Photographing Ebola in Liberia
John Moore, a senior staff photographer from Getty Images, is covering the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.
In the New York Times, he writes:
I have worked in high-risk environments with some frequency in my career, but instead of a flak jacket and helmet, this time I brought anticontamination suits, including coveralls, masks, goggles, rubber gloves and boot covers, all of which are disposable after a single use in places like Ebola isolation wards. I stocked up on antiseptic gel, wipes and sprays. I also brought rubber boots, which were lent to me by my father-in-law, a retired journalist who is now a fisherman. He said I could keep them.
Here in Liberia, I wash my hands in chlorinated water at the entrance to most buildings, dozens of times a day, whether I have gloves on or not. Because Ebola is not airborne but is rather transmitted through bodily fluids, it’s important not to touch your face after being in contaminated areas. We tend to touch our faces many times per day without realizing it. I’m trying hard to stay safe.
The Times has a gallery of Moore’s images here.
Bonus: Yesterday, NPR interviewed Moore about an incident in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, where protestors attacked a quarantine center and forced its patients to leave the facility. Moore tells NPR that “a fair number of people… believe that the Ebola virus and the epidemic is a hoax, that it’s not real after all, and it’s a way for the Liberian government to bring in foreign money.”
Image: John Moore wears his “personal protective equipment” before joining a Liberian burial team that was removing the body of an Ebola victim from her home, via the Daily Mail. The Mail also has a gallery of Moore’s work. Select to embiggen.
St. Louis Dispatch
Its coverage can be read here.
Related, via Poynter — How St. Louis’ Alt-Weekly is Covering Ferguson:
The episode has exhausted the reporters, many of whom worked long hours with little sleep in between. Lindsay Toler, a news blogger, was halfway through a bottle of Busch at a cash-only dive bar on Sunday when she saw TV reports of the chaos in Ferguson. She left without saying a word to her friends and spent the rest of the night monitoring the story on Twitter. She estimates she has worked several 12-hour days since then, with about five hours of sleep daily. Lussenhop said she and her fellow journalists are running on about three to five hours of sleep most days. Garrison tried to convince his reporters to take a break, but they resisted. On Thursday, he edited a story from an wiped-out reporter who spelled “Ferguson” four different ways…
…Because of the scope of the story, the paper has devoted most of its small editorial staff to covering Ferguson. Of the 39 stories published on the paper’s news blog last week, 34 of them were about the suburb. The other five were written before the shooting.
Image: Detail, front page, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Who Buries the Taliban?
An eery, intriguing photo essay from Australian photographer Andrew Quilty on the men whose job it is to bury Taliban members killed in and around Kabul, published in The Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year:
It was hot and dry for early spring, but one of the grave-diggers wore a pin-striped suit while he and the others dug four narrow, waist-deep graves side by side. The earth was damp and brown beneath Afghanistan’s powdery surface. The smell was putrid - like a decaying animal carcass on the side of road, but far worse.
With no more than disposable surgical masks, Ahmad‘s drive through Kabul’s notorious morning traffic must have been horrendous. The thought of how his cargo came to be in his possession wears on him too.
He rarely discusses his work with friends or family - burying the unwanted, the paupers and the terrorists of Kabul. He has buried dozens of Taliban but is never told from which attack his corpses come.
Read/view the full essay here.
Sidenote: The piece is reminiscent—literally and in feeling—of (the now classic j-school textbook piece) It’s An Honor by Jimmy Breslin. At the time of JFK’s assassination, Breslin stepped outside the media frenzy and set a precedent for covering a big story in a simple, powerful, unconventional way: by writing about the man who would prepare the president’s grave.
