Friday, February 29, 2008

Judged by your friends?

Reacting to president Bush's rebuke of Barack Obama for saying he'd meet with Raul Castro, bloggers were challenged to find photos of Bush with some dubious foreign leaders: at Cogitamus, a gallery.....

Digging into the candidates' past

Interesting that some of the details about a candidate that might make a difference in voters' ideas about them don't come up early in the campaign. Witness the stories this week about whether John McCain's birth in the Panama Canal Zone might affect his constitutional eligibility for the job of President.

Another interesting sidebar on McCain, this week in the Northwest Florida Daily News: John McCain's Okaloosa Divorce, including a PDF of the settlement document from the local courthouse. Why a divorce in this county in the Florida panhandle? Lots of military bases around there, and McCain was stationed in Jacksonville at the time. Not that close to Okaloosa, home to Eglin Air Force base...

(Via Docuticker.)

Reflections on The Wire

All during this season's episodes I've been enjoying the discussions from the day and week after each one at Slate, from TV Club writers David Plotz and Jeffrey Goldberg.

Here's one from this week that just tickles me, with the discussion of Clay Davis' (cast member Isiah Whitlock)'s trademark "sheee-it", but especially because they discuss an ongoing series in the Philadelphia Inquirer prompted by....a murder of a homeless man. What serendiptity. (Especially since the Inquirer's editor is Bill Marimow).

Even more, there's a link to an 'obituary' of Omar Little, the fictional 'robin hood' of The Wire's cast. In a city room scene in the last episode the murder is mentioned in a list of possible crime briefs but rejected because a fire story would require all the room left. Wouldn't it be something if a newspaper really could write like this about the real characters in the city?

The 'obit' has YouTube links to some of Omar's best scenes. Why is this the best show on TV, and Omar the best character? Just this one scene will explain.


Cats and dogs

A Friday smile, thanks to Sheila Lennon: Cats are Democrats, Dogs are Republicans.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Where are the reporters?

This week there was a symposium on Computation and Journalism at Georgia Tech, and I've enjoyed the reporting from it by Knoxville's Jack Lail. Today he points to a Column by Rich Gordon summarizing the discussions there. I was struck by a comment on Gordon's piece by Dan Keating, who says
i read through the list of panelists and one job title was missing: reporter. lots of directors and vice presidents. no reporters. this week is the national computer-assisted reporting conference in houston
where lots of industry-leading reporters will be speaking about how they use computation for gathering and analyzing information...

(Also discussed on Lail's blog: Link Journalism, with a link to discussion on Mindy McAdams' blog.)

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Water to share -- not

Well, it seems the folks from Tennessee are finally taking pity on poor, water-starved Georgia. In The Chattanoogan: Chattanooga Sending Truck Load Of Water To Atlanta.

From the proclamation from Chattanooga mayor Ron Littlefield:
WHEREAS, the lack of water has led some misguided souls to seek more potent refreshment or for other reasons has resulted in irrational and outrageous actions seeking to move a long established and peaceful boundary, and

WHEREAS, it is deemed better to light a candle than curse the darkness, and better to offer a cool, wet kiss of friendship rather than face a hot and angry legislator gone mad from thirst, and

Whereas, it is feared that if today they come for our river, tomorrow they might come for our Jack Daniels or George Dickel,

...Wednesday, February 27, 2008 shall be known as “Give Our Georgia Friends a Drink Day”

Via Knox Views.

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Music from hell

This makes me cringe. Mother Jones has determined what songs are used in American detention camps to "induce sleep deprivation, "prolong capture shock," disorient detainees during interrogations—and also drown out screams.": The Torture Playlist.

This is one of the things we first learned about during the Panama invasion, when they bombarded Noriega's hideout with loud music 24/7, and the idea just seems ghastly.

I just finished part 1 of Doris Lessing's autobiography, Under my skin, and in it she had something to say about the effect of bad music on society, written several years ago: has changed. It's rhythms no longer swoon or sway or linger, the beat and pound and drive and the sound is so loud you have to hear it with your nerves.
....So my question is, when some person goes out to kill or torture or maim, can one reason be that he or she has been set for the crime by music that has driven them mad?
...we...soak ourselves in it, often feed it direct into the brain with machines designed for this purpose -- and we never even ask what effect it may be having.

We all need more Alison Krauss.

Inventions of necessity

Kevin Kelly's Street Use blog featured (a couple weeks ago but I hadn't looked at this blog for awhile) photos of "re-invented objects" created by Cubans who must live without new imported things. A second posting showed a Cuban motor bike.

The objects were collected by Cuban artist Ernesto Oroza, at Statement of Necessity.

