Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How good is your political information?

I love this column in HuffPost by Peggy Drexler: The High Cost of Low Information.

With so much information out there, sometimes it's easier to stick with the sources we're comfortable with. How do we fight the lethargy?

The From the Editors column in the latest AARP Bulletin (You Be the Reporter) encourages voters to get informed. Among the tips:
2. Differentiate among news, opinion and advertising. As Stony Brook professor Jim Klurfeld says, “Evaluate sources. Evaluate sources. Evaluate sources.” There’s a difference, for example, among the Congressional Budget Office, the Heritage Foundation, the White House Office of Management and Budget, and the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.
3. Be aggressive. Being a good news consumer today is hard work. On the Internet, rank and popularity of a story do not necessarily mean reliability.
This is hard work, even for professional journalists.

But our future depends on it.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Random links on journalism, research, and news

New video game lets players kill Woodward and Bernstein. Is this part of the anti-media conspiracy, or what? In New Yorker.

Top 25 Web 2.0 Search Engines. From the Online Education Database. Have heard of only a few of these....

15 journalists' outstanding personal sites, from 10,000 Words. Not one here I'd seen before. Good stuff.

10,000 Words. Hadn't seen this before, but it's "Where journalism and technology meet". Looks useful, with guides to online tools, shooting video, recording audio, lots more. Including one explaining that text is the foundation of journalism:
...good text will always be the foundation of any website, news or otherwise.
Text is what pulls in search engines and, in turn, visitors. If they don't like what they are reading, whether it be a story, blog post, or caption, they won't return.

On that note, over at Web 2...Oh really, from Craig Stoltz: five lessons from a year of blogging. Last recommendation:
Write short and use pictures. ... I wish I followed this one more.
Me, too.

Following up: Seven Steps to Writing Like a Digital Native, from The Idea Factory's WebU. Yes, yes, yes. First in the list: link to original documents. Add photos. Add maps. Link to past stories. Are you hearing this, newspaper web editors?

From Howard Owens, who's losing interest in blogging: Media Geeks, a search engine for media-related sites.

Good stuff recently on Mark Shaver's Depth Reporting, including this from last week: Just how stupid, shortsighted and out-of-touch are newspaper executives?, which debunks the notion that all newspaper companies didn't get the Web. Cited: Knight Ridder's Mercury News Online and its Viewtron system, many years ago.

The new word from politics these days must be 'Umbrage'. Two columns: Taking offense is the best defense, from John Dickerson, in Slate; and All Umbrage All the Time, Jonathan Alter at Newsweek.
Via Joel Achenbach, who calls it 'the umbrage epidemic'. Joel is susceptible too:
Today the Post reports on executives making $14 million a year, or maybe $27 million. Some of them work for places like Freddie Mae [and Fannie Mac]. I find myself on the verge of taking umbrage.
He has lots of other reasons, too.

The new Red Menace

When things aren't going well, Americans need to find a bogeyman to blame it on. The 'communists' were an easy target in the 1950s and 1960s, with a real menacing country to blame. After the end of the Cold War, things got murky. There were always hippies and left-wingers, race baiters and internationalists.

Lately, though, the focus on 'Liberals' has been becoming toxic. All someone has to do is suggest Obama has a liberal, left-wing record and it becomes exaggerated to 'extreme left-wing, socialist'. The 'greens' are responsible for gas prices because they've destroyed America's ability to extract all the oil we want. 'Liberal' has become an offensive political charge. How in the world did this happen?

The fruit of this hatred: the man who went into a church in Knoxville yesterday firing a shotgun, killing two and wounding seven more. Why? The police reported this morning it was 'hatred of the liberal movement'. (Knox Views' R. Neal's notes on the press conference.)

So, where's an easy place to find a bunch of 'liberals' to shoot? Why, a Unitarian Universalist Church. They're thick as thieves there. Especially when their kids are putting on a musical.

I'm getting pretty tired of this mindset.

