Boothe's 4202 Blog

How the Internet and Technology is changing Editing

Archive for March 2012

Game changers

with one comment

In the jumbled world of online journalism, there’s little victory left in being the first publication to break a story.

While small or unorganized sites can grab extra views by getting a scoop, readers will first and foremost go to their trusted and reliable web pages for news on developing story.

For example, if I watch TV and see a big trade or an athlete arrest being talked about on ESPN, I likely won’t be travelling to their site to read more. Instead, I’ll click over to ESPN’s competitor — Sports Ilustrated – not only for its superior quality of writing but for the more pleasant and specialized experience I get on its page.

I have been a frequent user of (or for a long time, because the content on the page doesn’t feel forced. Jeff Pearlman, a former writer, explains ESPN’s web model as looking like an “exploded burrito”  without a centralized focus on your screen.

The amazing thing about publications like Sports Illustrated and The Atlantic leading the charge in web journalism is that each is usually a weekly or monthly product. Quick, up-to-the-minute news has never been their game, but perhaps that’s why they are succeeding at it and even making money. The Internet has allowed both magazines to compete on a daily level like never before in an affordable way.

For magazines, news is clearly can become a process now and not just an artifact sitting in a doctor’s office.


Written by jboothe

March 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Polling opposites

with one comment

Case Study 8

Talk about a confusing mess. Between these two stories, which each spun a different view of the polling results, I preferred the New York Times’ take on the survey. Clearly positive feelings of the overall direction for the nation decreased. However, I did use statistical tidbits and quotes that worked from the USA Today story. The one thing I wasn’t sure of is if I should have rewritten passages to call into question the polling process more. I found it questionable that not every province was surveyed and that some of the results seemingly went against reason or even common knowledge.

New York Times and USA Today compile

Afghans Losing Faith in Nation’s Path, Poll Shows

ISLAMABAD,Pakistan— Afghans have lost a considerable amount of confidence in the direction of their country over the past two years, according to an extensive nationwide survey released Wednesday.

While the national mood remains positive on the whole, the number of people with negative or mixed views on the trajectory of the country has grown significantly since a similar survey in 2004, according to the Asia Foundation, which conducted both surveys.

“The number of Afghans who feel optimistic is lower than on the eve of the 2004 presidential elections,” the survey found.

In what it is billing as the widest opinion poll conducted in Afghanistan, the non-profit, San Francisco-based Asia Foundation surveyed 6,226 Afghans 18 and older in person in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces over the summer.

In the survey, 44 percent of Afghans interviewed said the country was headed in the right direction, compared with 64 percent in 2004. Twenty-one percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction — compared with 11 percent in 2004 — and 29 percent had mixed feelings. Four percent were unsure.

Among those who expressed pessimism, more than half said the biggest problem was a lack of security, the Taliban threat and warlords.

Indeed, polling couldn’t be conducted safely or reliably in two areas: southern Afghanistan’s strife-torn Zabul and Uruzgan provinces, which together account for 2.3% of the country’s population. The survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 2.5%.

The survey showed strong support for democratic elections, and a surprisingly strong approval of new national institutions, including the Afghan National Army, of which 87 percent approved, and the Afghan National Police, of which 86 percent approved.

However, the police, in particular, have been widely criticized for being corrupt, brutal and beholden to local warlords. A report released this month by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based non-profit group devoted to conflict prevention, called the Afghan police “little more than private militias … regarded in nearly every district more as a source of insecurity than protection.”

“I have never met one person, including the minister of the Interior, who trusted the Afghan National Police,” Barnett Rubin, who studiesAfghanistanatNew YorkUniversity’s Center on International Cooperation, said in an e-mail. “I think this is not a very reliable survey.”

George Varughese, who directed the poll for the Asia Foundation, which supports programs in Asia that help improve governance and law, economic reform and development, agrees that some of the results “appear to challenge the current wisdom on issues in Afghanistan,” but says, “We feel it is a solid, important piece of work, completed during a difficult time.”

Written by jboothe

March 28, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tweeting in the UK

with one comment

Case Study 7.1

When the story broke about several armed men using grenades to attack people in Liege, Belgium, the BBC News and RTE News chose different avenues on how to cull additional information about the suspects, situation and circumstances of the incident.

