Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Getting to know a citizen journalist’s universe


Steve Garfield always thought his fate was already decided for him. After receiving his bachelors degree in business administration, the logical next step was going into the administration business. But Garfield had other ideas for himself.

His real passion had always been media, so during his college years at University of Massachusetts Amherst he was a DJ on his own radio show. Later he did some public access television production and hosting. When the time came to get a job with a real salary, he worked as a computer programmer and salesman for many years. But one day while working as a web consultant, he got a camera, a Macintosh, Final Cut Pro software, and started producing video in house and uploading it to the web. And that was the moment when his life began to change.

Labeling Garfield’s job is not easy. He defines himself as a video blogger, media producer, speaker, teacher and citizen journalist. On his website people can learn how to video blog, and link to Garfield’s videos, photographs, blogs, online radio shows and lecture videos. Through Twitter, he shares videos about his daily routine activities with other users. When he goes to the grocery store, he records what he’s buying. Why would anyone care about what Garfield is buying in the grocery store? It’s hard to believe, but there are 6000 people who follow him and who get this kind of information several times a day, every day.

He knows how to take full advantage of available technology and knows how to use it to promote his product: himself. And he says this skill made him accomplish many things, like becoming an instructor at Boston University teaching new media tools to journalism students.

Garfield's interview
To see more photos, click here

Adam Gaffin, executive editor of Network World Online and creator of the site Universal Hub, knows Garfield’s work very well. They worked together several years ago in the creation of Universal Hub. Currently he links regularly to Garfield’s videos. “He’s very well known as a web video person. He has come up with a lot of interesting stuff. For example he figured out how to use the software Qik for live blogging. The people who had built this company didn’t know that you could do that, and he figured out that having essentially two channels, we could do some live conferencing on it. He’s very technically oriented, but at the same time very down to earth,” says Gaffin.

Garfield also found in technology a way of doing something few people have the opportunity otherwise: becoming a reporter and the star of his own shows. But Garfield is not the only one doing this.

He is just one of the millions of people around the world who, like him, became “reporters” with just the access to a camera and internet: citizen journalists. Even though these citizen journalists have been around for several years, it has only been in recent years that their work has been in the spotlight. Their apparent continuous growth not only raises the issue of whether bloggers and ordinary citizens should be classified as journalists, but many legal and ethical issues as well. So how does Garfield’s work fit in this context?


For Garfield, citizen journalism should not be a controversial issue anymore. He believes it has a positive impact in the society, and he has some personal experiences to prove his points.

Citizen journalism can expose the bare reality. Garfield says having as many citizen observers and witnesses of events will make information more transparent and trustable. “I did a lot of coverage of Obama when he came to New England and so did other people," he said. "By having dozens citizens taking photos, shooting video and writing blog entries about it, there is so much more to read about what happened in that event that you could really get a true picture without the media filter of what happened. By reading so many different sources, the truth will raise to the top.”

Obama in NH 10/16/08 from stevegarfield on Vimeo.

Citizen journalism reveals local uncovered stories. The first time he took video of a fire in his neighborhood and e-mailed it to his neighbors, Garfield realized the important role citizen journalism plays in communities. He says his neighbors were really appreciative for the service he did. “I realized that even when I tell stories that are only important to just a few, local people, they are still important.” And these stories don’t usually get coverage from mainstream media. Dan Gillmor, director and founder of Center for Citizen Media, agrees with him. “Mainstream media should recognize that people in the communities know things that they don’t, and that they could be part of a broader conversation,” Gillmor says.

To watch Garfield's video of the fire, click here

Citizen journalism gets things done. When mainstream media cover a particular topic, it is common that the problem being exposed in the story gets a rapid solution or response by the people affected by the story. There are problems that affect a community, that are not “relevant” enough for mainstream media to cover, and that is when citizen journalism can make the difference. When Garfield found out that a lot of people had their absentee ballot returned because they did not have enough postage in it, he made a video saying that the election department did not provide the adequate information about it. He did not imagine the response he got. “The election department called me on the phone and they said ‘thanks for doing that, we are going to put the cost on the website’ and for the final election they were going to put a little slip of paper in every ballot that tells people it costs 59 cents. So I affected change by doing that whole thing, which made me feel really good.”

Massachusetts Absentee Ballot Envelope
Steve showing a Massachusetts Absentee Ballot Envelope


Despite the good experiences he had as citizen journalist, Garfield says it is still very difficult for citizen journalists to have a place in the media, neither as sources of news for traditional media outlets, nor as being considered members of the media by other organizations.

“The challenge for us, are entrenched organizations allowing citizens journalists who aren’t affiliated with a traditional media outlet to come in and film something,” says Garfield. He says Chuck Olsen’s recent experience confirms these difficulties. Olsen is a videoblogger and the cofounder of TheUpTake site. “There is a recount going on in Minnesota and the incumbent doesn’t allow Chuck to go into the press conference, but all the traditional media gets to go. They don’t say what distinguishes citizen journalists from traditional media, they are picking what press gets to go in, and so that is a challenge for us.”

