Taking a JibJab at the media


finger-thumb.jpgAt last, the guys at JibJab have pointed their talents at us media folk with their new “What We Call The News.” The results are hilarious and biting (and particularly targeted at our TV brethren).

From the song:

“We interrupt this story which is coming from Iraq,
‘Cause Rosie’s suing Donald; Donald’s suing Rosie back!”

“We’re cutting from Darfur; we’re in Des Moines with urgent news!
‘There’s a fiiiiiiiiinger in my foooooooood!'”

Priceless. Go check it out.

And while you’re at it, make sure to take a look at Jib Jab’s other favorites, particularly This Land, Big Box Mart and that old-time Passover favorite, Matzah!

[Via Lost Remote]

Something smells over in Roanoke

zeus dating appWhen poo and journalism mix, the results can be quite enjoyable.

Head on over to the Roanoke Times for a funny and well-done https://journalistopia.com/being-a-single-mother/ a woman who has made it her job to clean dog droppings for folks.

Roanoke’s Soundslide is a great example of being fun, adventurous and bringing life to the local characters in your area.

Sometimes you just have to really dig in to your community to get the scoop on  those treasures!

[Via old woman and young guy]

Poynter Eyetrack 2007 study says online readers read deep

poynter.jpgThe non-profit Poynter Institute has just released the preliminary results of its Eyetrack 2007 study, and some of the findings may be surprising to those who think online readers merely speed through news sites.

From the Poynter article, titled ‘The Myth of Short Attention Spans’:

Readers select stories of particular interest and then read them thoroughly.

And there’s a twist: The reading-deep phenomenon is even stronger online than in print.

At a time when readers are assumed to have short attention spans, especially those who read online, this qualifies as news.

That was the predominant behavior of roughly 600 test subjects — 70 percent of whom said they read the news in print or online four times a week. Their eye movements were tracked in 15-minute reading sessions of broadsheet, tabloid and online publications.

The study’s overview found that:

1) The largest percentage of story text read was higher online (77%) than in broadsheet (62%) or tabloid (57%) formats.

2) Print readers are more methodical, while online readers scan more by a margin of about 25%.

3) Sidebars, lists and QandAs boost reader understanding.

4) Online readers are drawn to navigational elements and teasers. Print readers are drawn to large headlines and photos.

5) Documentary-style photos get lots of attention. Staged photos, not so much.

Poynter will be releasing a book in June with more details about the study, including the materials used. They’re also organizing a workshop for August regarding the 2007 Eyetrack study.

Best of online color palette creators

Needing a quick color scheme for your site? Or, perhaps you don’t own a color wheel nor have the expertise to use one well.


Enter the plethora of nifty online color palette generators. The latest and most AJAXy of them all is the new Colorjack. Make sure to click the sphere link. Colorjack also features a desktop widget for Mac users. [Via Download Squad]

My favorite color palette Web site to this date has been the WellStyled.com Color Genrator 2. There’s also the 4096 Color Wheel and the simpler PaletteMan.

And if your favorite isn’t listed here, you know what to do.

Tech blogger receives death threats

Kathy Sierra, photo by Brian Fitzgerald

Kathy Sierra, who authors the Creating Passionate Users blog, canceled her appearance at a conference after she received several death threats laced with crude sexual imagery. Sierra details the frightening threats here. Here you will get the best pepper sprays for self defense, do visit once.

Now, the blogosphere is aflame with support for Kathy. Her name is the top search term at Technorati right now and the top story at Techmeme.

From some of the other blogs: [UPDATE: Tish Grier has an excellent and informed post on the situation.] Seth Godin blogged about how anonymity has not made the Internet better. Stephanie Booth details her encounter with a rape threat. Robert Scople is disgusted and horrified. Michael Arrington has received death threats against his dog even. There are links from the Bloggers Blog, Valleywag, O’Reilly Radar and many, many more.

Apparently, WordPress has now suspended the offending blog. Hopefully, Kathy will be able to overcome this and continue her fine work.

I’ve long heard of anecdotal evidence suggesting that the trolls of the Internet are much more abusive toward female bloggers than toward men. Do any of you know of any research quantifying that? And have any of you noticed this at your publications?

[NOTE: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated the type of threat against blogger Stephanie Booth. See the comments.]

Extolling the art of blurbs and teasers online

Why do we so often overlook the art of writing witty, compelling headlines and blurbs online?