Although sad, they show how creativity can flourish under the worst conditions......

Link Journalism

Interesting posting by that title at ReadWriteWeb: Link Journalism: Is Linking to News a form of Journalism?

Since this has been a topic often linked on this blog, it might be worth a new label. This short essay focuses on blogs that do just that, (like this one), and mentions Drudge Report as a prime example. blogs, are really a subset of edited news aggregation, which has a great signal to noise ratio. Because the content is being vetted by an editor, readers can assume that they're being directed only to relevant, non-redundant reporting (assuming they trust the editor).

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Cuba links

The Cuba links page has been moved, and I spent a good bit of time this weekend updating it. It's only about half done but the most important sections -- internal official sites, directories, news, etc. -- are done. If you've used the old page, change your bookmarks. So far I've just fixed the bad links, so there will be many more changes as I find new things.

I had thought I wouldn't find lots of changes but most of the government pages had changed their URLs so required new searches to find them. Reminds me of when I was updating Florida government links and had to change them about every 2 years or so. Why can't governments stick to the URLs they start with? Also, many of the anti-Castro groups I had linked have disappeared, at least their Web pages have.

The page was a shorter version of a links collection I compiled when needing it for my news research job back in Miami. It's been interesting over the years, seeing how what information is available on Cuba has changed, particularly from Cuba. In the beginning, most of the sites, even the 'official' sites, were hosted in Canada.

Although I no longer 'need' to do this, I've been fascinated with the Cuba story since I was a 1950s schoolkid seeing the photos in Life of the scary revolutionaries in the mountains. And since high school, practicing ducking under my school desk during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And since hanging out at a Cuban restaurant in Washington, DC, in the late '60s/early '70s. And certainly since moving to Miami during the Mariel boatlift and having coworkers who were Cuban exiles, later the children of Cuban exiles, and helping cover the news about Cuba and Cuban Americans there for over 20 years. I don't have a personal connection to Cuba, and wasn't allowed to go there. But it's a place that I have learned to care about. And I hope this can be a help to news researchers who need a start on finding information.

I'll try to get the rest of the links up to date soon. (Oh, yes, and I added a blog section. Looking for a few more, although since there are plenty of good blog links on some of the other blog sites, like Cuban-American Pundits, I don't need to link to all.)


Saturday, February 23, 2008

40 Years Ago

(An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

In Memphis, sanitation workers went on strike on February 12. 1,300 workers walked out of their jobs to force the city to recognize their union, AFSCME Local 1733, trying to change “a long history of mistreatment and disrespect amid shameful working conditions.”

In Vietnam, reporters were having difficulty – as usual -- finding out the truth about the war effort. The military kept reporting all was going well while reporters on the streets in Hue knew it was not. Halberstam tells a story in The Powers That Be about Walter Cronkite being flown to Hue from Saigon to see the pacified Hue streets; on the flight back he flew with bodies of 12 American boys killed that day in the ‘non-fighting’. As Halberstam tells it,
here was Cronkite flying to Saigon, where the American military command was surrounded by defeat and calling it victory.
Not long after that, on February 27, Cronkite would report on his evening news program, "Who won and who lost in the great Tet Offensive against the cities? I‘m not sure…It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out...will be to negotiate, not as victors but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could." Lyndon Johnson’s reaction was that if he had "lost Cronkite," he‘d "lost Mr. Average Citizen."

Other events of February: Lisa Marie Presley was born to Elvis and Priscilla. Eldridge Cleaver published his blockbuster memoir ‘Soul on Ice’. The first 911 telephone emergency system was inaugurated in Alabama. The Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads merged into Penn Central. British astronomers announced the discovery of pulsars. Another 10,000 U.S. troops were sent to Vietnam. On February 23, Over 1,300 artillery rounds hit the Marine base at Khe Sanh and its outposts, more than on any previous day of attacks.
On the cover of GQ magazine: a dashiki.

And so it went.

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Call me via my blog? I don't think so.

Interesting new service from Google, featured on today's Blogger Buzz: Grand Central. It provides a badge you can put on your blog or website so readers can call you or leave a voicemail message. (Considering the comments I've been getting this week, I won't be signing up.)


Another voice on Cuba

Reading through some of the Miami-based blogs today, I find a link on Mambi Watch to The Havana Note, a blog connected to the Washington Note blog and the New America Foundation.

So far the linkage connected to Castro's retirement and the future of Cuba is quite thorough, and their analysis of why this transition means America's Cuba policy has failed is worth a read. From one posting, by Sarah Stephens, cross-posted at Huffington Post:
...the Cubans we know, even determined political opponents of Fidel Castro, are proud of their country, proud of its accomplishments, and persuaded that only Cubans in Cuba -- not politicians in Washington or hardliners in Miami -- have the right and responsibility to determine their own destiny.

