Bill Krueger


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How Yahoo! Sports has competed online by making investigative journalism its brand

When Charles Robinson first went to work as a reporter for Yahoo! Sports in 2004, he spent as much time explaining where he worked as he did trying to do his work.

“There was not a lot of understanding of what Yahoo! was,” Robinson said. “It’s a search engine — why would they cover sports? I felt like half my job was reporting and the other half was explaining who we were.”

Robinson doesn’t have that problem anymore. Yahoo! Sports has made a name for itself in the crowded world of online sports websites by focusing on good, old-fashioned investigative journalism that relies on documents, multiple sources and time-consuming reporting. Read more

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Flyer Forums, Fifth Estate Blogs Cover TSA Scanner, Pat-Down Troubles Early, Well Before Journalists

There has been no shortage of outrage in the media coverage of the new security procedures at the nation’s airports.

We’ve all seen the headlines about angry travelers and videos of people experiencing the new “enhanced” pat-downs or holding their hands over their head while they stand in a full-body scanner. We’ve heard the stories of the man who threatened to have a Transportation Security Administration agent arrested if he touched his “junk” and the unfortunate bladder cancer survivor who was covered in his own urine after TSA agents broke the seal on his urostomy bag during a pat-down.

But try sorting through all the clutter to find journalism that provides clarity and context, stories that hold officials in Washington accountable for their actions, coverage that does more than quote angry travelers or simply link to such coverage by other outlets. It’s not easy.

“The media has focused on the salacious, like the poor gentleman who … had bladder issues,” said Benét Wilson, who covers airport security for Aviation Week, a trade publication. “That drives up website numbers. Unfortunately, people don’t want to hear the other side about why these security measures are needed.”

These scanners were introduced at 10 U.S. airports in 2008, but stimulus funding saw them spread this year to 65 airports.

The story first bubbled up online as questions arose about the safety of the scanners and the lack of privacy inherent in a machine that looks through a traveler’s clothes to capture images. Travelers who opt out of the scan must submit to a full body pat-down by TSA agents that many have described as groping and intrusive.

The story initially spread through blogs, viral videos and social media. Traditional press outlets, by most accounts, were slow to take notice.

“There’s a very high noise level on this right now, but that wasn’t so a few weeks ago,” said Kendall Wright, director of support operations for FlyersRights.org, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of airline passengers. “The mainstream media seemed to be shrugging their shoulders at it.”

Wright said he put together a newsletter two weeks ago that sought to provide answers to many of the questions being asked by the group’s members. Most of his links, he said, were to blogs and other online sources. He said he was unable to find a lot of answers in more traditional media outlets.

Many frequent flyers turned to the online community at FlyerTalk.com. There, they share their own travel experiences while also hearing from pilots, flight attendants and TSA agents who post in a wide range of forums.

“I’d say that FlyerTalk.com has been at the forefront here,” Gary Leff, the president and senior moderator of the site, told me in an e-mail. “First because it’s been ahead of the curve as a result of live, real-time reports from travelers long before the mainstream media has covered the issue and second because of the sheer volume of activity and disparate voices.”

Those voices, Leff said, include TSA agents who have posted explanations of what’s happening from their vantage point. He said that has helped dispel some myths and get information out quickly. He said there has been one thread where members let each other know about the security setups at individual airports and which checkpoints are using the full-body scanners.

Wilson, of Aviation Week, pointed me to a blog, Flying with Fish, that she said has “done some really good work on both sides of this issue.” The blog is maintained by Steven Frischling, aka “Fish,” a professional photographer and social media consultant from Connecticut.

Frischling started the blog nine years ago to help a handful of his fellow photographers travel more efficiently as they made their way around the globe for photo assignments. Frischling says he has flown more than 1 million miles since 2005.

Frischling’s blog has evolved considerably since its meager start, largely because Frischling covers the TSA as if it were his job. He has developed numerous sources within the agency, frequently gets TSA documents sent to him, and bases his blog posts on reporting the story from all sides.

While other outlets have quoted travelers questioning the constitutionality of the full-body scanners, Frischling dug up a 1973 ruling by a federal court that he said effectively suspends aspects of the Fourth Amendment for airport security screening.

The same post notes that in 2001 President George W. Bush signed the Aviation Transportation and Security Act, which was passed with little opposition in Congress, that set the stage for the security procedures being put in place now.

In another post, Frischling interviewed 17 TSA screeners, who told him they are uncomfortable about performing the new pat-downs. “It is not comfortable to come to work knowing full well that my hands will be feeling another man’s private parts, their butt, their inner thigh,” Frischling quoted one unnamed agent saying.

Another post featured Frischling’s interview with an unnamed anti-terrorism expert at the Department of Homeland Security who said the pat-downs being used now probably would not have detected the so-called “underwear bomb” that failed to detonate on a 2009 flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

Frischling says he quotes people anonymously because that is the only way TSA employees will work with him. But he said he is mindful of journalism ethics from his years working as a news-service photographer.

“I keep my opinion out of it, and cover all sides of the story when I can,” he told me. “If you want to be taken seriously, if you want sources to talk to you, I can’t be one of the screaming masses.”

While other reporters will move on to other stories once the furor dies down over the new security measures, Frischling will continue to report on what’s going on at the TSA. Frischling said he spends more time working on his blog than he does his paying job, and that there continue to be stories that need to be told.

“I’m going to keep doing what I do for one very simple reason — it’s very important information and nobody is covering it,” he said.

The mainstream media did finally jump on the airport security story, with many offering long front-page takeouts and full-length broadcast reports that sought to provide context and address the various questions people had.

Eric Torbenson, a business writer for the Dallas Morning News who covers aviation safety as well as issues such as legal affairs and aerospace defense, acknowledged that they were “kicking ourselves slightly” for not getting to the story sooner. But he said his newspaper and several mainstream news outlets, such as the Chicago Tribune, provided solid reporting once they started pursuing the story.

“There was a lot of misinformation out there at times,” Torbenson told me. “The good old mainstream media may still be the great reconciler of information.”

Wright (of FlyerRights.org) and Leff (of flyertalk.com) said several mainstream media outlets provided solid coverage once they got engaged. But they both said they fell short in holding the TSA accountable for its actions.

“The L.A. Times had a shockingly bad editorial … which just took TSA talking points at face value, rather than performing the traditional role of questioning power,” Leff said in his e-mail.

Wright said he had seen several broadcast interviews with John Pistole, head of the TSA, that were filled with what he called “softball” questions. “They ask Pistole questions, but if he doesn’t answer them they just move on,” Wright said.

