posts about or somewhat related to ‘news’

A Story Told Well: NPR’s Borderland 

NPR recently launched a special series, Borderland, in which Steven Inskeep traveled along the entire 2,428 mile border between the U.S. and Mexico to report on the nuances of immigration and the relationship between the two countries. Here are the radio stories, which are so worth listening to if this is an issue that you’ve had a hard time wrapping your mind around, or not seen fantastic reporting on before. And here is the stunning visual intro to the series, which breaks the piece down into 12 stories complete with moving characters, all the numbers (presented very digestibly) and a lot of context.

A Story Told Well: NPR’s Borderland 

NPR recently launched a special series, Borderland, in which Steven Inskeep traveled along the entire 2,428 mile border between the U.S. and Mexico to report on the nuances of immigration and the relationship between the two countries. Here are the radio stories, which are so worth listening to if this is an issue that you’ve had a hard time wrapping your mind around, or not seen fantastic reporting on before. And here is the stunning visual intro to the series, which breaks the piece down into 12 stories complete with moving characters, all the numbers (presented very digestibly) and a lot of context.

Afghanistan Votes

Amazing photos of today’s election in Afghanistan are making their way through Twitter. A great place to start is with @afghansvote, the feed of a crowdsourced, citizen journalism project that’s monitoring the elections and is based out of Kabul.

Images: A man whose finger was severed by the Taliban after a previous election has a different one marked after he votes, via @ToloNews; a group of voters salute “the enemies of #Afghanistan,” via @JavedAzizKhan; women wait to vote outside of Kabul, via @HabibKhanT; and a woman explains to the AFP why she votes, via @dawn_com.  

#WithSyria
Via The Independent:

An evocative YouTube video featuring Banksy, Idris Elba and alternative rock band Elbow has been released as part of a global vigil to mark the third anniversary of the crisis in Syria.
The charity video tribute, which is just over a minute-and-a-half long, brings one of graffiti artist Banksy’s most iconic stencils to life - set against a haunting backdrop of heartbreak and bloodshed.
His girl with a heart balloonartwork, which he has recreated for the #WithSyria campaign, is reworked in the guise of a young Syrian refugee.
She holds on to the balloon as it rises over the civil war-torn country, passing buildings destroyed by bombs and children kneeling next to the bodies of the dead.
As she ascends, she is joined by other children and adults, each holding on to a red balloon. British actor Idirs Elba provides the voiceover, asking those watching to “stand with Syria”.

Image: Screenshot, #WithSyria. Visit The Syria Campaign for more.

#WithSyria

Via The Independent:

An evocative YouTube video featuring Banksy, Idris Elba and alternative rock band Elbow has been released as part of a global vigil to mark the third anniversary of the crisis in Syria.

The charity video tribute, which is just over a minute-and-a-half long, brings one of graffiti artist Banksy’s most iconic stencils to life - set against a haunting backdrop of heartbreak and bloodshed.

His girl with a heart balloonartwork, which he has recreated for the #WithSyria campaign, is reworked in the guise of a young Syrian refugee.

She holds on to the balloon as it rises over the civil war-torn country, passing buildings destroyed by bombs and children kneeling next to the bodies of the dead.

As she ascends, she is joined by other children and adults, each holding on to a red balloon. British actor Idirs Elba provides the voiceover, asking those watching to “stand with Syria”.

Image: Screenshot, #WithSyria. Visit The Syria Campaign for more.

Well, Project X may now be called Vox, but the great VC-backed media blitz of 2014 is staffed up and soft-launching, and it looks a lot more like Projects XY. Indeed, it’s impossible not to notice that in the Bitcoin rush to revolutionize journalism, the protagonists are almost exclusively – and increasingly – male and white.

To be sure, the internet has presented journalists with an extraordinary opportunity to remake their own profession. And the rhetoric of the new wave of creativity in journalism is spattered with words that denote transformation. But the new micro-institutions of journalism already bear the hallmarks of the restrictive heritage they abandoned with such glee. At the risk of being the old bat in the back, allow me to quote Faye Dunaway’s character from Network: “Look, all I’m saying is if you’re going to hustle, at least do it right.”

100 Years of Photographs Now Free to Embed →

The News: 

Getty Images is dropping the watermark for the bulk of its collection, in exchange for an open-embed program that will let users drop in any image they want, as long as the service gets to append a footer at the bottom of the picture with a credit and link to the licensing page. For a small-scale WordPress blog with no photo budget, this looks an awful lot like free stock imagery.