Citizen journalists are obviously contributing in many ways to keep communities all around the world informed. So why do they still face these kind of obstacles?

A frequent argument is that citizen journalists are just not journalists. Should they be allowed to go into press conferences? “No, they should not” says Andrew Keen, author of “The Cult of the Amateur” a book that argues, among other things, that the Web 2.0. delivers useless information. “They call themselves citizen journalists, but they are not journalists. In the same way that someone that throws a lot of food into a pot is not a cook. They are just people who happen to have a camera. This is a profession that requires a particular kind of training, intelligence and skills.”

This is still one indisputable difference; journalists in mainstream media are professionals and make a living from journalism, while citizen journalists still have to rely on another income, since their work is more a contribution they do than a source of income. And Garfield is not the exception. Among many other paid jobs, he works for John Tobin, a Boston city councilor, running his website and taking his photos and video. Another controversy arises at this point. For ethical reasons, traditional journalists would not take money from a politician, even if they were not covering him or her directly.

So, does having other sources of income reflect on the ethics of citizen journalism? Tish Grier, a professional blogger and social media consultant, doesn’t think so. “Makes me think, does the person disclose what he/she does for a living on the citizen journalist’s site or in a LinkedIn/Facebook profile?" asks Grier. "Does the community know this person? Sometimes communities know people, and know their views, while the outside world doesn’t. So, when citizen journalist’s site is read by locals, they are fully aware of the citizen journalist’s potential bias, as they may well know a newspaper reporter’s potential bias.”


While the debate between traditional journalists, citizen journalists and the public opinion goes on, citizen journalism continues to spread and it is slowly becoming an important source for mainstream media. The most recent proof: the Mumbai terrorist attacks and the coverage made by citizen journalism.

The controversy doesn’t stop Garfield’s projects either. His plans for the future are more than ambitious; he wants to get involved with Hollywood to produce some behind the scenes packages of shows that he loves. And his work as citizen journalist is not put aside, he expects to keep participating in citizen journalism projects. “I hope that I can work on both the local, national and worldwide level to encourage existing media outlets to see the value of work with viewers.”

Adam Gaffin also believes that Garfield’s future is full of possibilities, especially in the current context print media is facing. “Steve is something of a pathfinder, showing how to use relatively simple tools to do some amazing storytelling," says Gaffin by e-mail. "I think you'll see more of that in mainstream media partly because they are looking for less expensive ways to tell stories (death spirals and all that), partly because people like Steve are turning out some stuff that's every bit as good as, if not better than, what full-time reporters can do.”

Here is the the video of "A day in Steve Garfield's life" by Belen Bogado

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Useful advice from Adam Gaffin

Adam Gaffin gave us useful advice on how to face the challenges that await us as journalists that have to deal with a new context in the media industry.

And who better than him to talk about it. He’s a professional traditional journalist and at the same time an entrepreneurial multimedia journalist, which sounds complicated but basically just means that he figured out a way to keep up with new technological tools and incorporated them to his work.

Besides still working as a traditional journalist and occasionally as a citizen journalist, he’s the creator of the website Universal Hub, a unique project in Boston. It is hard to believe that, if it wasn’t for Gaffinn’s blog , there would be no other way to find out what people in Boston are writing about. It acts as a database of Boston blogs. And the success of Universal Hub is proven by the 3500 people that visit the blog every weekday.

Most stories one finds in Universal Hub depends mainly on Adam’s criterion, since he acts as an editor choosing the stories from different blogs that attract him for his personal interest. Through Universal Hub many bloggers get traffic and make contacts that otherwise they probably would not get.

It is also a social network and a local news source, one of the strengths of citizen journalism and online blogging considering that traditional media don’t cover these stories that matter to communities. Gaffin gives an example of it “I was going to a meeting and cars were not moving. I figured something happened, I got off my car and found out two kids shot each other. The next day there was no coverage of that event in the mainstream media”.

But Gaffin also speaks about the difficulties of online journalism and blogging. He says in past years traditional media’s journalists did not know nor care about advertising in their newspapers. That changed now, especially for independent online journalists that start a project like Universal Hub. He speaks about the importance of being a sales person. It is not enough to have a good product, one also has to figure out what is the niche market for the product, what or who will be the product’s competition, get a good team of people that works for the project and of course figure out a way to pay them and yourself.

So once again we find out it is not easy out there. Personally I love challenges and I believe this is for sure one of the toughest moments for the journalism profession. The key as Gaffin says is to “be prepared for a lot of hard work”. Thanks for the advice Adam, I’ll definitely take it. Let’s just hope it doesn’t get any worse.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What do you think about Twitter? I'll tell you what I think about it...

