I found this via Journerdism via Lost Remote, but it struck a personal chord. File it under “unexpected media initiatives in a town where I once played soccer games.”
Does this make me nervous about being replaceable? Only a little. I’d be truly surprised if such an initiative could completely cover a community a bit bigger. Or Spokane. Or Seattle.
My friend Ben over at Palewire responded to my second post about information overload. I thought his little plug was worth breaking out.
I’ll let Ben speak for himself here, but essentially what he has done is steer all his syndicated news sources on the Internet into one feed to help avoid overlooking things. Here’s what it looks like.
Ben must read a lot more efficiently than I do to keep up with the result, because I quickly bogged down as I watched my vertical scrollbar get smaller and smaller. But I consider him a good guide to worthy reading material on the news industry and current affairs, so I’m keeping news.palewire.com in my rotation.
There’s an astounding investigative piece in the New York Times today about who the Pentagon used the analysts hired by TV networks to control the messages about military affairs in the post-Sept. 11 world.
In many cases, David Barstow documents, these retired officers echoed Pentagon talking points on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC and other networks. In exchange for their allegiance, the analysts were given royal treatment at the Pentagon, special tours in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, and extensive access to contacts within the military. As many of the analysts received income from firms involved in military contracting, such contacts were likely quite lucrative.
It’s a compelling story with a good outrage factor. But the Times also did a tremendous job putting together multimedia to accompany it. (Click here to check it out.)
I like that the presentation, divided into three chapters, forms a narrative. Occasionally, flash-based presentations leave me trying to piece together a story from linked video, audio and documents. Here, David Barstow walks viewers through one part of his story: the Pentagon’s response to so-called Generals’ Revolt against then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Narrated by Barstow, the piece combines static images, video, audio and documents to good effect.
I would love to be able to pull this kind of project off someday.
How should the media cover bomb threats at schools and other public places? Should different mediums use different standards?
This question arose among editors yesterday morning. And I, in my role as online ACE, inadvertently provided the impetus.
Backstory: Two weeks ago, a late afternoon bomb threat led to the evacuation of Eastern Washington University’s library. The event was creating buzz around the newsroom, so I had the cops reporter make some calls and post something online. We kept it to a brief inside the next day’s paper, but TV stations led with it that night.
Fast forward: On Thursday afternoon, we learned about a similar threat at EWU via KREM2-TV’s website. One of the city editors, who had been on vacation during the last threat, remarked that we don’t usually cover such things. Again, we had found out about the threat from KREM’s website, and the cops reporter had started making calls – after a second city editor asked her to look into it. In the confusion of apparently diverging instructions, I had the reporter go ahead and post the story.
Aftermath: On Friday morning, Editor Steve Smith initiated a discussion on our bomb-threat policy at the budget meeting. I won’t go into details; you can find an in-house account here and Smith’s previous policy explanation here, but we concluded that times have changed and it’s time to alter our approach.
The main reason we hadn’t covered threats such as those at EWU before is that they almost invariably turn out to be false. And by the next morning, a false threat that caused two hours of disruption for a hundred or so people the previous afternoon has very little news value, so there’s no point in wasting space and ink in the paper. Also, we didn’t like to give the people making the threats the publicity they craved. Television stations, who have the advantage in timely reporting, have long approached the matter with a different philosophy.
But consensus emerged Friday morning that the Web changes that. When news of a bomb threat breaks, posting that information online tells people what’s happening and where while the event is unfolding. People who might be affected can learn what’s happening and act accordingly. When no bomb is found, a revised post can provide that information and close the story loop. And unless the threat caused a disproportionate amount of chaos, the event is absent from the next morning’s paper.
This policy makes sense to me, and not just because it validates how I responded during the EWU bomb threats. I understand that using the Web to report threats provides that previously scorned publicity. But in terms of prominence, an item that’s online for a few hours is far different from an item printed in the newspaper for the historical record.
So, growing audience, what say you?
It’s hard to innovate when you’re exhausted.
This week I began an extended stint as the morning online ACE. That’s a 7 to 4 shift, which didn’t seem like a drastic change from starting at 11.
Oops. Three days in, I still haven’t slept more than five hours a night, despite going to bed earlier and earlier. OK, it’s not just the shift change. Getting used to new routines and responsibilities has always kept my mind whirring at inopportune times. And maybe I’ve been a little preoccupied by the astoundingly bad news that keeps coming from all quarters of my industry. (The latest: layoffs in Seattle, buyouts in Tampa.)
But still, it’s weird trying to fall sleep at 9 or 10 p.m. for a guy who got used to crashing at 1 a.m. and rising whenever he wanted for more than two years as a copy editor.
