How Google (and maybe Wikipedia) won the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign for the Internet

I tend to check at least one Wikipedia page per blog post. It’s a simple way to double-check the little pieces of information that make a post come together.

I use Google more times a day than I’d ever care to count.

Today, two of the most-visited sites on the Internet have gone black – one symbolically, the other quite literally – in the most publicized opposition to date of anti-piracy legislation SOPA and PIPA.

A visit to any English-language Wikipedia page today was met with a rapid redirect to a black screen with a brief paragraph not-so-subtly suggesting that your favorite open-source encyclopedia could one day be blocked by some overzealous federal button masher:

Continue reading “How Google (and maybe Wikipedia) won the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign for the Internet”

[Clickworthy] An old-fashioned hero

Are newspapers dead? Not yet, says Stephen Colbert. At least not when we have old-school reporters taking to the streets in search of a scoop. The nose for news can still smell, as exhibited by this package that ran on The Colbert Report last week.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Coming from a journalism program right next door to a state capital, teaching basic news reporting in a small-town setting has taken some adjusting. Certainly, the bar for newsworthiness must be lowered if you ever want to allow student reporters to roam free and actually find something to write about before the deadline. Covering a meeting – one of the assignments toward the middle of the semester – has to be issued over a month in advance in order to give students adequate time to find a newsworthy proceeding (last year, the Magnolia city council, which only meets once a month anyway, decided to cancel their monthly meeting in that period, throwing a group of students into panic).

So, “Too hot to fish” rings true around these parts.

The really interesting part of the story was the news ecology angle. The New York Times article Colbert references is real, but it’s not about the story so much as it’s about how the story spread to social media, radio stations, other newspapers, Colbert’s program, and eventually to the Times.

That’s how our modern day news aggregators operate, and it is a problem the news media has yet to solve. Consumers seek out large media outlets, providing them with revenues, or the page views necessary to obtain it, but these large outlets are simply reporting on reporting already performed by smaller outlets that are struggling to make ends meet.

The folks doing the reporting are going broke. The folks browsing Twitter are rolling in the dough going less broke.

That’s a business model even Bobby Kirk will tell you doesn’t add up.

[Clickworthy] Washington’s earthquake farce

It was a dramatic day on the world stage.

A ragtag group of Libyan rebels had fought their way to the center of Tripoli and were on the verge of breaking a brutal dictator’s four-decade rule. They had broken through Muammar Gaddafi’s heavily fortified compound; nobody knew whether he was inside. As in Tunisia, as in Egypt, what had long seemed impossible was on the verge of becoming reality.

And then: the ground shook in the Washington area for about 15 seconds.

Goodbye, rebels. Hello, pandemonium.

Howard Kurtz wrote a quick piece for The Daily Beast this morning on the media’s seismic shift in coverage yesterday afternoon following a 5.8-magnitude earthquake south of Washington, D.C. (pun fully intended).

Indeed, I hopped on Twitter just as the reports of an earthquake were coming in. The cable channels, and even the broadcast stations quickly jumped on board. Suddenly, the uprising in Libya was gone.

Sure, it was unique – earthquakes don’t happen on the east coast. This was the strongest quake felt on the seaboard since 1944, so there is certainly the unusualness news value at work. And there appears to have been some damage to the National Cathedral in Washington – no doubt noteworthy. But for the most part, the effects looked more like this photo gallery compiled by the Sacramento Bee.

So, why did American media leave the far more important events in Tripoli for what amounted to a minor earthquake? Kurtz suggests a few different factors, most notably that the quake occurred in a media epicenter, was felt in many large cities, and that word of it spread so rapidly through social media and text messaging. He also points to the narrative the media had been handed by an act of God:

It was a perfect media story on a sunny Tuesday afternoon: lots of pictures, lots of person-on-the-street interviews, lots of clicks online—but without the messy and depressing reality of an actual disaster. No one, as far as I can tell, was seriously injured, but everyone was buzzing. As officials called press conferences, it looked, felt, and smelled like news—but only in a surreal sense.

Newsworthy? Sure. Worthy of non-stop crisis coverage and break-ins on broadcast networks? Not when international reporters are having some of their finest moments in decades covering a revolution that, lest we forget, is being aided by the United States and its NATO allies.

Another shining moment for Al Jazeera English, which continued its live stream of events in Libya even when we became preoccupied over here.

Finally, a Tweet I loved from New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter as the Twitterverse was exploding yesterday afternoon:

http://twitter.com/#!/brianstelter/status/106069423852498945

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[Clickworthy] Once again athletes, think before you tweet

If twitter were a loaded gun, no telling how many athletes would have shot themselves in the foot – or worse.

A great piece in this morning’s (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion Ledger by legendary sports columnist Rick Cleveland on the hazards of 140-character public statements by (particularly) college athletes. Included are eight maxims of Tweeting that everyone should be aware of, but so few seem to be (I’m looking at you, Mr. Weiner).

C.J. Johnson, a 5-star recruit heading to Ole Miss in the fall, was the latest public figure to not realize that he was one. SportsbyBrooks preserved a host of obscene tweets, many of them denigrating to women, and a few more relating to a new vehicle Johnson supposedly obtained during his recruitment period (the link is but one screenshot, and it does contain offensive language).

Johnson’s tweets aren’t uncharacteristic. High schoolers and college freshmen say stupid things. But until recently, they haven’t been said so publicly, which tends to become a problem when that everyday high schooler/freshman suddenly becomes a person of public interest.

His tweets are also part of a greater unfortunate trend among black Twitter users. Patrice J. Williams wrote a thoughtful article in January about the habits of the disproportionately large number of African-Americans on Twitter. She observes how “Black Twitter” serves to reinforce negative stereotypes about the community as a whole – and especially black youth. Johnson bears the weight, however misappropriated, of adding to that regrettable portrayal.

Johnson closed his Twitter account shortly after the story broke (he deactivated his Facebook account months earlier after getting into a public dispute with Mississippi State fans). Cleveland suggests that the potential star football player go further than that – to consider all of his words as just the type of public statements they now are, and to, perhaps a little sooner than the typical incoming college freshman, grow up.


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