I'll be adding a list of Cuba-related blogs to my links list. This will be one of them.

(Updated:) Not to be missed, also, for Cuba news and links: The Miami Herald's Cuban Colada blog; and, maybe, one linked from there: Havana Journal.


Research links of the week

Some good reference and statistical resources this week. A couple of these links came from a blog I heard about in an email, The Pedantic Pundit. Not recently updated but it links to some great research resources I hadn't seen anywhere else. Several links recently have come from Mark Schaver's Depth Reporting blog, always a great resource, including his links for reporters.
Of course I get all these links from varied sources that I check all the time, and don't attribute every one of them. (The last link is to my old website which has not been completely moved yet.)

  • Library of Congress: Science Reference Services with good links lists and research guides.
  • BIRTH Television Archive: 'the World's first internet archive of vintage from the early times of European television.'
  • Performing Arts Encyclopedia from Library of Congress.
  • The Encyclopedia of Television from the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

  • 2009 U.S. Budget, searchable in a free AskSam eBook.
  • Public Library of Law: Case search has advanced search options to search federal and state case law, plus codes and regulations.

  • School Data Direct, from The State Education Data Center (SEDC, with 'detailed education information and analysis for public schools, school districts, and state education systems'.
  • The U.S. Military Index from Foreign Policy, a survey of more than 3,400 active and retired officers at the highest levels of command about the state of the U.S. military.
  • Minority Data Resource Center from University of Michigan.
  • U.S. Population Predictions, 2005-2050 from Pew Research Center.
  • this site was almost killed but there's an announcement it will continue. Quick links to the latest economic reports.

  • Friday, February 22, 2008

    Old news

    Rather ironic in the face of the debate about what we hear about Cuba, that today on the news librarians' listserv, there was a posting linking to a Boston Globe story about a journalist most folks have never heard of.

    William Worthy was a well-respected journalist for many years of his long career, but when, in the early 60s, he decided he wanted to see what was going on in Cuba for himself, he got into hot water with the American government. Now he's an old man struggling to survive. Columnist Adrian Walker, in the Globe: Reclaiming a gallant voice. The story came about because he's receiving an award from the Nieman Foundation today.

    In a site devoted to Worthy's career, there are lyrics of a Tom Paxton song written about him in the '60s. Worth a couple quotes:
    Well, it's of a bold reporter whose story I will tell
    He went down to the Cuban land, the nearest place to hell...

    ...Oh why'd he waste his time to see a dictator's reign
    When he could have seen democracy by travelin' on to Spain?
    That was Franco's Spain and dictator Castro's 'hell'.
    Thanks to Larry Lopez and Barbara Semonche for the links.

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    Online aggregator Alltop

    Just saw a reference to this site, Alltop, which I thought I'd looked at before. Mark Schaver suggested it can replace your news aggregator. It looks new to me, and certainly is a good way to scan the blogs and news sites you might not normally go to. I like the section called 'Egos'......


    Backgrounding the McCain story

    Poynter's Al Tompkins again provides an invaluable resource for journalists and others trying to make sense of the New York Times' McCain and lobbying story, and the fallout from it: Ways to Report the McCain Story.
    It includes some great links, and wise advice on how the story is played, e.g.:
    Be VERY careful about what images, headlines and teases you use in your coverage. For television, showing McCain and Iseman on the screen at the same time may visually imply a relationship.
    Advice that's too late for some news broadcasts.....

    (Updated:) Among the links here, a link to a list of Iseman's clients. Hmm. There's a South Florida story here. Among her clients: The City of Miami, Carnival Corp. and the Arison Family Trust.

    Also, an interesting comment on Roy Greenslade's posting on the Times story reaction, about how the reaction here is different than it would be in the UK:
    Though it's proving to be a big deal in the States, I'm fairly certain that this story would have appeared in a British newspaper and, most likely, wouldn't have caused too much of a fuss. Over here, sadly, we think innuendo is fine.

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    Thursday, February 21, 2008


    I don't think I've ever seen a news topic that attracts more, and more diverse, reactions than anything involving Cuba.

    My post yesterday linking to a blog post 'blaming the messenger', the news media, is getting comments, including a couple long heartfelt ones. Since I mostly post links to things of interest to journalists, comments are rare here. I don't defend the quality of the news coverage, just note the reaction it created.

    The BBC website devoted to the Cuba story had a 'Have your say' forum, now closed, that attracted over 3000 comments.

