Monday, November 28, 2005

Following up on some of the things I've posted recently, here's a bit more on the Washington Post's mashup page where they post news of new and interesting ways to access or use Post stories, particularly the NewsCloud.

I linked to it on my Herald blog the other day, too, and got an email from the creator alerting me to a bad URL. After I answered saying how interesting it all is, Frank Wiles informed me that the NewsCloud wasn't created by the Post, but by him, on his site, It uses the Post's RSS feeds, and you'll run across other versions of NewsCloud (see Steve Rubel's Micropersuasion site, for example).

One thing that occurs to me is that news organizations, and news librarians, are protective of their stories and their copyright. We're constantly on the alert for sites using our stories, fearing that having them out in the open will affect our bottom line, damaging revenues from LexisNexis and the like.

The new view of news product says that the more you make it available the better your visibility, respectability, and influence. It all goes back to the old debate about whether you have to charge for news, lock it inside an archive, or put it all on your site for free.

So it's interesting to see the Post linking to this. And why not?

"It's the User, Stupid":
Interesting link found on Jenny's Shifted Librarian blog: story in Library Journal, What I Wish I had Known, by Roy Tennant.
Considering the recent discussion on NewsLib about why newspaper libraries are being downsized and how they can be saved, some useful food for thought here. Tennant, although discussing public libraries and how they need to keep up with technology, says a library...or librarian...who doesn't learn how to do things better, doesn't think of the end user, won't succeed. Some tidbits:
...I wish I had known that it would be important to learn a web-scripting language and not be beholden to a small number of systems programmers.
...I wish I had known that many debates that took up so much intellectual time and effort would turn out to be inconsequential or moot.
...I wish I had known that the solution for needing to teach our users how to search our catalog was to create a system that didn't need to be taught—and that we would spend years asking vendors for systems that solved our problems but did little to serve our users.
...We can learn things from Google, Yahoo!, Amazon, Flickr, and others that are charting new courses. We can either humbly and gratefully receive these lessons or allow our hubris to defeat us.

Does this resonate for news librarians? It should. We want to be information providers, trainers, and experts. But are we thinking of the end user? Shouldn't news staff be able to use the company's information resources as simply as using Google? Why not? Isn't it the job of an information center to make information easy?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Weekend update: Other things found this week:

It was a quiet Thanksgiving weekend with so much to do there wasn't much time to catch up; hope your holiday was restful.

The other links:

  • Merriam-Webster Learner's Dictionary, for non-English speakers trying to learn.
  • Airport-to-Airport statute miles, official measurements from BTS.
  • On Their Own Terms: A Lexicon With an Emphasis on Information-Related Terms Produced by the US Federal Government from Federation of Amer.Scientists (PDF).
  • Who Lives Downtown? new report from Brookings.
  • Archive It, new service from the Internet Archive, proposes to permanently archive collections from anyone who wants to post them. Already here: an archive of Hurricane Katrina Web materials, and Latin American govt documents collected from govt websites by LANIC.

  • Trouble in Toyland: annual report on toy safety.

  • Melissa Data, great source of free lookups, has added some new ones: city boundary maps, congressional district maps, ZIP code maps.

  • New HIV diagnoses: 33 states from CDC, stats from last several years from states that make them available.
  • Indictors of School Crime and Safety, 2005: latest report from NCES.
  • Cruise Ship-related Legionnaire's Disease, report from CDC.

    Governments, Politics:
  • Nice Work If You Can Get It: Political patronage rules in state utility commissions, report from Center for Public Integrity.
  • Library of Congress' Thomas website of bill texts, history and votes, has been redesigned to work better. Also: IRS Website.

  • has posted a guide to searching private company information (PDF). Some links:
  • Carolina Business News Initiative Internet source guide for business reporting.
  •, with dictionary, tutorials, articles explaining investment basics.
  • BizWiki from Ohio U. library, business resource guide covering online and book sources.
  • America's Largest Private Companies, annual list from Forbes.
  • Hardball Times, baseball business/stats site, has a three part series on measuring the money value of a player. Browse down for the links, Nov 14-16.
  • Mortgage Closing Costs: State Rankings from Florida ranks 5th.

  • Reporting War from DART Center, war stories and warnings, including from some KR correspondents.
  • Poynter's News University has a new course on Covering Cops and Crime. Courses are free with registration.
  • 50th Anniversary of the Village Voice.

    Some interesting stories/blogs:
  • Good story in OJR about news organizations using Flickr for projects; like a NYT project picturing MLKing Boulevards around the country.
  • Change of Subject blog from Chicago Tribune's Eric Zorn.

