How editors feel about the web

The latest research from Project for Excellence in Journalism has some interesting outcomes on how editors feel about the web and multimedia skills:

Odd that they chose only three emotions. Surely editors are capable of more range – why not Confused, Clueless, Apathetic, Utterly Stupefieid or I’m As Mad As Hell And I Am Not Going To Take This Anymore?

From the report:

At larger papers, where staff cuts have been deepest and the newsroom moods darkest, fully 57% of those surveyed say “web technology offers the potential for greater-than-ever journalism and will be the savior of what we once thought of as newspaper newsrooms.” By contrast, just 4% expressed worry that the web’s pressure on immediacy might undermine the accuracy and values of journalism.

The optimism also exists at smaller papers, but not as strongly. Only 40% agree with the “savior” description. Industry-wide, nearly half of all editors responding (48%) admitted they were conflicted about the web’s impact.

Whatever their feelings, there is no doubt that the web has been accepted as a fact of newsroom life. Today, editors said they no longer ask reporters if they have time to file for the web before embarking on their story for the print edition. Filing first for the web is a given. Editors also noted that exclusive material is no longer kept off the web as it was just a few years ago to protect the print edition impact. Today, it is posted immediately.

The “Skills Essential in Newsrooms” graphic suggests that Multimedia Skills are separate from Overall Computer Skills. The fact they hypenated Multi-media suggests some confusion here.

Does editing audio or cropping and resizing photos or putting together a slideshow constitute an Overall Computer Skill or a Multi-media Skill? If a person coming into journalism these days can write code but can’t write a decent caption does that consitute an “essential” skill? And what if the said person doesn’t do databases? What category does code writing – whether it’s HTML, or Java, or Actionscript fall under? Can editors even tell the difference?

From the report:

Orlando Sentinel editor Charlotte Hall called the creation of a data team the “single most significant innovation” to come out of the paper’s 2007 reorganization in terms of generating new reporting skills for both the web and print versions of the paper. The team brought together everyone at the paper responsible for gathering data for listings, then melded them with library researchers and archivists, a reporter trained in computer-assisted reporting (CAR) plus an editor who had been a high-level database researcher. Their job, she said, is to mine data, then work with other teams across the paper to develop stories based on that data. Initial results have included front page enterprise stories on local restaurants and housing foreclosures.

For the restaurant project, which brought a business reporter and the restaurant critic into the team, the paper put together a database of local restaurant health inspections, then produced a Sunday front page story under the headline, “How Safe Is Your Restaurant?” It told readers that 30-40% of Orlando’s licensed eating establishments had been cited for serious health violations, including some of the area’s most exclusive dining locations. Findings, broken down by neighborhood, were posted on paper’s website, as was the entire database from which the story was written. Driven largely by the Sunday front page treatment in the newspaper, the on-line database drew over a quarter of a million page views during the first few days, Hall said.

Working with data on housing foreclosures, the team produced a two-day front page package that mapped foreclosures in the Orlando region. The on-line version of the story allowed readers to zoom in by zip code or street name using an interactive map.

More from the report:

One sign of this new competitiveness is the advent of newspaper “early teams”, groups of journalists usually comprised of an editor and a few reporters, who begin anytime around dawn or before and work through the early afternoon, reporting and writing content exclusively for the website. In many respects, these early teams represent a kind of resurrection of the old afternoon newspaper: starting early to package today’s news today—or, more precisely, packaging this morning’s news this morning.

Early teams are part of a broader repositioning of newsrooms for a 24-hour news cycle capable of feeding the web constantly. More than four of every ten (42%) papers surveyed have already added early teams and another 17% are planning to add them. Among larger papers, a remarkable 80% already employ such teams. Although not measured specifically in the survey, anecdotal evidence and interview comments suggest that staffing of these early teams is an important component for those who say their newsroom staff has increased.

Much of the material produced by these early teams is routine—traffic tie-ups or pile-ups, police matters, late night local government meetings or sports results, fires and court appearances. Because of this, early team stories tend to have a short shelf life and are often overtaken by other, more significant news during the day. Occasionally however, they are strong enough to update and rewrite for the following morning’s newspaper.

Working from website traffic data, more newsrooms now target de facto deadlines to make sure fresh content is up for periods when traffic spikes, including 6-7am (as people wake up), 8:30-9am (as they get to work), around 11:30am (before they go to lunch) and around 2pm (when they return from lunch). The editor of one large metropolitan daily spoke of “website edition times.”

MORE| The Future | Conclusion

“Last lecture” Professor Randy Pausch dies

From LA Times:

Randy Pausch, a terminally ill professor whose farewell lecture at Carnegie Mellon University became an Internet phenomenon and best-selling book that turned him into a symbol for living and dying well, died Friday at age 47.

Pausch, who was a computer science professor and virtual-reality pioneer, died at his home in Chesapeake, Va., of complications from pancreatic cancer, officials at the Pittsburgh university announced.

When Pausch agreed to give a theoretical “last lecture,” he was participating in a long-standing academic tradition. Except a month before giving it, Pausch received the diagnosis that would heighten the poignancy of his address.

Originally delivered in September to about 400 students and colleagues, his message about how to make the most of life has been viewed by millions on the Internet. Pausch expanded it into his book, “The Last Lecture,” released in April.

Yet Pausch insisted that the words were designed for an audience of three: his children, then 5, 2 and 1. “I was trying to put myself in a bottle that would one day wash up on the beach for my children,” he wrote in his book.

