Friday, June 27, 2008

In support of journalism

Via the McClatchy VP Howard Weaver's blog, Etaoin Shrdlu, I was stirred by the report on a column in the Macon Telegraph by Editorial Page Editor Charles Richardson, Why We Do What We Do.

Richardson, responding to attacks on his paper for printing the wonderful McClatchy Washington Bureau report on the detainees at Guantánamo, accusing the editors of being 'unpatriotic':
We are afraid some of our readers have a stilted view of our constitutional duty. But first a little history. Our country was founded as a nation of laws.
...Should the American press emulate the history of the former Soviet Union's Information Telegraph Agency of Russia, better known as TASS? Should the American press become the propaganda arm of the government such as "The Attack" newspaper in Nazi Germany, set up by the Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels? Is that what our founders had in mind?
Thank you, Mr. Richardson.


40 Years Ago

(An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

Since Dr. Martin Luther King's murder in April, investigators had been following a trail of a man who seemed to have been following King, and went by the name of Eric Stavro Galt. Although information linked him to King's murder in Memphis, it was three months before he was finally caught.
Police in London arrested him June 8 at Heathrow Airport, where he was trying to leave the UK with a Canadian passport under the name of Ramon George Sneyd. James Earl Ray was extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's assassination. He would confess in 1969 and be sentenced to 99 years in prison. He later recanted the confession and was supported in his effort for a retrial by King's family.
40 years later questions about James Earl Ray linger, Atlanta Journal Constitution.

On June 10, Gen. Creighton Abrams replaced William Westmoreland as military commander in Vietnam.

At Walter Reed Army Hospital, former president Dwight D. Eisenhower was hospitalized since a late April heart attack in California. He had another attack on June 16.

On June 19, president Johnson signed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, passed in reaction to increasing crime rates and the last few year's urban riots. Among the provisions of this law, first time restrictions on purchase of handguns.
Title 3 provided guidelines for wiretapping by government agencies, designed to protect individuals from government snooping, but it carried a clause allowing wiretapping for 'national security', something the coming Nixon administration would seize on. Johnson expressed dismay at the provision, saying the nation 'had taken a dangerous step' that could lead to 'producing a nation of snoopers bending through the keyholes of the homes and offices in America, spying on our neighbors' but signed the bill anyway.

On June 22, Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren submitted his retirement; he would leave as soon as a replacement was approved, before a new president (likely Nixon) would take power. Warren had headed the court for 15 years and had headed the commission that reported on John F. Kennedy's assassination. A few days later, president Johnson nominated his longtime friend and current Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas to replace Warren as chief. Johnson also nominated a Texas crony, former congressman and judge Homer Thornberry, to replace Fortas.

France remained unstable, with ongoing protest marches and a strikes at industrial facilities including Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen factories. On June 11 a riot at the Paris barricades resulted in 70 injuries and 400 arrests. On June 16 police removed the last 2000 students from the Sorbonne. By the 18th, workers were beginning to return to their jobs, and prime minister Georges Pompidou announced an end to the crisis. In the June 23 election, huge victories were scored by the centrist Gaullist party, with losses for the socialist and leftist factions. The left would lose even further in the June 30 elections.

At Resurrection City in Washington, the mood was brutal. Uniformed 'Tent City Rangers' tried to keep order couldn't restrain the gang-like 'marshalls' who erratically enforced entrance to the compound and who ranged through the city at night. The SCLC's Ralph Abernathy was stricken by criticism of the marchers and of his staying outside of the camp many nights, and blamed it on the American culture that had created 'a monster in the ghetto'.
Despite the problems, the National Park Service extended the camp's permit from June 16 to June 24. 50,000 people arrived for the 'Solidarity Day' demonstration on June 19, 'Juneteenth'. The next night several youths skirmished with police officers, who responded with tear gas, outside the encampment, and began stoning cars along Independence Avenue and other nearby streets.
Three nights later a similar incident resulted in 'clouds of tear gas' rolling through Resurrection City, where the few remaining protesters ran from their tents toward the Washington Monument. On the morning of June 24, 1000 police arrived to close Resurrection City down. 115 people remaining in the camp were arrested as they sang freedom songs; 200 more, including Reverend Abernathy, would be arrested later on Capitol Hill. Park officials prepared to bulldoze the camp.
During the day, several incidents occurred in areas of DC previously destroyed by the April riots; it looked like another riot was coming. A curfew was called that evening. A city in shock was in shock once again, but calm was restored fairly quickly.

At the Washington Post, I was getting to know some of the Post's reporters, mostly those from the Metro Desk who covered the city. They tended to need local story background more, so spent lots of time in the library. They were young and talented and many would go on to do great things: Len Downie (who just announced his retirement after years as the Post's executive editor, suceeding Bradlee), Robert Kaiser, Bob Maynard, Carl Bernstein, Jim Hoagland, Richard Cohen, Paul Valentine, Marty Weil, Paul Levey, Glegg Watson, Hollie West, Stuart Auerbach, William Raspberry, Leon Dash, Ivan Brandon, Carol Honsa, Susan Jacoby, and lots more.

I was impressed with how they covered the April riots. Now I watched them covering another huge story under personal danger. I particularly remember seeing Paul Valentine coming in to the newsroom, having been directly hit with tear gas and stinking of it, his face red and eyes watering so badly, we feared for his health. I was developing a huge respect for journalists and the work they did.

On the cover of Time that month: The Gun in America, Aretha Franklin, Robert F. Kennedy, and graduates.

Listening to: United States of America. Taj Mahal. New friends from the Post library were listening to folk/country rock, and I was getting hooked on their music: The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Jesse Colin Young's Youngbloods...Dylan, of course. My love of British bands continued with new albums from Cream, The Who.