Lots more on this story at Knox Views, where at least one of the contributors is a church attendee. Much more at Knox News.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Catching up

I've been out of town and hoped to update the blog during my trip but didn't see anything to blog anyway. I've been avoiding politics and there hasn't been much research news, but now that the political season is heating up even more, I expect it's time to start doing some politics links here. Watch for those.

Some things I've noticed, though:

In some really bad news, Genie Tyburski has announced she's shutting down The Virtual Chase. The website and weekly newsletter are incredibly helpful for legal researchers as well as news researchers, and it will be missed. Tyburski will keep the website open for several months, but is willing to hand it over to another legal librarian/researcher. Any takers?

New from Google, a website/blog/wiki blend called Knol (for unit of knowledge). This site makes it easy for writers to post long articles on subjects they have expertise in. So far the articles have a heavy medical lean, such as this excellent guide to Type 2 Diabetes, or this on Migraine. In the couple hours since I first looked at the site, many many articles have been added, however.
This concept certainly bears looking into.

And, one useful research site found last week: Motorcycle Accident Database linked to this Gannett investigative report on motorcycle accidents and safety. Accidents can be browsed by county in all states; records up to end of 2006.

Recent photos.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Some useful stats sites

For lovers (and seekers) of statistics, Shirl Kennedy has put together a nice list at Resourceshelf of Niche Statistics. Among the unusual stats collected here, links to lots of the Department of Defense's personnel stats, a great resource that isn't easily found by searching (and plagued by occasional URL changes). But I'm most impressed by the great list of sports business statistics posted by an Econ professor at U.Mich: Sports Business Data. Directories of this sort of thing have come and gone over the years and sometimes the only things you can find are pay services, so this should be really welcome to any researcher needing sports data.

Also linked on Resourceshelf today, the National Archives' collection of historical documents being shared with the new World Digital Library. Included, images of the Declaration, Constitution, and other major docs, as well as photographs by great American photographers like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange....and, well, Nixon meeting Elvis, George Bush meeting The Babe, and a hippie with his dog.....


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some depressing environmental news for Florida

Ocean Conservancy Releases Report On Reef Management: How Florida and National Park Service Marine Reserve Policies Undermine Efforts to Protect Coral Reef Ecosystems. Turns out that Biscayne National Park is in worse shape now than it was when it was created in 1980.
FWC and NPS have taken no action to fulfill their obligations to protect coral reef ecosystems in Biscayne National Park since they began reviewing their management plans in 2002.
"Biscayne National Park once had some of the most spectacular coral reefs in Florida. The native communities they support desperately need our immediate action"...
During our years boating and snorkeling southern Biscayne Bay and the offshore reefs, we watched this happening. By the time we left Florida, it wasn't fun to look at the ruined reefs any more, here or in the Keys.

And this: NOAA Report States Half of U.S. Coral Reefs In "Poor" or "Fair" Condition. So sad.

And, from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, U.S. Sugar Buyout May Not Help The Everglades
....Crist’s plan to purchase 300 square miles of U.S. Sugar land as the “missing link” to restore the Everglades may be an expensive pipe dream. Ten years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted a detailed analysis of re-creating a “flow way” from Lake Okeechobee as envisioned by Gov. Crist and rejected it as unworkable...

(Updated:) And in this thoroughly depressing Time magazine article, Is Florida the Sunset State?, there's this:
We have water, water, everywhere, but much of South Florida's per capita use is 50% above the national average, and we've lost half the wetlands that used to recharge our aquifers. So water shortages threaten to limit growth in a way that wetlands regulations or bad headlines never could. "Florida is astonishingly wasteful," says Cynthia Barnett...
...In the words of the novelist and columnist Carl Hiaasen, the bard of Florida's decline, "You don't have to be a wacko enviro to want your kids to be able to swim in a lake or maybe see an animal that isn't in a cage or a seaquarium. And even people who don't give a rat's ass about the panther will care when saltwater comes out of their faucets."

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"Trained Democracy Superheroes"

That's what this MSNBC report calls librarians, specifically librarian (and former newspaper reporter) Carol Kreck, who was ticketed for holding a "McCain=Bush" sign outside a town hall meeting. ProgressNow has the video, plus an appeal for Kreck's defense fund.