Both have similar facts working after the attack. At least two people were dead and dozens more injured. The grenades went off near a bus stop. Here’s the final report from the BBC.

In order to quickly get more details, the Great Britain-based BBC reached out to its readership instead of relying solely on its reporters like Irish news site RTE. The BBC has been experimenting heavily with the use of citizen journalism since the 2010 London bombings.

Through both Twitter and an automatic message system on its website, the BBC asked: “Are you in Liege? Did you witness what took place? Send your experiences to the BBC using the form below.”

The move seems pretty audacious and risky considering there’s few ways to vet the veracity of sources over the phone and when a media outlet is in a rush to break news. Hearsay stemming from panic in the situation and speculation run rampant after disasters and dangerous situations.

The BBC has a growing history of encouraging citizen journalism through. In recent months it has gone so far as to facilitate input and feedback from readers by creating a cell phone app.

The biggest issue here is clearly that the BBC is asking citizens to do the reporting for them in this instance. It almost feels like they’re throwing in the towel and that the attack was just too big for their own journalists to handle.

Instead of going out to find pertinent sources and credible witnesses, the BBC casted a wide, speculative net and hoped it would get something truthful in return.

Written by jboothe

March 21, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tweeting nonsense

with one comment

Case Study 7

Last November, Andy Boyle watched a couple have a disagreement at a Burger King and posted on Twitter about it.

At least 30 times he tweeted what they were saying through direct quote, paraphrase or audio recording. He also took photos.

The couple wasn’t doing anything outlandish or illegal or even wrong. There was no domestic violence or verbal abuse involved in their argument.

Yet, for some inexplicable reason, Boyle felt the urge to discreetly eavesdrop on this couple’s conversation probably well after he was finished with his Whopper and fries.

Now, there’s a lot of things my parents, teachers and just society in general have taught me about minding my own business and the values of being nice to people. Pulling a stunt like this on Twitter doesn’t feel like I would accomplish either. It would be a safe bet that if my dad saw me posting stuff like this on the internet he’d call me an idiot and tell me to go do something constructive with my time.

Nor would I feel like an ethical journalist or an adult after spending probably a good 30 to 45 minutes of my life transcribing these inconsequential events.

There are plenty of cool and useful ways to go about working with Twitter. This wasn’t one of them. It was just another way to further embarrass two people who were clearly too emotionally strung out to realize they were already making fools of themselves.

I would cringe and look away in that situation. This guy took photos.

Written by jboothe

March 21, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Even bad tweeters can’t deny impact of social media site on journalism

with one comment

Some people have the personality and natural penchant to tweet. I don’t.

For some reason, spending a couple minutes of my time typing 140 characters feels like I’m pulling my own teeth. I just feel silly doing it. There’s plenty to talk about, sure. Most afternoons I’m writing at least a dozen inches of copy at my job. Something has to be interesting in there to plug in the Twitter machine, right?

Luckily, there are many other journalists and media members out there to do what I flat-out stink at. Like it or not, Twitter has become an important tool in the delivery of news.

All over the world, journalists break news and huge stories on Twitter. Some even provide a dose of much-needed entertainment or a quick laugh.

Twitter can be a great resource if you know who to follow and how to contribute to growing web of citizen journalists and standard professionals. Using the social media site, stories can take on a life of their own and grow exponentially in depth and scale as people contribute thoughts and bits of information.

Hashtags, searches and Twitter Lists allow the conversation to be joined by everyone, regardless of who follows.

We see it used to perfection during Arab Spring uprisings and protest movements. Many times Western journalists are barred from these countries, leaving the only resource for first-hand information in the hands of those citizens who are participating or watching the protests.

There are many ways Twitter can be effectively used by figures in the news industry, both during and after a story is published. People who are truly attempting to add to a conversation and inform help Twitter become an increasingly credible way to tell stories.

Written by jboothe

March 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The Poligraft money trail

leave a comment »

Poligraft, first of all, is a great tool for finding bias or outing the political leanings of companies and media outlets. If you are ever skeptical of a news site’s tone or stance on an issue, then Poligraft can show you where its coming from – or more precisely – who they’re giving money to. The way it highlights the campaign contribution of not only employees of a specific company, but also family members and PACs is really remarkable.

I chose to run through a political column from Jonah Goldberg from the National Review about how “Obama isn’t doing enough to lower gas prices.”

