Daily Must Reads, Nov. 28, 2011

The best stories across the web on media and technology


1. The closed, unfriendly world of Wikipedia (Danny Sullivan)

2. Ten lessons Om Malik learned from a decade of blogging (GigaOM)

3. Spotify service includes peer-to-peer streaming (Pansentient League)

4. Disney coming to YouTube movies (MediaPost)

5. Air travelers still must turn off devices, but it's not clear why (Bits Blog)




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Juan Williams, Lisa Simeone and Public Media’s Quest for Integrity

Trust "is perhaps the most important asset public broadcasting carries forward into evolving public media future," writes Byron Knight.

Knight should know. He's had a long career in public broadcasting. Now, he is co-director of the Editorial Integrity for Public Media Project, a ground-breaking attempt to define public media's principles for a digital age.

Leading public broadcasters, NPR, PBS, and many stations have been drawing up a new ethics charter. At their website, www.pmintegrity.com, the project posts its draft guidelines.

Recently, my ethics center and Wisconsin Public Radio and Television co-hosted an evaluation of the draft guidelines. The project is an ambitious example of what I call "integrated ethics," the attempt to construct a new mixed media ethics.

Many other major news organizations are creating integrated ethics, from the BBC to the Canadian Association of Journalists. Within public media, there are many who believe that the future of citizen and government support rests on the successful articulation of what is distinctive and important about public media.

Juan Williams and Lisa Simeone

Why this urgency about trust and integrity?

One reason is recent high-profile controversies such as the firing of NPR analyst Juan Williams. More recently, we witnessed the confusing firing-but-then-retaining of NPR opera host Lisa Simeone. Simeone's impartiality was questioned when she became a spokeswoman for Washington, D.C.-based Occupy Wall Street events.

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The controversy has hurt public broadcasting in the public eye and in the purse. Politicians have threatened to end state funding; citizens have stopped their donations.

Another reason for the controversy is decreasing levels of state funding. This means that NPR, PBS, and others have to seek funding from, and to form partnerships with, a diverse range of groups in civic society. Many of these groups have political agendas and social causes to advance.

In a partisan public sphere, what happens to public broadcasting's claim to impartiality when increasing amounts of its journalism is funded by such groups?

New editorial guidelines to maintain the public's trust appear to be essential.

The integrity project aims to do at least three big things: define public media; create guidelines for accepting money; advise journalists on how frank they can be online.

We, the public media

Note that I use the term "public media."

The integrity project uses this term to signal that, in a digital age, we need an understanding of public journalism that goes beyond traditional forms, such as radio and television. The idea of public journalism should include websites and bloggers, among others. But any conception will be contested.

Public media may claim to serve the public, rather than a "commercial imperative." It may claim to be based in local communities, advancing education and the arts. But commercial news media will reply that they too serve the public and educate citizens. Is the difference between public and commercial media only the degree to which commercial factors play a role in their journalism? Or, is there a principled distinction?

The same complexity confronts the creation of adequate "firewalls" between journalists and funders. The project's new guidelines discuss who not to take money from (e.g., extreme groups like the Klu Klux Klan), and under what conditions to use caution (e.g., when funders are likely be the subjects of news coverage). Also, the draft guidelines rely heavily on transparency about public journalism and the identity of its funders.

Yet transparency cannot, by itself, solve the problem of editorial integrity or fix the public's poor opinion of their media. Transparent journalists can be biased, inaccurate or irresponsible. Good journalism also requires superior methods of investigation and verification that result in important stories. Trust is a combination of method and accountability. Moreover, how far does transparency go? Should newsrooms take money from groups that are not transparent about their own funding?

In my view, guidelines need a balance between "internal" newsroom values that encourage great journalism and "external" values that encourage journalists to show the public how their work was produced. It's the difference between "doing" and "showing what you do."

Chances of success?

Given the complexities of designing a new integrated ethics, what are some obstacles that face anyone who develops integrated ethics?

