Getting Organized

I just watched the alarming video What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, which reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a total stranger about my many neglected interests (specifically, playing the saxophone). Between the two, I ended up thinking up the many ways I waste/lose time throughout the day.

Cutting to the chase: I feel increasingly frustrated with the way I consume news and information. I’m so disorganized - casually scrolling my twitter and facebook feeds, consuming random articles, then feeling annoyed that I didn’t read something more substantial.

This post is about establishing areas of interest and corresponding news sources. Rather than consume whatever the internet throws my way, my goal is to set aside time each day to read the news from a trusted group of writers and publications.

Here’s my list, by topic. 

General News, Politics

  • NPR (by default - I listen on my commute)
  • New York Times (goal: read the daily front page)

Environment

Race, Racial Justice

Florida

To be honest, there is no way I have time to read through all of these sites on a daily basis. I’ll consider covering 1-2 topics each day a success. The other aspect of this challenge is to waste less of my down time with mindless scrolling (tumblr, that includes you!)

I’ll report back in a few weeks on how this goes.

Notes on “Pipelines, Pulitzers and Independent Online Journalism”

Last week, Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin hosted a Google hangout with the Inside Climate News team, who won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. ICN’s winning project is titled The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of, and it chronicles a 2010 spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, along with the broader issues of pipeline regulation in the United States.

I watched the hangout during a lunch break and (embarrassingly) forgot about it, until I just now uncovered a piece of paper with my notes. These are the moments that stood out to me from the discussion:

Susan White, ICN Executive Editor:

We operate with the same journalistic standards I learned in college…You do not have an agenda, you stick to the facts…There is no difference, except we are online.

There is technology available to make pipelines much safer - why not do it?

David Sassoon, ICN Founder & Publisher:

It’s a question of what impact journalism can have on serving the public interest.

Lisa Song, ICN Reporter:

When I talked to some environmental groups about [the Dilbit spill], they didn’t seem interested. They are focused on getting Obama to reject the Keystone XL. 

Obviously a lot of ground was covered. If you’ve got 40 minutes, watching the whole discussion is well worth it.

On Twitter: 
Today, I had a really great social media experience. I was attending Delaware’s Life After AmeriCorps conference, which is put on for Corps members to get in the post-AC mindset of job hunting, utilizing our education grants, etc. The keynote speaker, David Caprara, is a fellow with the Brookings Institute, and I tweeted a quote that seemed especially relevant.
As you can see, Brookings responded, directing me to additional information. In the daily ebb and flow of Twitter, this kind of interaction is no big deal. In fact, it is expected. But on a personal level, the thrill of receiving a direct response from a well-respected institution such as the Brookings Institute is pretty amazing. 
I know, and you know, and everyone knows that social media is revolutionizing the way we interact with other people and entities. It’s the entities part that fascinates me. My twitter experience today was direct and personal. I will absolutely read the study they linked me to, and I appreciate that someone at Brookings, even if it was the marketing intern, took the time to reply.

On Twitter: 

Today, I had a really great social media experience. I was attending Delaware’s Life After AmeriCorps conference, which is put on for Corps members to get in the post-AC mindset of job hunting, utilizing our education grants, etc. The keynote speaker, David Caprara, is a fellow with the Brookings Institute, and I tweeted a quote that seemed especially relevant.

As you can see, Brookings responded, directing me to additional information. In the daily ebb and flow of Twitter, this kind of interaction is no big deal. In fact, it is expected. But on a personal level, the thrill of receiving a direct response from a well-respected institution such as the Brookings Institute is pretty amazing. 

I know, and you know, and everyone knows that social media is revolutionizing the way we interact with other people and entities. It’s the entities part that fascinates me. My twitter experience today was direct and personal. I will absolutely read the study they linked me to, and I appreciate that someone at Brookings, even if it was the marketing intern, took the time to reply.

The Changing Face of Environmental Coverage at The New York Times

Over the past several months, there have been several shifts in the way the NY Times covers climate issues. This is a result of restructuring due to budget constraints, and according to editors, a response to the “shifting interdisciplinary landscape of news reporting”.

2009: NYT creates a 9-person “environment pod”, made up of 2 editors and 7 reporters dedicated to reporting solely on environmental issues.

Fall 2012: Throughout the presidential election there was much discussion of the climate silence problem, as Obama and Romney carefully avoided any substantial discussion of climate change during the campaign.

December 2012: Executive editor Jill Abramson announces the need to cut 30 positions from the news division due to decreased ad revenues. Employees were offered buyouts, but Abramson would go to layoffs if there weren’t enough takers for the buyout packages.

January 11, 2013: Inside Climate News broke the story that NYT would be dismantling its environment desk. The environmental reporters and editors would be reassigned to other departments.

  • "It wasn’t a decision we made lightly…coverage of the environment is what separates the New York Times from other papers. We devote a lot of resources to it, now more than ever. We have not lost any desire for environmental coverage. This is purely a structural matter," said Dean Baquet, managing editor for news operations.

Reactions: Journalists and environmentalists reacted with varying degrees of surprise, dismay and stoicism.