  • Wednesday, November 23, 2005

    On that note:
    Adding to the previous post on innovative web projects, Steve Rubel notices that among the 'top ten news and information sites' according to Nielsen was...Wikipedia! Rubel says this may be the first time a citizen-powered site has made it.I'm surprised to see that Weatherbug is also among the top 10. Didn't know it was so popular. I like myself......
    Also, the only 'mainstream media' organization aside from MSNBC and CNN is the #10 listing of Gannett (unless you count, recently purchased by the New York Times.....)

    New and innovative: libraries take note:

    Some new examples this week of things that libraries could be doing to postition themselves in the forefront of innovation for news organizations. These are from public libraries and an online department so none are FROM news libraries, but there are ideas here....

  • BizWiki from Ohio U. library, business resource guide covering online and book sources.

  • Wex, a legal resource site with law dictionary and encyclopedia, from Cornell's Legal Information Institute, apparently a Wiki in progress.

  • Post Remix: Washington Post Online provides this guide to useful uses of data on their site, like feeds of search results, a 'news cloud' of Post stories, a world map with stories linked, etc. Part of Post's innovative online projects spurred by hiring of Adrian Holovaty.

    And here's one more, less high-tech, but very useful for Florida news librarians:
  • A Chronology of Florida Newspapers, 1783-2000, compiled by Poynter librarian David Shedden, in PDF format so you can make a nice bound printout.

    And one more thing I noticed today, news organizations take note:
  • Nexis News seems to have undergone a redesign to make it even easier to use, and also seems to have more free news online. This free site eliminates the need to go into Nexis itself for recent news stories, and appears to be trying to rival newspapers' and other news portal sites for providing news to the general public. Interesting. Note they've even compiled Thanksgiving Recipes and other thanksgiving information.

  • Monday, November 21, 2005

    Weekend update: Other things found this week:

    It was one of those weekends when I couldn't seem to find time to spend at the computer. Maybe this slow holiday week will give me a chance to catch up.

    The other links:

  • Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch from Institute of Southern Studies, includes a database of contracts.
  • US Army Institute of Military History
  • National Prevalence and Exposure Risk for Cockroach Allergen in US Households, study from NIH.

  • Samuel Alito's published opinions, from AskSam; first time I think they have made a database available without having to download it and the free AskSam reader.
  • Lots of help for stories on new Medicare drug coverage: from AARP, Medicare, a Kaiser Family survey.

  • The Most Useful Web Sites for Reporters, a comprehensive list from Mark Schaver.
  • Writely is a free word processor on the Web. Good for doing collaborative projects without having to keep track of Word documents sent to several people and returned?
  • Telephone number database: this is probably here for scammers and spammers, but it is a way to find out if any phone number exists and what company it is provided by (determine if it's a cell phone, eg); or to find out, say, if an old phone number has been assigned to someone else. No names in this database.) (Via Depth Reporting.)

  • Two housing studies from Atlanta Fed. Reserve: Monetary Policy and the House Price Boom across U.S. States; and Housing Tenure and Wealth Distribution in Life-Cycle Economies.
  • Hate crimes reported by victims and police, latest stats from BJS. Punishment stats, 2004.
  • State of the Nation's Housing, 2005, report from Harvard's housing center at JFK School.
  • Fisheries of the United States, 2004, latest stats from NOAA.
  • U.S. welcomes most travelers in history, latest tourism/travel stats from Customs & Border Patrol.

    Governments, Politics:
  • Haiti Innovation "volunteer organization that helps development organizations in Haiti obtain funding for projects by linking them to our network of aid donors through the world wide web."
  • Kurdistan: The 'Other Iraq'
  • Cool Canada: how could the place where the chocolate bar was invented (?) not be?
  • World Bank Privatization Database "provides information on more than 9,000 privatization transactions in developing countries from 1988 to 2003."

    Public Records:
  • West Virgina births, deaths, marriages searchable online. Not all counties, years yet.

  • Aviation Week's 2005 Sourcebook has detailed profiles of aerospace contractors, airlines, and specification tables.
  • Working America's Job Tracker from AFL-CIO, database of American companies and workers. Find stats on jobs exported, health and safety, workers' rights. Searchable by ZIP code, place, etc.
  • NTSB Safety Recommendations database (has been around for awhile but this version seems easier to use.
  • Motor Carrier Safety Administration databases from DoT's Volpe Library, provides stats on carriers, passenger safety, crashes & programs.

  • Business Week on where Knight Ridder went wrong; shoulda kept Dialog?
  • Top 100 papers by circulation, 2005, list from Burrelles-Luce. Also: 2004 list.
  • New study shows rising readership of online newspapers (Press release) (PDF).
  • The End of News? fascinating article in NY Rev. of Books by Michael Massing.

  • Friday, November 18, 2005

    Whither Librarians?
    Steve Outing jumps into the story about the library at the Philadelphia newspapers, which is going to suffer a loss due to buyouts. The same thing happened at the Miami Herald a few years ago. News libraries are being reduced -- and have been -- at several newspapers, particularly the Knight Ridder papers.

