information and communications technologies will form a new cultural group of technology refuseniks who self-segregate from “modern” society. Some will live mostly “off the grid” simply to seek peace and a cure for information overload while others will commit acts of terror or violence in protest against technology.

While 35 percent of respondents disagreed that this is likely to happen and 7 percent did not respond, 58 percent said this is a plausible future for us.

I don’t find this scenario impossible to believe, but I’m surprised that so many respondents think the disparities in technology will lead to violence. Isn’t it far more likely that disparities in wealth and standard of living would drive people to violence?

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