sree sreenivasan

Columbia Journalism Professor
Poynter Visiting New Media Professor
WNBC-TV Tech Reporter
http://www.Sree.net
http://www.SreeTips.com


Political Quotes, Anyone?

I
usually find out about sites for this column through reader tips, links
from other sites and notes from friends who say, “check this out.”
Rarely do I learn about useful sites via press releases.

But this week is an exception, because I got a press release yesterday with an eye-catching (but long) headline:

World’s Largest Collection of Political & Historical Quotations Available on the Web

Powerful Tool Includes Sources & Citations to Meet Journalistic, Editorial and Scholarship Standards

Turns out the site in question is PoliticalQuotes.org,
the home of Eigen’s Political & Historical Quotations. It offers,
at no charge, “over 40,000 quotations from more than 11,000 different
historical and political figures can be accessed through a powerful
fourth-generation search engine that is simple to use for the novice,
yet powerful enough for the most complicated Boolean and conceptual
searches for the sophisticated researcher.” Am not quite sure what a
fourth-generation search engine is, but I decided to give it a try.

I
went to the site and typed in “Gandhi” and up came 79 quotations, 61 of
them by Mohandas K., the rest by other famous Indian Gandhis, Indira
and Sonia. I kept reading and found this quote by Indira Gandhi, the
then Prime Minister of India: “I don’t mind if my life goes in the service of the nation. If I die today every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation.
She said this on Oct. 30, 1984, the day before she was assassinated by
her own bodyguards. I was glad to see the date listed, but would have
liked to see an attribution — perhaps the publication or broadcast
outlet that confirmed the quotation.

On that same page, I scrolled down to the “keywords” section and clicked on “assassination,” which brought up more than 100 quotes on the topic, including this one from John F. Kennedy: “If anyone is crazy enough to want to kill a President of the United
States, he can do it. All he must be prepared to do is give his life
for the President’s
.”
Unfortunately, not only is there no attribution, but there’s also no
date provided. So I decided to call the number on the press release and
ask about it.

The Eigen in the title is Dr. Lewis
Eigen, described in the press release as “the Editor & Compiler,”
has worked on this project for almost 30 years. He explained that
he and his editors have read through and researched every one of these
quotes, and that they stand by them so that journalists and others can
cite “Eigen’s Political & Historical Quotations” or
“PoliticalQuotes.org.”

About 12,000 of these quotes were
published several years ago as The Macmillan Dictionary of Political
Quotations — and that took 1,000 pages. Eigen is able to offer more
than three times as many quotes and do it at a price everyone will
like: free.

Be sure to read the preface page,
which provides “editorial guidelines, searching methodology and
assistance for the user” and also explains the role of the Eigen-Arnett
Education and Cultural Foundation in making all this available at
no cost.

I will have to do a lot more spot-checking before I can declare this
something I could cite without hesitation (and even then, as we know,
nothing this big can ever be 100 percent accurate). In the meantime,
this is an interesting new resource and definitely worth bookmarking.

UPDATE 5/28/2006:
After a couple of readers why there would be any quotes without attributions, I put the question to Dr. Eigen via e-mail. Here’s his respsonse.

There are several reasons:
First, there are many quotations where the number of contemporaneous sources and sources thereafter all tend to agree about the quotation but there is disagreement about the date or source.  We chose not to randomly pick one over another.

Second, there are some quotations which for hundreds of years scholars have agreed are genuine but there is no specific citation for any of them.  We thought about not including those, but then thought that would be too arrogant.

Third, there are some where we made a mistake and the citation was not entered into the computer or entered in the wrong place.  These we fix as we find them.

Fourth, quotations emanating from cultures of oral traditions (eg Native Americans, most African cultures, have no specifics other than the contemporary “culture keeper” or “history singer”.  Our manual discusses this in detail and the reasons for our choice to include these.

All this is with the background that we do accept secondary sources where we think these are reasonably reliable.  And sometimes these lack specifics.

So the issues are more complex than meets the eye.  We are not sure we have made the best decision in each case, but we tried.  The manual gives our criteria and standards that we used so we have done all this in a transparent manner.

While no one can be scientifically certain that all these quotes are genuine, we can say that based on the criteria that we set down and followed, these quotations are all much more likely than not to be genuine.

Lewis D. Eigen, leigen [at] shs.net

YOUR TURN: Send me suggestions for sites you find useful by e-mailing poynter@sree.net.

Sree’s Links
Sree’s “Blogging for Journalists
workshop: Tuesday, June 13, 2006, at Columbia University in New York
City — a one-night workshop on starting a blog — or improving one you
already have. Lots of tips and ideas.

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Neil Reisner’s Place

Time to add to my occasional series on Web heroes and heroines, people who work tirelessly to help the rest of us understand the Internet better. Joining Gary Price, Tara Calishain and Wendy Boswell this week is Neil Reisner, a journalism professor at Florida International University, veteran reporter and long-time Internet trainer.

