Wednesday, January 31, 2007

When does a blog become a mainstream news source?

A possible answer can be found by linking here.

Learning some of the tricks of the trade

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post notes that in testifying in the Scooter Libby trial, former New York Times reporter Judith Miller revealed some journalism tricks. Can aspiring journalists learn anything from this?

No "Fox" in the Obama house?

Is the presidential candidate refusing to deal with Fox News reporters? Read one thought here.

Novak's column "outing" Plame

For those who have not read it, this is the column in which Robert Novak outs Valerie Plame, identifying her as a CIA operative. Note that while Novak writes for the Chicago Sun-Times, this is the syndicated version that appeared in the Washington Post (among other newspapers).

Monday, January 29, 2007

This is a Snow job

and it deals with objectivity. Read about it here.

Secondary education teachers are using the 'Net more than the newspaper, in their classes

What are the ramifications? Some answers here.

Who will report from abroad?

A legitimate question, and one that is worrisome to many people. Read more here.

Is the future of journalism embodied in a former Los Angeles sportscaster?

If the answer is yes, then that man is...right here.

It's a $1 billion industry

Can't guess what it is? Then link here for the answer.

It's the end of...TV...as we know it

So says Bill Gates. And he warns the end will come sooner than we think.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Traditional communications versus modern communications

I am convinced that the recent "unofficial" videos showing the hanging of Saddam and of his half-brother demonstrate how modern communications has usurped traditional communications.

Consider what the world would have seen...had these events happened in 1987, not 2007. The "official" Iraqi government video -- which first aired on Iraqi television and later in the United States (and elsewhere in the world) -- ended when the noose was tightened around Saddam. There also was no audio on that tape. That tape, in the mid- to late-1980s, would have been the only -- and therefore quite sanitary -- pictures the world would have had about Saddam's death.

But this is 2007, and that means the "unofficial" video -- almost certainly shot from a cellular phone -- has created quite a stir. From a different angle, it shows everything the "official" video does; but it also shows much more. And the corresponding audio paints a much different picture (pardon the juxtaposition of audio and painting) of the final moments of Saddam's life. Instead of the almost military-like demeanor of the "official" video, there is ample audio and video evidence showing mass confusion and overt hostility toward Saddam.

I discussed (but did not show) Saddam's death -- the "official" and "unofficial" versions -- to my students, using it as an example of how communications have changed in their lifetimes. I also reminded them that these modern communications (which is taken for granted by their age group) also poses intense challenges to journalists. The "official" version of events can no longer be assumed to be the only one that exists. Moreover, journalists are expected to incorporate these "other" versions into their reporting. Remember, too, that these "other" versions are not the same as an eyewitness account, which, though reliable, cannot be equated to actually being able to see and hear what happened. The experience is simply different.

These communications also pose ethical challenges to journalists. These are ideas I hope all broadcast educators will discuss in their classrooms and at academic conventions. Speaking personally, I find these challenges exciting in that they force everyone in the communications industry to decide how they affect and might change modern journalism.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The power of cell-phone journalism

This recent story segues well with a research article of mine written for Media Ethics Magazine that soon will be available online. I will provide the link.

Cell-Phone Videos Transforming TV News
By DAVID BAUDER AP Television Writer

NEW YORK - Michael Richards in a West Hollywood comedy club and the authorities in Iraq who executed Saddam Hussein painfully learned that the prying eyes of television news can belong to anyone who carries a cell phone.

Saddam's execution and Richards' flameout illustrate the growing power of cell-phone video as a news tool, not only to supplement stories but to change them.

"It brought to a fore the sense that wow, this is a ubiquitous technology," said Mark Lukasiewicz, NBC News vice president for digital media. "Cameras are now in places where cameras never used to be. That's transformational."

Iraqi authorities angrily searched for the people who recorded and distributed a video of Saddam's execution after the grainy footage emerged and spread quickly over the Internet and, in abridged form, on television.