Implications abound but this one is particularly interesting:

The biggest effect might be on the nature of the web itself. Embeds from Twitter and YouTube are already a crucial part of the modern web, but they’ve also enabled a more advanced kind of link rot, as deleted tweets and videos leave holes in old blog posts. If the new embeds take off, becoming a standard for low-rent WordPress blogs, they’ll extend that webby decay to the images themselves. On an embed-powered web, a change in contracts could leave millions of posts with no lead image, or completely erase a post like this one.

We need news organizations to help our curiosity by signaling how their stories fit into the larger themes on which a sincere capacity for interest depends. To grow interested in any piece of information, we need somewhere to “put” it, which means some way of connecting it to an issue we already know how to care about. A section of the human brain might be pictured as a library in which information is shelved under certain fundamental categories. Most of what we hear about day to day easily signals where in the stacks it should go and gets immediately and unconsciously filed: News of an affair is put on the heavily burdened shelf dedicated to How Relationships Work, a story of the sudden sacking of a CEO slots into our evolving understanding of Work & Status.

But the stranger or the smaller stories become, the harder the shelving process grows. What we colloquially call “feeling bored” is just the mind, acting out of a self-preserving reflex, ejecting information it has despaired of knowing where to place.

Alain de Botton, The Future of News, The Week.

The piece is an excerpt from his new book The News: A User’s Manual, which we’re currently reading and will have thoughts to tumble about soon. In the meantime, it’s an important conversation to have. Here’s a take on some key points from a review in The Guardian:

These are all worthy areas, to be sure. They are what intelligent, concerned citizens ought to want to know about the world that surrounds them. Perhaps, two centuries ago, the general populace could manage without The News most of the time. But now it’s omnipresent, inescapable and, on this thesis, stuck in too many arcane ruts, pandering to fear and pessimism, relishing disappointment.

Yet you can’t make the whole journey merely by playing the dissatisfied consumer. 

[…] News starts with you, your family, your interests, your street. It expands via TV, captured by the people and lives you see on screen. (It was more interested in foreign coverage when it seemed the cold war could destroy us all at the push of a button). It is a box of fragments you try to assemble for yourself, rather than a finished jigsaw. Which means that it can’t be pinned down in a handy user’s guide. But at least it’s worth thinking about constantly, fine, frisky, philosophical minds applied. For the construct is you.

How Teens Actually Use the Internet

danah boyd, superstar researcher of media, culture and teens, has just published It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked teens, which you can learn about and purchase here, or download (for free!) here.
We’ve yet to read it ourselves, but in this excellent round-up of questions and answers from Ethan Zuckerman, you can get a good sense of the content she covers and the myths about teen habits online that she busts. For example: the fact that teens want to gather in physical space rather than rely on connecting through the web, but we’ve restricted their ability to participate in public life and so they must rely on the web.

The book is organized around myths associated with youth and online media: the idea that youth are digital natives, that online spaces are heavily sexualized, and that online spaces are dangerous to youth.
Her overall takeaway from this research: we have spent thirty years restricting the ability of youth to get together face to face in the physical world. These technologies give youth access to public life once again and to make meaning of the world around them. Youth want to gather and socialize with their friends and become part of public life. Many youth would rather get together in real life, but turn to online spaces because those are the only spaces where young people can interact with one another in public life.
“There’s so much learning, so much opportunity through being part of public life”, says danah. We need to accept the idea that these online spaces are the key public spaces for young people.

Image: A prezi visualizing danah’s talk to the Berkman Center luncheon.

How Teens Actually Use the Internet

danah boyd, superstar researcher of media, culture and teens, has just published It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked teens, which you can learn about and purchase here, or download (for free!) here.

We’ve yet to read it ourselves, but in this excellent round-up of questions and answers from Ethan Zuckerman, you can get a good sense of the content she covers and the myths about teen habits online that she busts. For example: the fact that teens want to gather in physical space rather than rely on connecting through the web, but we’ve restricted their ability to participate in public life and so they must rely on the web.

The book is organized around myths associated with youth and online media: the idea that youth are digital natives, that online spaces are heavily sexualized, and that online spaces are dangerous to youth.

Her overall takeaway from this research: we have spent thirty years restricting the ability of youth to get together face to face in the physical world. These technologies give youth access to public life once again and to make meaning of the world around them. Youth want to gather and socialize with their friends and become part of public life. Many youth would rather get together in real life, but turn to online spaces because those are the only spaces where young people can interact with one another in public life.

“There’s so much learning, so much opportunity through being part of public life”, says danah. We need to accept the idea that these online spaces are the key public spaces for young people.

Image: A prezi visualizing danah’s talk to the Berkman Center luncheon.