Unlike the previous three heroes, I have known Reisner for years and have learned a lot in person from him. He once wrote to me: “I’ve come to the conclusion that the Web is the best thing that’s ever happened to good journalists… and the worst thing that ever happened to lazy ones.” Instead of just complaining about it, he’s built a site that can help the good and the lazy

His site, at nreisner.com, is called “Reisner’s Place” and has the perfect tag line: “Nothing Fancy. Just Reisner.” His site is, indeed, pretty plain, but there’s lots of good and useful material here.
  • COURSES: Under the FIU tab on the site you will find links to materials he uses in his courses, including:
    Database & Public Records Reporting/Journalism 3121
    , which covers the basics of public records and computer-assisted reporting. The class focuses on the three legs of the CAR stool: spreadsheets, database managers and adroit use of the Internet, as well as public information laws and use of public records by journalists.

  • FINDING PEOPLE: Be sure to visit his handy Finding (Almost) Anybody page.
  • PUBLIC RECORDS: Another useful section is his page on backgrounding people and businesses using public records. Look at all the neat things he covers:
    Know the Records: How to find public records, how to know what’s available. Some guides and tips.

    Know Where to Get the Records: A collection of good public records/data links, with the caveat that it’s never safe to assume that what you [want] is online — it might just as well be on paper.

    Know How to Negotiate for Records: Once you’re found your records — and found you can’t download them — how do you pry them loose? Charm often does the trick, but sometimes you have to play hardball.

    Know How to Search for Records:
    Sometimes it seems like everything that’s anything is online. That is, until you try to search for it. Too often we spend a lot of time looking only to find that what we seek is not there. Or, the mirror image, we find so much that it’s impossible to sift the wheat from the chaff. Here are some online searching tips.

    Know What to Do with Records When You Get Them: Once you have the records, you need to import them into a program so you can work with them. Here’s how to get started.

  • After we saw each other at last weekend’s alumni event at our alma mater, Columbia, I asked him to send me a note about other parts of his site. Here’s what he wrote, in part:

    You might also want to point out the Records Retention Schedule trick [PDF], a way to get an inventory of the records an agency keeps. I learned this trick — please attribute — from Joe Adams of [The Florida] Times-Union, a public records wizard in Florida who edited the Florida Public Records Handbook. He’s got his own site [here]. This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever learned. Were I covering a beat, the first public records request I’d make would be for the agency’s Records Retention Schedule. It’s a map of everything the agency keeps, including things we’d never think about. The example here [in PDF] is from Florida, but every state has to have one. If a local agency looks at you funny when you make the request, try the official archivist in your state.

    Not only is Reisner good about sharing credit with those who have inspired him, he really believes in inspiring others by sharing the handouts and presentations from his training sessions. You can see online PowerPoints of them here.

    I talk a lot about search engines and similar sources in my workshops (See “Things You Didn’t Know Google Does”), but he emphasizes other methods. Reisner explains his methodology:

    You’ll see that I take a slightly different approach than you do, encouraging journalists to avoid Google and focus on finding the sites that are most useful for their beats and providing them with some portals to get there. I developed these presentations mostly for IRE and present them at IRE’s Better Watchdog Workshops, among other places. I doff my hat to Alan Schlein and Jodi Upton of USA Today, some of whose material I incorporate.

    I hope you will get a chance to check out Reisner’s Place — you will surely learn something new. It turns out he’s also generous with his e-mail and said I could share it here:  nr@nreisner.com.

    YOUR TURN: Send me suggestions for sites you find useful by e-mailing poynter@sree.net.

    Sree’s Links
    Sree’s “Blogging for Journalists
    workshop: Wednesday, May 10, 2006, at Columbia University in New York
    City — a one-night workshop on starting a blog — or improving one you
    already have. Lots of tips and ideas.

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    Snarkmarket, Anyone?

    Most of the media world, it seems, has seen EPIC 2014, the short, scary Flash movie about the future of the media from the perspective of the year 2014. As scary as it was, predicting the the rise of “Googlezon” (the merger of Google and Amazon) and the death of newspapers, I get the feeling that things might be even worse than predicted (but that’s fodder for another column).

    The two young journalists (and former Poynter staffers) who created EPIC 2014 in 2004, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson, have a blog where they highlight sites they like, articles they believe are worth reading, etc. The site is called Snarkmarket, and I have it bookmarked to visit regularly.

    The reason I like their site is that it is both fun and useful — a rare combination among blogs. I also like the range of topics, ideas and interests they cover. Some of the stuff is so hip (Thompson is 25, Sloan’s 26) that I feel completely out of the loop, but the blog is still worth reading. A bonus: Despite its name, there’s not much snarkiness to be found.