(Updated:) but wait! the wingers have found out that, yes, she is a former reporter! and may be connected to Progress Now! So obviously she's a bad person and deserves whatever she gets (one commenter here wondered why she wasn't tased). Arghhh.

More bad press for the McCain campaign: MojoBlog's shocked reaction to McCain's calling Social Security a 'disgrace'.
This is not the first time that McCain has hinted that he will follow in Bush's Social-Security-dismantling footsteps.
More here and here (McCain's Ignorance about Social Security Is the Real "Disgrace").


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Following up

Great discussion by Jay Rosen on the Jessica DaSilva flap (yesterday's post) at Pressthink: Big Daddy Newspaper Has Gone and Left Journalism. Lots of links to reaction to her blog and the story of dying newspapers in general here.

Most of all, a link to a new site that is an antidote to the 'curmudgeon class': Tree House Media Project. Check out the blog, too. You gotta love a site that proclaims: Fuck Craig's List. Fuck Wall Street. Yes, we have ample reason to be bitter. Times have never been worse for newspaper journalists.

And Da Silva? The girl's got a future in some sort of journalism. Here's her comment on the Pressthink posting:
I admit I'm young, but I like to think of myself as optimistic and hopeful about journalism. And I attribute that to having an open mind in describing the role of journalist; it's not just paper anymore.
Another problem I (and my peers) have encountered in internships is an eagerness to turn us away from journalism or jade us in some way. We all wonder why. I mean, if we all followed the popular mantra of "go to law school and make your mother proud," then what would be the future of journalism?
I'm sure people will jump all over me for saying that, but I have tough skin. I've gotten much worse reporting on the student government.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New vs. old journalists and the 'mediasphere'

On the journalism front, there's a little flurry of discussion over how news organizations need to rebuild themselves, leading to this memo from Tampa Tribune editor Janet Coats on the plans for an 'interactive newsroom' joining the newspaper, online and television news processes.

Last week, lots of bloggers and commenters reacted to a posting by Tampa intern Jessica DaSilva, "It's worth fighting for", quoting Coats' talk with newsroom staffers. Lots of the comments here were negative (sample:)
Wow, you really are young and naive, aren’t you? Someone sent me the link to your blog, and I almost had to laugh, it was so ridiculous. I’m truly amazed that in one of your other posts, you can tell reporters to stop whining and do something about their situation. What, praytell, young lady, would you like them to do?
This lead to Ryan Sholin's posting, Declare your independence from the curmudgeon tribe.

Hmm. It's hard all around, and on some of these discussions journalists are getting dissed because suddenly they care about job losses when it's been happening everywhere else.

See Mark Shaver's post attempting to compare news layoffs to other industries'... And see Joel Achenbach's comments about the history of one attempt to make journalism more local, at the Miami Herald 25 years ago, in his 'Memo to the new boss', the Washington Post's new editor, Marcus Brauchli.

Where is this all going? Who knows? There have been lots of plans to change journalism. (I watched lots and lots start up, and fizzle out.) When you see a newsroom's collective memory leaving, seasoned reporters being replaced by recent interns new to a city, you have to wonder. But then....those old reporters started out new, once, too.

But. No matter how many reporters you have, or how much they know the community, there are lots more people out there that know a whole lot more about it than your newsroom does.

Trying to keep up on the news from Miami, I check the Herald's site most days. I usually find only one or two stories -- if any -- to click on from the front page. Much more often, I go to South Florida Daily Blog, where I always find things to look at, whether newspaper or TV stories, or blog links.

Isn't this an example of what news websites should be doing? Or, as Howard Owens says, Is your news site the center of the local mediasphere?
...why should a reader need to go to any of those other sites FIRST to get news or information. Should you be directing traffic?

Sometimes it doesn't take a journalist at all to know what the most interesting news is around town. Newspapers should be hiring people like 'Daily Blog's Rick, or Knox Views' R. Neal (who also has created Tenn Views and Blount Views, and once was the popular South Knox Bubba), or Ashvegas' Ash (oh wait: he was let go from the local daily) to mention three I read regularly.