It told a much different story than the government-authorized video issued about six hours after Saddam's hanging. That depicted the former leader fitted first with a black scarf, then a thick noose. Separate pictures showed his body in a white shroud, with visible blood stains. The pictures had no audio.

"For the first time, I felt as a certainty that there was going to be bootlegged distribution of the official tape or a bootlegged version of the execution," said Jonathan Klein, CNN U.S. president. "I had never had that level of certainty before. Somehow, you just knew."

Within 12 hours, Klein was proven right.

TV networks had little use for pictures of Saddam falling through the trap door; they weren't shown for taste reasons. But this video had audio, revealing angry exchanges and people loudly taunting Saddam in his final moments.

Without the cell-phone video, viewers were left to assume that the execution was carried out professionally. Instead, the video revealed a chaotic scene that to many commentators symbolized everything that had gone wrong with the Iraq war and somehow made a brutal dictator a sympathetic figure.

An audience member's cell phone caught the angry, racially offensive tirade unleashed by Richards at a Los Angeles comedy club in November. Repeated over and over on news networks, it became a major story that may effectively end Richards' career.

Would it have even been a story without the video? If witnesses had described it later and Richards denied his actions, it could have been a he-said, she-said story with many people not believing the beloved Kramer would do such a thing. There's a good chance the story would have gotten out in some form, however, because a friend of a CNN producer was in the audience and phoned in a tip.

"It probably would have been a story but it wouldn't have been as big a story," Klein said. "That was the smoking gun. It was so appalling to watch. It was like watching a train wreck."

Cell-phone video, despite having not nearly the picture quality of those produced by professional broadcasters, "does what pictures often do - it reveals the truth of the story," Lukasiewicz said.

"Witnesses tend to argue," he said. "What one person saw might be different from what another person saw. The picture doesn't lie, but the picture isn't the whole story."

Television networks have taken viewer-contributed video ever since the advent of hand-held video cameras. Still, people aren't likely to be carrying a video camera when news suddenly happens. They probably have their cell phones, however.

Video capability has been around since the camera phones were introduced in 2000, but didn't gain significant acceptance in the United States until Sprint introduced a popular service in 2003.

An estimated 70 percent of Americans carry cell phones. Nearly one quarter of cell phone users - an estimated 55.5 million people - have phones with video capability. One-third of them claim to use their video feature at least once a week, according to analyses by InfoTrends and The Yankee Group.

News organizations became aware of the potential of cell-phone video during the 2005 London subway bombing, when riders' phones captured images conventional cameras didn't, said David Rhodes, Fox News Channel vice president of news.

Networks even use their own cell-phone video in cases where reporters aren't accompanied by cameramen. NBC's first pictures of roof damage from inside the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina were taken by Brian Williams. Fox News aired cell-phone video in the initial stages of covering New York Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle's fatal plane crash.

Digital technology has the power to make everyone a news reporter, said David Westin, ABC News president.

"That has enormous potential for good and also has enormous potential for mischief," he said. "The challenge for us is to get the good and weed out the mischief."

Someone with a camera, an agenda and modest acting abilities can try to fool a news organization. Some people simply enjoy the sport of it. During coverage of a hurricane, one viewer sent NBC News a picture of supposed damage, when in fact it was a professionally taken photo from another storm, Lukasiewicz said.

It requires a careful vetting process unnecessary when the networks gather their own material, Westin said.

But it's the future. Or, more accurately, the present. CNN in 2006 introduced technology to enable viewers to upload video taken on any device and easily send it to the network, where a staff is assigned to look over the material for newsworthiness.

Things like the Richards video, which stunned Klein when he first saw it.

"There was an intensity to it," he said. "It became an `Oh, my God, we have to put that on the air' kind of story. There will be many, many more of those to come in the future."

Now read this...

...or this...or this...or this. A listserv to which I subscribe has provided a list of suggested books about journalism that might appeal to students, faculty or the general public. Here it is.

