Posts tagged newsrooms

The Day There Was No News

On April 18, 1930, the BBC decided there was no news worth reporting. Solution: the then eight-year-old broadcaster played piano music instead.

If only there were a Monty Python reenactment of that.

In Praise of Sources

Cable on Climate Science

Via the Union of Concerned Scientists:

CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC are the most widely watched cable news networks in the U.S. Their coverage of climate change is an influential source of information for the public and policy makers alike.

To gauge how accurately these networks inform their audiences about climate change, UCS analyzed the networks’ climate science coverage in 2013 and found that each network treated climate science very differently.

Fox News was the least accurate; 72 percent of its 2013 climate science-related segments contained misleading statements. CNN was in the middle, with about a third of segments featuring misleading statements. MSNBC was the most accurate, with only eight percent of segments containing misleading statements.

Read the overview here, or jump to the study here (PDF).

Images: Science or Spin?: Assessing the Accuracy of Cable News Coverage of Climate Science, via Union of Concerned Scientists

BBC using WhatsApp and WeChat to Engage Indians, Push News During Elections

Via Journalism.co.uk:

The BBC is using private mobile messaging apps to engage with their audience in India around this year’s presidential elections, the first phase of which begins on Monday.

Starting today, BBC News India is sending updates to users of WeChat and WhatsApp to distribute BBC content, engage with the audience and source user-generated content (UGC).

"A lot of these apps have huge, huge audiences," Trushar Barot, assistant editor of the BBC’s UGC and social media hub, told Journalism.co.uk, "so the potential is definitely there as we figure out an editorial product that fits with the platform."

Figures from February estimate the number of global WhatsApp users at 450 million, while WeChat claimed a total 355 million users worldwide in March.

The first messages from BBC News India included stories in Hindi and English, an introduction to users as to how the app process would work and an invitation to share “thoughts, comments and experiences of the campaign as well as their pictures and videos”.

WhatsApp users will receive three messages per day as push notifications, while the capability is limited to one message per day on WeChat

Super clever.

‘Robot’ to write 1 billion stories in 2014 but will you know it when you see it? | Poynter.

If you’re a human reporter quaking in your boots this week over news of a Los Angeles Times algorithm that wrote the newspaper’s initial story about an earthquake, you might want to cover your ears for this fact:

Software from Automated Insights will generate about 1 billion stories this year — up from 350 million last year, CEO and founder Robbie Allen told Poynter via phone.

FJP: Here’s a ponderable for you.

A few weeks ago, the New York Post reported that Quinton Ross died. Ross, a former Brooklyn Nets basketball player, didn’t know he was dead and soon let people know he was just fine.

"A couple (relatives) already heard it," Ross told the Associated Press. “They were crying. I mean, it was a tough day, man, mostly for my family and friends… My phone was going crazy. I checked Facebook. Finally, I went on the Internet, and they were saying I was dead. I just couldn’t believe it.”

The original reporter on the story? A robot. Specifically, Wikipedia Live Monitor, created by Google engineer Thomas Steiner.

Slate explains how it happened:

Wikipedia Live Monitor is a news bot designed to detect breaking news events. It does this by listening to the velocity and concurrent edits across 287 language versions of Wikipedia. The theory is that if lots of people are editing Wikipedia pages in different languages about the same event and at the same time, then chances are something big and breaking is going on.

At 3:09 p.m. the bot recognized the apparent death of Quinton Ross (the basketball player) as a breaking news event—there had been eight edits by five editors in three languages. The bot sent a tweet. Twelve minutes later, the page’s information was corrected. But the bot remained silent. No correction. It had shared what it thought was breaking news, and that was that. Like any journalist, these bots can make mistakes.

Quick takeaway: Robots, like the humans that program them, are fallible.

Slower, existential takeaway: “How can we instill journalistic ethics in robot reporters?

As Nicholas Diakopoulos explains in Slate, code transparency is an inadequate part of the answer. More important  is understanding what he calls the “tuning criteria,” or the inherent biases, that are used to make editorial decisions when algorithms direct the news.

Read through for his excellent take.

