Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Outsell study finds 61% get local news from newspapers
Originally published February 28, 2006
61% get local news from newspapers
By Nick Madigan
Baltimore Sun reporter
People looking for local news still tend to reach for their hometown
newspaper, but television and the Internet continue to draw away
significant numbers of readers, according to a national survey being
A survey by the market research business Outsell Inc., which echoes other
recent studies, determined that 61 percent of consumers look to their
newspapers as an essential source for local news, events and sports,
followed by television (58 percent) and radio (35 percent). About 6
percent turn to the major Internet search engines for local news and
The survey of 2,800 consumers' news habits found that television is
consumers' top choice for national news. Seventy-one percent of
respondents said they rely on network, cable and satellite TV as primary
or secondary sources of national news. Thirty-three percent choose their
local newspapers first or second for coverage of national events, followed
by 28 percent who access sites such as Google, Yahoo, MSN and AOL News.
Eleven percent of consumers are relying regularly on their daily
newspapers' Web sites, the survey said.
Consumers, the study found, "prefer the Web as the best route to news and
information about health, personal finance and travel."
In addition, it said, the "interactivity and personalization afforded by
the Internet" has not only cut into newspaper readership but has weakened
the link between reading and shopping, which ultimately costs publishers
"It's going to be really interesting to see whether newspapers are going
to be able to capitalize on the Internet from a financial point of view,"
said Rachel Smolkin, managing editor of American Journalism Review. "Even
as newspaper circulation is declining, we're seeing readership increases
in newspaper Web sites. It's not that readers aren't interested in news."
In a recent Harris Interactive poll of 2,985 U.S. adults, 75 percent of
those surveyed said they watch local broadcast news and 71 percent said
they watch network news.
The Harris poll also found that 64 percent of people get their news by
going online and that 54 percent listen to radio news broadcasts, 37
percent listen to talk radio and 19 percent listen to satellite news
A third poll found that as the pace of modernization has accelerated
worldwide, so has computer use and access to the Internet. The Pew Global
Attitudes survey found substantially more people using computers and going
online than in 2002.
And the poll found that although Internet users in 2002 were predominantly
younger people, the growth rate for adults older than 50 has outpaced that
for young adults in the United States and Western Europe.
AUTHOR's EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, February 24, 2006
BLOGS: Business Week Q&A with Mena Trott, co-founder of SixApart/Typepad
FEBRUARY 24, 2006
The Future of the Blog
Six Apart's Mena Trott helped start the stampede by co-designing user-friendly
software. But she thinks the blogging trend is only just beginning.
It's hard to imagine the world without blogs. The publishing technology has
become a cultural and political force. One of the reasons for the rapid growth
of the blogosphere is the existence of user-friendly blogging software such as
Moveable Type. The program was designed with simplicity in mind by Mena Trott,
a former graphic designer and early blogger (she launched dollarshort.org in
early 2001), and her husband, Ben Trott, a programmer.
Mena and Ben went on to found Six Apart, the San Francisco-based company
behind the blog-hosting service TypePad. In January, 2005, Six Apart acquired
LiveJournal, an online community of personal blogs that today boasts 9.6
million accounts and more than 16,000 new posts per hour. In December, 2005,
Six Apart and Yahoo! (YHOO) announced a partnership to build Yahoo-hosted blogs
with Moveable Type.
Six Apart is currently working on a new product, codenamed Comet, that will
start beta testing this quarter. "It's meant for the next generation of blogs,"
says Mena Trott, without revealing details. Just before setting off for
Monterey, Calif., to speak at the annual TED conference -- that's technology,
education, and design -- Trott spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Reena
Jana about challenges in blog design -- which, she hints, Comet will attempt
to address. Here are edited excerpts from their conversation:
Q: What do you see as the next big issue in blog design?
We'll focus on the idea of more select and filtered readership, and how to
allow people to read certain posts. That to me is interesting: how different
people want different views of the blog. A big issue right now is how to take
that idea in account when designing blogs. Another new challenge is the trend
toward adding a lot of assets. People are adding photos, video, and music to
supplement the text. How do you make it possible for bloggers to present as
much as they want to present without creating blogs that are too cluttered or
Q: Do you think that blogging will supplant mainstream news Web sites and
other established media?
There will be similarities. But blogging and traditional journalism play by
different rules and will remain distinct. They're meant to complement each
other, play off of each other in terms of the readers' attention. What do I
read when I wake up? I go to news sites. But I'm more excited right now about
personal users. The 10 blogs I really care about are written by my friends. I'm
interested in the community of a blog network.
Q: Even if you don't think that blogs will supplant traditional news media,
don't you think they have had an impact?
I think the biggest impact of blogs on mainstream journalism is the presence
of a more personal voice. The popularity of the personal tone used by bloggers
has caused traditional media to realize it's O.K. for some reporters to use
"I." And now many mainstream news media outlets are now incorporating blogs on
their Web sites. It makes sense. A reporter's or editor's blog provides a way
to include details that might not make it into an official article or TV report
-- and a strong sense of personality or identity associated with that
Q: What aspects of blog-software do you believe can be improved?
I think blog tools can get easier to use. Putting together a blog should be
as easy as sending an e-mail. I foresee the next versions of blog tools as
focusing less on features that appeal to early adopters. They'll be easier for
people to incorporate more media and maybe mobile capabilities. This will be
important, because many more mainstream users will come to blogging. I believe
the interest in blogging is just starting.
Q: And are there specific design challenges that you're focused on?
The design of the blog really influences how and if people post comments.
One big challenge today is that blog tools come with default templates. So we
ask ourselves, what template design appeals to the largest number of people?
What are they comfortable using? As a designer of templates, you have to keep
in mind that people will see the template over and over again, but need to
realize that it's not same person's blog. So it's important to design simple
and bare-bones templates. Blogs need to be accessible-looking. It would be
great to offer more decorative templates. But it's important to present blogs
where you can focus on content and context.
Q: What blogs do you read regularly?
I check out the LiveJournal blogs of about 30 friends. I like Nick Denton's
Gawker and his other properties. But I tend to read fun gossip, the
equivalent of an Us or a Star magazine. Gofugyourself is one that I find
entertaining -- it features celebrities wearing ugly outfits.
Q: Are there any common misperceptions about blogs that you would like to
Most people think of blogs as being primarily political or tech-focused. To
most people, the important things they want to learn about have to do with
people they know. So I think personal blogs are really the future, and with
that comes a challenge for blogs to be more friendly and welcoming. Also,
blogs are all about capturing and preserving information about our lives. And
that makes me think of what might be the biggest future blog-design
challenge: How do we design blogs that will archive and present 20 years worth
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POSTED: Feb. 22, 2006
By Graeme Wearden
ZDNet UKFebruary 23, 2006, 12:30 GMT
After 12 months of trying to survive on contributions from blog readers, Jason Kottke is ending his experiment with micropayments. Kottke, a Web designer who quit his job to run his blog full-time, has abandoned his plan to make a living through blogging after exactly one year. Kottke announced on Wednesday that he was no longer seeking payments from people who enjoyed his blog, kottke.org. He said that he hadn't managed to attract enough readers or developed "a sufficient cult of personality" to support the subscription model.
He also explained that he wasn't able to keep providing the time and energy needed to make his blog successful enough. "My (unstated) intention from the beginning was to approach the site as a startup, but along the way life intervened (in a good way) and I couldn't focus on it as much as I wanted to. The site became a normal job, a nine-to-five affair, which meant that I could keep up with it, but growth was hard to come by," wrote Kottke.
Kottke was one of the first wave of bloggers. He set up kottke.org nearly eight years ago, and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the Bloggies in 2003. He announced that he was going to work on the blog full-time on 22 February 2005, and was seeking micropayments from regular readers. Kottke revealed on Wednesday that he had raised a total of $39,900 (£22,800) from 1,450 donors. Most of that was received in the initial fund-raising drive in February and March 2005 when his project began.