(Resurrection City reference: Ten Blocks from the White House, Washington Post staff.)

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Going back to 1971

From Howard Owens: Spare me the fancy redesigns and give me some text to read.

Among the gems:
Spare me the big graphics and four-column photos and color splashes. Stop trying to turn your print front page into a web page.
...If they want timeliness, they’ll go online.
...News isn’t about a demographic (as in, “How do we target women, age 24 to 35, with one child and two cats?”)
...The print product should provide context and a moment’s respite. The online product should say, “this is what is happening now.”
...Try digging into your archives and looking at your newspaper from 1971. Make your 2008 paper look like that.

You know, this sounds nearly right to me. I want the background and the ads (and comics, and recipes) from the paper that I get delivered by mail late in the day, and don't expect it to give me breaking news. But I also don't want briefs about national/international stories I already know about. I need the local news, the analysis, the interesting stories about people and places around here. I need that 1971 newspaper.

(And I liked that 'timeliness' quote better when I thought it said 'timelines'....)

On another front, I was impressed by this posting from the Scholars and Rogues blog: A progressive for our times. What a graphic demonstration of how much our politics has deteriorated over the years, when Richard Nixon (!)...would be more progressive than either the Republican or Democratic nominees today.
I guess that's why I find the New Nixon blog so fascinating.....I sure couldn't say I am nostalgic for those times but I'm afraid we didn't learn anything along the way.

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Newspapers, bloggers, and librarians

The question of journalists and blogging has been debated for years, and I've linked to lots and lots of stuff on the topic. There's so much now that I don't usually link to it, but once in awhile I notice something that stands out. Today, it's a posting by Roy Greenslade, Why journalists must learn the values of the blogging revolution. He raises some interesting ideas:
I have tended to predict that future news organisations will consist of a small hub of "professional journalists" at the centre with bloggers (aka amateur journalists/citizen journalists) on the periphery. In other words, us pros will still run the show.
I'm altogether less certain about that model now. First, I wonder whether us pros are as valuable as we think. Second, and more fundamentally, I wonder whether a "news organisation" is as perfect a model as we might think.

On a related note, I noticed another journalist/blogger spat going on in Asheville NC, where a local blogger, former reporter at the newspaper, forecast the paper's predictable coverage of a big story. Newspaper columnist takes umbrage, 'outs' the blogger, rants about anonymous criticism. Nothing new here but a good example of how the media could be building on the contributions of bloggers instead of attacking the format. The blogger's take, with links: Bellicose Boyle misses the point on coverage of trooper tragedy. Included, a lot of makes-sense analysis of what newspapers could do better when covering something like this (the terrible loss of a young state trooper, first member of the Cherokee nation to become one, who pulled over a bad guy with a foot-long Florida criminal record who killed him with his own gun).

Some of this is the usual discussion of what is respectful coverage of tragedy, whether reporters should contact next of kin or demand 911 tapes. Although I dislike some of the 911 reporting I see, I think the paper got good stuff here: a story about how truckers led the cops to the shooter.

On another topic, I meant to link to this the other day (somehow it slipped by then) when linking on the future of news libraries: J Baumgart, who's been active in the News Division for several years, got to thinking about where the profession is going. Good thoughts. Losing the Stars and Mentors.
...the News Division has a proud tradition of strong leaders and amazing librarians whom most people in the profession put on pedastals. Many of these folks have made real careers of news librarianship with professional service measured in decades. It seems like lately many of those people have been climbing down as they leave news librarianship (not that we revere them any less) and not many people have been climbing up there.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blogging his layoff at the Miami Herald

Hmm. This is why I stopped doing my Miami Herald blog two years ago when they dropped my post-retirement freelance contract. Things must be different now, since Brayden Simms, who announced his own layoff in a column, says he's being paid to blog -- on life after layoff.

It's not news, since Gawker and The Guardian, among others, have linked to Brayden's blog. But I just noticed a mention on Daily Pulp, who says:
...hey, if you're gonna fire a guy, might as well exploit him on his way out. ... Still a little weird and shameless on the newspaper's part.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Who needs copyeditors?

Gene Weingarten writes that the recent Washington Post buyouts haven't affected his written product, at all: Yanks Thump Sox.

(Thanks to Doug Fisher.)

Note the version with errors noted finds more than I would ever have caught in a hurry.....

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Cell phone directory, news research and interpreting the news, and politics

Some more interesting thoughts on news research and other topics...

In the Wall Street Journal by Jason Fry, The Case of the Missing White Pages (link fixed). It explores the question of whether there is a directory of cell phone numbers (a question that comes up on NewsLib about once a year). A few years back there was news one was coming, but according to this story, Intelius gave up on it. Cell phone users don't want strangers getting their numbers, end of story. But it raises some interesting thoughts:
That will arouse uneasy feelings that technology has once again done away with something we assumed was eternal...Those of us who remember looking ourselves up in the white pages and thinking that now we belong to a place may lament -- not for the first time -- that our real-world communities are becoming more fragmented as people spend time in online communities of their own choosing instead.
(Via Resourceshelf.)

Mentioned in Derek Willis' report on some sessions he attended at the SLA conference, the TimesArchive, in which the UK paper pulls great stories out of their historical archives and makes them available by topic or by browsing a timeline. Actually, the archive includes every page of The Times from 1785 to 1995, and searching and viewing all those pages is free for now as long as you register. Fantastic!

I may have mentioned Newser before, but didn't include it the other day when I linked to several new sites for getting the news. And I didn't know that it was created by High Beam Research, which I use, and that it was inspired by Vanity Fair columnist Michael Wolff.
I explored it some today and find that it's a great tool for doing something that's not always easy with online news sites: finding related stories. When I looked at this report on Tribune Company's financial troubles, for example, I found lots of stories, including pay archives from Highbeam, directly connected to the topic.
There's also a feature that lets you browse New York Times stories.
I think I'll be looking at Newser more often.