Meanwhile, a CBS News poll found that 81 percent of those surveyed favor the use of full-body scanning machines for airport security. It is a view that has not been reflected in much of the coverage.

“The traditional media has been following this, but it has been the flashy headlines and more sensational websites that are getting the hits,” Wilson said. “People don’t want to hear ‘We’re doing this for your safety.’ They want to hear the salacious.” Read more

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Chuck Todd, Jay Rosen, Michelle Malkin Question Ambinder’s Reasons for Leaving Blogging Behind

Marc Ambinder was among the first traditional journalists to move completely online, writing a well-regarded political blog for The Hotline and then, more recently, The Atlantic.
 
Now Ambinder is returning to his roots in traditional, print journalism. He will be writing for the print editions of the National Journal and The Atlantic.
 
He is making the move, at least in part, because of misgivings about how journalism is practiced online.
 
“I Am a Blogger No Longer,” reads the headline on Ambinder’s final blog post for the Atlantic. Ambinder noted in the post that Chuck Todd, then the editor of The Hotline, hired him away from ABC News in 2005 to write exclusively for online.
 
“Back then, reporters didn’t blog,” Ambinder wrote. “Newspapers and magazines hired curators to update their websites, and reporters would occasionally post online, but there was a strict separation based on platform. You were considered legitimate only if your byline appeared in print. You were considered a blogger if you didn’t. And you didn’t want to be a blogger, because bloggers back then were second-class citizens in the country of journalism. Bloggers were partisan activists, yellers, provocateurs and upstarts.”
 
While Ambinder enjoyed the freedom to write what he wanted, the blog also meant getting stuck in a “relentless” and “punishing” loop of feedback between him and his readers.
 
“Unfortunately, the standard for defining oneself as a Web journalist depends on establishing a certain credibility with a particular audience of critics,” he wrote. “Responding to complaints about content and structure and bias is part of the way one establishes that credibility.”
 
Ambinder also felt compelled, even in straight news stories, to insert himself into the narrative.
 
“Really good journalism is ego-free,” he wrote. “By that I do not mean that the writer has no skin in the game, or that the writer lacks a perspective, or even that the writer does not write from a perspective. What I mean is that the writer is able to let the story and the reporting process, to the highest possible extent, unfold without a reporter’s insecurities or parochial concerns intervening. Blogging is an ego-intensive process.”
Todd, who is now the chief White House correspondent and political director for NBC News, was intrigued by what his former employee had to say about practicing journalism online. But he’s not sure he agrees with all of Ambinder’s arguments.
 
Todd says journalists have a voice, whether they are writing a blog or longer, reported stories for the Atlantic. “With a blog, it’s your own voice,” he told me. “But people go to the Atlantic because they expect a certain sensibility.”
 
Todd believes the blog format is being overtaken by Twitter, but says journalists still must find ways to engage readers and viewers online. He makes it a point to respond to any criticism he gets online.
 
“We have a huge credibility gap in the media these days,” he said. “I joke that I’m trying to get people back one viewer at a time.”
 
Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University who writes extensively about media on his blog PressThink, was also intrigued by Ambinder’s take on blogging. But he’s not sure he sees the same differences between print journalism and online journalism as Ambinder.
 
“I don’t like to invest formats with that much power,” Rosen said in an interview. “I understand why working on a long, well-researched, fact-checked, heavily edited print magazine story is very different from the activity of blogging. That is super clear to me. But the idea that such stories are not about the author, I’m not sure about that.”
 
To illustrate his point, Rosen cites a 2004 New York Times Magazine article by Ron Suskind about then-President Bush.
 
“I’m sure it was heavily edited and had a lot of reporting in it,” Rosen said. “But to me it’s entirely about Suskind as a journalist, his attempt to get inside the head of the Bush machine. That kind of piece does not represent to me the subsuming of the journalist.”
 
Michelle Malkin, who writes a political blog and a syndicated newspaper column, agrees that blogs tend to be more personality-driven. But she says there have long been name brands among traditional journalists, from columnists such as Mike Royko and William Safire to reporters such as Michael Kelly, Helen Thomas and Ernie Pyle.
 
“There’s nothing new about journalists inserting themselves into their narratives,” Malikin told me in an e-mail. “Their readers read them as much for what they had to say as they did for who they were.”
 
And Malkin welcomes the engagement between online journalists and their readers, even if it can be exhausting at times.
 
“To the extent that journalism blogging is any more ‘ego intensive’ than traditional journalism, it’s a function of the eroded wall of separation between reader and reporter,” she wrote. “Successful bloggers must engage, react, hyperlink, track back, open up comments, answer their e-mail — or be left in the interactive dust.”
 
But Malkin said that is “far superior to the closed, Sorbonne-like habitat to which many old media journalists would prefer to retreat.”
 
Ambinder’s piece generated plenty of reaction online, from dismissals of Ambinder’s return to “dead-tree journalism” to a series of posts at Snarkmarket that took a deeper look at what Ambinder had to say about blogging and journalism.
 
Snarkmarket’s Matt Thompson took aim at Ambinder’s argument that good journalism is ego-free while blogging is ego-intensive. Thompson provided several examples of good journalism in which the reporter’s assumptions and concerns are part of the narrative, and of bloggers who are successful without leaving a lot of fingerprints. Tim Carmody noted in another post that he regularly reads blogs about technology, but can’t name a single blogger at Engadget. While Ambinder is not comfortable inserting himself into his blog, Carmody says he has had to make the opposite adjustment.
 
“By training and disposition, I’m a writer, not a reporter,” Carmody wrote. “I’ve had to learn repeatedly what it means to represent an institution rather than just my own ideas and sensibilities — that not every word that appears under my byline is going to be the word I chose. The vast majority of people I meet and interact with don’t care who I am or what I think, just the institution I write for.”
 
Finally, Robin Sloan tackles Ambinder’s exhaustion with the relentless feedback loop that comes with blogging. Sloan refuses to buy into the argument that the point of blogging is to knock down the walls between journalists and their readers, to allow readers to engage even if that engagement is little more than shouting, name-calling or TYPING IN ALL CAPS!!!
 
“I think a blog at its best is a dinner party, and if you are the guy who shouts me down whenever I rise to speak, who questions my very motives for throwing this party in the first place: you are not invited,” Sloan writes. “Now, happily, it’s a special kind of dinner party. Anyone can listen in, and the front door is ajar. Come to think of it, there’s probably always an extra place set, Elijah-style. But even so: it’s a space that belongs to its authors, and they set its rules.”
 