    The Miami Herald's website had over 1000 comments yesterday. Today the Herald published a selection of the most interesting comments. There seem to be hundreds of comments posted to that.

    This is a topic that people want to be heard about.


    Fun with history

    Someone at the National Archives has gone through the WWI draft database and found the registrations from several celebrities, sports figures and politicians:
    Notable Registrants of the WWI draft.

    It includes some men I wouldn't have thought were that old at time of the first war, like Sam Rayburn, Adlai Stevenson. Here's Sam Ervin's card. Note the little tab in the corner that says 'tear off if registrant is of African descent'. Primitive database sorting.

    Also interesting: the registration for Alvin York. He claimed an exemption from duty on the grounds "don't want to fight".

    Linking and news sites

    It's taken years but the idea of news sites linking to other web pages was resisted by many for a long, long time. The belief that sending readers away was a bad thing stalled the creation of news site blogs and made the sites irrelevant.

    The tide has turned, and turned quite awhile ago. But there's still a need for reminders why it's a good thing:

    At Publishing 2.0: Reinventing Journalism On The Web: Links As News, Links As Reporting.
    Also keep in mind when you think about links as news, links as reporting, and links as editorial product — on the web (thanks in no small part to Google, and its link-based algorithms): Links are influential. Links set the agenda. Links direct public attention. Links connect ideas and people.
    Everything journalism has always aspired to do.

    From Robert Niles, at Online Journalism Review: How, and where, to hyperlink within a news story.
    Don't just rely on your content management system to make decisions for you. Decide how and where you will reward readers who want more information.

    Good stuff.

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    Researcher credit

    Noted at the bottom of the New York Times' story on John McCain's relationship with Vicki Iseman:
    Barclay Walsh and Kitty Bennett contributed research.
    Way to go.


    Wednesday, February 20, 2008

    Satellite maps and small towns

    I've been fascinated by the occasional reporting from England about how residents in at least one small town have been disturbed by cross-country lorry traffic passing through, at least since satellite navigation systems and online mapping services have shown shortcut routes on small roads and lanes only meant for local traffic. Via Greenslade, The Mail on Sunday had a story about three railroad bridges that have been hit 62 times in the last year. The Mail calls it 'the curse of Satnav'.

    How much traffic is sent in bad directions by satnavs and Mapquest and other mapping services? I've directed visitors to our remote house via the best main roads with least curvy sections, but some have relied on online maps and been directed to the 'shortest' but most disorienting and difficult routes, adding hours to the trip at times.

    I've recently gotten access to Google Earth and found roads near us badly mislabled. The online maps like Google maps, Mapquest, Yahoo maps and the like are pretty reliable but still don't know the local road conditions.

    The state highway near us sees lots of cross-country cargo trucks, which I expect are going through because it looks like a shortcut to Knoxville from north Georgia. Well, it must take those big trucks a long time, with all the tight curves they need to slow down for. Even worse, U.S. 129 through the Smoky Mountains between NC and TN is a road that motorcyclists -- who love it -- call 'Tail of the Dragon' for its dozens of curves. But there are always trucks, sometimes getting stuck on a curve too short for its length. It looks good on a map.

    Castro coverage

    Well, it didn't take long for the Babalu boys to jump on the media for their coverage of Castro's resignation.

    Another blogger found an internal CNN memo cautioning newsreaders not to emphasize only the negative aspects of Castro's rule, and it's unleashed another firestorm against what they call the 'Communist News Network' and its allies like the New York Times, which also had the temerity to say Castro "succeeded in establishing universal health care, providing free education through college and largely rooting out racism."

    Babalu points to research at the Media Research Center, detailing The U.S. Media's Decades of Cheering Castro's Communism. Yes, that research center founded by Brent Bozell to expose the media's liberal bias.

    Yes, they just won't be satisfied until all the news coverage is totally one sided.

    (Links to reaction from other blogs and news sites at Memeorandum.)


    Tuesday, February 19, 2008

    Blogger journalism award

    When I saw that Joshua Micah Marshall had won a George Polk Award for his political writing on his Talking Points Memo blog, I thought it was a notable step for blogging. Will Bunch, at Attytood, thinks so too: A landmark day for bloggers -- and the future of journalism.
    Here's how and why Marshall and Talking Points Memo won a Polk Award today:

    "His site,, led the news media coverage of the politically motivated dismissals of United States attorneys across the country. Noting a similarity between firings in Arkansas and California, Marshall (with staff reporter-bloggers Paul Kiel and Justin Rood) connected the dots and found a pattern of federal prosecutors being forced from office for failing to do the Bush Administration's bidding."

