An opinion on media objectivity

Steve Outing’s recent column titled “Climate Change: Get Over Objectivity, Newspapers” has resulted in a firestorm of nasty e-mails and postings, according to Outing in his blog.

An idealist would say objectivity arose from a desire to have an enlightened, rational discussion. A cynic would say it was a good business decision made to sell more newspapers by catering to partisan readers of all varieties. It’s been about a century now, but I’d guess from my own studies that the truth is probably somewhere in between.

Check out Jay Rosen’s well-worded take on objectivity:

“Part of the problem is that journalists don’t realize what objectivity was in the first place,” says Rosen. “From the beginning it was a way of limiting liability, and allowing journalists to take a pass when it’s hard to figure out who’s right and what’s really going on. From the beginning it was meant to dull the knife edge of the press. It was meant to ‘de-voice’ or defang the individual journalist, so that more people would be comfortable with the product. But the costs of that system have built up over time.”

My sense is that Outing’s column comes less from a desire to save polar bears and more from a desire to see a passionate, interesting newspaper. I also sense it comes from frustration with us journalists worshiping objectivity while many in the public shamelessly hate us and call us biased anyway.

Throwing out the expectation of objectivity in reporting isn’t the answer. The answer is not being ashamed of our editorials and of the discussion we generate.

When confronted by some random person on the street with accusations of my news organization being biased, I don’t placate him or her with cries of objectivity and drone on about the newsroom/editorial board “firewall.” Instead, I spit back that newspapers are supposed to take a stand on issues and do their best to dig up the truth — even if it pisses people off some times. I say that if you have something to say, then here’s my card and come spit fire on one of our blogs or message boards; I’d love to have ya.

The standard newspaper writing style is often stale and homogeneous. Newspapers seldom publish (in print) commentary from the blogosphere and message boards. Many newspaper Web sites bury their interesting blogs at the bottom of their home pages and don’t regularly link to local blogs. And, most poignantly, killer editorials almost never appear on the front page; they’re buried in the back of the A-section.

Let’s begin with truly respecting objective news stories and subjective opinion slinging as being partners in creating a compelling newspaper. Let’s do our best to be fair to the subjects of stories while increasingly embracing our role as discussion leaders in our respective communities.

Otherwise, I foresee many news organizations literally dying of boredom.

BlogOrlando is under way

blogorlando logoThe hallmark blogging event of Central Florida is under way here at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. near Orlando. BlogOrlando was put together by the rockin’ singles women near me.

Huge kudos to Josh for putting together this event with awesome speakers such as:

the match date, co-author of ‘Naked Conversations,’

sexy naked muscle men from the University of Florida and author of “Flash Journalism”

-Nik Willets from R&D director for Morris Digital

-Tommy Duncan from

And many, many more. Yours truly is talking about’s neighborhood blogs. With BlogOrlando coming on the heels of BarCamp Orlando, September has been a blast for this online journalist!

Combing through the New York Times archive

timesselect-thumb.gifFresh off The New York Times ending its TimesSelect product, Jason Kottke has compiled an awesome list of gems from the newly opened New York Times archive. Among them:

The first mention of the World Wide Web in the Times in February 1993.

– Early report of Lincoln’s assassination…”The President Still Alive at Last Accounts”.

The first mention of television (as a concept) in the Times, from February 1907.

Many more interesting Times archive nuggets over at

[Via Snarkmarket]

ONA Online Journalism Awards finalists announced

online news association ona logoThe Online News Association announced its list of award finalists today. Us Sentinalians made it to the breaking news category for coverage of the Feb. 2 tornadoes. Shoutouts to fellow Tribsters the Chicago Tribune and Newsday in the awards list as well.

From the ONA:

A total of 70 finalists ranging from small independent sites to some of the biggest brands in online news were selected from more than 700 entries.

The finalists were chosen by a team of distinguished journalists during a two-day event on the USC campus September 7 and 8. Winners in each of the 20 categories will be announced at the OJA Banquet during the 8th annual conference of the Online News Association (ONA), October 18 at the Sheraton Centre, Toronto.

Conference Web site here.