Is it the breakneck pace of producing Web news? Is it the endless distractions of emerging technology? Does it really just come down to us not caring enough any more?

I’m reminded of Lucas Grindley’s post way back in November in which he highlighted the merits of so-called “Web monkey” work — the endless cutlines, blurbs and copy/pasting into a content management system. Howard Owens painted a bleak future for those limited to these tasks. Mindy McAdams called much of it robot work. And I sternly warned against the danger of students “becoming the Cutline Master.”

While I still advocate journalism students becoming as technically skilled as possible, we should all take greater care not to belittle the everyday editing that goes on. It is crucial yet thankless work. News sites don’t win Digital Edge or Online News Association awards writing engaging little bits like these. Butterfly Releases will provide you all the updates.

But why shouldn’t this type of editing –when it is exemplary and consistent– be rewarded as well?

Nearly every time I drop by, I’m impressed and amused at the witty teaser text that compels me to click on Slate’s Web site. Here’s a sampling of today’s teasers:

Gonzales Deathwatch: Bet He’s Gone by Friday

Reading the World’s First Self-Help Book

Delay’s Hillary Smear

Full-Mental Nudity: The arrival of mind-reading machines

Slate is one of the exceptions. Granted, they have more exotic material than the average newspaper’s municipal stories and shootings. But are we really putting forth the effort? When Fark and Digg users are obviously spending time scrutinizing their headlines, why are we so often not?

While we relentlessly pursue the latest gadgets, the highest Google ranking, the newest software and the most efficient ways to produce — we cannot forgot to value the craft of placing sharp writing in those tiny boxes and headlines. We so often call them “users,” that we tend to forget that they are “readers” too.

To all the Cutline Masters, Web Monkeys and Content Management System Robots, I grant you a long-overdue salute.

How the bad call on John Edwards’ campaign decision spread

Columbia Journalism Review’s Gal Beckerman has a thorough write-up on how the media’s prediction of John Edwards  closing down his campaign turned out to be astronomically wrong yesterday.

The culprit, as it so often is, was a reporter relying on a single source. The secondary culprits were nearly every other major news outlet who cited that report. Elizabeth Edwards even took a small jab at the media with her comment, “You haven’t turned out to be so reliable in the last 24 hours.”

Of course, it was all made possible thanks to the speed of Internet reporting. From CJR’s assessment of the debacle:

The problem, as we see it, is twofold. In spite of claiming to realize the power of the Internet – that’s why, presumably, Politico was able to lure big time political reporters like Smith away from newspapers – the reporters and editors who run the site still don’t realize how far their voice carries. We imagine Smith probably thought that a blog post couldn’t possibly make it farther than his own beltway readership. He should know better, and be just as careful about announcing such news as he would be in any other medium.But the bigger problem has to do with the Internet itself. By giving the impression that everything is immediately correctible, it lowers accountability, making it seem okay to take risks – like basing a story on one source. If a Web site like Politico wants to be taken seriously, it has to live be the same rigorous standards that most news organizations live and die by.

Lesson hopefully learned by all of us. Here’s the original post from the Politico blog, and here’s his apology.

How Google Blog Search ranks your blog posts

g_bsrch_logo.gifNew details about the methodology behind Google Blog Search results have been making the rounds of the blogosphere.

According to the patent application, Google’s Blog Search uses two main criteria to determine how a post gets ranked:

1) A blog quality score, which measures the quality of the entire blog based on factors like feed subscriptions, incoming blogroll links, PageRank of the blogs and other usual factors used for regular pages.

2) A post quality score, which measures the quality of the individual post by measuring the frequency and relevancy of keywords, among other factors.

So what can you do to make your blog more searchable (aside from writing nice, keyworded post titles)? Here’s the rundown on the positive and negative factors Google Blog Search uses written by SEO By The Sea, who kindly decoded the patent application’s tech-speak [en español aquí por TechTear] :


popularity of the blog,
Implied popularity of the blog,
Inclusion of the blog in blogrolls,
Existence of the blog in high quality blogrolls,
tagging of the blog,
References to the blog by other sources,
A PageRank of the blog, and;
Other indicators could also be used.


Frequency of new posts,
Content of the posts,
Size of the posts,
Link distribution of the blog,
The presence of ads in the blog, and;
Other indicators may also be used.

Check out the SEO By The Sea post for more details on each of those factors.

