It’s my birthday, I’ll count if I want to

I’ve never been afraid to go places few women have gone before, and to take names and kick butt.
Thanks to my father, I learned to rebuild the engine in a 1964 Dodge Dart so I had a car to drive in 1974. (I named it Rocinante and aimed it at windmills.)
I won’t reiterate the litany of “firsts” I punched through as a woman in the journalism bidness. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time busting through the “first” wall: The first woman photographer, the first woman investigative reporter, the first woman business editor, the first woman editor, the first … well, you get the drift.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the company of a lot of white guys trying to do twice as well as they did so I could earn a place at the table.
Today, my 54th birthday present was to not be the lone woman at a tech conference.
We were a crowd and a tribe! A flock and a pod! A gaggle and a group!
We were not alone.
About 22 percent of the people registered for Drupal Camp Austin 2009 were women.
I know. I counted.
That’s extraordinary in a world where six percent of people in Open Source software are women. In Drupal, the numbers are more like 12 percent, but that’s still a dreadful minority.
Thanks to @laurenroth, @shana_e and @equintanilla @vitorious @chanaustin this was not a “lone woman” conference.
Women came for many reasons, including that there were people at this conference who look like them. Anglo, Asian American, African American – we were there.

In every session there were from 13 percent to 29 percent women.
I chronicled the ratio in every session I was in, to the dismay of one South Austin cretin (please click to see what an idiot he is.)
It’s my birthday, I’ll count if I want to!!
The tally tells me how far we have come. Thank you for such a meaningful birthday present!

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Inspired by design

We’ve chosen core components of the NOWCastSA home page, and it’s fair to say we’ve been inspired by the way some other folks have designed their sites.

Here’s what we like and why.

Because video is an important element of the site, we’d like to be able to feature it prominently. Perhaps it might look something like UMass Amherst’s student-run television station site:

Another site with a nice video slider is LinkTV. Here’s how they do it:

The heart of our site is neighborhood stories, news and information, and we think the best way to indicate that is with a map that shows stories by location.
We like the way Richmond.com uses Outside.in to display stories on a map:

Another nice approach is the way Juump has information laid out, including tabs that let you choose people, places, groups or events:

Underneath the map, we want to feature a “river of news” that shows stories of all types – a waterfall of information. AnnArbor.com does that well:


We want everyone who comes to the web site to get the message that we’d like them to help us build this community. We need a toolbox to show people where to find help, and something very inviting, such as these buttons on the NowPublic site.

In a right sidebar, we’d like to show the community conversation in a FriendFeed or Echo stream of Twitters and comments. Over at PBS, they do that in a very simple way.

For many people, the calendar of events is the heart of the matter, answering the basic question, What’s happening, where?. Over at Fast Company, there’s a nice graphical interface, although it doesn’t work as nicely as it could:

The Twitters tell the story

I was asked to be the wrap-up Rapporteur for the 10th International Symposium on Online Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin last week.

The conference had the Twitter hashtag #isoj, and, partly because it is Webcast live, people were watching and Twittering about it in real time on at least four continents. (Here is a link to the #isoj Twitter stream). By the afternoon of the conference’s second and final day, April 18, there were about 1,500 Tweets with the hashtag #isoj.

Thanks to some extraordinary panelists: NowPublic News Director Rachel Nixon, Paul Brannan of the BBC, chron.com Interactive Editor Dwight Silverman and statesman.com Internet Editor Robert Quigley, the “audience-as-storyteller” muse took flight.

For my wrap-up, I went with the muse and tried something different: I let the audience tell the story through their Twitters.

This slideshow is not particularly linear, although I did “group” the Twitters around ideas: First, the back channel conversation, then the collaborative layers being added by the audience around the world, then the discussion of business models for news, then the discussion of non-linear multimedia storytelling. Last, I grouped together comments around the main theme of collaborating the news and news as a conversation.

Besides telling and interpreting and adding to the conference story, the Twitters told their own stories, including a matter-of-fact, but reverberating comment on the lack of diversity on the panels.

I’m sure I didn’t do this perfectly, but considering that I created this 80-slide package in real-time – and added the last slide just minutes before presenting it at about 5:15 p.m. that day – I think it is an interesting rough draft.