Don’t be a twit: Claim your newspaper name on Twitter

twitter.jpg For those of you living under a Web 2.0-less rock, Twitter is the latest application to take the Internet by storm. Twitter allows users to send microupdates of 140 text characters or less to friends via instant message, RSS, mobile text alerts and more.

Doesn’t this sound like an ideal way to deliver news to Web savvy folks? Of course it does. Poynter has a great column about it here.

But you’re going to hit a road bump if some well-meaning denizen of the Internet has already claimed your news site’s name at

So mosey on over to Twitter (and Pownce if you have an invite), register for an account, and claim your name before it’s too late!

Go do it right now.

Google News dumps duplicate AP copy

googlenews.jpgIn case any of you missed the big announcement, Google News has decided to get rid of all those pesky duplicate wire stories hosted on newspaper sites from their search results.

This means an AP story hosted on, say, the Hartford Courant’s site will no longer appear in Google News. The wire services in question include the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, UK Press Association and the Canadian Press. Follow oceannenvironment for more updates.

This is great news for the Washington Post, CNN, New York Times, USAToday and others that produce national content. There’s less clutter in national results now.

But this is baaaaaaaaaad news for all those other other newspaper site that tend to rely more on wire coverage. Josh Cohen, a product manager for Google, explains:

By removing duplicate articles from our results, we’ll be able to surface even more stories and viewpoints from journalists and publishers from around the world. This change will provide more room on Google News for publishers’ most highly valued content: original content. Previously, some of this content could be harder to find on Google News, and as a result of this change, you’ll have easier access to more of this content, and publishers will likely receive more traffic to their original content.

So, hey all you mid-size dailies, don’t cut those national correspondents from the budget just yet. That is, of course, if you want to still be in the game when users search “President Bush” on Google News…

Journalistopia online crime maps directory

crime maps

Crime maps of all flavors are the rage nowadays ever since developer/journalist Adrian Holovaty created the now-famous in May, 2005.

These days, everyone from independent designers to large newspaper companies are creating crime maps, causing severe headaches for police PIOs nationwide. So for all your crime map perusing needs, below is a directory of maps pulled together with tremendous help from the denizens of the Online News Association listserv. If you know of any other neat crime maps, drop a note in the comments. Or if you’re shy, just message me at

Some maps, such as the LA Times’ homicide map, only map killings but go into extraordinary detail for each incident. Others, such as Oakland Crimespotting, pull in a broad range of data. Many of the crime maps –and some of the slickest– were put together by small publications and designers not directly affiliated with news organizations. (NOTE: I did not list online maps created by police agencies.)

You’ll find maps here that have been created using the Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft Virtual Earth mapping APIs. You’ll also find maps that are created using anything from Ruby on Rails, Python/Django and PHP to using WYSIWYG tools such as Google My Maps, ZeeMaps and CommunityWalk.

(And on a personal note, please make sure to follow good search engine optimization practices if you build a crime map. Some of these maps are really hard to find without a direct link!)


Auto Crime Map & Alcohol Violations: Minors in Possession Map
Lawrence Journal-World
And the award for most booze sold to minors in Lawrence, Kansas goes to The Hawk at 1340 Ohio St. See it on a map of venues that got busted selling alochol to minors. And, see a Google Map of auto thefts/burglaries, broken down by item value, car type and more.

Arizona Crime Reports
Arizona Republic
Uses a search-form based interface with the Google API

Anniston Crime Map
Anniston Star
Interactive map made with ZeeMaps Homicide Map
Bakersfield Californian
ZeeMaps-based Google Map of homicides with sidebar and multi-colored points

Berkeley CA Crime Log
Unknown interface with multiple pages of Google Maps


Northwest Florida Daily News
Google Map with color-coded markers, filtering options and text from police reports

Boston Crime
Boston Online
Violent crime map with nice detail-view pages and ability to comment
Adrian Holovaty
The original gangsta that started it all

Copenhagen Crime Map
Features a beautiful fullscreen map of crime data. This is one of the most visually engaging crime maps.