Obviously, Mumbai terrorist attacks were twitter’s moment. The mainstream media and all the world is aware of the fact that the most of the fastest updates, information and footage was delivered through twitter users. So let’s see what else twitter has to offer.

The first time I heard about twitter was during Steve Garfield's lecture as a guest speaker in our class, but it’s after this terrible incident that it really got my attention.

I have to say that going through Twitter did not reveal anything special to me. The most revealing thing was that I really didn’t find anything interesting or innovative about it even though everybody is talking about it.

I’m sorry for my ignorance, but I still cannot figure out what is so remarkable about it. I don’t think it is a new tool, it has a similar function as RSS feeds and maybe it has some elements of a social network, but there are dozens of great social networks available.

Although, going back to the Mumbai incident, I admit that is a proof that there has to be something attractive about it: there must be a reason why so much information and footage was spread through it, data that some mainstream media had to rely on. But I don’t see the difference on using twitter to spread information, than many other similar technological tools, such as Flickr, or newspapers’ websites which send text messages of breaking news to your cell phone, or any other media. My point is, I repeat, I don’t see anything really innovative about it. I believe it is just a new tool, which became an online trend as many technological tools that in the past had a similar effect but then lost it.

What I notice going through Boston Globe’s and New York Times twitter feeds, confirms that all I need is my Google reader to get the exact same information: the headlines of the day. Although I have to admit, they are obviously not doing a good job about it and they could take more advantage of it. I guess twitter is supposed to be used more as a two way conversation, than just getting the headlines. Steve Garfield’s twitter feed is much more interesting than the Globe’s, which does not speak very well of them, considering they are major media organizations.

And once again when debating about the use of citizen journalism, the same controversial issue comes up: who is posting this information and why should I believe them? Won’t it take me more time to actually verify if this is true than just reading the Washington Post website’s updates? I think that is a point to keep thinking about.

For now, I guess I’ll stick with my RSS feeds, thank you for the offering.

Monday, November 24, 2008

More "News Hunters" for NewsTrust

I see NewsTrust as an important tool for citizen journalism and I wonder why it does not get around more. It gives ordinary people the possibility of applying their own criterion regarding which news or stories should be relevant to the public opinion and explain why by rating the story and commenting it.

I enjoyed the entire process that the site proposes: looking for news which I considered interesting and submitting them to the site. It is clear and easy to do it, and I believe anyone should be able to go through it without any inconvenient. The only problem is expecting to get a feedback by getting people to review it. That seems to be a challenge for the site, since most of the stories receive only two or three reviews. I believe there should be some kind of encouragement that motivates people enough to take the time to do the reviews. Maybe some kind of contest, for instance: people get awarded for giving the best review of the week.

Regarding the rating system, I believe the rate scale should be modified somehow, since even though people provide total different scores and comments, the overall rating is very similar for most stories. They should also work on making clearer to reviewers what the difference between comments and notes are.

I like the fact that they don’t limit the sources to mainstream or independent media, they have diverse types of sources and they make it clear where the information is coming from. And the fact that most people interacting in the site are people with some kind of journalistic interest, makes most of the news somehow appealing. This also provides the site an aspect of social network, where one can find people with similar interests.

Finally I would recommend NewsTrust as a trustable news source but I believe it is fundamental that more people participate actively by submitting news and reviews, to make it a more reliable tool.

Friday, November 14, 2008


A Paraguayan newspaper caught my attention and since the moment I clicked their link a lot of things happened to me. My presentation of ABC Colors' website was a summary of the opportunities a well prepared and entrepreneur journalist can get still get from newspapers.

It happened to me just as I was learning about all the things a journalist has to know nowadays: write, shoot photographs and video, edit, upload, so much!. Struggling with technology as I always did I bumped into ABC TV, a section of the newspaper that, as many newspapers in the world, has its own independent production of video reports and news. They work with reporters from the print edition but they also have two exclusive camera men to do the shooting. The videos section has politics, economy, sports and many other segments. I realized it was a great opportunity to show what I have learned so far , so I asked if they would consider looking at my work. When they said yes I put together a tourism report, I did everything but the editing and sent the footage to them. They liked it and uploaded it. Since that time I had already done three videos and also wrote an article for their Sunday magazine, and I hope to continue doing so as a freelance reporter in a foreign country.
Here are the videos:

Introducting Boston Harbor and Aquarium

Getting to know Cuttyhunk Islands in Massachusetts

Paraguayan votes in U.S. Presidential elections

ABC is the biggest and most read newspaper in my country. It is not easy for a journalist to get any kind of job opportunity there, so I have to say this time technology definitely gave me a hand.


Another thing I noticed in ABC’s website is that as many newspapers they are constantly looking for new ways to attract more readers. And they found one. Since Paraguay is a bilingual country, many people still speak guarani, our native language. But within Paraguayan newspapers’ websites there has never been a blog that is written in that language. So ABC began doing it and the feedback they got from readers is very encouraging. Mirta Martinez the journalist who writes the blog, told me not only they got local Paraguayans and Paraguayans that live abroad visiting and participating in the blog, but there are also institutions and people from Japan, Germany and the United States that familiarizes with the language because of academic reasons that visit it regularly.

