Tweeting Joplin

This is an incredible blog post by New York Times reporter Brian Stetler about the power of Twitter when reporting is most needed. It’s worth a read. It’s also worth noting that whether covering a disaster in this country or a war somewhere thousands of miles away, connectivity is key. It isn’t reporting if you can’t get the word out. It’s funny how Twitter bridged that gap in this case.

New Class

I took a couple classes over at Plymouth State this past semester to beef up my transcript in case I ever decide to go to graduate school. I have a minor in economics, but I needed to fulfill a few prerequisites to be eligible for some of the schools I am interested in.

I’ve got a ton going on, of course, so I don’t foresee myself going anywhere anytime soon, but I figured as long as I’m somewhat near a school and have the time and the money I should just get it done. I’d love to study journalism, to really dig into it, but going into debt for journalism and then coming out to a sour job market doesn’t sound like a great plan. Who knows where journalism is headed, but having $50,000 in baggage isn’t going to speed me on the journey.

But then I found this. It’s a graduate-level journalism class aimed at 21st century media, without the classroom. I follow the professor, Mindy McAdams, on Twitter, and I was psyched when she posted the course material. The questions about privacy, activism and the online world that she poses are just the sort of discussions I love to engage in, but they only come up once in a while in the day to day of the newsroom. It’s a chance to check back into those questions, which may not make up the forefront of a reporter’s day, but they are pervasive in the background.

So I’m going to try to tackle as much of it as I can over the coming weeks, although I’ll have to integrate it into an otherwise pretty busy schedule. Oh well, it’s not like I’m afraid of a little work. I am taking a vacation to Iraq, after all…

Election Night

Tonight is going to be busy. At 8 p.m. I head to the office to put together Wednesday’s paper, which will have all the latest news about the 2010 election, assuming the ballots are counted by 11 p.m. tonight. At the mayoral election last year I was able to tweet the race results as they came into Berlin city hall, but this overall is a much larger effort. 2009 was not a banner year for races, other than local ones, while this should be.

The daily news cycle is a different beast than that of a weekly, and the differences are worth experiencing. The push for a morning paper that has all the results is something I never worried about before; with a Monday deadline, Tuesday’s results never made it. Any big stories would be addressed the next week, and smaller issues would fall to the daily. Now I am the daily (although not in the grand form of how I was the weekly, where I did everything in the paper, including photos), and those tasks fall to me.

I talked to the woman who is taking my place at the Reporter yesterday. I did what I could to reassure her that the job is not just doable but rewarding. I remember the first day I started, and the first week, having no idea what I was going to write about to fill the paper. Reporting, largely, is about knowing a community. In a job like the Reporter, where there is no permanent staff, no permanent foundation, it’s a rebirth every time a new reporter starts. I felt a bit of that my first week at the Daily Sun, but it is entirely different. The fact there is an office, other reporters, and a phone messaging system means the same realities do not apply.

And they teach different things, different skills. I see stories everywhere now, even in places I don’t know well. That is a result of working for the Reporter. If you ask enough questions, everyone has a story to tell, some just take digging to get to.

The Sun, however, is about finding those stories, digging, and telling those stories quickly. Deadlines are no less important than facts in many news environments. So for that, I’ll be up tonight, counting the votes.

Election Night

The election results should be announced by 8:30 p.m. tonight. LPJ will post the numbers immediately, and the Berlin Reporter will have a wrap-up tomorrow on their website. Again, because of the day of the week it won’t be in the print edition, but we’ll have the story the same time as the daily. In fact, if all you want are the numbers, LPJ will have them up by 9 p.m.

Sometimes makes you wonder how paper papers can last, with instant reporting capabilities.

In that vein, I’ll also put the results out on Twitter. Twitter is a great source for realtime news. Like right now, there is yet another old building coming down in the city. You can check out photos here. Right on Mason Street, one I wasn’t aware was coming down. I’m looking to find out some info, but without a doubt it adds one more positive sign to all those stirring around Berlin lately.

Update: The roof collapsed in the night and had to be torn down.

Dropping the Shade — Part II

Sometimes I don’t like being right: yesterday’s attack on Twitter was to silence a Blogger from Georgia who opposed Russian influence in the region.

As print disappears as a viable medium, what are the weaknesses of the alternative? It’s awful hard to burn every book; is it easier to burn down a website? I hope people don’t throw away all their printing presses.

Dropping the Shade

Twitter went down for a few hours earlier today. Even now I can’t post anything, although my feed is still going. It makes you wonder: what would we have learned about Iran had there been a cyber-attack at the same time? I don’t think Twitter will replace journalism, but it certainly aids in the practice of it. What happens when regimes learn to wield technology on par with demonstrators? Or will they always be just a bit behind?
In February, 1982, Syrian soldiers murdered between 10,000 and 40,000 Sunnis after an uprising in the city of Hama, without the dominate media of the time illuminating the massacre. Thomas Friedman, in Beruit to Jerusalem, said the president’s brother boasted he’d killed 38,000. Imagine that — 38,000 people dead, with no world wide coverage. That’s more than half the Americans that died in the Vietnam War, killed in a day.
It’s nice to think that couldn’t happen now. It’s nice to think interconnectivity makes it impossible for people to hide such abuses. But imagine if another cyber-attack were to occur just before China decided to rid itself of Uighurs. Or Mexico decided to rid itself of Zapatistas. Or Egypt decided to rid itself of the Muslim Brotherhood. Or Russia decided to rid itself of Chechens. The Iranian example proved the power of social media, much in the same way Tienanmen Square proved the power of traditional media. But what happens in the vacuum? Who is watching then? What happens if a country learns how to drop the shade?