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.

Polling Place Photo Project

Boston Public Library was one of many polling places open on November 4, 2008. Look at more pictures from the BPL and voting venues throughout the nation here.

Boston Hill Farm

The slowly but surely fading crisp fall weather is the perfect reason to spend your weekends outdoors enjoying nature until winter arrives. Traditional fall activities like pumpkin and apple picking are inexpensive yet fun ways to enjoy the season.

Last Saturday I explored Boston Hill Farm off route 114 in North Andover, MA. It's an ideal place to spend the day entertaining young children and is perfect for a family outing. PLEASE don't leave without trying the homemade ice cream or apple cider donuts!!!

to find out what the farm has to offer (including some tasty fall treats).

Friday, October 24, 2008

Video+blogging= a video blogger

Steve Garfield of
Steve Garfield.com is a videoblogger and journalism professor at Boston University. In January 2004, Garfield took on a new media role: video journalist and blogger united. If you ask him what his job title is, he'll tell you he's an enthusiastic videoblogger. Confused as to what a videoblogger is and does? Well, it's quite simple. His blog is narrated by short videos of stories he's covered. Writing is replaced by compact mini-news packages and editing isn't always necessary. The shots don't have to be perfect and interviews include conversation. As a new media journalist, Garfield writes, edits, films, interviews, produces, and reports all of his stories by himself. In addition to his wide range of journalism skills, his upbeat, friendly personality shines through on camera.

Let's go over what Steve Garfield.com has to offer.

Cup O Politics is a humorous take on the political game. There is an amusing spoof on Hilary Clinton being eliminated from the presidential race to the song "Desperado." The video is clever and the lyrics changed to mock Hilary's failure:

"Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You've been out losing races for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
I know that you've got your reasons
But I wish you would keep them
To yourself and just step down."

His one-person citizen journalism also discusses his take on pop culture and technology. "Off on a Tangent" includes a HILARIOUS dance-off between McCain and Obama. You definitely need to watch this for a good laugh. So funny. He has some reports up on CNN iReport too and they are included in the "Off on a Tangent" section.

Garfield's video blog reports on everything from how to cook schrod, a young cod fish, to an old 1931 rolls royce ( awesome car). Videoblogging is a creative, relaxed combination of blogging and broadcast journalism. Reporters have the freedom to incorporate their personality into their work and add some life to it.

Furthermore, he has the ability to connect to a live feed called Qik. After he spoke to our Reinventing the News class, Garfield demonstrated how easy it is to film a live shot with his tiny Nokia N95 camera phone. Technology has enabled journalists to do amazing things!

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Break from Politics: BC defeats Virginia Tech

Welcome to Alumni Stadium: home of the Boston College Eagles. Click here for more pictures.

Chestnut Hill was high in spirit for the Boston College-Viriginia Tech football game Saturday night October 18.

Eagle and
hokie fans alike attended the game in masses. The BC campus was packed with fans of all ages from near and far. By 5:30 p.m. Boston and Virginia fans were pouring out of the T(last stop on the B-line), while drivers patiently waited to park and commence pre-game festivities. Police presence was substantial as extra man power helped direct traffic and assure fan safety.

Students tailgated in their backyards wearing maroon and gold; a symbol of their school pride. According to
Tristin O'Keefe, a Boston College junior, "Football games here are a great chance to come together and show school spirit. It's a fun event for everyone from players to students to professors."

BC beat Virginia Tech 28-23. They secured a lead early in the game and maintained it throughout all four quarters. At half-time BC led 23-17. Although they failed to score in the second half, the eagles still clenched the win. The hokies fought hard, but didn't break through the eagle defense in the fourth quarter.

Boston College students rushed the field after the officials blew the final fourth quarter whistle. Despite increased security measures, students jumped out of the stands without resistance and quickly gathered around their football team. Some were shirtless, bearing dedicated body paint in the 40 degree weather. Others weren't quite as brave, but still contributed to the mass of maroon and gold people.

