One of the things I tell students to do like Chicagoans vote — early and often — is to Google themselves. You need to know what’s out there about you so you can control the public presentation of yourself when it’s time to look for a job. I demand students clean up their online acts well before potential employers may be lurking around as faux Facebook friends looking for reasons to dump half the stack of resumes they’ve got. I Googled myself and found this YouTube clip. It’s raw footage from an interview I did with some of my Oregon State University students on the impact of new media on the election of President Obama:


What Kind of Tech User Are You?
The Pew Internet & American Life Project asks this in a quiz you can take to get a sense of where you fit in the tech spectrum.
Here are my results:

You are an Digital Collaborator
If you are a Digital Collaborator, you use information technology to work with and share your creations with others. You are enthusiastic about how ICTs help you connect with others and confident in your ability to manage digital devices and information. For you, the digital commons can be a camp, a lab, or a theater group – places to gather with others to develop something new.”

To all of my students: What are you?

 There is a lot of discussion about the impact of social media on journalism and what role it could/should play in ‘real’ journalism. Those of us who are teaching media in the midst of this revolution are thinking and talking a lot about how and what to teach while riding this often precarious wave. TED Talks, one of the best resources for exploring all kinds of important, timely topics, offers a wide range of thoughtful lectures examining all sides of social media in their series “Media with Meaning.” In his talk, ‘How Social Media Can Make History,” Clay Shirky argues:  

“While news from Iran streams to the world, Clay Shirky shows how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news, bypassing censors (however briefly). The end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics.”

Clay Shirky: How Social Media Can Make History

In his talk, “When Social Media Became News,” James Surowiecki argues the 2005 tsunami transformed social media forever. Check it out:

What do you do with trolls – those seething anonymous online commenters who post useless rantings in the comment section of blogs, news websites, anywhere they can. What is to be done? Newspapers have a long history of selecting which members of the public have their opinions made public. The job title was “Letters Editor,” and that person literally went through hundreds of letters from readers and selected a wide range to publish. They confirmed the writer’s identity and intent to publish and made agreed-upon changes with the guidelines of the paper.

Well, that was quaint. Now it’s every troll for him/herself out there, spewing whatever bile they want. Heated discussions ensued about how to balance community standards and free speech. Does having access to a computer give you the right to free speech anywhere you want to spit? If your local college newspaper allows cursewords does that have an impact on what comments the larger newspaper should allow? Do racists have a ‘right’ to rant? What about grammatically disasterous comments? Do people have a ‘right’ to embarrass themselves? 

All great questions forced upon us by the medium transforming the message — and the masses. Media are responding to commenters in different ways. Some have stopped comments entirely. Others try (often in vain) to monitor and make decisions case-by-case. The Portland Press Herald dropped reader comments. Period. See what you think:

  Portland Press Herald Drops Reader Comments in Response to ‘Vicious Postings’
Posted by Damon Kiesow at 10:48 AM on Oct. 20, 2010
The Portland (Maine) Press Herald has shut down its reader comments section in response to what its publisher describes as “vile, crude, insensitive, and vicious postings.”

Damon Kiesow reports in his excellent Poynter column today the ravages of trolls. New Media means we can’t silence hateful letters (and thus their hateful authors) by tossing them into the circular file. With all that hate, who has time to go through hundreds, if you’re lucky, thousands of comments to weed out the toxic ones. And who decides what crosses the line? Kiesow’s piece explores this and lists the policies of a variety of publications, exposing our field’s emerging efforts to manage this particular Pandora’s Box.

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We’re requiring students to include key words and a Tweet for every story they write in class. Two interesting ethical issues came up in my labs. First, students wanted to know what their goal is for the key words — are they supposed to use words that accurately reflect the story or should they sex their tags up to grab the most hits?

How do we balance those goals, they asked. What’s the ethical decision, they wondered. If you can work ‘Paris Hilton’ into your key words, even if it requires the most bizarre stretch, do you go for it to increase your SEO? Is that wrong? Don’t you want viewers/readers? If using certain words gets readers, why not? But what about credibility, accuracy and truth? But does your truth count if nobody reads its?

The second issue that arose was students’ tendency to accidentally libel subjects in their Tweets. In their actual stories they’d correctly write “arrested in connection with” or “allegedly such and such” but their Tweets were full-on convictions of nearly everyone.

“Allegedly” is just too many characters to fit in a Tweet’s 140-character limit.

Both issues sparked lively class discussions and raised all the right ethical and practical questions.

I am thrilled to report the news that I am home, which means back in Evanston and back at Northwestern University’s Medill School — my favorite place to commit journalism.
The revival of this blog offers a way for me to continue chronicling my hike up the learning curve of new media. Just when I thought I’d rocked the whole social media Twitterverse, it’s time to shoot some vimeo for the vlog.
In my neverending pursuit to find more ways to tell people stuff, I’ll drag you along for this, too.
Medill offers faculty and staff a wide range of technological seminars and classes to keep us all upgraded.

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Again, Deb Wenger from Advancing the Story gives us a terrific post to learn from:

Long-form video storytelling

Posted on January 4th, 2010 by Deb Wenger

When we used to talk about the advantages of the Web, we often mentioned the “bottomless newshole” – the ability to post more and longer stories online.

We’ve learned a lot since then, most notably that the quality of the content definitely matters.  Still, the fact is, there’s more space for long-form video online than in most TV newscasts.

FarrellphotoMichael Farrell is a photographer and producer for the Nebraska ETV Network.   Speaking to a group of Ole Miss journalism students about crafting documentaries, he offered advice that seems relevant to anyone who wants to tell compelling stories.

When choosing the people to include in a story, Farrell says the tendency is to interview the first person who will talk to you.  Instead, he urges storytellers to find the right person.