And we’re back

It’s going to take another night of sleep before I can make much sense, but we got back from Italy late Saturday night. I’m working on uploading the rough edit of pictures right now. Video will come later. Exhaustion is the word that keeps coming to mind.


My wife, her grandmother, mother, and brother. Napoli.

A few highlights: Quiet swim in the sea at Falerna Marina, several walks in and around St. Peter’s in Rome, the chaotic drive through the Spanish Quarter in Napoli, spending time with Zia Rosaria in Sicily, watching the US battle Italy to a 1-1 draw over beer and pizza in Pietrelcina, never needing a jacket, visiting the farm in Raddusa (more on that later).

I’m not going to pretend that I have time to catch up on what’s gone on in the newspaper/tech/media world the last few weeks. Apparently, some companies were bought and sold, and some conferences were held. People made speeches, redesigned sites, and started new jobs.

Speaking of which, my internship starts Wednesday. I’m still not sure how much I’ll write about that here, if any. I’ll probably just link to the stories I write, and then make a big fuss when I hit the front page.


A pizza a day

It’s a modest plan. When we went to Italy two years ago, I’m pretty sure it was a gelato a day, minus the one time we substituted some fantastic pastries. That could happen again, but the odds are good that I’ll be consuming, at minimum, either a pizza or a gelato every day of the 16 day trip that begins tomorrow.

Oh, and we’ll see some places and people and things, too.

The point is, expect a bit of quiet here until sometime around the 4th of July, and I’ll be a bit busy starting then, anyway. I’m sure I won’t be able to resist posting some pictures and video when we get back – but I don’t have any set plans to do anything from the road.

Leaving the laptop behind means my news sources will be RAI (translated by my wife as necessary) and the International Herald Tribune (as we walk by newsstands). I don’t think I’ve gone on that serious a no-media diet since starting grad school. If you desperately need to contact me for the next couple weeks, don’t hold your breath.

The Mystery Spot and other poorly-kept secrets

It took me almost three months to finish this roll of black & white film, (That’s the old stuff with the sprocket holes, kids.) but I like what I’ve got, despite having to run everything through a little extra photoshopping to get rid of some weird scanner gridlines that were overlaid on top of everything.

The results are at Flickr.


The Mystery Spot, hero of bumper stickers across this great nation, is neither a mystery, nor a spot. Discuss.

We didn’t really come out of the short tour feeling any more mystified, although nausea and dizziness did play a role in the experience.

If you go, I recommend not eating lunch before the trip.

Also pictured in some of the photos are my wife, her youngest brother, our cat, and our feline houseguest, who seems to think that our bed belongs to him. We had a hard time talking him out of that one last night.

“I live here, cat,” I said.

“Roooowwwwwwwrrrrrrllllllrrrrrr,” he replied.

Meanwhile, back at our second annual attempt to get outdoors more often in the summertime, we inaugurated our hiking season on Memorial Day with a trip to Big Basin.

Lucky for us, I made a wrong turn at the first fork in the trail, and we ended up headed for the set of waterfalls which I thought we had seen before.

I was wrong.

Sure, you can take the trail that just goes straight to Berry Creek Falls, hang out at the viewing platform, and turn around, but you’ll be missing the set of Indiana-Jones-jungle falls just up the creek.

falls_logs_vertical_800I was expecting the familiar redwood-shaded falls these hills often yield, but instead it felt like we were in some sort of Central American jungle, with ferns and golden rock everywhere, smooth flat stone at the base of the falls where the creekbed should have been.

Toss in the steps carved into the trail, and the whole scene felt totally foreign – more Old California than NorCal.

I was shooting 400 ASA Tri-X, pushed one stop, with a yellow filter of some sort on my 28-200 zoom lens.

I like the contrast I get out of that configuration, and sometimes I throw on a red filter if there’s a big sky involved in the day.

My photog friends know that I’m trying to figure out what I need as far as a digital camera goes. Our point & shoot hasn’t been the same since that rainy night when a tree fell on our car. (The car was fine; the camera got pretty wet while I took flicks in case the insurance folks needed them.)

But I can’t really rationalize spending the cash for a dSLR right now, at least not until I either have a regularly-paying job, or a job that justifies buying the Big New Camera.

So we’re leaning toward a new digital point & shoot, keeping the budget low-but-functional. I’ll post something as soon as I’ve got the new machinery in hand, and I’ll throw in a review if I have the time. (Hint: I probably won’t.)

For more about hiking in the general area of San Jose and Santa Cruz, check out Tom Mangan’s Busy Being Born blog.

