Archive | January, 2012

The chatter over blogs

25 Jan

Blogs are a relatively new but have quickly become popular, even in the world of journalism. Journalists are among the many types of people who are using blogs to put out information over the web. Professional news organizations, like newspapers, are using blogs to break news to their readers immediately. But, really anyone can blog. Fashionistas have blogs on where to find the best, stylish deals. Mothers even blog about their kids and daily life, as in mom blogs. Others use the medium as their personal diary. It’s a fact that today countless people have and utilize blogs. Even though there is no denying the popularity of this new form of expression, one question still remains. What exactly is a blog?

There are so many different uses, users and way to go about blogging. So, what are the guidelines? Where are the black and white carved-out rules on what constitutes a blog. Well, that’s just it. There are no such rules, yet. But there is currently much discussion to try and figure it all out.

Technorati had an interesting approach in trying to define blogging. They put the question out there and asked their community of followers. They asked bloggers, readers and writers to see what they thought. They received many good and interesting responses.

Regardless of the tiny particulars, there are three elements that most seem to agree are essential in making a blog a blog. Most blogs are reverse chronological order, written by one person and updated regularly. There doesn’t seem to be much argument about that. Truly, that’s a pretty good definition to start off with. It isn’t too specific, and yet it isn’t too vague that it lacks substance.

I think what really makes a blog is tone of voice and the author’s assertion that it is a blog. Tone of voice is important because it portraits the feel of the author’s writing. I always think of a blog as being more relaxed and less formal than an actual print story. I envision the writing in a blog to be similar to a conversation I would have with a friend. So, tone of voice is something I use when deciding if it is a blog. And I think that the author’s opinion matters when deciding if it is a blog or not. If the author thinks it is a blog, he will probably write it like a blog. Anyway, that is just my opinion for now. It could change, just as the opinions of the public on the topic could. That is the thing. I don’t really think there is a wrong answer when discussing topics like this pertaining to journalism. Journalism is always changing. I think the point is to be flexible enough to change our ideas to flow with journalism’s changes.


Skepticism is key

25 Jan

If I was an editor presented with this story, I would like to say that I would be skeptical enough to put up a red flag. I would like to think I would smell something fishy and question the writer. But, at first when reading this story, I simply was caught up in the story itself. I forgot to be a journalist with a skeptical eye. I was blinded by the tiny dog’s plight, the woman’s emotion, and the husband’s interesting reaction. It took a few minutes for everything to settle and for me to start asking some questions that needed answers. I would like to say editors are perfect, but they are really just human. Everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes it is difficult to switch modes from reader to editor. An editor has to be looking for mistakes, holes and weak points in the story that could be made better. My advice to the editor who gave this story the OK would be to question everything and to always have his or her editing “thinking cap” on. An editor should especially remember to think critically and look for elements that do not add up. Editors are there to serve the readers. They need to be looking out for false information to protect readers.

I would ask the reporter questions like what was the dog’s name? I would ask him where the details were in the story. As is, the story reads more like an anecdote. I would ask exactly what kind of dog it was, how the dog was acting when it was swooped up, the name and location of the gas station, and why there is only one actual source for the story. The reporter only directly quotes one person, the gas station attendant. I would ask if he tried to get in touch with the owners of the dog or any spectators that witnessed the event happen.

This one particular instance truly delineates some of the current issues facing journalists today. The world and its information is constantly accessible today. This leaves journalists, especially at daily newspapers, looking for the quirky and unique story to attract readers. They look for that story that few others have that will stand out to their readers. Sometimes editors are blinded by the flashy facts that would make a great story. But, editors cannot allow themselves to be blinded. They have to be continuously skeptical. This goes to show that the only facts you can really trust are ones you’ve fact checked yourself. Anyone can really put anything on the Internet today and claim that it’s true. As editors, we have to be extremely skeptical and question everything so that our readers can come to trust us and the information we deliver.

