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Archives: May 2009

9 Things You Didn't Know About Newspapers

Yomiuri Shimbun of Japan has the world’s largest newspaper circulation with an estimated 14,000,000 subscribers. In fact, 6 of the top 7 largest newspapers are based in Japan, according to the World Association of Newspapers.

There is at least one newspaper available in every continent of the world, including The Antarctic Sun of Antarctica.

Of the 429 U.S. newspapers viewable at the Newseum’s daily archive, 123 — or 28 percent — use some variation of the familiar Gothic font in their masthead.

Anne Royall, born 1769 and considered by some to be the first professional female journalist in the US, was also the first woman to interview a US president: John Quincy Adams.

The world’s smallest newspaper, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, is the First News of Surrey, England. The tiny tabloid measured in at only 1.25 x 0.86 in (32 x 22 mm).

The newspaper with the largest number of Pulitzer Prizes is the New York Times with 101.

You’ve probably heard the New York Times‘ famous slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print.” But how about the Aspen Daily News‘ motto “If You Don’t Want It Printed, Don’t Let It Happen” or the Mason Valley News of Yerington, Nevada’s proclamation “The Only Newspaper in the World That Gives a Damn About Yerington.”

At 210 years old, The Dartmouth, founded in 1799, is the United States’ oldest college newspaper.

The Washington Post has its own theme song, aptly titled “The Washington Post March,” composed in 1889 by John Phillip Sousa. The familiar tune was commissioned by newspaper management and can still be heard at many parades.

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Multimedia and interactive guides to the U.S. Supreme Court

With President Barack Obama’s recent nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor for appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, many are left wondering who are the justices and what exactly it is the Supreme Court. Thanks to the internet, the inner workings of the Court can be explained visually, bringing to life the centuries-old government institution.

In response to news of the nomination, Congressional Quarterly has detailed the sometimes lengthy nomination process in an easy to use interactive bar chart. The stages of each nominee’s confirmation are lined up side-by-side to give the user an idea of the complicated process.

Congressional Quarterly also has a compelling slideshow of the history of Supreme Court nominees that is worth a look. Other news media that have taken the online slideshow approach include the Huffington Post, which showcases photos of Sotomayor’s childhood and family, and Pinko Magazine, which, in a more humorous approach, selects the top 13 television judges Obama should have nominated to the vacant seat.

Earlier this month, the New York Times asked its online readers who they thought should be President Obama’s pick for the court. Visitors were presented with an interactive graphic that contained bios of possible candidates. Readers overwhelmingly chose Sotomayor to replace Justice David Souter after his retirement.

Back in 2005, the Times published a comprehensive interactive graphic of major court decisions and the judges that presided over them that is still relevant today. The information is sortable by year or by issue.

PBS has a wealth of online information about the Supreme Court itself, including a video series that traces the history of the Court back to the early 1800s and a text-based timeline that reviews some of the major court cases. The site also hosts an interactive quiz that questions visitors on the Supreme Court cases that affect our daily lives.

CNN has an entire multimedia package devoted to the Supreme Court and Sotomayor’s nomination, including videos, timelines and a photo of gallery of the eight remaining justices. HowStuffWorks also has several videos that detail the history of the Court.

With all this talk about the inner workings of the Supreme Court, wouldn’t it be better to just to see it for yourself? The Oyez Project, the go-to online resource for all things SCOTUS-related, has virtual tours of the Supreme Court building, the courtroom and the justices’ chambers. The 360° panoramic images are made possible by the internet and are an invaluable inside look that in the pre-internet age could only be described with text.

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10 News photos that took retouching too far

Many news photographs are Photoshopped here and there to increase clarity or to optimize for print or online display. But there have been several instances where retouching has been pushed too far, changing the original intent or accuracy of the photo.

National Geographic, February 1982

The revered magazine was accused of altering a photograph so that the Egyptian pyramids were closer together and thus fit on the vertical cover. The mag’s editors were allegedly unapologetic about creating a more aesthetically pleasing cover. Rich Clarkson, director of photography at National Geographic during the time, said he had no ethical problem with combining two photographs into a single cover picture, although “some publications could start abusing.”

OJ Simpson, TIME Magazine, June 1994


When a darkened mugshot of troubled football star appeared on the cover of TIME Magazine, it was deemed artistic interpretation. Critics accused the mag of blackening OJ Simpson’s skin to make him appear more animalistic and incite racial sentiments. It didn’t help that an unaltered photo of Simpson appeared on a Newsweek cover that same week.

Soldier in Basra, Los Angeles Times, March 2003

Original photos

Published photo

Photographer Brian Walski was fired from his position at the Los Angeles Times after it was discovered that two news photographs of a gun-toting soldier had been combined to create a more intense photo. When later asked why he had digitally manipulated the photo and risked his career Walski replied: “I knew what I was doing. It looked good. It looked better than what I had, and I said ‘wow.’”

Condoleezza Rice, USA Today, October 2005

Original, published photo

An Associate Press photo that appeared on the USA Today website showed then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice with unusually menacing eyes, a result of too much retouching. Some questioned whether the effect had been created deliberately as it was difficult to easily replicate. The offending photo was quickly removed and replaced with a version much closer to the original and an apology from the paper’s photo editor.

Tibetan railroad, Liu Weiqiang, 2006

If this award-winning photo of Tibetan antelopes and a nearby train seems a bit askew, it’s because it is a combination of two separate photographs.

Photographer Liu Weiqiang merged the images after waiting for two weeks for the perfect photo with no success. Despite his earnestness, he was eventually blacklisted by several Chinese news outlets.