It's unclear what Kottke will do next. "In the short term, it [kottke.org] is going to be taking a back seat to some other things going on in my life. Longer term, who knows? I might look for other ways to fund my efforts on the site or maybe it goes back to being more of a hobby. But there will be posts and links and other things here almost daily, just like there have been for almost 8 years now," he wrote.
Dave Sifry, who founded the blog search engine Technorati, believes that the secret to creating a successful blog is to specialise on a certain topic. This will help to attract attention from other bloggers and push the blog into what Sifry calls the "Magic Middle" of the blogosphere, he argued in a posting earlier this month. Robert Scoble, known as The Microsoft Blogger, published a book last month called Naked Conversations in which he argued that individuals and businesses cannot afford to ignore the power of the blogging community. "Blogging has past the denial and most of the anger phase. Now, businesses see blogging's huge potential and have begun to adapt it to business needs.
Copyright © 2006 CNET Networks, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
RESEARCH: Sacramento Bee report surveys students' news appetites
PUBLISHED: Feb. 21, 2006
Media Savvy: No room for news
Today's tech-savvy youths lack an appetite for traditional media
By Sam McManis
Sacramento Bee Staff Writer
Among her circle of friends at California State University, Sacramento, Sasha Krongos might be considered something of a freak. She, like, follows the news. Not obsessively, mind you. The 19-year-old sophomore from Fortuna has a life, after all. But she makes a habit of leaving CNN on while she gets ready for school. And when her Yahoo home page pops up, she'll usually click on the link to news headlines. But newspapers? Not so much. Too time-consuming and, besides, you have to pay for them.
Radio? Nah - she's got her iPod. And local TV newscasts? "Only at night when I'm trying to fall asleep," she says. "I try to pick up little things, here and there, about the news. I'm a social science major, so maybe I'm different," Krongos says one recent afternoon while hanging out at the student union. "But my friends just don't care. I'm always surprised when they don't know stuff."
Krongos doesn't fault her friends, though. Rather, she blames the mainstream media for failing to connect with people of her generation. "All they think we care about is entertainment news," she says. "Yes, I'm a sucker for pop culture. But the media directs the actual news toward older people."
Well, what about CNN - her primary news source? The network recently elevated Anderson Cooper, 38, to be its main anchorman in a push, network executives say, for the coveted 18-to-34-year-old demographic. No go. "To college students," says Krongos with a smile, "he is definitely not young."
Reaching younger news consumers - people just like Krongos - is widely seen as the biggest challenge for media today. Study after study shows that young people (teens and 20-somethings) are ignoring the news in alarming numbers. But alarming to whom? Well, the news organizations, of course. But it also should be a societal concern, says David T. Z. Mindich, a former CNN producer and author of "Tuned Out: Why Americans Under 40 Don't Follow the News" (Oxford University Press, $20, 192 pages). Mindich's argument: Our very democracy hinges upon an informed citizenry plugged in to current events. "How do you hold the government and its leaders accountable if you don't follow the news?" Mindich asks. "There's always been a segment of the population that will never follow the news. The problem is that the numbers have increased a lot in the last 30 or 40 years."
A 2005 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that young people spend 6 hours and 21 minutes per day using media - 3 hours and 51 minutes of it watching TV. Yet, only 6 percent of respondents said they watched the news. And numerous other surveys show that although young people log on to the Internet often, they don't use it to get news. Likewise, newspaper readership among youths has fallen steadily since 1972, as has viewership of network TV news and magazine readership. As a result, the so-called mainstream media, which include daily newspapers such as The Bee, have responded with a number of initiatives.
The Bee, as has almost every metropolitan newspaper, has significantly bulked up its online presence. It posts news on its site, sacbee.com, throughout the day and features a regular pop music podcast. Network and local TV news have responded, as well. ABC's "World News Tonight" launched an afternoon Web cast with anchorwoman Elizabeth Vargas. NBC anchorman Brian Williams has a blog dealing with the news-selection process. CBS News has begun a feature, "Assignment America," in which viewers pick one of three story ideas for correspondent Steve Hartman to report. (One viewer choice in early February: Do-It-Yourself Funerals.) All three major Sacramento TV news stations provide streaming video of news stories on their Web sites, and Channels 3 and 10 recently started offering content that can be downloaded for a fee onto consumers' cell phones.
Other, more radical, approaches are being tried elsewhere. Gannett, the country's largest newspaper chain, publishes youth-oriented tabloids in a dozen markets. Chicago had a commuter tabloid war between RedEye (from the Tribune) and Red Streak (from the Sun-Times), before Red Streak folded in late December. The Associated Press has launched "asap," a package of print stories and audio downloads aimed at the 18-to-34 demographic. So far, asap editor Ted Anthony says, 235 newspapers subscribe to the service.
"This is a direct response to the newspaper industry's attempt to attract his audience," Anthony says. "We want to find a way to drag (young readers) either back to the newspaper or get them to look for the first time at the newspaper's Web site. "Text and photos, which was the default way of telling stories, is not necessarily the best way anymore."
Is all this working? Well, when two dozen local college students were interviewed for this story, many said they felt they were talked down to by mainstream media. "It's more interesting for me to log on to (Internet) forum boards and see what other people ... are saying about current events than listen to a report on the news for two minutes that isn't very informative at all," says Taylor Wang, a 23-year-old senior at UC Davis.
Avi Ehrlich, a senior journalism major at CSUS, put it more bluntly: "We get exactly what we want when we want it instead of somebody deciding for us what we need." Still, those in the media aren't ready to write off young people. They continue to grapple with the reasons why a generation (some say two generations) is just not "consuming" news.
But their frustration shows.
"They totally don't care," says Michael Rosenblum, a TV producer and New York University professor who in August helped launch the Al Gore-spearheaded "Current" digital cable channel, which is aimed at younger viewers. "They are so thoroughly disconnected to the news that there's no intellectual foundation upon which to build. "I have 350 students at NYU, a good school. They are smart. But they have no sense of history or what's news. There's a disconnect between the realities of their lives and what the news presents."
Kevin Krim, manager of the blog Livejournal, which has more than 2 million users, says the fragmentation of information sources has only made it more difficult to reach youths. "These kids are a hyper-connected, multitasking crowd with five IM windows open at once, the TV going, a video streaming on their laptop and their homework book open," Krim says. "How do you compete with that?"
Another obstacle, says Jim Morris, executive producer of Channel One (a newscast played in schools nationwide), is that young people haven't learned to differentiate between serious news products and opinion blogs, or even gossip sites. "To many kids on the Internet, sacbee.com is equivalent, news-wise, to the Entertainment Tonight Web site," Morris says. "The difficult task for mainstream media is how to make the news relevant to to them." Convergence of "information delivery systems," says Morris and others, may be what stops the circulation bleeding and ratings drain.
"Young people are less interested in quote, the news, unquote, but remain extremely interested in information," says Ellin O'Leary, executive director of Youth Radio in Berkeley, which produces segments for National Public Radio as well as content for print outlets and the Internet. "They're coming up through a tremendous information revolution. They're mixing media and formats." Therefore, at Youth Radio, student workers are no longer trained in just one medium, O'Leary says. "The next generation of media producers will be more versatile," she says. "We used to train our people sequentially - radio, then Web, writing, then add TV and music later. Now, they're introduced to all of it as soon as they walk in the door."
The AP's Anthony is putting that theory into practice with the wire service's new project. "Maybe a certain story will best attract readers of any age, but particularly that (18-to-34) demographic, in a two-minute audio form," he says. "They have two minutes to listen in their busy schedules." Indeed, young people say they simply don't have time to sit through a 30-minute TV newscast or to read the newspaper cover to cover.
"I barely have time to eat in the morning," says Yasmine Bikul, a junior at CSUS. "I go from school to work to homework. I don't have the time to pay - what is it, now? - 50 cents for a paper. I have my computer. I can flip onto the Net and get information there."
The numbers don't bear that out, however. Only 11 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds surf the Web for news, according to a 2002 Roper Global Geographic Literacy Survey. And a recent Pew Internet and American Life report showed that young people ranked news consumption a distant sixth in their Web-usage habits - well behind e-mailing, instant messaging and interactive blog sites such as MySpace and Livejournal.