It is a simple formula: more readers = more revenue. Now we’ll wait and see how they translate this success to their print edition.


I also mentioned during the presentation some of the weaknesses of the website: the aesthetics may be improved, it is a little too colorful. It needs maps and databases as well, something necessary to present the information in a clearer and more appealing way to the reader.

Another flaw is that their podcasts are not available for downloading only for listening online, which I guess makes sense since in Paraguay the driving distances are very short, but still, there may be more people listening to it if they could download it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A good cup of coffee?

Au Bon Pain is definitely one of Northeastern Students' favorite places. You'll know that by just passing by it at any time during the day: it's always crowded. It might be its great location, it must be the rays of light that come into the local during the day through it's transparent walls. It might be the good service or the tasty pastry and treats you might find there.

I'm not so sure about the coffee though. Not that good for such a great place like Au Bon Pain. I would definitely improve their coffee flavors, not that they don't have enough of them because they actually have many, but its flavors are almost flavorless and taste pretty much the same to me. I could say that is the only thing they could improve (not a small thing though, since they are a coffee place).

Even though I do not think it is the best coffee in town, I would still recommend anyone going there. There is nothing like seating at Au Bon Pain and having a quite breakfast in the morning while watching people pass by.

If you want to find out about other coffee places, check our Caffeinated campus map here

Monday, November 10, 2008

We are finally learning to do mapping!

I think maps serve as important databases and as we already learned in a previous class, they can actually become a story by themselves or at least be the first step to build one.

Learning how to do mapping will be very helpful to me since in my country there are almost no maps that document events or serve as databases.

There are some requirements I believe maps should fulfill. They should be clear and easy to read. I don't mean they should be as basic as the Associated Press Map, but I believe that there are some maps that aiming to be “sophisticated” become somewhat complicated. An example of that is the Elections Map: to understand what you see in the map, you have to read the entire text on the bottom. It is too long and it could lose the attention of the reader. I’m one of the readers who want quick and clear information available.

The Boston Globe's "A reporter's notebook" takes too much time to load some of its content. I've been waiting for over three minutes now and the file is still loading.

Google Maps Mania though has different kinds of maps with peculiar information in them and I like the fact that it allows anyone to collaborate by adding new content and data to the map too.

Friday, November 7, 2008

New generation journalist

Emily Sweeney’s visit was really inspirational. I think she represents the young journalists generation and that demonstrates just how challenging that is, because she does pretty much everything, from thinking of the story she’s going to do, shooting the footage for it, edit and write the story, she’s incredible!

I confess I felt a little relieved when I saw her videos: they are creative and interesting, but the quality of them was pretty rough and spontaneous.

I found many useful tools in Emily’s tips. Since we talked about the importance of social networks for journalists, I found a Myspace and Facebook network for journalists and I joined them, of course. She also mentions Wired Journalists, which we are already part of. I was surprised to find out that my space community is also pretty small, only 55 members, although I believe the bulletins published there are very interesting: they announce seminars and events, something I did not find easily in Wired journalists comunity. Facebook has only 14 members, unbelievable!. She is also the creator of both communities, hopefully will get more journalists in there.

During her visit she also mentioned the importance of having your own site, and you can find how to do that going to her website and then clicking here. All the detailed steps, from how to acquire a domain to how to build the site are there. I already have my domain so I will definitely follow her advice.

The Ethics Hotline is something I would have never thought of, and I'm pretty sure there are not many places that do this, it is innovative but speacilly helpful for journalists who have an ethics dilemma. I'm not sure how it works though, I will definitely try it.

Her website also has a list of New England Media and a link to Newspaper Guild database to find out how much journalists earn. Very helpful information for new and young journalists that have a lot to learn!

Emily is a sample of what current journalists should work like. We can not talk about the future work, because if we have to work with cameras to be print journalists nowadays, who knows what we'll have to do in 10 years!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My first video!

I'm very excited to present my first self-made video.
I think this means I'm actually video blogging now!
If you want to check it, click here
Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Multimedia journalist

I think Steve Garfield’s visit was really illuminating. He’s the proof of what an entrepreneur journalist can accomplish by self promoting himself and taking full advantage of technology.

Until his visit I wondered why no one had come up with a tool that allows transmitting live footage to the web. Now I know it has been out there for almost a year and it is called “Qik”. I’m sure it won’t be long until it is used for some television formats too. I think this tool will end up forcing traditional media to do what it has been trying to avoid so far: to become new media with a different perspective on how media industry will have to work from now on. How will it have to work? I don’t think anybody knows for sure, but it is most likely that future journalism will not resemble what has been done up until the last 10 years.

