Sunday, March 02, 2008

Catching up - White House plagiarist and other things

As usual, am shoveling as fast as I can, but not fast enough. While this week was spent getting a presentation ready, looking at specs for digital signage in the j-school, assembling midsemester exams, writing a column, etc., some things got by:

  • Nancy Nall found a columnist at the Fort Wayne News Sentinel whose wording was amazingly similar to another person's. Tim Goeglein admitted the copying. Goeglein is the White House liaison to religious organizations. Or make that "was." He resigned yesterday over the brouhaha. (Disclosure: I used to work at the competing paper of the joint agency, the Journal-Gazette.) Way to go Nancy!
  • In the middle of the John McCain-did-he-or-didn't-he dustup with the New York Times last weekend, David Leavitt passed along a nice post about "why we need newspapers and why their business model is struggling." The CliffsNotes version: Who but well-endowed newsrooms such as those at newspapers will be there to dig out the tough questions and seek answers? (OK, we'll stipulate that a lot of people disagree that the Times actually did that, but that misses the point here.) And they are struggling because of exactly what the Times did not do -- be transparent. As Leavitt writes: It's not good enough anymore to just write a story and walk away from it. The New York Times should have set up online chat session with the reporters. And they should have printed a sidebar explaining: how they learned about the allegations, when they started investigating them, why they waited until Feb. 20 to post the story.
  • David Sullivan continued his fine series of posts looking at the comparison between the troubles of department stores and newspapers.
  • Neil Thurman of London's City University wrote to note the publication of a paper that deals with how online news media were moving to incorporating user-generated content. Here's the nub from his abstract: This article argues that the adaptation of established news websites to the increasing demand from readers for space to express their views is driven as much by local organisational and technical conditions as it is by any attachment to traditional editorial practices. I used the word "were" intentionally. The survey involved was from 1995 2005 (sorry about that, Neil). One of the pitfalls of legacy academic publishing models is that they tend to put large amounts of time between the study and the publication. (I know; I have a couple of things in that limbo now.) Also unfortunate is that the final paper is behind a pay wall at New Media and Society, but Thurman has been kind enough to post a PDF preprint version on his Web site. I look forward to reading it in more detail.
Finally, one that got away -- but no longer. I never saw the excellent discussion from last August on John McIntyre's blog about the use of race in crime story descriptions. (See the follow-up post here.) The paper took a tremendous amount of heat over omitting the race of a suspect because it was deemed too general and possibly inflammatory. This is not a new debate, nor will it be the last. In these times when race lurks under the surface of many things, we struggle on.

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