From Paula Hane at Information Today, a posting on a talk about factchecking by Brooks Jackson of Coping in a world of disinformation. There's a link to Hane's good rundown of political factchecking sites, too.

Also interesting today, in Time: The Beltway-Blog Battle
....the old media, under pressure to work fast, sharpen their voices and cut costs, are increasingly making news blog-style, through argument and controversy.
...Oh, wait: there was one debate question that sparked an ongoing policy discussion (on Obama's willingness to meet with hostile foreign leaders). It was asked at a CNN debate. By a YouTube user.

Another South Florida reference, including another new blog focusing on investigative/analytic journalism, and South Florida papers: Journalism Bull.

On a wider topic, Miami CBS4's Jim deFede sets straight all the confusing reporting and political posturing on oil drilling off the Florida coast: Separating Fact from Fiction on Offshore Drilling. Getting the facts straight on this topic is critical now, as Americans fed up with oil prices clamor for more drilling. Yesterday a new poll reported more Floridians are willing to allow offshore rigs, and will vote for McCain if he supports it.
Will oil price backlash destroy any hope for environmental advances from now on?

On another political topic, I haven't seen much in the traditional media about what the Obama decision to refuse public financing means. Some say it means there will be less attack ads from 527 political organizations, in fact TPM reports that is dropping its organization. But only a few days ago, New Republic was warning, Let the attack ads begin!

And then there's this, from David Brooks at the New York Times: The two Obamas. I think it summarizes this election pretty well:
...Republicans are saps. They think that they’re running against some academic liberal who wouldn’t wear flag pins on his lapel, whose wife isn’t proud of America and who went to some liberationist church where the pastor damned his own country. They think they’re running against some naïve university-town dreamer, the second coming of Adlai Stevenson.
...All I know for sure is that this guy is no liberal goo-goo. Republicans keep calling him naïve. But naïve is the last word I’d use to describe Barack Obama. He’s the most effectively political creature we’ve seen in decades. Even Bill Clinton wasn’t smart enough to succeed in politics by pretending to renounce politics.

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Change happens (South Florida newspapers version)

I've been following the coverage of the announced layoffs at the Miami Herald, of course, and am struck by a few things:

The first online version of the story, which I read right away, didn't include this part:
(those leaving)...include 12 newsroom supervisors, five in the International Edition, two copy editors, three reporters, four designers and layout specialists, two on the state desk, two critics, two photographers and six in archiving and calendar.
Archiving, calendar and the
International Edition will be outsourced to workers in India.
I'm not sure, but this may be a first. I haven't heard of another paper outsourcing library functions (the calendar staff was in the library, too).

More on the Herald, of course, at Herald Watch. More at Daily Pulp. And there's good stuff at Random Pixels, where names are named here and here.

I'm quite sad to hear about Phil Long, 40-year Herald employee who was my phone buddy for years when he was out on a story somewhere across Florida and calling in for background checks on people he was going to write about, or needing to find information on Iraq casualties from Florida. I miss him anyway, so sorry to hear he's leaving a job he loved so much. Phil, have a happy retirement!

A few days ago several South Florida bloggers posted pictures of a makeshift Santeria shrine in the Herald newsroom, where staffers were leaving offerings to a stuffed rooster to try to save their jobs. I didn't bother to link to any of them, but noticed in one of the photos that it was right in front of my old desk! I sat in front of the bookshelves in the background. They were full of reference books then, and the legendary Arnie Markowitz sat in the (now empty) desk in front of me. Another reporter sat there after Arnie took an (early) buyout, but she's gone too (hopefully still in Neighbors).

With the Herald decimating its library, many news librarians/researchers are mourning the future of news libraries. I hear the mood was grim at the annual SLA conference, where News Division members had what sounds to be a great program. (I'm glad to see a couple attendees blogged the conference.)
I was intrigued by the posting by Derek Willis, a sometime news researcher/data guru, who has some thoughts about The Future of News Libraries.

On a positive note, here's news of a news researcher finding a new way to enhance the online newspaper, at the South Florida Sun- Sentinel, where it's highlighted on the front page today: Flori-DUH (We've all been in the sun too long), a blog conceived and reported by Barbara Hijek with contributions by reporter Liz Doup. On Barbara:
BARBARA HIJEK, a Sun-Sentinel librarian, has spent years doing news research in Florida, the most news-warpy place in the universe. She's still passed all her drug tests and remains Prozac free.
Congrats to Barbara, a long time friend. We always said if there's weird news anywhere, it has a Florida connection. (Thanks Gail.)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No more OJR

Sad to see that the Online Journalism Review, a staple of my reading since I started blogging, is going away, and that Robert Niles has left the Annenberg School at UC. Niles has been a guide for many years and has been at OJR there for a couple, now.

At least Niles is starting a new blog, Sensible Talk.

It's saddening to click on an old friend to read something really interesting (this report, about McClatchy's fabled Washington Bureau) and find bad news like this.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Research links of the week

I haven't had much time to blog lately but did pick up some good reference sites last week, so here they are, in no particular order:

  • GDP by State. latest release from Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  • Legal Dockets Online has added searches of property, liens, and recorded documents. Subscription service.
  • Economic Impact Study of Completing the Appalachian Development Highway System from Appalachian Regional Commission.
  • OPEC Revenues Fact Sheet from EIA.
  • Terrorism: Locating sources of information, webliography from Assn of College & Research Libraries.
  • Glassdoor: new site provides company ratings, exec salaries and reviews, on 2000 companies so far.
  • Search 2006-2007 crime data for U.S. cities (100,000 or greater population) database from Detroit Free Press.
  • Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports searchable compilation of all online CRS resources, from Internet Archive's Archive-IT.
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich's Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush.
  • Online Nevada Encyclopedia
  • Lost Titles, Forgotten Rhymes: How to Find a Novel, Short Story, or Poem Without Knowing its Title or Author from Library of Congress.
  • Media Channel, a new media review/news site.
  • Introduction to Public International Law Research at Globalex, NYU law school.

  • Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Good news, investigations and archives, and watching for racism

    It's really good news to see ProPublica go live. It's the new independent investigative reporting site started by former Wall St. Journal editor Paul Steiger, and has been eagerly anticipated.
    In just a few minutes of looking around I'm impressed with the twice-daily Breaking on the Web update links to new investigative stories, a good place to get caught up on the news. I found links here to a couple interesting stories I didn't seen scrolling several other news sites. The original postings look interesting too. Editor and Publisher has more.

    And for really Goodnews, check out this "Google News" page.
    Click on any story and get the explanation of why this exists. But just browsing this fake Google News page will make you smile. It's the news of the world as it should be.

    Think there's no racism in this presidential race? Jeff Fecke at Shakesville is collecting attacks and subtle digs on Obama.
    Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof comments.

    Also on this topic, from Eye on Miami: For President, reject the haters
    So here is the deal: in the last presidential election it was the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth. This time, it will be race.

    Lots of links to blog/news postings on this topic on Memeorandum.

    Also: from the Associated Press, Obama site confronts rumors.

    Via Man or Maniac, I'm Voting Republican. Just watch the video.

    Back on the topic of investigative journalism, there's a new blog in Miami that some will find interesting, Investigation Miami. It joins Eye on Miami (and lately, several other -- normally non-political -- South Florida blogs; this must be a trend) in keeping an eye on local government and politician wrongdoing.

    Herald Watch has been on a roll, lately, finding lots to say about how the Miami Herald is doing. Recently there's a fascinating discussion on whether the Herald should give its archived articles away for free. This has attracted lots of comments (some not all useful) and a followup, so go back to the main page for more.

    Thanks to South Florida Daily Blog for some of these links.

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    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Where do you get local news?

    Via Mindy McAdams' Teaching Online Journalism site, a link to a report by Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0: What Newspapers Still Don’t Understand About The Web.

    Karp just wanted to get some news about a bad storm that had knocked out power to his office in Northern Virginia, and could find nothing on it on the Washington Post's website, where he went first.

    Not that there wasn't news out there, and Karp explains step-by-step what he did to find it. No wonder Google is more popular than online newspapers.

    Mark Potts at Recovering Journalist had a similar experience.

    It turns out, of course, that Washington Post online readers have an alternative way to get to local weather news, but it's not obvious to someone just clicking on the main page.


    Old news

    Yesterday, Dave Winer raised an interesting point about the story of John McCain's first marriage in the Daily Mail. Why isn't this getting any attention in U.S. media? Why is this different from the story on Jeremiah Wright?
    One commenter says the story was pretty much covered in McCain's race against Bush. But....we have such short memories...

    (Added later:) On another note, apparently the conservative blogosphere is abuzz with news that some commenters on Barack Obama's website have expressed non-PC opinions. Hmm. Some bloggers have been quick to take a look at McCain's, and find some disturbing things there, too, expressed by visitors and never taken down. In Salon's War Room, Alex Koppelmann reports: Breaking news: There are crazy people on the Internet. Oh yeah. Says Koppelman:
    A warning to all future Democratic presidential candidates: If you choose to run part of your Web site in a model similar to, say, DailyKos, and allow the general public posting privileges, some crazy people who clearly have nothing to do with your campaign will take advantage of the policy. And then bloggers on the right, though they're well aware of how these things work, will pretend that these crazy people are actually representative of your campaign.


    Bloggers are watching you

    It's becoming a given that if someone writes a news story that contains an error, bloggers will draw attention to it.

    Here's one in the New York Times that has Tennessee a'twitter: 36 Hours in Knoxville in the Sunday Travel section. It starts out: KNOXVILLE is often called “the couch” by the people who live there.

    Problem is, no one in Knoxville ever heard that before. And the Tennessee bloggers are letting the Times know. The story is all over the 'net since Nashville's Knoxville's Instapundit, probably the most read blog, posted it. (Thanks for the reader comment. Brain fade.)

    Lots of links on Michael Silence's blog at the Knoxville News, including a letter Silence sent to the Times' Public Editor. Lots on Jack Lail's blog too. The story was number one on the Times list of most-blogged stories. Now I've added another.

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    Journalists and openness

    Lots of buzz about "Off the Bus" blogger Mayhill Fowler (see previous post), after a profile in the Los Angeles Times and a Howard Kurtz column in the Washington Post. Oh, and a New York Times profile too.

    This woman has taken amateur journalism to a whole new level. Good for her.

    Over at BuzzMachine, Jeff Jarvis discusses Mayhill's stories, too, and some comments he got about her and whether she should have identified herself as a journalist. But he is more concerned that in some of the comments, people who were obviously journalists didn't identify themselves as such, and sees a worrisome trend here.

    Certainly something I've noticed, especially in blogs discussing media, like Bob Norman's Daily Pulp blog covering South Florida media. So many comments coming from people who obviously work for the media, but completely anonymous. I know it's a question of worrying about their comments getting back to their editors, but hey, no one can get a letter to the editor in the paper without being totally open about their name and address/phone number. Jarvis:
    The acts of public figures in public places and even our lives there are now more public than ever. In an age that values transparency, I think that’s a good thing.

