Sunday, December 14, 2008

Playing a Numbers Game

click here for a flickr slideshow on CAR

Imagine an innovation that changes the way an entire profession conducts its craft while making it easier and quicker to complete a once tedious task.

For journalists, that technology exists in the form of computer assisted reporting, or CAR. This tool began to take off within the last decade and it refers to the ever growing amount of resources available to reporters via online sources, computer databases, and other electronic documents.

Using methods such as searching online databases, requesting access for government documents, and using maps and other charts to obtain information, reporters now have at their disposal a wealth of organized information and statistics on everything from health inspection reports to the status of prisoners. In short, CAR a bevy of tools for use in the development, research, and reporting of stories, many of which are investigative in nature.

I realized everything was changing,” said Brant Houston, the Knight Chair for Investigative and Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in response to the first time he was introduced to databases. “The tools that we potentially had as journalists were absolutely revolutionary for our craft.”

As it turned out, databases and other forms of CAR ultimately changed the face of journalism as Houston envisioned it doing. From a sheer standpoint of time spent gathering information, CAR has made formerly painstaking tasks quick and painless. Where looking for real estate or tax records used to take a couple of days to gather, that information can no be acquired in mere minutes thanks to information available through databases and other CAR elements.

Not only have databases cut down on the amount of time it takes to acquire information for a story, but they have also allowed journalists to report on stories that could not have been done before the technology existed. For example, Walter Robinson, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter at the Boston Globe, wrote a story about a Pulitzer winner, named Joseph Ellis, who had falsified a story about serving in Vietnam and in the civil rights movement. Robinson was able to uncover this story by using information he acquired through CAR.

"Ten years ago I couldn't have done that story at all,” said Robinson. “If you read that story and look at the various elements within that story, I think you’ll see where you find the intersection between information you can get by using the computer and the mortar I was talking about that sort of connects things.”

The mortar to which Robinson refers is the belief that a database alone is often not enough to base an entire story around, although they are certainly a start. Databases allow reporters to track down different sources, discover different angles, or simply boost the amount of solid evidence for a story’s case. As Robinson put it, think of pieces of data from a database as individual bricks with the actual reporting being used as the mortar that keeps those bricks joined and ties the story together.

The difficult part of that endeavor comes with trying to make sense of the information contained within a database. Once documents are acquired, programs such as Excel allow reporters to input the information and sort it in a way that makes the most sense for a story. Many databases contain thousands of figures, so zeroing in on a particular trend or story can be a difficult task, even for reporters with a great deal of experience.

"I have a database sitting on my desk, and I keep going back to it, but there was nothing that jumped out at me [for a story],” said Mike Beaudet, an investigative reporter at Boston’s Fox affiliate, WFXT. “It’s trial and error to a certain degree.”

A good local example of what can come from acquiring databases and using them at their simplest level is the "Your Town" feature Matt Carroll puts together for the Thursday print edition of the Globe. The feature, which is also archived on the Globe’s website, gives readers a feel for how their community compares with other communities in topics ranging from the number of Dunkin’ Donuts in a town to the number to the number of residents who own cars in towns around Boston by presenting the statistics in graph and data form.

"I could see it being helpful," Northeastern journalism major Pat Quigley said of "Your Town.” "If I stayed in Boston to work after school, this would be something I would use to help me pick a town to live in."

While finding and reporting information has become easier for reporters, it’s worth noting that many public offices and individuals still try many tactics when it comes to keeping some information private. There’s still some red tape to get through (some organizations try to block out names and other pieces of information or even refuse to give up documents), but an experienced reporter generally knows how to cut through that tape and use databases in a way that makes CAR so useful to journalism in this era.

“You’ll still encounter certain agencies that resist giving you information in an electronic form, but you sort of have to push them for it and ask for it,” said Beaudet. “They know media outlets are entitled to it, [and] they give it to you, ultimately, if you push. You just have to be pretty persistent.”

Despite the many benefits of databases and CAR, many journalists refuse to use these tools because they’re thought to be too complex and take up too much time. Houston recalled that as recently as 2000 some editors were telling him that the web was nothing more than a fad that would ultimately pass. When it comes to the Globe, Carroll is one of the few reporters at the newspaper who has an extensive knowledge on the subject, thus making him the man most go to in the newsroom when a question regarding databases arises.

For older journalists (and young ones) who aren’t convinced that learning databases and CAR is worth their time and energy, it’s important to take one thing into consideration: job security.

“[Knowing databases] is definitely an asset in a world where there’s a lot fewer jobs than there were a year ago,” said Carroll. “It makes me a lot more flexible and gives me some importance within the building and within the industry, which is nice.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New and Improved

On Monday, I gave a presentation to my Reinventing the News class on a website that has hopped on the new media trend and improved itself from a bare bones operation to a comprehensive site for all the latest sports news, scores, commentaries, videos, audio clips, and analysis.

That website is, the official website of Boston's most successful sports talk radio station. WEEI is continuing a trend I've noticed among sports radio stations (and news stations) throughout the country. That trend is supplementing its over the air content with online content. Sports Radio 610 in Houston, the radio station I interned for over the summer, is doing the same thing with its website.