Ambinder says he won’t abandon online and will continue to Tweet, but looks forward to writing without so many personal pronouns. He says he is ready to have an editor “who tells you when something sucks” and orders a piece to be rewritten.
 
Todd and Rosen both said they would be interested in hearing more from Ambinder about his perception of the differences between blogging and traditional journalists. But Ambinder declined my request for an interview.
 
Ambinder said in an e-mail that, “in keeping with the spirit of the piece,” he would let his blog post speak for itself. Read more
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A Viewer’s Guide: How to Watch Campaign Ads

It’s that time again, when scary stuff comes at you from your television, your computer and your mailbox. That’s right, it’s campaign season. (Maybe the founding fathers deliberately placed the biggest elections right after Halloween.)
 
With Election Day looming, campaign ads are flying. They are on television, the radio and the Internet. They are filling up your mailbox and, in a few instances, taking up space in your newspaper. That means the claims, accusations and boasts will be flying as well.
 
So how do you know what and who to believe? How do you know which candidates are telling the truth, about themselves or their opponents? How do you become a more discerning consumer of political ads?
 
You could take the advice offered up by Brooks Jackson, a veteran journalist who covered Washington and national politics for the Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal and CNN before launching FactCheck.org in 2003.
 
“Trust no one,” he said.
 
Jackson, who is now director of FactCheck.org, was being somewhat flip with his advice. But he says voters need to be aware that political campaigns don’t have to follow the same rules that apply to advertising for commercial products.
 
“There is absolutely no consumer protection whatsoever when it comes to political ads,” Jackson told me. “They have the legal right to lie to you.”
 
Most campaigns are careful not to tell outright lies, because it can backfire if they are caught red-handed telling a lie. Instead, they look for the gray areas.
 
“The overall pattern we see from nearly every campaign ad is they take a germ of truth and exaggerate it or twist it in some way,” said Bill Adair, Washington bureau chief for Poynter’s St. Petersburg Times and the editor in charge of PolitiFact, a Pulitizer Prize-winning news service that checks the veracity of campaign ads and statements by political figures.
 
Adair knows it can be difficult for voters to sift through all the information available these days.
 
“There is a paradox because we now have more information about candidates and campaigns than ever, but it’s coming from sources that are not necessarily reliable,” he said. “You have to make some effort to verify what you’re hearing.”
 
So, what’s a voter to do? For starters, it’s a good idea to become familiar with sites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact. They do the checking for you, at least in ads for high-profile races. The Center for Public Integrity has launched an effort to get voters to report on campaign ads they believe are backed by corporate or labor union money.
 
But as good as they are, those organizations can’t get to the thousands of ads bombarding voters. So we talked with Jackson and Adair, as well as a couple of political consultants from both sides of the partisan aisle, to put together a few tips.

We also consulted “UnSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation,” a 2007 book by Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania and director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center.

Based on this information, here is our viewer’s guide to what you should consider while viewing campaign ads.

 
What’s missing?
  • Instead of concentrating on what’s being said in a commercial, think about what may be missing. In a flier sent to your home, be wary when you see ellipses. That’s an indication the campaign is using only part of a quote from whatever source it is citing. They don’t want you see what’s being left out, so you need to check the original source yourself. It can be more difficult to discern what’s missing in a television or radio ad, when ellipses won’t be evident. But careful editing of video can change the meaning of what’s being said
Soothing but sinister
  • Jackson says voters should pay attention when the narrator of a television or radio ad is a woman speaking in a soft, soothing voice. That velvety touch may be providing cover for the hammer that’s about to be brought down on an opponent. “It’s frequently a tip-off that what they are about to tell you is so repugnant and rough that they think it will go down easier and be easier to believe if it is a woman’s voice,” Jackson said.
Who approved this ad?
  • Jackson worries when a candidate, in federal races, appears at the beginning of an ad (rather than at the end) to make the legally required statement that he or she approved the ad. That may mean the ad is going to be so ugly the campaign is hoping that by the end of the ad the viewer will have forgotten who approved it. 
Cited source
  • Campaigns try to lend credence to ads by including footnotes showing that the content of the ad came from a newspaper account, advocacy group or a study. But just because another source is cited doesn’t mean the material used accurately reflects what the original source said. If you have doubts, check the original source. FactCheck.org found that an ad by the American Crossroads “super Pac” misused a newspaper headline to imply that Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in Illinois, was at fault for the loss of millions of dollars in a college investment fund. Jackson also warns, though, to be wary of spots that don’t include citations for factual claims made in the ad.
Unflattering images
  • We’ve all seen ads with photos of the opponent that are grainy, blurred or otherwise distorted (sometimes deliberately) to make the candidate look less attractive. “A lot of people making ads are fairly young, fairly partisan, and they get wrapped up in their own causes,” said Carter Wrenn, a Republican political consultant in North Carolina. They allow their beliefs to influence their selection of images, he said. If a campaign is willing to distort the visuals, what’s to keep them from distorting the content of the ad? Meanwhile, look for the candidate being touted in the ad to appear in full color with an American flag blowing in the background. 
Nice guys are deceptive too
  • Campaigns can be as likely to stretch the truth when they are touting their candidate as when they are tearing down their opponent. Don’t assume the warm and fuzzy ads about the candidates are truthful. “Everybody focuses on the negative ads, but some of the biggest lies are in the positive ads,” said Gary Pearce, a longtime Democratic political consultant from North Carolina. In 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama ran an ad claiming “he worked his way through college.” FactCheck.org found that to be a stretch, given that Obama had worked a handful of summer jobs rather than juggling a class schedule and a work schedule at the same time.
Guilt by association
  • Campaigns will go out of their way to link candidates, fairly or unfairly, to more recognizable national figures who may be unpopular. In the current cycle, Republicans are doing that with President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “There does seem to be a competition to see who can find the least flattering photos of Obama and Pelosi,” Adair said. “They are trying to link their opponent with figures who they consider to be negative.”
Buzz words
If it’s only in the mail or online, be skeptical
  • Pay close attention to campaign material that comes in the mail or is only posted online. Those ads tend to fly under the radar and don’t get the kind of media scrutiny that television and radio ads get. “That’s a lot more free-wheeling,” Wrenn said.
Spooky music works in campaign ads just like it does in the movies
  • Much like the use of distorted photos of their opponents, campaigns use ominous music to suggest someone is up to something sinister. “That’s part of the theater of this,” Adair said. PolitiFact said an ad by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, that featured creepy music as it charged that his Republican rival wants to make it easier to put pets to death was “half true.”
Wrenn, the Republican political consultant from North Carolina, says he thinks voters already have a healthy does of skepticism when it comes to political ads. “It’s not like Americans haven’t been watching political ads for 30 years,” he said. “They approach a political ad with a little bit of disbelief.”
 