    Here are just a couple of items they have blogged that I might have missed otherwise:


    • From Thompson: “Today, Garrick Van Buren introduced me to Cin-o-matic, which is a) my new favorite thing, and b) apparently made by a local. Sorta like MetaCritic, only you can choose from a list of critics whose movie scores you’d like to aggregate, and it’s mashed up with information about what’s playing at your local theaters.”


    • From Sloan: “God. The LAT series by David Zucchino and Rick Loomis on battlefield medicine in Iraq (part 1, part 2, part 3) is riveting.”


    • From Thompson: “A combo lock that uses words instead of numbers. I dig it.” [A posting about WordLock.com -- I am terrible with combination locks, so I dig it, too.]
    You get the idea. Incidentally, the duo have also updated EPIC 2014 — see EPIC 2015.

    YOUR TURN: Send me suggestions for sites you find both fun AND useful by e-mailing poynter@sree.net. Meanwhile, I am finally getting around to my follow-up column about Social Networking for Journalists and am looking to connect with readers at LinkedIn.com [my profile]. Please share your tips and thoughts about using LinkedIn and its competitors.

    Sree’s Links
    Sree’s “Blogging for Journalists” workshop: Wednesday, May 10, 2006, at Columbia University in New York City — a one-night workshop on starting a blog — or improving one you already have. Lots of tips and ideas.


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    Wendy’s Wonderful Web

    Time to add to my occasional series on Web heroes and heroines, people who work tirelessly to help the rest of us understand the Internet better. Joining Gary Price and Tara Calishain this week is Wendy Boswell, demystifier of many things online. Whenever I come across something written by Boswell, I always stop to read it. I learn something new and find myself taking notes that I share with others. Her official bio at About.com — where she works as a guide on Web search — says she has “designed several successful Web sites, and has been publishing, designing, and generally wasting time on the Web since the early ’90s.” I am glad she’s been wasting all that time and thus giving me lots to bookmark. A comprehensive list of useful articles by Boswell would be much too long for this column, but here are some items you should bookmark immediately:



    • About.com Web Search: This is Boswell’s main job, sharing tips and tricks about Web search with readers worldwide. Several times a day she posts items about various new search-related items she has come across.

    • How to Evaluate Sources on the Web: As part of a series of articles for one of my favorite sites, Lifehacker.com, Boswell explains how you can decide whether or not a site is trustworthy.  

    • Locate Original Documents on the Web: An article on how to locate thousands (or is it millions?) of original documents, primary sources, etc., on the Internet.

    • How to Search the Invisible Web: I’ll let her explain this (quoting here from the article; all our communication has been one-way – me reading her work online):  “The term ‘invisible Web’ or ‘deep Web’ refers to the vast repository of information that search engines and directories don’t have direct access to, like databases at university libraries, sites that require passwords to view, or sites that for some reason don’t want search engines to crawl them. Unlike pages on the visible Web (that is, the Web that you can access from search engines and directories), information in databases is generally inaccessible to the software spiders and crawlers that create search engine indexes.” Boswell then provides some excellent tips on how to make the inaccessible accessible (including a link to Gary Price’s work).

    • Top 20 Search Engine Helpers: Several quick tips on getting better search results. 
    YOUR TURN: Send me suggestions for your Web heroes or heroines by e-mailing poynter@sree.net. Meanwhile, I am finally getting around to my follow-up column about Social Networking for Journalists and am looking to connect with readers at LinkedIn.com [my profile]. Please share your tips and thoughts about using LinkedIn and its competitors. 

    NOTE: WEB TIPS FRAPPR PROJECT – Help us create a collaborative media project by joining 230+ of our readers at http://www.frappr.com/poynterwebtips. I wrote about in my most recent column, “Your Own Google Maps.”

    When you get to the Frappr page, click on “add yourself” on the right of your screen.


    If you live in the U.S., put in your name and zip code. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”


    If you live outside the U.S., put in your name, then click on “Not in the U.S.? Click Here.” Start typing your city and a menu with your city should show up. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.


    Sree’s Links


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    Tracking TV

    Romenesko readers who can’t get enough news about the American TV business have several options. After starting your tour with Poynter’s most popular blog (which has several items a day about the world of broadcasting), you can try these new-ish free sites:

    • TVNewser.com: From Mediabistro comes this blog that brings you news and gossip about TV all day long. I read TVNewser, which is written by Brian Stelter, several times a day to keep up with developments big and small — and far more ratings numbers than I can handle. Read the “about” section to learn how an 18-year-old cable news junkie became a go-to guy for many people in the TV industry.
    • TVNewsday.com: This site, launched in January by Harry Jessell, a former editor-in-chief of Broadcasting & Cable magazine, is all about the business side of broadcasting. I asked Jessell how his site is different from TVNewser. His reply: “TVNewser focuses on network news and does a great job. That’s why I put a link to it in a prominent place on my site. TVNEWSDAY is about (and for) TV broadcasting — the station community. Also, TVNEWSDAY is not a blog. Although it does a lot of linking to stories on other sites, it is impersonal and keeps a high wall between opinion and news.”
    • BCBeat.com: Broadcasting & Cable runs this blog about the business of TV, a group blog written by, among others, John Eggerton. In the world of blogs, BCBeat’s postings appear much meatier than most. A lot of old-media publications are encouraging their reporters to blog and this might be a good model for them.

