This is not a new concept, but the issues are getting more and more relevant as more and more interaction exists online. "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas" can be adapted to say "What Happens on the Internet Stays on the Internet. Forever."
In the article, reporter Mary Callahan talks about a new industry of online reputation management. She writes:
There's something at stake for virtually everyone — whether it's job prospects, college admissions, a competitive market edge, the promise of romance or a professional reputation.
This has never been more true than today. And privacy, whatever is left of it, is something people should hold close.
The California Senate believes this to be true, particularly for youth. The Senate passed a bill unanimously trying to protect children from themselves. But how can we when we all know that part of being a kid is outdoing your peers and not really thinking of the consequences?
Guy Kovner of the Press Democrat wrote:
Privacy advocates hailed the bill, which includes a requirement that social media sites provide a so-called "eraser button" allowing minors under 18 to remove their own ill-advised postings.
"Too often a teenager will post an inappropriate picture or statement that in the moment seems frivolous or fun, but that they later regret," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, the bill's author, in a written statement.
In Callahan's article, Kerry Rego, a social media maven and technology consultant reminds us that once something is out there, it can't be gotten back.
But how can you teach a teenager that anything they put out there could potentially follow them for the rest of their life? That a seemingly innocent photo of themselves could prevent them from getting into college? I guess the legislature is trying, but I am not sure it will help. As Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic.net said in Kovner's article, you can delete a posting, but if someone downloaded it before you got to it, it is out there forever. "You are closing the barn door after the horse is out."
The Cloverdale Reveille has changed hands, according to a link on its landing page. (Which takes you to a story on Facebook, for some reason.)
The paper, owned by the Hanchett family since 1988, "will now be owned by Sonoma West Publishers, owners of The Healdsburg Tribune, Windsor Times and Sonoma West Times and News.
The new publisher and owner will be Rollie Atkinson and his wife Sarah Bradbury. Atkinson has worked at The Healdsburg Tribune since 1982, assuming ownership in 2000," according to the story published this morning.
Kind of a funny note: The tagline on the homepage says "weekly since 1878" but a scrolling "ad" about the paper says "serving Cloverdale since 1879."
I guess they were just there for a year and then started serving Cloverdale.
Online news sites like the Huffington Post, Politico, Patch and Salon have gained popularity and shifted the way people get their news. Newspapers have gotten smaller and there are fewer subscribers. But is it because people don't want papers? Or just that there isn't as much money in them and the content is declining?
Last year, New Orleans became the largest U.S. city to not have a daily paper. The Times-Picayune became a three-per-week publication with more focus on the online content. That apparently is not what people want. In an article in the New York Times, reporter David Carr noted the publisher decided to bring back the paper as a daily because of the public engagement. Also, the Philadelphia Inquirer is set to publish again; though only on Saturdays.
Now it is debatable, apparently, whether the method in which New Orleans' paper is being distributed is a good one. Says Carr:
On Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, a broadsheet called The Times-Picayune will be available for home delivery and on the newsstands for 75 cents. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a tabloid called TPStreet will be available only on newsstands for 75 cents.
In addition, a special electronic edition of TPStreet will be available to the three-day subscribers of the home-delivered newspaper. On Saturdays, there will be early print editions of the Sunday Times-Picayune with some breaking news and some Sunday content.
But the public demanded it and they listened.
When I went to J School, everyone I knew said I was studying a dying industry. After all, "Newspaper Reporter" is apparently the worst job out there.
I always argued it was reporting I was studying, not newspaper reporting. And I figured no matter what, there would be a medium for the message. I am sure there will be a day when print is dead—environmentally speaking, it certainly makes more sense to have news delivered electronically. But apparently even today, people argue for print. And while I am a news junkie and look at it online constantly, there is nothing like a cup of coffee and the Sunday New York Times—in print—to make me happy.
While politicians like Michele Bachmann and Anthony Weiner are taking the press into their own hands, effectively making press conferences irrelevant, Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ are attacking reporters from another direction, approving search warrants, signing subpoenas and collecting phone records. Oh yeah, and the NSA is wiretapping, well, everyone, in what the ACLU is referring to "beyond Orwellian."
Meanwhile, Congress and "our beloved president" are arguing about whether this stuff really matters. And claiming it has been done with "congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate."