    More on anonymous comments by journalists at E-Media Tidbits.

    On another South Florida note, nice to see that journalism students at FIU blogged the IRE conference there this weekend.

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    Sunday, June 08, 2008

    Research links roundup, and some enlightening commentary

    Back on the politics commentary, a couple things I found interesting in the last couple days:

    In The American Prospect, Seven Ways Hillary Clinton Changed Our Politics.

    In The New Statesman, Editor Andrew Stephen writes about Hating Hillary:
    Gloating, unshackled sexism of the ugliest kind has been shamelessly peddled by the US media, which - sooner rather than later, I fear - will have to account for their sins.

    And, from Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland (so on my reading list), in the blog of the Campaign for America's Future, The Meaning of Box 722. In 1966 an open housing campaign in Chicago drew angry residents upset about the possibility of desegregated neighborhoods, and they expressed their anger in letters written to then Sen. Paul Douglas. Perlstein believes it was this angry backlash that destroyed Johnson's Great Society and brought Nixon's political career back from the dead. The hatred -- of which some certainly remains -- is frightening but the story ends with the hopeful thought that our 'forty year war' (see previous posting) is really over:
    Now a black man from the city King visited in 1966 and called more hateful than Mississippi is running for president, fighting for all those things that made the mid-century American middle class the glory of world civilization, but which that middle class squandered out of the small-mindedness of backlash.

    On another note, here's a useful analysis of how yet another false rumor hits the email circuit and gets traction: E-mail on military deaths is shaky on facts, Army Times story debunking the latest.

    Not to mention a nice history of where the Internet came from, in How the Web Was Won in Vanity Fair.

    The Research Links:
  • Keeping tabs on the global food crisis, good links from Shirl Kennedy at Resourceshelf.
  • Topo Explorer is a new topographic mapping tool from National Geographic, in beta.
  • Fast Facts on healthcare from Kaiser Family Foundation.
  • A new database for shipping/trade information: Techcrunch profiles a new subscription service called that could be really useful for research and business.

    Public Records:
  • Secretaries of State links from Coordinated Legal. One of many such guides but I find that old ones I've used have disappeared, so a new reliable one would be welcome. And more:
  • Internet Legal Resources for Legal Professionals at Coordinated Legal.
  • 10 Essential Web Sites for Litigators from Genie Tyburski at Virtual Chase. No Lexis or Westlaw here, just free resources that lawyers (and news researchers) can actually use.

  • tutorials, give help with finding government information online, or getting it delivered to you.

  • Top 10 journalistic uses for Twitter and a Twitter search, from From the Frontline.

  • Friday, June 06, 2008

    40 years ago and now

    I'm increasingly intrigued by the parallels between 1968 and today as commentators write about Barack Obama and Bobby Kennedy in the same breath. Something is going on here:

    Tom Hayden, an icon of 1968, writes in Huffington Post (as do most of the following): Bobby and Barack.
    There are vast differences between Bobby Kennedy and Barack Obama, owing to circumstance, though both have followed hero's journeys of the classic sort. Kennedy was shaped by his brother's murder and the climate of his times, which drove all but the most robotic towards alienation. Barack is a product of globalization, immigration, even slavery, but nonetheless a privileged inheritor of the movements for which Bobby Kennedy stood.
    ...My hopes for Robert Kennedy might have been dashed by his subsequent policies if he had lived to be president, but I don't think so. The best evidence is the progressive course consistently pursued by those closest to him, Ethel and Ted Kennedy, to this day. It is hard to imagine him abandoning all those poor people, fervent anti-war activists, and early environmentalists who swarmed his rallies -- and who, like the farmworkers, carried him to victory on the ground in California.

    RJ Eskow writes, Barack and Bobby: Compare and Contrast:
    I've said this before: Had Bobby Kennedy not run for President, I wouldn't be writing these words right now. My fascination with politics is the direct result of what he made seem possible, from the symbolic to the soulful -- from his promise to make "This Land Is Your Land" the national anthem, to his tears for the Appalachian poor. I see Barack Obama having the same impact on young kids today.

    And Robert S. McElvaine carries it much further, with America's 40 Years War at an End.
    The charge of "elitism" is one that Republicans have heaved at Democratic candidates to great advantage since the Sixties. Indeed, the Republican Party has been running as the anti-Sixties party for four decades now. That has been the main casus belli in America's Forty Years War.
    ...Beginning in 1968, Nixon was the commander-in-chief of the army that launched the Forty Years War. A young Patrick J. Buchanan was its chief strategist. They set out quite consciously to divide the country, to launch a civil war that would be politically advantageous to their side. As Buchanan infamously put it in a 1971 memo to Nixon, his strategy was to cut "the country in half; my view is that we would have far the larger half."

    And there's much more. Now we're getting somewhere.

    Joel Achenbach posted a bit about what Bobby Kennedy meant to America, and attracted a great gathering of commenters. So many of them wrote that it was before their time and they don't see what the fuss about Bobby was about: "just another Kennedy". One older commenter made it a point to describe to them the transition we were going through in 1968 and how RFK personified it:
    So the world had pretty much divided itself up as those who were changing (whether they liked it or not) versus those who weren't (our parents, LBJ, Ed Sullivan). And so when we saw RFK being thrust by fate into the same turbulent waters we were all struggling in, there was no choice but to identify with him. It had nothing to do with issues.
    ...yes, when RFK finally stood up, (too late, some of you say, but yes, too late, like many others of us, but we stood up, too), then *that's* the guy you identify with, not some ivory-tower poet like McCarthy.
    And then there's the day King got assassinated, and Bobby goes into Indianapolis, and gives that speech. And that's the night he becomes the guy we would follow into the Gates of Hell. That's the night that has nothing whatsoever to do with politics or issues. And I can understand how, if you weren't there to see it, you can never understand it. And that's OK.