The Charlotte Observer, July 2006

The image of a firefighter against a blazing sky, shot by award-winning photographer Patrick Schneider, was later revealed to be a retouched version of the original in which the sky appeared to be a “brownish-gray.” Schneider had previously been reprimanded for adding intensity in the color and backgrounds of his photos and was eventually fired from his position.

Beirut fires, Reuters, August 2006

Original photo

Published photo

Reuters was accused of bias against Israel when a doctored photo of the capital city of Lebanon was released by the wire service. The photo, submitted by Lebanese freelance photographer Adnan Hajj, shows (badly) cloned smoke and buildings and a darkened skyline. Reuters ultimately broke all ties with Hajj, who was accused of retouching other photos as well.

The Toledo Blade, April 2007

Veteran news photographer and Pulitzer Prize finalist Allan Detrich resigned from his post at the Blade after it was discovered that at least 79 of his photos had been Photoshopped beyond the standards of the paper. In the photo below, a ball had been added to increase the drama of a basketball game.

Original, published photo

The Blade later removed all of Detrich’s photos from its website and issued an in-depth explanation and apology.

Papal delegation, Liberty Times, December 2007

In the previous examples, the photographs were retouched to enhance the beauty or impact. The following photo was edited to remove a rival publisher (center).

Original photo

Published photo

The Taiwanese newspaper was accused of digitally removing United Daily News Wang Shaw-lan from a photo of a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI. Liberty Times reporter Chang Ning-hsing said she edited out the publisher because the picture was too large and that Wang was not an “essential presence.”

Klavs Bo Christensen, April 2009

After submitting his stunning photos of Haiti to a Danish photo contest, Christensen was asked to submit the original RAW files as well. The difference was remarkable and the contest judges disqualified the photos, calling them “extreme” and “unacceptable.” Christensen admitted that he had heavily processed the photos, but maintained that the result was within his limits.

Original photo

Published photo

In many newsrooms it is unethical to pass off a retouched photo as reality. Ideally, retouching of a news photograph should be limited to basic exposure and color correction, cropping, resizing, or conversion to grayscale. Any Photoshopping that alters the meaning of the original photo should be labeled as a “news illustration” in the caption so the viewer understands the photo has been altered.

Retouching may seem innocent, but can have a profound effect on the way we remember an event, according to a 2007 study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology.

“Any media that employ digitally doctored photographs will have a stronger effect than merely influencing our opinion – by tampering with our malleable memory, they may ultimately change the way we recall history,” said researcher Dario Sacchi.

For more on the ethics of news photography, check out the National Press Photographers Association’s code of ethics.

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4 Organizations more tech-savvy than your newsroom

1. The White House

Just a few months ago, the new presidential administration was greeted with antiquated computers and technology that forbade access to social networks like Facebook or even outside email. Fast forward to today and there are now a variety of ways to connect and interact online with the White House.

The official White House site has been revamped and updated to include a blog to keep the world abreast of President Obama and crew. The site also contains a number of photo slideshows based largely on photos from the official Flickr photostream.

The White House’s official YouTube channel contains loads of speeches and press briefings and — to dispel earlier allegations of technology favoritism — the same content is also available on Vimeo.

After Barack Obama’s landmark use of social networking during his presidential campaign it should come as no surprise that the White House is also friending people across the world. The president’s pad has more than 126,000 followers on Twitter and follows a number of government agencies, including FEMA and NASA.

The White House also has more than 205,000 fans on Facebook and the president himself has more than six million fans, more than anyone else on the site. The White House is also on MySpace, along with both President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden.

2. The Vatican

As highlighted in this month’s issue of mental_floss magazine, The Vatican — the centuries-old religious institution — is also down with new technology.

The official newspaper of The Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, is available online in several languages as are many programs from Vatican Radio. The official radio station of Vatican City also has podcasts available for listening or to download.

Flickr photo of Pope Benedict XVI by Paul Resh

The Vatican’s official YouTube has almost 200 videos that range from morning prayers to papal visits. The Vatican even has its own iPhone app that contains prayers and scriptural readings and is available in six languages.

3. Major League Baseball

MLB has all the bases covered with its wide range of ways to follow games electronically. The most impressive offering is MLB.TV, a subscription service where baseball fans can watch live games online in high definition. The site streams 100 games a week to hundreds of thousands of subscribers and the quality is hard to match.

If you prefer your baseball on the go, MLB has a series of iPhone apps including MLB At Bat, where fans can find the latest scores, standings and schedules, and MLB World Series 2009, an interactive game that features all 30 MLB clubs.

The official MLB site contains various other ways to get your baseball fix, including a series of blogs, podcasts, video clips and photo galleries. There is also an official Facebook page where social networkers can step up to the plate.

4. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

The FBI, America’s hub of criminal investigation with a reputation for secrecy, recently announced a slew of online efforts that will make the agency more open and approachable.

The Bureau’s official Twitter feed shares criminal alerts and press releases with its thousands of followers and similar content is shared on the official FBI Facebook page. The videos featured on the FBI’s YouTube channel give an insider’s view of such operations as bomb training and prostitution stings.

In an effort to spread news of and apprehend the fugitives on its famed Most Wanted List, the FBI also has several widgets available that anyone can embed on their blog, site or social network profile and apparently the new media approach is working. The widgets have directed more than 2.5 million people to the FBI website and the Most Wanted widget averages more than a thousand views a day, according to a press release.

The FBI even plans to take its Most Wanted list to Second Life where virtual visitors can keep tabs on real-life criminals.

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A is for Audio: The ABCs of Multimedia

This is what happens when multimedia journalists have too much time on their hands.

Illustrated in Photoshop, animated with Flash. Sound recorded and edited with Adobe Audition. Enjoy!

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