The first thing I noticed about was how they've assembled a talented team of columnists and writers for the site- a few of which were lured from notable newspapers in the area. Writers like Michael Felger and Rob Bradford provide excellent commentaries for the site, in addition to writers like Will Leitch (of fame) and Alex Speier.

There are also a multitude of blogs on the website, each one tailored to a specific topic. For example, the baseball winter meetings are currently being blogged by Bradford and Speier, as they give readers up to date information on this marquee off season event for baseball. The site recently added Curt Schilling to its line up of bloggers.

Readers can subscribe to WEEI's RSS feed to get breaking information on the area's teams.

The new also goes beyond written words. After all, it is a radio station, so archives of interviews, commentaries, and important discussions are available for listeners on the site. From a video perspective, visitors can find videos on things such as Celtics post game reports.

If all that isn't enough for you, WEEI has set up a page for each local sports team that contains that team's headlines, statistics, other pertinent information, and WEEI commentaries. These pages basically eliminate the need for anyone to go to or other outlets for team news.

There are also a few other cool features on the site like being able to sign up to get updates sent to your cell phone and the ability to listen to the station via a stream. is certainly a great site for anyone looking for Boston sports news. Anything you would possibly need is right there. With a site like this, some may wonder whether or not a site like the Boston Globe's sports section is necessary, but I think other sites will remain relevant because people always like to get different perspectives when it comes to sports. What's being reported or said at the Globe or another outlet isn't necessarily the same thing being reported or said at

Friday, December 5, 2008

Adam Gaffin's Visit

Back in October, Robin Lubbock of WBUR came to my Reinventing the News Class to discuss new media initiatives within the radio industry. One of the questions that arose from Lubbock and Professor Kennedy had to do with whether or not a station like WBUR could survive with advances like satellite radio and the heavy ratings boost provided by NPR's national content.

In my blog post regarding that visit, I wrote that WBUR would be just fine in the long haul as long as it stuck with it's niche-local coverage. National programming based out of New York or Los Angeles can't provide the same kind of detail and quick response to a story taking place in Boston quite like a station like WBUR can.

The reason I bring this up is because Adam Gaffin has realized that there were always be a demand for good local coverage- something he has illustrated with his blog, Universal Hub. Interestingly enough, Gaffin started the site after he was dissatisfied with the way a major story in his neighborhood was covered.

Universal Hub is a site that aggregates thousands of Boston related blogs and news stories that Gaffin hopes will provide the most comprehensive site for anything Boston.

The great thing about the site is that it provides exactly what Gaffin hopes it will. The site makes sure that every square inch of Boston is covered by some kind of information (you can get news by T stop or neighborhood). The site also does a very good job of sectioning off information, so it isn't hard to find any local blog post regarding topics from crime to the MBTA (a favorite subject of Gaffin's) to the Red Sox.

The thing I really got out of Gaffin's presentation is that he is truly doing this as a service to news consumers from and interested in the city of Boston and the surrounding areas. He has a day job, yet he still maintains this website. Sure he makes money from the site, ($15,000 a year in net profits) but it's not enough to say he's doing it for the money.

I really like Universal Hub, and I'm glad others are taking note. Gaffin mentioned to our class that Channel 7 has recently gotten in touch with him about establishing some kind of partnership. It would be a wise move for WHDH to look into that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Twitter is a micro blogging platform that allows users to post information online, in addition to leave comments on different "twitter feeds." The service has been around since 2006, but has recently been thrust into more prominence with the situation occurring in Mumbai

Bystanders and witnesses were able to provide first hand information from the scene of the terrorist situation, thus giving readers information before it gets to the press, in many instances. For example, eyewitness accounts, pleads for help, and rumors in the hours and days following the event. 

This is what seems to be the hope for Twitter- a platform that provides readers with quick breaking news. 

In this assignment, I went around the web to find three Tweeter accounts to scrutinize and analyze. And heeeeeeeeeere they are:

I like this because it's a quick way to get the headlines of the day, though nothing more. They also provide links to some of their radio interviews and features, so that's a nice addition. If you're looking for something in depth, this isn't your place, but if you're on the go, the Fox News Radio Twitter may be of interest to you. 

Anyone from Houston knows that up to date information is crucial during hurricane season, and this service from the Houston Chronicle provides just that. The twitter feed was frequently used during Hurricane Ike as a way to inform those involved with the storm. In addition to this, the site links back to stories the newspaper ran and it calls for interactive users to tell their hurricane tales.

Shanbhag is a Harvard Professor who was at the scene in Mumbai and provided updates to his Twitter account as events progressed. I decided to take a look at his so I could see how Twitter works in a time of crisis. Shanbhag did a good job of reporting things such as finding bullet fragments. This was a very good example of how Twitter accounts can help bridge the gap to the actual news reports. 

After looking at Twitter, I think it is a helpful service, though not a perfect service that will forever change the world of journalism. It, as mentioned earlier, can be a great way to bridge the gap from the citizen journalists to the professional journalists, as many Twitter posters are on the scene long before the pros. 

That being said, I think it is too easy for people to make things up on Twitter, and that's why I don't think its the greatest of systems. I would trust credible news organizations on Twitter long before I'd trust a normal person, though Shanbhag would have had a lot of credibility with me since he was posting up to the minute photos of events.