Garfield also raised an important question with one of his videos , the risks that this great technology could carry with it, such as ethical issues. Citizen journalists will soon be familiarized with this tool and start using it as a common way of transmitting information. Garfield himself mentioned that his video brought up a debate among his audience: in the video a woman that seems to have some kind of speech impairment, interrupts an interview and speaks to the camera in a way that could be considered funny or weird. “Why did you show her?” he told to the class many people asked him, and frankly I thought the exact same thing. That is a debate for another blog, but the point is that it will be very difficult to control and filter what is being shown in the web when it is transmitted live and if one begins thinking about the bad things that could be shown it is a worrying scenario.

At the same time it raises another topic. If a lot of people gain access to generate newsworthy material and send it for free to networks and other media, how could that affect journalists with a steady paid position? How will it affect them when a citizen journalist sends breaking news material to the station before they can even get up to go look for it? .

I guess the comforting answer we will continue giving ourselves is that a professional will always have more skills than a citizen journalist to do a better job. Let’s hope this remains a fact a few years from now, in the meantime let’s get to work to learn everything we can about multimedia journalism!

But does all this make Qik a bad tool? Absolutely not. It is a great advance of technology and it can help enhance journalism as well.

I think Garfield is a great example of what a journalist that combines creativity, knowledge and a camera can achieve. In his website you’ll find many things besides the work he’s doing with Qik.
For instance, if you are interested in video blogging not only you can watch Garfield doing it, but he also shares his knowledge by explaining you how to video blog here.

One can also learn about blogtalkradio, an amazing tool that allows anyone in the planet to have their own radio show. I’m a radio fan myself, so I will sure enjoy Garfield’s radio show.

Monday, October 20, 2008

An adventure to Montreal

Northeastern university’s Ruggles station was crowded last Saturday early in the morning. After months of expectation the date finally arrived: international students were going to know for the first time the city of Montreal in Canada.

The International Students and Scholar Institute of Northeastern University has a full agenda for the international students this semester. As part of the international orientation activities, ISSI organizes trips to many destinations within the geographical limits of U.S. But the trip students had hoped for a few months was the trip to Montreal and it was finally taking place.

The group of 30 students from more than 15 different countries, departed at 6 a.m. from Ruggles station in a bus and arrived to Montreal at 12 p.m.

The first destination was Mont Royale, a mountain which serves as the most significant green area of the city, although green was replaced by red, yellow and orange, the colors that take over the mountain during fall. Students went to the top of the mountain where they enjoyed the amazing sight of the city.

The group was guided by Scott Quint, Director of the ISSI. He explained some facts that characterize the “union between Europe and North America” essence of Montreal. Quint said that “People from the province of Quebec are very proud of their roots, just like French people. They implemented a law in Quebec, through which people are obligated to speak first in French. They used to have signs in both languages, but they decided to eliminate the signs in English and now they only have signs in French”.

And during their stay in Montreal, students verified this: every sign is in French, people will always say first “Bonjour” and many people can hardly speak English, which could be considered strange since they are Canadians.

The hotel was located in Old Montreal, one of the most visited areas by tourists. Old Montreal’s architecture is mainly antique; many of the buildings are from the 18th century. One of their most renowned places is the Notre Dame Basilica. Its construction began in 1842 and it was not until five years later that it was complete.

The second day in Montreal the international students got to know another fascinating building representing a different style of Montreal’s architecture: the Olympic stadium. The stadium is located in downtown Montreal, almost half an hour away from Old Montreal. It has the biggest inclined tower in the world and has an observatory which hosts thousands of visitors every day.

Even though students were enjoying the view of the city in a beautiful sunny day and had more activities planned for the rest of the day, they decided to head back to Boston. There was something more important than learning about a different culture: The Red Sox’s game was on that night and even international students can’t avoid becoming a Red Sox fan in Boston.
And although the Red Sox lost the game latter that night, Rauno Peet , one of the international students from Estonia said “Coming back to see the Red Sox was definitely worth it”.

If you want to see this picture, click here

Friday, October 17, 2008

Online radio Vs. On Air Radio

I think WBUR is definitely taking the right direction shifting its focus to online radio as component of aired radio instead of as a parallel project. As Robin Lubbock mentioned in class, we should look at it not as “multimedia” anymore, but as “unimedia”. All the new technological tools work together and we should use all of them to get to the audience.

As previously mentioned by Prof. Kennedy, it is important to notice that radio has an advantage over other media, and that is that unless someone comes up with the marvelous creation of an instant transportation machine, we will still need to take a few precious minutes of our lives to get to places by walking, driving, etc., and it is likely that in the meantime people will like to listen to something, as radio station. That doesn’t mean radios should not worry about online competitors as print and TV do, but will get to that point further down.

Another aspect that might worry local radio stations such as WBUR is that technological advances will soon allow NPR to reach directly to listeners through satellite radio and there will be no need for smaller radio stations. That does not seem likely because of the same principle we think print media will never disappear. First of all, there is always need for local news, so WBUR is more likely to grow in this sense rather than decrease. Also in terms of revenues and sponsors, it is more likely that local institutions will sponsor local radio stations rather than national wide stations.