Please check out the slideshow and tell me what you think! I know that the audience (read: you!) often has far wiser things to say than the perpetrator of this blog ;~)

Newspapers don’t own journalism

I always thought it was odd to hear flat out declarations that there can be no life on other planets in the absence of water. How egocentric! So you’re saying that life can only exist if it’s precisely like us?

Really?

That’s the feeling I’m getting right now in the woe-is-us, hand-wringing sob-fest about whether life and our democracy can survive the death of some newspapers.

With all due respect to some great newspapers where I’ve worked, I don’t give a damn about the paper they’re printed on.

What I care about is journalism.

And you don’t need special 3-D glasses to see that completely fabulous, raise the rafters, award-winning, democracy-preserving journalism is being committed and published many times a day in life forms other than newspapers.

Guess what else?

Some online news operations, including two where I was a top manager, have been profitable for years, while upholding the highest standards of journalism.

Here’s a bit of what I saw from an editor’s perch:

Were we perfect? No.

Was it journalism. You betcha.

For more examples of the kind of journalism that’s been committed outside the world of paper, check out the Online News Association’s awards gallery, whose members range from the BBC News and Frontline to Slate and NewWest.

Fast forward to 2007, when the San Diego public radio station, KPBS, performed an amazing public service by using Twitter and a Google maps mashup on its Website to broadcast alerts and illustrate the danger during the deadly wildfires that swept Southern California.

Then in 2008, there was Josh Marshall’s unflinching journalism at Talking Points Memo, which prompted the resignation of the Attorney General of the United States.

Don’t get hung up on the life form: TPM is published with blog technology, and I get updates thrown on my browser’s front lawn by Twitter via RSS, (thank you Dave W!).

Update: And anyone who didn’t see Marcy Wheeler’s breathtakingly good journalism from the blog Emptywheel quoted on the front page of the New York Times, well check out the story right here.

That’s the kind of journalism that helps me sleep well at night.

I spent the first 20 years of my career inside print newsrooms, and I have nothing but admiration for the print folks whose journalism has made the world a better place. (Check out the winners and finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service Journalism. I’m proud to be on that list, in the company of a team of reporters from the late, great, Dallas Times Herald.)

It is precisely out of respect for those journalistic achievements that I will not lament the demise of newspapers that ignore the public good. David Simon details such a case in this chilling piece in the Washington Post. I’ve also written about instances where having a monopoly on the newspaper market turned watchdogs into sycophantic, naval-gazing, paper tigers. Those newspapers – and the corporations that own them – deserve to decompose with the fish.

But those forces no longer control the conversation – if they ever did. This is spring again, a time for celebration.

Centuries ago, the discovery of movable type meant that Martin Luther no longer needed permission from the Pope to publish his work.

And today, our ideas, conversations and questions won’t be stifled when the newspaper owners run out of cash and ink and stop their giant presses.

We control our own free presses with funny names, like Drupal and Joomla and WordPress, YouTube and Blip and Twitter, Flickr and Utterli and Ning.

And yes, Virginia, there really is a healthy and irrepressible thing called journalism.

Update: Please forgive my unintentional sins of omission and add the following to the list of great un-paper journalism: Politico, The Huffington Post, MarketWatch, Pegasus News and Voice of San Diego.
I will gladly add more as folks knock the cobwebs from my brain!

Visualizing Twitter

New Twitter applications just keep getting more and more fun, but they are tough to keep track of.

Here’s a delightful and encompassing post from Flowing Data on 17 Ways to Visualize the Twitter Universe.

(Call me crazy, but it reminds me of “Visualize Whirled Peas.” )

The blog’s author, Nathan Yau, says he is a UCLA PhD candidate, “statistics graduate student/computer science graduate obsessed with data and visualization.”

There’s a lot for journalism students (and journalists!) to learn from in his blog. We used to call those pretty, colorful things that went alongside the type “graphics,” but these days, data visualization can be a much better way to tell stories than with words.

I spent an enormous amount of time researching Twitter and then trying to be clear in my description, so I have a great deal of admiration for the folks at Common Craft for raising simplicity to an art form in the following wonderful video.