Pearce, his Democratic counterpart (they operate a political blog together), largely agrees. “The truth is that people are pretty sophisticated about this,” he said. “They realize that things can be twisted.”
 
But Jackson warns that voters can be fooled, especially when they hear the same message repeated whenever they turn on their televisions.
 
“The people who write deceptive messages count on people not taking the time to check it out and validate it,” Jackson said. “It’s better to ignore this stuff if you’re not certain it’s true. Just because you’ve heard something 45 times doesn’t make it any more true.” Read more
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Deadspin’s Daulerio on Favre: ‘I knew there was something there’

Deadspin broke the Brett Favre story. But it took the NFL to get it into traditional media outlets.
 
Newspapers and news broadcasts have been filled this week with stories about the allegation that Favre, when he was a quarterback with the New York Jets in 2008, sent naked photos of his private parts to Jenn Sterger, a young woman who worked as a “game day host” for the Jets.
 
But that was more than two months after Deadspin, an irreverent sports website that is part of Gawker Media, first published the allegation. The initial story by A.J. Daulerio, editor-in-chief of Deadspin, was based on an off-the-record conversation Daulerio said he had with Sterger about the incident. Daulerio wrote at the time that he had been unable to get Sterger to go on the record with her story or to provide him with copies of the photos.
 
But Daulerio published anyway, saying he was convinced the story was true. The story was largely ignored by the mainstream press and lambasted by a handful of sports blogs and websites who feared Daulerio and Deadspin were damaging their efforts to establish some sort of journalistic credibility for online sites. There was no response from Favre.
 
Daulerio published the allegation again last Thursday, but this time he had photos and voice mail recordings. Deadspin described the recordings as “strange messages Jenn Sterger received from someone she was led to believe was Brett Favre.”

The story said Sterger was “still reluctant” to go on the record, and that the photos and voice mail messages had been acquired from an unnamed third party. Daulerio said Deadspin paid the source for the information, but declined to say how much. Sterger, who is now the “blogstress” for The Daily Line, a sports show on Versus, has still not talked publicly about the story.

 
“This is a story that I was really, really interested in getting,” Daulerio told me. “I followed up on it, and I really pushed for it. There are things I become all-consumed with, and this was one of those things. I knew there was something there.”
 
The story finally started to get a little attention in the mainstream press. A New York Post reporter asked Favre, now the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings, about it later that day at a regular weekly news conference. Favre’s response (“I’m not getting into that”) made it into some newspapers and local newscasts.

It also drew some criticism, with a post by Michael Priebe (“an admitted Favre apologist”) on the sports website Bleacher Report declaring the report by “the bottom-feeding website Deadspin” as “The Death of Sports Journalism.”

 
But it was not until the NFL announced the next day, Friday, that it was going to look into the allegations that most traditional media outlets published the allegations. Then it was everywhere.

“The Today Show” did a lengthy report, including an interview with Daulerio. The Associated Press filed a story. Dan Patrick and Peter King discussed it, without mentioning Deadspin, during NBC’s “Football Night in America” on Sunday night. And local media in Minnesota that had previously ignored the story reported on the NFL investigation.

 
“I think once it was clear the league was looking into it, everyone got into the water,” said Gerry Ahern, assistant managing editor for Yahoo! Sports and an officer of Associated Press Sports Editors.
 
Mike Bass, sports editor of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, told me: “Once the NFL said it was going to investigate, it became a story for us.” Until then, Bass said, all Deadspin had was allegations that weren’t being corroborated by the person supposedly making the allegations.
 
“In that case, what are you going to report?” Bass said. “If we uncovered through reporting information that we felt was solid and sourced, would we have written something? Sure. But we didn’t have it. There was nothing to substantiate anything.”
Chris Ison, a former investigative reporter and editor for The Star Tribune in Minneapolis, is now a journalism professor at the University of Minnesota. He said the NFL’s announcement that it was going to investigate the allegations “gave it much more legitimacy” and that mainstream news outlets had an obligation at that point to report it.
 
“It’s kind of easy to wait and say the NFL decided to look into it so we decided it’s news,” Ison told me. “You’d like to be more independent than that.”
 
Despite those concerns, Ison said he understands why most newsrooms don’t take the time to pursue such stories. Ison and others cited numerous difficulties with a story such as the one about Favre — sources who are unwilling to talk, the discomfort mainstream media outlets traditionally have with stories involving sex, and questions about the relevance of the story even if it is true.
 
“Newsrooms are not as big as they used to be,” he said. “You can’t go after every allegation you hear. In some ways, this is kind of a natural progression for the news, where the tabloid that does this sort of stuff anyway actually hits on one that becomes news for the mainstream media. That may not be such a bad thing.”
 
David Brauer, the local media reporter for MinnPost.com, examined the local media’s hesitation about reporting the allegations against Favre. He sided with those outlets that chose to pass on the story after the initial report.
 
“But when it comes to Favre, my bottom line is: even potentially skeevy celebrities deserve fairness. Until the voicemails emerged, there wasn’t enough for me to add my professional voice to Deadspin’s megaphone,” Brauer wrote.
 
Timothy Franklin, director of the National Sports Journalism Center at Indiana University, said he’s sure readers and viewers of mainstream media outlets are wondering why they were so slow to pick up the story, much like when the National Enquirer beat everyone on the story about presidential candidate John Edwards having an affair with a campaign aide.

(I was the political editor at The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, when the Edwards story broke, so I can understand the challenges mainstream journalists face in dealing with the Favre story. I can also attest to feeling sick about getting beat on such an important story.)

 
But Franklin said mainstream news outlets should stick to their standards, even if that means they don’t get certain stories first.
 
“News organizations that stick to their ethical standards but who aggressively try to get to the facts of a case will ultimately be the ones who are successful,” Franklin said.
 
Malcolm Moran, a longtime sports reporter and columnist for papers such as The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune and USA Today, is the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society at Penn State University. He said the safety net that journalists once enjoyed — the time to fully develop stories without fear of it showing up elsewhere — is gone. He said that’s also true for the athletes they cover.
 
“It’s been clear for quite some time that any professional athlete, and many college athletes, have been put on notice that any inappropriate behavior is likely to see the light of day because there are so many more vehicles,” he told me. That means editors at mainstream outlets will have to decide if they are willing to take more risks of getting a story wrong in the effort to get the story first.
 