As for where they go online for news, young people seek out non-journalistic Web sites, such as Yahoo, America Online and Google, to get a Cliff Notes-type of information, with news links and video clips on demand. Some "vlogs" - seemingly as ubiquitous as pop-up ads - scooped mainstream media in coverage of the Indonesian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina. The most popular Web "news" sites, such as Rocketboom.com (100,000 downloads daily), mix humor and esoteric content with topical reports. And shows such as TV's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" are going over well with younger people.
"I can't watch some news stations that are monotone and dry," says UC Davis senior Kristen Gunther, 22. "I can't learn through osmosis if I fall asleep." Which explains the success of Rocketboom, which is entertaining, opinionated and doesn't try to be comprehensive, says producer Andrew Michael Baron. "We are open and transparent about our biases," Baron says. "When you watch the news, or even listen to news commentary on TV, the people who are talking tell you that they are the experts and that they know that what they are saying is true."
Alan Weiss, executive producer of "Teen/Kids News," which is beamed into school classrooms, says young people don't want a voice of authority. "The way we do it is to have the news presented by someone their age," Weiss says. "That gets their attention and keeps them from feeling like they're being lectured to."
Where does that leave mainstream media?
"The media companies that survive are the ones that converge and blur," predicts Bob Papper, a professor at Ball State University in Indiana who has analyzed media use by people of all ages. "For instance, someday, newspapers will just be boutique subsets of news Web sites. And TV news will see more traffic on the Web than on the tube."
The American Press Institute recently began a $2.25 million initiative called "Newspaper Next," to advise print publications about dealing with the competition from "new media." "It's too early to say it's too late for newspapers," says Stephen Gray, a former newspaper publisher and editor who is the managing director of the project. "But you ignore it at your peril."
Gray advocates so-called "citizen journalism," in which community members report on hyper-local events (Little League games and church picnics) filtered through the news organization's editors. And, because of the 24-hour time lag for the print medium, that means delivering that news online and directly to electronic devices. "If I'm an editor or publisher, instead of the old view of 'I'm responsible for a newspaper,' the new view should be, 'I'm responsible for this territory we consider our own and everyone in it,' " Gray says. "I don't know if you're ever going to persuade this Generation Y group to pick up a paper. But if you do it in a content they use - mobile, a discussion site, a weekly magazine - you might connect with them."
By the same token, Morris of Channel One says you won't get young people to watch TV news unless it involves a give-and-take. "It's two-way communication - they demand instant feedback," Morris says. "It's a hook to get them into a story. Otherwise, you lose them. It's that way for me. " I'm a journalist, and if I can't get my kid interested in news, who
INTERESTED IN THE NEWS?
Percentage of respondents who "definitely" or "generally" agree with the
"I need to get the news (world, national, sports, etc.) every day," by
Source: DDB Needham Lifestyle Survey, 2000; from "Tuned Out: Why Americans
Under 40 Don't Follow the News," by David T.Z. Mindich
About the writer:
"Media Savvy" by The Bee's Sam McManis runs Tuesdays in Scene. He can be
reached at (916) 321-1145 or email@example.com.
NEWSPAPER FUTURES: Knight Ridder columnist reflects on future after sale
Posted on Tue, Feb. 21, 2006
By Mike Cassidy
Columnist, the San Jose Mercury News
So, this is what doom feels like. My company is for sale and there is nothing I can do about it.
The newspaper executives and money managers have been through Mercury News headquarters checking for whatever they check for before deciding on a big purchase. I feel like a gunslinger in an old Western. You know the scene. The undertaker stops by before the shootout to take a few measurements. Just in case.
Forgive me for assuming you're up to speed. The potential sale of Knight Ridder, owner of the Mercury News, has dominated our waking thoughts here at the word factory. You have your own life, your own worries. Maybe you work at a company that is up for sale, or seeking a merger or thinking about throwing in the towel altogether.
I get it now. Really. In November, those who run Knight Ridder said they were willing to sell the company and its 32 daily newspapers. It's not that they want to sell. It's that Bruce Sherman, whose firm controls about 18 percent of the company's shares, said he's no longer satisfied with Knight Ridder's stock performance.
I've written plenty about this sort of thing in Silicon Valley. I thought I'd written with deep empathy for those whose lives were about to change -- most likely for the worse. But I had no idea. No idea what it's like to be working for Netscape one day and AOL the next. Or being PeopleSoft people transformed into Oracle people. Or to be working for Tandem, then Compaq, then Hewlett-Packard, then not at all, because, well sorry bub, layoffs are necessary. Just business. And now it's Knight Ridder's turn. The birds are circling -- a few of them vultures who make their money by plucking out a company's juicy parts and leaving the carcass to rot.
I know. It's unbecoming to be sentimental, worried, angry, sad, suspicious, dejected, discouraged, depressed, scared, revolted, just because the word on the street is that your company could make big money by dumping workers and slashing the pay of those it keeps. But I'm all those things. I've worked for the Mercury News longer than I've worked anywhere. Longer than I lived with my parents. Longer than I've known my wife. Longer than I spent in school. Longer than I've been a father.
About more than money
I suspect I speak for many with whom I share this building when I say that I like the paycheck, but that the Mercury News is more than a job. When we came to work here we came with a mission. We wanted to shine light in dark corners and make the world a better place. We wanted to expose corruption. We wanted to provoke thought, debate and, yes, laughter.
Sure, some of us are arrogant. Yes, we make mistakes. But at our best, we knit together a community. We tell stories that help you live your life. We expose chiselers who put political expediency above those they serve. We write about your kids' dance recitals or your favorite restaurant. We cover your sports team. We find the heroes at your local school and the villains in your local neighborhood. Of course we're worried about our hides. But we're also worried about you and the loss of quality journalism that might occur under owners who care little about such matters.
Wall Street says journalists should suck it up. Newspapers are businesses, they say. Newspapers need to make money. The more the better. No doubt newspapers must be profitable and thankfully the Mercury News and Knight Ridder are. But I don't believe that a newspaper is nothing more than a money machine.
If you do, dear reader, then we have failed miserably in our commitment to you.
Contact Mike Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 920-5536.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
AUDIO: Paul Riismandel, a/k/a "mediageek" wraps of network-neutrality issue in 30 minutes of MP3 audio
"Network neutrality" refers to the idea that the networks which carry Internet and other broadband traffic should be content neutral. Time-Warner cable, for example, shouldn't have the right to refuse to carry bits-and-bytes from Disney because they compete with a Time-Warner content property.
Paul Riismandel, a communication-studies graduate student at the University of Illinois C-U, has since 2000 written a website called "mediageek", which now includes a weekly audio podcast. His latest -- Feb. 10, 2006, does in 30 minutes an excellent job of describing the issue, and includes snippets of Feb. 7, 2006, congressional testimony.
This is a critical issue for the future of journalism. If content providers have to worry about whether what they produce is going to be blocked by the pipe owner, that is a chilling form of conformity and prior restraint. If we get to the point where a handful of companies control all the pipes into the nation's homes, how easy would it be for a U.S. president to make a few phone calls to key executives, threaten punitive regulation or withholding of some key approvals, to get those pipe owners to block or penalize politically non-mainstream thought?
A.J. Liebling once wrote: "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one." In the digital age, if a handful of companies own the virtual "presses" -- the fiber optic cables that carry digital content, what becomes of "free press"? How do ensure open pipes? By competition, or by regulation? One or the other -- perhaps both.
HERE IS A PAGE DESCRIBING Rissmandel:
Here is his written description of his podcast:
Here's the jump page to the MP3:
And here is the MP3 download itself:
-- Posted by Bill Densmore / click below to add a comment
Monday, February 20, 2006
Grade the News in danger of going dark after five years
PUBLISHED: February 15, 2006
Palo Alto Online
Notes & Comments - Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Our Town: Grading the news
by Don Kazak
The Palo Alto Weekly
John McManus got to design his own job all because he didn't know what to write in the last chapter of his book.