One tool that journalists can use in their search for truth is Quora. This is a site where you can post a question about basically anything and then people can answer it. Quora is useful to journalists in that they can use it to find story ideas, to find sources, to formulate your interview questions, and even see what people are saying. For instance, I used it in relation to this story.
I posted the question: Can a bald eagle pick up a small dog and fly away with it?
The response I received was from Ricardo Dueño, Researcher:
It depends on the weight of the dog if a bald eagle can pick up beavers and deer fawns it can pick up a dog weighing less than fifteen pounds.—————————————————————————————————– Diet
The Bald Eagle’s diet is opportunistic and varied, but most feed mainly on fish. In the Pacific Northwest, spawning trout and salmon provide most of the Bald Eagles’ diet.Locally, eagles may rely largely on carrion, especially in winter, and they will scavenge carcasses up to the size of whales, though it seems that carcasses ofungulates and large fish are preferred. They also may sometimes feed on subsistence scavenged or stolen from campsites and picnics, as well as garbage dumps. Mammalian prey includes rabbitsharesraccoonsmuskratsbeavers, anddeer fawns. Preferred avian prey includes grebesalcidsducksgullscoots,egrets, and geese. Most live prey are quite a bit smaller than the eagle, but predatory attacks on larger birds such as swans have been recorded. Reptiles,amphibians and crustaceans (especially crabs) are preyed on when available.
With a freshly caught fish.To hunt fish, easily their most important live prey, the eagle swoops down over the water and snatches the fish out of the water with its talons. They eat by holding the fish in one claw and tearing the flesh with the other. Eagles have structures on their toes called spicules that allow them to grasp fish. Osprey also have this adaptation. Bald Eagles have powerful talons and have been recorded flying with a 15-poundMule Deer fawn. It has been estimated that the gripping power (pounds by square inch) of the bald eagle is ten times greater than that of a human. Sometimes, if the fish is too heavy to lift, the eagle will be dragged into the water. It may swim to safety, but some eagles drown or succumb to hypothermia.
 When competing for food, eagles will usually dominate other fish-eaters and scavengers, aggressively displacing mammals such as coyotes and foxes, and birds such as corvidsgullsvultures and other raptors. Bald Eagles may be displaced by themselves or by Golden Eagles. Neither species is known to be dominant, and the outcome depends on the individual animal. Occasionally, Bald Eagles will steal fish and other prey away from smaller raptors, such as Ospreys, a practice known askleptoparasitism. Healthy adult Bald Eagles are not preyed on in the wild and are thus considered apex predators. In one case, an adult eagle investigating aPeregrine Falcon nest for prey items sustained a concussion from a swooping parent Peregrine, and ultimately died days later from it.
This was useful because it helped point me in the right direction and confirmed that the eagle probably could have picked up this small dog, something I was unsure of as an editor. Not everyone can be an expert at everything. The nice thing about Quora is that experts in the field that pertains to your question will see it and answer it. It allows you to get a feel for what the right answer probably is. This expert was able to tell me that the eagle probably could have picked up the dog, which is helpful. But, as a good editor I wouldn’t stop there. My next call would be to a wildlife agency or somewhere credible that could definitely confirm this.

Curation and Aggregation: The New Journalism

18 Jan

Marissa Lyons

It is clear that in many ways there is a new kind of journalism that cannot be ignored. Technology and the flood of information it enables has pushed journalism onto a new frontier. Now, there’s no looking back.

While some old school journalists still cling to the days of black and white print, there is no doubt that things are moving on… with or without them. Today, journalists are being jolted into a world of 24-hour live updates, online content flooded with links, multi-media story packages, blogs, twitter, etc.

With more content flowing more constantly than ever before, it’s not surprising journalism and its role in society has had to adapt. In order to keep up with the flow of information, a new role for journalists has been born. With the new techniques of curation and aggregation, journalists are now taking a more active role in sifting through and passing along pertinent information to their readers.

The idea of curation is basically being an expert in one specific area and then passing along the best information on that topic to readers. Using extensive knowledge, a curator can examine and chose the best resources and articles for that particular subject matter. This allows readers to come to one reliable place and easily get access to the information they desire on that specific topic. An analogy that makes the concept easy to grasp is equating a curator in journalism to that of a museum curator, as explained by Mindy McAdams.

The technique of aggregation is used to display a lot of information from all different sources on one topic. Sites that use aggregation, such as the Huffington Post, will take facts and information from other sources to make a story of their own on the topic. Their story might have information from several different news sources, but normally will include links back to the original story. Sometimes these aggregated stories will include original editorial content or commentary but not always.

There is currently debate about the rules and ethics when it comes to aggregation. Is aggregation stealing content? Is it using the hard work of another for your own gain? Or, is aggregation simply using the vast resources available on the web to compile the best information on a topic to make things easier for the information consumers out there? This is a tough question, especially since the world of technology is relatively new and constantly evolving. In this fast-paced and information-centric world, it is hard for some to accept change. Some people are flowing with the change, and others refuse to change. This discourse undoubtedly leads to debate about new practices such as aggregation. This article gives good insight into the issues currently surrounding aggregation.

While there is debate surrounding curation and aggregation, there is no doubt that people are talking about these two techniques. The conversations can be found all over the internet as people try to decide how they would be best used. One thing is for certain, they aren’t going anywhere.

Ultimately, change is a natural part of the world. If things we the same right now as they were 20 years ago, we would all be bored. Change is going to happen whether the world is ready or not. We are just hurting ourselves if we refuse to flow with the changes. There is now more information being thrown at us than ever before. These two techniques are a way to help sift through everything and easily get people what they want to know. The exact guidelines for these practices and whether aggregators and curators fall under the umbrella of journalism is still not crystal clear. But, one thing is. These practices are for the good of the information consumer and are here to stay.