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    The Castro story

    Of course, the place to go for reaction is The Miami Herald, where they've been preparing for the end of the Castro era for years. So far the website presence is subdued, but heavy, including of course a story about businesses chafing at the bit: Preparing for Cuba.
    (Oh yes, there's an equal reaction at the Sun Sentinel, too....)

    Of course, for the reaction from Cubans in Miami, one of the most controversial blogs is Bablalu. Several postings today discussing the reactions.

    South Florida Daily blog links to more blog and media reactions.

    My page of Cuba links has not yet been moved to the new site, but is still there although last update was a year and a half ago. Most links should be good, though.

    Lots more media, blog and government links over at Al's Morning Meeting: Fidel Castro Steps Down.

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    Thursday, February 14, 2008

    Caught my eye:

    Fortune, on the health foods distribution company you never heard of (I certainly haven't): Health foods' hidden powerbroker. The only other national natural foods distributor, according to this, is Tree of Life, which I used to buy from when I had a natural food store eons ago. But I never heard of this one before. Fascinating story of a back-of-a pickup truck hippy distributor from northern California who made good (but isn't that Danville, CT, they're located in, not Dayville? (Thanks for link from AshVegas. There are a few more good stories linked there, like the cellphone that crossed the country in a bag of potatoes. I hadn't been able to load AshVegas before high speed, but am enjoying it now.)

    And, disappointing news from the political front: I was proud of John McCain for his anti-torture stand (but little else), and now, via Crooks and Liars, that's over too. (Lots more at Memeorandum.) And the various You Tube videos are pretty convincing, too, including the ones at LessJobsMoreWars.
    Does torture matter?
    (The anti McCain videos have been linked often in the last few days on Discourse Net. Today's is called "Sweetheart Deal".)

    (Updated:) Food for thought, from Sara Robinson at Campaign for America's Future: Mythbusting Canadian Health Care -- Part I. How much of what you've heard is true?

    (Even later:) Just can't resist posting Dotty Gaiter and John Brecher's annual column about Open That Bottle Night. The column is a couple weeks old, but the 'holiday' is coming up a week from Saturday. Any excuse to link to Dotty and John.

    Links lists and blogrolls

    Fons Tuinstra had an interesting post at E-media Tidbits the other day, Do Blogrolls Really Matter? To most people, I guess, they're an antiquated concept. When you can find everything you need on Google or Ask, why bother with links? If you get all your news in your RSS reader, why look at blogs? And when Facebook and MySpace keep you connected, you can always find what you're looking for. Oh, really?

    It's something I've been thinking about since I've been in the process of editing/updating my blog lists and my links pages, as I move them to a new server. I don't know if many -- or any -- readers use them, but I find them invaluable for my own use. I hate using bookmarks and prefer to have a page to go to and keep open on a browser tab, so I can run through the links I'd like to check that day. My blog list is here; the blogroll on the right hand column of this page is links I check mostly every day.

    Since I've never gotten into the RSS habit, as much as I've tried (and I do use a couple readers to check on a group of blogs or news sites I don't go to often), I really still like the habit of clicking from one blog to another from my page to see what's new. Seeing the blog is almost as important to me as reading the updates. I have found, however, since activating Google Desktop, that the news reader there alerts me to new postings that I find of interest, often.

    And, as for the links pages, I use them all the time. I think a few readers use my public records links page, and possibly the quick reference page. Both have been moved to the new server; the public records page is updated (except for the Florida section) and I'm updating the reference page now. I keep a page of links about the area I live in now, including local institutions, nature guides, blogs, etc. as well.

    (Updated, Bonus Link:) Over at Knox Views, R. Neal proposes an information value heirarchy for blogs.


    Tuesday, February 12, 2008


    Since 2000, before I had this Blogger blog, I had Web space from my dialup Internet subscription, at InfiNet until it became part of Earthlink (where the address changed from to, and a second address). I created my first web pages during the Election 2000 disaster, and the links I posted there for the Florida recount circus became quickly popular.

    But now that broadband has reached the remote, rural Donovan household, I'll be cancelling this account. I'm keeping my old Web pages, mostly links for journalists and my large blogroll, at the old address for a few more days, but am moving them to The home page address is

    The public records links, probably the most popular, and the Southern Appalachian links from my photo blog, have been moved. The other subject links need to be updated but will be moved soon too.

    Links in the blog sidebars have been changed to the new addresses. If you have any of my pages bookmarked, please note the changes.

    Monday, February 11, 2008

    Research links of the week

  • Journalism 2.0: How to Survive and Thrive from Knight Citizen News Network, downloadable book.
  • Citizen Media Law Project's Legal Guide, interprets law for writers, publishers, bloggers, journalists. From Berkman Center and Knight Foundation.