Twitter's neat and it provides a service that isn't perfect. Treat it nothing more than that, and I think you'll get some use out of it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

News Trust

News Trust is an interesting site that is looking to capitalize on the current trend of social networking sites. While you can meet people and make contacts through the site, the main purpose of News Trust is to take a serious look at news reports, stories, and information and rate them on their quality of journalism. The site contains a wide number of topics where stories are submitted by users and subsequently analyzed by other members of the site.

Stories are judged based on their factuality, fairness, and its level of informity. You can also say whether you reccomend the article and whether you trust the pubication.

It is a project that is apparentally getting a wide amount of attention and praise, as been backed by many grants and formed partnerships with instuittions such as Northeastern, PBS, and the Huffington Post.

Last week, my Reinventing the News class was treated to a presentation of the site by Editor Mike LaBonte. LaBonte explained the purpose and goals of the site, in addition to allowing students the opportunity to form groups and analyze a news story with the intent of seeing how each group interpreted the quality of the journalism of a story on the global economy.

This blog post furthers that concept, as I have submitted three sepreate global economy stories and analyzed them on what News Trust has decided classifies "good journalism."

China, Peru sign free-trade pact

In this anaylisis of a CNN story on the signing of a free trade pact between China and Peru, I decided the amount of information in the piece wasn't enough to make the article seem like anything more than a watered down summation. Overall Rating:3.6

APEC aims to restore confidence in world economy

This anaylisis was on a Yahoo story by Joseph Coleman on the APEC summit in Lima. Yo Joe, where are your sources? Overall Rating: 3.2

WTO Ministers May Meet Next Month, Officials Say

Finally, my final review revolved around this report from the Dow Jones newswires which focused on an upcoming WTO ministerial meeting. I liked the piece because it provided a nice context of the upcoming event, while being sourced in a way that made would could be speculation into fact. Overall Rating:3.6

Following this analytical process, it occured to me why I don't think News Trust will ever work. Most Americans just want their news given to them quickly and in small doses, therefore the thought of spending a lot of extra time and effort that it takes to analyze the journalism of a story won't appeal to the masses. Hell, I'm supposed to have a desire to analyze stories based on their quality since I'm a journalism student, but I just don't have the time to deal with it.

Furthermore, a topic touced on in class, the site has taken a very liberal lean, thus meaning News Trust's overall interpretation on what journalism is good journalism will heavily be influenced by the ideological tone of the story and it's author.

News Trust is a neat site that serves a great purpose for those who spend hours pouring over the news and consuming media, but I don't think it will ever make a big impact because most people just don't care enough.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mapping Coffee

A recent project in my Reinventing the News class required students to venture out to a location serving coffee near (and not so near) the Northeastern campus. We would compile information about each coffee shop and use that to compile a Google map detailing where these places are located.

I went to Wollaston's West Village, a small grocery store located in Northeastern's West Village side of campus. A medium cup of coffee at Wollaston's will cost you $1.55, plus the manual labor it takes to pour the coffee yourself (this location is strictly self service).

The coffee was a breakfast blend, and all of the normal items used to dress up a cup of coffee were available. I can't tell you how good the coffee was, however, because I'm not a coffee drinker.

There's not much to report on as far as service goes, seeing as the only service involved consists of the cashier ringing up the purchase. He gave me my change without dropping the coins, plus he wore a tie, so I guess the service, for what it is, was great.

Furthermore, don't expect to sit down and study here, as there is nowhere to sit and enjoy the coffee, unless you count the three or four small tables outside the building. Those may be nice in the summer, but the rumor is it gets kinda cold around here in the months ahead.

This is a great place for those needing a quick cup of coffee on campus, and Wollaston's hours are Monday-Saturday: 7 AM to 10 PM and Sunday:9 AM to 10 PM. 

Here is our class map, entitled Caffeinated campus, for those looking to find new places to grab a cup of coffee around the school.

This Map's For You

As I walk around the streets of this fine city on a daily basis, there's always a question running around my head that I just can't shake.

That question is: Is there a bar or pub near me that sells Budweiser's American Ale- Bud's newest (and arguably best) brew. Fortunately, the fine folks at Budweiser realized that there are likely millions of Americans whose lives have been ruined by their seemingly never successful quest to find this beer.

Fortunately, this beer (yes, this individual beer) has its own website that features an interactive Google map allowing prospective drinkers to enter their zip code and see which nearby establishments feature this beer. Once the zip code is entered, a street map comes up with the locations of participating bars plotted by an American Ale logo.

Clicking on the logo provides the user with the name, address, and phone number of the bar. For those around Northeastern, Conor Larkin's, Our House East, and Huntington Wine and Spirits all carry Budweiser American Ale.

Strangely, this map doesn' t work with all states, as some states have laws prohibiting this service. My home state, Texas, apparently has this restriction, for my home zip code will not work with this service.

This service illustrates how helpful Google maps can be. This map made it very easy to find exactly what I was looking for, while doing it in an aesthetically pleasing way. The maps are very easy to read and they quickly allow the user to get the location of whatever it is they're looking for. I can see why many news organizations are using these maps on their websites.
Photo of Budweiser plant(cc) by the Jesster79 and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Emily Sweeney's Visit

On Wednesday, Boston Globe Staff Reporter Emily Sweeney visited my Reinventing the News class where she talked to students about the changing media landscape and showed us examples of her work that illustrate the direction in which the newspaper industry is going.

