Jul 07

Score One for Science: BBC Tells Journalists to Stop Including Denialists on Shows -

Via The Telegraph:

The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.

The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed…

…The Trust said that man-made climate change was one area where too much weight had been given to unqualified critics.

Over at Slate, Phil Plait explains:

In other [non-science] subjects, it’s possible for honest people with different values to come down on different sides of a debate. But when it comes to science, especially firmly established and consensually agreed-upon science, putting on some crackpot who disagrees is not “fair and balanced.”

News shows don’t put on a flat-earther whenever they show a map. They don’t get an opposing opinion from a young-Earth creationist when a new dinosaur fossil is found. They don’t interview an astrologer when a new exoplanet is discovered. So why put on a climate change denier when we’re talking about our planet heating up?

Does two make a trend?

No, but last fall, the Los Angeles Times told its readers that it would no longer publish letters that deny — or argue against — human activity as a contributor to climate change.


Sign of the Times
My brother Peter came across this magazine while stocking up for July 4th weekend. — Michael

Sign of the Times

My brother Peter came across this magazine while stocking up for July 4th weekend. — Michael

Jul 03


Jul 01

This Little-Known iOS Feature Will Change the Way We Connect | Gadget Lab | WIRED -

If “Multipeer Connectivity Framework” and “mesh networking” sound like complicated technologies from the future, it’s because they kind of are (from the future!!! okay, kidding). But they’re not as complicated as they may sound. The app developers behind the new Firechat are harnessing this new technology from Apple to allow iOS device users to find and connect to one another - and then anonymously communicate - all without needing cellular service or WiFi. 

There are numerous reasons this technology could have huge, revolutionary impacts if its successful. While Firechat is now just for exchanging messages and photos, mesh networking could open up the possibilities of a completely independent network for communicating anonymously and privately, sharing files and storing data, and even reaching out from places with limited internet access (think crisis areas, crowded conventions). The implications from this technology would completely disrupt the current cellular service provider system. 

The real story behind the war over YA novels -

The Daily Dot: What’s really motivating the cultural panic over The Hunger Games and The Fault in Our Stars?

"Columnists like Ruth Graham seem personally offended not just by the presence of YA, but by the fact that a growing percentage of YA readers are in their 20s and 30s. Graham wrote, “Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this.” Her simultaneous put-down of YA and confidence in what “adulthood” means is a generational tell, reflecting a sociocultural divide that has significant implications in the changing American landscape.”

Mariana: As a millennial who identifies with this article more than I’d like to admit and a YA novel reader too, I’ve never seen a piece that more accurately pinpoints the problem with the current backlash against YA. 

Jun 30


Jun 27

What’s in a Flop: “Injuries” and Writhing Time at the World Cup

What’s in a Flop: “Injuries” and Writhing Time at the World Cup

Jun 05

“Instead, being a journalism incubator means spending time and money developing writers who then take their readership to other publications, then starting to develop new voices, new beats and new audiences all over again.” —

In an interesting take on the magazine-as-incubator, Alyssa Rosenberg reacts to the recent news that the (very-loved liberal policy magazine) American Prospect is cutting down its staff and scaling back to a quarterly publishing schedule. Rosenberg points to the long list of all-star journalists who started their writing careers at the Prospect and how—though their careers were essentially incubated at the magazine—their growth did nothing to save the Prospect itself: co-founders Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias may be among the most prominent Prospect alumni, but they are hardly alone. Former Prospect editor Ann Friedman (who gave me my start in culture criticism with an assignment about movie superheroines) is now a columnist for New York magazine. Education journalist Dana Goldstein, Alaska Public Media  reporter Alexandra Gutierrez, MSNBC’s Adam Serwer, Slate writer Jamelle Bouie, UN Dispatch’s Mark Goldberg and the Huffington Post’s Kate Sheppard are just some of the many, many journalists who have done stints there.

As wonderful as that roster is, being an incubator publication is a difficult place to occupy in the journalism ecosystem. Unlike Silicon Valley incubators, which stake young developers for a share of their future profits, the Prospect does not get part of what its alumni earn in the future. An excellent reputation and ongoing goodwill do not necessarily translate into piles of cash.

But we can also come at this argument from a long-term and slightly more optimistic view of the value of incubating young writers as Ezra Klein does in his reflection on his own career that began the Prospect’s blog, Tapped

The combination of TAP’s culture and Tapped’s medium created a place where young journalists could go and experiment with policy journalism on the web. And some of those experiments worked. It turned out health-care policy could really appeal to readers. It turned out the internet loved charts. It turned out that policy writing could be short, or even just a link. It turned out that a conversational tone didn’t destroy the writer’s authority. It turned out that blogs benefitted at least as much from diligent reporting as magazine articles. Those experiments now inform journalism in places ranging from the Washington Post and the New York Times to Buzzfeed and Business Insider. Tapped’s style of policy journalism is everywhere now.

As for Vox, well, two of the three founders are Tapped alumnus. Without Tapped, there would certainly be no Vox.

And in so doing, we realize that when journalism is viewed as a community of public informants (rather than a battle between publishers) the legacy of one publication can and does lead to incredible value.

The Better-Than-Starter Video Kit -

For all those who have Q’d us about where to start with gear, here’s an excellent set of tools recommended by the Director of Digital Media at Columbia J-School.


My video students at Columbia Journalism School are trained on the Canon C100.  It is a great camera, but the $5K+ price tag makes it impossible for most to purchase one for themselves.  Also, that figure does not include microphones, tripods, and other accessories necessary to produce professional-quality video.