How to spot the difference between a terrorist and a journalist →

A note to governments from Index on Censorship:

Index on Censorship here. We’ve noticed some you have had trouble telling the difference between terrorists and journalist lately (yes, you too Barack: put the BlackBerry down). So we thought as people with some experience of the journalism thing, we could offer you a few handy tips to refer to the next time you find yourself asking: journalist or terrorist?

Have a look at your suspect. Is he carrying a) a notebook with weird squiggly lines on it, or b) an RPG-7. If the latter, odds on he’s a terrorist. The former? Most likely a journalist. Those squiggly lines are called “shorthand” – it’s what reporters do when they’re writing things down for, er, reporting. It might look a bit like Arabic, but it’s not, and even if it was, that wouldn’t be a good enough reason to lock the guy up.

Still not clear? Let’s move on to the questioning part.

Background: In Egypt, Al Jazeera journalists are on trial for having links to a “terrorist organization”; in England, a court ruled that the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow Airport was legal because carrying the Edward Snowden NSA documents is, um, terroristy; in Morocco, a journalist was charged last fall with “inciting terrorism” because he linked to an Al Qaeda video; and in the United States the government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws as they do their jobs (see here, here, and here for all things depressing). 

We could go on.

The News Feed is perhaps the world’s most sophisticated mirror of its readers’ preferences—and it’s fairly clear that news isn’t one of them. We simply prefer stories that fulfill the very purpose of Facebook’s machine-learning algorithm, to show us a reflection of the person we’d like to be, to make us feel, to make us smile, and, most simply, to remind us of ourselves.

Derek Thompson, The Facebook Effect on the News, The Atlantic.

Thompson uses data from the BuzzFeed Partner Network (a conglomeration of popular sites) to compare the type of content that goes viral three different ways: Twitter, Search Traffic and Facebook.

On Twitter:

It’s a blend of news, like terrorist attacks and music shows, and evergreen silliness with Ryan Gosling and Kim Kardashian. 

In Search Traffic:

Just about all of them arguably count as “news.” They describe recent events, whether it’s a bikini sighting, terrorist explosion, or celebrity death.

On Facebook:

Of the 20 most viral stories on BuzzFeed’s network, only seven deal with recent events. Only three deal with what you might call national news stories: the Miss America Pageant, Netflix technology, and the Video Music Awards (not quite A1 fare, but news, nonetheless). But the vast majority of these stories aren’t really news, at all. They’re quizzes about your accent, lists of foods and photographs, funny reminders of what life feels like as you age. For lack of a better term: They’re entertainment.

Strangers React to a Norwegian Boy Out in the Cold without a Jacket

via Global Post.

Part of a larger campaign to encourage Norwegians to donate warm coats and blankets to displaced Syrian children, who make up 50% of all refugees from the country.

Whenever these cases surface, they’re accompanied by a discussion about whether or not we can or should appreciate the work of artists and writers who are accused of doing terrible things. It’s a question without any satisfying categorical answer, which I suppose is why it generates so much copy. The nuances are endless: does it matter if the artist in question is alive or not? If he or she is dead, does it matter how long? Is there a difference between music that has words and music that doesn’t? Between loving a movie made by an alleged sex offender and loving a work of theology written by one? How on earth do we weigh all of this?

Stephanie Krehbiel, The Woody Allen Problem, Religion Dispatches Magazine.

For those who have been looking for insight on how to think about Woody Allen in light of Dylan Farrow’s testimony against him and his subsequent letter of rebuttal, here is a useful point made by Roxan Gay in Salon:

Lately, we’ve been referring to to our social-media-saturated era as “the age of outrage.” I think what’s going on is more complex than that. We don’t get to hide from the truth anymore. We don’t get to hide from the possibility of multiple truths. This is the age of knowing, of Pandora’s box blown wide open. This is the age of being unable, or unwilling, or having fewer opportunities to look away. This is the age of being confronted with what we are willing to do in the name of what we believe.

And in that light, it’s useful to think about an analogous case and read Krehbiel’s piece, which is quoted above. It tells the story of respected theologian John Howard Yoder and his own version of the Woody Allen conundrum. And it’s a fascinating explanation of Mennonite pacifism, masculinity, and why people can struggle to condemn sexual violence despite a body evidence.

But King didn’t give readers an accurate picture—he gave them a partial and exaggerated one. He has the thickest Rolodex in the business, but he talked to only four people, and his colleagues talked to eight. In a league as large and diverse as the NFL, 12 is not a definitive sample. The SI stories offered no counterbalancing opinion or analysis, so the message was clear: This is the NFL party line. No one will talk on the record. And if anyone does, don’t trust him.

Stephen Fatsis, How Sports Illustrated Botched the Michael Sam Story, Slate.