But even though apparently WBUR should not worry about a future extinction menace, the fact that they use many technological tools to help make the station be as interactive as possible, can only be positive for them. It offers extra services to their listeners: someone who always listens to the station will probably like to receive their station’s website news updates. And they will probably be interested in cheking out what the rest of listeners have to say or comment. And if there are photos to share and people to meet even better.

I worked in two radio stations for over 5 years, and the possibility of having another way to interact with the audience is really important. We only had the chance to receive emails and had a few chat rooms, until we found out about a tool named Orkut, which works similarly as Facebook and we had a great reaction from our listeners: they formed communities and made it work by themselves, proposing themes and possible discussion items for the show.

So using Twitter, Flickr and Youtube? Definitely Yes. It might not attract new listeners (it would be interesting to get some figures about the online ratings), but not using those available tools today is not an option.

A good example of how important online interaction can be for a radio station is Boston's Kiss Fm. Their teen audience spends a lot of time uploading photos, blogging and even reading their political news update. They concentrate all their interactive tools in their website, unlike WBUR that links to programs that might take you out of their web. (which I don’t think is a bad thing to do).

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Learning in Wired Journalists

I think Wired Journalists is a great social network for journalists and I like the fact that it is prepared for all kinds of journalists such as students like us, who still need to learn a lot. Browsing it is easy and uploading the photographs a piece of cake.

I chose this picture because it captures part of the great skills of this dancer on the street.

You can see my other two pictures in my profile in Wired Journalists.

I think Wired Journalists should be more exploited and used by journalists. Maybe we need to “spread the word” so more journalists will join it and we’ll have even more people to learn from because it is really good.

The group I joined in Wired Journalists is “New multimedia.” In it I found “Live reporting the written news!” which presents a new tool for bloggers. The program is called coveritlive and it is a great program I’ve never heard of before joining this group. The program makes possible that while the blogger is writing in his or her blog, the readers can actually see what the person is typing in real time.

Thus if you are not near your computer but you have a blackberry or an Iphone, you’ll be able to report from your cell phone immediately to your blog and your readers will be able to watch while you are doing it.

It’s ideal for politics and sports bloggers. For instance yesterday’s presidential debate was an ideal event for bloggers to use this tool: after the debate a lot of people turn to blogs to see what the comments are and being able to watch as political analysts write about it must be really exiting and it gives blogging a new dimension. But most of all, since we have been talking about the importance of blogs and the advantage of interaction it has over other media, this makes blogs even more interactive and will make readers feel like they are real part of the process of blogging.

I think this could be applied for practically all types of blogs(besides journalist’s blogs), for instance an artist’s blog: every time they post something his or her fans have the opportunity to be there in real time while he or she is writing it.

I haven’t tried it yet though, I hope it’s easy to use!.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

About link journalism

I realized it is not easy to find topics that interest Boston blogger’s enough to make them write a blog about it. When I found out the goal today was to look for blogs that gave opinions about recent news, I thought that an obvious subject would be the Palin-Biden debate. What a surprise when I realized there were not that many blogs about it. Actually, I could not find 5 blogs about it. Weird, huh?
So I kept looking. Bailout? No luck either. So I looked to the obvious issues: MBTA complaints? Not that many. Another one I thought would be for sure in blogs is the Big Dig. There are many about that topic, the problem is there are no news about it, there are mostly old blogs.
So I decided to go one issue I’m sure everyone in the United States talked about: Sara Palin’s pregnant daughter. And since I’m not a sport’s fan (the Red Sox are the exception of the short amount of blogs created by people from Boston) I finally decided to go for it, even though incredibly there are not that many blogs about that issue either.
In Prof. Dan Kennedy’s blog Media Nation (Technorati authority: 178) , there is a statement about John Marshalls argument regarding the roll of Sara Palin’s daughter in the McCains campaign.
While McCain Campaign argues that children of candidates should not “become topics of the campaigns debate”, Mccain campaign is the one that exploits Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, says John Marshall.
Prof. Dan Kennedy says it is not as black and white as Marshall is saying, because the media is also playing an important role in going over this information and digging in it as much as possible.
I believe this was a great opportunity for the press to make of this election an interesting, thus profitable one for them: it was almost boring until the “pregnancy” was announced and in the future there is no doubt this event will be one of the most remembered things in this election. I really don't know how the McCain campaign also promoted this, so I rather not express an opinion about it.