    I was not a Kennedy supporter that year, or at least wasn't sure about his candidacy. I liked McCarthy for standing up early. I liked McGovern when he came in. But Bobby had a lot of baggage from his support of Joe McCarthy and his anti-union activites, and I hated it when he came in to New York and took the senate seat from the liberal Republican senator, Ken Keating, from my part of the state.

    But I admired how he was continuing to change, and wholeheartedly going after social injustice, poverty, and racism. He embodied the Catholic principles I admired, like the Berrigans. His speeches could stir your heart, and his love for his children -- and all children -- was moving. His death took away a great fighter for what is good in America.

    (Oh, and one more thing, from Tom Hayden's essay:
    Those who denounce Obama -- and the possibilities of all electoral politics- - should ponder the effectiveness of sitting judgmentally on the sidelines while an Unexpected Future arrives through the sheer will of a new generation.


    Thursday, June 05, 2008

    More news tweets than you think

    Via Mark Schaver, a link to a posting at GraphicDesignr that lists the number of Twitter tweets coming from newspapers around the country. Among them, news, sports, even a Miami Herald Twitter on Cuba. A lot more than I would have guessed. Guess there is something to this Twitter thing after all.

    Of course, when I tried to get the Asheville Citizen-Times Twitter feed, I got the 'Too many Tweets' announcement.......

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    Wednesday, June 04, 2008

    40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    On Tuesday, June 4, California held its primary. Winning this primary was essential to Bobby Kennedy's successful nomination, to reverse the damage of his recent loss in Oregon, and he'd held rallies the day before in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Watts and San Diego, a grueling day. On primary day he, Ethel and six of their kids rested in a borrowed Malibu house and arrived in the evening at his LA headquarters at the Ambassador Hotel.
    At 10 pm. California time, he was confident of victory and gave interviews to NBC's Sander Vanocur and CBS' Roger Mudd. Just before midnight he gave a victory speech in the ballroom to his California supporters. The speech ended with "...and on to Chicago".
    On the way to another reception he took a detour through the hotel's kitchen pantry. It was there that Sirhan Sirhan was waiting with his gun, and there that Bobby Kennedy's campaign ended. Five other people were also shot.

    He had won California by a close victory, but enough, 46.3 percent to McCarthy's 41.8. In the hospital with a bullet in his brain, and one in his neck, he lived another day, making it through surgery but not responding.
    Most people in the east woke up to the news since it happened after 3 a.m. eastern time. The day was a terrible day for everyone. The news of Kennedy's death at 1:44 the next morning meant we woke up the next day to even worse news.

    Members of the Kennedy family, including his brother's widow Jacqueline, flew to Los Angeles to accompany Bobby's body back to New York, where the plane was met by a crowd of New York dignitaries at LaGuardia airport. A motorcade took the casket to St. Patrick's cathedral, where a huge line of mourners would wait. All day Thursday mourners passed through the church as 8 masses were held. In Los Angeles, Sirhan Sirhan was arraigned for the murder. That night, the Kennedy family asked that the cathedral be left open for thousands more to file through to view his casket. The Friday funeral mass was filled with the famous, from Nixon to McCarthy, Goldwater to Rockefeller, Ralph Abernathy to Billy Graham. Afterwards the procession moved to Penn Station, where the body was placed on a train for the last trip to Washington.

    The outpouring of emotion along the train route was heartbreaking, as was the last ceremony as Kennedy was buried near his brother in Arlington National Cemetery.

    When John F. Kennedy was shot, I was a freshman at college, studying in my dorm room when I heard, and the news was so staggering it was nearly incomprehensible. I could do nothing but run to the chapel and try to pray. The next night a few of us had tickets to see Beyond the Fringe, the radical British satire review. It was hard to do, but we'd already bought the tickets, so we took the train to the city. Outside the theater near Broadway, passersby mumbled how terrible it was to be going to a comedy. What else could we do? It was a sad comedy that night, and the next morning more shock as we watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald to death on live TV.

    Now, again, four and a half years later, we'd been through the horror of King's murder and riots, and now this. It was staggering. I remember little of these days, just that I spent them at work, probably with an eye on a television most of the time.

    I know there were tears. And seeing Paul Fusco's photos of the people standing next to the railroad tracks to watch Bobby's train go by, there are tears again. 'People were watching hope pass by'. The multimedia presentation is at the New York Times website, worth a view.

    In the Republican primary, California governor Reagan was the only candidate listed on the ballot. The California votes added to his popular vote total, slightly higher than Nixon's by convention time, when Reagan would actually declare himself a candidate. But the previous week's Oregon primary results had put Nixon over the top.

    Now what?

    Sources: Newfield, Robert Kennedy; Witcover, 85 Days.


    Character of a candidate, researching size, Miami Herald legends, and politicized journalists

    In all the blogging and commenting this morning about last night's speeches, one stands out for me. In The Moderate Voice, by Pete Abel:
    Three images from last night’s TV coverage will stay with me for years.
    1. McCain’s reptitious, ill-timed, and creepier-than-usual grin … like the Cheshire cat on sedatives.
    2. Clinton’s defiant smirk, as her NYC supporters shouted “Denver, Denver, Denver.”
    3. Obama mouthing to Michelle after his speech, “How’d I do?” — and her apparent response, “Good. Real Good.”
    Says Abel:
    ...if Americans truly do vote more on gut than on reason, then these images suggest (already) who will win in November … in a landslide.

