Art and music and a special Friday Night edition of the Saturday Video Roundup: let's get the 4th of July weekend started!

Heading down to the First Friday event in the Highlands Gallery District here in a bit, and am very much looking forward to seeing mentalswitch’s eyePhone show at Sports Optical. You’ve seen some of his iPhone art here before, in fact, and tonight – lots more. Head this way, Denver folks.

Meanwhile, I’m ramping up for the evening with some new tuneage. Just downloaded last year’s Fitz & the Tantrums CD and I’m rapidly falling in love. Here are a couple of samples.

Y’all have a good one, y’hear? And if I don’t see you, happy 4th. I’ll be doing barbecue, Lexington style, with some good friends. You won’t be eating as well as we are, but have fun the best you can…. Continue reading

Supreme Court ruling on video games only an assault on bad parenting

by Tom Shortell

The Supreme Court ruled Monday it’s unconstitutional to ban the sale of violent video games to children, striking a severe blow to lazy parents across the nation.

In a 7-2 decision that cast aside typical alliances of the court, the court ruled that video games as a medium are protected under the First Amendment as free speech. The decision struck down a 2005 California law that forbid the sale of games “that depicts ‘killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being’ in a way that appeals to a deviant or morbid interest of minors” to anyone under the age of 18. Continue reading

Of Wikipedia, revisionism, serial killers, The Duke and Michelle Bachmann: the past is the present, the future is the present, and the present is fucked

In case you missed it, America’s newest official candidate for the presidency, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, kicked off her campaign in her hometown of Waterloo, IA yesterday by confusing John Wayne with John Wayne Gacy. Honest mistake. Anybody could have made it.

I mean, it’s still odd. I know first-hand how attuned Iowans can be to their own local histories. Iowans by god know who was born in their town, and for Bachmann to mix up The Duke with a serial killer, to somehow mistake Waterloo for Winterset, well, that’s unusual.

Still, to her credit, Bachmann has offered up the most profoundly true statement we’re likely to hear from any candidate between now and November 2012 when she acknowledged that she’s not perfect. Which is true. She once explained that the founding fathers eliminated slavery. Continue reading

Righthaven LLC may have wrong approach, but news companies need to protect content

by Jane Briggs-Bunting

Stephens Media and its erstwhile partner, Righthaven LLC, lost a significant copyright battle in both Nevada and likely Colorado when a Nevada judge ruled Tuesday that Righthaven did not have standing to sue alleged copyright infringers who had reproduced articles and other content from the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

It’s yet another push by news media to try to get paid for republication of news content reproduced by aggregators, bloggers and others, with or without credit. And bloggers and folks from groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are fighting back, dubbing Righthaven nothing more than a “Copyright Troll.”

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Haste, cost erode editing of online and mobile news

In 1976, I was a general-assignment reporter of limited experience and minimal accomplishment. So my editor kindly fired me, then said: “Now get your ass up on the copy desk where you belong.”

I knew little about copy editing. So I asked my newsroom godfather: “Neil, what do copy editors do?”

He looked over the rims of those 1950s spectacles he favored and said, “Defend your reader.”

“Against what?” I asked.

Error,” he said. “Any error possible.”

The memory of, or, perhaps, even the desire to exercise that dictum may remain in today’s newsrooms. But the ability of copy editors today to defend readers against error has inexorably been eroded. That decimation of editing capacity has been fueled by computerization beginning in the late ’70s and continued in this past decade by the sacking of newsroom staffs and the insatiable demand of management to get stories online or winging to mobile devices right now.
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FCC: Move to digital hasn't improved local news reporting

From the “The Feds Are The Last To Know Department”:

The Federal Communications Commission released a study today reporting that an “explosion of online news sources in recent years has not produced a corresponding increase in reporting, particularly quality local reporting …” The study, titled “Information Needs of Communities” takes a broad but somewhat shallow look at the media landscape. It reads as more of a history of how modern media arrived at its current state than as a clear, practical recipe for change.

The study — which looks at the local reporting performance of all media, not just that of newspapers — was undertaken by senior FCC adviser Steven Waldman, a former journalist for Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report. According to his study:

In many communities, we now face a shortage of local, professional, accountability reporting. The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism — going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy — is in some cases at risk at the local level.

Well, duh. Continue reading

GBTV? Glenn Beck on the Internet? All Glenn, all the time?

Would you pay between $4.95 and $9.95 a month to watch conservative talker Glenn Beck for two hours a day on the Internet?

Beck will launch, with partner Mercury Radio Arts, GBTV, an online video network, on Sept. 12. Here’s Beck himself in a five-minute pitch describing his “global plans” and how he will be “champion of man’s freedom” for the mere cost of a “cup of coffee in today’s world”:

Whether Beck is certifiably insane is not the issue here: Rather, he and his partner need to insure that revenues exceed costs. Now that he’s leaving the ready mega-megaphone of Fox News on June 30, that’s not a certainty.
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If a news story claims knowlege of public opinion, test the claim

When a news story claims certainty in expressing public opinion — or uses sources that claim such — readers should be wary.