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Gas myths and help, and waterboarding

Swiss Army Librarian, a nice blog from a Mass. reference librarian (now on my bloglist), compiles a good set of links to sites about gas economy myths, driving tips, and cheap gas finders.
Included, a link to a Snopes debunking of a persistent email about boycotting gas companies that buy gas from the middle east. Why does anyone read, let alone pass on, these things?

In Vanity Fair, Christopher Hitchens gets waterboarded, somewhere in western North Carolina, and says, guess what? It is torture.
I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.” Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.
(For those who would find this educational -- or amusing, there's a video.)

Who gets the news? And a disturbing development

Joel Achenbach is watching the blogs who claim to get the news the 'mainstream media' don't: News we remembered to report.

And, in a later posting, down near the bottom of this roundup, Joel links to a Blogoland comment on blogger Glenn Reynolds' brag about 'better than mainstream media' reporting on Iraq, which links to:
A New York Times story expanded upon by a blog
A straight ABC News report (twice)
A straight Reuters story
A straight Knight-Ridder story
The New Republic’s Iraq’d blog
A link to USAid’s website
A link to Iraq the Model commenting on some local newspaper accounts
an L.A. Times story examined by a blog
a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story examined by a blog
A straight AP report
a New Zealand newspaper story examined by a blog
A link to a round-up of Iraq blogs
A link to the WMD- Intelligence Commission report
A link to some sort of ID bracelet/donation site
A link on “ways to support the troops”
A link to an Iraq toy drive
Blogoland's comment: "Yeah, who needs the press at all when you have bloggers who rely almost exclusively on them for their content?"

Unrelated sidebar: also mentioned in the first Achenbach posting, a story about the U.S. Forest Service making a deal with a developer to open up millions of acres of Montana land for subdivisions. Scary enough, but with a great summary from Joel:
The problem with this kind of development is that it's sort of the worst of all worlds: You lose the open space but don't get, in exchange, anything that resembles a real community. The houses are vacant most of the year. No one has roots there.
Yup. Exactly what we are seeing around here, where although we live in a national forest area, much of the land is still privately owned and developers are glad to buy an unused, forested hill from descendants of those who farmed the valleys and put in manicured treeless ridgetop lots for vacation cabins (where it's too hot in summer days with the trees gone and too windy the rest of the year). Ruining the view for the rest of us.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

A few research links

A couple of these may have been posted before, but worth a reminder:

  • The Mike Wallace Interview, from the 1957-58 TV program, archived at UTexas.
  • WTO Trade and Labor Issues , a guide to resources on the Web from a Cornell librarian.
  • Health News Review, rates news stories on health issues.
  • New ResourceShelf Collection: Media Guides, Factbooks, Backgrounders, and Press Kits
  • Policy Archive search or browse for public policy research including topics from agriculture to transportation.
  • VINcheck lets you find out if a vehicle is stolen or has been totaled. Free for 5 searches a day, from National Insurance Crime Bureau.

  • Saturday, July 05, 2008

    Herald layoffs

    This memo has been forwarded, I suppose, to lots of people, but luckily, one of them was Bob Norman, who posted it on his Daily Pulp blog: the list of 42 newsroom staffers who are leaving the Miami Herald, with commentary on several of the long-timers from Manny Garcia.

    Included, three of the few remaining library staff. Not needed, now that archiving's being offshored to India.....

    So sad.

    (Oh, and speaking of the Pulp and layoffs, it is just stunning to read the comments on the post about layoffs at the Palm Beach Post from last week. Apparently it was linked on Drudge, and neanderthals from around the country decided to use the post as a vehicle to proclaim their hatred of 'liberal, left-wing, commie socialist' journalists. How depressing.)

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    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Dereliction of duty

    Haven't posting anything here for a few days. Just haven't seen anything I wanted to link to.

    But if you'd like some pictures from the mountains to cool off your hot summer holiday, I've been posting some things to my other blog, Southern Highlands Cam. Including pictures from today's small-town Fourth from this morning.