    On the news research front, Al Tompkins had links to a couple new tools in his 'dozen things I'm diggin'' sidebar, things that can answer one of the most frustrating questions asked of news researchers: how big is it, and how many swimming pools/football fields/Empire State Buildings will it fill?
    From Nikon, Universcale, a Flash presentation that shows landmarks, items, and macro and micro-spatial entities with size and description of each. I found it hard to move along the scale, but each item's description is very useful. is a tool that takes a size measurement and shows you what items match it in size. For example, 8 acres equals: 4.4 football pitches, 6.4 hockey fields, or 6.0 American football fields. Very handy. Wish I'd had this years ago.

    In a couple Miami Herald flashbacks, some memories: Tom Kunkel, who once was an editor at the Herald, is leaving his position at American Journalism Review and in his valedictory to all those who've influenced him is this:
    Thank you, Edna Buchanan. You taught me that crime victims are real people who leave behind other real people, and the best journalists never permit themselves to forget that.
    Thank you, Gene Miller, The Evansville Flash. If you had written Genesis, God would have invented the world in three days, as I'm sure you remind Him now and again when you're knocking back a few.
    These two taught me a lot about what a journalist can be, too.
    And, at Random Pixils, Bill posts a profile he did last year for the defunct Category 3-5 blog, on Herald photographer Tim Chapman, who he calls Miami's version of Weegee.
    Always good to see true legends recognized.

    (UPdated:) Oh, yes, and almost forgot: Tompkins also linked to Huffington Post's Fundrace database, where one of the searches he linked to was a list of people who have contributed to the presidential race who identify themselves as 'Journalists'. Hmm. Of all things journalists should be, isn't one of them nonpolitical? Didn't some get in trouble last year when their names showed up on donation lists? There are 570 hits in the database. Total given: over $353,000. Even worse: only $34,000 of that was to Republicans, from only 38 donors. (These are large contributions, folks.)
    What will that say to those who claim journalists are biased?

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    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    Remembering who was right

    I didn't know, until I noticed it in Dan Gillmor's blog, that respected McClatchy Washington reporters Warren Stroebel, Jonathan Landay and Nancy Youssef, have a blog, called Nukes and Spooks. Among other things, it monitors a good list of security and counterterrorism blogs. This is one I'll be checking in on.

    Gillmor brought attention to this posting, Memo to Scott McClellan: Here's what happened, in which Stroebel and Landay recap the work McClatchy (then Knight-Ridder) bureau reporters did in exposing the administration propaganda leading up to the war in Iraq. It contains a pretty damning list of administration lies and errors, which were documented long before McClellan's book.

    But what I really like about this blog posting is that in a list of bureau reporters responsible for the coverage, they include bureau researcher Tish Wells.
    We confess that here at McClatchy, which purchased Knight Ridder two years ago, we do have a dog in this fight. Our team - Joe Galloway, Clark Hoyt, Jon Landay, Renee Schoof, Warren Strobel, John Walcott, Tish Wells and many others - was, with a few exceptions, the only major news media organization that before the war consistently and aggressively challenged the White House's case for war, and its lack of planning for post-war Iraq.

    Class. And kudos to my former colleague(s).

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    Worst in 40 years?

    Part of the reason I've been remembering and researching the events of 1968 is because I just have a feeling about this year's race that brings up the uncomfortable events of that year.

    Fred Grimm, who I linked earlier today, makes the 1968 connection in his column today, Dems' future gets dimmer and dimmer:
    ...political rage makes up most of what I remember about the 1968 Democratic primary. I eventually voted, without enthusiasm, for Hubert Humphrey in the general election, but many of my friends, who had been so enthused about Eugene McCarthy or Robert Kennedy, couldn't bring themselves to vote for ``The Hump.''

    Richard Cohen, who I first met in that year, may be having these feelings, it seems, and says this race disgusts him: A Campaign to Hate.
    I see little to be happy about, little that pleases my jaundiced eye. Yes, voter participation is way up and in the end, the Democrats will choose a woman or an African American and, to invoke that tiresome phrase, history will be made. But this messy nominating process has eroded the standing of both candidates. It has highlighted the reality that racism still runs deep and that misogyny, although more imagined than real, is not yet a wholly spent force. This is an ugly porridge that has been placed before us...

    And, even more surprising, this, on The New Nixon blog, from John Taylor: Chick Flick Politiks and the Clinton Sellout.
    It’s ...a minor postscript on a classic political sellout. The liberal establishment’s ruthless betrayal of the Clintons is the story of the year. President Clinton was the most successful Democratic politician since FDR, while Hillary Clinton had distinguished herself among colleagues and journlists alike for her service in the Senate and had been cheerfully embraced as the frontrunner. I opposed Clinton’s impeachment and admired his Nixonian flair for governing from the center as well as his openness to RN’s counsel about foreign policy and his and Mrs. Clinton’s graciousness toward the Nixon family when the President died in 1994.

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    New ways to get the news

    I'm intrigued with today's story about the Bill Clinton rant against the author of the negative Vanity Fair story about him, recorded by "amateur reporter" Mayhill Fowler (at Huffington Post), because Fowler is the same reporter who reported Barack Obama's comments at a San Francisco fundraiser about 'clinging to guns and religion'. (Dave Winer discusses.)

    After the first story, I pictured a young blogger, but it turns out Fowler is a 60-something former Tenneseean with a lifelong family interest in politics, who's worked her way into a position as a frequent 'Off The Bus' blogger.

    This is exactly what the 'Off the Bus' project was hoping for, I'd think, using bloggers to find news the major media misses.