Internet slang. We used to make an effort to avoid this, and now I see us all falling back into the habit. We want to sound like regular adult human beings, not Buzzfeed writers or Reddit commenters. Therefore: No “epic.” No “pwn.” No “+1.” No “derp.” No “this”/”this just happened.” No “OMG.” No “WTF.” No “lulz.” No “FTW.” No “win.” No “amazeballs.” And so on. Nothing will ever “win the internet” on Gawker. As with all rules there are exceptions. Err on the side of the Times, not XOJane.
Max Read, Editor, Gawker, in a memo to staff, via Poynter. Gawker bans ‘Internet slang’.
breakingnews:

AP photographer killed, reporter wounded in Afghanistan
AP: Veteran Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed and AP reporter Kathy Gannon was wounded on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan.
Follow more on this story at Breaking News
Photo: Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus poses for a photograph in Rome. (AP File Photo)

FJP — Via the BBC:

The attack took place in the town of Khost near the border with Pakistan…
…[The two journalists] had been travelling with election workers delivering ballots in the Tanay district of Khost province.
An eyewitness said a police unit commander had opened fire on the journalists as they were waiting for their convoy to move inside a security compound.
The police officer behind the attack was taken into custody after surrendering to other police…
…The BBC’s Afghanistan correspondent, David Loyn, says the election is being protected by the biggest military operation since the fall of the Taliban.
Nearly 200,000 troops have been deployed across the country to prevent attacks.
Rings of security have been set up around each polling centre, with the police at the centre and hundreds of troops on the outside.
Reporting restrictions are in place, limiting what can be broadcast about the candidates.

For what it’s worth, Niedringhaus was a former Nieman Fellow. Some of her work can be seen on her Tumblr. See also her 2007 essay in Nieman Reports on the emotions of photography, and this 2013 photo essay of her work in Afghanistan from the Atlantic.

breakingnews:

AP photographer killed, reporter wounded in Afghanistan

AP: Veteran Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed and AP reporter Kathy Gannon was wounded on Friday when an Afghan policeman opened fire while they were sitting in their car in eastern Afghanistan.

Follow more on this story at Breaking News

Photo: Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus poses for a photograph in Rome. (AP File Photo)

FJP — Via the BBC:

The attack took place in the town of Khost near the border with Pakistan…

…[The two journalists] had been travelling with election workers delivering ballots in the Tanay district of Khost province.

An eyewitness said a police unit commander had opened fire on the journalists as they were waiting for their convoy to move inside a security compound.

The police officer behind the attack was taken into custody after surrendering to other police…

The BBC’s Afghanistan correspondent, David Loyn, says the election is being protected by the biggest military operation since the fall of the Taliban.

Nearly 200,000 troops have been deployed across the country to prevent attacks.

Rings of security have been set up around each polling centre, with the police at the centre and hundreds of troops on the outside.

Reporting restrictions are in place, limiting what can be broadcast about the candidates.

For what it’s worth, Niedringhaus was a former Nieman Fellow. Some of her work can be seen on her Tumblr. See also her 2007 essay in Nieman Reports on the emotions of photography, and this 2013 photo essay of her work in Afghanistan from the Atlantic.

laughingsquid:

The Oxford Comma, A Confounding Bit of Punctuation

FJP: For what it’s worth, The FJP doesn’t use the Oxford Comma. We’re also with Farhad Manjoo in refusing to put two spaces after a period.

Robots Reporting Earthquakes
Via Slate:

Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was jolted awake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday by an earthquake. He rolled out of bed and went straight to his computer, where he found a brief story about the quake already written and waiting in the system. He glanced over the text and hit “publish.” And that’s how the LAT became the first media outlet to report on this morning’s temblor. “I think we had it up within three minutes,” Schwencke told me.
If that sounds faster than humanly possible, it probably is. While the post appeared under Schwencke’s byline, the real author was an algorithm called Quakebot that he developed a little over two years ago. Whenever an alert comes in from the U.S. Geological Survey about an earthquake above a certain size threshold, Quakebot is programmed to extract the relevant data from the USGS report and plug it into a pre-written template. The story goes into the LAT’s content management system, where it awaits review and publication by a human editor.

Interested in – or freaked out about – robots writing your news? Check our Robots Tag.
Image: Screenshot, text I received from my brother Peter this morning. – Michael

Robots Reporting Earthquakes

Via Slate:

Ken Schwencke, a journalist and programmer for the Los Angeles Times, was jolted awake at 6:25 a.m. on Monday by an earthquake. He rolled out of bed and went straight to his computer, where he found a brief story about the quake already written and waiting in the system. He glanced over the text and hit “publish.” And that’s how the LAT became the first media outlet to report on this morning’s temblor. “I think we had it up within three minutes,” Schwencke told me.

