Media Convergence

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Journalism Selections #1


Instead of summing up his blog over the past week, which would be pretty much impossible to do in the space of a paragraph or two, I’m going to write about a couple of items I found through his links that I found to be pretty interesting.

The first is New West, which describes itself as “a network of online communities devoted to the culture, economy, politics, environment and overall atmosphere of the Rocky Mountain West.” The site is organized into topical categories, with each topic boasting original RSS-powered reportage, most of which is contributed by freelance journalists. New West has the immediacy and the dynamic content that makes a good blog while maintaining the kind of journalistic standards usually associated with the print media. At the same time, it’s very localized. Unlike other online news ventures, such as Slate and Salon, which are produced with a national audience in mind, New West focuses on a very specific audience. They have a philosophy that puts a lot of emphasis on citizen journalism, which seems to fall in line with the type of material they cover - issues of public interest, like politics, environment, growth, and culture. I found the site’s concept to be very unique, and I really like the way they take advantage of all the benefits of technology and online journalism without sacrificing standards or lapsing too often into op-ed territory.

I clicked over to a link from Poynter’s Amy Gahran in the comments section of one of New West’s articles, where she listed her three must-have tools for online journalists. Because I am quite nerdy, I was already aware of RSS feeds and feed search engines, but I hadn’t heard about Furl. Furl is the answer to my prayers. According to the site, “Furl will archive any page, allowing you to recall, share, and discover useful information on the web.” It’s a wonderful resource for someone like myself, who has folder files and boxes full of articles and news clippings I’ve printed out for fear of never finding the article again. In addition, it utilizes social networking, RSS feeds and tagging to create an infinite archive of readily accessible online material. It’s like NewsGator, and MySpace smushed into one spare yet powerful tool.

I would recommend checking out the rest of the tools listed on Amy Gahran’s link. She touches on each of the most contemporary issues facing journalism today, from net neutrality to podcasting to social bookmarking. (Plus, she recommends using Firefox, which I second wholeheartedly. Internet Explorer is a nightmare for end-users and media creators alike, and we will all be better off once we’ve abandoned it to the wolves.)



It figures that the week after I select Eric Alterman’s Altercation as one of my selected blogs to follow, MSNBC would fire him. Alterman was uncharacteristically rage-free at his former employers, although he did raise an issue that I think about quite a bit:

“[T]he good folks at and GE/NBC can, I’m sure, give you good reasons why dumping Altercation is the right thing to do from a business standpoint —though the natural speculation that arises is a damn good argument against the kind of media concentration that allows a company like GE to own NBC in the first place.”

While I do appreciate MSNBC for being one of…well, the only mainstream media outlet to give access to outspoken liberal commentators, such as Alterman and Keith Olbermann, I do agree that it’s hard not to find these sort of collusions rather suspect. Should the news be seen primarily as a for-profit enterprise? Or is it more like health care and education, which are theoretically undertaken with no higher goal than the public good in mind? While proponents of for-profit education and health care believe this system promotes efficiency and accountability, it’s my opinion that the actual results of such policies fall far short of their projected objectives, and I don’t think the news media is any different. After all, why would GE, for instance, want to allow MSNBC to cover any of its nearly 80 Superfund sites (a designation given only to the most hopeless cases of pollution)? The corporate ownership of the media doesn’t necessarily break down according to left/right, liberal/conservative biases as commonly thought; rather, the bias is in favor of corporate profits and against anything that stands in the way of posting those profits. This doesn’t mean I think news media outlets need to bleed themselves into oblivion for the sake of journalistic integrity, but I do think there need to be checks and balances that limit the consolidation and ownership of media outlets so they can retain the independence that is such an essential aspect of their social role.



I always love the stories about the mythical masses of bloggers (usually referred to as the “blogosphere”) who materialize out of nowhere to drag the nation’s attention to otherwise ignored stories. Jay Rosen’s most recent posting discusses the latest instance of the internet watchdogs. He writes about the role of blogs and citizen journalists in uncovering the identity of the “secret senator” who used a little-known loophole to put an indefinite hold on Senate Bill S.2590, which is a highly popular bipartisan bill meant to authorize the creation of the first-ever online database of federal spending. In an unusual show of Net unity, bloggers from both sides of the aisle, such as GOP Progress, Instapundit, Wonkette and TPMmuckraker, mobilized their audiences to contact their senators in order to get an answer to the question: “Did you put the secret hold on S.2590?” The bloggers were able to contact 98 of the senators, all of whom answered “no”. The two remaining senators? Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia, both of whom eventually admitted to placing the holds on the transparency bill. I thought this was a very innovative use of the internet as a tool of investigative journalism.


Blogger Amy said...

Hi, Caitlin. Glad my tools list was useful to you!

- Amy Gahran

6:06 AM  

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