Escalating prices for gasoline is an issue almost everyone can relate to, so I figured it would be a good story to begin with. I knew coming in that the Review is a conservative-leaning site (so it wasn’t a surprise to see its graph overwhelmingly red), but it was interesting to see how those in the automobile and energy industries contribute their money to campaigns. It definitely makes sense that they too would want a “drill baby drill” type of president in office.


Written by jboothe

March 14, 2012 at 7:46 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Linking the Hunley

leave a comment »

UT Scientists May Help Unravel Hunley’s Mysteries

KNOXVILLE –- A team of scientists from the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y12 National Security Complex left Sunday to inspect the Hunley to see if they can help unravel the mysteries of the Civil War submarine that sank off the Charleston, S.C., shore 142 years ago.

The local scientists’ involvement has grown out of the relationship between UT and best-selling author Patricia Cornwell.

“Ms. Cornwell has been a strong supporter of UT and the National Forensics Academy for the last four years,” said Mike Sullivan, director of the Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC), part of UT’s Institute for Public Service.

Cornwell recently donated $500,000 to help scientists solve the lingering mystery surrounding the loss of the Hunley and its crew.

Her donation is being used to ensure Hunley scientists have the latest forensic technology as they try to determine what caused the demise of the Confederate submarine. The Hunley disappeared after it successfully sank the USS Housatonic, a Union ship that was involved in the South Atlantic blockade off the Charleston shore. The sunken Hunley and the remains of its crew were discovered in 1995 and raised in 2000, but scientists are still trying to determine why the vessel sank and how its crew died.

In February, at a press conference in Charleston announcing her donation, Cornwell said the Hunley’s sinking is “a 19th century crime scene, where evidence has been corrupted by its underwater environment. We will need to push modern technology to the limit to extract the information that is needed to discover what happened to the Hunley.”

Sullivan said Cornwell recently contacted him to see if scientists from UT, ORNL and Y12 might be able to help with the Hunley.

Cornwell regularly visits UT to talk with crime scene investigators attending training programs at LEIC’s acclaimed National Forensics Academy. NFA instructor Jamie Downs is the medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Hunley case.

“About a month or so ago, I took Patricia Cornwell to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help her get acquainted with the tremendous forensic science capabilities there,” Sullivan said.

Knowing that Hunley researchers are struggling to examine the submarine’s sediment-encrusted hull to determine what caused the vessel to sink and what killed its eight crewmen, Cornwell asked Sullivan if local scientists might be able to help by lending their expertise on metals and metallurgy.

Sullivan said he thought local scientists could help.

“At UT, ORNL and Y12, we have some of the world’s leading experts in metals and metallurgy,” he said.

Cornwell and Maria Jacobsen, an archaeologist from Texas A&M University who is leading the Hunley excavation, recently came to Knoxville to visit scientists from the three institutions. They invited the scientists to travel to Charleston to view the Hunley.

The group will be in Charleston through Tuesday examining the submarine to determine if they can help researchers peel away the built-up sediment on the vessel’s hull. Researchers want to see the damage on submarine’s metal surface, figure out what caused it and determine, if possible, what caused the vessel to sink and what killed its eight crewmembers.

On the evening of Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley became the world’s first successful combat submarine when it sank the Housatonic. That night, after the Hunley’s crew signaled to shore that the mission had been accomplished, the submarine and her eight-man crew vanished. Lost at sea for over a century, the sunken Hunley was located in 1995 by Clive Cussler’s National Underwater and Marine Agency. The hand-cranked vessel was raised in 2000 and delivered to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, where an international team of scientists is trying to preserve the vessel.

A bestselling author in more than 35 countries, Patricia Cornwell is a New York Times best-selling author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her most recent No. 1 New York Times bestsellers include the novels “Predator” and “Trace,” and her non-fiction book, “Portrait of a Killer: Jack the Ripper — Case Closed.”

Cornwell published “The Body Farm” in 1994, which attracted worldwide media attention to UT’s Forensic Anthropology Center, where scientists and law enforcement personnel study the decomposition of the human body under various conditions. Her new novel, “At Risk,” will be published by G.P. Putnams Sons on May 23.


Written by jboothe

March 14, 2012 at 7:43 am

Posted in Uncategorized