That trend involves reporters multitasking by supplementing their stories with things like slide shows or videos on a newspaper's website.

Sweeney discussed the fact that when she first got to the Globe and wanted to make videos, there wasn't even space designated for such a medium on the newspaper's website. Now, the Globe employs staffers who work only with video, many reporters carry Flip video cameras, and the company recently spent thousands of dollars on video equipment.

In addition to this, Sweeney also commented that many reporters are now using Facebook as a way to get leads for stories, and Google Maps serve as unique interactive supplements to stories on the Globe's website.

From a video standpoint, Sweeney's videos tend to be very entertaining, yet they still manage to inform the viewer. Here are three examples from her personal website:

This is a video Sweeney produced about a former body builder who in the peak of his career was hit by a car. Though the car took his ability to walk, it did not take away his will to lift weights.

Next, Emily produced this video to inform out-of-towners on some of the finer points of Boston's unique slang.

Finally, Sweeney put this video together so viewers could get a unique view of what it's like in a bingo hall, in addition to informing them that these halls are becoming a thing of the past.

As I mentioned, all three of these videos are informative and entertaining at the same time, and as a student, I'm fully aware of the fact that it is hard to combine those two adjectives in many instances.

While the content of the video is great, I feel like these videos uphold a trend I've noticed in the new world of journalism. That trend is that in video projects, the quality always seems to be sub par. The picture quality of these videos is suspect, and, in the case of the body builder piece, sound becomes an issue. While I realize these aren't professionally produced videos, I can only hope that this new era of journalism doesn't mean we have to redefine our standards of quality.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Polling Place Photo Project

click on the photo to view my polling place photo project

The Polling Place Photo Project, which was created in 2006, is an example of citizen journalism from the New York Times which allows voters to take photos of the polling place where they made their voting choices.

In addition to showing reader pictures of various polling places, each set of user submitted photos includes information on the polling place, such as how many workers were present, how many people were waiting in line, and how satisfactory the service was at the location being featured.

This morning, I ventured to the polling place set up at the Wentworth Institute so I could contribute to this project. I arrived at roughly 11:30 to see no lines, a helpful staff, and a small handful of people exercising their right to vote.

As an aside, I was very disappointed to see Jay Rosen was one of the founders of this project. After seeing a video where he acted like his blog was the greatest and most important thing ever, I am disappointed that I have to give the arrogant SOB any sort of work that could contribute to his ego, which at this point, is roughly the size of Texas and California combined.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Where are all the fans?

Earlier this semester, I wrote a post stating why I feel like Northeastern athletics aren't quite up to par with the athletics programs of other schools across the nation.

I'm apparently not the only one who feels this way, as attendance at Northeastern sporting events, not including hockey, tends to be, well, pretty sparse.

While sharpening my video skills at the same time, I went around campus to ask students and professors if they go to games, why more student's don't attend these events, and what can be done to put more Northeastern butts in more Northeastern seats.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Steve Garfield!

On October, 22, video blogger Steve Garfield came to our Reinventing the News class to share with us a form of citizen journalism that I found absolutely fascinating. Garfield, who runs, is journalist who, with the help of a few cameras (including the nifty Nokia N95 cell phone) files video stories for services like his website, the BBC, CNN iReport, and RocketBoom.

His reports consist of everything from his reaction to ongoing debates to the scene of Hurricane Kyle to life at home with his wife, Carol. In addition to this, he also offers his services to Councilman John Tobin, for whom Garfield produces vlogs for.

While he showed us some of the various reports he has compiled, the thing that Garfield did that impressed me (and seemingly everyone else) the most was the demonstration he showed us by using his Nokia phone to stream live video to Qik, an internet video site. He even demonstrated how the service allowed him to break the news that a presidential candidate was dropping from the race.

I found this to be a helpful form or journalism when it comes to providing the public with a service, as made evident by things such as his Rocketboom piece on the electric car and his setting the scene of the Maine beach shortly before the arrival of Kyle. He's innovative, energetic, and seemingly full of passion, and that is evident in the following three pieces:

The Boston Typewriter Orchestra from RocketBoom:

This is a clever video Garfield put together demonstrating how a group of Bostonians get together and make rhythms with the sound of a typewriter. Garfield does a good job getting the viewer interested in this quirky story, as his interviews focus on everything from the formation to the orchestra to the direction the orchestra wants to go in to the members pleas to be taken seriously.

VP Debate Reaction from Qik:

I enjoy this video because it's a unique example of the user generated reaction trend that is gripping journalism today. Garfield streamed the reactions of he and his wife to the internet as a way to give other debate viewers an instant feel for what others were thinking. I certainly would have enjoyed hearing his commentary as the debate progressed, and his wife served as a nice complement to the piece.

Paving Over the Trolley Tracks from

As previously mentioned, Garfield produces Tobin's videos, and videos such as this one serve as an example of how Garfield's work has the ability to provide a public service. Viewers of this video got a nice update on the track situation, and those in Jamaica Plain will certainly find this of interest.

All three of those videos were entertaining and informative, thus meaning Garfield is doing his job in my book. However, this form of citizen journalism just isn't very appealing to me. I can't see Garfield receiving much notoriety for his work, nor much pay (he is a professor at BU, so I would imagine this serves as more of a supplement to his income).