McManus is the founder and director of the Web site, Grade the News (www.gradethenews.org), that has been evaluating Bay Area media since 2000. For a couple of years, McManus and assistant Michael Stoll ran the Web site out of the Communications Department at Stanford University, then moved to San Jose State University.
Soon, the Web site will not have a home, except in cyberspace."We run out of money at the end of the month," McManus said last week from his San Jose State office.
The project has been foundation-supported for the last five years. But it's an odd choice for foundations to support because foundations try to avoid controversies, McManus said. "We pick fights with people who buy ink by the barrel and who speak over 100,000-watt transmitters," he said.
Grade the News has evaluated three newspapers (San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times) and the news broadcasts of five television stations (KTVU Channel 2, KRON Channel 4, KPIX Channel 5, KGO Channel 7 and KNTV Channel 11).
The newspapers and newscasts are graded A through F in seven areas. The newspapers all scored well in the latest grading, while the newscasts all scored rather poorly."Their analysis is very rigorous," Stanford communications Professor Ted Glasser said of Grade the News, which is still affiliated with Stanford's graduate journalism program. "Everyone talks about it and a lot of people use it in their classes."
The Web site has offered more than media grades, though, with critiques of news articles and news reports, including the pending desale of Knight Ridder, parent corporation of both the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, in recent months.
Now, unless someone with $180,000 steps up the Web site's annual budget Grade the News is in danger of fading to black."The site will remain lit with some new things on it for a while," McManus said. But he and Stoll have to find paying jobs.
McManus, 57, is a former newspaper reporter who earned a doctorate degree in journalism from Stanford in 1988. He then headed the journalism program at Santa Clara University for seven years. And he wrote a book, "Market-Driven Journalism" in 1994 that led directly to Grade the News. His publisher told him he needed a new ending chapter for the book and wanted McManus to write about what could be done to counter the growing corporate dominance of the news business.
"My response was, 'I don't know what we can do about it. I have no idea.'" But he eventually came up with a good one."I thought someone ought to do for news what Consumer Reports does for cars, computers and cameras," he said. Grade the News was born.
Now, its days are numbered. Does McManus have any regrets? "How often do you get to design your own idea and have outsiders give hundreds of thousands of dollars to realize it?" he asked. Grade the News has proven that "shame works," he said, as some of the TV stations and newspapers have changed their practices to respond to criticisms posted on the Web site.
There is an even greater need for Grade the News today, he thinks.
McManus said he concluded the final chapter in his 1994 book by writing that "the real action in journalism ethics was a redirecting of journalistic energy towards making money rather than telling truth and empowering citizens a problem that has gotten worse since I wrote the book."
William Briggs, chairman of San Jose State's Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, will be sorry to see the end of Grade the News. "It's been a big addition to our program," he said.
McManus believes "there will rejoicing in some of the executive suites of Bay Area media" when Grade the News goes dark.
Senior Staff Writer Don Kazak can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
Copyright ©2006 Embarcadero Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Philadelphia editor says MSM should abandon White House and start digging for stories
ORIGINAL URL: http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/editorial/13905873.htm
03/19/2004 02:46 PM EST
Posted on Sun, Feb. 19, 2006
Center Square | Take bull by the horns
By Chris Satullo
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Dick Cheney despises me. Well, not me in particular - though I'm confident he would if he got the chance. He despises my type - mainstream journalist. His settled opinion is that we are slimy barnacles on the Good Ship United States, vicious parasites of no redeeming value, lower than the belly of a snake in a wagon rut, lower even than a bucket of whale puke on the ocean floor. We are, in sum, senseless blots on the escutcheon of humanity.
In the wake of last weekend's hunting accident, people keep harrumphing that the vice president erred in not issuing a statement on the night of the mishap. Actually, he issued a very blunt statement. His silence said to the national press: "You are scum, and I don't have to tell you anything." The norm for an elected official in such a circumstance used to be: Round up your press people, give them the facts you have, let them rustle up the other needed info and issue a prompt statement in your name to the usual outlets: Associated Press, etc.
But as Jay Rosen notes on his excellent media criticism blog, PressThink, the reason Cheney didn't do that wasn't distress or embarrassment. It wasn't a mistake. It was, Rosen argues, a considered decision: "Non-communication has become the standard procedure, not a breakdown in practice but the essence of it."
The Bush White House views the press as a noisy, noisome special interest group out only to inflict wounds and make dough. It scoffs at reporters' self-flattery that they play a constitutional watchdog role for the republic. Not only does Cheney reject the press as stand-in for the public, he doesn't believe he owes voters any account of what's he doing, in private or public time, beyond what he deems they need to know. When he finally deigned to appear on Fox News (natch!), he dismissed the furor over his stonewalling as elite pique that he broke the news to a local paper that "understands" hunting. (Even in distress, the guy knew how to speak in red state/blue state code to The Base.)
The vice president sought to provoke and David Gregory of NBC News played into his hands. Gregory's rude outburst at White House evader-in-chief Scott McClellan provided new grist for the liberal-media-bias mills that grind 24/7 on the Internet.
When is the national press corps going to get the message from Cheney et al.? OK, you despise us. You are never going to tell us squat, never going to play by the old rules. You wish we'd go do something anatomically impossible to ourselves.
So, reporters, why keep playing along with staged rituals like the White House press briefing? Why cram yourself into rows like schoolchildren, raising your hand to ask questions that a press secretary or president will evade with weary condescension, leaving you only the option of theatrical crankiness to show you're "tough"? Face it, the only real value these rituals have is to provide fodder for Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. They have as much to do with real journalism as a Harlem Globetrotters game has to do with the NBA Finals.
And they are a trap. This absurd play-acting is all most Americans see of the practice of journalism. The setting is designed to make reporters look churlish and impotent. This bolsters the conservative view that reporters are impudent hacks, and the liberal delusion that if only reporters asked the really tough questions, W. would break down like a suspect on Law and Order, sobbing, "Yes, yes, I lied and people died!"
Never going to happen. So, press corps, why not meet unprincipled disdain with principled disdain? Don't even bother showing up. Don't play your debilitating role in the farce. Leave the questions to the planted sycophants; pick up the obligatory spin-quote from the C-Span feed. Spend that time doing the real reporting that many of you do when the cameras aren't on. Go out and uncover, for example, the connection between the savaging of the student loan program and the political largesse of Sallie Mae. Explain why FEMA still can't tie its shoes, how politics hijacked the faith-based initiative.
Actually, those stories have been well-reported in print in recent days. But most Americans didn't see them. Instead, they were invited to believe that the high farce of David vs. Scott is what watchdog journalism is about. And that does journalism, and the nation, no good.
Chris Satullo was named editorial page editor of The Inquirer in March 2000. He's been with the paper 15 years, previously working as deputy eitorial page editor and deputy suburban editor. He is the founder and director of the paper.s Citizen Voices program, an effort to engage readers in deeper political dialogue. He has won more than 25 awards for columns, editorials, newswriting and newspaper design. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he is a graduate of Williams College and spent a year teaching in France on a Fulbright Fellowship. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. (215) 854-4243.
Friday, February 17, 2006
New York Times media analyst/blogger interviewed on future of journalism
David Carr, New York Times media blogger and critic, spoke on "The Role of Media in Strengthening Democracy" on Feb. 15, 2006 at SUNY Brockport in downtown Rochester, N.Y. (http://www.brockport.edu). Rochester City Newspaper, the alternative weekly, interviewed him in advance of the talk.
PUBLISHED: FEBRUARY 8, 2006
Future tense: New York Times columnist David Carr on changes in the media
BY KRESTIA DEGEORGE
Rochester City Newspaper
It's not news that the media landscape is changing rapidly. Major consolidations of newspaper and broadcast ownership, the reliance on the internet for news: what will we end up with? And what impact will the changes have on democracy?
