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SXSWi 2014: Glenn Greenwald on Social Media, Surveillance and the Purpose of Journalism

greenwald-sxswSXSW attendees packed into an Austin Convention Center exhibit hall earlier this week to hear from a guest who wasn’t even in town — editor and journalist with First Look Media’s The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald.

Widely known as an associate of Edward Snowden, a former government employee who leaked hundreds of documents on the NSA’s surveillance program, Greenwald was invited to discuss his work and the future of democratic journalism via Skype. In his virtual conversation with Personal Democracy Media editorial director Micah Sifry, Greenwald was his usual unabashed, passionate self expressing his thoughts on the power of social media, government surveillance initiatives, constitutional rights and his role as a journalist:

On social:

For a man who is busy trying to expose what he believes are great injustices to the American public by reporting from all over the world, Greenwald is a pretty active Twitter user. And as the former Guardian writer said Monday, he’s a fan of the platform. “I actually do think it’s a really good medium.” Referring to social as the “biggest difference between today’s online journalism and establishment journalism,” he said its best benefit is that the availability of reader feedback it provides “keeps you honest.”

“I do think online interaction, unpleasant and annoying as it may be, is a really important form of accountability,” Greenwald said. In the old days, legacy media reporters and columnists “were completely insular people who spoke to the world in monologue form … to passive readers. Now, if you are a journalist, you’re going to constantly hear from people … who have a lot of important things to say.”

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Even Upworthy’s Corrections Are Designed To Go Viral

upworthycorrection_featuredYou’ve seen and no doubt probably shared a piece of content or two that came to your attention via viral news-worth-sharing aggregator Upworthy. But have you ever gone back to a piece you shared, or circled back to a piece you’ve already seen before?

No?

That’s the problem with corrections on the Internet. Nobody (OK, very few people) goes back to re-read or re-watch something they’ve already seen. Why would you when there are hundreds of thousands of other awesome videos that will make you cry or reconsider your life waiting for you to discover.

But what happens if that video or story misled you or contained inaccuracies? You’ll probably never know, or forget the source where you first saw that mistake appear. In a newspaper, clarifications and corrections are typically appended to the stories and appear in print, either near the masthead or in a standard area of the section of the paper. Blog posts often append updated information at the top or bottom, or strike-through info that comes to light as being wrong. But how do you get those misinformed visitors to come back to see that?
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National Journal Launches Document Library

nj logoNeed some background research for a complicated energy policy story? Or a good idea for your niche publication to demonstrate its value for readers?

Take a tip from the National Journal, which launched a the Document Library this week — free and unlimited to members and subscribers, free and limited for non-members — full of docs, white papers, reports, and more. From the release:

The new National Journal Document Library is a growing collection of research reports, testimonies, white papers, and press releases updated in near real-time from the websites of hundreds of sources that include global government agencies, think tanks, trade associations, and academic and corporate institutions.

As mentioned, member and subscribers can access the Library directly here. Non-members can access a limited version of the Library thru the policy verticals:  Energy, Healthcare, Tech and Defense. It’s not obvious — you have to scroll down the homepage of the section and you’ll see it next to the Twitter feed.

The library is interesting to me not just because it’s another resource, but because it’s another example of a publication making it clear that journalism isn’t just about reporting, it’s about researching. We all knew that, but it’s starting to be important to make that a key component of the business model. This is what First Look Media’s targeted ‘digital magazines’ are about, and in the same vein of what Ezra Klein is talking about with Project X – being not just about reporting the news but serving as a resource for the public. It’s about getting to the root of ‘journalism as public service.’

No better, or simpler, way to inform and educate than taking advantage of technology and making it free, to boot.

 

Steve Buttry Wants to Change How You Work (It Will Be Better, We Promise)

project unboltMost of our newsrooms, if we’re honest, are print organizations with the digital initiative “bolted on.” Or so admitted Digital First Media CEO John Paton. I can’t decide whether I’m jealous of or pity the man, Steve Buttry, who has been tasked with unbolting four test newsrooms as DFM’s digital transformation editor.

He obviously knew what he was getting into. More than just refocusing attention to mobile reporting, engaging with audiences over social media or creating new ways to play with and use data, Project Unbolt is about actually changing how newsrooms think and act. Buttry elaborated on his blog this week about what it will actually entail and look like to ‘wrench’ newsrooms away from thinking for print. Here are some highlights:

  • Everything is live, all the time. He writes:

Virtually all event coverage and breaking news coverage are handled as live coverage, with ScribbleLive, livetweeting, livestreaming, etc. This includes sports events, government meetings, trials, community festivals, etc….Live coverage is routine for the unbolted newsroom. Reporters and/or visual journalists covering events plan for live coverage unless they have a good reason not to (a judge won’t allow phones or computers in a courtroom; a family would rather not have you livetweet a funeral; connectivity at a site is poor).

  • In the unbolted newsroom, you post content when you have an audience. Digital content is fresh every morning, you aren’t planning for morning editions, and those ‘Sunday magazine’ style features go up during the week. Read more

How Dallas Reporters Used Twitter to Get Un-Banned From Public Meeting

Twitter-birdI don’t think I can say it any better than Dallas Morning News reporter Tristan Hallman said it, when he blogged for the News about how he and a handful of local TV reporters were banned from a public, town hall-style meeting involving the Dallas Police Chief one night earlier this week:

“So last night was weird. For 40 minutes, reporters were banned from a public meeting with public officials in a public building.”

Definitely a weird moment, but especially unique was the way those reporters changed the outcome of their night through their tweets.

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