Image: Grave diggers cool down and drink tea after their work is done (by Andrew Quilty, via SMH)
Independent and Citizen Journalism in #Ferguson
Via GigaOm: Crowd-powered journalism becomes crucial when traditional media is unwilling or unable:
Just as it did in Egypt and Ukraine, the stream of updates from Ferguson — both from amateur or non-journalists, eyewitnesses and professional reporters for various outlets — turned into a feed of breaking news unlike anything that non-Twitter users were getting from the major news networks and cable channels. Most of the latter continued with their regular programming, just as media outlets in Turkey and Ukraine avoided mentioning the growing demonstrations in their cities. In a very real sense, citizen-powered journalism filled the gap left by traditional media, which were either incapable or unwilling to cover the news.
Related, also via GigaOm: You can use your phone to film the police, even if they tell you not to.
Related, once again: Argus Radio was webcasting events last night from Ferguson via their Livestream channel and will start again today at 3pm.
Image: Screenshot from Argus Radio’s “I Am Mike Brown” Livestream channel.
Try to imagine a culture where no one has ever ‘looked up’ anything…
…In a primary oral culture, the expression ‘to look up something’ is an empty phrase: it would have no conceivable meaning. Without writing, words as such have no visual presence, even when the objects they represent are visual. There are sounds. You might ‘call’ them back – ‘recall’ them. But there is nowhere to ‘look’ for them. They have no focus and no trace. —
Walter J. Ong, “Try to Imagine,” as quoted by James Gleik in The Information.
Today’s ponderable when (almost) everything is a quick search away.
In the last decade, newspapers’ weekday circulation has fallen 47 percent, ads have fallen 55 percent, and about seven in ten newspaper readers are now older than 45. Stats like these provide the background music to events of the last few months, when News Corp, Time Warner, Gannett, the Tribune Company, and E. W. Scripps all unloaded their journalism divisions. Including the Washington Post’s sale within the last 12 months, this means that seven of the ten largest newspapers in the country have been dumped in an annus horribilis for print. —
A Terrible Year for Newspapers, a Good Year for News - The Atlantic (via infoneer-pulse)
FJP: Horrendum X Annos. But, yes, also an amazing age for news.
What Happens When You Like Everything?
Journalists can be a masochistic lot.
Take Mat Honan over at Wired who decided to like everything in his Facebook News Feed:
Or at least I did, for 48 hours. Literally everything Facebook sent my way, I liked — even if I hated it. I decided to embark on a campaign of conscious liking, to see how it would affect what Facebook showed me…
…Relateds quickly became a problem, because as soon as you like one, Facebook replaces it with another. So as soon as I liked the four relateds below a story, it immediately gave me four more. And then four more. And then four more. And then four more. I quickly realized I’d be stuck in a related loop for eternity if I kept this up. So I settled on a new rule: I would like the first four relateds Facebook shows me, but no more.
So how did Facebook’s algorithm respond?
My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time. After checking in and liking a bunch of stuff over the course of an hour, there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages…
…While I expected that what I saw might change, what I never expected was the impact my behavior would have on my friends’ feeds. I kept thinking Facebook would rate-limit me, but instead it grew increasingly ravenous. My feed become a cavalcade of brands and politics and as I interacted with them, Facebook dutifully reported this to all my friends and followers.
After 48 hours he gives up “because it was just too awful.”
Over at The Atlantic, Caleb Garling plays with Facebook’s algorithm as well. Instead of liking though, he tries to hack the system to see what he needs to do so that friends and followers see what he posts:
Part of the impetus was that Facebook had frustrated me. That morning I’d posted a story I’d written about the hunt for electric bacteria that might someday power remote sensors. After a few hours, the story had garnered just one like. I surmised that Facebook had decided that, for whatever reason, what I’d submitted to the blue ether wasn’t what people wanted, and kept it hidden.
A little grumpy at the idea, I wanted to see if I could trick Facebook into believing I’d had one of those big life updates that always hang out at the top of the feed. People tend to word those things roughly the same way and Facebook does smart things with pattern matching and sentiment analysis. Let’s see if I can fabricate some social love.