Among the writers exploring those questions is New York Times media critic David Carr. A veteran of the alternative press (he edited alt-weeklies in Minneapolis and Washington, DC), Carr writes the Times' first-ever blog, Carpetbagger, in addition to his job as the paper's media scribe. Carr --- who'd written media columns for Washington's City Paper and Twin Cities Reader --- says he almost passed on the chance to be a media columnist with the Times.
"Although I was reluctant at first, because I thought I was pretty much done with media, I eventually came around," he says. "And I'm glad I did, because the sky actually is falling right now, and it's fun and interesting and scary all at the same time to watch the ways in which media are atomizing and becoming commoditized."
Media consolidation has even reached the world of alternative journalism. Late last year, the two biggest alt-weekly chains, the Phoenix-based New Times and Village Voice Media, announced they were merging to form a mammoth (by alt-press standards, at least) new chain of weeklies.
Issues like these were to be on the bill of fare February 15, when Carr spoke at SUNY Brockport's downtown MetroCenter, and he discussed some of them in a recent interview. Here's what he had to say:
On the role of media in a democracy:
Part of the miracle of American democracy has always been based on the robust press, and I think that the press --- regardless of what platform you're speaking of --- has been able to bring accountability at certain points in the nation's history that were absolutely critical. Whether it's the Teapot Dome scandal or Watergate or the nexus of money and politics, I think that you can't really have a great democracy without having a great or at least good press.
On how technology will affect newsgathering and news consumption:
I think people assume that, "Oh, we'll be able to use the web to assemble a portrait of the world beyond our town," and the fact is that Google News or whatever RSS feeder you've got, most of it is just annotating coverage. Somebody has to make phone calls somewhere in order for news to function.
Where are the data inputs coming from? Where is the information coming from? In other words, who is making the phone calls? Who is sending the emails? You cannot have a robust discourse without a database of current information. And if the information that's being culled through is just government-issued data without a critical eye or editing, then you're going to end up with a fairly dumb republic.
There's a conceit that young people get their news from the Jon Stewart show or get their news from the web, but there was a study not long ago at Ball State, and if you're talking, say, 18 to 24, young people just don't get their news. That's all there is to it. They don't have a strong interest in it. So there you have a very attractive advertising demographic where there's no upside in serving them with that kind of information, because they have no interest or need. There's not much news on a Playstation, man.
On Craigslist founder Craig Newmark (whose free classifieds seem to have everyone in media complaining):
He's a smart guy and a person who is true to his values, and he believes that what he's doing is good for both media and democracy.
I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, and he struck me as a very
sincereperson. Classifieds are bedrock revenues that don't change much. For dweeklies and dailies, they've always sort of been there. And he's really going at a core franchise. I think he represents a significant threat to papers like yours. I was out with Michael Lacey last night, the New Times guy who just bought the Village Voice, and they certainly are paying attention to what he's doing.
On the Village Voice-New Times merger:
Well, I'm a fan of the New Times version of newspapering. They do very robust, city-oriented coverage that I think is a force for good, or at least accountability in the cities that they do them in. So I'm not up in arms about the fact that they bought that paper, I don't think the Village Voice is anywhere near the paper it once was.
The Village Voice is fairly tendentious in its coverage and is very interested in "progressive" sorts of things. And you know what? I newspapered in WashingtonDC at the Washington City Paper, which was nothing but Democrats and allegedly progressive Democrats, and the city was a complete basket case. So how you gonna root for that? It tends to rub out ideological approaches to coverage.
Newspapers should be in favor of competence. That's what they should root for. And I think that to the degree that newspapers or the media in general are perceived as being down on this administration, a lot of it is less about policy and more about execution. I mean, these guys seem to like war pretty well, and they're not very good at it. If you're going to be aggressive, there's a lot of execution risks that goes with that, and it behooves them to go and plan well and give our folks the equipment they need to do the job they've been asked to do. I think that's where a lot the sort of negative coverage has popped up.
On the future of alternative journalism:
I think that there's sort of a multi-part thread, in that you've chosen to work in printed media, but a lot of the more talented young people involved in media and in journalism are heading toward the web. You need to keep refreshing that sort of children's crusade of talented young reporters to make alternative newspapers vital.
Some weeklies have done a really good job with their websites: the Weekly Dig in Boston... MinneapolisCity Pages has had a robust, very interactive web site for a while. Some people are doing a better job of putting their brand into digital realms than others. Just look at some of the fundamental assets of alternative journalism: it's lippy discourse plus culturally literate recommendations plus listings. That list of assets has become somewhat unbundled and is available on the web, and it's far more searchable in that form.
If you want to read some smarty-pants writing, you don't have to go down to the coffee shop and get the weekly. Just open up Google and type in smarty pants, and it'll pop up everywhere. Now that consumers can time and platform shift, I think media companies have to be very, very nimble in terms of making their product available in the way that people want it.
And there are many large stories that are being covered in significant ways: the fact that significant parts of our manufacturing infrastructure are moving offshore, and now some of our intellectual infrastructure, software infrastructure is moving offshore. I do think that people are going to realize, Well, we have to be in the business of something; we can't just give the world Jennifer Lopez and King Kong and expect that to fuel an economy of our size.
One of my 17-year-old daughters asked me not long ago: "Do you think that China's going to end up running the world while I'm alive?" And I said, "Yeah, I think there's a pretty good chance of it." And I'm pretty sure she didn't get that off of MySpace. So as the stakes of the story increase, I think that people might reindex into news. When people are working off their part of affinity groups in MySpace, or they're working off RSS where they're getting information pushed to their desktop, they tend to sort of self-select into non-news categories. And you have to find a way to break through that.
--- END INTERVIEW ----
David Carr writes a column for the The New York Times' Monday Business section that focuses on media issues, including print, digital, film, radio and television. He also works as a general assignment reporter, covering all aspects of popular culture, for the Culture section of The New York Times. For the past 25 years, Mr. Carr has been writing about media as it intersects with business, culture and government.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Brill donates $1M to Yale for journalism fellowships
Yale Gets Million to Train Journalists
By KIM MARTINEAU; Courant Staff Writer
The Hartford CourantJanuary 26, 2006
The journalist and entrepreneur who founded The American Lawyer magazine
and Court TV has pledged about $1 million to Yale University, to fund a
program to train students in journalism and help them break into the
Steven Brill, 55, a Yale graduate who teaches a seminar in journalism at
his alma mater, was on campus Wednesday with his wife, Cynthia, to
announce the initiative.
Yale is not about to open a journalism school, he cautioned, or even
depart from its liberal arts tradition and start offering majors in
journalism. Rather, the couple's gift will go toward hiring a career
counselor and one or more visiting journalists to teach a journalism
seminar. It will also subsidize students working in unpaid or low-paid
summer internships who would otherwise be unable to afford the
``I have a real ulterior motive for doing this,'' said Brill, speaking at
a catered event in a new building, the Yale Writing Center. ``I just have
a very strong belief that if you're going to have a democracy and a free
market place, both of those depend on people having good, clear, honest
information and good honest people giving it to them.''
Yale would designate up to 25 journalism ``scholars'' each year and
require them to complete a range of courses, participate in an internship
and work on publications at Yale or outside campus. The program's emphasis
is on real world experience, in keeping with its benefactor's disdain for
journalism -- or ``J'' -- school.
``I think J-school is a giant waste of time,'' he told his audience. ``I
think the idea of spending a year going over and over the tricks of the
trade is not the best way to spend your time.''
For the past five years at Yale, Brill has taught a journalism seminar to
about 15 students, teaching them the fine points of interviewing, sourcing
and writing fairly. The course also gives students an overview of the
business pressures facing the profession.
Brill was a law student freelancing for New York magazine when he got the
idea to start a magazine about the legal profession. He met his wife at
Yale 30 years ago.
Philip Rucker, a senior and former editor at the Yale Daily News,
approached Brill after the talk. He has landed summer internships at The
Times-Picayune in New Orleans and The Washington Post, but he said he
could have saved time job hunting with the kind of guidance the new
program will offer. ``Logistically, it's so hard to get a foot in the
door,'' he said.