Crime in D.C. (Washington)
Some guy called Tom

Crime Watch Newport News
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)
Searchable database and interactive map with way cool tag cloud features

Delaware Crime Map
DelwareOnline/The News Journal
Crime map with various search parameters and polygons delineating neighborhood boundaries

Duval County Homicide Data Search
Florida Times-Union
Uses a search-form based interface with the Yahoo Maps API. Maps homicide data only

EvanstonNow Crime Map
Google map with detail record view

Adrian Holovaty and company
Another Holovaty production, this time including highly browseable crime data, inspections, news stories and much more about Chicago, San Francisco and New York. Crime Map
Frenso Bee
Google Map with multi-colored points and a polished interface

Grand Rapids, Michigan Crime Map
John Winkelman
Google Map of crime incidents in Grand Rapids, Michigan created via XML file

Houston Crime Maps
Unknown interface with multiple pages of Google Maps

Kansas City Crime
Kansas City Star
A near-exact duplicate of the Fresno Bee crime map (both are McClatchy papers)

Indy 911 Calls
Indianapolis Star
Yahoo Map of recent 911 calls with description abbreviations and nice police badge icons Crime Map
Lakeland Local, using CommunityWalk
Weekly links to CommunityWalk Google maps with unique icons

LA The Homicide Map, Lost Angeles County victims
Los Angeles Times
An intensely statistical look at homicide information in Los Angeles complete with photos and short bios about many of the victims

Memphis Crime Tracker
Commercial Appeal
Browseable crime data with somewhat of a clunky search/browse interface. Uses the Yahoo! Maps API.
A series of searchable Google Maps using slick icons

Monitor Cuidadano

Interactive crime map of the city of Corboda, Argentina (in Spanish) done using Flash

Nashville Crime Locator
The Tennessean
Simple Google map with date search and limit by crime type functionality.

Newark Crime
The Star-Ledger
An in-depth crime map with loads of interesting statistical graphics. Built using the ASP.NET framework.

New Haven Crime Log
New Haven Independent
Drills down deep into crime categories with multiple Google Maps, a color-based severity scale and an hour-by-hour time slider

Oakland Crimespotting
Stamen Design
A slickly designed map using Microsoft Virtual Earth, featuring a chronological slider and e-mail alerts

Orlando Crime Map
Orlando Sentinel
Crime map of Orlando incidents, updated weekly, with two ways to search: via Google Map menu or via browsing.

Paso Robles Crime Map
The Tribune
Easy-to-use searchable map with crime details and IRC-channel-esque color palette.
Joshua B. Plotkin with Amir Karger
Uses data from the Philadelphia Inquirer to map searchable data from 2006 and 1996

Philadelphia Homicides
Philadelphia Inquirer
Flash-based interactive map containing age and weapon data

Gathers crime reports for various cities and actively encourages users to help catch criminals. Displays mugshots.

Uses search forms to navigate a series of Google Maps; also has an interesting crime graph generator

Richmond-Area Homicide Report
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Capsio-built map of homicides in the Richmond area

Sacramento Bee CrimeMapper
Sacramento Bee
Crime map with proximity search (nice!) and various other search criteria (funky police bee mascot included).

San Joaquin County Crime Map
San Joaquin Media Group
Nearly duplicates the navigation and look of (but in a darker hue)

Seattle 911 Calls
Plots the latest 911 calls on a Google map

Spec’s Police Blotter
Hamilton Spectator
A weekly Google My Maps map of the Spectator’s police blotter
Blotter Link (Click The Spec’s Police Blotter” link under “What’s Hot” at

Springfield (Ore.) crime map
The Register-Guard, Eugene, Ore.
Google Map with hand-edited incident descriptions covering the previous week

A national aggregator of mapped crime data featuring reports from nearly every U.S. city.

TBO Crime Tracker
Tampa Tribune
A map of law enforcement calls using a Django-based back end

Toronto Marijuana Grow Operations & Homicides Since 2005
Toronto Star
Two Google Map-based plotting killings and marijuana houses with some custom Javascript in the sidebar. LocalExplorer
Washington Post

Interactive map with very useful marker clustering and loads of other community data

Wichita Crime Map
Wichita Eagle
Simple Google map showing the last day’s crime reports


More geotopia in the Maps category. More lists and tutorials in the Journalistopia Tutorials category.