Boston College is tied for 1st place with Florida State in the
ACC. This Saturday the eagles take on the North Carolina Tar Heels at 12 p.m.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Securing the Airwaves

When I wake-up in the morning and commence my daily routine, I need some kind of entertainment in the background. Usually, I watch/ listen to CMT because I love country music. My taste isn't limited to this one amazing genre, but I listen to it alot and I'm sure my roommates will agree. If I'm not listening to music then I'll turn on the news and watch/listen while I'm getting ready.

Why don't I listen to the radio instead? I'm not sure why I prematurely eliminated radio as a news possibility, but I have like many people my age.

I am a 21 year-old college senior (journalism major) at Northeastern University. How often do i listen to the radio for news? Not often and by that I mean rarely. Yes, I will if I am driving or stuck in traffic. I'll tune into the a.m. to hear some debating on talk radio. But the radio isn't my first, second, or third choice. I depend on three news outlets on a daily basis: t.v., the internet, and newspapers. I think my tendencies reflect the majority of my peers (18-25), although I'm sure some people are familiar with the advancing technology of radio on the web.

Robin Lubbock, director of new media at WBUR is dedicated to drawing more people to radio shows and he's confident radio can be transformed into a new media (if it isn't one already).
Enter the WBUR newsroom and browse hundreds of archives. Not every radio station has a corresponding website with so many different tools and options, but NPR's website follows a similar model. Search news by topic just like if you were navigating Boston.com or CNN.com. Everything is there for you at the click of a button, set-up in a simple yet sophisticated format.

I think the greatest challenge of radio journalism is persuading listeners to investigate the online version of their favorite program or news show. How can you do that and how can you ensure a listener will continue to tune in? One of Robin Lubbock's solutions is to encourage people to participate with several multimedia sections. I definitely think Robin's projects are ensuring the future of radio at WBUR. EVERYONE uses the internet. By encouraging listeners to become active in the WBUR community, he is solidifying and building his audience. The following is advertised on WBUR:

"Hey there! WBUR is using Twitter.
Twitter is a free service that lets you keep in touch with people using the web,
your phone, or IM. Join today to start receiving WBUR's updates."

Twitter is a program being used to initiate listener interaction and participation. It's a clever idea and convenient way to incorporate the internet into the radio world (similar to the path newspapers and magazines have followed).

I'm glad I heard Robin Lubbock speak about his work at WBUR because it opened my eyes to the evolving importance of radio. I now realize radio isn't out of date and it's a valuable resource for news and communication. "The video didn't kill the radio star", instead forced it to change with the times.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

DNC wants YOU (and your money)

Today I walked around Boston (on a gorgeous, warm fall day) looking for some interesting news photos. I was hoping to run into a really exciting breaking news story....like a riot gone bad. Unfortunately I didn't find that, but I discovered members of the Democratic National Committee scattered up and down Newbury Street. They were promoting Obama and persuading Bostonians to contribute their green. Check out my pictures.

Wired Journalists is Facebook for journalists, but not as creepy. I'm probably the only college student who doesn't have Facebook. I deleted it because I thought it was too much. Yes, I went through slight withdrawal, but I don't miss it very much or the ridiculous amount of time I wasted looking at my friends' profiles.

I joined three groups so far:
1. Get Wired, Get Hired
2. Elections and Politics
3. Northeastern University

Get Wired, Get Hired is a great group to join because you can read advice from fellow journalists, post questions, and search for job postings. The only problem is the group is in need of some serious participation. There have only been five comments since March 25, 2008. At the same time, the positions posted appear legitimate and are located in newsrooms throughout the country. I am graduating in December so Wired Journalists is a tool I will use to its full potential. Is my dream job waiting for me to find it on Wired Journalists?! You never know and at least their is potential for opportunity. I hope by posting a comment I can fuel some conversation among members in the group.

I've spent a little time on Wired Journalists after signing up two days ago. It's a great resource, especially for networking. I will definitely continue using it after I complete my profile, join more groups, and make friends. Uploading pictures was a very simple process. In general, navigating Wired Journalists takes very little effort. A semi-serious commitment is required to build a profile and establish yourself, but the site isn't frustrating to work with.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Palin's Fall from Grace

Thursday's vice presidential debate.

