Monday, March 28, 2005

MIT Tech Review Editor Lowers Bar for Web Journalists?

...The MIT Technology Review magazine recently retracted two stories on Hewlett-Packard that had already been pulled from its Web site... One story, called "Carly's Way," recounted a tale told to a freelance journalist Michelle Delio, who identified her source as a former HP engineer, a Hungarian who said his initials were G.S. He reportedly said that working for former chief executive Carly Fiorina reminded him of when he worked for a pig farmer who had been put in charge of dozens of machinists, making parts for factory machines in Hungary... But after it was posted on the MIT Technology Review Web site, HP Labs spokesman Dave Berman called up Jason Pontin, Technology Review's editor, saying he did not recognize the engineer who said he worked at HP from 1975 to 2003.

"We regret publishing the stories," Pontin said. "But the hard truth is that no Web site in the world practices print-standard fact checking."

Pontin's comment touches on just one of the reasons behind the perception of a difference in the credibility of Internet-based vs. print/broadcast based journalism. The web writers are leaving out important steps of thejournalism process.

Forget all the hub-bub surrounding bloggers and potential for libel. If "real" journalists continue to believe their work for online commercial media sources needn't meet the same threshold for truth as their print counterparts, either we're about to some lawyers find a steady new niche, or we might as well start classifying all news we see on the Internet as unconfirmed.

I understand that the web shortens news cycles, necessitating a less vigorous fact-checking process, but as far as I can tell, MIT Technology Review isn't covering breaking news on the hour. Its cycle is certainly longer than that of a daily newspaper. Long enough to check on whether a person even exists.

As to the old argument, "well, everyone else stinks too," I'd guess there's at least probably one web-based media source in whole wide world that checks its facts correctly. Or at least that hasn't published stories about made-up Hungarian pig farmers.

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Monday, March 14, 2005

News Media Study Yields Cool Facts, Tools

At, the Project for Excellence in Journalism has released its 2005 "State of the (American) News Media" study. The Project comes from a research institute linked with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The site is fascinating, as it has aggregated an incredible amount of quantitative and qualitative research.

The study covers off each area of media - online, network, cable, magazines, etc. and includes an entire section on journalists' opinions. For example, "Roughly half of journalists at national media outlets (51%),and about as many from local media (46%), believe that journalism is going in the wrong direction, as significant majorities of journalists have come to believe that increased bottom line pressure is "seriously hurting" the quality of news coverage."

You can even customize charts should you want to highlight any particular finding of the research. A great tool and an informative browse.

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Thursday, March 10, 2005

VNR Outrage Misplaced?

Patt Morrison at the LA Times wrote an open letter to Maria Shriver yesterday regarding a VNR that came out of the Guvernator's office and made it straight to air at five stations without edits. Morrison tells Shriver to "home-school" her husband "in Journalism 101."

Now granted, I can appreciate the concern around public funds being used for partisan purposes. And I understand the concern over the lack of any disclaimer in the VNR that notes the source. But instead of admonishing Shriver and Ahnold, shouldn't Morrison be castigating the various stations' news producers? They're the ones who decided to run the VNR without alteration or without checking the source. And they're the ones who went to J-school.

Does Morrison really expect the politicians to uphold the ethics of journalism while excusing her colleagues from the responsibility?

I'm also a bit confused about what exactly is so devious about a VNR in the first place.

Morrison says that with a VNR, "you just might seduce viewers from Crescent City to National City into thinking their little TV station has its very own reporter in Sacramento." Seems to me, then, that the TV station's producers are not being bullied by propoganda pushers, but are buying right in.

You can't blame pig farmers for making bacon - you have to blame yourself for gorging yourself into obesity. Any producer worth his salt knows what he's getting when a VNR arrives. Those that don't shouldn't be at the controls.

But the economic fact is that local stations don't have the funds to fill their broadcasts with all original content.

Just ask the folks at Sinclair Broadcast Group, whose television outlets reach nearly a quarter of the nation's homes with TVs. A recent New Yorker article pointed out that Sinclair's approach is often to buy a news station, strip the staff down to a skeleton crew, and then surround local weather and sports with segments that while resembling the format of typical local news, actually arise from their national headquarters. Oh, and by the way, most people don't see Sinclair's content as unbiased, either...

To me, it's a ton more disturbing when the media shows bias than when a politician does.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Popular Science Ranks Techie Cities

Surprisingly, Minneapolis/St.Paul ranked as the top high-tech city. Washington, DC was a respectable 3rd.

The req's:
"To determine which U.S. cities can claim the designation “high-tech,” we chose 36 technology indicators—our raw data—based on expert and staff opinion. Items such as “robotic surgery,” “number of Wi-Fi hotspots” and “R&D budgets at local universities” all qualified. We grouped each indicator into one of six broad categories: Transportation, Connected Citizens, Medical, Jobs, Education and Energy. "

Where to go for tech jobs? Know the way to San Jose. Then head to the OC. Cheers to DC for hitting #7, second only to Gainesville, FL on the East Coast.

Jobs Rank:
1. San Jose, CA
2. Orange, CA
3. Gainesville, FL
4. Boulder, CO
5. Madison, WI
6. Oakland, CA
7. Washington, DC
8. Nashua, NH
9. Raleigh, NC
10. Santa Fe, NM

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Citigate's Premature Release - Oopsy or Scoopsy?

Gamers' chat boards were abuzz this morning after Microsoft Xbox's Dutch PR firm, Citigate, supposedly leaked an announcement detailing Xbox 2's new features.

Despite the fact that Microsoft had previously insisted that Xbox2 wouldn’t feature at the Game Developers Conference, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Chief XNA Architect J Allard dished with some details in a keynote at the conference this morning.

Can't tell if the Citigate release was a planned buzz-builder. Certainly seems like a good tactic as European gamer sites went nuts early in the day, gleefully posting the details when they were "secret" and acting wholly unimpressed once they came officially from Microsoft.

I'd say the gaming community is likely the market most easily revved up by Internet buzz - and it seems Edelman may think so too - the official Microsoft US press release (released later in the day from Edelman) encourages readers to visit Xbox's website for a podcast of the speech, although it seems to be missing thus far....

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

NY Times Closing "Circuits"?

According to the New York Post, New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller is planning to end "Circuits" as a stand-alone section covering the high-tech world by the end of April. Keller is considering a new section dedicated to shopping, fitness and fashion.

The Post's Keith J. Kelly suggests that it's due to the Times' late recognition that the "dot-com bubble" has burst...

Thanks to Kristin Kolodzinski for passing this along via YoungPRPros....