If that sounds faster than humanly possible, it probably is. While the post appeared under Schwencke’s byline, the real author was an algorithm called Quakebot that he developed a little over two years ago. Whenever an alert comes in from the U.S. Geological Survey about an earthquake above a certain size threshold, Quakebot is programmed to extract the relevant data from the USGS report and plug it into a pre-written template. The story goes into the LAT’s content management system, where it awaits review and publication by a human editor.

Interested in – or freaked out about – robots writing your news? Check our Robots Tag.

Image: Screenshot, text I received from my brother Peter this morning. – Michael

Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse.

Janet Malcom, The Journalist and the Murderer, via Slate. The Storytellers: Walter Kirn gets taken in by a con man.

So begins a review in Slate of Blood Will Out, a new memoir by Walter Kirn about his relationship with Clark Rockefeller, a real life Mr. Ripley who impersonated a famous name, lived the high life and was eventually charged on kidnapping and murder charges. Kirn’s book explores how, as a writer, he was taken in by the faux Rockefeller. Or, more precisely, by the German-born Christian Gerhartsreiter who successfully played a Rockefeller in New York City social circles.

But while Kirn explores why and how he was taken over a decade-long relationship, let’s go back to Malcom’s original quote, to the journalist as con man, to his or her relationship with sources, and why sources should talk with reporters.

In the wake of NSA revelations, national security journalists have spoken about their increased difficulty reporting the news (see here, here and here). And with the Obama administration’s use of the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers you can see why that would be the case.

So why should sources talk to reporters? It’s an important, unasked question, says Edward Wasserman, dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley:

When you think about it, that question goes to the foundation of the entire edifice of a free press. And that foundation, at the moment, is shaky.

Let’s back up. No honest press, whatever its sense of mission and however firm its legal protections, can outperform its sources. It can’t be any better, stronger, braver, more richly informed, or more dedicated to broad public purpose than the people who swallow their misgivings, return the phone call, step forward, and risk embarrassment and reprisal to talk to the reporter.

The mythology of journalism enshrines the sleuths, sometimes the editors, even the publishers, but sources are really the whole ball game. Press freedom is nothing more than source freedom, one step removed. The right of a news organization to tell what it learns is an empty abstraction without the willingness of news sources to tell what they know.

Considering how important sources are, it’s stunning how little affection they get and how flimsy the protections are that anybody claims for them.

Give Wasserman’s article a good read.

It moves well beyond national security issues as it explores, again, why when a source’s quote can be nitpicked a thousand different ways — in “the online multiverse, and his or her words, motives and integrity will be denounced or impugned, often by pseudonymous dingbats, some of them undisclosed hirelings” — he or she should ever want to talk to the news media.

Hello, Sunshine Week
Sunshine Week is on us. Here are a few good resources on open government and transparency.
SunshineWeek.org lists events, has toolkits and shows how the Freedom of Information Act Works.
The Sunlight Foundation provides information on transparency issues, and provides API’s for developers to hack government data.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Transparency Project has  backgrounders on all things FOIA.
FOIA.gov let’s you query data and file your requests.
Reading US Attorney General Eric Holder’s now five-year-old memo to federal agencies on becoming more open to FOIA requests is eye-opening. The ostensible goal was to make agencies more open and transparent. 
Seems the message has been lost. Via the AP: 

The Obama administration has a way to go to fulfill its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.
More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.
Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests.
The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records. In category after category - except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees - the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

Image: Phil Lapsley, discussing turning the Freedom of Information Act into a hacking tool, via the EFF.

Hello, Sunshine Week

Sunshine Week is on us. Here are a few good resources on open government and transparency.

  • SunshineWeek.org lists events, has toolkits and shows how the Freedom of Information Act Works.
  • The Sunlight Foundation provides information on transparency issues, and provides API’s for developers to hack government data.
  • The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Transparency Project has  backgrounders on all things FOIA.
  • FOIA.gov let’s you query data and file your requests.

Reading US Attorney General Eric Holder’s now five-year-old memo to federal agencies on becoming more open to FOIA requests is eye-opening. The ostensible goal was to make agencies more open and transparent. 

Seems the message has been lost. Via the AP

The Obama administration has a way to go to fulfill its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history.

More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests.

The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records. In category after category - except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees - the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.

Image: Phil Lapsley, discussing turning the Freedom of Information Act into a hacking tool, via the EFF.