So in the spirit of better sleep, I present a couple of pages from a wiki I just discovered. You’ve probably heard it all before; here it is in an easy-to-swallow, non-drowsy formula.* Because it’s hard to become a master of anything new when you can’t get enough sleep.
*I don’t vouch for the science, but most of these tips are commonsense. Just pay extra attention to the one about checking with your doctor if you’re a wiki skeptic.
The other day I joined the club about how time-consuming it is to keep up with my RSS feeds. Why do I call it a club? Because a Google search tells me people have been moaning about this for at least three years. That’s OK. Although redundant, the exercise was cathartic.
And it yielded ideas. My friend Sara passed along the tip of organizing feeds by importance: must read, would like to read, entirely optional. 43 Folders shares a similar but more detailed take on this method.
A good idea, I thought, but can I really stand to throw away my careful categorizations? Well, I don’t have too. Google Reader and, I imagine, any decent feed reader will let you assign feeds to multiple folders/categories/tags. (Continues below the image.)
Here’s how I organized mine:
- !Must: Miss these and I’ll feel really guilty. Most have to do with my job and industry. The ! moves this grouping to the top of my subscription navigator pane.
- !S-R: These are Spokesman-Review blogs, and I must stay up on them. But I created a separate category because there are so many.
- !Like to: I can let these pile up and check them as I have time.
- !Gravy: Pure entertainment.
My other problem was retaining the information I read. No quick fix there. Now I just put faith in the brain that got me through college and grad school without too much sweat and trust I’ll retain anything ultra-important. And I use Google’s starring function or a del.icio.us bookmark to file away anything that might have reference value.
Why bother to repeat what 43 folders said so well? Maybe a different audience will find this post. Why do I spend time worrying so much about an activity that’s supposed to be leisure? In an industry that’s going through hull-puncturing changes, I’m pretty sure that that someone out there is going to come up with an idea that could help me maintain a livelihood in journalism or online media.
This morning I tried to catch up with my RSS feeds, my daily review of which fell apart during a particularly hectic week at work. It took me an hour to scan about 200 posts from the blogs and rss feeds that I’ve categorized as “new media” in Google Reader. That included reading in full those items that particularly caught my attention and visiting links that compelled me.
Now my rss reader tells me I only have 231 unread items. But what have I gotten for my effort besides that smaller number? A headache, and the feeling that I’ve been cramming for tests in about five different subjects the day before the exams. I’d have a hard time articulating just what I’ve “learned,” but I know it covered topics such as video production, the dire straits of the newspaper industry, citizen journalism, online April Fools gags, online publishing trends and several conferences related to this kind of stuff.
I would love to read a tutorial that goes beyond an explanation of using rss, such as embedded in my previous post about Common Craft, and learn expert blog readers’ tips for managing all this information and putting it to use. I think I saw one on a feed a few weeks ago, but, befitting my problem, I’m not sure where it went.
I love that there’s so many ideas and so much information bouncing around on the Internet. I just don’t want to use all of my free time trying to stay up with it. If you’ve got a suggestion, please leave it below.
… you should be. If you work in the media, you need this tool to keep track of the thousands of ideas, tools, projects, tips and events that are cropping up in blogs and other online media.
The video below will get you up and running better and faster than I can. Common Craft is a great site I only recently discovered and added to my own RSS feed in Google Reader. Lee and Sachi Lefever form the Common Craft team, based out of my hometown of Seattle, and they put together paper cutout animations that are fun to watch and easy to absorb. Check out the archives of the Common Craft Show for more essential video training.
Taking a cue from my friend and co-worker Nick at Stories on the Run, I decided to present a completely self-serving snapshot of my workstation for the week while I fill in as Web editor.
Pictured: MacBook Pro (fast and loaded with software); PC for running our editorial software, CCI; Sony HDD video camera; pad (still have to take notes at meetings); headphones; Nalgene bottle (stay hydrated).
Absent: AP stylebook and dictionary (yes, I still need them); tripod.
Actually, the only thing different from my usual workstation is the PC. Normally I just dock my MacBook to a second monitor and keyboard and mouse, running CCI from a parallel server.
But I’m in the hot seat this week because of babies being born and vacations. I get to do everything my fellow producer and I usually do, plus act as de facto assistant city editor for the Web. This means I can tell our mojo reporter Tom to go cover stuff or make a call to the cops when I hear scanner traffic. So far, he’s pretty much done that on his own.
But mostly I’m just a gateway for information, determining what goes up, how it’s packaged and in what order. In addition, I’m editing my “Today in pictures” slideshows and blogging about our morning meetings. It’s a full plate, and it reminds me a little of being a wire editor with a bit more multitasking. And since processing, synthesizing, editing and analyzing are my favorite things to do with my brain, it’s a plate I hope stays loaded.