Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant


10 Things This Blogger Will Tell You

A rather spiteful, holier-than-thou article managed to gain my attention while going through RSS feeds today. This one made it on Digg, which means two things: a) people on Digg only read the title and description of an article before “digging” it and/or b) people on Digg think blogs are stupid. Considering that so much of the material is from blogs, I find the second one dubious.

Interestingly, the article comes from what looks suspiciously like a ::gasp:: blog.

So, “10 Things Your Blogger won’t Tell You” and my response:

1. “Hardly anybody reads me.”

I’ve got a subscription of around 30 daily readers (as tracked by Feedburner, so this is just RSS). That’s not even approaching the readership of an A-list blog. However, I’m a student with no recognizable name or branding and I’ve only been blogging for 5 months. Plus, I moved the blog once during that time.

Readership may be a sign of success, but I’m not sure lack thereof is a sign of failure in this case.

2. “The more companies pay me, the more I like their stuff.”

I wish I was making money off this blog. I’m a starving college kid, I need it.

3. “Did I mention I’m not a real reporter?”

Hmm. I’ve mentioned that I’m a J-school student, I’ve linked to or posted about articles I’ve had published.
And in the middle of the citizen journalism revolution, what is a real reporter?

4. “I might infect your computer with a virus.”

Or you might get one by clicking on every shiny pop-up that comes your way. Or by playing poker online. Or by watching porn. Not that I’m comparing any of those to my blog…

5. “I’m revealing company secrets.”

I’m gonna play the citizen journalism card again. What secrets?

6. “Just because my name’s on it doesn’t mean I wrote it.”

It’s so much more fun to comment on what other people write than to claim it as my own.

7. “My blog is just a stepping stone to bigger and better things.”

I really don’t think the fact that I write a blog is going to get me hired at any news organization. Can’t hurt, though.

8. “I can control what you see on the Internet.”

Nope. And I don’t want to.

9. “Blogging just about ruined my life.”

Not yet. It has been an interesting ride so far.

10. “I’m already obsolete.”

Hey, you 30 people that read this: Am I?

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Congressional Web Site Investigation

A while ago I wrote about a number of online political projects, including the Sunlight Foundation’s Congressional Web Site Investigation.

Today I got an e-mail from Bill Allison:

…we investigated 536 congressional Web sites–supported by taxpayer dollars–and found that a staggering 499 members have sites that do not offer basic information about their official duties in Washington.

Members didn’t bother to mention the names of the committees on which they serve, or link to the bills they introduce into Congress, or, in a few cases, even an email address to write them. Not a single member offers or links to the disclosure forms they’re legally required to file on their income, junkets and office expenditures. And just a handful offer information on their daily schedules or the earmarks they sponsor.

Included was information on their next project, Congresspedia.

Now, we want to add the results of the investigation to each member’s “permanent record” – their Congresspedia profile. Below is a link that will take you to the complete results of the survey for each member of Congress you investigated. We’ve set up an easy-to-use, semi-automated process by which you can add the results for Congresspedia’s tens of thousands of daily readers to see when they look up their member of Congress. Hopefully this will help educate citizens about how transparent their members are and serve as a powerful incentive for members to improve their transparency for the next time we conduct this investigation.

I think this is a great way to provide interested citizens with information about their representatives in government. Head on over to Congresspedia for more information.

Will CAR (Computer Assisted Reporting) also stand for Citizen Assisted Reporting? Or will we just stick to calling it citizen journalism?


Another word for blog

This is a conversation I had recently with Kyle Mitchell, who works in the Gainesville Sun’s online department.

Me: so how come the blog cms sucks so much?

KM: cause they got a cheap tool

Me: wordpress is free. and better. heck, i think drupal is free. and, better.

KM: hey, i keep away from the whole ‘blog’ thing entirely

Me: why is that? i think thats where online news is heading.
Me: along with serious flash and multimedia packages

KM: as far as i’m concerned, it’s B.S.

Me: explain

KM: a blog is nothing more than a column. if you write a column, call it a column, and don’t lump it in the same category as livejournal

KM: it takes away all the integrity of what you write

Me: wrong
Me: a blog brings the writer and the audience closer and allows them to participate in a conversation with the writer
Me: the way citizen jou and UGC is going, thats important.