  1. Size matters: Creating a new ethic is a daunting task when dealing with something as multi-layered as public broadcasting or a global news organization. Quandaries multiply as we move vertically from the local to the national level, and as we move horizontally across platforms from news to arts to educational programming.
  2. The ethics of difference: In addition to comprehensive principles, we need concrete rules for specific forms of journalism, from reporting and blogging to posting tweets. Do we want to hold the online journalist to the same rules as the print reporter? Are the values of NPR journalism relevant to NPR arts programs? Can we allow these different practices while remaining consistent with principles?
  3. Buy-in or ignore? Any new system of guidelines needs buy-in from the organization's producers, editors and journalists. Guidelines handed down from on high will get little traction. It remains to be seen whether the public media guidelines will secure buy-in.
  4. Monitoring and articulation: Initiatives need to monitor how the guidelines work over several years, and to use that feedback to revise principles. Projects need people who can explain clearly to the public how the guidelines work when future controversies arise.

Future of integrated ethics

Am I saying the quest for integrity is a hopeless task? No. I am saying we must be realistic about the difficulties of integrated ethics.

Even if the integrity project does not have dramatic success in the short run, the effort will not be lost. It will provide a platform from which others can work.

It is praiseworthy that these journalists care so much about their craft. They are pioneers in reinventing media ethics.

I predict that within five years these ethical projects will produce a fairly clear picture of integrated ethics in a digital age. I suspect that we will have good examples of guidelines for the most troublesome areas, such as transparency and funding.

Let me finish with one last worrying thought.

Enthusiasts of new media may regard public media's quest for integrity as an old-fashioned concern that is out of sync with our chaotic, interactive media world. As one participant at the evaluation meeting said: "I sometimes feel I am defending a form of journalism that is considered a dinosaur."

I don't think we are trying to save a dinosaur. Public media and mainstream media will continue to be a significant part of our media ecology for years to come. We still need newsrooms that care about standards of impartiality and verification, and the public trust.

Deliberative democracy depends on deliberative media.

Stephen J. A. Ward is director of the Center for Journalism Ethics in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the founding chair of the Canadian Association of Journalists' (CAJ) ethics advisory committee and former director of UBC's Graduate School of Journalism's in Vancouver, B.C.

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E-Books and Self-Publishing Roundup, Nov. 23, 2011

The best stories of the week from across the web on e-books and self-publishing


1. For their children, many e-book fans insist on paper (New York Times)

2. Thirteen ways to jumpstart digital revenue (FOLIO:)

3. Mobile devices boost magazine reading (MediaPost)

4. Five lessons on using e-books for news (Poynter)

5. Amazon taps self-published authors for Kindle lending library (paidContent)

6. Challenge for publishers in 2012: funding tablet and e-reader product development (eMedia Vitals)

7. Penguin pulls new e-books from libraries (paidContent)






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Daily Must-Reads, Nov. 23, 2011

The best stories across the web on media and technology


1. How SOPA would affect you - FAQ (CNET News)

2. Alexis Madrigal declares Friday "Update Your Parents' Browser Day" (The Atlantic)

3. Netflix will rely on rival Amazon's cloud for years to come (paidContent)

4. Challenge for publishers in 2012: funding tablet and e-reader product development (eMedia Vitals)

5. Education-specific HTML to be submitted to search engines (ReadWrite Web)






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Public Laboratory: Don’t Just Report Science, Do It!

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MediaShift's science journalism coverage is sponsored by the Columbia Journalism School, which offers an innovative specialized M.A. for experienced journalists who want to cover science, business, arts or politics in a sophisticated, nuanced manner. Learn more here.


This article was co-authored by Jeffrey Warren and Sara Wylie.

Can you envision an alternative mode of science journalism? Imagine a science journalism in which the journalist not only reports about science, but also gathers scientific data and develops the tools by which the data is acquired.