I don’t even know if anyone is reading this anymore.

Russia Blocks Four Opposition Media Portals — (via globalvoices)

Background, via EFF:

Russia’s government has escalated its use of its Internet censorship law to target news sites, bloggers, and politicians under the slimmest excuse of preventing unauthorized protests and enforcing house arrest regulations. Today, the country’s ISPs have received orders to block a list of major news sites and system administrators have been instructed to take the servers providing the content offline.

The banned sites include the online newspaper Grani, Garry Kasparov’s opposition information site kasparov.ru, the livejournal of popular anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny, and even the web pages of Ekho Moskvy, a radio station which is majority owned by the state-run Gazprom, and whose independent editor was ousted last month and replaced with a more government-friendly director.

The list of newly prohibited sites was published earlier today by Russia’s Prosecutor General, which announced that the news sites had been “entered into the single register of banned information” after “calls for participation in unauthorized rallies.” Navalny’s livejournal was apparently added to the register in response to the conditions of his current house arrest, which include a personal prohibition on accessing the Internet.

Gangsta Lorem Ipsum
Let us begin:

Lorizzle pot dolizzle the bizzle amizzle, mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa adipiscing elit. Nullizzle tellivizzle velizzle, we gonna chung volutpizzle, crackalackin quizzle, shiz vel, arcu. Pellentesque fizzle tortizzle. You son of a bizzle erizzle. Yo izzle dolizzle dapibizzle turpis tempizzle hizzle. Maurizzle pellentesque nibh et turpizzle. Go to hizzle rizzle mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa.

And how we got there, via The London Review of Books:

Sometimes, when we’re putting together an issue of the LRB, we use Lorem Ipsum, a chunk of phoney Latin dummy text that’s been used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century. We paste it into a layout so we can tell what a page will look like before the copy’s ready. The practice is known as ‘greeking’ because the Latin’s so mixed up it’s all Greek.
Only it isn’t. The text itself has been designed not to communicate, to have the look of text but no meaning – but meaning bubbles up through it nonetheless. The 16th-century printer who came up with it got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. Though most of the metaphysical subtlety has been wrung out, sense hasn’t completely: the text is haunted, as Derrida might have put it, by the piece of writing it once was…
…Try translating it and you get some striking effects. Of course a straightforward translation isn’t possible – for one thing, ‘lorem’ isn’t a word, it’s a chopped off bit of ‘dolorem’ – but Jaspreet Singh Boparai, a postgraduate at Cambridge, has come up with the following:

For language and design nerds, your translation.
Image: Screenshot, Gangsta Lorem Ipsum.

Gangsta Lorem Ipsum

Let us begin:

Lorizzle pot dolizzle the bizzle amizzle, mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa adipiscing elit. Nullizzle tellivizzle velizzle, we gonna chung volutpizzle, crackalackin quizzle, shiz vel, arcu. Pellentesque fizzle tortizzle. You son of a bizzle erizzle. Yo izzle dolizzle dapibizzle turpis tempizzle hizzle. Maurizzle pellentesque nibh et turpizzle. Go to hizzle rizzle mammasay mammasa mamma oo sa.

And how we got there, via The London Review of Books:

Sometimes, when we’re putting together an issue of the LRB, we use Lorem Ipsum, a chunk of phoney Latin dummy text that’s been used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century. We paste it into a layout so we can tell what a page will look like before the copy’s ready. The practice is known as ‘greeking’ because the Latin’s so mixed up it’s all Greek.

Only it isn’t. The text itself has been designed not to communicate, to have the look of text but no meaning – but meaning bubbles up through it nonetheless. The 16th-century printer who came up with it got there by mangling Cicero’s ‘De finibus bonorum et malorum’, an exposition of Stoicism, Epicureanism and the Platonism of Antiochus of Ascalon. Though most of the metaphysical subtlety has been wrung out, sense hasn’t completely: the text is haunted, as Derrida might have put it, by the piece of writing it once was…

…Try translating it and you get some striking effects. Of course a straightforward translation isn’t possible – for one thing, ‘lorem’ isn’t a word, it’s a chopped off bit of ‘dolorem’ – but Jaspreet Singh Boparai, a postgraduate at Cambridge, has come up with the following:

For language and design nerds, your translation.

Image: Screenshot, Gangsta Lorem Ipsum.

The Pope Has a New Magazine

Stephen Colbert breaks it down.

For more of Colbert’s take on Catholism, see OnFaith.