    And here are three resources that have been around for years:

    • TVSpy.com: Don Fitzpatrick’s daily e-mail newsletter, “Shoptalk,” is a must-read in hundreds of newsrooms around the country. For busy TV journalists, the once-a-day-message-in-my-inbox is an easier way to keep up than going out to the Web looking for stuff.
    • LostRemote.com: Cory Bergman and Steve Safran were among the earliest bloggers about the news business. Their site is a great way to keep up with the convergence of TV and the Internet. Sites like this can highlight items I might otherwise have missed. In a recent posting about the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, Bergman wrote: “Kudos to NBC for producing what I believe is the best-written six minutes of television I’ve ever witnessed. Earlier tonight, I saw an early feed of the Olympics open in standard definition. Then I raced home to watch it in high-def. The writing, poetry. The voice, eloquent and unique. Not your typical dumbed-down-to-the-lowest-common-denominator stuff. But smart, engaging writing that danced with spectacular photography.” Now I need to find a tape of this.
    • TyndallReport.com: Andrew Tyndall’s weekly and annual scorecards are the most-cited statistics about how much time each network devotes to various stories.

    UPDATE: Within minutes of this column being posted, I received a couple of messages asking why I hadn’t mentioned NewsBlues.com, another popular resource. I know the site well, but don’t read it because it requires a subscription ($4.95 for a one-week trial; $15.95 for three months; $24.95 for six months) and I wanted this to be about free sites (and have now added the word “free” to the opening para).  Plenty of people in the industry do read it, so am adding it to the list. Reader Ruth Ann Harnisch sent in this endorsement: “I’ve made NewsBlues my homepage so that I can start my day with Mike James’ snarky take on the biz, along with a helpful daily grammar lesson from Mrs. B(luezette). The self-proclaimed Surly Editor dares to write what the rest of us are thinking, or would be thinking if we were that clever. Just a few extra words (“silently grinding his teeth”) and this story is made real. No PR (pee-ahr to NewsBlues) goes unpunished.”

    YOUR TURN: So, what did I forget? Let me know by leaving your feedback here or by e-mailing poynter@sree.net. Meanwhile, I am finally getting around to my follow-up column about Social Networking for Journalists and am looking to connect with readers at LinkedIn.com  [my profile]. Please share your tips and thoughts about using LinkedIn and its competitors. 

    NOTE: WEB TIPS FRAPPR PROJECT – Help us create a collaborative media project by joining 220+ of our readers at http://www.frappr.com/poynterwebtips. I wrote about in my most recent column, “Your Own Google Maps.”

    When you get to the Frappr page, click on “add yourself” on the right of your screen.

    If you live in the U.S., put in your name and zip code. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”

    If you live outside the U.S., put in your name, then click on “Not in the U.S.? Click Here.” Start typing your city and a menu with your city should show up. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.

    Sree’s Links

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    Your Own Google Maps

    We are seeing customized versions of Google Maps being used in all kinds of creative ways across the Web. When you get a chance, check out the dozens of interesting implementations at Lifehack’s Essential Resources for Google Maps.

    These customized maps are easy to use, but not really easy to create. Even with such guides as “How to add a Google Map to any webpage in less than 10 minutes” and tools like MapBuilder.net, creating your own customized map is something best left to ultra-techies (I am not one; I haven’t tried it myself).

    [NOV. 2006 UPDATE: I have discovered other easy-to-use map builders,  including:

    But there is another, easier option for creating your own maps using what I have been calling a collective media project. For several columns now, I have been asking you to to help us with the Web Tips Frappr Project — a way to show you how the free site Frappr.com uses Google Maps to create maps just for you.

    More than 180 responses came in, identifying Web Tips readers around the world — the cyber equivalent of sticking color-coded pins on a wall map.

    I have been using Frappr to create several different Google Maps. Among them: one to track every city that my two-year-old twins have visited; another to track the towns in India that I am taking 16 of my Columbia students on a reporting trip; a map to link members of my extended family around the world; and another for the cities that my father served in as an Indian diplomat. While these are, in theory, publicly visible, because they aren’t really linked to anything, they benefit from “security by obscurity.” If a Google Map is created in the virtual forest, does anyone know?