    There's been a long discussion on the NewsLib group this week about this. Some of us say the old model of a news library is no longer necessary in newsrooms, and researchers need to be information providers/managers, doing CAR, wikis, blogs, and intranets. Many libraries have been doing this for a long time. Even with a reduced library, a proactive researcher or two can keep a newsroom's staff provided with the help they need to do their own research.

    The days of librarians being the researchers in newsrooms are going, I believe. Reporters are researchers -- they always have been -- but until now, the databases they needed were restricted. Now with the net, most newsrooms give research resources to all reporters. Researchers are there to make them available and easy to use.

    Outing asks, Without librarians, what would Woodward and Bernstein have done? Well, I know something about that. In those days, if the librarians didn't clip the paper regularly and file the stories logically, at least part of their job would have been hard...going back to reread what was already written. (The Post library's files had a backlog then so I kept separate files of every day's stories on Watergate from every paper I had access to.)
    The library was also essential as a depository for reference books. Remember the scene in All the President's Men where Woodward sits in the library going thru piles of Who's Whos trying to find anything on Kenneth Dahlberg? The day was saved by a librarian who found a photo of him. (This research, essential to putting together the White House/Watergate connection, could probably have been accomplished in 5 seconds in Google.)

    But this was before databases, any databases. So you only had paper to rely on. If it had been 10 years later, librarians would have been essential for manipulating complicated Nexis and Dialog (and BRS or Dow Jones) searches to find stories.

    Now? Post researchers would be scouring public records databases, using databases to access other records obtained from government agencies (like White House emails), and monitoring news sources. All things reporters could do too, and at many papers this is a reporter's job. So these days it's important for the research department/library/info center to show they can do it better, faster, and more efficiently, and/or be the providers of that information.

    Any library that doesn't do this I think may be not long for this new journalism world. Archives are still incredibly important but they are becoming more and more automatic, giving library staff less enhancing to do. A few can do it now; who knows, in the future?

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    There's so much discussion of the future of newspapers and news in general these days that it's too much to link to. So I pick out a few that I think have real relevance. One that caught my eye today was this, in the New York Review of Books: The End of News? By Michael Massing. This article discusses the history of the rancor directed at the 'MSM' (Main stream media) from bloggers, pundits, and others (like Mallard Fillmore?).
    I told someone recently this all started with Spiro Agnew. I've been vindicated, as Massing starts with Agnew, leads to Reed Irvine and 'Accuracy in Media', thru Rush Limbaugh and Fox News to blogs. The article also discusses the current administration's rush to close access to information. Disturbing stuff, but it's good to look at this whole story with some historical perspective; and to think about what the news doomsayers are doing to the future of information:
    If the newspaper industry continues to shrink in response to the unrealistic expectations of Wall Street, the loss would be incalculable. The major metropolitan dailies, for all their faults, are the main collectors and distributors of news in America.

    This is the first of two articles.

    On another note, the Media Center at the University of Minnesota has created Digital Think, a look at the future of news presentation from many thinkers in several fields.

    It's very pretty and has some interesting things to say, but it's all in Flash. I don't like Flash, at least for news presentation. Part of my revulsion is from having only dialup access (this site doesn't actually work too badly on dialup), but I hated it before. I don't get it. If you want to get information out, make it simple. Text works for stories. Photos and animation are nice, but I don't think they hold interest except as a 'oh, that's cool' moment. Anything that makes you click lots of times to find out what's in there loses me pretty quickly. And I love photos, and wish there were more on news sites. But if you have to go to a special 'presentation' to see them, I don't. Just give me the thumbnails and let me click on the ones I want to see.

    (End of dinosaurish rant. Actually I'm being a bit hard. I do enjoy Flash presentations, games, etc. sometimes. But lately I usually just stop loading because I don't want to wait. If I had DSL I might think differently. Check with me next year. But seriously, there are lots of Net users who really just want to read stories. And it seems to me the strength of professional news is great writers. Let them write, and don't chop their stories into pieces.)

    Saturday, November 12, 2005

    Weekend update: Other things found this week:

    I guess it's time to reiterate that, although I don't acknowledge the source of each of these links, they mostly come from the blogroll at left: many are from Resourceshelf or Docuticker; been finding good stuff at Depth Reporting lately; some come from compiliations like Boing Boing and Metafilter. Thanks to the folks who keep up these wonderful resources.

