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transparency

The Onion Gets Hacked, Shares Insights

The pro-Assad Syrian Electronic Army has had its fair share of huge hacking attempts. With propaganda messages spilling out from outlets like the Associated Press and The Guardian, hacks from the group have become more prevalent than ever before on media outlets.

However, they made a mistake earlier this month: hacking The Onion. The online parody newspaper seemed an unlikely target of the SEA, but the result was very similar to other outlets — multiple tweets promoting Assad and the triumph of the SEA. Most outlets who have been victims of an SEA attack have reacted by merely announcing that it happened.

That wasn’t enough for The Onion’s tech team, which decided to break down every level of SEA’s multilayer phishing attack and describe to the public, in great detail, how the SEA managed to find its way to The Onion’s accounts.

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This Handy Tool Separates Journalism from Press Releases

Everyone has been in contact with lazy journalism — whether its one article looking a bit too full of market-speak or a group of articles using the same descriptive terms — but it’s always been very difficult to suss out whether it’s a coincidence or a purposeful cut-and-paste job. Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit focusing on governmental transparency, has decided to tackle the problem head-on with its new website, Churnalism.

If you think a particular article looks, well, suspicious, simply paste the link’s URL or  the text directly into Churnalism’s free scanner (or add on a free browser extension) and the tool will match phrases to press releases within its database. The tool scans through many popular PR hubs, including PR Newswire and MarketWire, and it has also revealed it can grab text from Wikipedia and the US government’s websites. You can compare the article side-by-side and see what was lifted from source material — and whether it’s taken out of context.

Check out the video on Churnalism below. Read more

Vourno: A Crowd-Funding Platform for the News

If Joe Verdirame has his way, we’re all going to be ‘vournos’ pretty soon. You heard me: vourno, or a video journalist. Along with his brother and some friends from college, none of whom are practicing journalists, Verdirame has created the first crowdfunding platform focused solely on the news.

Set to launch this May with a handful of ready videojournalists, Vourno works much like other crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, with a viewing platform to boot.

Explains Verdirame:

We love the news, but we saw this hole that needed to be fixed. We’re just for news, and we’re not just a funding platform, we’re providing an independent news network, a platform where users can build a portfolio, and their pieces get rated. With our platform, you get to see the end result and you can keep following your vourno.

Journalists who want to produce their own magazine news show, cover a story they feel is missing from the mainstream, or head overseas to break news, create a Project, in Vourno parlance. Each project has thirty days to reach its funding goal. Once it gets funded, the journalist goes out to produce the segment and then posts in on the Vourno site.

If you’re not a journalist, you can head to Vourno to donate and fund a project, submit an idea, or just watch the news.

Some exciting features: Read more

ProPublica Asks Reddit: What Should We Cover?

This week, the non-profit investigative journalism group ProPublica decided to take its quest to uncover the untold stories in a different direction on the Internet: Reddit. And here’s the twist, they’re not seeking sources — they’re seeking stories. They’ve opened up a channel, InvestigateThisNews, asking users to tell them what they should be covering.

Now Reddit, which has been around for years, seems to be having a heyday these days. I mean, even the President did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) during the campaign! But for ProPublica, it’s part of their Get Involved strategy, according to senior engagement editor Amanda Zamora. She discussed it in a Q&A over at Niemen Journalism Lab, in which she talks extensively about user engagement and where the Reddit channel fits in. I think she nailed it with this point on why places like Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, etc. matter not only as a reporting source but as a story source:

…[W]e still pay attention and use social media to build a general audience for our work. We are using it to get the word out about what we report. But we’re just as concerned at using these tools to help attract people who want to participate in our work. We’re doing a lot of community building.

In other words, if you want to know what the story is, or if there’s a story people in your readership and your community think is uncovered and important, why don’t you ask them. Engage them in the reporting process before there’s a reporting process.
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Can’t We All Just Subscribe? Why ‘Paywalls’ Won’t Get Us Anywhere

Circling in my head this week are two media bits that I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to if I wasn’t still mulling over the state of paid journalism.

The first was an email from Pro Publica, on the tail of its release of “Dollars for Docs,” asking for a donation to help continue the good work. The second was a blog post you can read here about what newspaper execs should really say to users about paywalls.

And here is my conclusion: we have got to stop using the word ‘paywall.’ Now there will be some of you that are in the ‘information wants to be free,’ camp. That’s fine when it comes to transparency and politics, but not so great a business model for news pubs. So let’s stop talking about putting up walls to keep people out. The paywall has only led to griping from consumers who’ve reached their monthly article limit, and unique ways to get around them. We’re wordsmiths, we know words matter, and ‘paywall’ is another relic of the old media-new media debate. Knock it off.

Why can’t we just call it what it is? A subscription. Of course, many in the industry have finally started calling subscriptions (see what I did there?) what they are: a quick fix to make balance sheets look better. They add another revenue source, and that’s it.

Raju Narisetti said in an interview this week:

You have to think of it as a revenue stream from your most loyal people that will help, because it’s a little bit of an annuity, if you will, that will help soften the blow of what’s happening to CPMs of most papers and what’s happening to advertising. It will cushion the blow, it’ll create a new revenue stream, and in time could create more loyalty and potential upselling opportunities for ebooks and events and things like that. But it’s just going to be that — it’s going to be a stream of revenue that you didn’t have, but it’s not going to solve your problems. If anybody out there thinks a paywall is going to solve our industry’s problems in itself, they’re in for a very rude surprise.

Fine, a subscription model can’t be it. And there has to be a way, eventually, to figure out how to make digital dollars with advertising, too. But I think you have to be really cynical about humanity to just assume that no one is going to want to read interesting, enlightening, meaningful content on all the cool toys that tablets will spawn. And that it will be paid for. And that there will be the same sort of selection – from the soapy, poorly targeted tabloids to the wonky and elitist journals — that we  used to have on newsstands. Call me idealist. Call me naive. At least I’m not defeatist.

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