With some compromises in ergonomics and picture quality, the list of gear below should be an affordable alternative for any video student or recent grad.  This gear will give you high-quality visuals, clean sound, and reliable stabilization.  I hesitate to call this a starter kit, as you can shoot a feature documentary with this set up.

Camera:  The conventional wisdom with video gear is to invest in lenses and peripherals.  These items will last you years, while cameras get updated and replaced constantly.  I still recommend DSLRs for video journalists starting out.  They are cheap.  Their sensors are big, the low-light performance is fantastic, and they double as great stills cameras (ironically, an often overlooked benefit).  I have years of experience with Canon gear, so I recommend their products.  But Sony, Panasonic, and others all offer up great solutions.  Shop around.  This is a great time to buy.

I recommend two entry-level DSLRs to my students.  The Canon T5i w/ EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens and the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 w/  EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens.  The T5i has a flip-out screen, but the SL1 is smaller.  In terms of image quality, they are the same.  My SL1 is so small that I can comfortably carry it with me everywhere I go.

If you can afford it, I recommend getting the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens.  This is my go-to lens for all my documentary work.  It is pricey, but it is a great investment.  You will grow with this lens.  If you do purchase the 24-105, be sure to get the Canon EOS Rebel T5i DSLR Camera (Body Only) or Canon EOS Rebel SL1 DSLR Camera (Body Only) to save some money.

Do not forget to buy some extra batteries for your shoots.  You can go for the more expensive Canon option or save some money going with a third-party brand.  And be sure to get protective filters for your lenses:  the Tiffen 58mm UV Protector Filter for the kit lens or the Tiffen 77mm UV Protector Filter for the 24-105 lens.

Audio:  The most important part of producing great video is getting great audio.  Audio gear can be very expensive and there are many options on the market.  But the gear below was specifically designed to work with DSLRs.  This set up will transform your DSLR into a fully-functioning video camera:  

Your mics go into the DR-60D and then that signal is fed into the camera.  Or, when you really want to just go small and stealth, the Rode VideoMic Pro can plug directly into your DSLR (as pictured above).  Also, the Tascam DR-60D can be used alone as a great field audio recorder.

My most expensive audio recommendation is the Sony ECM-77B - Lavalier Microphone.  This is the microphone I use for all my interviews.  It plugs directly into the DR-60D.  There are much cheaper lav mics available, but IMHO, the low audio quality is not worth the savings.

Support:  You need a good tripod and monopod to get steady shots.  Tripods go from super cheap to insanely expensive.  I recommend spending a little more now for gear that will last you years.  I always shoot with the Manfrotto Fluid Monopod with 500 Series Head and Manfrotto MVH500AH Fluid Head & 755XB Tripod.  They are not the cheapest options, but you will have them for years.

Accessories:  Be sure to get enough memory cards for your shoots.  And invest in the Pelican 0915 Memory Card Case to store your precious footage.

I hope this list helps.

Happy shooting,


May 29

Staring at Screens

Glass: How much time the world spends staring at screens

FJP — And via Quartz, with some context.

As we’ve argued, media are best understood as a competition for attention on glass-panelled devices connected to the internet. Phones, tablets, PCs, television sets—it’s all just glass. But, of course, it does matter what kinds of glass are attracting more attention.

Having said that, let’s not forget that in the majority of the world it’s radio, not glass, that remains king.

Staring at Screens


Glass: How much time the world spends staring at screens

FJP — And via Quartz, with some context.

As we’ve argued, media are best understood as a competition for attention on glass-panelled devices connected to the internet. Phones, tablets, PCs, television sets—it’s all just glass. But, of course, it does matter what kinds of glass are attracting more attention.

Having said that, let’s not forget that in the majority of the world it’s radio, not glass, that remains king.

Four Ways You Can Seek Back Pay for an Unpaid Internship -

Resources worth knowing about. This is part of ProPublica’s ongoing investigative series on internships, which is really fantastic and you can actually get involved with by signing up to be part of their reporting network.


Iranian Spies Pose as Reporters to Target Lawmakers, Defense Contractors -

Via Wired:

Iranian spies appear to be engaged in their most elaborate and persistent effort yet to dupe lawmakers, journalists and defense contractors into revealing email addresses, network logins and other information that could be used to collect intelligence.

A three-year espionage campaign, believed to have originated in Iran, has used an elaborate scheme involving a fabricated news agency, fake social media accounts and bogus journalist identities to trick victims in the United States, Israel and elsewhere, according to iSight Partners, the company that uncovered the campaign.

Using fake accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+, the attackers have built an elaborate universe of fake personas bolstered by secondary accounts all for the purpose of garnering the trust of their targets, according to a report issued by the company.

“We’ve never seen a cyber espionage campaign from the Iranians as complex, broad reaching and persistent as this one,” says Tiffany Jones, senior vice president of client services at iSight “The dozen or so primary fictitious personas have done a pretty successful job over the last few years in gleaning thousands of connections and ultimately targeting legitimate individuals through their social media networks.”

The spies also created a fake news organization,, owned and operated by a fake media mogul named Joseph Nillson, whom they illustrated using a photo of Alexander McCall Smith, author of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. The news site is populated with articles ripped off from CNN and the BBC appearing beneath the names of NewsOnAir “reporters.” Once those stories are published, Twitter and other social media accounts associated with the fake identities link to them, making the operation appear legitimate.

So, journalism as spycraft. Targets, according to Wired, included “the U.S. military, Congress and various think tanks, along with journalists, defense contractors in the United States and Israel and members of U.S. and Israeli lobbying groups. They also targeted victims in Saudi, Arabia, Iraq and the United Kingdom.”