If this is what makes him happy, and it appears to, then good for him. I selfishly want more notoriety for the work I do, and I can't see an independent video blogger getting much recognition for their work.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Displacement Simulation

Click here to a view a slide show of the event.

Northeastern students participated in a displacement simulation on Monday as part of the university's week long "Uganda Peace Week."

The simulation displacement, which was designed to raise awareness of the fact that children in Uganda are forced to constantly be on the move in order to avoid the Rebel army, took place in Centennial Common on the campus of Northeastern. The event was supposed to include replica cardboard huts similar to the ones used in Uganda, but those were unfortunately destroyed this morning by the wind.

"Five years ago, they had this big displace meet throughout the United States and major cities, where [people stayed] outside in cardboard boxes to demonstrate how the kids in Uganda are displaced," said Hannah Webb, a human services major at Northeastern who is involved with Invisible Children. "So, this is our miniature version of it to try to bring awareness to it and show what those people did."

Despite a lack of huts, the volunteers at the event had no shortage of material aimed at getting their message out- a message that raises awareness of the war in Uganda that has impacted the lives of many children. Posters, reading materials, and volunteers were all available to students who wanted to learn more. In addition to that, students could buy Invisible Children merchandise, donate books to African children, or donate money to the cause.

So far, students have been receptive to the message being spread by these volunteers.

"People, seem interested," said Webb. "The people who come over are really interested and really supportive."

A screening of the film "War Dance", a BBQ on the quad, and a candle vigil are just a few of the events that will take place this week as students involved with Invisible Children look to spread their message during "Uganda Peace Week."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Radio Nowhere?

Over the summer, I had the privilege of interning at SportsRadio 610, an all sports station in Houston. During my nearly four months there, I was amazed at how much the station was trying to direct listeners to its website. Interviews with athletes and coaches were promptly uploaded as podcasts, polls were set up online to gauge the reaction of listeners on certain topics, and news links for stories being mentioned on air were always placed on

All of this made me realized that, like the newspaper industry, the radio industry was being forced to evolved in this internet-driven age.

When Robin Lubbock, the director of new media at WBUR, came to speak to my reinventing the news class last week, I definitely understood where he was coming from as he spoke to the class about the changing landscape of the radio industry.

First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. He showed the class many of the features offered on WBUR (we'll get to those in a second), in addition to explaining how the radio industry was changing. I really liked his view on the fact that the internet has taken a local station in Boston, which only has to compete against a couple of similar stations over the air, and forced it to try to attract the attention and ears of people all over the world. This is because the internet has made it to where broadcasts stream online, and anyone from Dorchester to Dubai can listen to WBUR.

Lubbock showed the class how WBUR has integrated things like multimedia slideshows, content submitted by listeners, podcasts, facebook and myspace accounts and twitter feeds into the station's news delivery method. For those who aren't familiar with Tweeter, it's a site that describes it's services as "...a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?"

In other words, WBUR can place a question on it's Twitter feed, and listeners can instantly react to it.

These are just a few of the tools radio stations are using to try to protect themselves in the future.

One thing I found interesting was a Washington Post article on the future of radio by Marc Fisher. This article pointed to user customized radio stations, such as Pandora, as the future of radio. Sites like these create playlists for listeners based on their music preference. For example, if I typed Bob Dylan into Pandora as my favorite artist, the station would pick songs similar to Bob Dylan songs for me, and I could decide whether or not I liked them.

The article also included an interesting point made by Jerry Del Colliano, a music industry professor at USC:

"Del Colliano and other observers increasingly believe the radio of the future will not be a 24/7 music source, but rather a provider of short programs, such as podcasts, that appeal to an ever-shrinking attention span and work seamlessly with social networks, cellphones and laptops. "

This points in the direction that WBUR is going with all of it's interactive features that integrate listeners. Seth Godin, an author interviewed on Hear 2.0, also feels that while these features are important, the most important thing the radio industry can do during these times is think small:

"The smart media companies, the ones who are thinking small, say “we have this really powerful asset, we need to use it to migrate the attention to smaller and smaller buckets of identifiable people who want to hear from us.”
So if I ran a media company today, I'd say, "How can I turn this group of 100,000 listeners into 1,000 groups of 100 people who wanna subscribe to a podcast? How can I deliver exactly what they want, anticipate it, offer them personal and relevant information that they need when they need it."

As the industry evolves and things such as satellite radio continue to stream NPR programming, it's difficult to predict how stations like WBUR will ultimately fare, even with these fancy technologies. I understand that the most popular programming on stations such as this one is the national NPR programming, but I think there will always be a demand for local news. Whenever a local story breaks, national stations won't be on top of it like stations within the city. Whenever Houston added three sports stations in addition to the one I interned at, 610's motto instantly became "live and local." Many of these new stations relied heavily on national programming from outlets like ESPN, and 610 wanted listeners to know that it was their station where they could get the news most important to them- Houston sports news.

I feel like that's the only thing radio stations can do to survive in the future-place a heavy emphasis on local news. Some of the features WBUR and other sites are using can be very helpful and interactive, but I don't think that's nearly enough to save the industry. I consider myself a big time listener of radio, and internet features rarely intrigue me to the point of actually visiting the site. If I don't care to visit the site, why would people who are only casual listeners visit the stations website?