“How much risk is considered acceptable if your premise is that 100 percent accuracy is the goal?” he asked. “At what point are you willing to take that chance?”
 
Daulerio doesn’t have much use for all the hand-wringing in traditional media circles. He said some stories can be advanced by putting out part of the story, knowing there are holes in it, as he did with the initial report in August. He said the initial report generated additional sources and leads that he followed in putting together last week’s story.
 
“I knew the risks involved,” he said. “I was very, very confident that Jenn Sterger was telling the truth.”
 
Daulerio said the story has driven huge numbers of readers to Deadspin’s site — “probably our best day ever” — but insists that there’s more to it than just chasing Web traffic.
 
“Our goal is to get the truth out there and that’s it,” he said.

Editor’s Note: Poynter has a longtime association with Brett Favre’s cousin, Gregory Favre, who was in no way involved with this story.

Another Editor’s Note: However, Gregory Favre was involved in this story, and by the looks of it, a bunch of newspapers are going to have to run editors’ notes with their Favre stories.

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As More People Research Products Online, Will News Advertising Suffer?

Americans are increasingly relying on the Internet to help them make smart decisions about purchases, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.
 
The center found that 58 percent of Americans have done research online about products and services they buy. A similar survey taken in 2004 found that 49 percent of Americans did online research of items they were planning to buy.
 
The latest survey was administered to 3,001 adults from Aug. 9 through Sept. 13.
 
“The increase in product and service research online coincides with a general trend in stepped up use of the Internet for commercial activities,” Pew said in its report on the survey.
 
Pew says the increased use of the Internet to become smarter shoppers also coincides with a big jump in the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. The latest survey found that 46 percent of Americans reported using a social network site, a leap from 5 percent in a similar survey in 2005.
 
The latest findings come as news organizations are facing challenges to their longstanding role, primarily through advertising, of providing information on products and services. Coupons, a steady source of income for newspapers, are now being provided digitally through fast-growing direct marketing companies such as Groupon and the Newspaper Association of America published a paper late last year warning that newspaper inserts, including coupons, are “under siege.” Read more
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When Bedbugs Became News, the Bedbug Registry Became a Debated Source

For three years, hardly anyone noticed the quirky little Web site Maciej Ceglowski created to keep track of bedbugs.
 
That was fine with Ceglowski, because it was more of a personal matter to him after bedbugs bit him one night in a Travelodge in San Francisco.
 
“It was good psychological therapy for me to get back at the bedbug,” Ceglowski told me in a recent interview.
 
But bedbugs are in the news these days, with numerous reports about a rise in infestations nationwide in apartment buildings, hotels and other buildings. And suddenly Ceglowski’s website, bedbugregistry.com, is not so little anymore.

At the beginning of the year, Ceglowski’s website might have had 3,000 visitors a day and 20 reports of bedbug sightings. Now, the site gets up to 40,000 visitors and 100 new reports a day. (That’s down from a peak of 50,000 visitors a day in August.)

 
Intended or not, bedbugregistry.com has become a source of news. For some, it’s an example of the potential of crowdsourcing, where thousands of anecdotal reports come together to identify clusters of bedbugs in cities around the country. That relies on the assumption, though, that the information reported is accurate. And that gives some people pause.

Ceglowski says public health officials have called his site irresponsible, and hotel owners have threatened to sue him for allowing people to anonymously report the names of hotels where they claim bedbugs were found. Gawker has mocked the site.

Ceglowski, a 35-year-old freelance computer programmer who lives in San Francisco, does not consider himself a journalist. Journalists, he says, go out and gather information and then use that information to tell a story. “I sit in my underpants and have a database that fills up,” he said. 
 
But Ceglowski is careful to preserve his independence. There are ads on his site, but they are handled by Google. “So I have no say in what ads will run on the site, except for the ability to turn off ads altogether if I choose,” Ceglowski told me in an e-mail. “I like this arrangement because it puts me at arm’s length from sponsors.”

Accuracy of bedbug reports raises questions

No one has collected more anecdotal information about bedbug infestations than Ceglowski, who makes them available in a searchable database and a series of searchable maps. The reports come from all over the place, more than 20,000 reports about 12,000 locations at last count.

Ceglowski tries to weed out prank claims, but otherwise posts whatever comes in. The person making the report is not named on the site, but Ceglowski insists on having an e-mail address he can respond to if a post draws questions. 

 
And then he tells those reading his site to beware. One of the questions in the site’s FAQ is: “How can you be sure these reports are true?”
 
The answer? “We can’t — this is the Internet!” the site reads. “All our bedbug reports are submitted through this site, and have not been vetted for accuracy. We do our best to flag posts that have been disputed, but we remind our readers to take things with a grain of salt.”
 
That has not been enough to stop local reporters from using Ceglowski’s site as the basis for stories about bedbug infestations in their communities. Their reports rarely have the sort of cautionary red flags that Ceglowski waves on his website.
 
A recent headline in the (New Orleans) Times-Picayune read: “Bedbug problem creeping toward New Orleans.” The story was based on a search of Ceglowski’s registry. “Despite multiple bedbug reports in the case of several hotels, the suspected infestations couldn’t be definitively confirmed,” the story read.
 
The website for the Fox television affliate in Detroit recently used the registry to report that Detroit is “one of the top cities with bedbug infestations along with New York and Philadelphia.” And a Las Vegas television station reported that it had searched the site and found 41 Las Vegas establishments had reports of bedbugs. “The bedbug reports are not confirmed by an independent source,” read the report.

Ceglowski’s website was discussed during a recent media ethics seminar hosted by Poynter at Kent State University. Sarah Cohen, a journalism professor at Duke University and former database editor for The Washington Post, said she would have difficulty publishing data from the site. “Some of it’s true and some of it’s not,” she said. “You would have absolutely no idea if any of this were true.”
 
Most troubling, Cohen said, was not knowing what information might be missing from the site. Those who report bedbug sightings are motivated — by anger, public service, fear — to take the time to file a report. How many others are not filling reports, either because they don’t know about the site or because they lack adequate motivation?
 
“How do you judge what’s not on it rather than what’s on it?” Cohen asked. 
 
Adrian Holovaty of EveryBlock.com, a member of Poynter’s national advisory boad, did not have the same reservations.
 
“When you design a system like this, you have to set the proper expectations,” Holovaty said during the panel discussion. “It should be very clear that, hey, this is only stuff that’s reported to us by these random people. It’s not complete. It’s just basic Internet 101, setting expectations and being fair and honest about it.”
 