Another student, Tyler Hill of Atlanta, was busy taking notes on a yellow
legal pad. He was covering the event for the Yale Daily News. He said he
wasn't sure whether he would apply for the program. ``I'm just a
freshman,'' he said. But he said his decision to come to Yale was
influenced by the number of prominent journalists and writers the
university has turned out.
A list of those journalists, which reads like a ``Who's Who'' of the
profession, filled an entire page that was handed out to journalists
invited to cover the event Wednesday. They include conservative
commentator William F. Buckley Jr., CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Michiko
Kakutani, chief book reviewer for The New York Times.
NEWSPAPERS: INMA consultant completes study of 20+ free dailies
Posted for: By EArl J. Wilkinson
HEADLINE: "Free and Lite Newspapers: The Answer For A New Generation"
Stand-alone free dailies and brand-extending "lite" dailies are sources of intense examination by newspaper publishers. Are the business models viable? What are their objectives? How are they unique? Do they really attract young adult professionals?
To answer these questions, INMA focuses its lens on the subject with a new report titled "Free and 'Lite' Newspapers: The Answer For a New Generation?" I recommend the new report for anyone looking at alternative business models, how to reach young adults, or using these new products to repair weaknesses in your circulation patterns.
To order the report and for more information, click here: http://www.inma.org/bookstore/2006-freelite.cfm.
The 18,000-word report by INMA Project Manager James Khattak takes a snapshot look at 20+ free and lite newspapers, explains their rationale, and focuses in on what makes them unique. As someone who has followed the free commuter newspaper phenomenon since the mid-1990s, what is interesting to me is how the free daily concept is morphing from editorial, distribution, and advertising perspectives. The "lite" newspapers, meanwhile, seem to be "plugging holes" in traditional newspapers' circulation strategy - and represent a viable business model on its own.
"Free and 'Lite' Newspapers: The Answer For a New Generation?" will be of high interest to INMA members and senior newspaper executives wanting to keep track of the fast-moving developments among free newspapers.
Earl J. Wilkinson
Sunday, February 12, 2006
BLOGS: Seattle newspaper blogger summarizes post mortems on Bayosphere
Posted by Brian Chin at February 10, 2006 9:56 p.m.
Dan Gillmor's Bayosphere's legacy
I was preoccupied with helping out on our Super Bowl coverage last weekend
so I'm only now catching up on what wiser folks than me have been writing
about the failure of Bayosphere. The consensus seems to be that it was a
good idea but poorly executed. While hardly an indictment of citizen
journalism, it is an object lesson in what's needed to making a citJ (or
CJ) effort work.
Tim Porter put it very succinctly:
I see three principles from the Bayosphere experience that are key for
newspapers and other entities that hope to use citizen journalism as part
or all of their business:
Community can't be forced.
Focus is foremost.
Personality is a plus.
Online Journalism Review's Tom Grubisich opines that, although ostensibly
a Bay Area community site, Bayosphere "never came close to living up to
its mission. It was neither of, by nor for the Bay Area":
If there is any general lesson about Bayosphere, it's that citizen
journalism at the community level needs less high-flown rhetoric and more
street-smart testing. The model for what works in content remains to be
finished. Citizen journalism is not a failure. But there needs to be a
more engaged relationship between the proprietors and impresarios of
community sites and their contributors, some of whom are news-gathering
Meanwhile, back on Bayosphere itself, Craig Weiler covers similar ground
in a post asking whether the citizen journalism model itself is viable:
Based on my experience, this is what's needed to succeed:
CJ's need to be seen on the pages most seen by visitors.
CJ's need encouragement and critique by staff.
CJ's need acknowledgement for work above and beyond.
In other words, a successful citizen journalism effort requires lots of
time, patience, outreach, nurturing support, dedication and focus -- just
like any other effort at organizing a community.
· Return to Bayosphere's legacy
EDUCATION: Seventh-grade laptop-in-classroom initiative reduces discipline issues, but is learning occuring?
Teachers and administrators in two Massachusetts school districts that outfitted seventh-graders with laptops under a state-funding experiment say the program is cutting down on discipline problems. Students are happier coming to school, some parents say grades are improving and not too many children are said to be listing to music on their machines during school. The laptops were distributed two months ago; research on their effects on learning is underway with some results expected by summer. The Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative targeted schools in North Adams (pop. 14,000) and Pittsfield (pop. 44,285).
(Source: The Berkshire Eagle, Feb. 12, 2006)
Article Last Updated: 2/12/2006 06:12 AM
Loving their laptops: Students and teachers happy with early results
By Tony Dobrowolski
Berkshire Eagle Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The lights are dim in Matt Webster's classroom at Reid Middle School, but his students' minds are not.
The 22 seventh-graders are sitting at their desks, staring intently at their Apple iBook G4 laptop computers, which they are using to complete an exercise on ancient Egyptian religions. The lights are lowered so that students can see their computer images better. Some students are working alone; others are in groups. But all are paying attention.
Webster said that getting his students to focus in class was difficult until they received their laptops last month. "The discipline problems are gone," he said. "I don't know if it's the novelty of it, but every time I've used the computers, every kid is on task."
The scene has become familiar in seventh-grade classrooms since the $5.3 million Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative (BWLI) began five weeks ago. A total of 711 seventh-graders and 175 teachers and selected staff members at four schools in Pittsfield and North Adams were given the laptops to use as an educational tool in this three-year initiative, which is being used as a pilot program by the state.
Teachers and administrators at Reid and Herberg middle schools in Pittsfield at Conte Middle School in North Adams and at St. Mark School in Pittsfield say the program hasn't been in place long enough to gauge academic improvement. But, like Webster, faculty members say they have noticed a big improvement in students' attention spans, particularly when those students use laptops to perform assignments in class. "The kids are engaged the majority of the time they are allowed to use their laptops as an educational tool," Reid Principal Colleen Rossi said.
Seventh-graders say the laptops enliven the learning process. "It makes our education a lot easier," Reid's Sara Hinckley said, "because we can look up things instead of just using textbooks." Hinckley said it's easier to write essays on laptops instead of in a notebook, especially if corrections need to be made. "If you're writing with this, you don't have to erase everything," she said. "You can delete it."
Other students voiced similar sentiments. "I find I look forward to going to school more because what we do on laptops is a lot more fun," said Andy George, a seventh-grader at St. Mark. So far, students have used their laptops just at school because they haven't been permitted to bring them home. Before the initiative began, BWLI steering committee members said take-home policies would need to be in place before laptops could be removed from school. A take-home start date has not been set.
"We're working on it now," said North Adams Superintendent James Montepare, who also is a steering committee member. "We've had discussions, but we want to make sure that Internet safety procedures and workshops are in place here. We've had three of them already, and the parents have been in. We want to make sure all of our ducks are in a row." Once students are allowed to bring their laptops home, Montepare said parents probably will be assessed a "nominal charge" in case the computers are damaged. Committee members said they are working on determining that fee. They said previously that youngsters who couldn't afford the cost would have other options.
Teachers and administrators say damage to laptops has been minimal. One computer at Reid was damaged because it was stored on a faulty shelf, according to Michael Supranowicz, the committee's co-chairman. Webster said his students have been "very careful" in handling their laptops, while Montepare said seventh-graders he's observed seem to have accepted the responsibility for taking care of them. "They've been walking around like little professionals, for crying out loud," he said.
Conventional teaching methods are still in use at all four schools because teachers can choose whether to use the laptops in every class period. Rossi said Reid teachers, as a group, use the computers between 25 and 50 hours a week, while Conte Principal Diane Ryczek said her school's seventh-graders use them approximately three days a week. At Herberg, Jacoby said the laptops are used every day, but not every seventh-grade teacher uses them daily. St. Mark's students use the laptops about two hours a day, five days a week, according to history teacher Matt Collins. "I don't use them in all of my class periods, and I don't use it the entire period," said Susan Bach, Herberg's reading and literature teacher. "It will be something at the beginning or at the ending of class."