  • Information Trapping 2008 Style: Research Buzz's pointers on keeping up with websites and news.

  • National Transportation Statistics, updated to 2007.
  • Census Atlas of the United States new downloadable book.
  • Key Facts and Figures about Europe and the Europeans from Europa.

  • Justia News follows the court filings involving major tech companies, and many other current news categories.
  • Biz Journals' GClick Button, download this to put a button on your browser toolbar (IE only) for viewing in-depth information about the companies and executives referenced in any article.

  • Silobreaker: News search engine with "unparalleled insight into news and current events" providing contextual and graphical search results. This one looks interesting.

  • Great Lakes Danger Zones: Center for Public Integrity publishes this report prepared for the CDC, which was never published, "reportedly because it contains such potentially “alarming information” as evidence of elevated infant mortality and cancer rates."
  • Learning Unethical Practices from a Co-worker: The Peer Effect of Jose Canseco study from Institute for the Study of Labor.

    And, uncatagorized but interesting:
  • World War One Color Photos: collected from various archives, mostly French army.

  • 40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    Sometime in early February I actually started the job at the Washington Post. We had no car and my cousin was taking a bus to Wisconsin Avenue; I took one down 16th St, I suppose, to the Post’s plant on L Street between 15th and 16th. The promotions department was on the first floor off the lobby, and when I needed to visit the newsroom library I took an elevator to the 5th floor. Lunch was in the cafeteria. During my days there, I was reading award-quality stories that had run the previous year, as I cut and pasted them into shape to fit into booklets. I wish I remembered the stories, but I do remember one of the trips to the library: sent to find some stories by John Goshko about ‘airplanes and Peru’ I met a slightly long-haired kid who was working part time there and attending American University. His name, I learned later, was Joe Wright, and although my request confused him at first he found the stories for me.

    In late January 1968 Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In had debuted on television. I expect we would have watched: it was one of the only programs that paid attention to the current culture and may have had some musical acts. There was still the Smothers Brothers show, too, and we’d been able to see some of our favorite musicians on the Ed Sullivan show over the last few years. There’d been Shindig and Hullaballoo but they were long gone. Star Trek, the original Shatner version, had been on for a couple years, but I don't think we watched it often.

    We probably spent more of our time listening to our records collection. We’d been listening to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band – over and over and over – for several months, now, and never got tired of it. The Stones had released Satanic Majesties’ Request in December. My music was mostly English, from the Beatles and Stones to the Animals, Kinks and Zombies. My cousin introduced me to her folk collection, lots of Boston-area old-tyme music and Greenwich Village acts like the Jim Kweskin Jug band, Eric Anderson, Tom Paxton and Dave van Ronk. We certainly would have had some albums by some of the west coast bands like Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow had come out nearly a year before), Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Lovin’ Spoonful, and the like.

    Movies, especially foreign films, were an occasional treat. About this time we would have seen the one starring John Lennon as a British tommy soldier in WWI, How I Won the War. I’m sure I bought a copy of the first Rolling Stone magazine, the November ’67 issue with Lennon, in role, on the cover, at one of the local newsstands or headshops, where I also picked up an occasional underground comic book, maybe one of the first Zap comics with R Crumb’s Mr. Natural.

    We spent weekends exploring the areas around Georgetown and Dupont Circle, where alternate businesses selling imported objects, colorful clothing and the like were flourishing, along with the Adams-Morgan neighborhood near us, around 18th and Columbia. We heard stories about the amazing Ambassador Theater’s attempt to become an eastern Fillmore Ballroom, opening in July ’67 and hosting acts like the like the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Grateful Dead and the Doors, and a legendary August gig by Jimi Hendrix. Unfortunately the theater had closed in early January after complaints by local residents. (There are posters, clippings and the like on this web site: Among them a Post story about a ‘pyschedelic debutante ball’. Far out.)


    Friday, February 08, 2008

    Friday fun

    Sculpture of a giant woman made of peaches, at Boing Boing. (With high speed, I can actually see the pictures at Boing Boing now.)

    Moss and mud sculptures, mostly in England, collected at Rurality Blog.

    Local news, redux

    Mark Schaver again has some good thoughts about local news, today pegged to the announcement of Google's local news search function: Google News and the dearth of local news.

    I tried it too, and discovered a search on the small town where I live finds very little. But then, it's such a small town that even Topix, which Mark discusses, finds little too.

