Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NYT Photo Project Encourages Citizen Journalism

All pictures submitted, like the one above, have a Creative Commons license.

On November 1, 2006, William Drenttel and Jay Rosen launched the Polling Place Photo Project, an opportunity for ordinary citizens to photograph their polling places on election day and submit pictures online. The project's founder, Drenttel, enlisted the help of well-known media guru and friend Rosen. “He inspired and supported it,” says Drenttel. The friends discussed possibilities over lunch and executed the idea a few weeks later in time for the 2006 midterm elections.

Drenttel is a partner at Winterhouse Studio, a graphic design and editing company in Connecticut. He also co-founded the Design Observer, a blog about design and visual culture.

The New York Times and the Huffington Post both became interested in working with the Polling Place Project. Drenttel negotiated with the Huffington Post, but he said ultimately it "seemed too partisan for a project supposed to be non-partisan."

The Polling Place Photo Project was adopted by the New York Times in 2007 and subsequently re-named the New York Times Polling Place Photo Project. Today, Drenttel still oversees the site's content. "We approve every picture here in my office. It's designed to be a part of the New York Times and they helped a lot to make it better," says Drentell.

The goal of the project is to document what happens in polling places across the United States on Election Day. In the idea's preliminary stages, Rosen wondered, “Would anyone participate? What does it take to get people to cooperate?” These basic questions encouraged the construction of a project in which people can easily upload pictures without written requirements. Participants can add captions if they so desire and there are a series of questions to answer. The required effort is minimal in order to encourage the highest level of participation.

The goal of the project was to create a picture record of what happens in polling places and see to what degree people would become involved. According to Rosen, "There's a limit to what people will contribute beyond the basic request. People will participate, but not always as you thought."

The idea is based on an open platform, meaning anyone can participate. Citizens with the ability to operate a camera, who are enthusiastic about capturing their voting experience, can contribute. Simply put, the project is an experiment in citizen journalism.

Bianca Strzelczyk, a senior journalism major at Northeastern University , took pictures of the polling place at Northeastern's Matthews Arena for the 2008 primaries. She said it was convenient because she voted and then photographed campaign signs outside the venue.

"It opens up a door for more citizen journalism I feel and it's going to be interesting to see in four years, during the next presidential election, how much bigger it gets. If it gets bigger. Or if people just aren't interested in being citizen journalists," says Strzelczyk.

Andrea Kulish also photographed her polling place for the 2008 Primaries last spring. Kulish, a resident of Roslindale, Mass., took pictures of Roslindale Public Library and Phineas Bates Elementary School.

"I was feeling a little shy that day and I felt like they may not allow me to," explains Kulish in reference to why she didn't snap some shots inside.

Despite Kulish's hesitation about photographing inside, the Polling Place Photo Project has many examples of citizens who did just that. Enter specific search terms on the home page or select a state you want to find pictures of. There are pictures of everything from voters marking their paper ballot to individuals campaigning to long lines of people waiting.

The Citizen Media Law Project, based at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, reminds citizens that laws regarding photographing polling places vary state to state. Although citizen journalism is encouraged by the Citizen Media Law Project, citizens should ensure they're educated on the laws surrounding Election Day recording. Sam Bayard, assistant director of the Citizen Media Law Project, hopes his work will educate people so they know what they're getting into. "Different laws state to state can be very confusing," says Bayard. Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas ban recording of any kind within polling places. Bayard recommends citizens be aware of legal issues and be courteous to others during the process.

Legal policies aren't the most prevalent issue surrounding the New York Times Polling Place Photo Project and citizen journalism in general.

Bill Lancaster, a communications professor at Northeastern University, supports the New York Time's Polling Place Photo Project and similar ideas which encourage citizen journalism. Lancaster's recent documentary, That's News to Me, analyzes citizen and mainstream journalism in a technologically advancing society. He explains that ordinary people are using digital technology as a tool to express their opinions and cover the news.

“Digital media came of age in terms of citizen journalists with the devastating tsunami of several winters ago. I think that was to blogging what the JFK assassination was to broadcast news television," comments Lancaster.

