The Cyberbrains

Research and contemplation in new media

NowPublic does citJ the right way

I probably should be more worried about NBC than I am, but I’m just happy someone noticed my little blog. I received a message the other day through Flickr that someone wanted to post my photo of Tina Fey posing as Sarah Palin on NowPublic. The photo is really just a screen capture from the SNL sketch. That’s why I’m a little worried, but as I told NowPublic, what could NBC possibly take from me?

The reason I’m most excited, however, is I learned about a new site that’s doing a lot of what I’m trying to preach in my research and in my classes. I probably should have known about NowPublic before. Time magazine named NowPublic one of its top 50 Web sites in 2007. It’s a world-wide citizen journalism venture based in Vancouver, B.C. and like NewsVine or Digg, it allows users to flag stories from the traditional media, blogs, or even Flickr accounts, they think are important.

What I think makes NowPublic different and what I appreciate about the site based on my brief experience, is the site seems to have a commitment to big J journalism. First off, NowPublic didn’t have to ask for permission to use my photo. It’s on Flickr, and I’m smart enough to know that everything on Flickr is fair game. Just ask the poor girl whose pictures became part of a Virgin Mobile ad campaign. The Creative Commons License only requires sites to give the author credit.

Second, and more importantly, NowPublic seems like it has found a way to convey the importance of factual reporting and dedication to hard work and fact-finding to the average person without the conceipt normally espoused by the professional journalist. I really like this page, that features the site’s editors top tips. I love how they start with “Reporting is an adventure,” and end with tips on interviewing. I think I’m going to have my students in online journalism click on the “If You Are Totally Stuck for a Story, Take a Walk” link because it’s such good advice for anyone.

In addition to the conversational nature of the site’s journalism “training”, its stated mission makes me want to contribute:

At NowPublic, we have a very simple definition of news: “News is new information on current events.” In our experience that’s what people look for when they’re looking for news – whether they’re buying a paper or searching the web. Your news will likely fit into one of three kinds of story:

  1. Your eyewitness account: Original, relevant information about a current event that you have actually witnessed, documented, or researched;
  2. New information: bits of information you have collected, arranged, tied together and put into a context in relation to a current event;
  3. Commentary: your advice or analysis directly related to a current event.

Students struggle so much with defining news. They seem to watch to attach value judgments, such as what’s important or what promotes democracy, to it, when really I think news is a lot closer to what NowPublic has described. I’m going to keep my eye on NowPublic, not just because the site asked to use my picture. I’m watching it because I’m hopeful the site can fulfill its mission of making the news more accessible to us all.


October 10, 2008 Posted by | Hans Meyer | | 1 Comment

Twitter, funeral coverage can work together

I know I’m a little late on this one, but I had to say something because one of the hardest things

Hans K. Meyer

Hans K. Meyer

I was ever asked to do as a reporter was to cover a funeral. I covered plenty of them in my career, and I always worried that I was intruding on a private family moment. I even photographed the service of the former Mayor of Barstow who died young from cancer, and I felt so conspicuous standing at the back of the chapel, wielding a bulky digital camera with a large telephoto lens.

Despite my fears, however, I was always surprised at how well received and appreciated our coverage was. Families told me the newspaper helped the grieving process with their published tributes. Friends remarked how nice it was to know what happened even if they couldn’t be here. I came to realize that funeral coverage, especially of those people who had already been prominently featured, was a vital public service the newspaper should offer as long as it was done with respect.

I’m not sure what to think about the controversy surrounding the Rocky Mountain News’ decision to cover the funeral of a young boy who died when a truck smashed into an ice cream store. Too much of the criticism I think has been focused on the technology the reporter used to cover the service – Twitter – and not enough has been focused on its intent. Twitter should not be summarily dismissed as a viable tool for journalists, even for those covering funerals, but both journalists and audiences need to understand its advantages and limitations to use it most effectively. Continue reading

October 1, 2008 Posted by | Hans Meyer | Leave a comment