Biden vs. Sarah Palin.

We all watched it and reached similar conclusions.

Biden prevailed, while Palin stumbled and then stumbled some more.

Northeastern University Professor Dan Kennedy offers a humorous yet insightful analysis of the debate hit for hit (or in many cases hit for miss). His live-blogging of the Palin-Biden debate mocks Palin's weak responses, including the absurd number of times she referred to John McCain as a "maverick." (Technorati Authority: 174)

J.L. Bell is a Massachusetts writer who has a blog called Boston 1775 which discusses "History, analysis, and unabashed gossip about the start of the American Revolution in Massachusetts." Bell was annoyed by Palin's consistent use of the term "maverick" and posted a detailed clarification of the term and its historical meaning. (Technorati Authority: 33)

What else are Bostonians saying about Biden's and Palin's performance??

Some are irritated because Palin credited the famous phrase "city upon a hill" to Ronald Reagan. John Winthrop is the correct answer. Andrew Bacevich describes the history behind the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and offers context behind the phrase "city upon a hill." Boston. Read the summary at Universal Hub or the full text at the Huffington Post. (Technorati Authority: 296)

Bostonians hate Sarah Palin as much as they hate the idea of state income tax.
(Technorati Authority: 27)

The Blue Mass. Group has a pretty funny chart mapping out Palin's plan of attack on Thursday. (Technorati Authority: 195) As mean as it is, I can't help but laugh at the "Debate Flow Chart". She is seriously getting the third degree. There are several posts discussing the disaster the United States and poor John McCain witnessed this past week. Not only are Boston residents cracking jokes about Palin's less than accurate facts and inability to answer a question, but SNL is also contributing to the ego bruising. Palin is receiving a brutal national mocking, which is a direct reflection of liberal views here in Boston.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hot Zone? What's that?

On Wednesday I briefly presented about Kevin Sites and his project "In the Hot Zone" for my Reinventing the News class. Sites is a veteran war correspondent who reported for NBC, ABC, and CNN. Today he is referred to as a solo journalist or "sojo."

He has dodged many bullets while risking his life to report on the terrors of war. During his time at CNN, he was taken hostage by Saddam's militia. Fortunately, his translator managed to negotiate their release after a day. In 2004, he was an embedded correspondent with U.S. Marines in
Fallujah. Sites fueled a heated controversy over his footage of a U.S. Marine shooting and killing an apparently unarmed Iraqi soldier. Sites endured hate emails and death threats for a year after airing his NBC report. Watch the video to see the incident for yourself.

On November 13, 2004 Sites
blogged about the shooting:

"The carpet of the mosque is stained with blood and covered with fragments of concrete. Tank shells and machine-gun rounds have pitted the inside walls. The rotting, sweet smell of death hangs in the morning air. Gunsmoke-laced sunbeams illuminate the bodies of four Iraqi insurgents. A fifth lies next to a column, his entire body covered by a blanket.

I shudder.
Something very wrong has happened here.

Yesterday I had seen these same five men being treated by American medics for superficial wounds received during an afternoon firefight. Ten other insurgents had been killed, their bodies still scattered around the main hall in the black bags into which the Marines had placed them."

I think Sites' decision to release the footage confirms his character and dedication to journalism, although many people accused him of being anti-American. If you read his letter to 3.1 Marines, it is clear he has the utmost respect for the soldiers he was embedded with.

The Hot Zone is the final product of Sites' year long journey across the globe through every major war and conflict zone. Sites took advantage of internet technology by incorporating many multimedia components into his project. There are powerful photographs, videos, diary entries, and written reports. Each leg of the journey is broken down into chapters with exclusive video footage, pictures, and more than enough text to create a vivid picture of the particular country or war zone. You can search by chapter or scroll down to the bottom where there is a list of covered "hot zones."

I'm fascinated by the idea of a solo journalist traveling with his or her own equipment, discovering the personal struggles and triumphs of individuals caught in the wrath of violent politics. If only I were brave enough to travel to some of the most dangerous places in the world and search for truth.