Daren Brabham, a University of North Carolina journalism professor who did his dissertation on crowdsourcing, says the site advises users about the possible shortcomings of the information. He says the warnings should probably be featured on the home page, but he’s impressed by what Ceglowski has assembled.
 
“I like the site and I like what it’s doing,” Brabham told me. “It’s pretty straightforward.”
 
Anonymity worries hoteliers

The volume of reports he is receiving makes it impossible to verify the accuracy of each post, says Ceglowski, who frequently gets complaints from hotel and apartment owners. He says he urges them to post their side of the story, but is reluctant to take a post off the site.

 
“The sheer volume of submissions vouches that something is going on,” Ceglowski said.
 
Ceglowski says he allows people to post reports anonymously because people fear retribution from landlords.
 
“That’s the main reason,” he said. “A secondary reason is that not many people want bedbugs coming up when you search their name.”
 
Kathryn Potter, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the American Hotel & Lodging Association, says hotel owners and managers are bothered by the anonymity and the lack of a vetting process.
 
“I’m hearing a lot of angst from our hotel companies,” Potter told me. “Their currency is their good reputation.”
 
Ceglowski allows hotels to post a “dispute” to a report about their hotel. But Potter says that’s not always sufficient. “Once your name is up on the bedbug registry, it’s very difficult for hotels to overcome that,” she said.
 
After his own encounter with bedbugs, Ceglowski did a lot of reading and concluded that hotels are often victims as well.
 

“It was pretty obvious from what I read that hotels were powerless to prevent the problem (though they could take steps to treat it once it happened)…” he told me in an e-mail. “The only hotels I have animosity for are the small group that knowingly allows infestations to persist, either because they serve an impoverished clientele, or because they deal mostly with tourists who only spend a night or two and never come back.”

Public service does not equal journalism

Brabham said sites such as bedbugregistry.com — put together by someone with a very narrow, but intense interest in a subject — are increasingly part of the journalism mix whether their creators consider themselves journalists or not.
 
“I think that’s what makes journalists and journalism professors nervous,” he said, noting that the people behind such sites may not place much importance on traditional journalistic values such as verifying information before publishing and being transparent about the source of the information.
 
“It’s up to sites like these to see themselves as serving a public information service,” Brabham said. “When somebody denies they are a journalist when they are doing journalistic work, it’s a little problematic.”
 
Ceglowski has mixed feelings about such concerns. He says he’s not comfortable with people using his site as a “black list” for hotels, but says there is a need for the information his site provides.
 
“This is a good example of where the Internet can do something that wasn’t possible before,” he told me.
 
Ceglowski says there is a cultural divide between people who are comfortable with the Internet and those who are not. “If you go into the site with your critical thinking facilities turned on, it’s extremely helpful,” he said.
Coverage misses subtleties
 
Ceglowski deals regularly with reporters for traditional media outlets, and he’s often disappointed by their work. He says everyone seems to write the same article at the same time; they often fail to get basic facts correct; and it’s not uncommon for them to use a photo of something other than a bedbug.
 
“The time pressure they operate under, especially for TV reporters, is so ridiculous,” he said. “They take a lot of shortcuts. It’s been a frustration to some of the entomologists I talk to.”
 
Brabham said news and information consumers must be smarter, and more diligent, about determining what sources they can rely on in what he calls the “Wild West” of today’s journalism landscape. 
 
But Brabham admits he probably would not stay in a hotel listed on bedbugregistry.com — despite qualms he has about whether the information on the site is accurate.

“Unfortunately, this sort of stuff does have an impact,” he said, “even on people like me who are trained to look at information.”
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Students Prefer Printed College Newspapers over Online

Students have returned to college campuses armed with laptops, smart phones and countless other electronic gadgets. Yet most still turn to a print newspaper for their campus news.

The printed versions of college newspapers continue to thrive, with students grabbing copies as they go from one class to another. It’s not unusual to see students reading about the latest campus news while eating a quick lunch or taking a break on the lawn.

It’s far less likely that the wired generation, raised with iPods and smart phones, is checking out the news on the newspaper’s website.

Robert Adams, director of student publications at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, said the printed version of the College Heights Herald is far more popular than its website.

“It really goes against the grain,” Adams told me. “The students who are starting class today are not newspaper readers from experience. Why they don’t go online is sort of a mystery.”

I talked with several college newspaper advisors across the country, and they all said their print newspapers are much more popular than their online versions. But many of them say they know why.

“My experience is that if something is free and it’s convenient to get and whatever is in it is relevant to them, they have no qualms about printed versus non-printed,” said Kevin Schwartz, general manager of The Daily Tar Heel at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “A college newspaper, if it’s done right, is all of those things.”

The Daily Tar Heel, for example, publishes 18,000 copies, five days a week. They are distributed free at 205 locations around the campus. And the staff works hard to catch the attention of incoming freshmen and others new to the campus, mailing an edition of the newspaper to about 9,000 newcomers over the summer. The paper also prints a guide for new students and an edition welcoming students back to school.

“Some of these kids have never had a newspaper in their house,” Schwartz said. “If you start picking up the DTH your first year, we feel like we’ve got you for four years.”

The Daily Tar Heel’s website has done better than most of its counterparts, with traffic spiking for big news stories or the basketball’s team run to a national championship in 2009. But many of those readers aren’t students.

“Our website, we know from registrations, is very popular among parents, prospective students, visitors and alumni,” Schwartz said.

Ron Johnson, the director of student media at Indiana University in Bloomington, said traffic on the Indiana Daily Student‘s website is growing, with more than 700,000 page views annually. That’s compared to a daily circulation of the printed paper of 14,000, with almost 200 distribution points on campus. But Johnson said much of the online traffic is not from students.

“Sports drives our site, and commentary,” Johnson said. “We have a strong alumni base that enjoys reading the paper. Only about 30 percent of our page views come from within Bloomington.”

Meanwhile, the student editors were on campus handing out editions of the paper as students returned for classes earlier this month.

Eric Weil is managing partner of Student Monitor, a New Jersey company that surveys college students nationally twice a year about their reading habits. He said a large percentage of students — 56 percent — say they don’t even know if their campus newspaper is available online. Interest in the print edition, though, remains high, with 63 percent of students classifying themselves as frequent or light readers of the print edition of the campus newspaper, according to a survey taken in spring 2010.

“It’s timely, it’s current, it’s about me and, oh, by the way, it’s free,” Weil said. “And terribly convenient.”