    The problem, as Schaver points out, is not the news search engines, but the real lack of news coming from outside the big cities. Weekly newspapers' stories may not show up: In many cases that's because they don't keep -- or even put -- stories online. (Our local Cherokee Scout put only about a half dozen stories online until this past summer's web redesign. But now with two weeks' archive always available it still doesn't show on Google News. Topix has had the stories all along, even showing postings recapping the news from a local blog before the archive became available. But it's still not much.)

    Or, even more often, because the news just doesn't get printed anywhere. Topix has relied on blogs to increase the sources, and have set up local news forums so more will be reported.

    But, there's little market for small-town news in America. For this reason, there's much to like at the Rural Blog, from the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, often mentioned by Al Tompkins at Poynter. It helps to publicize the need for local news coverage. A quick search also finds, an ambitious project started recently, it seems. In North Carolina, I've been intrigued by the FIRE site, the Fund for Investigative Reporting and Editing, set up to help small newspapers in the Appalachians.

    There are stories out there. But who is there to report them?

    (Updated:) Links to more thoughts about Google's local news search from Jack Lail.

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    Wednesday, February 06, 2008


    Yesterday the last connections were made to the fiber optic line brought up our rural road by BRMEMC, our local electric cooperative. It's something that was only made possible by the broadband ring created by Balsam West, a venture financed in part by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians to bring internet capability to an isolated part of the Appalachians. We've been watching the fiber optic coming, first along US 64/74 a couple years ago, then up NC 296 last spring, which made it possible for the school at Hiwassee Dam to be connected last summer. Now the power company is bringing the wire to homes like ours, where groups of neighbors have requested it, as we all did a few months ago. And it's finally here.

    What an amazing thing.

    What this means is that I can finally look at things like Google Earth and YouTube. It also means I'll be able to use sites like Fox News' just released Live News, where you can actually get live feeds from Fox's local stations around the country. Wow, isn't this something we could only dream about just a few years back?

    It's been frustrating as a dialup user to see other folks' blogs and newspaper web sites littered with YouTube and other video links, knowing they won't work for me. Now they will. I hope I will refrain from linking too often to YouTube, although I can't guarantee never.

    Tuesday, February 05, 2008

    Super Tuesday results

    The team at Resourceshelf has put together a list of sources where real-time or near real-time election returns will be available LIVE on Tuesday night, by state.

    Monday, February 04, 2008

    How newspapers annoy readers

    Robert Niles' column in the Online Journalism Review, Readers owe nothing to publishers, really hits the nail on the head:
    Whenever I open our door on Sunday mornings, I never see the Los Angeles Times flag staring up at me from the porch. Instead, I see a two-pound advertising circular that, I know only from experience, contains the LA Times buried somewhere within. Yesterday's paper came wrapped in a plastic bag hawking some consumer product. After pulling the paper out from that, I had to peel away an advertising and a feature section before I could see the "front" page.
    ...Here's what normal people do when they can't find the content they paid for in their newspaper: They cancel. As they have been, in droves, over the past generation.
    And it's not just the printed version that annoys, says Niles: animated widgets blocking the screen and email spams to those they force to register turn us off from newspapers' web sites, too.

    Amen. The past few days, going to, I've had to watch an animated flamenco dancer block my view of stories I want to read; when I close her I get a huge banner advertising a show at the performing arts center, bigger and brighter and blocking the entire page. I could take it once. But it loads EVERY time.

    I'm lucky these days, living too far out for home delivery of newspapers. I can get a daily paper, but only by mail. So when the Sunday paper comes on Monday (when I'm lucky) it isn't loaded with the inserts that I would just have to throw away. We do go out and buy another Sunday paper from the next-nearest city, but luckily they are smaller cities and the papers' insert burdens aren't so egregious as they would be in a big city.

    I know papers need every source of income they can get but there is a limit. Even those 'post-it' ads we used to get on the front of the Herald can be an annoyance to someone who just wants the news.

    (Updated:) More on this topic from Jennifer Mazerado at MediaShift: Why I Left Print Media for Digital.



    During my years in South Florida, it seemed that was the biggest hotbed of corruption around. Every year some government official was charged or suspected of wrongdoing.

    This morning it was nice to see that the Palm Beach Post's Tom Dubocq is nominated for a Goldsmith Award for investigative reporting, for a two-year investigation into corruption in Palm Beach County government, "Palm Beach County’s Culture of Corruption". Congrats to Tom.

    But, now living in the relative peace of the southern Appalachian mountains, I find that there must be no place where corruption isn't the story in local government. For years, when I lived here before, I heard tales of county sheriffs with unlimited power and hands in pockets.