That being said, if national programming drives ratings, these local stations are seemingly going to have to downsize in the future. That happens in many industries, and soon enough, sadly, it may be radio's turn. I already saw this happening this summer when Houston's largest news radio station, 740 KTRH, downsized and began replacing more local newscasts with syndicated ones from Fox News.

Radio is doing fine right now, and I think it's wonderful how they're being proactive while the industry is still in relatively good shape. The future of the industry will certainly be interesting. Radio is desperately trying to provide listeners with on demand content through a variety of mediums, and only time will tell if it can keep the radio business afloat. One thing is for sure, and Lubbock mentioned it multiple times during the presentation. The internet has forced those wanting to enter the radio field to learn how to do more than talk into a microphone, as shooting videos and pictures and writing stories are all now part of a radio station's daily operations.
Photo (cc) by Stefan Kuhn and republished here under the GNU Free Documentation License. Some rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Wired Journalists

Following my early class this morning, I walked around campus and was instantly struck by an event known as "The National Clothesline Project" that was taking place at NEU's Centennial Circle. Armed with my handy Motorola Razr cell phone, I began taking pictures of the event, which featured student designed "anti-violence" shirts being strung out from tree to tree on a clothesline. Once I took the pictures, I went straight to my apartment and began posting them on a website I recently discovered, Wired Journalists.

Wired Journalists is a great social networking site for journalists looking to share their work or find a job in today's media landscape. It gives you your own profile, much like Facebook, in addition to all of the other features on the site which allow for interaction among users. Of all of the features on the website, the one I think I will find most useful is the group feature. There are groups that members can join ranging from photography to audio techniques to wired journalism ethics. Within these groups, you can discuss techniques and issues with others who hold the same interests as you, in addition to meeting new people with the same interests.

Since I want to get into television or radio, I joined the audio techniques group and the visual editing group. I've already found ways to acquire royalty free music for slide shows, in addition to some helpful websites, such as I plan on frequenting these groups as because I'm always open to learning new technologies and programs in audio and video, so hopefully these people can offer some cutting edge information.

The site also offers a feedstream, which has news and tips on getting jobs, writing good cover letters, and what the future of journalism may hold.

When it comes to gathering pictures for Wired Journalists, as I did today, the process couldn't be any simpler. Taking pictures, despite my crummy cell phone camera, was very easy to do. All you have to do is go to the photo page of your profile and click on add photos. From there, you can upload your photos to the site. The only problem I had with it was getting the bulk uploader to work. I had to use the old uploader since I didn't have the latest version of Java installed, but the process was exactly the same as uploading a photo to an email. I'll get Java loaded, so I can play around with the bulk uploader next time.

My only complaint about the site is the fact that it seems like it may be too small at this point to really make a major splash. There are only 2645 members on the whole site, and some groups look like they haven't been interacted with in months. That's a shame, seeing how so many journalists could use this site as a tool.

All in all, I find this to be a very useful site. Any website where you can show off your work, interact with people who have similar interests, and acquire job tips is a helpful website in my eyes. Hopefully more young journalists will discover the site, thus allowing it to grow significantly into the future.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Bloggers on Beckett

With the Red Sox going into the playoffs, the city is abuzz with talk of a third championship in the last five seasons. Before the playoffs began, the Sox got a dose of bad news when it was announced that Josh Beckett, last year's playoff here, would miss his opening start against the Angels with a strained oblique. Since baseball makes up a large part of the city's fabric, I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what Boston area bloggers had to say about the news.

The Joy of Sox (Authority:122)

Like most of Boston, the folks over at The Joy of Sox weren't too thrilled with the news. They used a portion of a Steve Buckley piece, which compared it to the loss of another athlete who may be familiar to some of the people around the city:

The Red Sox could be facing a Tom Brady-like blow to their postseason plans. Just as the Patriots are trying to make it work this season without the injured Brady as their quarterback, the Red Sox could be going into the playoffs without Josh Beckett as the ace of their pitching staff.

Obviously, Beckett and Brady are both equally important to their teams, but I'm going to say the Sox are worse off without Beckett than the Pats are without Brady. Why you ask? Well, because Beckett's never done this. I guess Tommy can replace Heath Ledger if they make a Brokeback Mountain sequel.

Media Nation (Authority:174)

Arguably the finest blogger in the entire city, Dan Kennedy also took the news with a very unoptimistic point of view. He writes:

Now Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald reports that Josh Beckett might be out
with an oblique injury. I don't want to say stick a fork in them. But you might
as well keep one handy.

If I were the Red Sox fan, I'd hold the same view. Beckett is one of the greatest postseason pitchers of this generation (probably because he's from Houston) and if the Sox have to face the Angels without him, things won't be good.

Red Sox Monster (Authority:170)

Unlike many Bostonian bloggers, Dan Lamothe of Red Sox monster decided to leave his glass half full
when it came to deciding whether or not an injured Beckett meant postseason doom
for the local nine:

Bottom line: If Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka both pitch
great, it's possible the Sox could knock off the Angels. But they'd be the
underdogs for sure, and it's tough to picture them advancing beyond the American
League Championship Series.

