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Archive for February, 2008

QOTD: The universe is made of stories

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

“The universe is made of stories, not atoms.”
— Muriel Rukeyser

A by-the-numbers approach to what journalists are angry about

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

By now, you’ve probably checked out AngryJournalist.com.

I blogged about it a few days ago when it had fewer than 200 posts. (I daresay I was the first to compare it to PostSecret? At least the first I saw.) I predict by the time most of you read this, it will be fast approaching 1,000. Right now it’s at 867.

Curious as I usually am to quantify trends, I decided to use some imprecise methods (mainly the find feature in Firefox) to calculate what it is getting journalists so riled up.

You should know, these numbers were compiled when it was at 829, so the last 50 or so aren’t included in the calculation. Also note there may be other terms that appear more frequently, but these were ones that popped out at me or I wanted to search. (My apologizes to those following me on Twitter who already saw these numbers as I live-blogged my research while considering this post earlier.)

Here’s a by-the-numbers look at how frequently each of these terms was referenced in posts by angry journalists.

About the companies we work for:

“Gannett” had hits in 8 different entries — more than any other media company I could find on there.
“Corporate” alone gets 17 hits, though several combined w/Gannett.
• Even the professors and j-school students were getting into it, 37 hits came back referring to j-school (I took out non-j-school related hits with “school”) and 21 on “student” alone.

On what we cover and how we do it:

“Community” appears 20 times.
“Politic” came in with 17 hits, all across the board from politicians to political correctness, campaigns, events, interests, beliefs, etc.
• Speaking of politics, I wouldn’t put much stock in these poll results, but Hillary “Clinton” was mentioned only 2 times. “Obama” on the other hand should look elsewhere for support, at least from the 5 angry posters who called him out.
“Britney” (that would be Spears) annoyed at least 8 journalists enough to cite her as a source of anger.
• The word “web” popped up 77 times, though several posts used the word many times.
• And “blog” alone garnered mention 32 times.
• There are 8 references to “inch” that had to do with story lengths — from both sides, some that they don’t get to write long enough and others that they’re demanded to write longer.
• And 4 journalists complained about “overtime”, or lack thereof (at least the payment for).

You can’t say that in the newspaper:

• An even 100 uses of “fuck” in those 829 posts.
• Slightly lagging the f-bomb, “shit” was evoked 82 times.
• Mostly in reference to co-workers and bosses, 25 distinct references to “idiot”

And the winner, the thing which most journalists seem to be angry enough to vent about?

• Coming in an unsurprising third? “Pay” topped out with 64 uses.
• But even more than “job,” which made 159 appearances, …
• It’s our bosses (“boss” by the way had 42 hits) we love to hate: “editor” popped up 183 times. (Some were in editorial, but that was probably fewer than a dozen.)

Anyway, as I said before, this was mostly an experiment based on my curiosity. It’s imperfect at best. But it does give you pause. Or at least crack a smile.

QOTD: If your aim is to change the world …

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

“I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
— Tom Stoppard

What do Ohio.com & IndyStar.com have in common?

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

They both annoyed the hell out of me tonight. And they did it with the help of the same Key Bank ad.

I need to update my ad block software or something, because almost or perhaps even more annoying than little green underlines on my articles is an ad that moves my page around so I can’t click or even focus on the actual content. Not only that, but you are allowing advertising to dominate the majority of my screen — including the content I actually came to see.

I took both these screen shots tonight to demonstrate exactly what news sites SHOULD NOT be doing with advertising. (Click the thumbnail for bigger pictures.)

Ohio.com/Akron Beacon Journal:
ABJ annoying key bank ad

and the Indy Star:
Indy Star annoying key bank ad

If I had to make one cardinal rule about online advertising it’s this: Do not, under any circumstance, annoy the reader. They may leave and not return.

You may get my attention, but this is a bad thing. I am forming a negative association with your brand and your company. Now, for instance, when I see Key Bank fliers, mailings, advertisements, etc. I am going to associate it with being annoyed. I’m therefore going to be even less likely to patronize your business or products than if you’d just sat there nicely and conned me into clicking with words like “$100 free for opening a checking account.” This is not exactly what you were going for was it? I didn’t think so.

Public officials blogging, do you quote?

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

The ethics of quoting blogs has been discussed (probably to death) before.

I understand that very fine line and have even danced dangerously close to it. On MySpace or Facebook or LiveJournal, or whatever your chosen platform, many people often have the (mis) perception of privacy. I get that you wouldn’t (or probably shouldn’t) just take it and run with information they posted in perceived confidentiality. This is for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the same as when you deal with inexperienced sources who aren’t as press-savvy: they shouldn’t be harmed because they’re naive. Or something more eloquently put than that. But you know what I’m talking about.

Now, tell me what you think about a scenario like this: An elected official in your community has a blog. The blog identifies him/her as that elected official and discusses issues related to that office as a means of reaching out to constituents. You have confirmed it is that person writing the blog.

Would you consider that blog fair game?

What if the first post in that blog instructs readers to “think of this as a press release”?

This conversation came up today and we didn’t all agree. So I was curious what other journalists think about it. I’m open to being wrong, but I’d like some help thinking through some of those issues that maybe just don’t appear to me because I am so open to transparency and new technology.