KM: it’s easy enough to allow comments on an article. but you don’t have to slap the ‘blog’ label on everything and make it look stupid
KM: ‘blog’ is too widely used a term to be functional when you want people to trust the information contained therein

Me: that, maybe i agree with. theres a huge difference b/t lj and myspace “blogs” and “blogs” written by journalists, professionals and experts
Me: unfortunately, we can’t always pick our own terminology

KM: blog is just another buzzword that people are latching on to. soon enough, they will realize that you need separation in order to get the credibility.

Me: i think people have come to think of any periodically updated and chronologically organized site, that allows interaction between readers and writers, as a blog

KM: exactly my point.

Me: and you get credibility by being transparent in the way you write
Me: the “blogs” that are written by 14 yr olds will be obviously not as reliable or interesting as a “blog” written by a foreign correspondent
Me: the blogs i see that have high readership also quote sources and explain where they got information and how they arrived at a conclusion

KM: but they’re still in the same category. that same 14 year old would never have a column, and everyone knows that, lending the column more credibility.
KM: call it a “newslog” and you’re getting somewhere

Me: well, the only way to create that distinction is for the newspapers to start using it on their websites
Me: and they don’t even have a grasp on the idea behind a blog, much less creating distinctions of terminology

KM: so, until there’s an understanding of what needs to be done, i’m not going to join in the masses who use the word ‘blog’ just because it sounds hi-tech

Me: so i should have asked “why does the newslog cms suck so much?”

Mmmm, buzz words. Dearly loved by failing bureaucracies, feared and loathed by those who understand the technology.


Web, 2.0, Media, Journalism, Citizens, Blogs, Google, News

On Thursday I caught the tail end of a meeting of the UF chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Gary Ritzenthaler (a grad student at UF) gave a speech

about the trend of personalization of online information, and what it means for the future of media.

Google, Facebook, blogging and citizen journalism were all brought into the discussion. Gary also showed a video called EPIC 2014. I’ve seen it before and it still scares me.

Some ideas that were brought up during the meeting:

  • Google news benefits newspapers via clickthroughs. But as page views lose value as the standard of a site’s popularity, how will Google and newspapers react? We can get customized news in feed readers. If you are subscribing to Google news instead of a news Web site, what happens to the news site?
  • Breaking news will stray from news Web sites to blogs, a.k.a. citizen journalism.
  • Journalism will become more like magazine writing. Journalists will write more in-depth, feature-style articles.
  • Whats are the pros and cons of citizen journalism?
  • Is all this Web stuff just a trend?

Today, this popped into my awareness:

This is a short history of “Web 2.0, ” produced by Michael Wesch, an Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University. It’s pretty amazing.

This is what makes journalism such an exciting field to study right now. The uncertainty, the changes, the adventure of it all.


Mavs ride into the Web with a Wiki

From Micro Persuasion:

The Dallas Mavericks have a wiki where fans are encouraged to document games and submit photographs. This may be the first wiki in professional sports.

From MavsWiki:

The Official MavsWiki is a collaboration of Mavs history, official stats and the all important FAN perspective. Editing of this site is open to all and we encourage everyone to share thoughts, comments and photos of their experiences with the Dallas Mavericks.

Now that’s citizen journalism. What would happen if the same idea was applied to online news?


And We’re Back!

Sorry for the absence folks, I had three finals on Tuesday and one on Wednesday, plus some projects to finish up before the end of the semester.

My Web site is now live!

Having business cards made has already turned out to be a great idea. I ran into a couple of people the other day who are in excellent positions to help me out in my attempts to get internships, clips, and general newsroom experience.

The last bit of required reading for classes struck me as an excellent post topic: The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism

It’s a great read, full of applications of citizen journalism to traditional media frames. From allowing public comment on any article to incorporating citizen contributions to the newsroom as a wiki, Steve Outing’s article advocates embracing citizen contributions instead of trying to fight them.

What do you think of citizen journalism? Will incorporating CJ make or break the newspaper industry?