Sure, he still acknowledged it'd be tough for the team to advance, but he didn't ignore the fact that the Sox still have some very capable pitchers behind him. Lamothe's optimism seems like a rare commodity around here, and frankly, I kind of like it. Sports teams in this town are all great (well, the Bruins are mediocre), so complaining about them or worrying about them should be illegal.

Toeing the Rubber (Authority:47)

Another Boston blog, another positive blogger. Maybe all of my preconceived notions of Boston sports fans are just plain wrong. They aren't, but still. This blog is taking the news with a complete grain of salt:

I refuse to get all freaked out about Josh Beckett’s oblique. It’ll suck if he
can’t pitch, but Tito says he can, so we’ll deal with it if/when it comes up. I’m not letting Steve Freaking Buckley control my emotions right now.

I’m still way too happy that Jonathan Van Every and Devern Hansack had the huge hands in beating the Yankees last night. The guys get to go on the trip to Anaheim on a high note and that’s what makes me happy.

I guess that's one way of dealing with the news.

The House That Dewey Built (Authority:15)

We couldn't wrap this post up without one more negative Bostonian point of view. Jimmy, from The House That Dewey Built, said this:

Look, the Sox made it to the postseason mainly on the strength of guys like Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell, and J.D. Drew, and all three are gigantic question marks. The players we have filling in for these guys (Paul Byrd, Alex Cora / Sean
, Mark Kotsay) are enormous drop-offs in talent. You’re essentially factoring out three guys with game-breaking ability, and their understudies are players who you’d be happy with if they miraculously managed to give you league-average play.

Actually, he's probably right. Although, Paul Byrd is a fine talent. You can read about it in his book. What the hell is Paul Byrd doing with a book?

There you have it. People are understandably freaked out about this injury. Hey Boston fans: SHUT UP. You have 8 million championships (could have been 8 million and one...cough...Pats), so if you lose out on one more, everything will be OK. I promise.
Photo (cc) by PhreddieH3 and republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Playing the Numbers Game

Math excluded, it's a lot of fun to waste time on a boring Monday afternoon by playing around with numbers. When Matt Carroll gave my reinventing the news class a presentation on databases, including those on's "Government Center," I realized I had a new medium of entertainment available to me. Of the many databases available on the site, these three were of most interest to me.

Dunkin' Donuts Database

I'm pretty sure that the first thing that struck me when I visited Boston for the first time in 2004 was the absurdly high number of Dunkin' Donuts locations in the city. Alongside Bank of America, it seemed like every other establishment in the city was a Dunkin' Donuts store. I'm not the only one who feels that way, as all of the people from back home that have come up here to visit me have commented on the plethora of Dunkin' Donuts. Fortunately, this database exists for people who want to find out just how many stores Dunkin' has in the greater Boston area (for the record, the city of Boston has 67). I'm not a fan of donuts, muffins, or coffee, so I guess I'd have to move to one of only 17 cities in the area if I wanted to avoid what appears to be a Boston institution.

Employees Who Walked to Work Database

When I began living in Boston last September, adjusting to like without a car took some getting used to. The more I've spent time here, the more I don't miss having a car. I love walking all over the city, even on the coldest of days. Judging by the number of people I pass each day on the streets of this town, I'm apparently not alone in my feelings on using my feet for transportation. I like this database because it reveals the number of people, per 1,000 residents, who walk to work in cities throughout the state. The fact that 52.6 people out of 1,000 walk to work each day in Boston was fairly surprising to me, although I'd have to believe that number is much higher than what can be found in my hometown of Houston.

Deaths Caused by Heart Disease Database

Finally, in sticking with this health and fitness theme, the final database I looked at has to do with the number of people (per 10,000 residents) that died from hear disease in Massachusetts cities in 2005. It was interesting to compare this database to the one regarding the number of people who walked to work in Massachusetts. Not surprisingly, the cities that had more people walk to work had less people die of heart disease. For example, 52.6 people out of 1,000 walk to work in Boston and 15.5 residents out of 10,000 died of heart disease. On the flip side, 3.2 residents out of 1,000 walked to work in Tempelton, while 30.7 residents out of 10,000 died of heart disease in the city.

As demonstrated by these databases, numbers alone can be the basis for an informative newspaper story. I feel like the most interesting story that could be taken out of these three databases has to do with what I began talking about in the description of the deaths caused by heart disease database. I would enjoy writing a story based around the fact that residents who don't heavily rely on cars tend to be healthier than those who are forced to drive everywhere. Nothing groundbreaking there, but interesting nonetheless.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Election Help

As election day nears, citizens across this vast land are doing some last minute research on candidates and their policies. While deciding who to vote for is hard enough for some people, the most difficult part of the entire process may be sorting through all the information available to the public. The internet has helped and hindered this process because political websites are smeared with lies, rumors and slander. Fortunately, thanks to the following four websites, individuals are able to check the facts and gain knowledge without such downfalls.

PolitiFact, a service of the St. Petersburg Times, is an incredibly helpful website when it comes to separating fact from fiction. The site examines rumors, things candidates are saying about each other and what candidates are saying about their policies and then determines the validity of the information. My two favorite features of the site are the "truth-o-meter" and the "flip-o-meter." The former is a gauge that indicates how true a statement is, while the former determines whether or not a candidate changed positions on an issue. Both meters include detailed articles and references clearly explaining why a candidate lied or changed their stance. Also, the site categorizes the results so readers can read through a particular ruling. In addition to these meters, the site also features articles, thus making it a very comprehensive source for political news. Of the four sites, this one is by far the most entertaining and informative.