    But recently it seems to be becoming a theme: This weekend in Chattanooga, the recently-elected sheriff of Hamilton County has been charged with extorting business owners, helping drug dealers move money, and procuring a gun for a felon. Chattanooga Times Free Press: Sheriff Long arrested. Note the list of 11 east Tennessee sheriffs accused of corruption over the last few years.

    In nearby Asheville, the former sheriff was indicted in late 2007 for taking protection money from video poker operators. Asheville Citizen-Times: Medford jailed until trial.

    South Florida, you're not alone.

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    Friday, February 01, 2008

    'Data ghettos' and localized news

    As I reported The other day, the discussions surrounding Adrian Holovaty's new Everyblock project are interesting. At the posting by Mark Schaver I linked to, the comments are worth a read on the topic of raw data, how newspapers deal with them, and the value to local residents.

    On his own discussion of the topic, Matt Waite says he calls such 'data dumps' Data Ghettos, and wonders if just posting them is enough:
    Journalists are supposed to add context and value to information. Heaving databases online should be no different.

    Derek Willis discusses too, in Everyblock and the definition of news.
    ...the site isn’t meant to compete with existing news organizations but rather to supplement their efforts. And one way I think EB will do that is by giving readers some of the powers that news organizations have always kept, starting with the power to decide what is and isn’t news.

    On all these postings, there is lively discussion in the comments, worth reading as much as the initial postings.

    It's fascinating to see these discussions happening now, so many years after some newsroom data folks like like those at the News and Observer and other papers began to imagine them. I posted a bit about this, mentioning the Miami Herald's Rich Gordon back in October, and he sent me a link to some of his current thoughts. Meanwhile, the list of papers putting raw data online keeps increasing.

    I don't know how much readers actually use this sort of data. I'm sure there is a market for it. But one thing I do know: it's invaluable for news reporters, bloggers, and other interpreters, and just having it easily available makes it possible for them to use the data to add meaning and value to it for their readers.

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    40 years ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    By the beginning of February, the war in Vietnam was becoming even more of a disaster. The marines at Khe Sahn were suffering constant bombardment by mortar and rockets from North Vietnamese infantry, a hellish episode that would last 77 days.

    The end-of-January Tet celebrations in the ancient capital city of Hue erupted into a series of early morning attacks from Viet Cong and NVA in several locations around South Vietnam. The next day, Viet Cong attacked the US Embassy in Saigon. The battles around Hue would continue for a month.

    On February 1, Eddie Adams took this photo on a Saigon street.(On the same day, former vice president Richard Nixon announced his candidacy for president.)

    Every setback in Vietnam, every television report, every dead American was a painful reminder of how terribly things had gone wrong.

    We had strong feelings about the war, everyone did, one way or another. I’d studied the history of Vietnam starting around the time the escalation began in 1965, the year I went to study in London. I was convinced that we had no reason to be involved in this essentially internal civil war. By the time I graduated in 1967 it was a much different – and much bigger -- war.

    That spring I attended a military funeral, fortunately the only one I went to during the war, at West Point. The brother of my classmate, who had graduated in the class of ’66 along with the classmate’s fiancé, was killed near Saigon as he patrolled with his men. Young Lt. Frank Rybicki got stuck in the mud and handed a buddy his rifle stock to pull him out: It went off. The story of his passing ran in Newsweek. We were devastated at the waste of life. And the military pomp of a West Point funeral, with the glory of the Hudson River valley around it, only reinforced my feelings that the war was taking an unnecessary toll on the military.

    It was winter, we didn’t really know anyone in Washington, so we must have spent a lot of time at home, reading the newspapers. In those days we’d always read a morning and an afternoon paper, so here we subscribed to both the Washington Post and the Evening Star (we occasionally saw the third DC paper, the tabloid Daily News).

    I don’t remember much about television, but least in those pre-cable days we would have had a small set receiving the three networks. We certainly would have watched the evening news, since Walter Cronkite was a regular at home, along with some of the Sunday news analyses.

    So we were aware of what was going on with the war, or at least what was being reported, even if it didn’t affect our lives.

    We met a group of young men one day in a park; they were military, from various forces, in DC for some sort of training, maybe languages, since I think later they went to the language school at Monterey. For awhile they were someone to spend time with, go to movies.

    We hadn’t really known anyone in the military – aside from some of my college contacts at West Point -- before this. Soon our younger brothers would have to face the draft. With the negativity about ‘hippies’ and the past year’s ‘Summer of Love’, growing drug use, and increased frustration with the slowness of improving civil rights and ghetto poverty (on Feb 8, in Orangeburg SC -- the ‘Orangeburg Massacre’ -- 3 college students would be killed and 27 wounded when troops fired into a crowd protesting segregation there), living in the US was depressing. But exciting things were happening, too.

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