My stance is that blog post is more than fair game. My only concern is to confirm the material was posted by the individual and isn’t some type of hoax. Once you have that, why wouldn’t you use it — if only for a jumping off point for further reporting on issues raised. Heck, they want us (well their constituents) to consider it a press release. Even if they didn’t say that, I think if you’re going to stamp your name on a blog, tout you are a public official and use that as the topic of your blog than you have no reason to not expect people to hold you accountable for what you say the same as if you’d mailed out a flier with that message or said it during an open meeting.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think I am. However, I’d be interested to hear what you guys have to say.

I’d also be interested to see what types of blogging your local officials do. Are there any university presidents, mayors, city council members, school board trustees, county commissioners, prosecutors, sheriffs, etc. keeping blogs in your community? Are they mostly PR/buzz? Or are they good sources for tips? How do you handle them? I know the city manager in Kent (where I went to college) keeps a blog about the city. But I can’t think of any other examples off the top of my head.

(BTW this was not a public official on my beat and there isn’t any controversy. It was just an interesting discussion in the newsroom.)

Like PostSecret for journalists

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Who hasn’t wanted to scream about some ridiculous rule or moronic mantra at their organization? Or to tell their bosses what they are asking is inconsistent or, maybe even, impossible? Or just vent about the idiot who makes more money for half the work? You get the idea.

Now you can let it all out. And no, it’s not by creating a blog. (Because if your purpose behind creating a blog is to vent about your co-workers, you likely won’t have much to vent about for long. … I’m just sayin’.)

Meet your new homepage: AngryJournalist.com.

Think of it like PostSecret for journalists. You can drop your own anonymous confession or just listen in on others, even respond with your own nod of agreement if you want.

Even if you have nothing to complain about now, you can still muse over the agony or shared misery of some of your journalistic compatriots as they vent. In much the same way Twitter asks “What are you doing?” This site asks, “Why are you angry today?” (Actually, bonus, you can even follow the updates on Twitter.)

Here are 10 of my favs so far. (FYI: I may or may not agree with the sentiments.)

  • Angry Journalist #11:
    There’s too many boring things to cover to even get to the more interesting stories, and I think I lost my wallet.

  • Angry Journalist #26:
    Editors thinking they can do too much with not enough resources.

  • Angry Journalist #35:
    Living with, working with, and beings friends with only journalists in a city to which you are not native and having to talk about journalism all day and fearing that it’s become your only way to relate (and not relate) to people.

  • Angry Journalist #63:
    I have to reference the fact that the world is round.

  • Angry Journalist #76:
    because my job makes the world worse… Thats not what I was aiming for when I started ten year ago..

  • Angry Journalist #109:
    not having time to do everything.

  • Angry Journalist #126:
    I’m angry that my journalism department at a mid-level public university is staffed with tenured, unmovable dinosaur professors who haven’t sniffed a newsroom or written an article on deadline in more than 15 years. They don’t surf the Web for news, don’t know what an RSS feed is, have never handled a video camera and aren’t prepared to teach youngsters what they need to enter the very tight job market competitively. How can this change? Should j-schools move to more instructors and guest lecturers (local professionals in news who’d teach at night)? Should more money and focus be pored into the school’s student newspaper, where the real learning happens?

  • Angry Journalist #132:
    I’m angry because 80% of my newsroom is occupied by lazy, fat-asses that depend on faxed or emailed press-releases rather than actually leaving the office to get a story. The only productive thing they do is bring in cookies and other crap so I can get a sugar high that will keep me going since I had to miss lunch for the third day in a row.

  • Angry Journalist #134:
    I’m angry that incompetence is tolerated for no other reason than the editors are afraid to admit they made a mistake.

  • Angry Journalist #149:
    I’m angry that my staff wants me to hold their hand for everything and I am tired.

    There also seem to be a lot of journalists angry about Britney Spears being (not) newsworthy and yet everywhere, case in point:

  • Angry Journalist #85:
    I am angry at America. I am angry that we have become so comfortably numb, that we only care about what Britney’s doing, whatever soundbite made on CNN. I hate that we are so introspective, and that our media has become so self-reflective.
    The world exists, goddamnit.
    The world exists.

    And these kind of sum it up:

  • Angry Journalist #48:
    I’m angry that this many journalists are just bitter.

  • Angry Journalist #94:
    I hate that all we do is sit and whine about what we hate and that we don’t have the balls to stand up and try to change what we hate.

  • Angry Journalist #142:
    I’m angry because the only other viable option is apathy.

    Yes I read them all, only a few hundred, mostly short, so far. You can see them all in one page here.

    Thanks to Julie for pointing out this fabulous site via Twitter yesterday and to Kiyoshi Martinez for creating it — genius.

    Final thought, however… and this may just be the optimist in me as I know it’s “cool” to hate your job and complain about the industry and all … but perhaps we should create a counter site to this? Ask, “Why are you happy today?” I can think of a few entries for that one as easily as the other. I can’t be alone.

  • QOTD: You have enemies? … That means you’ve stood up for something

    Saturday, February 16th, 2008

    “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
    —Winston Churchill