Maintained by the Washington Post, this database is the place to go if you want to find out anything members of Congress and how they voted. Every member of the Senate and House of Representatives is accounted for, and on their individual pages you can see their voting records and other pertinent information, such as biographies and roles in Congress. You can also find financial disclosure reports, late night votes (which are considered shady by many) and which members missed votes. From a sheer information standpoint, this database is an invaluable resource. Anything you could ever want to know about members of the House and Senate can be found here. My only complaint about the site, and it's a minor one, is that it isn't very aesthetically pleasing. It looks like a very bare-bones operation and for someone not interested in this subject matter, it makes the site quite a bore. is operated by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and is very similar to PolitiFact. FactCheck analyzes issues, accusation and rumors and then analyzes their validity. I like how they break down the anaylisis of each issue. They began by explaining what the issues is and then they thoroughly analyze it using things like previous speeches and official documents. This is a very aesthetically pleasing site, and they do a good job of integrating photos and videos within the site. It appears to be very multimedia savvy. The FactCheck Wire is a blog the site provides, and it serves as a nice supplement to the other information on this solid website.

Much like the Congress Votes Database, Project Vote Smart does a great job of providing citizens with straight information. Think of it as a cheat sheet of sorts when it comes to figuring out who you're going to vote for. This site also features voting records and biographies, and I really like how it includes interest group ratings, campaign finance information and other political resources. Their 2008 Voter's Self Defense Manual provides all of these services in print form, and is available free to those who want to learn as much as they care to know about politics.

Thanks to these four sites, voters should have no problem factually determining who they want to vote for. It's hard to rely on a lot of the information out there, but these sites are clear indications of the fact that political junkies are trying to take care of those dying for as much news and information as they can handle.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

My Favorite Blogs

I spend entirely too much time on the internet. It's quite possible that I'm addicted to it, and much of the time I spend surfing the web involves me perusing through a multitude of blogs. I enjoy reading blogs ranging from sports to media to music, but these are the three blogs I would take with me if I was stranded on a deserted island and somehow had access to three blogs!

SportsJustice by Richard Justice

Justice is a Houston Chronicle sports columnist who can frequently be seen as a contributor on ESPN's Pardon the Interruption. Being from Houston, I spend copious amounts of time trying to acquire Houston sports news and opinions, and Justice's blog allows me to obtain both of those things quickly. His knowledge is impeccable and his commentary often echoes the thoughts of Houston fans. Most recently, Justice let it be known that he, like most Astros fans, felt that the decision to move the recent Astros-Cubs series to Milwaukee, a city 90 miles away from Chicago, was a poor decision following Hurricane Ike's strike on Houston. He writes:

This game never should have been played at this location. No way. No how. I don't want to hear how it was the only available venue. Bull. If this is the best MLB could do, they should have called the whole thing off.
Justice later revealed that he shared those feelings with Commissioner Bud Selig. Unlike many columnists today, it appears Richard Justice truly believes what he writes.

Uni Watch by Paul Lukas

This blog makes fashion as masculine as it will ever get! Lukas' blog deals with uniforms in professional and collegiate athletics, and it keeps the reader up to date on everything from minor color changes on a baseball uniform to the color of a face mask on a football helmet. Some of the details pointed out by Lukas may border on the absurd to the average sports fan, but it's observations like these that thrill anyone interested in what he calls "athletics aesthetics." Lukas wrote this in response to a report that C.C. Sabathia, a Milwaukee Brewers pitcher, was forced to modify a pair of shows by coloring them black on a night when the Brew Crew wore retro uniforms:

The Brewers normally wear black cleats. They also wear black cleats with their Friday throwbacks. So why would Sabathia need a different pair of cleats on Friday than for any other Brewers game? But let’s assume for a moment that he does need “retro cleats” for Friday home games. That leads us to the next question: Sabathia pitched on August 8th —a Friday home game — so what did he wear then?
I know many of you have lost hours of sleep trying to determine that same thing. Paul Lukas feels your pain.

Bruce Blog by Stan Goldstein

Bruce Springsteen has some of the most faithful fans in all of music, and I proudly consider myself part of that rabid group. During Bruce's recent world tour, I routinely found myself on Goldstein's blog, which can be found as part of Goldstein's blog features setlist updates, news from the road, and Bruce sightings that only the biggest of fans (stalkers) would care about. If you were curious as to where Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, were seated during a recent Bob Dylan show in Asbury Park, Goldstein has you covered. Goldstein states:

They were watching the show from the left side of the stage, behind a black curtain an d walked out the side door when the house lights came on at the end of the show.

Unfortunately, Goldstein doesn't report how many times The Boss got up to use the restroom during the show.

So, there are my three favorite blogs. If you're ever on that deserted island with me and you're curious as to what's happening in the world of Houston sports, how that new color scheme impacted your favorite team's jersey, or whether or not Bruce Springsteen broke out "Incident on 57th Street" at a recent show,well, my friend, you are in luck!