Still Bill

30 06 2009

My most recent epiphany came courtesy of the trailer for this upcoming Bill Withers documentary where he says: “It’s okay to head out for ‘wonderful,’ but on your way to ‘wonderful’ you’re gonna have to pass through ‘alright.’ And when you get to ‘alright’ take a good look around and get used to it cause that may be as far as you’re gonna go.”

Amen to that, Phonte.





Race report: 2009 Brasschaat ITU LD

30 06 2009

I made my long distance debut this weekend at the 2009 Brasschaat ITU LD event. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so ecstatic, exhausted and, above all, sore. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

* Overall: triathlon is the single most rewarding sport in the world: 3 basic discplines, 1 huge adrenaline rush, more than 8000 calories burned, 4 cramps suffered, 1 clenched fist when crossing the finish line. A priceless experience.

* Rookie mistake made during the bike leg: not enough food intake. Capital error. During the first run loop, I couldn’t remember my own name. Next time, I’m packing food like this athlete:

brasschaat09-R1-0052

* Random observations: energy gels taste like feet but they do help. So does good ol’ Coca Cola. My favorite brand of race nutrition = Squeezy energy fruit gums. Eating bananas on the bike at full speed is not a pretty sight. Memo to self: never race in white Skinfit tri pants.

* The women’s overall winner, Sofie Goos,  gave me a serious cold by literally flying by me during the run. Impressive race, Sofie.

brasschaat09-R1-1361

* Pictured below is Koen Hoeyberghs seconds after crossing the finishing line. At age 43, Koen is triathlon nobility in Belgium. He placed 5th overall. In the picture he looks like he went for a stroll. I bow humbly.

brasschaat09-R1-1289

* By way of comparison, this is how I looked during the run. Notice any difference?

brasschaat09-R1-1097

* For the record, here are my splits:

swim: 2700m in 0:42:27 (91st AG, 170th overall)
bike: 80km in 2:08:32 (73rd AG, 128th overall)
run: 20km in 1:48:10 (144th AG, 282nd overall)

Total: 4:41:51 (114th AG (192 finishers), 197th overall (417 finishers))
Complete results available here (.pdf)

* Conclusion: this was the best athletic experience I have ever had. Perfect setting and race organization, great value for money, lovely weather and atmosphere. Well-refereed too. I’d do this again in heartbeat.

* Thank you: Wendy & Jerre, Luc & Annick, Jim De Sitter, Marc Pollet, the race organizers and the countless aid station volunteers. I never meant to dose you.





Churnalism as new media literacy

29 06 2009

In his now widely cited Why journalists deserve low pay lecture (.pdf, blog post, CSMonitor), Robert G. Picard examines how traditional (i.e. Media 1.0) journalists create economic value primarily through the distribution of the knowledge of others:

In this process three fundamental functions and related skills have historically created economic value: Accessing sources, determining significance of information, and conveying  it effectively. Good journalists possess secondary skills, of course, but these three constitute the core value-creating functions and skills.

Picard is not breaking new ground here: media-source interaction, news judgment and news writing have been on the journalism studies research agenda for years. And deservedly so.

Further down, Picard talks about how the digital revolution has de-skilled professional journalism. Source access is no longer exclusive; everyone with an internet connection has become a potential news source. Likewise, source selection has also become a public good, thanks to Google (here’s to you, Jeff Jarvis). Lastly, software like the one I’m using to write up this blog post has allowed ‘the people formerly known as the audience’ (heads up to Jay Rosen) to publish information and comment on events as they please.

This leads Picard to conclude that

If value is to be created, journalists cannot continue to report merely in the traditional ways or merely re-report the news that has appeared elsewhere. They must add something novel that creates value. They will have to start providing information and knowledge that is not readily available elsewhere, in forms that are not available elsewhere, or in forms that are more useable by and relevant to their audiences

This is a conclusion I can dance to. Let me explain why. Churnalism – the  practice of churning news from press releases and news agency copy – is often seen as the nail in the coffin of print journalism. However, in an online environment, I see churnalism becoming capital – a form of new media literacy if you will.

Online, news is a process (rather than a finished product). This renders the practice of churnalism visible and hence turns it into a yardstick. We can now gauge the added value of this transformation. What did the author add/substract/change/edit?

My point is this: online, churnalism becomes transparent. This opens up the dreaded side-effects of churnalism – reproduction of corporate spin, falsehood and distortion – to public scrutiny. Crucially this (source) transparency enables reporters to really show their mettle by providing information and knowledge that “is not readily available elsewhere” to quote Picard’s conclusion once again.

Crucially, the skills involved churning information fast, efficiently and effectively boil down to appropriation (“the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content“, aka re-entextualization or, more fashionably, retweeting), a crucial new media literacy skill. I see a market for beat reporters who shed their light on events as they happen.

If I was an (online) journalist, the main question I’d ask myself is: here is a piece of information that will get picked up instantly. What can I add to this piece that goes beyond merely reproducing? In short, how can my professional expertise and knowledge contribute to the news production process?





Twitter pros & cons for journalism

29 06 2009

Twitterjournalism‘s Craig Kanalley lists the advantages and disadvantages of twitter for journalism. I love how eyewitness accounts – formerly one of the claims to authority by professional journalists – is now a public good.

Pros

  • Instantaneous, “realtime”
  • Potential to grow audience
  • Many different voices and perspectives
  • Worldwide use
  • Tip service
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Free to use
  • Raw, no editing, no filters
  • Democratizes the news
  • Links for more information

Cons

  • Verification issues
  • Limiting – 140 characters at a time
  • Not ubiquitous – technology issues for 3rd world countries/poor
  • Rumors, misinformation, especially during breaking news
  • Government censorship
  • Means of propaganda
  • Lack of analysis, deeper meaning
  • Presence of spam, worm attacks
  • Questions of accountability, intentions
  • Squatters and fake accounts




J.Period presents the man or the music

28 06 2009

“Can it be I stayed away too long?” might just be the best opening lyric ever written. Credit to J.Period for reminding me what fantastic music MJ made before he turned into wacko jacko. J.Period’s tribute to the most polarizing man in show business rocks the bells – and also captures Michael’s musical legacy (timeless music to yuk). You will dance though.

J.Period presents “The man or the music” A tribute to Michael Jackson (jperiod.com, 2009)





Ready for my first ITU LD race

28 06 2009





How to educate yourself online

26 06 2009

Get a Twitter account. Start following people. Tweet, retweet, tag, learn, repeat. This week alone, I have twittered my way onto;

* Brent Cunningham’s classic essay on objectivity in American journalism;
* Matt Pressman’s entertaining Why do they hate us? piece in Vanity Fair;
* David Vaina’s New Media Versus Old Media article;
* Howard Owens’ historical overview of newspaper journalism.

And also – shameless self-plug coming up – a nice reblog of my post which was then picked up by journalism.co.uk.