Such is the case with a Friday NPR story that commingled analysis, reporting, and commentary (without a commentary label) about the impact of “tough economic news” on President Obama’s re-election prospects.

Some phrasing in the 1,081-word story represents guessing or labeling instead of reporting: seems, perhaps, hardly has a pulse, appears, near certainty, dismal harbinger, liberal wing, political environment, seems a distant memory, progressive community, recent experiences, some in his own party (tell us who, please), and a pervasive view.

But it is proclamations of knowledge of public opinion that irritate most.
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City Forward & Other Technologies Change Our Understanding Of Our Environs

<by Rafael Noboa y Rivera

I’ve written in the past–whether it was about IBM’s Smarter Cities Challenge or City Forward projects–about the different ways that cities can serve as laboratories of government and how cool it is that these projects can be part of this process. Given their size and immediacy in our lives, they are the level of government we are most intimate with. You may think state and national government is more exciting; still, nothing comes close to the city in terms of its impact on our day to day lives, and as they are more immediate, we can also have a much greater impact on them. Continue reading

You call this swill chile verde? (Why consumer review services like Yelp are useless)

Whom do we trust when we’re looking for information? Increasingly, research shows that Americans are more likely trust friends, peers and word-of-mouth over “experts.” For instance:

  • A 2007 eMarketer survey of the most trusted sources of information for US consumers was topped by “friends, family and acquaintances” and “strangers with experience.” These sources outranked “teachers” and “newspapers and magazines.”
  • A CDC study shows that moms trust pediatricians the most, but that they trust “friends and family” more than everybody else, including parenting books, employees in the doctor’s office, and newspaper and magazine articles. Continue reading

The Geek Manifesto

This hit my email a few minutes ago, and as a proud geek myself, I just had to share.

The Geek Manifesto

We are geeks, and we are proud to be.

We are rational; we understand cause and effect; we understand consequences; we understand loosely-coupled distributed self-organizing systems with multiple redundant communication channels. Continue reading

Presidential preference polls: how media create a fake horse race

You can smell that foul odor wafting through the air — presidential politics. Wannabees who won’t say they wannabee are peddling books. Sharply dressed and coiffed “I haven’t decided yet” politicians descend on Iowa and New Hampshire. Explorations of exploratory committees are explored. Websites and Facebook fan pages and Twitter accounts multiply like lobbyists at a fundraiser.

And, if it’s the beginning of the presidential campaign season, then it’s the beginning of the presidential polling season as well. Newspapers and broadcast entities partner with polling organizations to tap likely voters’ preferences for candidates. Even though this is early in 2011 and the election is in late 2012, poll respondents are expected to know now whom they’ll pencil onto their ballot.

So the horse race begins. But it’s fixed. All because of one question:

If the election were held today, who would you vote for?
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Arianna Antoinette: "Let the motherfuckers eat cake"

A few weeks ago I asked a question: is the Huffington Post a force for good or a liberal sweatshop? In the wake of HuffPo‘s megamillion-dollar sale to AOL, it struck me as appropriate to question the ethics behind an allegedly progressive business operating in a fashion that was indistinguishable from the greedmongering corporate entities it professed to oppose. I know a number of people who have written there (uncompensated, by and large) who feel that they benefited significantly from the arrangement, and I respect their perspectives.

Not everybody sees it that way, though. Continue reading

Issue of pay for bloggers bigger than just Arianna’s windfall

When the Huffington Post was sold to AOL for a small fortune (very small, speaking in Mark Zuckerberg terms) typical of the comments heard was that it had been “built on the backs of bloggers” who went unpaid for their efforts. According to the infamous phrase that co-founder Ken Lerer once deigned to impart to the barbarians at the portal of the metablog, paying contributors is “not our financial model.”

In fact, Huffington Post’s administrators wouldn’t even make an exception for Mayhill Fowler. You remember Ms. Fowler — she broke the campaign-trail story about candidate Barack Obama speaking about Pennsylvanians to wealthy patrons at a fund raiser. To refresh your memory, he said, “And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” Continue reading

We're just serfs in the machines of Facebook, Twitter, HuffPo

I am a content slave — a serf, says David Carr of The New York Times.

[T]hink of Facebook, which is composed of half a billion freely given user profiles, along with a daily stream of videos, posts and messages. It is both a media site and a social network, and all of the content is provided free of charge. By creating a template for information and a frame around it, along with a community that also serves as an audience, this new generation of content companies have created the equivalent of a refrigerator that manufactures and consumes its own food. [emphasis added]

A helluva business model, eh? It’s paying off handsomely for the folks who own the refrigerator. Arianna Huffington et al. have sold The Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million. Over the past several months, Facebook’s market cap (a company’s capitalized value calculated by multiplying current share price by the number of outstanding shares) has been variously estimated between $25 billion and $41 billion. Continue reading

The future of libraries, part 2

The town of Hull, Massachusetts, is a comfortable blue-collar town on the tip of a little cape off of Boston’s south shore. At one time a fashionable resort, more recently it has been dealing with a declining tax base and an increased demand for services. Still, it’s a pleasant enough place, especially in the summer, when it attracts boatloads of tourists for summer rentals and a nice beach community. And it has a charming library, in an old Victorian building reeking with character, with an interesting book collection (some of which celebrates the town’s maritime history) and a fantastic children’s program. It’s pretty much what you want any locally municipal library to be, in fact.