A growing group of researchers at Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science are working to make that happen. Public Laboratory is a community of makers, social scientists, technologists, biologists, cartographers and activists that are working to develop accessible tools so communities can generate data about local environmental and civic issues. Through our evolving civic science and media toolkit, the Public Laboratory community is re-imagining ways in which people can engage with social and environmental issues -- not only by collecting new information, but also through the analysis, interpretation, presentation and publication of data. Our tools -- from balloon mapping to infrared photography -- enable a broader public to question, investigate environmental issues, and act upon the new information they produce.

A Civic Science Toolkit

Public Laboratory's Toolkit began with a unique balloon photography technique we call Grassroots Mapping. Using Grassroots Mapping, for under $100, non-specialists can make digital aerial maps that can have higher resolution than those available from actual satellites. The Grassroots Mapping community satellite is a helium-filled weather balloon with a low-cost digital camera attached. In 2010, one of Public Lab's founders, Jeff Warren, developed free and open-source software -- Mapmill and MapKnitter -- that allows Grassroots Mappers to take the photos from their digital camera and "stitch" them into a map.

Why would a community wish to generate aerial imagery at a low cost? The utility of Grassroots Mapping was first illustrated on a large scale during the 2010 BP oil spill. The media blackout around the spill severely limited journalists' ability to report on or photograph it, and restrictions on access to coastlines and impacted areas prevented local volunteer engagement with the cleanup.

Recognizing the value of Grassroots Mapping for documenting the impacts of the spill, Public Lab co-founder Shannon Dosemagen and others organized a volunteer community of fishermen and locals who used Grassroots Mapping to photograph ecologically and socially important shorelines before and after the oil hit, creating a public record of the event in which communities rather than news media or scientists create and own the data. This project brought together Public Laboratory's initial open research community, which now focuses on the development of low-cost open-source hardware and software for civic science.

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What is Civic Science?

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Kim and Mike Fortun used the term "civic science" to describe science "that questions the state of things, rather than a science that simply serves the state." Too often in science, and particularly in environmental health science, researchers have distanced themselves from the researched.

Public Laboratory community researchers prefer approaches that enable non-specialists to get involved in -- and even direct -- the questioning of "the state of things." Though the push for greater transparency in the government is laudable, much of government and industry data is produced through regulatory compliance, resulting in a bunch of papers that don't address community-identified problems. Public Laboratory challenges such data through inexpensive and accessible tools adapted from well-established scientific methods -- helping information consumers become information producers.

Though it may be tempting to think of this effort as "feel good" or out of touch with the realities of everyday life, environmental problems affect all of us  -- and often disproportionally affect under-resourced communities. Almost nobody has the requisite expertise to assess local air, water, or soil pollution on their own, or has access to the expensive equipment such analysis requires. And while families worry about the effects of such contamination on their well-being and their children, the primary means to learn about these issues is through dense EPA reports or environmental assessments -- if they even exist.

Sadly, science as it's taught in schools and practiced in universities doesn't attempt to engage in a substantive and immediate way with local environmental problems and the challenges of making them legible to those who need the information most. In that respect, the "Feral Robotic Dogs" project by Natalie Jeremijenko has been an inspiration to Public Lab.

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Jeremijenko and her students equipped toy robotic dogs with toxin sensors in their noses, and held public events to "sniff out" sources of pollution. The project offered an engaging alternative to the kind of bureaucratic opacity most concerned residents are faced with in investigating local pollution.

Although both Jeremijenko and Public Laboratory make use of sensing technology, these projects are primarily re-imaginings of systems of information flow. By asking who gathered this data and who gets to interpret it, both emphasize the kind of critical questioning that's the hallmark of investigative journalism.

Developing open-source investigative tools

The emergence of affordable digital cameras, smartphones and networked computing offers new possibilities for how we consume and generate information. Public Laboratory's community is researching and developing these possibilities to create a range of affordable scientific tools.

