In this week's news story, we reviewed the final four contenders for Sonoma Clean Power. Direct Energy, especially, might raise the green-leaning eyebrow.
As we wrote in the news story: Between 2001 and 2004, Direct Energy was found by several regulators to have signed up unwitting clients in four U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. According to a newspaper report, the company brought attention to itself by accidentally signing up an Atlanta man who had been dead for over 20 years. It was charged with unethical business practices and fined $500,000 stateside and $150,000 in Canada.
There's a series on this fiasco in the Calgary Herald, which is this writer's new Canadian regional newspaper crush.
Maybe you've read the recent, controversial Time Magazine cover story about how the Millennial generation (hey, that's me!) is made up of a bunch of lazy, unemployed narcissists who live with their parents. I haven't. I've been too busy having government-subsidized babies and getting my mom to take care of them while I sit around taking photos of my own reflection in the mirror.
I did get around to reading The Atlantic's analysis of it, which points out how faulty writer Joel Stein's data is. But I had to do it quickly, because I was in the middle of brunch/interviews with potential trainers for the new pet dolphin I was just able to buy. I've been living with my parents, see, and my college professors have actually been paying me in monthly increments of $400 just for eventually landing a job.
But anyway, these are funny, courtesy of Policymic.
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 video of Cotati police kicking in a door and tasing a man filming them has spread like wildfire around the internet, raising questions about citizens' Fourth Amendment rights and excessive use of force.
Last week, when a neighbor called to alert Cotati police about an alleged domestic disturbance incident between James and Jennifer Wood, officers arrived at the couple's front window. Speaking through the window to the police, the couple denied any domestic violence had been taking place, and refused the officers entry to their apartment, with James stating, "We don't live in a police state, sir."
Since it made the front page of Reddit last night, what happened next in the May 10 incident has been seen around the world:
Speaking to the Press Democrat, Cotati police chief Michael Parish insisted that in the case of a domestic disturbance call, police don't need a warrant to enter a residence. “The officers simply cannot walk away from a domestic disturbance call without ensuring that all parties are safe and secure,” he told reporter Julie Johnson.
Johnson spoke with James, and also with Jennifer, who said of the responding officers: "They could plainly see I was not in distress." An administrative review of the officers' actions will be taken, Parish said, but he defended the officers' behavior and blamed the Woods' "poor choice... not to cooperate with law enforcement."
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.
According to this Marin IJ story, a deputy sheriff rescued six ducklings from a storm drain yesterday using a handy device made of string and a shoebox.
While this may not exactly be hard-hitting news, it does include a video of the duckling rescue, during which the box is lowered into the drain and tiny, chirping fluff balls are lifted out. Basically, it's the cutest thing you've seen someone that video of a cat dressed as a shark chasing a duckling from a moving vacuum.
Watch the video here.
Don't say we don't work hard around here. The buzz around the office today was all about the Lip Sync-Off between John Krasinksi ("Jim" on the Office) and Jimmy Fallon.
Jimmy leads off with an impassioned version of Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud" only to be topped by Kraskinki's performance of Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" that reeks of many hours practicing moves in front of a bedroom mirror.
And make sure to watch all the way through so as not to miss Fallon's syncing of an over-the-top version of "Over the Rainbow" by Star Search reigning champion Sam Harris (remember him?)
Of course, multiple views of the competition only serves as a reminder of the original lip-syncing competition and my absolute favorite show when I was ten years old, "Putting on the Hits," hosted by Allen Fawcett, he of the blue twinkle-eyes and permed mullet. The show offered up wacky, and often bizarre, renditions of popular songs of the day.
Here are some choice performances from a show that put competitive lip-syncing on the map, the show that let "everyday people shine like the stars they've always wanted to be."
Stacy, Debbie and Stacy do "Crush on You" by The Jets
Tony and Susan doing "Angst in My Pants" by Sparks
Creepy Baby Man
Umm, and here's Kato Kaelin, at the time a "mild-mannered salesman from Milwaukee, Wisconsin" but who eventually became most famous for living in Nicole Simpson's guest house on the night she was murdered, doing a baffling and terrible performance of "Born to be Wild."
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.
Fans of the always crowded but always delicious “parkside” location now have another option for upscale breakfast at decent prices. Dierk’s Midtown Café (1422 Fourth St., Santa Rosa) is now open for breakfast and lunch.
They’ve been open a week so far, and the buzz hasn’t caught on yet. Dierk’s Parkside is one of the most consistently
It’s a good time to get Dierk’s thick bacon, poached eggs or goat cheese in any of the breakfast dishes without having to elbow for position in line. Plus, the jam they put out on each table is as good as ever, and there can neer be too much on a slab of toast. Think of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, swishing around his knife on the White Rabbit’s pocket watch, getting jam everywhere. Now imagine that watch as a piece of toast about to enter your mouth. That’s my kind of toast.
Dierk’s expansion has been planned for a few months now. It’s taking over the former Midtown Café, a well-intentioned dining spot that just didn’t catch on. The small space is full of light, making a great atmosphere for reading a newspaper like the Bohemian during breakfast. In case it isn’t obvious, I might still be on a bacon high from this morning’s breakfast. Does that count as "Gonzo" journalism?