Wednesday Edition: What Journalists Should Know When Using Social Networking Sites

I taught online and ethics workshops in Dallas this weekend at the Southwest Broadcast Broadcast Newsroom Workshop. 

Over lunch, I listened to a panel of prominent Texas media lawyers who said journalists should beware that a torrent of lawsuits and legal threats are almost inevitable when newsrooms use material they found on social networking Web sites like MySpace or Friendster.

They also warned journalists to consider the copyright problems that could come from snagging videos from YouTube. Listen to the podcast for advice I recorded from attorneys Marc Fuller and Thomas Williams.


Murrow Winners Online
The Radio-Television News Directors Association posted the national radio and TV Murrow award winners online. Educations will want these for teaching tools.

Newsrooms will find these great discussion starters for in-house training.

Identity Theft Happening to Children

The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune reports:

The Federal Trade Commission [FTC] reported that identity theft on behalf
of victims younger than 18 rose from 6,512 in 2003 to 10,835 in 2006.
In 2003, just 3 percent of identity theft victims were younger than 18.
By last year, the figure had reached 5 percent. But keep in mind these
figures only represent formal complaints.

Tweens, typically ages 8 to 12, and teens are vulnerable because of
their increased consumer activity, particularly over the Internet.

‘These platforms facilitate information exchange, and if left
unmonitored, could lead to enhanced identity theft,’ said Maxine Sweet,
vice president of public education at Experian, one of the three major
credit bureaus.

What’s so frustrating about child identity theft is that the crime
can go undetected for years. Often it isn’t discovered until the victim
applies as a young adult for credit or tries to rent an apartment or
open a bank account.

Here’s another reason why authorities don’t know how many children
are affected. Rather than theft of their personal information over the
Internet, often the data is illegally used by a relative.

A parent already laden with debt will open new credit accounts using
a child’s Social Security number. Of course, such fraud goes undetected
because the parent isn’t going to complain. And in adulthood the child
doesn’t often rat out mom or dad.

Click here to see the FTC’s suggestions on how teens can protect their identity from fraud.

Al’s Morning Multimedia: Fall Colors

I am crazy about MSNBC’s “Autumn in America” pages. What are you doing to give your online readers an interactive voice with their photos and videos? Of course, this type of feature can work for any season. If I were in a rural area, I would also build pages for pictures of barns, farm life and hunting. How about fun pictures of kids getting ready for Halloween? Flickr is loaded with very nice work from people who snap fall photos.

Worshiping Sports, and Religion

The Denver Post looks at the intersection between faith and sports. Does God care who wins the World Series?

The Ripple Effect of the Ethanol Boom

The Hartford (Conn.) Courant reports:

Because of the ethanol boom in the Midwest, which will divert as much
as 15 percent of America’s corn crop to energy production this year,
grain prices have skyrocketed to record levels. And that spike in
feed-grain prices has reached all the way across the country.

The spike in corn prices is especially tough for organic farmers. The story continues:

“America is in the middle of a transition from traditional to organic
farming, and the ethanol boom has walked right into that and
interrupted progress,” [farmer George] Purtill said last week, leaning against the
fence of his outdoor turkey range.

“The price I paid last year to feed these birds with specialized
organic corn was $200 a ton,” he said. “This year I’m paying $400 a
ton, a 100 percent increase. My cost of production has just about
doubled, and this year the price of my turkeys will have to go up at
least $1 per pound.”

Ironically, the huge increase in the corn crop this year – American
farmers planted 90.5 million acres in 2007, compared with 78.6 million
acres in 2006 – only begat more corn on Purtill’s acres. Last winter,
when he saw corn futures prices climbing in anticipation of the ethanol
boom, Purtill realized that the specialty organic corn he feeds to his
turkeys probably would be sold instead to ethanol distilling plants.
So, he decided to plant 13 acres, usually devoted to highly profitable
vegetables, with his own certified organic corn.

“In a year when we shouldn’t have had to grow any corn, we were forced
to convert valuable vegetable acreage into grain that we would consume
ourselves,” Purtill says. “There’s the impact of the ethanol boom right

Two Thousand Criminal Suspects Died in Police Custody

2003 and 2005, more than 2,000 criminal suspects died at the hands of
police officers. There are many reasons for the deaths. The study by
the Bureau of
Justice Statistics is the first nationwide compilation of the reasons
behind arrest-related deaths.

See the press release and complete report from the Bureau of Justice.

The Associated Press reports:

The review found 55% of the 2,002 arrest-related
deaths from 2003 through 2005 were due to homicide by state and local
law enforcement officers. Alcohol and drug intoxication caused 13% of
the deaths, followed by suicides at 12%, accidental injury at 7% and
illness or natural causes, 6%. The causes for the deaths of the
remaining 7% were unknown.

The highly populated states of California, Texas
and Florida led the pack for both police killings and overall
arrest-related deaths. Georgia, Maryland and Montana were not included
in the study because they did not submit data.

Most of those who died in custody were men (96%)
between the ages of 18 and 44 (77%). Approximately 44% were white; 32%
black; 20% Hispanic; and 4% were of other or multiple races.

“Keep in mind we have 2,000 deaths out of almost
40 million arrests over three years, so that tells you by their nature
they are very unusual cases,” said Christopher J. Mumola, who wrote the

“Still, they do need to be looked at to determine whether police training can be better or practices can be better,” he said.

Death by Cop

same report I cited above reveals an insightful detail about something
known as “suicide by cop,” which is when a “suspect” forces police to
shoot him/her. The report says half of all police homicides, in
other words half of all deaths that police cause in shootouts and such,
are classified as suicide. 

The Bureau of Justice Statistics report finds:

Three-quarters of the law enforcement homicides reported to [the Deaths in Custody Reporting Program]
involved arrests for a violent crime. Except for suicides (51%),
violent offenders were involved in less than 30% of all other causes of
death. Public-order offenders accounted for 8% of homicides, followed
by property (4%) and drug offenders (2%).

High-Priced Running Shoes Not Worth It

A new study says high-priced running shoes don’t really do more to protect your feet. The real criteria for selecting a shoe is fit, not price.

HealthDay writes:

Using high-tech methods, a team of Scottish scientists found no
differences in either comfort or shock absorption between $80 pairs of running shoes
and pairs made by the same companies costing more than

“My advice to runners is to make sure that, first, the footwear fits
your feet, and that if you are paying more, that doesn’t mean that you’re
getting something better,” said lead researcher Rami Abboud, director of
the Institute of Motion Analysis and Research at the University of

His team published its findings Oct. 10 in the online edition of the
British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Over the past few decades, the lowly sneaker has been transformed from
a humble canvas-topped loafer to something that, according to advertisers,
uses space-age technology to protect and enhance the human foot. Those
lofty claims often come with lofty prices, however.

“What we wanted to check was, are you really getting value for money?”
Abboud said. “Or are you just paying for advertisement?”

ATV Study Mistake

Back in May I told you about a project The Oregonian put together examining all-terrain vehicle (ATV) safety. Now it’s been found that part of what the paper reported back then was incorrect. An engineer the paper used to test ATV stability
made some big mistakes.

The paper’s Web site mentioned the problems in what it called “an editor’s note,” which was listed as an “update,” not a correction or a retraction.

Looking beyond that, the special Web site the paper built about the dangers of ATVs is useful.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links. 

Editor’s Note: Al’s Morning
Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other
materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and
analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it
will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The
column is fact-checked, but depends on the accuracy and integrity of
the original sources cited. Errors and inaccuracies found will be


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