One example of such tools is an affordable near-infrared camera produced by hacking $60 consumer digital cameras. Camera sensors actually register infrared light which is invisible to humans, but most cameras filter that information out of our digital pictures. Removing that filter can transform a basic digital camera into a camera useful for "multispectral" photography -- a technology central to the science of remote sensing. (For example, it's used by NASA satellites for analyzing the composition of faraway planets and stars.) More terrestrially, it's used by industrial agriculture to monitor plant health and rates of photosynthesis.

What could this technology be used for in the hands of everyday citizens? Public Lab researchers have begun to investigate these possibilities over the past year.

In Brooklyn's polluted Gowanus Canal, a year-long series of balloon mappings by local activists revealed several plumes of inflow which weren't included in the official Evironmental Protection Agency's Superfund study.

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Last month, to further improve these infrared techniques, Public Laboratory held a research skill-sharing session (dubbed a "barnraising") that brought together scientists, small-scale farmers, wetland restoration specialists, tech geeks and interested residents of Asheville, N.C., concerned about the health of their river system. The goal was to not only improve near-infrared photography techniques, but to explore potential uses for this technology in wetlands restoration, brownfield remediation, and small-scale farming.

Also in Public Laboratory's pipeline is a low-cost spectrometer -- a speculative but promising project which may amplify the ability of communities to identify pollutants in their environments. Visible-infrared spectrometry is the study of how light is absorbed or reflected by different materials to generate unique color spectra, and is a commonplace technique in many laboratories for identifying chemicals. Using pieces of DVDs, inexpensive webcams and interpretive software, Public Laboratory community researchers are developing a low-cost version of this tool. We imagine eventually using it to identify oil contamination in soil and water samples, monitoring smokestacks, or diagnosing crop diseases.

Changing the Face of Expertise

To empower communities with such low-cost technologies takes careful and long-term research. And to tackle these sorts of technical problems, Public Laboratory's community of researchers have sought to imitate the successes of open-source software projects by brainstorming, prototyping, refining, and above all, sharing tool designs both online and offline.

Public Laboratory's largely volunteer network of researchers is creating an open-source toolkit that's composed of not only physical tools for monitoring, but online analysis tools, a wiki platform for participatory research and reporting, and an evolving set of of ethical guidelines around the use of new technologies. Each of our tools -- an aerial mapping kit, infrared camera, spectrometer -- are published online under open-source licenses with a "sharealike" provision, which requires users who build upon the research to license it in turn for public use under the same terms. In this way, our collection of science-based reporting techniques is becoming a growing body of open-source research literature which any member of the public may make use of.

This "distributed research lab" promotes a DIY approach to civic science. Such methodological transparency better equips the public to understand, investigate, contribute to, and challenge the information they are presented with about the environmental issues they face.

Activists at the Gowanus Canal, for instance, are becoming experts in remote sensing and vegetation analysis. And by collaborating and contributing to open research initiatives, they're becoming proponents of critical community engagement.

In a recent online conversation about spectrometer calibration, the announcement of a good spectral image from the most recent spectrometer in development was met with comments that both critically questioned the tool and offered assistance (i.e., "Have you overlaid commercially done spectrum of a compact fluorescent to see how narrow the bands are?" or "What's the 'rawest' format you have for your spectra and can you send/post one in that form? I'd love to play with it and send back some results if I make any progress.")

However, online collaboration can only go so far when attempting to investigate real pollution sites. For instance, during the barnraising event, PLOTS community members built their own infrared cameras, tested them at a small farm, developed frameworks for future collaborations, brainstormed ways to leverage new tools and data towards positive outcomes, and published research notes and web links on the Public Laboratory website so that collaborations could continue after the event.

In combining activism with research, it's not enough to simply report; there has to be a direct impact of the research back into the work that's happening at a site. Changing science implies changing science journalism. How can journalism support a shift from knowledge consumption to knowledge production? Public Lab is changing scientific knowledge production and reporting by increasing the ability of communities to develop new information about their environments using tools they understand because they built them.

Feral robotic dog image courtesy of flickr user mediachef.

