Toward a universal online news format

7 12 2009

Here’s a brilliant idea for online news. The Value Added News initiative has developed an open-source ‘microformat‘ for online news. This format makes online news machine readable, including what the story is about, who wrote it, where it was first published, the news principles it adheres to and how it may be reused. Simple, elegant and non-intrusive. Kudos.

In short Value Added News will:

  • Make your content much easier to find
  • Give proper credit to the author(s)
  • Protect uses of your news content
  • Make your news principles transparent
  • Unlock the hidden value of your news archive


Curating the 9/11 pager messages

29 11 2009

Wikileaks is an international non-profit organization that has released some 573,000 pager messages from the 9/11 tragedy. This corpus of text messages covers a 24 hour period directly related to the attacks in New York and Washington. As Wikileaks notes:

Text pagers are usually carried by persons operating in an official capacity. Messages in the archive range from Pentagon, FBI, FEMA and New York Police Department exchanges, to computers reporting faults at investment banks inside the World Trade Center

The archive is a completely objective record of the defining moment of our time. We hope that its entrance into the historical record will lead to a nuanced understanding of how this event led to death, opportunism and war.

There have been some interesting visualizations, applications and tools but this corpus is a research report waiting to happen. Journalism students, linguists, social scientists: get cracking.

On transparency and Google Wave

2 10 2009

Google’s latest product has had the tech world buzzing (and agonizing) for some time now. Google Wave is “an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more”.

L.A. Times tech writer Mark Millian shares his thoughts on how Wave could be used in journalism. He lists live editing, collaborative reporting, interview archiving, timelined story updates,  in-text comments and instant polling. Interestingly, Mark ponders about opening up the writing process:

What if we let readers watch the text as we write it? In our own testing, we found it to be a really fascinating peek into the writing habits and minds of our associates….Maybe we can go one step further and let the observers comment throughout the writing process. Readers could help shape a story.

Now that would be real transparency. And total chaos.

“Transparency is the new objectivity”

14 08 2009

One of the most intriguing ideas about the digital revolution in journalism is David Weinberger’s claim that

Objectivity is a trust mechanism you rely on when your medium can’t do links. Now our medium can.

Objectivity has always been *the* golden standard for traditional journalism (print, radio, television). Newsroom ethnographers à la Gaye Tuchman argued in the 1970s that journalists rely on notions of objectivity to ward off criticism about the quality and reliability of their work. More recently, media anthropologist Mark Peterson has argued that objectivity is an operational concept that allows journalists to “see things” so they can produce factual, authenticated, balanced and impartial accounts of events in the world.

Now, Weinberger correctly observes that in an era of link economies:

What we used to believe because we thought the author was objective we now believe because we can see through the author’s writings to the sources and values that brought her to that position.

This, the ability to “see through” the author’s claims, values and sources, is what Weinberger means by transparency. It literally says to the reader: this is what I know and here is why, what do you think? Transparency is the way to establish authority in the link age. It is also is the way for journalists to add value to online news.