November 30, 2009

Progress in Show-Your-Work

Check out Story Lab — a show-your-work (aka. meta-reporting) project of the Washington Post. Here’s what Marc Fisher, enterprise editor for local news, had to say about it in an interview on Nieman Storyboard:

Story Lab is a way for us to enter the world of crowdsourcing and also lift the veil on the way we do journalism, opening up a window onto reporting and why some stories work and others don’t.

It’s an interactive place where readers can help us formulate stories at every stage, from conception to publication. Also a place where we can show readers how the sausage is made and also give them a place to discuss with us some of the ethical and logistical issues in journalism.

We’re hoping to demystify the work of a big, sometimes-anonymous institution and give readers a way to connect with the people who report and write the news.

I like the idea of this. While I certainly think meta-reporting can and should be employed in print, audio, and video, the internet is all about this kind of interactivity and transparency.

Question: Why was this not being done in, say, 2001?

Nieman’s response:

There’s not much yet to judge the site on. They’ve made some nice choices for visitors looking for good reading (especially Neely Tucker’s four-star profile of the quirky genius Edward Jones) and posted an initial call for input on a tattoo story assigned to Steve Hendrix.

In the long run, however, the Lab setup could provide insight into storytelling, from ethics to structure, and allow for a kind of open-endedness that lets stories evolve or continue in unexpected ways. My sense is that that its success will depend on how aggressively Post reporters work to engage readers via new channels (the brief profile of contributor Paul Schwartzman says “he does not tweet”), and the degree to which visitors want not only to know how the process works but also to dive into sausage-making themselves.

I’ll be interested to see how this works. Meta-reporting has not been something journalists have embraced in the past. Watch-dogging is about the other guys, you see.

I’m starting a new section on the sidebar called New Journalism. Suggest links, please!

November 27, 2009

When Black Friday Comes

Today is Black Friday.

But for me, today is No-consumption Day — the day I refuse to spend money.

My only nod to this orgy of consumption is that I’ll check CNN this morning to see how many people have been shot or trampled to death.

November 23, 2009

Filter Failure, Filter Success

Following our discussion in my Introduction to Journalism class of Jay Rosen’s ideas for rebooting the news system in the age of social media and Clay Shirky’s idea of “filter failure,” I asked my students to answer this question on their blogs:

What kind of filter do you have to be to get people to pay you to do it?

I told them there’s no reason whatsover that I can think of why any one of can’t be the one who gives us THE answer(s). I also told them I’m not entirely sure how I would answer it.

November 22, 2009

Dealing Opinions

Clark Hoyt’s public editor column today in The New York Times quotes Andrew Rosenthal at length about “a columnist’s license.” I like what he has to say. For example:

First, the similarities. A columnist is subject to the same standards of factual accuracy as any writer in The Times, on any page. If a columnist writes that something happened on a certain date, or that the government spent a certain amount of money on something, or that a specific number of people have died in the war in Iraq, to pick a few examples, it is his or her responsibility to make certain that information is correct. Columnists must make sure that when they describe an event they are being accurate in their description. When they quote someone, they are required to do so accurately. Errors that are made must be corrected openly and quickly.

I would go a bit farther. I think proper opinion journalism should be based on proper reporting. While I agree with Rosenthal, I don’t think his statement goes far enough in differentiating a pundit who gets his facts right (and gets them second- or third-hand) from an opinion journalist who gets his facts right because he reported them himself by talking to, or checking, primary sources.

The online world is full of information — some of it even factual. This makes it easy to be a fact-based pundit — something almost anyone can do.

I’m interested in the opinion of the opinion journalist who has actually been there, or actually looked at the records, or actually talked to those who know. Good example of this rapidly vanishing breed of journalist: Thomas Friedman.

November 12, 2009

Where Was The Press?

Sean Hannity apologized for his show’s poor editing of a story that lead to a misrepresentation of the facts. The misrepresentation was pointed out by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

My questions: Where was the press? Why is Jon Stewart doing journalism’s job?

I’ve heard a lot of people bristle at the claim that Jon Stewart is a journalist. Count me in the camp that says he is not. But he is alone in doing one important job of journalism: Keeping tabs on the ethics of news organizations.

(I do not count publications such as the Columbia Journalism Review because they are not news organizations. But CJR does do excellent work in keeping tabs on media ethics.)

This amounts to nothing less than an epic fail.

November 11, 2009


On this important and solemn day, I’m wondering what it means to “support our troops” — especially after they have returned home. As a way to say “thank you,” please consider donating to Valour-IT.

November 4, 2009

See How Smart I Am

Stewart, again, nails it.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Indecision 2009 – Reindecision 2008 And Beyond
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Health Care Crisis

The idea that any media/political pundit knows what this ragtag collection of election results “means” for 2010 and beyond is utterly absurd.

I’m stumped. What is it media/political pundits think they know, and why do they think they know it?

It could be that they don’t think in those terms. The show is over. Time to prep for the next one. The recent past is ancient history — as unfathomable as vague scratchings in the sand.