Another blog I found had an interesting view about this issue to debate and post comments in is BunkoSquad, Building yesterday's tomorrow, today (Technorati authority: 11). It is stated there that Bristol Palin never had a choice to not have her baby, since her mother (being an official figure in the government) would have never allowed her to make another choice. It also states that to understand Sara Palin's "supposedly admiration" for her daughter’s decision (considering according the blog that she never made the decision herself) one has to be from the right wing. My question is, if a person wants to have an abortion, isn't that private information in United States? Couldn't she go through it without everybody finding out about it three months ago (before Sara Palin was elected as vice president candidate) or is that impossible? Because in that case, I think it was her choice, probably with her parents support. I just can't imagine in the 21st century having your mother forbid you to make a decision like that, even if she is Sara Palin. And besides, who are we to say that we know what Sara Palin orders her daughter to do? And what does that have to do with being from the right wing? Even though I'm a non partisan person, I think this blog is too biased towards the left wing, and has no argument to sustain anything in it.

I found another post with interesting arguments but still easy to contradict in Cheapthrills (Technorati authority: 61) also posted in Universalhub (Technorati authority:296) In the blog, two hypothetical situations are presented: seven years from now Barak Obama’s daughter Malia is pregnant an unwed. The comment in the blog is that there is no way she would be labeled as a courageous young woman with strong family values like Palin’s daughter is labeled nowadays by some people. It also says that evangelicals would not rally behind her as they do behind Sara Palin.

I assume that the first comparison is referred to the fact that Obama’s daughter is African American, and that would make a difference in the context and the acceptance she’ll get. I don’t think so. The real issue here is that Bristol is Sara Palin’s daughter; it is obvious that people that support her and McCain will say this is the best thing that could had ever happen. On the other hand the fact that she has the evangelical’s support is because she is from the Pentecostal church which is also part of their religious movement. Would Obama’s daughter receive the same support is she was from their religion? I’m sure she would. Let’s look at big picture here and not try to see things where there aren’t.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Interesting online databases

Many interesting online databases are found in and it is amazing how much important information one can get through them.

I found a few that draw my attention more than others. One of them is Homicide map in 2007 database.

I was amazed to know that not fare from my new neighborhood there has been many homicides in the past year. I also noticed that among all the murders in year 2007 in Boston, about 90% of them were shootings. I like the fact that the graphics show very clearly in a map the areas of the murders and there is a distinction by colors to point out the method of killing, being shooting pink, stabbing blue and vehicular homicide yellow.

On the other hand I consider there is a lot of information missing in the map, like the exact number of shootings, stabbings and vehicular homicides in year 2007. The map allows to know where the majority of murders took place and through the colors which "type" of murder weapon was involved in most murders in a visual way, but does not mention the numbers.

Many questions come to my mind from this database for a story. Why are the murders concentrated in one area of Boston and why doesn’t the police reinforce its presence in that area? Why are there so many shootings, is it easy to get a gun in Boston? And if not, how do the murderers get the guns? Comparing to other years are the murders in Boston increasing or decreasing and why? Comparing to other cosmopolitan cities, how is Boston in its homicide rank, is it too high? I think that as Matt Caroll mentioned in class, searching other databases and asking the right people, a good story will come up from any information that answers these questions.

I also like the fact that it provides links to related sites such as Boston Police updates and how to report a crime in Boston.

The other one I found very interesting is the one that provides the Census results of the increase of the population of massachussets cities and towns.

Important facts about the state are available in it, such us the increase and decrease of Massachusetts cities population. It mentions for instance that Danvers in the North Shore is the one with the biggest growth in their community in year 2006-2007. I would search for a database of census from previous years in the state, and would look for the city that has had the biggest constant growth in its population and would do a story on what is going on in that city that makes people so eager to make babies.

I was also impressed by the online services you get through the My neighborhood section, besides getting access to every information you might need about your neighborhood you can also access pretty much anything that applies as citizens duties and services. From paying parking tickets to get a permit to film in Boston, everything is online so there thanks to this site there is no need to leave the house in order to go through those bureaucratic procedures anymore.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Political Databases

eToday I had the opportunity to go through these amazing sites, learn about them and compare them. First of all I think it is important to mention that these are terrific tools that allow common citizens to be informed about what politicians are doing, to have an opinion based in these facts and also be able to check whether they are indeed keeping their promises or not.
On the other hand there are factors that distinguish one among the other, so I’ll begin to point out a few I noticed.

I will start with US Congress Votes Database, that allows anyone browse every vote in the US Congress. I think it is the most organized and easiest to browse among the four we are going to analyze today. It has a well distributed and organized data base, which is taken from the Official Congress website and it is updated several times a day.

The search of any particular case is easy since you are able to look for it depending on any information you have about it, for instance you can look for a particular congress or member. You can also explore votes by margin, session or members.

You’ll find also the complete biography about Congress members.

It is does not have an appealing design, but it does not look bad for its purpose either.
These are incredible examples of what internet can do for common citizens that probably would not access this information otherwise and I believe it will be very useful in my country for instance, since citizens don’t trust their political representatives but have no way to check the facts themselves.

The following site is called Fact Check, a tool to monitor what major US politicians say. The site take their statements given through speeches, commercial ads and different media and check whether what they say it’s true or not, something very similar to Politifact, another site will analyze further in this blog.