Is the government saying they don't want a free press and they don't care whether everyone's information everywhere is up for surveillance? It certainly seems so. It used to be when a politician had something to announce, they called a press conference where journalists would gather, listen to their statements, and then ask questions. Of course, a journalist could ask any sort of question, making the politician have to face things he or she may not want out there, but they are elected officials, are they not? They should be held responsible for what they do.
Oh yeah, there also used to be this thing called privacy, where one could assume they weren't being looked down upon by the overlords. The whole communication system has allowed for global expansion, technological breakthroughs and many other incredible things. And it has made the world smaller, and a place where it is much easier to track what anyone does, anytime, anywhere.
This time, the conspiracy theorists were right. And I'm not surprised.
Anyone who goes near the internet or a television has at least heard of the Cotati police who kicked the door down at James and Jennifer Woods' house after being called on a domestic disturbance charge and tased Jennifer.
Crime reporter for the Press Democrat Julie Johnson wrote a story about the video going viral, and a follow-up that went a little more in depth about the incident and addressed the use of tasers.
All of these things are relevant and worth discussing. The video undoubtedly produces a visceral reaction—cops kicking in doors, a lot of yelling, a woman screaming before, during and after her tasing experience and the man with her who shot the video and who was yelling back and forth with the cops about not coming in.
Yet whatever one's thoughts are about cops, when they are called on a domestic disturbance, they are required to check to make sure there is nothing abusive or salacious going on.
I also want to state clearly that I am not justifying in any way this particular situation or the police's action. I am not a police apologist, I have in fact participated in Cop Watch and am very skeptical about a lot of things police-related.
But in terms of the viral video and the media issues surrounding it, my mind quickly went to ask questions about what had happened first. Why were the police there? Why was the man in the house yelling at them to go away? What was actually going on? And until there was some reporting done, and some questions were answered, what I saw was a man yelling at police who seemed to think it was very important to get into the house and used force to do so and then responded to the screaming woman by tasing her.
Certainly there are corrupt police who take advantage of their power. In my poking around into this situation, it is pretty clear this officer doesn't have the best track record. But what interested me about this was my instantaneous negative reaction of a clip of a situation. It reminded me that in addition to "just the facts" the media needs to provide context and some analysis of a situation to create understanding. Understanding about what happened as well as understanding as to how to prevent it from happening again.
Basically, the program allows anyone to upload information, photos, complaints, documents, etc., that they believe should be reported, and the people on the other end (in this case, the New Yorker) receive an encrypted version that requires a key to unlock the information, which is performed on another computer.
What's especially beneficial about the program is that the New Yorker isn't being all proprietary about it. The program itself, Dead Drop, was created by Aaron Swartz, is in fact open-source, and is available for any news agency to use.
Department of Justice, be damned!
A lot of people are very concerned this will create a space where people are even less likely to talk to the press, effectively making whistleblowers scared to tip off reporters to important information.
In a letter to Eric Holder signed by 50 news organizations, from NPR to the Bay Area News Group to Politico, Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press wrote:
The scope of this action calls into question the very integrity of Department of Justice policies toward the press and its ability to balance, on its own, its police powers against the First Amendment rights of the news media and the public’s interest in reporting on all manner of government conduct, including matters touching on national security which lie at the heart of this case.
The letter goes on to say that by subpoenaing two months of records from 20 phone lines, the DoJ has gone against all guidelines set forth about phone records. It goes on to call for a shield law:
The Department’s actions demonstrate that a strong federal shield law is needed to protect reporters and their newsgathering materials in a court of law where the adversarial process ensures a fair weighing of the issues. While Congress should provide that remedial legislation, there is still much that this Department can do to mitigate the damage it has caused.
Right here in Sonoma County, in Rohnert Park, someone started a petition calling for legislation against this practice.
In its infancy, the site is a kind of forum for the members of the group: Jake Bayless, who runs Empire Report; Joshua Simmons, web developer; Kerry Rego, social media consultant; Gretchen Giles, writer, editor (and former Bohemian editor); and Terry Garrett, Leadership Developer at Sonoma County GoLocal. So far, members have hashed out questions about local media. The public can view their discussions and, if they want to participate, join the group's Facebook page to enter the discussion.