    You can see some of your fellow readers by going to the Web Tips Frappr Project right now. If you’d like to join them, when you get there, click on “add yourself” on the right of your screen.

    If you live in the U.S., put in your name and zip code. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”

    If you live outside the U.S., put in your name, then click on “Not in the U.S.? Click Here.” Start typing your city, and a menu with your city should show up. Attach a photo (optional). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”

    I look forward to your Google Maps and Frappr feedback at this link or via e-mail to poynter@sree.net.

    Speaking of maps, see Jon Dube’s column about using a site called Placeopedia.

    In a future column, Jon or I will discuss how to use the downloadable Google Earth software (now available for Macs, too) for more than just looking at your childhood home or the Grand Canyon.

    Meanwhile, I am still working on my follow-up column about Social Networking for Journalists, and looking to connect with readers at LinkedIn.com.

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    Perfecting PowerPoint

    I hate PowerPoint. I know that for many of you, them’s fightin’ words. After all, the wildly popular software is the staple of presentations everywhere. Even kids in elementary school these days are taught to use it for show-’n’-tell. 

    I have nothing against the product itself, I just can’t stand how badly executed most presentations are. More than 25 years of my fascination with the Panama Canal, for instance, were nearly destroyed last year when I sat through an hour of a dull PowerPoint presentation by canal officials. I refuse to do them myself and haven’t created a .ppt document in years.

    Everyone gets so excited about putting up all kinds of graphics, fancy fonts and jazzy transitions that they pay no attention to the content, overstuffing the slides with useless stuff. Badly executed PowerPoint just cannot be salvaged.

    However, there are ways to make better presentations using PowerPoint, including these tips:

    • Stick to one thought per slide.
    • Keep the presentation short.
    • Don’t get carried away with the bells and whistles.

    And from the blog of Guy Kawasaki, hi-tech pioneer and venture cap guy, is his “10/20/30″ rule of PowerPoint:

    It’s quite simple: a PowerPoint presentation should have 10 slides, last no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points.

    Kawasaki’s tips are aimed at folks in business, but I believe the they apply to almost anyone who uses PowerPoint.

    Microsoft’s official PowerPoint site has some tips and thoughts on improving presentations as well. And just when you thought there were no additional ways to complicate PowerPoint, I see that you can easily add video backgrounds to your slides. We’re all in trouble now.

    Your turn: send me sites you like at poynter@sree.net (include your name, affiliation and city).

    NOTE: WEB TIPS FRAPPR PROJECT – Help us create a collaborative media project by joining 140+ of our readers at http://www.frappr.com/poynterwebtips.

    When you get there, click on “add yourself” on the right of your screen.

    If you live in the U.S., put in your name and zip code. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”

    If you live outside the U.S., put in your name, then click on “Not in the U.S.? Click Here.” Start typing your city and a menu with your city should show up. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”

    We’ll watch this little project grow in the months ahead. Meanwhile, I am still working on my follow-up column about Social Networking for Journalists and looking to connect with readers at LinkedIn.com.

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    The Changing Media Landscape

    The grainy photo to the left shows you a brave last stand.

    It was taken on a recent morning in my Manhattan apartment hallway, with a cellphone camera (hence the bad lighting, poor depth of field, etc.). It shows home-delivered newspapers outside all seven apartments, including two outside mine, the one on the far left corner.

    At a time of plummeting newspaper circulation (it fell 2.6 percent during the six months ending in September, even as  online readership of newspaper sites rose 11 percent, more than triple the growth rate of the Internet as a whole), I like to think my neighbors and I are, without ever talking about it, fighting the good fight.

    But what makes it a good fight? Are newspapers worth saving? Why do I, Web guy, pay for two sets of printed newspapers every morning?

    These questions were on my mind as I organized a panel earlier this month at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism called “The Changing Media Landscape, 2005.” Presented with the Hearst Foundation as part of the Columbia Journalism Dialogues program, the idea was to gather journalists and media influencers and take stock of the revolution around us.

    We brought together four veteran journalists — Len Apcar, editor in chief, NYTimes.com; Andrea Panciera, editor, ProJo.com; Jeff Gralnick, NBC News special consultant; James Taranto, editor of OpinionJournal.com — and someone whose popular creation causes endless panic among some journalists: Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist.

    You can read a text report by Miki Johnson on Editor & Publisher‘s Web site or see video from the Columbia site,  but to give you a better feel for the conversation and to see some intriguing presentation techniques, I turned to Poynter’s Larry Larsen. Working with an audio recording and photos by student Rebecca Castillo, Larry made some of his usual magic.

    The results include:

    Of course, many of you are familiar with these techniques. But for the rest of you, this might be a good opportunity to experience some of the new technology while learning about a topic you should care about.