Ron Spielberger, executive director of College Media Advisors and an associate professor of journalism at the University of Memphis, said that, like their commercial counterparts, college newspapers have struggled to make money on the Web. (The print version typically does much better financially, although the business model varies from campus to campus.) Spielberger said the development of mobile apps may get students to read those publications on their smart phones.

The Shorthorn, the campus newspaper at the University of Texas at Arlington, is in the early stages of developing an app for smart phones. Until then, the printed version is likely to be the platform of choice for students.

“College newspapers are niche publications,” said Lloyd Goodman, director of student publications at the university. “Students like to pick it up, read it over lunch. It’s still a community newspaper.”

That may help explain why, in general, local commercial newspapers have had trouble gaining a foothold with students. Several of the college newspaper advisors I spoke with described repeated — and unsuccessful — efforts by commercial newspapers in their areas to sell more on campus.

“I don’t see students hovering over the Los Angeles Times here,” said Mona Cravens, director of student publications at the University of Southern California. “The faculty, staff and students have come to rely on the Daily Trojan for what’s going on on campus.”

Weil, of Student Monitor, said college students do read the online editions of national newspapers such as The New York Times and USA Today.

The New York Times has had success penetrating the college market, distributing about 130,000 copies a day on more than 1,200 college campuses, according to Diane McNulty, a spokeswoman for the Times. McNulty said 31 percent of college students read the printed or online versions of the Times.

“More college students do read us online than in print,” McNulty told me in an e-mail. “We encourage them to read Times content on any platform.”

Stephen Heleker, student body president at Boise State University, told me in an e-mail that students spend so much time on computers doing school work that “they value the respite offered” by the print version of the college newspaper. “It definitely becomes part of the routine at college.” Read more

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Egg Industry Website Gets Boost from Media During Salmonella Recall

Search Google for “egg safety” and the first link that comes up is for the Egg Safety Center.

Seems like a logical place to look for information about the largest egg recall in the nation’s history. That’s what The Washington Post and a handful of other media outlets apparently thought when they provided a link to the website for their readers and viewers.

What they didn’t tell their audiences was that the site was the work of United Egg Producers, a cooperative of many of the nation’s egg producers. That’s because they apparently didn’t know.

Several readers contacted Andrew Alexander, the ombudsman for the Post, to ask why they were being directed to an egg industry site to get tips on how to safely purchase and prepare eggs during the recall. More than a half-billion eggs have been recalled nationally because of a salmonella outbreak connected to two farms in Iowa. The outbreak has caused almost 1,500 reported illnesses, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Why would the Washington Post provide an unpaid promotional announcement to the egg industry in the middle of the largest ever recall of eggs?” one reader wrote to Alexander. “Shouldn’t we rely on the food safety experts in the government rather than the self-serving information from the food industry?”

Alexander, in a blog post, agreed. He wrote that government sites such as one by the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration are better choices for wary consumers. “They’re run by agencies operating on behalf of the public,” Alexander wrote.

The reporter on one of the stories told Alexander the link was a “last-minute add” to a story written on a tight deadline. Another Post reporter told Alexander he picked up the link out of the earlier story.

“I don’t think deadline is an excuse,” Alexander told me in an interview. “Whenever you link to any site, you need to take the time to find out what it really is.”

The Post wasn’t alone in its mistake. A quick search of the Web found articles by the Associated Press, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, S.C., and WTAP-TV in Parkersburg, W. Va., that also linked to eggsafety.org without noting that it was an industry site. Cathleen Moxley, a reporter for WTAP, told me the story was provided by NBC as part of a “video on demand” service.

At first glance, it’s hard to tell that eggsafety.org is connected to the egg industry, as the words “United Egg Producers” appear only at the bottom right of the home page. The words “Egg Safety Center” are prominent at the top of the page. At one point during the recall, the site highlighted what appeared to be an alert from the FDA. The site welcomes readers with this:

“The Egg Safety Center works to educate consumers on ways to further reduce the incidence of food-borne illnesses related to egg products; provide producers with the most-up-to-date information available; and act as a food safety resource for retailers and food service companies in the U.S.”

Sounds reasonable, right?

Alexander said much of the site’s information seemed legitimate and even helpful. But he noted that the site put the industry’s spin on the latest news. The “alert,” for example, read, “FDA Announces No Additional Egg Recalls: Less Than One Percent Of All U.S. Eggs Affected.”

“That’s true,” Alexander told me, “but another headline might be, ‘Largest Egg Safety Recall In American History.’ “

The website for the “Egg Safety Center” looks like it may have been created in response to the recent recall, but the public relations firm that created it says the site has been around since the early 1990s. There is not a lot of content on the site, but a lot of it is related to the recall. Interestingly, the center’s site is not listed in a collection of links found on the website for United Egg Producers. The center’s Twitter account had only 88 followers as of Thursday. The first tweet went out a few weeks ago.

I never heard directly from anyone with United Egg Producers, but did receive an e-mail from Jewanna Porter with GolinHarris, the PR firm that says it was responsible for the website’s design. Porter said the website was redesigned early this year.

“The Egg Safety Center is an industry-funded, informational resource for consumers on properly handling, cooking and storing egg products in an effort to reduce the incidence of food-borne illness,” Porter wrote, echoing the site’s welcome message. “And no, it was not created for the egg recall (but to be a resource for both consumers and the food industry).”

But she said the egg recall has raised the site’s profile. Before the recall, she said, the website received about 1,000 page views a month. During a two-week peak of the recall, the website received about 1.6 million page views.

Dean Miller, director of the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University, says news consumers should pay attention to what he calls “the APCs” to determine the validity of an online source of news. That stands for Authority, Point of View and Currency (e.g., whether the site has recent information and the links are still live).

Miller noted that the Egg Safety Center site includes the logo for United Egg Producers. “On the one hand, that gives that source of information a fair amount of authority,” Miller told me. “Certainly they should know about eggs. But they have a point of view. You’ve got to take this information with a grain of salt. Maybe there’s an independent source of information on this.”

Miller was surprised media outlets directed their audiences to the site without noting its industry ties.

“When you’re curating the link, you could say here’s the industry’s egg safety information, and you could pair it with other egg safety information sources,” he said. “I don’t want to pass judgment on the scientific validity of what’s there. It may be quite good. But, as a news consumer, you would stop and say the egg industry, at a minimum, might phrase things differently than an independent scientist would. The egg industry has a dog in the fight, as we would say.”

Corby Kummer, who writes about food as a senior editor for The Atlantic, says the food industry routinely hides behind heartwarming images of family farms or an official-sounding research or safety center. “Welcome to the food industry,” Kummer told me. “There is absolutely nothing new about this.”