The print edition – y’know – for kids

Fellow SJSU grad student Patrick Dwire has a great cover story in this week’s Santa Cruz Good Times, one of our intrepid alternative weeklies here in the Cruz.

Patrick takes a look at what newspapers all over the country are doing to try and hook the 18-24 set. (Note to self: I’m not the target market. Sigh.)

Here’s why it’s important:

“The fate of newspapers may be more symptomatic of larger social shifts away from civic engagement and social pressures to be informed and involved, as well as rising criticism of the news media generally. The prognosis for well-informed young electorate keeping up with complex issues through local TV newscasts and Internet news portals is almost as depressing as newspaper readership statistics.”

What have newspapers done about it? Patrick has some great detail on the launches (and success/failure) of youth-oriented tabloids, weeklies, etc.

Check out the article… in print or online.

Cheers and jeers: Local media coverage of student protests for immigrant rights

Thousands of California high school students walked out of classes on Monday, adding their voices to the weekend’s protests against proposed legislation, still pending in the U.S. House of Representatives, that would make being an illegal immigrant a felony.

Sounds like a great story, right? Lots of minority teenagers organizing on their own to take civic action and participate in politics. This is exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, according to everyone who always is saying that young people are apathetic and ignorant when it comes to politics.

Unfortunately, some Central Coast media chose to focus on the negatives of the protest: kids not being in school, getting into fights, blocking highways.

Right. It’s a protest. That’s what happens.

Anyway, I hadn’t been paying that much attention to local coverage of what happened this week in Watsonville, where 75 percent of the population is Latino (according to 2000 census via wikipedia), until I noticed this item in the Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Editors’ Notebook.

Sentinel Managing Editor Don Miller wrote:

The sight of students blocking traffic, waving Mexican flags, and fighting and failing to heed police and school officials is probably not going to win many converts.

Right. Okay, now let’s check out the stories the Sentinel wrote about the student protests:

  • Looks like this was posted as “breaking news” online during the day on Monday. A police captain is quoted, but no students. The story starts off explaining why they’re out there, and then says things “turned ugly” in the fourth paragraph with no explanation of why things are happening “as the students threw bottles and fists.”
  • 800 PV students rally for immigrant rights (Tuesday 3/28):
    • The lead mentions traffic jams, but no violence, and does mention why the students were protesting. Mentions of arrests and police action come before the first quote from a student about the protests. In the eighth paragraph, the writer says “the proests seemed to lack leadership” without any attribution or evidence. There are plenty of good student voices, though, and the story doesn’t seem tilted that hard in any direction.
  • Nearly 1,000 Watsonville students rally again (Tuesday 3/28 online only, I think):
    • In the lead, the students “ditched class.” Again, the police captain is the only source quoted. After the lead, there’s no mention of why the students are protesting, and no quotes from students.
  • Day two of protests turn violent at Pajaro Valley High (Wednesday 3/29, the next morning’s story that includes material from Tuesday’s online update):
    • The lead has the students “precariously close to clashing with dozens of officers.” The story mentions the immigration issue in the lead and the first few paragraphs. There are no student quotes about the issue; the rest of the story details the protest march and arrests, mostly from the police’s point of view.
  • Two more stories from Wednesday’s paper, here and here, have only adult perspectives, with no student quotes.
  • Danah Boyd, a Berkeley researcher who studies youth and social networking, wonders aloud about why some of the press took such a condescending attitude toward the protestors. Was it because they weren’t white? Would the reaction have been the same if thousands of students walked out of their classes to protest the war?

    Boyd asked:

    By trivializing the youths’ participation, the press failed to capture the significance of this political act. How long has it been since so many students took a public stance? Has it been since Vietnam? What is gained by belittling the students, punishing their act, and pooh-poohing their engagement with the public sphere?

    As an aside, especially to my classmates in 290 spending a portion of their spring break working on our youth & media lit review, the students used cell phones, text messaging, and their MySpace accounts to plan the protests…

    But back to the local media critique:

    The Salinas Californian took on the protest story with a positive angle, leading off their Wednesday coverage with The student walkouts and rallies for immigrant rights that swept across Salinas and the nation this week mark a level of Latino activism unmatched in decades.”

    Where are the students ditching school? The conflicts with police? The violence? Oh, you mean that wasn’t what the story was about? It was about politics and culture? Oh.

    In another Wednesday story, the Californian has the protests being “marred by minor violence” in the lead, but gives a balanced account, including quotes from students on why they walked out. The bottles being thrown in this story are clearly tagged as water bottles (think plastic) and it’s clear where, when, and at whom they’re being thrown. The story also ties the protests in with others around the region, giving the story context.

