Thanks to everyone who noticed the pillow-soft launch of in the only link in my Resolutions post, and especially to those of you who commented, e-mailed, tweeted, or blogged about the project.

At the moment, it’s just an URL, an idea, and a comment thread, but it’s building momentum, and that’s pleasant.

A few thoughts:

  1. I’m not doing this for any sort of financial gain, although I may get a grant or two to help pay the server bills, if there ever are any.
  2. I am hoping to use this as my Master’s Project to finish the graduate program I’m (still) enrolled in at San Jose State University.
  3. I’m no one’s competition. I’m doing this because I want to, because I think it’s necessary. If it’s successful, I’ll be happy; if no one ever uses it, I will have had a good hunk of practice at trying to do this sort of thing, and hopefully learned quite a bit in the process.

Initial feedback on the idea:

David Cohn:

“Ryan’s idea, as I understand it, is to take the new found obsession with instant conversation (and gratification) and aggregate these conversations in order to improve local reporting.”

Greg Linch:

“I’m a competitive being, as most journalists are, but the purpose of our profession is to inform. If you don’t want to be scooped, don’t give away the scoop. We must continue to adapt how we do our job to better inform readers and this site would be a great way to help do so.”

As the idea evolves, I’m thinking strongly that the Twitter tie-in and a Facebook application are the two places to start.

Dave Cohn is right: Herding a boatload of journalists – pro or amateur – over to a redundant social network feels forced. I’m not going to encourage reporters to seek out their sources in popular social networks in one breath, then ask them to join another network in the next.

Or maybe I will, I don’t know yet. Tell me, what would you want out of this?

My basic thought, the tagline for the site, service, app = The backchannel for your beat. I want this to be a place/way for reporters in far flung places to talk to each other – quickly and relatively publicly. A rising tide lifts all bylines. Seriously.

A wildcard: Poynter Groups?

I’m not sure the Poynter idea is exactly what I’m picturing — actually, I know it isn’t, but I still think it’s a good idea. Is Poynter the best possible place for a social network for journalists?

Many questions. Answer what you can. Thanks.


Might as well, eh?

In no particular order…

  1. Play guitar at least once a week. I picked it up today, and a simple three-chord tune was seriously taxing my fingertips. That just ain’t right. And I haven’t had the ‘I bartend and cut acidic fruit all day’ excuse for more than two years now.
  2. Start stretching again. As simple as getting on the floor and doing it before I sit down at my desk in the morning.
  3. Graduate. I’m moving relatively quickly to put together a project proposal for If you hit that link, by the way, you’ll see a basic landing page with some space to add your feedback to the project. Soon, I’ll figure out how to properly use the Twitter API to pull the feed of replies to @reportingon and display them on that page.

I’ll be realistic and stop at three.

Deadline Day, v1.0

Today I turn in 12, count ’em, 12 copies of my 33-page thesis proposal. (The first draft was longer, believe it or not.)

I finished it up last night shortly before 1am, but it’s safe to assume I’ll get it back in September with conditional approval (I hope) and notes on mechanical changes, plus a few pleas for more Rogers and a more detailed explanation of the qualitative analysis I’m planning.

Nonetheless, turning it in now means I get at least two if not three weeks off from screwing around with it, although my preliminary data gathering will continue unabated.

Oh spreadsheet with full little cells, how I pine for thee.

New Media class at SJSU

Journalism 163, taught by Steve Sloan and Cynthia McCune (at least one section – are there others?), opens for business at SJSU this week. It’s hard to give this thing a name, and I don’t want to contribute any more than I already have to the handwringing and head-scratching over what it should be, or how it should be taught, but I’ll just call it a New Media class and leave it that.

I recommend you take it, friends, that I do, and wholeheartedly.


I’ll let Scoble throw a simple answer at you:

“The skills journalists will need in the future are going to be a lot more varied than just churning out good text. The better journalists are going to understand how to do that, create illustrations (or at least rough drawings that an artist will be able to take and fill out), capture audio, photos, and video, and edit all that together to tell a compelling story on the Web.”

Still not convinced?

