Monday, November 24, 2008

Reinventing the News: NewsTrust

So much information is spread on the Internet as news, but how much of it is ethical reporting? That's where NewsTrust comes in, a site designed for professional journalists and news junkies to rate the quality of news stories.

NewsTrust is working with Northeastern University in rating Global Economy stories. Tonight I rated three economic stories, beginning with reports of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's potentially unpopular stimulus plan to kick-start the country's economy. The unpopular part comes with new taxation. Next I took a look at China during the economic crisis with a report on housing projects funding and an opinion piece on China's attempts to build confidence through proposed major spending. Both pieces had a mixed tone, seemingly acknowledging China's potential but also fearing the county's success.

It's easy to point out the lack of context in many of these articles, but it's important to remember that many of these stories serve only to report on that moment's news, not an analysis of a whole issue. Context and sourcing were my major issues when rating articles, but it's always easier to rate something than to do it yourself.

NewsTrust is a great idea in that it highlights well-written and researched reports for the public from a variety of sources , but it lacks a major component of all successful online tools: numbers. Popularity is so crucial for influential websites, and NewsTrust has a very small community of dedicated readers and raters. Instead of attracting journalists already in-the-know, average readers need to trust NewsTrust as their go-to news source.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Teenage Kicks

Everything seems cooler in England. The clubs, the It-girls and boys, the street fashion, and even the high schoolers.

Dazed and Confused is calling all 18 year olds and under to contribute to their January issue. Along with a contest to remix the cover, shot by Hedi Slimane, teenage Brits will submit material to MySpace and other sites to show what it's like to be young in the UK today.

At right is one of Slimane's three cover photos available for photoshopping. While the use of the term "remix" seems somewhat passe, does it creep anyone else out how ready Hedi is to work with teens? When is the 40-year-old designer-turned-photographer not obsessing over teens?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Italian Vogue's Trash is V's Treasure

V Magazine Winter 2008/09

Oh those uptight European fashion magazines with their full frontal nudity and avant-garde imagery. Will they ever lighten up?

It's not often that European fashion magazines deem photo spreads too racy, but that's the case with photographer Steven Meisel's new "dogging" inspired shoot. Italian Vogue declined running the pictures but with recession-era America's new found austerity, V Magazine has published them instead.

Dogging is the British term for having sex in public, usually with someone watching, and these photographs, with models Anna Selezneva, Iris Strubegger and Daul Kim, give off more of an eerie feeling than a sexy one. The night vision photographs with limited color are a little creepy and a little beautiful, but definitely not pretty. Wonder why Italian Vogue turned them down. Could it be they're still on their do-good-for-Africa high horse?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Reinventing the News: Caffeinated Campus Map

As part of our experimentation with GoogleMaps, my class has collaborated on an interactive presentation of all the coffee shops around campus. In contrast to the plenitude of liquor stores near my Mission Hill apartment, there's a sad lack of coffee shops. It may look bleak with only 7-11 and Dunkin' Donuts, but JP Licks provides a nice refuge for people who want to enjoy their cup of coffee instead of getting a quick and cheap caffeine fix before the morning commute.

JP Licks, named after the Jamaica Plain area of Boston, is known more for its ice cream than coffee, but the cafe has a wide range of Fair Trade Organic styles. $1.85 will get you a medium coffee, and the place has WiFi and enough room to comfortably sprawl out. The staff, while usually hanging out in the back, is very friendly, and there was a good mix of college students and young professionals enjoying a Tuesday afternoon with a book in hand or a computer in front of them. While JP Licks will never become a cafe destination, it's a good place to get away from your TV and get the needed caffeine to finish that last minute paper.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Reinventing the News: Maps

I'm not obsessed with celebrities the way some blog-readers are, but I definitely get the occasional kick from the oddities of a celebrity only discovered when their army of PR people aren't around. Enter GawkerStalker. When I lived in Manhattan, I would check the GawkerStalker map to see how interesting (or boring) celebrities found the neighborhoods I lived and worked.

The beauty of this map-based celebrity sighting system as opposed to new stories is that these Google Map presentations are non-linear. Like me checking GawkerStalker around my neighborhood, the reader can enter a map news presentation anywhere pertinent to them. GawkerStalker also adds another level of audience interaction: the sighting tips are submitted by local Manhattanites with their own analysis, usually interesting and slightly funny. These are updated daily. Of course, leave it to PR flacks to work Stalker for their own benefit: with the launch of her new show soon, many overtly nice sightings of Whitney Port starting pouring in to Stalker presumably from her PR hacks. Gawker did not post them.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reinventing the News: Spikey Em

Boston Globe reporter Emily Sweeney spoke to my journalism class this week about her work in online video and other mulitmedia projects. Sweeney graduated a decade ago from my university, and her return to my school really reinforced how much journalism has changed in the last ten years. A Globe reporter for the last seven years, she is also the New England President for the and Society for Professional Journalists.

In our financially troubled times, Sweeney has carved a niche for herself by being the Globe's video reporter. She started the first video blog for the newspaper in September 2006. Like Steve Garfield who previously spoke to my class, Sweeney's video skills are definitely rough. But online video for newspapers are a new field, and many older, established newspaper reporters, while excellent journalists, don't have the basic knowledge of computers young people have. Her early interest in technology has made her a go-to girl for Globe videos.

Many of Sweeney's videos are simply things she finds entertaining or interesting, very rarely hard news. Sweeney, who goes by the moniker Spikey Em due to her ultra-gelled hair, showed our class a few of her projects, including a video about Boston slang. While some of the vocabulary she features are universal (since when is "book it" only used in Boston), her video is an example of the World Wide Web's local appeal. Though this video has the potential to reach all corners of the globe, publications have had the most success by appealing to a local or niche market through the Internet.

Her videos have been a learning process for her too. In her video last year documenting the decline of Bingo's popularity in Boston, she narrated without any script. She has since learned that a script is necessary for any video work, no matter how comfortable you may think you are with the subject. For more tips of the trade, Sweeney has authored a How-to Multimedia guide for journalists that appeared in Editor & Publisher and Quill Magazine in 2006.