Bach was one of the teachers who wasn't sure the laptop initiative would work. "I was never against them," she said. "But I'm not a technologically gifted person myself. And I hadn't used them in the classroom much. But I'm very pleased by what I've seen so far. It's going along a lot smoother than I thought. ... I don't know if it's a honeymoon period, but the kids are really excited about the laptops."
Not every parent favors the initiative. Pittsfield resident Nick Marshall, whose son is a sixth-grader at Herberg, said he believes students should spend more time on basic learning skills than working with laptops because they already are familiar with that technology. (Incoming seventh-graders will receive laptops in September.)
Marshall is a history professor at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., and he said that that school is toying with the idea of dropping a mandatory computer course for freshmen because most students already have those skills. "I know a lot of kids are going into schools skilled at the computer, but they're not good at reading or analyzing things," Marshall said. "I'm afraid the laptops are encouraging different kinds of things that students might find to be helpful, but it's not what they need at this time in their careers."
Lois George, Andy George's mother, sees things differently. She describes her son as "the classic boy in the seventh grade" who would forget when his assignments were due. Andy's behavior has changed since the laptop initiative began, she said. "His grades are right on the mark," Lois said. "He's much more organized."
Rossi, the Reid principal, said other potential issues regarding laptops haven't surfaced yet. "We're concerned about kids going on inappropriate Web sites," she said. Although students are blocked from accessing those sites at school, she added: "Our kids haven't taken them home yet. That's something that we need to be aware of." Rossi also said there haven't been "too many kids" listening to music, noting that students can access iTunes on their laptops.
The BWLI's goal is to help improve student achievement and transform the way education is delivered in North Adams and Pittsfield. Steering committee members said the Berkshire program is unique because of the three-year evaluation process being conducted by Boston College's technology and assessment study collaborative at the Lynch School of Education. Damian Bebell, a research professor there, said an on-line survey will be given to teachers and students in late May, and the assessment team should have the data compiled by middle or late summer. "Unfortunately, good research takes a long time," he said. Bebell said Boston College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts students are being trained to serve as classroom observers. Bebell said he expects the observers to begin visiting classrooms by mid-March.
Ryczek said Conte Middle School intends to take the laptop program one step at a time. "It's been a new learning experience for all involved," she said. "I'm sure there will be peaks and valleys. Right now we're in a peak."
Tony Dobrowolski can be reached at email@example.com or at (413) 496-6224.
POLITICS/FIRSTAMENDMENT: Do blog postings violate open-meeting law?
A city councilor in North Adams, Mass. (pop. 14,167), is concerned that the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law, which forbids unofficial meetings of public-board quorums or serial phone conversations about official topics, may be applicable to blog postings and appearances on public-access TV channels. He is seeking an opinion from the Massachusetts attorney general. The issue has also come up in the larger eastern Massachusetts city of Lowell. And the Massachusetts Open Government Project is tracking the issue.
ARTICLE BELOW ORIGINALLY POSTED AT:
Article Last Updated: 2/11/2006 03:14 AM
Billings: Do blogs, TV jibe with meeting law?
By Jennifer Huberdeau
The North Adams Transcript
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Concerns about how the state's open meeting law applies to such things as posting on Web logs and multiple councilors appearing on cable access programs has prompted City Councilor Clark H. Billings to present a letter to the council asking for the city solicitor's opinion. Council petition.
"I brought this up at the last meeting under councilor's concerns," Billings said. "I heard conflicting opinions at the Massachusetts Municipal Association conference in January. I want to get this in the pipeline and find out about it before anyone gets in trouble."
Billings, who has his own cable access program, "Think About It," on Northern Berkshire Community Television, isn't worried about his show, but he thinks a group of councilors answering call-in questions on a show involving Councilors Robert R. Moulton Jr. and Ronald A. Boucher might have problems.
"My show doesn't have a quorum. I don't have a call-in (format). But I have appeared on Bob and Ron's show with other councilors. If they have someone on the show, who is on a subcommittee with them, they might have a quorum. That could cause problems," he said. Billings is also worried about posts made to Web logs. Both he and Councilor Christopher J. Tremblay make posts to local blogs.
"I understand the aspect of telephone calls and e-mail communications having the potential to be illegal because they are private. I'm questioning posts to Web logs because they are open to the public," he said.
According to the state's open meeting law, "Telephone meetings -- discussion by telephone among members of a governmental body on an issue of public business within the jurisdiction of the body" -- are a violation of the law. This is true even where telephone conversations fall in a serial fashion."By definition serial fashion is when one call takes place after another, and a decision is eventually reached. The same applies to e-mail communications.
However, there has yet to be a ruling on public forums such as television shows and Web logs."I got two different opinions at the conference," Billings said. "I think there is potential for this to be interpreted a half dozen ways."Billings also is questioning how the law applies to such public forums as candidate nights. "They are public, but their not posted," he said. "They also have the potential to have a quorum of sitting councilors present. I can't think of an election year when five councilors aren't running for re-election. They also have the potential for questions to be asked about items before the council. Councilors hear what others are thinking and can make decisions based on each others responses."
However, Billings doesn't expect the city solicitor to be able to answer his opinion."I know Chris Tremblay contacted the district attorney's office about this," he said. The answer was that the office had not had any direction on the matters, he said."I'm hoping to kick this up to the district attorney, then kick it up to the attorney general," Billings said. "I just want an opinion. I don't like surprises."
Billings said he worries a councilor could be blind-sided by a ruling, which could potentially carry a fine of $1,000 if proposed legislation to hold government officials more accountable should pass."It's the stupidest proposal I've seen," Billings said.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
BLOGGING: U.K.'s Guardian online prepares to go to post-moderation of comments
PUBLISHED: February 12, 2006
The Guardian may be used to breaking the mould ÿÿ but what about the law?
Bold expansion renews fears over defamation
By Steven Vass, Media Correspondent
The Sunday Herald (Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.)
MEDIA lawyers will be swallowing hard at The Guardian's plans to massively increase reader interaction on its website this year. Having already been the only newspaper to allow readers to post messages straight on its site, it is about to take the risks to a whole new level.
The Guardian allows readers to reply to blogs written by journalists and post comments on messageboard topics started by other readers. To stay out of legal trouble, it keeps an eye on the messages posted (known as ÿÿpost-moderationÿÿ) and relies on tip-offs about risky items from other readers (ÿÿreaction moderationÿÿ). Users are also required to register before they contribute in the hope that this discourages abuses.
With this already in place, the paper is now planning a major change. Following a reshuffle of senior posts, former deputy editor Georgina Henry is leading a task force to implement this . Among the changes will be far more blogs from columnists for readers to debate and a big expansion in messageboards.
When editor Alan Rusbridger announ-ced the plans earlier this month, he made reference to The Huffington Post. This US website, which launched last year, trades almost purely on blogs from a roll call of senior journalists and commentators which attract scores of comments from readers. To some observers this is the model for 21st-century journalism ÿÿ a huge debating forum that radically alters the traditional relationship between journalists and readers.
It is a long way from anything that is happening at the websites of other UK newspapers. There are those, such as The Times and Press and Journal, which offer similar services to The Guardian in more modest forms, but in each case they are pre-moderated, that is material is filtered before it appears. The only other major media organisation to filter messages after they appear on its website is the BBC (which uses different types of moderation for different messageboards: pre-moderation for childrenÿÿs; post-moderation for the majority; and reactive moderation for certain low-risk adult boards, such as The Archers). Numerous other newspapers, including The Herald, Scotsman and the Daily Express, do not invite readers to add their tuppenceworth at all. In each case, the dangers of lawsuits seem to loom large.
Most assume the British courts will follow decisions made elsewhere in the world, which have held organisations responsible for defamatory messages appearing on their websites. The principle that anyone who circulates a statement is liable for it has been enough to make most organisations in Scotland play very safe. The Press and Journal and Daily Record are the only two Scottish newspapers to allow any reader interaction on their sites (although readers of The Courier can click through to a chatroom via the site of parent company DC Thomson). The P&J launched messageboards several months ago, which now generate about 50 comments a day. The traffic is still modest enough that current editor Derek Tucker reads every one and, so far, he has not had to reject any.