    It's just one of several intriguing new ways of getting news that have been showing up this election year. They don't always last (I remember from the 2000 election) but make things interesting while the demand is there. For straight news from the major media, as well as blogs and other new media sites, here are a few:

    Dave Winer, the originator of RSS and now an evangelist for Twitter, has just launched a new service he calls NewsJunk (for news junkies). It's just plain politics news, similar to Winer's 'River of News' format, but with lots of alternative ways to access. Winer says:
    For now there are five main ways to consume the flow:
    1. Refresh the home page periodically.
    2. Subscribe to the RSS feed.
    3. Follow it on Twitter.
    4. Befriend it on FriendFeed.
    5. Watch for developments on the weblog.

    Over the last few months I've gotten emails announcing other news portals, including Daylife, which allows you to set up pages on news you want (Bill Clinton news, for example), has news widgets for your website, an image tracker, etc.

    Then there's The Daily Source, a non-profit which uses human editors to scour news sites and organize on one page.

    Of course, then there's the (fairly) new AOL News.

    (Updated:) And of course, how could I forget, especially since I've posted about it a couple times and have a badge on this blog, Alltop. Like this Politics list.

    (And another update:) Also, note the link in comments below to Grazr, one I hadn't seen yet. I may have to try this one out a bit.

    I fell in love with Yahoo! News and, particularly, its Full Coverage roundups (like this one on Sen. Kennedy), many many years ago. It was a wonderful resource for a newsroom researcher/intranet guide when a breaking or ongoing news story needed to be covered.

    These days I don't go to news aggregator sites much any more, though, or even use news feeds; I tend to just browse Memeorandum and a few other news sites, and search Google News when I need something fast. I suppose many still find them useful, though.

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    Blogging: a true reporter's calling

    Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, in his new blog The Grimm Truth, makes a statement about journalism and blogging that strikes true to me, Blogging, Circa 1968:
    Writing for a small town newspaper, knocking out one little story after another, every day, writing about everything that moved, I was utterly intertwined in the life of the community. And the community wasn't shy about telling me I didn't know what the hell I was talking about. I was blogging. I just didn't know it yet.

    This one will be on my daily visit list.

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    Monday, June 02, 2008

    Posting the pictures

    One of the things I miss most about reading newspapers online is getting to see all the pictures, in a size where you can make out detail. Many papers' online photos leave much to be desired, in size and number.

    So I'm thrilled to see this new feature from the Boston Globe, The Big Picture, a daily blog where the best news photos of the day are posted in large format. If one photo isn't enough, there are often links to more on the topic, such as these amazing pictures from the aftermath of the Chinese quake.

    I like this a lot.

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    On libraries and the news

    In the upcoming issue of New York Review of Books: The Library in the New Age, by Robert Darnton.

    This discussion of how information is disseminated spends a bit of time on news, blogs, and other new media. Good stuff:
    ...stories about blogging point to the same conclusion: blogs create news, and news can take the form of a textual reality that trumps the reality under our noses. Today many reporters spend more time tracking blogs than they do checking out traditional sources such as the spokespersons of public authorities. News in the information age has broken loose from its conventional moorings, creating possibilities of misinformation on a global scale. We live in a time of unprecedented accessibility to information that is increasingly unreliable. Or do we?
    I would argue that news has always been an artifact and that it never corresponded exactly to what actually happened.
    ...having learned to write news, I now distrust newspapers as a source of information, and I am often surprised by historians who take them as primary sources for knowing what really happened.

    ...I speak as a Google enthusiast. I believe Google Book Search really will make book learning accessible on a new, worldwide scale, despite the great digital divide that separates the poor from the computerized. It also will open up possibilities for research involving vast quantities of data, which could never be mastered without digitization.
    ...Meanwhile, I say: shore up the library. Stock it with printed matter. Reinforce its reading rooms. But don't think of it as a warehouse or a museum.

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    40 Years Ago

    (An occasional reminiscence on the events of 1968)

    At the beginning of June, it was starting to feel as though the world was falling apart.

    France was still in an uproar, with strikes, protests, riots, and de Gaulle had just disbanded Parliament and announced a new election.

    Students were shutting down universities in Spain, England and Germany. Reaction to student protests in Poland had worsened anti-Semitism there and Jews were being asked to leave. There was civil war in Nigeria, where the Ibo nation of Biafra had declared its independence the previous year. A new Nigeria offensive this month led to a blockade and mass starvation.

    In Washington, things were a mess at Resurrection City, with rains creating a mudfield; the papers were reporting that young bored residents, some of them urban gang members, were bringing in booze and partying all night. Park Police weren't allowed inside the perimeter and fears of crime and violence were increasing.

    On June 3, Andy Warhol was shot in the lobby of his New York studio, The Factory, by Valerie Solanis. A panhandler and author of the anti-men 'SCUM Manifesto', Solanis was angry that he had not produced a play she had written. Warhol would be permanently injured, a friend was also shot, and Solanis, defended by feminists, would spend a few years in prison and mental institutions.

    The next day was California's primary.
    We hoped we'd soon know more about who would be running against Richard Nixon.

    As diversion from the news, we were listening to the new album by the Small Faces, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, which had come out and shot to number one in England just a couple weeks before. (One song: Itchycoo Park.) We watched first episode of The Prisoner, the strange British spy/science fiction fantasy starring Patrick McGoohan, beginning a summer run in the U.S. We were also anticipating going to the movies to see the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, due to debut Jun 6 ( says this was in November) the Roman Polansky movie, Rosemary's Baby, which would come out on June 12.

    But things were only going to get worse.


    Sunday, June 01, 2008

    A few research links

  • New York Times coverage of national political conventions, 1896-1996.
  • Agflation: The real costs of rising food prices, news and data from Reuters.
  • reviews new Web sites.
  • The Civil Rights Digital Library, at the University of Georgia.
  • World Health Statistics 2008 from WHO.