Picture this...

Photographers are now among those upset with the Bush administration? What caused this feud to "develop". Don't "shutter" at the answer...click here to find it.

And the winners are...

No, this has nothing to do with the Golden Globes. This is an award that actually matters. Read more here.

What broke up this marriage?

One commentator believes a "web" of intrigue led to the demise of the potentially long-standing marriage of newspapers and television. You won't find any of this in a divorce court, but you will by clicking here.

Bloggers and the Scooter Libby trial

You'll find two bloggers among the journalists covering the trial. Is this an advancement or recognition of bloggers? Or something unimportant? Read more here.

More and more Katie...

Is it a good thing? Here's what she has to say.

A 6th W?

One journalism professor says who...what...where...when...and why -- the standards of journalism education -- might now not be enough. Read what he has to say here, in a report that appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Inquiry from Iraq's government

The unauthorized videotaping of Saddam Hussein's execution has drawn the attention of the Iraqi government. Here is a report that indicates the government is ordering an investigation into who made -- and then distributed -- the video.

Viewers of CNN and other U.S.-based media might have seen the authorized version, which ends seconds after the noose is tightened around Saddam's neck. But the unauthorized version, which another CNN report (go to CNN.com and look for the Dec. 31 story) indicates is rapidly being downloaded and distributed throughout Iraq, is much more gruesome. Not only does it show the entire execution; but it also indicates that there was sharp exchanges between Saddam and some of the men who witnessed -- or perhaps took part -- in his hanging. On this version, various Shiite chants can be heard. All of this is troubling, the aforementioned report notes, because it gives additional evidence to the religious divide within the country.

One football game...but more than that

I'll admit it...I'm tired today. Really tired. Stayed up much too late (I think until 12:54 am Eastern time) this morning.

But, wow, was it worth it.

In this era of overly-hyped, overly-commercialized college football, I watched something last night (and this morning) that can be a valuable lesson for the public as it deals with a celebrity-focused, violence-driven, talking-head, all too often superficial media world: Don't give up.

First, the background...then the larger message. Boise State University beat the University of Oklahoma last night/this morning in the (sponsor's name omitted here) Fiesta Bowl, 43-42. If the score suggests the game was wild, the ending was more than that.

Boise State scored the game-tying touchdown (and extra point) with :07 left in the game, on a trick play. In overtime, Oklahoma quickly scored to go up 42-35. Boise State struggled to score the game-tying touchdown, using a trick play involving a wide receiver lining up at quarterback. Then came the coup-de-grace of the late evening/early morning -- another trick play that led to a 2-point conversion and the improbable (so the experts said before the game) win.

I won't take up space here -- and your time -- describing the plays in detail. If you are interested in them, go to any newspaper or electronic media Web site and read an account of the game. You might need to read it a second time to make sure what you are being told actually happened. It was that unreal.

Now the larger message: Never give up. The media landscape in which the American public operates is not the prettiest. Too much concentration of ownership. Too little oversight by responsible governmental agencies. But if the public is willing to invest time in finding those other media sources that are out there, then a more complete understanding of the world can be had. Victory, you might say, would belong to the public.

Just like it belongs to the Boise State Broncos.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Analysis of the death of Saddam

Very interesting story in the New York Times about the final days and hours of Saddam, and why the American government appeared to be preaching calm and patience, virtues that apparently were not followed by the Iraqi government or the men who carried out the execution.

My New Year's wishes...for the media

And not to sound pessimistic off the top, but I doubt any of these will happen...

1. Increased news coverage of the world;

2. Less reliance on celebrity- and personality-driven news;

3. Details, details, details...place events into a relevant context;

4. A move away from hot-shot, loud-mouth individuals claiming to be journalists or talk show hosts, but who are in reality filled with hot air, selfish motives, and personal and political agendas;

5. Increased coverage of local events, news and issues that matter to people;

6. Gain more trust from the public.