ÿÿI think there is a greater tolerance of online publishing than there is in paper. I think people do expect a certain robustness in input,ÿÿ says Tucker. At least until the volume of daily comments runs into the hundreds, says Tucker, he will continue to police them personally. It might then be delegated, but, he adds, ÿÿwe are not approaching that stage at the momentÿÿ.
This is not seen as an option for a bigger site such as Scotsman.com. Site editor Stewart Kirkpatrick wants to introduce an interactive feature and is watching developments at The Guardian and BBC . Pre-moderation is by far the safest way of proceeding, but it would come with a ÿÿmassive leap in the cost of the exerciseÿÿ. Scotsman.com is, therefore, looking at some kind of post-moderation too, possibly restricting comments to less contentious issues to minimise risks.
The Guardian takes no such precautions. Executive editor Emily Bell, a member of the task force, says that in the four or five years since the paper stopped pre-moderating, it has not run into any legal problems through reader contributions. ÿÿEvery time you kick up in scale you run a greater risk of there being a problem, but everybody knows you can have all the checks and balances in the world and still end up fighting significant libel cases.
ÿÿPublishing material on talkboards and blogs is a real quantum leap in risk for newspapers. After spending so much money and time getting a legal infrastructure together, we are saying that part of what we do doesnÿÿt go through that process at all. Thatÿÿs a huge decision. But it has given us enormous rewards in terms of learning how to talk to the readers and how to handle a relationship with mutual respect. Itÿÿs a skill that newspapers didnÿÿt have in the past,ÿÿ she says. This is all very well, you might be thinking, but surely no amount of mutual respect is going to talk you out of a defamation suit when it comes?
The Guardian holds quarterly meetings between staff such as Bell and its legal team to make sure they are up to date with the latest legal developments. But inevitably there is still an element of risk. She cites an English case involving the Wall Street Journal Europe, where the judge decided that the degree of damage was affected by the number of people who had read the alleged libel. With thousands of messages appearing daily, the hope is that an offensive message would be spotted before it did much damage.
This does not give Stewart Kirkpatrick much comfort. ÿÿYou canÿÿt just cross your fingers and hope that nobody looks at it. You want your defence in law to be something slightly stronger than that,ÿÿ he says. Some take the view that the problem is British defamation law, which is generally seen as being stricter than in the US. This might explain why most US reader-interaction is post-moderated. Having said that, the websites of traditional media organisations in the US are not seen as being at the forefront of reader interaction either.
Many were made cautious by last yearÿÿs experiment at the Los Angeles Times, where readers were invited to contribute jointly to a comment piece about the Iraq war. It had to be pulled, to great embarrassment, after it was bombarded with rude messages.
And last month The Washington Post was criticised for closing a blog, written by ombudsman Deborah Howell, which accused a lobbyist of giving money to both political parties, after it too attracted abusive responses. The conclusion for many is that it is difficult for media companies to run websites that are truly similar to independent blogs and chatrooms. As well as being more likely to attract litigants, they have established brands to protect and long cultures of editing everything they publish.
As Emily Bell says: ÿÿTo be part of that world, we have to change some of the limits of traditional publishing.ÿÿ The question for everyone else is whether this is a change worth making.
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Thursday, February 09, 2006
LOCAL: ChiTownDailyNews.org has ambitious "micro-news" and payment plans for nation's No. 2 city, E&P story says
Former Chicago Tribune staffer Geoff Dougherty has an ambitious "micro-zoning" plan for covering Chicago news online, according to a Dec. 28, 2005 story in Editor & Publisher magazine.
Hyper-Local Chicago News Site to Pay 'Citizen Journalists'
By Jay DeFoore
Editor & Publisher Magazine Online Editor
Published: December 28, 2005 3:36 PM ET
NEW YORK -- With ChiTownDailyNews.org, former Chicago Tribune staffer Geoff Dougherty is going where few so-called "citizen journalism" practitioners have dared to tread: he's offering to pay his amateur news reporters a regular stipend.
The standard $25 contributor reimbursement ($100 goes to the writer with the most-viewed story of the month) is certainly not a king's ransom, but it marks a distinct contrast from the majority of citizen journalism sites that have sprung up over the past year or two.
Dougherty, 35, aims to use these citizen contributors to cover the type of "hyper-local" neighborhood news he said is not being offered by the Tribune and the Sun-Times, Chicago's big daily papers.
So far the idea is gaining traction, and Dougherty has already raised the ire of one of his much larger competitors. The Sun-Times, which took over the original Daily News' archives after the paper closed in 1978, recently sent Dougherty a cease-and-desist letter staking its claim to the name. Although Dougherty claims he's on firm legal grounds in using the Chicago Daily News name, which he says the Sun-Times has let lapse as a copyright, he agreed to tweak the name to ChiTownDailyNews in order to avoid a costly legal battle.
"I'm really committed to the idea that the Internet is a beautiful thing because you can reach out to a lot of new people and forge a community and it doesn't cost a lot of money," said Dougherty, who until November worked as an investigative and business reporter at the Tribune.
Dougherty's business plan calls for him to assemble a network of "neighborhood correspondents" in all 50 ZIP codes in Chicago to cover things like school council and community policing meetings. The site is set up as a non-profit, and Stephen Doig, the Knight Professor of Journalism at Arizona State University, sits on the board of directors.
Doig, who is simply an advisor and not an investor, said Dougherty's business plan is "ambitious" and "optimistic," but he thinks it may have a shot at succeeding. "Chicago is a place where this kind of micro-zoning could really work," Doig said. "With the Tribune empire cutting back, all the problems at the Sun-Times, and with the shutting down of the City News Bureau, maybe this is the right time for him to try something like this."
Doig said there are few places in the country where the local, dominant paper can claim to be covering all the news down to a local level. But Doig cautioned against the "utopian" ideal that building a citizen journalism site is as easy as opening up the publishing pipeline to masses teeming with journalistic impulses.
"An important part of journalism is editing and oversight," he said. "There has to be somebody vetting content, thereby giving me as a reader the assurance that more than one person is saying this."
Doig pointed to the recent Wikipedia debacle, where a user anonymously posted false and defamatory material on the site about former journalist John Seigenthaler Sr., as an example of the problems that can arise "when you entrust the entire world to put up whatever they want."
Dougherty's business model calls for the site to reach 35,000 readers a month by the end of its first year. Blogging on the site Dec. 15, Dougherty wrote, "we've had 5,000 visits, and the number grows every day. We've served up more than 50,000 articles, which suggests our readers are doing more than stopping by for a quick look. They're reading most or all of the content on the site."
Dougherty is hopeful he can exceed those numbers, and to do so, he plans on being more innovative, responsive, and daring than the big papers. To wit, when he learned that most of the early submissions from "citizen journalists" were "more like vignettes, or personal essays, than traditional news stories," rather than junking them, he created a new section of the site to show them off. Hence "The Big City" area of the site.
Another idea that might create space between Dougherty's project and the big boys: he is in talks with a Chicago theatre company to co-produce streaming video Op-Eds satirizing local politicians. Trying finding that at www.chicagotribune.com.
One of Dougherty's next goals is to find someone to sell ads on a commission basis. Dougherty believes there is a significant amount of untapped demand from Chicago's small businesses looking for less expensive advertising venues. Dougherty said reaction to this site so far has been "amazing."
"The gratitude from people I've never heard of is stunning," he said. "I've never done anything in 12 years as a journalist that's connected to people the way this has."
Whether or not ChiTownDailyNews is successful in the long-term, Dougherty is among a growing number of journalists who have opted for the do-it-yourself route. And as Internet publishing technology becomes cheaper and easier to deploy, the numbers of online citizen journalism and non-profit news sites should only increase.
"What Geoff is trying to do probably is something that will be a lot more common in the future," Doig said. "The difficult part for Geoff is that to some degree he is pioneering this."
Jay DeFoore (firstname.lastname@example.org) is E&P's Online Editor.
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