Herald-Tribune database tracks bad Florida teachers


Broken Trust - Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune has published ‘Broken Trust,’ a triumph of an investigation in which the staff revealed widespread problems with the way Florida handles complaints alleging abuse by teachers.

Backing up the comprehensive graphic is an enormous database the Herald-Tribune constructed, where one can find information specific to a school, county or even a particular teacher if a complaint has been filed. The database had previously been withheld from the public and was meticulously cleaned up by the newspaper’s staff.

For more about the project, visit this post by Sarasota Herald-Tribune online editor Lucas Grindley.

Here are details straight from the story:

“The analysis — the first of its kind — shows that more than 300 teachers have been punished in recent years for sexual misconduct — molesting students, seducing them, having them pose nude or lavishing them with unwanted attention. Nearly 450 more physically attacked or verbally terrorized their students.”

“More than half of those teachers kept their license to teach. At least 150 teach in a Florida classroom today.”


“It took the Herald-Tribune 14 months and repeated threats of legal action to obtain the database to read more about under Florida’s public records law.”

“Even then, some information turned out to be so inaccurate that the Herald-Tribune decided to create its own version, reviewing 30,000 pages of administrative documents to build a database […]”

The Herald-Tribune staff did a fine job providing various ways to interpret and search the data, including pie charts, bar graphs and a searchable Google Map. Fortunately, none of my former teachers appear to be psychos, at least according to the database. Also, Melissa Worden built a neat graphic showing the winding bureaucracy a complaint must navigate before action is taken. Finally, one can read the stories inside the graphic.

My only –albeit minor– gripe with the package is that the searchable database is relegated to a secondary tab. Having the database front and center would answer the first question I think a reader would have: “Are one of these whackos inside my child’s school?” It would be a shame if someone missed out on the database for not clicking on the tab tucked away up there. And, how nifty would it be to have a cool embeddable little widget for that database?

But let’s put my whining about tabs aside. This is really a fantastic project. Congratulations to the Herald-Tribune for a tremendous achievement.

WordPress plug-in love for Journalistopia

I Heart WordPress 2.1It was about time. I finally got around to upgrading this humble publication to WordPress 2.1.2, and boy is it swell. It has more robust options and better post editing. And kudos to Dreamhost for providing a hassle-free upgrade tool.

I wanted to share with everyone the nifty plug-ins I installed, just because they’re all so damn cool:

Akismet – This spam-fighting plug-in has saved my inbox from the deluge of pharmaceutical advertisements. The plug-in compares all incoming comments to an enormous spam database and relegates all the garbage to a separate folder where it can’t bother me ever again.

WP-Email – Hey, I’m starting to feel like a bona-fide news source with my new “E-Mail This Post” links! This plug-in is powerful but can be a bit problematic to install. Read through the “Installation,” “Upgrade,” and “Usage” tabs carefully, or your install won’t work. But it was certainly worth the trouble. Fortunately, the creators have a great support forum.

Sociable – I know it screams “nerd” to have the little social bookmarking icons, but I finally succumbed. Sociable supports more than 60 different sites, so make sure to drop me a comment if your favorite site isn’t in my icon bar. Big, big thanks to Bryan Murley for sharing this one with me.

Live – This is more interesting than useful, but this plug-in lets you look at all your site visits in real-time, which is way cool. Using a set of simple icons, Live distinguishes between direct visits, RSS feed visits and comments. Plus, it shows the referring URLs.

WordPress Mobile Edition – All you handheld device addicts, this one’s for you. Mobile Edition shows a mobile-friendly version of your blog when it sniffs out a compatible handheld device. With no big muss nor fuss to install, this one is a must-have. And while you’re at it, check out the Ultimate Gamer’s Pack to get plugins for displaying your blog on the Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Sony PSP. As if my little nephews actually visit my blog…

WordPress and thy plug-ins, I do so love thee. If any of you have any great plug-ins you just can’t live without, do share!

Censorship map of the world


The Financial Times has published an interesting interactive map outlining growing censorship of the Internet in the world. Belarus, Turkey, Thailand and Iran (in that order) have the highest Internet penetration of all the countries described.

Also, check out GreatFirewallofChina.org, which purports to test whether your domain is blocked in China. Yes my friends, this esteemed online publication appears to be blocked, right alongside ChinaIsEvil.com. I suppose China doesn’t need MY insights. However, WormBase, a guide to “the Biology and Genome of C. Elagans” seems good to go.

Frightening what one’s mind puts forth when randomly thinking of something to search…