Background: Sports Illustrated published a piece by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans on how the news that NFL prospect Michael Sam is gay will affect his draft stock. The “eight NFL executives and coaches” they spoke with predicted Sam’s fall to bigotry in the league. None of these sources were identified. Slate breaks it down.

Issue 1: Not a reasonable reflection of reality.

…the issue here isn’t the ungrounded and outdated opinions of a few off-the-record soothsayers. It’s about whether they deserved a platform in the first place, and whether the conclusions drawn from their words were a reasonable reflection of a broader reality.

Then Peter King posted a column in which he too gave his sources cover on the assumption that they wouldn’t talk otherwise.

Issue 2: Not okay to grant anonymity based on assumption.

King assumed they wouldn’t comment on the record so he granted anonymity up front? Maybe my journalistic principles are stuck in the ’50s, but that’s a newsroom no-no. You grant anonymity to get information or to understand background and context. You don’t let a source trash someone anonymously. King wrote that anonymity “would give the best information possible.” But he didn’t give information, only blind, unchallenged opinion. If his sources had spoken on the record and said something mealy-mouthed or had outright lied, King would have performed a journalistic service far greater than letting them shiv Michael Sam in his pursuit of “the truth.”

FJP: The ethics of using anonymous sources is pretty clear. Once you agree to providing anonymity, you stick to it or you’ll find yourself in a lawsuit. But the wisdom of knowing when to grant a source anonymity is far more difficult to come by. Here’s an interesting take on it from the Times, whose readers’ number 1 complaint is anonymous sources.

Related: Texas sports anchor Dale Hansen telling it like it is.

New Gender Options for Facebook Users →

Facebook users have been long been lobbying for gender options on their profiles beyond “male” and “female”, and the idea has been percolating at in-house for the last year. After consulting with leading gay and transgender activists, Facebook has come up with a list of 50 different terms  people can use to identify their gender, as well as 3 pronoun choices, reports AP.  

What it means for advertising?

At this point, Facebook targets advertising according to male or female genders. For those who change to something neutral, ads will be targeted based on the pronoun they select for themselves. Unlike getting engaged or married, changing gender is not registered as a “life event” on the site and won’t post on timelines. Therefore, Facebook said advertisers cannot target ads to those who declare themselves transgender or recently changed their gender.

Full story here.

The 545: A Single Subject Site on India’s Elections
A group of students at Columbia J-School just launched the 545, a first of its kind (in India) single-subject news site inspired in part by Nate Silver and Syria Deeply. Why 545? Because that’s how many seats there are the House in Parliament.
The 545:

Think of it as a combination of BuzzFeed and Quartz— 300 to 400 word pieces with charts, graphics, visuals — to tell interesting stories tailored for online consumption. And everything will be pushed through social media.
Think of it as writing for your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. No high-brow, jargon-led, politically-driven journalism. There are enough newspapers doing that already. TheFiveFortyFive.com will break through the clutter, delivering pieces that’ll interest even the most non-political of readers.
That means that we want to become a platform for a variety of voices — students, academics, professionals, bureaucrats, journalists and the discerning politician even — telling us what the election means to them.
This, after all, is the world’s biggest exercise in democracy. TheFiveFortyFive.com will try and reinvent how it’s reported, online.

FJP: While visually striking news sites and blogs abound in the States, India’s news ecosystem is very print focused and pretty conventional. To learn a bit about what the media ecosystem looks like there, as well issues facing the industry, see The Hoot, a media-watch site focused on the Indian subcontinent.

The 545: A Single Subject Site on India’s Elections

A group of students at Columbia J-School just launched the 545, a first of its kind (in India) single-subject news site inspired in part by Nate Silver and Syria Deeply. Why 545? Because that’s how many seats there are the House in Parliament.

The 545:

Think of it as a combination of BuzzFeed and Quartz— 300 to 400 word pieces with charts, graphics, visuals — to tell interesting stories tailored for online consumption. And everything will be pushed through social media.

Think of it as writing for your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. No high-brow, jargon-led, politically-driven journalism. There are enough newspapers doing that already. TheFiveFortyFive.com will break through the clutter, delivering pieces that’ll interest even the most non-political of readers.

That means that we want to become a platform for a variety of voices — students, academics, professionals, bureaucrats, journalists and the discerning politician even — telling us what the election means to them.

This, after all, is the world’s biggest exercise in democracy. TheFiveFortyFive.com will try and reinvent how it’s reported, online.

FJP: While visually striking news sites and blogs abound in the States, India’s news ecosystem is very print focused and pretty conventional. To learn a bit about what the media ecosystem looks like there, as well issues facing the industry, see The Hoot, a media-watch site focused on the Indian subcontinent.