I posted: “Hey everyone, big news!! I’ve accepted a position trying to make Facebook believe this is an important post about my life! I’m so excited to begin this small experiment into how the Facebook algorithms processes language and really appreciate all of your support!”
And the likes poured in: “After 90 minutes, the post had 57 likes and 25 commenters.”
So can you game the Facebook algorithm? Not really, thinks Garling. Not while the code remains invisible.
At best, he writes, we might be able to intuit a “feeble correlation.”
Which might be something to like.
Business News, August 2014 Edition
Buzzfeed, which gets about 150 million of us to visit each month, just closed a $50 million round with Andreessen Horowitz, the prominent technology venture firm.
Chris Dixon, general partner at the VC firm, says Buzzfeed is a “full stack" startup, meaning that it’s not just an online publisher, but rather an online publisher with integrated end-to-end technologies.
In this case, a media stack on which listicles and in-depth reporting can co-exist side by side, driven by a modern content management system, integrated analytics and ad serving engines, and a 75 person team creating “native content” for advertisers. It’s repetitive to say Buzzfeed also gets the social thing. About 75% of Buzzfeed’s traffic comes from social media.
What, fundamentally, makes this an interesting investment to Dixon? A mastery of social, mobile, content and tech:
Many of today’s great media companies were built on top of emerging technologies. Examples include Time Inc. which was built on color printing, CBS which was built on radio, and Viacom which was built on cable TV. We’re presently in the midst of a major technological shift in which, increasingly, news and entertainment are being distributed on social networks and consumed on mobile devices. We believe BuzzFeed will emerge from this period as a preeminent media company.
Meantime, legacy media companies are dropping their print publications. “Divestiture" is the name of the 2014 game. Three companies built on print — Ganett, the Tribune Company, and EW Scripps — are focusing on television, radio and the Internet, and spinning off their print properties to survive as independent companies that sink or swim as the tides may turn.
Says The New York Times’ David Carr:
The persistent financial demands of Wall Street have trumped the informational needs of Main Street. For decades, investors wanted newspaper companies to become bigger and diversify, so they bought more newspapers and developed television divisions. Now print is too much of a drag on earnings, so media companies are dividing back up and print is being kicked to the curb.
The news behind the news, of course, is that already reeling smaller, regional papers will increasingly vanish without the financial buffer provided by being part of larger diversified companies. This, despite the fact that 72% of Americans follow local news via these same print publications. Then again, many outside the news media bubble don’t know about the financial disruption that’s churned the industry over the last decade.
Via last year’s Pew State of the Media Report:
[T]he majority of people surveyed early this year had heard little or nothing about the financial problems besetting news organizations. The largest group of respondents—36%—said they heard “nothing at all” about the issue and the second largest—24%—said they heard “a little.”
So where goes print?
As news of the $50 million Buzzfeed round pinged about the Internet, a quieter profile of Harper’s publisher John MacArthur hit the Web. In it, he doubles down on print:
The web is bad for writers, [MacArthur] said, who are too exhausted by the pace of an endless news cycle to write poised, reflective stories and who are paid peanuts if they do. It’s bad for publishers, who have lost advertising revenue to Google and Facebook and will never make enough from a free model to sustain great writing. And it’s bad for readers, who cannot absorb information well on devices that buzz, flash and generally distract.
He does not want to explore many of the new revenue streams favored by other publishers — like Monocle, which has stores and a radio station. He will not let advertisers sponsor a section of the magazine, let alone place native ads, for fear that it will look as if they own Harper’s. He does not want conferences or to make videos. “A magazine should be a magazine,” he said. “A newspaper should be a newspaper.”
Harper’s, like other general interest literary magazines, consistently loses money. Then again, as a nonprofit backed by the MacArthur foundation and its $5.7 billion endowment, it’s not going away anytime soon.
For the rest: the forecast reads rocky times ahead.
Image: Old Carissa shipwrecked off the coast of Oregon, via Erin Misserion on Flickr. Select to embiggen.
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