    My favorite part about the Californian’s coverage is the “Special Report” on illegal immigrants, dated December of 2005, but apparently reposted on the newspaper’s website to add even more context to this week’s events.

    Watsonville’s own newspaper, the Register-Pajaronian, took a balanced tack on the protests, with a detailed story full of quotes. The writer manages to work in the chronology of events without depending on the police captain for much, with lots of quotes from students about the issue and the march, not to mention quotes from an actual farm worker who participated in the protests.

    Even in the Register-Pajaronian’s stories that take adult angles on the protest, dealing with traffic here and consequences here, I feel like I’m getting much more of the story than I did in the Sentinel.

    What’s the moral of the story?

    As one familiar voice at our student newspaper would say, “You need some more student voices in there.”

    Protests happen all the time. Tell us what’s different about this one, and tell us what it’s about. The fact that there is a protest is not news; the fact that thousands of students all over the state walked out IS news. The fact that protesters and police clashed — is completely normal. Tell us if there are any arrests or injuries, and move on. Focus on the issue – why are they there?

    Cheers to the Watsonville and Salinas papers, an honorable mention to the Monterey County Herald, and jeers to the Sentinel.

    Travel the world, meet interesting people, blog for the New York Times

    Win a trip to the developing world with Nick Kristof.


    And you won’t just be watching. I want you to report as well – probably in a Web log or video blog on the New York Times Web site, maybe in some other way. I’m open to other ideas as well, but I want you to convey reactions to what we encounter to the Times audience. You won’t be practicing tourism, but journalism.

    We’ll be traveling with Naka Nathaniel, who is legendary at The Times for his multimedia presentations on the Web. He often travels with me to produce video specials from my trips, and he’ll work with you as well on your presentations and help you file them by satellite phone.


    A note to my acquaintances

    Just a quick note to the many people I’ve met in the last year-and-change in graduate school:

    A single link from your blog, site, profile, or whatever to a single racist joke of any sort will make me hit the “unsubscribe” button to both your RSS feed and your credibility as a human being faster than you can frigging blink. I’ve got a zero tolerance policy when it comes to this sort of crap, so don’t be surprised if I don’t say hi to you in the halls.

    US gold medalist uses his two minutes of fame to help Darfur

    Heard this one on NPR, clock radio style, first thing this morning:

    Here’s the brief from…

    American speed skater Joey Cheek did something very unusual after winning the 500 meter race at the Winter Olympics. He announced he’s contributing his $25,000 gold medal award from the U.S. Olympic Committee to refugees from Darfur. And he urged Olympic sponsors to support the same relief effort.

    See how easy that was? Get a hold of a microphone in front of TV cameras, do something good.

    Thanks Joey.

    [tags]sudan, darfur, winter olympics, olympics, joey cheek[/tags]

    Freedom of the press is not freedom from responsibility

    The Danish Cartoon mess reminds me of why I wanted to go back to school in the first place.

    I usually explain it this way: Freedom of speech and freedom of the press do not, in any way shape or form, negate one’s freedom to be an asshole.

    I decided to go to graduate school after I became disillusioned with an amoral entertainment industry. No one was taking any responsibility for the effect our work was having on society, but we kept grinding away at our jobs, earning our paychecks — and I’m thankful that we did. I made plenty of student loan payments with what I earned working on music videos and commercials. (Okay, so I bought a lot of records, too, but my personal fiscal responsibility is not in play here.)

    It struck me that at no point in my formal art/craft school experience did I sit through a single lecture on ethics. We were supposed to be artists, and no one thought to teach us about being responsible for what we put on the screen. Any moral instruction came only from outraged classmates, and even that was dampened by the feeling that we were artists, and thus free to offend as we pleased.

    Now look, I’m no prude in any sense of the word, and I can take a nasty cartoon as well as the next guy, but there’s a large gap between using a political cartoon as a way to fuel discussion (see Tom Toles) and using it to throw newsprint on fire.

    We’ve seen this sort of cartoon before — demonizing a race of people, pointing them out as the scapegoat for the ills of society, generalizing the attitudes of a minority to the whole race. We saw it in Holocaust-era Germany. Were these “just cartoons?”

    As journalists, it is our right to print, for the most part, whatever we want. That doesn’t mean we should.

    The editors who signed off on the Danish cartoons might have thought they were doing something altruistic, spurring on debate about free speech and expression. Perhaps it would have been wise to look at those cartoons one last time before going to press.

    Perhaps it would have been wise to think “Now where have I seen something like this before?”

    [tags] newspapers, journalism, media ethics, political cartoons, cartoons[/tags]