The thing I like the most about this site are their weekly wires, the introduce a video one a week, with a summary of answers for the questions that readers have asked, the latest fact checks on candidate’s latest statements and campaigns.

I don’t like the fact that to check a piece of information you are interested in you have to know the month in which the statement or event took place and you have no other way to search it.

The third is the one I like the most:, a well rounded site that checks candidates’ statements in a very entertaining but also serious way. Besides being very appealing visually, they also make available a lot of video material of candidates commercial ads and speeches.

The thing that I like the most about it though is the same thing that concerns me the most. The truthfulness of the statements is measured by the site’s “rulings”. The statements by rulings from the “Truth O Meter” go from false, to barely true, to half true, etc. On one hand this in an intelligent evaluation since it is very difficult to determine when a statement is entirely false or true, it could be taken as a biased point of view of the journalist that analyses the statement. They are presented with weight images, which makes it visually attractive.

On the other hand, the “truth o Meter” appears as biased. Who decides that something is “partly true” or just “true”? The meaning of the two concepts is very different.

Finally we have the Projectvotesmart site. The most outstanding fact is that this is the only one that actually has political blogs that allows one to post comments in it which is obviously an extra point for the site. The information one finds in the site goes from campaign finances to information for voters, very instructive and easy to follow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A green emergency

Last week as part of the Public Policy Seminar Series “Advice to the next President”, Seth Kaplan, Climate Change Program Director of the Conservation Law Foundation was invited to Northeastern University to speak about global warming. And even though this is not a new issue to anyone in the world, every time they talk about it there are new facts that scare me to death .It feels like I'm hearing all over again for the first time that there is something called “ Global warming” and the danger our planet is going through.

After Kaplan explained in easy terms the effects of global warming, the same thing Al Gore did in "An Inconvenient Truth”, he mentioned some other scary facts. He said it took at least 1000 years for humans to get the planet the way it is right now on the edge of catastrophe. “We have created a different planet” he said. So if we are able to actually do something about it, this is not a change our children will be able to live because it is going to take another 1000 years to reverse the damages of the modifications that had been inflected to the earth.

As we already heard there is one basic way to help stop this problem: we have to diminish the Greenhouse Gas emissions to the atmosphere. Kaplan mentioned the emissions have to be reduced to at least 80 %to 90% by 2050. That is a lot considering that this emissions come from pretty much everything we consume such as the heat of our houses and cars to agricultural and industrial activities at a bigger scale. And although it is assumed that "we" does not necessarily refers to us but to our countries governments, we have to stop telling ourselves there is not much we can do about it because that is not true.

Kaplan said that in US the biggest emissions of Greenhouse gas comes from the following:
1. Energy
2. Transportation
3. Heat and Cooling for Houses.

Considering the factors mentioned above, we as citizens can do a lot. Kaplan mentioned that moving to a place near our work will make thousands of people stop using their cars. It is not such a crazy idea, is it?

A lot of people still think this issue is not as bad as it is presented, however changes ahead of us will be very bad ones. Kaplan said the environmental modifications will not be gradual, they will appear as big bursts: big and powerful storms. As we know they have already started taking place.

Our task is not simple, time is already ahead of us. It might sound as cliché, but we have to take measures now or we’ll end up taking away the planet from the children of our grand children.
If you are interested in the subject there are blogs such as Michael Brune’s Blockading Global Warming that provides information and opinion about the problem.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My three favorite blogs

I have to confess I don't usually read blogs. I began just a few days ago and I'm slowly getting used to the format and also enjoying it.

The first web that caught my attention is the Poynter web. I like the fact that in it you can find blogs with pretty much any information a journalist might be interested in, such as suggestions and tips amateur and senior journalists need nowadays to catch up with new everyday challenges in the journalism field. Amy Gahran wrote today about the importance of using blogs:

"Journalists at any career stage who hope to keep working and stay relevant regardless of the fortunes of any or all news organizations) should aspire to be as findable as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to use your very own blog to build a strong, persistent personal brand.The key to building your personal brand is to publish easily findable content on your own site not just via your employer's site, nor just within a community site or group weblog. Your very own site. Having your own blog is media career insurance."

I will recommend also the Travel Pod website, it is essential for people who travels a lot and also for people who does not. If you will travel for the first time or you just don’t have that much experience in travelling this will be the ideal guide for you. You'll find comments about personal experiences from travelers that went to the most popular destinations, to places you’ve never heard of as well. If you are an experienced traveler, you’ll have a list of the top ranked hotels, restaurants and galleries, and amazing photos of those places.

Finally, I will suggest the Mabel Renfeldt's blog, a journalist in ABC Color newspaper from Paraguay. If you know a little Spanish, the blog will take you to places only good investigative reporting can. There is constant update on the development of current political and social issues in Paraguay and it is the most visited one in that country.