Just like many other towns and cities in America, however, Hull library services have been the targets of cutbacks by the municipal government this past year. Continue reading

So you're 17 and want to be a journalist? Do it — you'll love it.

You’re 17 years old. For some reason you’ve decided you want to go to college to learn how to be a journalist. My hat’s off to you — first, for wanting to go to college, and second, for wanting to answer what I still consider to be a calling to public service.

Journalists find out things, then tell people what they found out. Often, it’s stuff people want to hear. But a good journalist must tell people what they need to hear — even if they don’t want to hear it. So I’m glad you want to become one of us.

Perhaps you’ve had training already. Your high school has a student-run paper, a radio station, even a broadcast television studio. You know Twitter and Facebook and perhaps write your own blog.

Your parents might be opposed to your choice. They’ve heard journalism is dying, newspapers are closing, and so on. They’ve heard journalists don’t get paid much. But you’ve done your homework. You believe opportunity will rise from the ashes of an outdated business model corporations imposed on journalism as a profession and a calling. And you’d like to be one of the pioneers who have a hand in its rebirth.

So (whether you like it or not) I have a few suggestions to offer. The first is simple:

If you’re not nosey, learn to be. Right now. Journalists must be curious about the world around them. So much of their work begins with an understanding of their own lived experience and observations.
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Writing for ‘new media’? The old still serves the new

As profs consider changing the names of their schools of journalism and (mass, strategic, public, etc.) communication, they are hurriedly reshaping writing curricula to reflect changes in the media of information delivery and, more importantly, prospective students’ attitudes that journalism is a dying profession.

The instruction of writing in the Age of New Media is under the microscope. But some (not all, but enough) journalism educators, methinks, approach teaching writing for “new media” as if it requires a brand-new skill set taught in courses with names that suggest the same. We must ask: Are educators entranced by “new media” overlooking the core learning goals of students in a journalism and communication program — to observe faithfully and completely, to record accurately, to analyze thoughtfully, to organize sensibly and to present compellingly?

No matter the medium of distribution, those traits of a good communicator have not changed. Nor has an old, reliable maxim all good writers must learn and that profs can use to distinguish writing for a newspaper vs. tweeting at Twitter.

Anyone’s who worked as a journalist – or in any writing-intensive profession – has heard these words: Write to fit.
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Time for journalism schools to unpack the tension between objectivity, subjectivity

Q: What’s the most effective way to piss off a journalist?

A: Lie to her.

Result: Moral outrage on her part – followed by determined, disciplined digging into why the lie and who benefits from it. And outrage, being an emotion, often leads to subjective judgments.

Finding lies and telling people about them are what good, progressive journalism programs must teach, even the programs with a conjunction and the word communication (mass, strategic or otherwise) in their names. Communicators, be they journalists, public relations practitioners, advertising agency executives, government or corporate representatives, or bloggers should not get away with lies. Or prevarications. Or evasions. Or deceits. Or no comment.

But we all know that someone with an agenda, someone who is willing to break the spirit or letter of the law, will lie to protect that agenda or advance it. It takes an experienced, well-trained journalist to detect the lie and find a truth in its stead. (Yes. I know: People who are bright and observant but who are not journalists can detect lies, too. But do they do it for a living? Make a career of it? For low pay and a lack of respect from the people who benefit from being told of the lies?) Continue reading

Tracking independent political spending harder since Citizens United

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision — striking down bans on independent spending by unions, corporations, and individuals — continues to ripple through American politics, especially at the state level.

A new blog — The Money Tale — at the National Institute on Money in State Politics makes this abundantly clear. Writes researcher Anne Bauer:

Prior to the ruling, 24 states banned independent expenditures by unions, corporations, or both. Since the ruling, all 24 have dropped their bans following court challenges, rulings by attorneys general, or through legislation.

That means it’s even harder to find publicly accessible data on independent political spending in state races.

Campaign cash for federal races — the presidency and members of Congress — has been tracked for a decade by the Center for Responsive Politics (recently named to the inaugural list of institutions comprising a new journalism ecosystem). But the interpretation has often been done by people like me — using the CRP’s opensecrets.org site. Similarly, I’ve used reports at followthemoney.org as background for commentary on state elections and referenda.

But that was before Citizens United. Now, at either the state or federal level, can we calculate which is larger: The total of publicly accessible, legally required reports of contributions to candidates — or the the total of anonymous, unreported, publicly unaccessible spending legitimized by the Supreme Court?
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