    An amusing new/old media moment happened while I was moderating the panel. I got a question from former student and ABCNews.com producer Jen Brown via text message. I then, bravely, gave out my cellphone number to the whole audience, asking them to “text me” their questions. It worked too well. I got so caught up in asking questions from the cell, that I ignored for too long the questioners who were standing patiently by the audience mics.

    The media revolution is also something under close scrutiny in the Newspaper Next project at the American Press Institute, a task force on which I am about to serve. It’s a $2 million initiative to test new business models for newspapers. In response to its announcement, a comment on the always interesting BuzzMachine.com blog caught my eye: “The analogy I always return to is the failure of railroad companies to realize that they could have been in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business.”

    As journalists, if we can figure out what business we are really in — the newspaper business, the TV news business, the magazine business, or the-getting-people-news-and-information-in-all-kinds-of-formats business — we might just survive this revolution.

    Please send me your feedback to anything above or to anything you hear on the panel discussion via poynter@sree.net or by posting your comments here.

    NOTE: WEB TIPS FRAPPR PROJECT – One new-ish trend that’s part of the revolution is the collaborative gathering and display of information. I had been wanting to do a Web Tip on this, but didn’t have a good way to show how this works. Now I do. Please go to http://www.frappr.com/poynterwebtips and help us do an exercise in collaborative media.

    On the right, click on “add yourself.”

    If you live in the U.S., put in your name and zip code. Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”

    If you live outside the U.S., put in your name, then click on “Not in the U.S.? Click Here.” Start typing your city and a menu with your city should show up.  Attach a photo (if you wish — optional!). Remove the “Create a Frappr Account for me” (if you don’t want one) by clicking on checkbox. Hit “Add Me.”

    We can watch this little project grow in the months ahead. Meanwhile, I am still working on my follow-up column about Social Networking for Journalists and looking to connect with readers at LinkedIn.com.

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    Social Networking for Journalists

    “Social networking for journalists” sounds
    like some sort of lesson in manners and schmoozing. While we all
    certainly know people who could use some help in that arena (present
    company excluded, of course), this column is about how journalists can
    make use of social networking Web sites. These sites, which help
    connect friends, friends of friends and friends of friends of friends,
    have grown in popularity in certain demographics (teens, college
    students, young professionals, singles, married-but-looking, etc.) over
    the last couple of years. Sites such as Friendster, LinkedIn, Yahoo
    360, Orkut, MySpace, etc., use the concept of “trusted” friends or
    acquaintences — i.e., connecting people only to those who want to be
    connected and doing so only by connecting friends of friends.

    To test out these services, I had set up accounts over the
    last few years, but have stopped using all but one. My excuse: I can
    barely make time for the friends I have; I don’t have time to make new
    ones.

    But there are ways in which some of these sites can help
    journalists, especially in finding sources. I have been wanting to
    write about this for a few months now, but haven’t had a
    chance. Then a few weeks ago, I got a note from Ryan Blitstein, a staff writer at SF Weekly
    and former Columbia Journalism student, about how he’d used a social
    networking site to track down sources for a story. His tip, shared with
    permission below, shows you why reporters should learn more about such
    sites (he calls them “a goldmine for sources”).

    Social networking Web sites are the bane of my existence.
    Almost every day, I receive an e-mail alerting me that someone I barely
    knew in high school wants to connect via Friendster. As annoying as
    these sites are, though, they’re a goldmine for sources, especially
    among teens and young adults.

    Friendster, MySpace, and Tribe are a 21st-century version of a
    little black book, calendar, photo album, diary, and telephone rolled
    into one. Everybody’s information is public and, better yet,
    searchable, if you know where to look. Recently, I needed to find
    sources that fit a specific profile: Asian Americans who graduated from
    a certain San Francisco high school during the last few years. I
    focused on MySpace, the
    music-centered site that has become the online equivalent of the
    suburban mall for teenagers and college students. (If you don’t know
    the difference between the sites, ask the youngest person in your
    office.) I registered, creating a simple MySpace profile (Ryan,
    Journalist, San Francisco). Then, under the Search option, I chose
    users who went to the school, narrowing the list to recent graduates.
    Several dozen profiles remained, many of which listed “Asian” under
    ethnicity. Sites also let you search by occupation, location, even last
    name.

    Social network reporting isn’t without drawbacks, logistically
    and ethically. Many site users, despite what their profiles say, are
    under 18, so use the same caution you would when reporting on high
    school kids. Be aware that most people don’t expect their profiles to
    be read by anyone other than their friends, much less to be
    cold-e-mailed by a journalist. Some of those I contacted responded as
    if someone had stolen and read their private diary. It’s also a good
    idea, if you already have a profile, to create a new one for reporting
    -– after all, you don’t want sources discovering any of your private information.