A co-founder of Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science, Shannon is based in New Orleans as the Director of Community Engagement, Education and Outreach. Shannon has worked with Public Laboratory (formerly Grassroots Mapping) for the last year as the Gulf Coast project lead, organizing volunteers as they collected aerial images of the Gulf Coast. Shannon also works with the Anthropology and Geography Department at Louisiana State University as an Ethnographer and Community Researcher on a study about the social impacts of the spill in coastal Louisiana communities. Shannon has an M.S. in Anthropology, a B.F.A. in Photography and Anthropology and has worked with nonprofits for over 10 years.

Founder of Grassroots Mapping and co-founder of Public Laboratory, Jeffrey Warren makes maps and citizen science tools at p.irateship in Somerville, Mass., and is a research affiliate of MIT's Center for Future Civic Media. He has founded or co-founded various organizations, including Vestal Design, a multidisciplinary design firm, Cut&Paste Labs, a Lima, Peru-based school for open-source programming, Weardrobe.com, and Paydici Inc. Jeff holds an M.S. from MIT's Media Lab, and a B.A. in Architecture from Yale University, where he worked with artist/technologist Natalie Jeremijenko, building robotic dogs and geese. He likes to draw.

Sara Wylie, a Public Laboratory co-founder, developed webtools for community monitoring of the oil and gas industry for her doctoral work at MIT in History, Anthropology and Science, Technology and Society. As part of this research, she co-founded and co-directed MIT Center for Future Civic Media's ExtrAct Project with Chris Csikszentmihalyi. Presently, Sara is Public Laboratory's director of Toxics and Health Research as well as visiting faculty in Rhode Island School of Design's (RISD) Digital + Media Department. At RISD, Sara teaches social theory and anthropology of science and technology to artists and designers in order to develop new "in practice" methods for Social Studies of Science.

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MediaShift's science journalism coverage is sponsored by the Columbia Journalism School, which offers an innovative specialized M.A. for experienced journalists who want to cover science, business, arts or politics in a sophisticated, nuanced manner. Learn more here.

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Finding the Right Blend of Print and Digital at Meredith’s Recipe.com

I'll take the Florentine lasagna, please, with a 2D barcode and a mobile app on the side.

Food magazines pride themselves on delectable recipes and luscious photography. Recipe.com, whose title is also its website's URL, is a new publication from magazine giant Meredith, and while every recipe is indeed accompanied by a photo, the print magazine's content is thoughtfully integrated with digital tools targeted to cost-conscious home cooks.

Through the development of a unified print, web and mobile strategy prior to launch in June, Meredith crafted an intriguing way of combining these media for value-focused readers who want to plan tasty meals efficiently, using every digital device at their disposal.

Putting It All Together in Advance

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Established magazines have to imagine ways that their existing print editions can be extended into digital forms. A new magazine can be developed from the ground up with all the digital tools available today already integrated into its editorial strategy.

Recipe.com is one of Meredith's most recent print magazine launches, but it all began online with its eponymous URL. Meredith bought the URL about two years ago in a "high six-figure deal," according to Dan Hickey, the senior vice president for digital engagement at Meredith Interactive. Meredith was looking for a way to extend its strength in food-related content in its print publications into the digital realm.

"We have a tremendous legacy on the print side," Hickey said. "But on the digital side, we really needed a complementary strategy to drive Meredith into a digital leadership position in the food category."

Hickey said the site had no content at all when it was purchased, so the Meredith team spent several months working on a plan to maximize its potential.

"We came up with a cross-platform strategy that included a magazine, mobile applications, mobile websites, and TV segments on our 'Better' TV shows," Hickey said. "We looked across all of our other brands in terms of the promotional horsepower we could bring to it."

Media Matching Consumers' Needs

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The state of the economy was a major consideration for the Recipe.com team. Research in-house at Meredith and elsewhere shows that as consumers have become more price-aware, they are planning meals more diligently, shopping less often, and using coupons more frequently.

Recipe.com, Hickey said, reflects a "360-degree approach," better accommodating today's value-seeking and technologically savvy shopper.