There is no doubt that citizen journalism is earning an increasingly significant role in the media world, but it's difficult to determine the value of the New York Times Polling Place Project. With almost 6,000 pictures in its archive, the project has collected and documented elections all over the country in the past two years. What impact did it have on the 2008 presidential election, if any? It's difficult to tell and even its founders have found the results inconclusive.

Jay Rosen says “We didn’t become important in this election because in the end it wasn’t a close election. You can imagine if we did have problems.” Imagine a serious problem occured in a polling venue on election day; the pictures could potentially serve as evidence of what happened and be used to point out flaws in our voting system. So far, the project has documented the country's voting process and allowed citizens to capture democracy in its truest and most basic form.

“The New York Times Polling Place, as harmless as it might be, is an indication of where we’re heading. The desire for individuals to report the news and share their stories, pictures and opinions- that’s not going away," says Lancaster. "And nor is main stream journalism going away. So, I believe the new model is going to be a melding of the two.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Secret Behind Universal Hub

Adam Gaffin took a break from searching for savvy, interesting Boston blog posts Wednesday afternoon to speak to my Reinventing the News class with Professor Dan Kennedy.

The man behind Universal Hub started the blog as a hobby, but it turned out to be a great success. Make no mistake- he isn't quitting his day job anytime soon, but the site's popularity has potential to develop further with a nice advertisement boost.

Gaffin reads blogs during his lunch hour and while exercising, so he makes time during his busy schedule. The quality of Universal Hub would make one assume he's working away 24 hours a day; reading and analyzing every blog possible. Although the blog isn't his day job, he's very dedicated and this is evident through the articulate selection of stories and Gaffin's reporting.

Universal Hub is a unique yet reliable supplement to main stream media. Because Gaffin is the writer, editor, and final say on everything; he chooses to incorporate personal stories and topics left out by big news organizations.

Also, Gaffin is a perfect motivation for people who are interested in starting their own blog, but are afraid they don't have the resources to commit to such a project. It can be done, you simply need to time manage and be enthusiastic. If you're looking to make money off your own blog then hop to it....time is of the essence. And remember to link as much as possible (and people will reciprocate).

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Twitter: Yay or Nay?

So Twitter. A shorter, extremely condensed method of blogging. Is it really necessary to summarize your thoughts in 140 characters or less? What's next? People eliminate face to face interaction completely and communication only through online programs? I know my example is exaggerated, but you get the point. We have text messaging, facebook, myspace, blogs, and dozens of other social networking sites. Not to mention instant messaging and google chat.

Professor Dan Kennedy described Twitter as a "micro-blogging platform" in his presentation Monday, which is an accurate characterization of the chatting. It's blogging simplified and less formal. Could it be considered tasteless using casual Twitter lingo to give a play by play of an individual's funeral? Yes.

This may seem a little harsh, but I think the idea behind Twitter is a bit....obsessive. Yeah, maybe information can be streamed and shared immediately. So,
something happens in the world people are going to run to their computers or engage in Twitter conversations with complete strangers on their phones?

Furthermore, I wouldn't consider Twitter a substantial or reliable resource for breaking news. As long as people understand Twitter is a forum for conversation, it's not a problem. But, I don't see the connection between Twitter news feeds and journalism.

The recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai were twittered about alot. I'm uncertain of the value of the "tweets" because who are they coming from and what is the purpose of conversing through Twitter? Is it to share cold hard facts and straight forward information or analyze news with one another? The problem is that ordinary citizens and journalists can't be separated on Twitter.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The internet offers so many resources today that it's difficult to keep up. Even as a person who is constantly reading and watching the news, there is always something new to be discovered.

NewsTrust offers individuals, journalists or not, the opportunity to freely critique and review news stories. As with most social networking sites, you can create a profile and add a picture of yourself.

NewsTrust can be valuable for two reasons: to have people comment on your writing and to comment on the writing of others. It can be used as a free editing session, although some people may simply have an agenda to express. Simultaneously, I assume most people who take the time to go on Newstrust actually have a legitimate incentive to submit and review stories. Of course there is always one person who has to be obnoxious, but offering and receiving constructive criticism should be a positive process. I am new to the site and the idea, but I don't have any serious problems with the idea. I think people need to be careful just like with any other internet resource, always take what you read into consideration, but don't be a fool.