    I use LinkedIn.com,
    a site that is used in business contexts rather than “I want to meet
    new people” contexts. In my next column, I will describe how I use it
    for my reporting, for journalist friends looking for sources and for
    non-journalists looking to connect for business purposes. I will also
    share any tips readers send me about LinkedIn and other networking
    sites. If you already have a LinkedIn account, please connect with me,
    using “Sreenath Sreenivasan” in the “Find People” section. If you don’t
    have an account, you can create a free one at LinkedIn.com and then
    connect with me, using the method above.

    Now I am turning to you, dear reader. Share your tips on social networking sites by posting your feedback here. Or you can e-mail me at poynter@sree.net

    Sree’s Links

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    I Hate E-mail, Part II

    My last column was filled with tips and lessons from a recent spate of e-mail troubles. I thought I was going to teach you folks something, but, instead, I got a lot of useful tips and ideas from the e-mails you sent me. Many of those tips are gathered here (please take a look).

    The topic of e-mail hell seemed to resonate so much, I decided to revisit it.

    One sign that you are addicted to e-mail: You compose messages in your head in the shower, on the treadmill, in the subway. I do that all the time, despite carrying a Treo 650 personal digital assistant and seeming to live online. In fact, I wrote the top of this column in my head in the shower. Too bad my editor, Julie Moos, will not be impressed by my diligence when I turn it in late.

    Here are some of the tips that came in the mail:

    • Drew Cherry of IntraFish Media writes from Bergen, Norway: I’d add another annoyance about e-mail: miscommunication. I’m a journalist and editor for a multinational company headquartered in Bergen, Norway. We have offices in Seattle, Wash.; Puerto Montt, Chile; London, UK; and Portland, Maine. Because of our geography, we use a lot of e-mail — it’s an essential tool. That said, e-mail communication has also led to big misunderstandings, sore feelings and, sometimes, bad decisions. All those things that make speaking such an effective tool of communication — voice inflection, thoughtful pauses, agreement with the other speaker, even small talk — can’t be a part of e-mail. There [are] just some issues that you have to tackle on the phone, or in person. Would be interesting to hear from Poynter about how this has affected larger news organizations.
      Sree Tip: I run into this problem of tone every day. If you have thoughts on Drew’s point, please share them with me.

    • Kehau Cerizo of TodaysLocalNews.com writes from San Diego, Calif.: To add to your column, another thing I hate:  When e-mails [usually with PR sources] are bounced back and forth with long correspondences, THE SUBJECT LINE NEEDS TO CHANGE. I think it should be altered each time it’s sent — even just a word. That way, it’s easier to keep track of large e-mail quantities in, say, a  journalist’s inbox.
      Sree Tip: Excellent point. Pay attention to subject lines, people! I hate it when people use an old message in the inbox to start a new message and topic, but don’t bother to change the subject line.

    I also heard from Atlanta-based Peggy Duncan, an internationally known expert who teaches seminars on e-mail management, Outlook, PowerPoint, etc.
     
    She was kind enough to share her list of “Twenty-seven E-mail Pet Peeves that Tick People Off as Much as Spam” (reproduced below, with her permission) — lots of good ideas there. At the bottom of her e-mail signature file, she makes a plea many of us would like to make: “Please do not add my name to your distribution list for jokes, prayers, thoughts for the day, or chain letters. Thanks.”

    Here are her pet peeves:

      1. Sending or responding to all to CYA (cover your butt). Stop sending to all if all do not have a need to know. You wanted to make sure you were covered so you’re sending everyone on a list your answer — whether they needed to know or not. Or you’re sending a message to everyone because you’re too lazy to select the appropriate recipients.
      2. People trying to solve complex issues using e-mail. You’re part of a new committee, then the e-mail messages start, back and forth, dizzying speed, the more they come, the more confused you get. Pick up the phone!
      3. Dirty e-mail messages. These are those messages you receive loaded with those darn carets (>>>), or pages and pages of e-mail addresses that weren’t protected using a blind copy feature. Is it too much to ask for the sender to clean dirty e-mails before sending them? Would you send a letter out on your company stationery like that? You can get rid of carets by pasting the message into Word and using the Find and Replace feature to find a caret and replace all of them with nothing. You can get rid of all the e-mail addresses just by deleting. Clean it up, then send it.
      4. Subject lines that don’t match the message. Don’t pull up an old message, hit Reply, and send me a message that has nothing to do with the previous one. Suppose you sent an e-mail message two months ago that said, “The monthly meeting has been cancelled.” You pulled up that old message because the e-mail addresses were already in it. But this time, you wanted to let everyone know that coffee and donuts would be served at this month’s meeting. At the very least, change the subject line!
      5. Last-minute cancellations. Cancelling a meeting at the last minute and letting me know via e-mail. I show up, “Oh, didn’t you get my e-mail?” When did you send it? I left my office two hours ago, and now my whole day is shot.
      6. Procrastinators. People who wait until the last minute to ask you to do something as if you had nothing else to do. You know the work was in a pile on their desk, and while they were digging for something else, they found it, and sent you an e-mail message, marking it urgent. Then when the deadline isn’t met, it’s not their fault because they “gave it to you.”
      7. People who call you instead of checking their e-mail. You’ve done your job, and sent an e-mail message to people with information they need. They end up calling you asking for the info because, “I’m too busy to check e-mail. Please always call me with the information or at least call me to let me know you sent it.”
      8. No response. You send a legitimate e-mail message to someone who has requested information. The message clearly needs a response, but nothing happens. If you’re too busy to hit Reply to say “No,” you need to examine how you’re working. Why did you make me waste your time and mine?
      9. One-liners. “Thanks,” “Oh, OK.” My goodness! You sent an e-mail message to 25 people, and 15 of them sent you a one-liner. Next time, put “No Reply Necessary” at the top.
      10. Underlines. Don’t underline anything in a message (or on a Web page) that’s not a hyperlink. I always move the mouse toward it thinking it’ll take me somewhere.
      11. Someone replying to my message without the previous message below it or attached to it. I forgot what I asked them.
      12. Smileys, emoticons. If you wouldn’t put a smiley face or emoticon on your business correspondence, you shouldn’t put it in an e-mail message.
      13. Plaxo. Those e-mails from you asking me to update my contact information. Your best customer is getting 10 of these a day! And, I don’t even remember who these people are. I went to the Plaxo Web site and opted out of receiving any of these annoying updates. Make sure you opt out all of your e-mail addresses!
      14. Senseless Autoresponders. How about the one that says “Thank you for your e-mail message. I will respond to you as soon as I can.” What a complete waste of my time to open this stupid response. It’s almost like the letter carrier leaving me a message in my mailbox saying, “I picked up your mail today. I’ll bring you more when I get it.”
      15. Words from grown, business people using shortcuts such as “4 u” (instead of “for you”), “Gr8″ (for great) in business-related e-mail. Are you lazy, or just can’t type or spell? If you wouldn’t send a company letter out like that, it shouldn’t be in an e-mail message. (This is different from legitimate abbreviations a company may develop, such as NRN for No Reply Necessary.)
      16. Read receipt. As if you’re checking up on me to see if I open your message. I don’t know why people waste time doing this, because most people probably have this feature turned off in their e-mail software.
      17. Too many attachments. You should get permission before sending someone an e-mail message with more than two attachments. Instead of sending five PDFs, consider combining them into one document.
      18. Attachment and no body. If you send an e-mail message about an event and no explanation in the body, especially if it’s a large file and would drain my ink supply if I printed it. If the details are in the body of the e-mail, I don’t need the attachment. I don’t need to see how creative you were with your flyer. I just need the info.
      19. Abuse of my e-mail address. I register for an event, then every week, I’m getting notices of deals, webinars, teleseminars, etc.
      20. Recipient names not private. No bcc and pages of e-mail addresses in the message.
      21. Passing on hoaxes instead of checking them out first. What would make you believe that Bill Gates would send you $5,000 just for sending an e-mail message? And did you know that the Teddy Bear file you so willingly deleted from your computer was a legitimate Windows file? Check it our first at http://www.sarc.com/.
      22. Who are you? People I met briefly some time ago sending me an e-mail message without reminding me who they are.
      23. Messages without signature lines. Your e-mail signature is a great way to let people know more about you, especially when your e-mail address is something like 189bx@xxx.com.
      24. Adding me to your e-mail list. I just met you, barely remember you, and I’m already on your distribution list for your newsletter, thoughts for the day, and news you think I want to know.
      25. Bad grammar and punctuation. You can’t hide behind an administrative assistant to clean up your act, so go take some classes and learn how to write and spell. Some messages are so bad, it’s like reading a foreign language, and it wastes my time trying to figure out your mess.
      26. Work e-mail abuse. People sending me non-work-related e-mail from their job. I don’t want my name and e-mail address showing up in company reports.
      27. Unprofessional e-mail IDs. People who would send a business e-mail message using addresses such as cutesuzy@xxx.com; beingblessed@xx.com; hardliquor@xx.com. 

      Now I am turning to you, dear reader. Share your tips on better e-mail use by posting your feedback directly to this link (it’s the same as the last column; I would like to gather them all in one place). Or you can e-mail me at poynter@sree.net.

      Sree’s Links:
      NYC EVENT:
      The Changing Media Landscape, 2005 — five media influencers talk about trends in journalism at a special discussion on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Speakers are: Len Apcar, editor in chief, NYTimes.com; Jeff Gralnick, NBC News special consultant; Andrea Panciera, editor, ProJo.com; Craig Newmark, founder/customer service rep, Craigslist; James Taranto, editor and columnist, OpinionJournal.com. It’s free and open to the public. Details here.

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