Last autumn, he moved his family to southeastern Virginia so that Jai, his wife of eight years, could be near relatives. He tried to “build memories” with his children, taking his oldest, Dylan, to ride a dolphin and introducing his son Logan to Mickey Mouse at Disney World.

For his final Halloween, his family — including his youngest, daughter Chloe — went as the Incredibles, personifying his end-of-life mantra: We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

MORE from NY Times.

LINKS: Last lecture video.
Last lecture on YouTube.
Last lecture on Google Video

Tactics for online crisis management

From the Obama campaign’s to Coca-Cola’s Facts and Myths page, it is becoming increasingly clear that an always-on online presence is necessary to fight against rumour mongers, disgruntled ex-employees, speculators and brand terrorists.

The new front in reputation management is online. Corporations, institutions political parties, celebrities and non-profits need to get streetsmart in social media skills fast or find themselves easy targets for the smear artists.

The only defence seems to be pro-active vigilance and, if needed, a rumour-fighting, hoax-killing, myth-shattering website of your own. The faster you get your message out – accurately and with a credible voice, the better to protect your rep online.

Marty Weintraub has 8 ways toput up a defence on the search engine optimization front at the aimClear blog.

The gist:

1. PAGERANK: Evaluate the authority of the page on which the negative content is published. Take a look at PageRank and inbound links profile using Yahoo Site Explorer.

2.GO LEGAL: If search results violate copyright or trademark laws, fire the first salvo through your law firm with a cease and desist order. (Be a realist though. Some insolent jerk halfway around the world won’t give a rat’s ass about your attorney’s saber rattling.)

3.WATCH OUT FOR VIRAL BACKFIRE: My grandmother says never to “get into a pissing contest with a skunk. Even if you win…you stink.” Build your content to outrank the perpetrator’s.

4.CALL IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT: I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a business person, who has no experience in social media, climb into a comments thread and make things SO much worse. If you’re not a regular contributer in a specific social media channel, learning the vernacular while under duress is not the best choice.

5.ENGAGE: Start with classic high road messages of respect and understanding: “I understand your position,” “respect your right to express your feelings in public,” “am grateful for the opportunity to engage in a dialog” and “what can we do to make things right?”

6.NUKE ‘EM: There are non-white hat methods available to ‘eliminate’ the problem.

7.CONSIDER PAID SEARCH: This is short-term “lesser of all evils” option.

8.DITCH FLASH: One of our newer clients came to us under assault from a disgruntled former customer. Our client’s website was entirely a Flash movie, literally with no deep indexing. Solving the “crises” was as simple as re-publishing the site in HTML with Flash elements instead of a full Flash movie.


New Yorker mag cover controversy

Pictured left is the latest cover of New Yorker magazine which shows Barack Obama dressed in traditional garb and his wife Michelle dressed as an afro-haired militant in combat boots and assault rifle.

The illustration by artist Barry Blitt depicts them in the Oval Office with a portrait of Osama in the background and a burning American flag in the fireplace.

The cover comes in the wake of a well-Digged top ten list of controversial covers last week, which included the naked Dixie Chicks, Hitler in a 1939 Time cover and an arrow-pierced Muhammad Ali.


Fake or Real: How to become a photo sleuth

Father of digital forensics and Dartmouth professor Hany Farid has a little test to see whether you can detect a fake photo from a real one.

I had fun with this. The commentary provides a quick grasp on spotting digital fakery and the various tactics employed to make it real.

Above: Can you spot which is fake?


Groundswell, Here Comes Everybody, Stirring It Up

Three books have come my way, by way of a good friend Tom from US: Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell, and Gary Hirshberg’s Stirring It Up.

Resources related to these books:

1. Here Comes Everybody blog
2. Clay Shirky at Web 2.0 Expo SF 2008
3. Groundswell website and excerpt
4. Gary Hirshberg: Why I Wrote My Book
5. Stirring It Up website and excerpt.

41-year-old makes US Olympic swim team

Time out for some sports news.

They say, after you turn 40, it’s downhill all the way. But not for some swimmers, apparently. Dara Torres, 41, competing with swimmers half her age, triumphed in the 100m freestyle Olympic trials qualifying her for the US team. And she’s not done yet. Dara hopes to qualify for the 50m event as well, in which she has the best times going in.

Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol and Natalie Coughlin are this year’s superstars but Dara Torres is the story.

According to, this is Dara’s second comeback. She’s competed in four previous Olympics, her first in Los Angeles in 1984. In 2000, after a seven-year hiatus, she was the most decorated female athlete with five medals. Then came another seven-year retirement, in which she had a baby, Tessa, now two.

“When this started, people were saying I was their inspiration,” she said. “But I think it’s done a complete 180-degree turn. I have so many people coming up to me and telling me about their stories. I feel like I’m getting inspiration.”

She calls age “just a number,” but while pointing out that her first Olympic trials was 24 years ago, she stopped and repeated the number, as if it couldn’t be real.

If she qualifies for Beijing, she will become the first American swimmer to compete in five Olympics, despite sitting out the 1996 and 2004 Games.

Her comeback is so improbable that she knew some would have suspicions, so she went to US Anti-Doping Agency officials and volunteered for extra-stringent testing.

“I said, ‘Look, I want to be an open book. Because I want people to know that I’m doing this right. That I am 41 years old and I’m clean and I want a clean sport. I swam against swimmers who were dirty my whole life.’ ”

Dara’s secret, apparently, besides her incredibly competitive spirit, is her stretching routines. Makes one hurt just watching her.

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