The Post’s Alexander said he didn’t consider the Post’s link to eggsafety.org “a major journalistic transgression.”

“It’s just a reminder that things like this can erode accountability,” he told me. “By providing any link, you are saying to readers, ‘Here is a credible link for information.’ If readers see self-interest in the site, your credibility suffers just a little bit.” Read more

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Sports Illustrated’s Peter King Shows You Can Teach Old Dogs New Tweets

Peter King didn’t particularly want to write a weekly online column and he certainly wasn’t interested in Twitter. He had a full-time job covering the NFL for Sports Illustrated, thank you, and that was quite enough.

 
But King, 53, wanted to remain relevant. So he agreed when his editors first suggested in 1997 that he write a weekly column for SI.com, and later when they asked him to take some time most days to send out a few tweets.
“I was not excited about it when it started,” King told me in a recent interview. “But I always fear getting left behind by some new form of communication.”
King still writes for the weekly magazine, but he has plenty of readers for his online work. His Monday Morning Quarterback column for SI.com has about 2.5 million weekly readers during football season and about 1.5 million in the off-season, according to a spokeswoman for SI.

About 433,000 people follow King on Twitter. That volume is staggering. By contrast, Mike Wise, the Washington Post sports reporter who was recently suspended for a month after posting a fake “scoop” on his Twitter account, has about 3,800 followers. On the other end of the spectrum, Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy for ESPN.com, has more than 1.2 million Twitter followers.

In making the transition from print guy to multi-platform guy, King has crashed through the wall that has traditionally separated journalists from readers by taking a very personal and conversational approach to the work he does online.

A window into his workday

There’s still plenty of NFL reporting and analysis in what King does on SI.com and Twitter, just as there is in the stories he does for the weekly print magazine as a senior writer.

But King’s online work is liberally sprinkled with tidbits about the life of Peter King — what sort of coffee he likes, his latest travel hassle, a movie he enjoyed: “Loved Despicable Me, and yes, I’m an old softie. Even better: Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work. You’ve got to see that.” He recently wrote about his encounter with the Catwoman, a passenger seated next to him on a plane who showed him the tattoo of her cat that covered most of her left calf.

 
“I’m trying to write a column that’s entertaining to the masses, a column that’s not only informational about the NFL but that’s fun to read about a life that’s tangential to the NFL,” King told me by phone from Baltimore, where he was continuing a series of visits to NFL training camps.
King said that when he first started the weekly online column, one of his editors told him he needed to do more than dump his notebook full of NFL nuggets onto the screen.

“He said, ‘People want to go along with you when you do your job,’ ” King recalled. ” ‘People think your job is the coolest in the world. So I think there is great value in just telling people what your life is like as you go about doing your job.’ “
So King writes about the half-marathon he plans to run after shooting off his mouth that the Cincinnati Bengals would never sign wide receiver Terrell Owens. (They did, and many readers have delighted in pointing out that King said he would run a marathon — not a half-marathon — if the Bengals signed Owens.)

King writes about charities that he supports, and gives his readers the information they need if they want to chip in. He writes about seeing fireworks one night in his hometown of Boston, and his gripe that they didn’t start until 10:37 p.m. (“Geezers like me tend to be nodding off during the crescendo.”) And he wrote a tribute to his brother, Bob, who died of a heart attack earlier this year while bike-riding in Connecticut.

King told me that he limits how much he writes about himself. His weekly columns are long — about 8,000 words — and he said that at least 80 percent of it should be about the NFL.

And the column is packed with information about the NFL. One recent installment included reports from five different NFL training camps, a detailed analysis of the 10 quarterbacks drafted in 2007 and a lengthy list of “Ten Things I Think I Think” that included King’s opinion on subjects including the best running back on the Miami Dolphins, the latest on Albert Haynesworth’s showdown with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and the contract holdout by cornerback Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets.

“People are mostly reading me to read about the NFL,” he said.

The sportswriter as a personality

Growing up in northern Connecticut, King was a fan of the Boston Red Sox and outfielder Carl Yastrzemski. He was also a fan of the journalists who covered them, but said they were as distant to him as any of the Red Sox players.

“That has changed over the years,” King said. “We are encouraged to be seen and be heard.”
 
That sort of distance doesn’t work as well in an online world where readers are accustomed to engaging with what they read on blogs or Twitter.

King said he spent 20 minutes one day responding to questions from some of the people who follow him on Twitter. That’s not unusual. It enables him to connect, one-on-one, with a reader while providing information to thousands of others. “Peter King replied to me on twitter,” wrote shawn_woods15. “I feel pretty important right now.”

King’s tweeting rhythm varies. Some days he only posts a handful. Some days he posts dozens, starting as early as 5 a.m. and tweeting into the evening hours. Using TweetDeck, he often retweets commentary by others, offering his own theories and opinions on the sports speculation of the day.

How social media has changed his reporting

King appreciates the immediacy afforded by working online. To demonstrate the dramatic shift in his approach to storytelling, he described the time in 1996 when Brett Favre, then the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, told him on a Wednesday night that he was checking into rehab for abusing Vicodin.

The story didn’t appear anywhere until Sports Illustrated published eight days later. If that happened now, King said, he would have the basic news up on his Twitter account within five minutes and tell people to check out SI.com, where he would provide a fuller story within an hour.

But that immediacy, and the urge to be first, can create problems. King has fact-checkers and editors for the work he does for the magazine and his weekly online column. No one is checking his tweets.
“If I have any sincere doubt about the validity of anything I’ve heard, I’m not going to put it up there,” King said. “I’m not going to say, ‘Hey, I’m not sure if this is true or not but I just heard that Eli Manning is retiring.’ I wouldn’t do that. I feel like if I put something up there, people are going to believe it. And they should believe it.”
King has no complaints about the demands the online work places on him. It is what expected of journalists these days, particularly sports reporters trying to feed a constant appetite for news and information about their favorite teams and players.
Mike Sando, treasurer of Pro Football Writers of America, is a former sports reporter for The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., who now covers the NFC West for ESPN.com. He said the demands on sportswriters have increased tremendously.
“Reporters are finding out how much they really love their jobs,” Sando told me in an e-mail. “Those who really love the work will have a chance to brand themselves in ways traditional newspaper work did not allow, but the grind isn’t for everyone.”
Spacer Spacer

King said the job can be something of a grind during football season, but that he knows a more leisurely off-season awaits.

“It’s a job that you’re obviously always involved with,” King said. “But I love my job.” Read more
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