  • Beth Parke, executive director of the Society of Environmental Journalists, said that while solid environmental coverage doesn’t always require a dedicated team, the Times’ decision is “worrying.” (via)
  • Award-winning journalist Peter Dykstra, publisher of Daily Climate: “When you abolish a standalone beat, it sends a strong message to every career-conscious reporter and editor that chasing environment stories is not a path to advancement.” (via)
  • Andy Revkin, NYT Dot Earth blogger: “The Times excelled at environmental coverage before there was an environment pod, continued during that phase, and, I predict, will do so going forward, within the financial constraints facing all journalism.”
  • Bora Zivkovic, blog editor at Scientific American: “There is potential for this to be a good thing. It all depends on the implementation. (…) All the environmental expertise is still at the Times, but now outside of its own ghetto, able to cross-fertilize with other beats, and to collaborate with reporters with other domains of expertise.” Interestingly, Zivkovic goes on to discuss the increased importance of the Green Blog, as a hub where all the NYT’s environmental reporting can be gathered and shared. His blog post is even titled Why the NYTimes “Green Blog” Is Now Essential.

March 1, 2013: The New York Times shuts down the Green Blog. It was announced in a brief post on the blog, stating “This change will allow us to direct production resources to other online projects. But we’ll forge ahead with our aggressive reporting on environmental and energy topics.”

Andy Revkin of Dot Earth created a Green Blog Voices list on Twitter, and NYT enviro coverage can now be followed on the Environment page.

Revkin goes on to point out that NYT has “nine sports blogs; nine spanning fashion, lifestyles, health, dining and the like; four business blogs; four technology blogs (five if you include automobiles as a technology); and a potpourri of other great efforts…” Somehow, all of those managed to stay and the Green Blog had to go.

Unlike the decision to dissolve the environment pod, the termination of the Green Blog was met with very negative reactions across the board. Curtis Brainard of the Columbia Journalism Review wrote “This is terrible news, to say the least.”

In my own opinion, NYT has been a leader on environmental coverage. NYT is my primary news source on a daily basis. Despite their broad coverage, I am reluctant to rely on blogs such as ThinkProgress and 350.org. The loss of the Green Blog is a step in the wrong direction.

This evening I watched Page One, a documentary that follows one year of investigating, writing, and reporting at The New York Times. Page One looks at the ability of print media and legacy papers like NYT to survive and compete in the brave new world of blogs, twitter, and free information.
A reporter discusses the concept of “free” news - he worries that young people (the Millenial generation) have grown up with the assumption that information can be accessed freely, on the Internet, all the time. "But of course, nothing is free. You may think it is, but there is always a cost," says the reporter.
This is important: information is not free. A story that has been well-researched and vetted and fact-checked does not arrive on my iPad screen for nothing. 
When NYT first announced its model for charging for online content, I was horrified. I thought, “I always read the New York Times online - where will I get my news now? This is unacceptable!”
At first, I read my ten free articles each month, and then wandered off to The Huffington Post. That was when I realized how much The New York Times mattered to me: I missed the quality of reporting, the in-depth features, and the wide range of opinions and editorials. I missed it, and I realized that it is worth more than nothing, more than “free”. I’m happy to pay some money out of my wallet to be a digital New York Times subscriber.
The documentary doesn’t come down on one side or the other in support of print media, but it tells us what is happening, whether we notice it or not. Reporters keep reporting, and every day, this venerable newspaper publishes “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.

This evening I watched Page One, a documentary that follows one year of investigating, writing, and reporting at The New York Times. Page One looks at the ability of print media and legacy papers like NYT to survive and compete in the brave new world of blogs, twitter, and free information.

A reporter discusses the concept of “free” news - he worries that young people (the Millenial generation) have grown up with the assumption that information can be accessed freely, on the Internet, all the time. "But of course, nothing is free. You may think it is, but there is always a cost," says the reporter.

This is important: information is not free. A story that has been well-researched and vetted and fact-checked does not arrive on my iPad screen for nothing. 

When NYT first announced its model for charging for online content, I was horrified. I thought, “I always read the New York Times online - where will I get my news now? This is unacceptable!”

At first, I read my ten free articles each month, and then wandered off to The Huffington Post. That was when I realized how much The New York Times mattered to me: I missed the quality of reporting, the in-depth features, and the wide range of opinions and editorials. I missed it, and I realized that it is worth more than nothing, more than “free”. I’m happy to pay some money out of my wallet to be a digital New York Times subscriber.

The documentary doesn’t come down on one side or the other in support of print media, but it tells us what is happening, whether we notice it or not. Reporters keep reporting, and every day, this venerable newspaper publishes “All the News That’s Fit to Print”.

Interesting analysis on Poynter of the language used to share information on Twitter, especially by individuals who are not members of the press.

As media technologies are widely adopted, so too is the related terminology. It’s a logical progression, but it’s also a source of confusion. That was the case during last year’s Arab Spring. NPR senior strategist and famed Arab Spring tweeter Andy Carvin raised this point when I asked what makes him suspicious of a tweet. For him, the adoption of journalistic terms (or cliches) by a non-journalist can be a red flag.

Just as journalists are being pushed to engage more with the public and work collaboratively, citizens are being pulled towards our sphere as they engage and adopt tools and technologies that offer them the ability to report and share news.

The forces pushing and pulling us together naturally cause us each to adopt from one other. But the public’s understanding of these terms can be different from a journalist’s understanding of them. What we need is a shared vocabulary that can create better understanding and imbue short messages such as tweets with more clarity.