I read and reviewed three similar articles about Barack Obama's economic news conference this afternoon. I chose three stories on the Citigroup crisis and related issues to make a clear contrast. I wanted to compare how each reporter approached the story and evaluate the information they incorporated or in some cases, left out.


Another Crisis, Another Guarantee...
Obama Presents Team...

Obama Shows Financial Markets...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Chicken Lou's

More Pictures.....

Caffeinated Campus Map

Chicken Lou's, located at 50 Forsyth St., is very popular among Northeastern students.
The small stand is near Huntington Avenue and conveniently located in the middle of campus. On a typical weekday morning or around lunch time, students can be found in masses waiting for their order.

It's open weekdays 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Chicken Lou's is best known for their breakfast sandwiches and tasty lunch specials. If you're in need of a caffeine fix their medium coffee is $1.75. And the line moves much quicker than Dunkin Donuts.

The coffee is pretty good and the people are friendly. They don't waste any time, so make sure you know what you want! No day dreaming on line. They get you in and out, which is a plus because people are usually in a rush these days.

Monday, November 10, 2008

States Stretched and Shrunk

Alright...everyone knows red refers to Republican and blue means Democrat. Pre-election America was flooded with maps and charts predicting the presidential results by state. At some points in the campaigning process I suffered from information overload. All I needed was a straightforward image to cut to the chase.

These maps analyze the election outcome through various perspectives and encourage Americans to look further then our electoral college system.

The first map is initially very deceiving and shows that Senator John McCain should have won the election. But, it doesn't incorporate the population distribution throughout the United States. Population distribution is a vital component of our voting system. Although the map is dominated by red states (Republican voters) in the south and mid-west, it isn't an accurate reflection of Obama's victory.

Blue prevailed in California, New York, and Ohio with a total of 106 electoral votes. These states went to Senator Barrack Obama.

The second map is altered and the size of the states are changed to reflect their population. This new image of the United States uniquely displays where people live. Notice how California is much larger and the northeast is substantially inflated as well. Most Americans have a basic understanding of how the electoral college works, but an altered map image presents a great deal of information quite simply.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Emily Sweeney says 123 Party

You remember party boy from the MTV show Jackass?? Well, the trio dance group 123 Party is the Boston version.

Boston Globe reporter Emily Sweeney covered the dancers performing in Harvard Square on February 24, 2007. 123 Party caused quite a stir throughout the city, but are rumored to be broken up now because one member moved to NY.

Watch Emily's video of 123 Party and decide for yourself (you don't want to miss the spandex or obnoxious green shirts)....outrageous or highly entertaining?

Sweeney's fresh, innovative approach to journalism is reflective of her unique personality. An award-winning journalist, she is a Boston Globe staff reporter and a multi-media journalist incorporated into one. Her skills are reflective of the existing qualifications for young journalists in a multi-media society. You need to know how to do everything. And the more you know, the better off you are. Being a journalist these days means knowing how to write, report, edit, film video, take pictures, and blog.

As Emily explained, the format and quality of the videos she shoots for Boston.com aren't the same news packages you watch on NECN or any other news station. She likes to include the questions she asks during an interview because that's how it actually happened. A laid back approach to news videos allows for freedom and creativity from a journalist's standpoint. Often she doesn't have time to edit a video with the goal of perfection because she has a written article and a deadline to meet. The video portion of her stories is the icing on the cake. Words brought to life.

Creativity makes her writing and video reporting exciting. Her video on Boston Slang is a solid example of what thinking outside the box and technology can collaboratively produce. Sweeney assisted Globe correspondent, Billy Baker, in presenting his story about Bostonian vocabulary.

Instead of simply recording people saying "bubbla" and "jimmy", the duo compiled a series of pictures, video, and sound to convey the meaning of historical Boston phrases. Presentation is not important, but essential. When you're telling a story with words or with pictures and sound, you have to spice it up with some personality. Thanks to the newly established videobloggers and journalism's aggressive presence on the web, journalists have a greater opportunity to develop an individual reporting style.