Some of the questions the Sparky Project has asked so far are about journalism and its potential issues:
What is news, anyway? (And who should decide?)
What information do people need to conduct their lives?
In order to reach its highest good, does a democratic state require a well-informed citizenry?
Giles responded to the question about what's news, and who should decide: "If the gate has been unlocked and anyone can post items at any time under the guise of 'news,' how do we sort out the necessary from the unnecessary without gross error?"
An excellent question, and one that needs a lot more discussion. It's laudable for this group to have formed, and to be brave enough to ask these questions in a public way. What I'm unsure of is where this is going and what the end result will be. Whatever happens, though, the group was founded by people who are certainly well-versed in the media—it should be interesting to see what comes to fruition.
Take some of the local blog posts on Patch.com.
For those who aren't familiar with Patch, it is a collection of hyperlocal websites all over the United States owned by AOL. Each individual site covers roughly one town and has one editor managing the content for that site. At its core, it is a news site like any other.
According to Patch:
Simply put, Patch is an innovative way to find out about, and participate in, what's going on near you.
We're a community-specific news, information and engagement platform driven by passionate and experienced new media professionals. Patch is revolutionizing the way neighbors connect with each other, their communities, and the national conversation.
We want to be the most trusted, comprehensive, and relevant news and information resource in your community. What can you do on Patch?
But the better question would be: "What can't you do on Patch?"
Take Patch blogger Cathy Gumina Odom. Her post on Healdsburg Patch's site: I'm Stoned When I Can't Connect My Bluetooth Keyboard is a fabulous example of Patch being the “most trusted, comprehensive, and relevant news and information resource” around.
Or... not. It is, however, a great example of what can happen on a news site with little to no editorial control. Really, read the thing. It's utterly bonkers.
Now just because there's one crazy blogger out there doesn't mean everyone who blogs for Patch is a stoned lunatic. But oftentimes there's no vetting process for what goes up and what doesn't go up. This is true for many sites; Patch is just a great example.
The editors of these sites are responsible for getting a certain number of posts up a day (as per their contract) and may not have time to worry about what is or isn't being covered by freelancers and bloggers. While this may not seem like a big deal, the fact that Patch is branding itself as a relevant news source makes it kind of a big deal.
(To be fair, many if not most of the editors who work for Patch are qualified journalists. Take Petaluma Patch editor Karina Ioffee, who went to UC Santa Cruz and studied at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. She worked for the Arizona Daily Star, the Stockton Record and two of the world’s largest wire services, the Associated Press, and Reuters.)
Not everyone who writes on the web needs to have a graduate degree in journalism. There are tons of blogs out there on relevant topics being written by all sorts of people. Food blogs, music blogs, gardening blogs, parenting blogs...the list goes on and on.
But for a site whose founders claim to want it to be trusted, and claim to present relevant news, and then let anyone at all write for it unedited (and, might I add, not get paid)—to me, it seems a little odd, and takes that old citizen-journalism idea a little too far.
Once again, it's up to the consumer to filter out the garbage to get to the gold.
In newsrooms all over, reporters get press releases by the bushel. There are services like PRWeb and PR Newswire that reporters can use to find story ideas. They can even subscribe to get e-blasts on specific topics, such as healthcare or banking. Or media ethics. Press releases provide a way for the government, businesses, labor unions and anyone who has something to say to get in front of a reporter. In of itself, this is not a bad thing. It is a useful tool.
But... sometimes... a story that comes out sounds a whole lot like the release it comes from. Sometimes it's word for word. (Which kind of, but sometimes not exactly, could be called a free advertorial. Just sayin'.) Other times, direct quotes, or sections of the release, are copied and pasted into the story. Sure, copying a quote from a press release means the quote will be exact—yet often they're taken out of context.
Churnalism is a product launched last week by the Sunlight Foundation that enables media consumers to conduct a side-by-side comparison of news stories in American media and press releases they (may) come from. The project is modeled after a similar British product that came out a couple of years ago.
One thing I think is exceptionally cool about this is that in addition to press releases from a variety of places, it also compares the articles to Wikipedia. As a reporter, I have no problem looking at a Wiki site to get source IDEAS, but copying and pasting from Wikipedia? Sorry kids, that is just plain ol' plagiarism. And will very possibly be wrong.