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Posts Tagged ‘history’

New Database Tracks History of Undercover Reporting

From tales of tainted meat to racism to mistreatment of wounded soldiers, some of the stories that have rankled the establishment and raised public consciousness and concerns haven’t come from straight news, on-the-record reporting. They’ve come from journalists who’ve gone undercover. Or as a new NYU database of undercover reporting dubs it, reporters who’ve engaged in “deception for journalism’s sake.”

The database at launched this week and chronicles undercover journalism from the 1800s to present day, with stories grouped by series and topic. The database — a collaboration between NYU journalism professor Brooke Kroeger and the university’s libraries — lets users search by the writer, the publication, the topic or the type of method employed in the undercover work. Each entry includes not only references and when available links to the source material, but also a bit of the history on the impact of the work.
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What’s The Equivalent Of ‘Ink By The Barrel’ On The Internet?

One of my all-time favorite journalism quotes, often misattributed to Mark Twain, goes something like:


“Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.”



The actual phrasing, history and correct attribution of this quote, commonly called “Greener’s Law,” are hard to determine. (That page actually has a lot of good info on the history and variations, if you’re into that.)

The idea is generally, it’s a bad idea to argue with someone that wields so much power and influence as a daily newspaper (or at least, as much as the newspaper once did in many communities). Today, however, there are so many different forms of media outlets that the newspaper itself doesn’t hold so much power.

So, while figuring out who first said it and how might not be something we can do in hindsight, I thought — inspired by a blog post on the topic by Peter Lewis — it would be fun to look forward instead and figure out what the new media equivalent would be. I’m sure the 10,000 Words readership has a few fun ideas for the next incarnation of this phrase.

How would you adapt this idea to the modern media?

Here are a few fun suggestions from Lewis, myself and others:

  • Never pick a fight with someone who buys their bandwidth by the gigabyte. (From Darrell Patrick)
  • Never pick a fight with someone who gets more than a million uniques a month (From Lewis)
  • Never pick a fight with someone who has a black belt in SEO techniques (Lewis)
  • Never pick a fight with someone who has more than 500,000 Twitter followers (Lewis)
  • Never pick a fight with someone who has a camera and a Twitter following
  • Never pick a fight with someone who collectively goes by Anonymous
  • Never pick a fight with someone who knows how to use the Internet better than you
  • Never pick a fight with someone who isn’t above hacking into your voicemail for a scoop
  • Never pick a fight with someone who has compromising photos, video or audio you
  • Never pick a fight with someone who has access to Google to prove you wrong immediately

Send in your suggestions and I can append them to this list.

A Data Visualization of U.S. Newspaper History

A few weeks ago, I shared a link to the coolest way to visually see what’s news around the world. Now, here comes an interesting way to see what was news. Well, rather, who was covering the news and when in the U.S. It’s a data visualization of newspapers past. And it’s pretty cool, if somewhat depressing.

The Rural West Initiative at Standford University created the map by plotting the U.S. Library of Congress catalog of newspapers (140,000 publications??) over time and space. These are the results (click to see the real maps).

Through the sidebar content as you scroll through the timeline, you get a feel for the different “eras” of newspapering, from the colonies to the frontier to yellow journalism and merger mania. It’s actually somewhat encouraging to read about the journalism crises of decades/centuries past. Being a journalist these days can see like you’re in the worst of times, but really, newspapers and journalism is just constantly evolving, and as you see in the map, it ebbs and it flows.

If nothing else, you’ll find interesting bits of local history when you zoom in and discover who was covering your town. You might be surprised how many newspapers small cities used to support.

(Found via Freakonomics blog.)