"It's really kind of desktop, to store, to checkout, to countertop, to table. When we think of recipes, we think, 'I'll go find it and print it out.' But we knew the [meal-planning] process was much more involved," Hickey said.

Recipe.com, in all of its forms, was designed to provide tools to these budget-conscious shoppers. The recipes in the magazine, drawn from Meredith's many magazines, are each accompanied by their approximate cost per serving. Most recipes also have a Microsoft Tag 2D barcode that readers can scan with a smartphone app to add ingredient lists to a Recipe.com shopping list. The list is then available on the web or through Recipe.com's own shopping list mobile app.

The shopping list app also syncs with any list items a user has saved on the website. (Both fully featured and mobile versions are available.) More grocery items can be added through barcode scanning or voice recognition. The list itself is then matched to specials at nearby grocery stores, automatically identified via GPS, through the Grocery Server shopping engine. The user can select preferred stores from those suggested, refine the list with the deals offered, and go shopping.

This process makes it possible for cooks to select recipes that look good, then quickly locate relevant coupons and specials, instead of basing meal choices on the deals that are available.

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"We wanted to shift the paradigm to digital, but also change the paradigm so [the consumer] starts with what she wants to do, and what we do is go out and find the savings for her," Hickey said. "I want my coupons and store savings tied to what I want to do, instead of the other way around."

Finding the Perfect Blend

Recipe.com launched as a print magazine in June with an initial circulation of 350,000 on newsstands and a cover price of $5.99. According to Hickey, the website's traffic has grown from about 600,000 unique visitors in June to about 4 million in October. There were about 10,000 uses of the QR codes in the print magazine during June alone, and the shopping list app has had about 100,000 downloads since its launch in September.

Recipe.com (the website) also integrates with Meredith's other sites, including Better Recipes, a user-generated recipe hub. Better Recipes also incorporates Mixing Bowl, focused on social interaction among cooks. All of these include links to Meredith's other websites as well. Each site is designed to appeal to a unique segment of home cooks, with Recipe.com's focus on frugality evident in its ads promising coupons and deals.

The Recipe.com strategy was driven by insight into readers' need for different types of access to food information: at home during meal planning, either relaxing on the couch with print, or at the computer on the web; and then on the go, with mobile options.

Recipe.com demonstrates how a magazine can be created today from the ground up to fit consumers' evolving media preferences and uses. Print has its role, offering a durable, visually appealing, familiar resource for recipes. Digital tools, in the form of 2D barcodes and mobile/web access, complement print by providing convenience, flexibility and efficiency in using the magazine's information. Multiple ways to access consumers beckon to advertisers.

Recognizing the persistent utility and pleasures of print -- and the new possibilities offered by digital tools -- is a valuable model. Other kinds of print magazines, new and old, might also benefit from carefully (re-)aligning consumers' real media uses with their print and digital tools.

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Department of Mass Communication at Linfield College. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.

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Journalism Education Roundup, Nov. 22, 2011

Education content on MediaShift is brought to you by: 


USCad68x68.gif Innovation. Reputation. Opportunity. Get all the advantages journalism and PR pros need to help put their future in focus. Learn more about USC Annenberg's Master's programs.



The best stories across the web on journalism education

1. Evaluating Plagiarism: Part I & Part 2 (Best Colleges Online)

2. Four ways journalism educators are using Storify as a teaching tool (Poynter)

3. Ricky Bordelon: Social media in the classroom has some benefits, many drawbacks (The Ram)

4. Journalist's Resource attempts to make academic research more user-friendly for journalists (Nieman Journalism Lab)

5. University of Missouri to limit lecture recording (Associated Press)

6. Stanford lends its name to brand online high school (Times Union)


Education content on MediaShift is brought to you by: 

USCad68x68.gif Innovation. Reputation. Opportunity. Get all the advantages journalism and PR pros need to help put their future in focus. Learn more about USC Annenberg's Master's programs.

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