Had a job interview lately?

At your next one, try telling the recruiter you can shoot photos, video, know html and css, produced a podcast for the student newspaper, and just started learning Flash.

No, I haven’t done all those things either, but this class is a great start.

There’s already a class blog set up for J163, and here’s a short podcast where Steve and Cynthia talk about what they’re up to.

Notes on the perils of constructed objectivity

I mentioned objectivity a few posts ago, with the promise that I’d get around to putting up something I wrote on the topic for a class. I’m not going into the details of “What’s a literature review?” and I’m certainly ignoring the question “What’s a mini-lit-review?”

a slide from my presentation on objectivity

For your enjoyment, here’s my short literature review on The Nature of News.

An excerpt for the click-shy:

Lippmann saw the news media as a searchlight scanning the landscape, its beam too narrow to put what it shines on into context. The interpreters of events, the span of their searchlight limited by time, space, and convention, use stereotypes to fill in the gaps. Like mythic archetypes woven into the structure of storytelling, these stereotypes are intended to be broadly comprehended. These should be the lowest common denominators that hold a society together. Unfortunately, these shortcuts tend to reinforce the status quo. By performing this function, the news media is unintentionally proving Klapper’s 1960 limited effects hypothesis.

SJSU blogger shout out time

There are a bunch of bloggers these days in the SJSU journalism program, and although I don’t regularly point out the ones who aren’t writing about media much, I do catch plenty of what they write in the feed vacuum known as my aggregator.

So without further preamble…

Andrew the “Soapbox Prophet” hasn’t posted since before Spring Break, but you can find his webcam videos at Google Video, including recent talks by Salam Pax and Terence Smith.

It looks like Mark is toying around with a blog, which is what I would recommend all nascent bloggers do at this point, especially if you don’t want to start mucking about with HTML and CSS code in Blogger. Be sure to follow the trail of links to Mark’s other writing (fiction?), especially the piece about escaping a Bangalore call center job.

Laura has been posting occassionally this semester at her J-Life blog. She’s doing most of her writing for that newsprint-based publication in the JMC building, so we’ll cut her some slack for not writing enough new stuff here.

Fling93 — yet another photographer with a blog — writes in so many places I lose track of what I’ve seen and what I haven’t, but if you’re brave enough, drop by and check out what he’s got to say about school, technology, and fish.

There’s a few more regular SJSU-media-bloggers in the sidebar to the right, but you knew that already.

I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of folks here, so drop a comment with your URL and I’ll check it out!

A quick riff on objectivity

I’m not going to go at length about the End of Objectivity, or even the perils of objectivity, although I should get around to posting a little literature review and presentation I wrote on the topic awhile back.

But here’s a good concrete example of how awkward it can be sometimes to include “both” sides of a story in a news article…

I wrote this story on the immigration issue for today’s Spartan Daily. I talked to faculty from history, political science, and social science. I talked to a few students whom I thought might be Latino (they were), and a few who I figured weren’t (they weren’t).

And there I was, with a story totally devoid of anyone backing HR 4437. What was my obligation? My editors wanted a voice in there to state the case, but as the day went on, even the Republican leadership in Congress backed off from the whole “illegal immigrants = felons” part of the bill. So, I put in a few calls to U.S. representatives from California who had sponsored or voted for the bill. No dice, no calls back, no one who could give a statement.

Next thing I tried was a conservative group on campus – they thought the legislation was the wrong way to try and solve the problem. If the story wasn’t already up over 800 words, I probably would have thrown a quote from them in the story, but I still didn’t have the counterpoint needed.

What would you do in this case? Would you seek out a fringe group that you KNEW would give you a useful quote?

I called the Minutemen.

The media relations guy picked up his cell phone after a couple rings, then politely answered my questions with a nice long statement on the issue, giving me the “illegal immigrants = felons” bit, plus blaming all involved governments for the problem.

What’s the right thing to do? Should I have asked my editors to hold the story until I got in touch with one of our Reps, or was the Minuteman interview good enough? Should I have walked around campus until I found students who thought deporting 12 million immigrants is a good idea?