    The other links:

  • New Scientist articles on this year's hurricanes
  • National Priorities Project has added a database of military recruiting, which has local data.
  • Resources on the Medicare drug benefit program from Kaiser Family Fund.
  • Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator from HHS.
  • Large collection of avian flu links from Resourceshelf.
  • Nursery Rhymes lyrics and origins.
  • Dictionary of Baby Names, Meanings and Origins
  • The Envelope database of all award winners in entertainment: Oscars, Emmys, Grammies, etc. from LA Times. Goes back to 1916.
  • Medline Plus: man-made disasters with health resources, news links, etc, from National Library of Medicine.
  • Medline Plus: natural disasters
  • Between the Global and the Local: Islamism, the Middle East, and Indonesia, Brookings report.
  • Measuring the economic impact of Wal-Mart on the U.S. Economy, from Global Insight. Shows lowering of household costs.

  • In Their Eyes: St. Pete Times photogs on covering Katrina.

  • Books for Understanding helps you find the best books to research a topic.
  • Kayak searches for best air fares across airline, travel sites. Check the 'Buzz' to see the cheapest fares others are finding.
  • MegaConverter: convert anything to anything.
  • FactBites: do a search, get a definition or description.
  • Google Print After all the hoopla, it's here. Search a broad range of public domain books (this will be increasing). You'll need a Google account (Gmail or the like) to see full text pages.

  • Population Profile of the U.S. is now available in dynamic, constantly-updated format from the Census.
  • STD Surveillance, 2004, latest stats from CDC.
  • Civil Justice statistics from Bureau of Justice Statistics.
  • Hot Wheels 2005, most-stolen cars from Natl Insurance Crime Bureau.

  • Judy's Book is a new local social networking site. (They call it "Your Friends' Yellow Pages.) Here's the Miami Judy's Book; Fort Lauderdale.

  • ABC Reader Profile: a quick way to get the latest circulation figures for the 150 biggest newspapers from Audit Bureau of Circulation.

  • Wonderful 20s-30s travel poster collection at L.A. Public Library.
  • On the effectiveness of aluminum-foil helmets: 4 MIT students study whether they really keep out government-mind-control radio waves. Bad news: they make them worse.

  • Friday, November 11, 2005

    I may have let this latest anniversary slip, because I'm not around to be reminded by the annual Ramble at Fairchild Tropical Garden this year; but I started a version of this blog (although it was not blog format) in November of 2000. That's five years, folks! Among the first stories it discussed, the Florida vote debacle in the presidential election debacle that year.

    Unfortunately, the archive of that blog is lost behind Earthlink's 'site not available' notice which didn't go away this month as it should have; there can't be THAT much traffic to the site. I've begun moving files to another Earthlink account but haven't gotten very far yet.

    If you want to see what the site looked like a year ago (the static research files didn't change much after that) the most recent version available at the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine has the pages online:

    The original site was at a different address, but that's archived too: The first version archived was February 2001, not far off (although the copy comes up dated April, but it does contain Election 2000 news).

    Tuesday, November 08, 2005

    The colors have been spectacular where I am over the last few days; what about where you are?
    More on HighlandsCam.

    Sunday, November 06, 2005

    Weekend update: Other things found this week:

    There are still some good things coming out to help with understanding the effects of this year's devastating hurricanes:

    Also: a couple good sites for help with online problems:

    The other links:

  • Interactive map of the Civil War from National Geographic.
  • University of Florida book of insect records.
  • Findlaw special coverage: Iraq War aftermath has legal documents, news, etc. on Plame case, intelligence, UN monitoring, etc.
  • Racial Discrimination and African-American Quarterbacks in the NFL, study from Social Science Network.
  • Communicating with Young Latinos, market research study.

  • Alito resources from Library of Congress law library.
  • Resources for info on Samuel Alito from UMich library. More on Infomaniac blog.

  • SmealSearch finds academic studies, reports, from Penn State library.
  • I Want To... a whole list of links to neat Net tools. Want to share spreadsheets with others online? Do a podcast or a Wiki? Etc.
  • Mr Sapo, a new search engine that gives you a template to search any of the other engines.
  • RedLightGreen searches for books on your topic and tells you where to locate them.
  • Area Code and Time Zone database from AskSam; download free reader and the database.
  • Flight Tracking info: this brief article links/describes various resources for flight tracking. Lots more available than ever. Highly recommended: Flight Aware, a new site in beta. You can browse by type of plane (private flights included), by airport, by airline. Here's a MIA snapshot.

    Governments, Politics:
  •, search Federal Register rulemaking documents.
  • The McCarthy Hearings are online on the Senate's GPO site.

    Public Records:
  • LocatePlus is a people/public records search worth looking at: has some cell phone numbers, statewide criminal record search, driver histories in FL and several other states, etc.
  • Pennsylvania Courts site now has searchable criminal dockets.
  • Michigan Offender Tracking Information System.

  • Trends in Manufacturer Prices of Prescription Drugs Used by Older Americans, from AARP.

  • Rich Gordon on the good things in journalism's future in OJR.
  • Editorial Photographers, new organization.

    Some Interesting stories/Weblogs:
  • Iraq: Learning the Lessons of Vietnam by Melvin Laird, in Foreign Affairs.