Twitter in plain English:

Saul Alinsky would be proud

The students and I talked current events today in my Web Publishing and Design class, and the chit chat wasn’t about the Super Bowl or Super Duper Tuesday. It was about Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo and what that could mean for all of us.

One among them knew that Google’s CEO reportedly called Yahoo’s CEO to offer help in the battle, as Reuters reported here.

For some context and food for thought, I screened the short Flash movie Epic 2015 for the class, and we talked more about mergers and the media and the future of journalism. (Note to the creators — it needs updating again!)

I was surprised again at how many elements of that movie have become routine parts of our everyday lives, and tickled that it seemed to anticipate something Twitter-like, even though it saw Friendster and not Facebook.

Some of the students said the movie left them depressed, just as it had been a downer for my print journalist friends when I first showed them Epic 2014 back in 2004, and the remake in 2005.

But I think perhaps the movie doesn’t give adequate credit to the indomitable spirit that lives in all of us who can self-publish (for free!) to places like our blogs, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, and wherever.

So here is why I am smiling, and thank you Laughing Squid, for pulling it together:

In response to Microsoft’s hostile acquisition bid for Yahoo, many Flickr users are expressing concern for what might happen if Microsoft is successful. They have even created a Flickr Group to address this issue, Microsoft: Keep Your Evil Grubby Hands Off Of Our Flickr, complete with photo pool of MS/Flickr takeover images, including some that envision what a Flickr website re-design might look like with Microsoft at the controls.

 

They are using the system to fight the system — as it should be.

I’d like to think that somewhere, Saul Alinksy is smiling upon them.

Fried squirrel, politics and the media

Some followup notes from my delightful conversation this morning on KNPR’s State of Nevada, with host Dave Berns and his panel of so-called “witty academics.” (The audio with David Damore, Ken Fernandez and me from University of Nevada, Las Vegas and Eric Herzik of University of Nevada, Reno, is here.)

During the show, I mentioned a wonderful resource at the Project for Excellence in Journalism, which has been running a campaign coverage index showing how much attention the media is giving each presidential candidate. This one, covering the week of Jan. 6 through Jan. 11, shows Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton got far more media attention for her New Hampshire “comeback” than did the also victorious Republican Senator John McCain, who had not won in Iowa. Moreover, this index suggests that Democrat John Edwards is almost being ignored by the media.

One person who called in to the show wondered if the media is shying away from him because of Edwards’ criticism of the kind of big corporations that own the media. I wasn’t as articulate as I would have liked to have been on air, so here is an addendum:

My two cents is that this is more a reflection of “pack journalism” than any philosophical thing on the part of the journalists. I could be wrong, but news organizations are lousy places to pull off a controlled conspiracy thing — they’re generally too blessed disorganized and full of ornery back-talkers.

The screw ups I’ve seen over the years stem more from laziness and fear than some order from on high. The fear comes two ways. First, there’s the fear of getting beaten. If everyone else is covering Candidate X, you’d better do it too or you will look stupid. Second, there is the fear of someone yelling at the publisher because a reporter didn’t cover their event — or because a reporter asked impolite questions. That is very real and very true.

I was pressured that way in my coverage of Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush, as I wrote about here.

Fortunately, everyone seems to have a digital camera and a recorder these days, along with access to free publishing tools on the Web. So it’s a lot harder for candidates and their spinmeisters to squelch things.

Also, I didn’t have a chance during the show to mention a couple of other fine journalism resources for election information. The Las Vegas Sun’s ace database folks put together a truly nifty interactive map that shows voting, party affiliation and contribution information by Zip Code for Clark County. Check it out and play with it — the data tells the story.

And another friend of mine over at Congressional Quarterly sent me a link to CQ Politics Primary Guide — nice stuff and good, accessible information.

Now, a reward for reading this far down.

I really wasn’t joking about Republican candidate Mike Huckabee claiming to have fried squirrel on a popcorn popper in college.

Here thanks to the good folks at Talking Points Memo, is the video:

Just because I am a calloused, cynical journalist, I do wonder if a popcorn popper actually gets hot enough to fry a squirrel.

But then, I wonder about a lot of things.

Perhaps some enterprising reporter will put it to a truth test.