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New Advocacy Site Maps and Tracks Journalists in Peril

New media journalists around the globe face technological barriers and increasing dangers when reporting from within the boundaries of protective governments. A new site by Global Voices Advocacy maps and tracks journalists who have been threatened or arrested and aggregates the information into a robust map database with real-time statistics and details of each case.

threatened_voices The site, Threatened Voices, aims to raise awareness to the growing number of bloggers and other online journalists being persecuted across the world. While both traditional and new media reporters have faced recent danger, the site acknowledges the growing importance and number of online journalists in the global media.

“Online journalists and bloggers now represent 45% of all media workers in prison worldwide,” Global Voices says in a press release.

The captures of high profile journalists abducted in Iraq and North Korea have called attention to the dangers of the profession, while “the harshest consequence for many has been the politically motivated arrest of bloggers and online writers for their online and/or offline activities, in some tragic cases even leading to death,” Global Voices reports.

The site allows users to enter their own location and anecdotal details, drawing from the international community of journalists to fill the site’s map content.

Outside of the central map, other features of the site include statistics and analysis organized in a timeline or by country. The site lists China, Egypt and Iran as the top three countries, respectively, with the highest number of recorded cases of threatened or arrested bloggers.

Each case is tracked to record whether the blogger was threatened or arrested and if arrested, when and if they were released. Another aim of the site is to allow the online community to call attention to campaigns to free particular journalists.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, one of the partners of the Threatened Voices project released a report in April on the 10 Worst Countries to be a Blogger.

Along with a thorough description of each country (at the time, Burma was listed at the top), the article quotes CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon, who emphasizes, “Freedom of expression groups, concerned governments, the online community, and technology companies need to come together to defend the rights of bloggers around the world.”

The site was also built in collaboration with the BBC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others.

The new CNN.com isn't a news website

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As you probably know by now, CNN launched a redesigned website yesterday.   While I like the look and feel, the thing that really strikes me about the new homepage is how little of it is devoted to news.  As you’ll see in the screen shot above, the far left column that I’ve highlighted in yellow is hard news while the rest of the page, which I have greyed out, is devoted to feature stories, ads and site features. 

As a frequent visitor, it seems to me that CNN site has been shifting for awhile towards feature stories/ lifestyle news and away from hard news.  With less than 1/3rd of the above the fold homepage devoted to national/world news, I think this new design is another big step in that direction.

The CIO and Journalism

In the past we have profiled the innovative work of people like Adrian Holovaty who does some exciting things through programming that allow data to tell their own stories.  For instance, he set up the Campaign Tracker for the Washington Post, and he is now running his own site Everyblock – the database driven hyperlocal news site.  Further, in our newspaper studies we have examined how news organizations use the Internet.

While at the CIO Perspectives Forum here in Washington, DC last week, I was wondering about what kind of role CIOs should play at news organizations.  Their organizations may already use them as I am thinking (at least I hope).  However, it is important to note that in an October 2008 white paper titled “The CIO Profession: Leaders of change, drivers of innovation” IBM reports that most organizations mainly view and use CIOs as implementers and not as strategists.  Hopefully, news organizations turn to CIOs for planning and strategy and not just technical execution.  Of course, a CIO with a journalism background could help even more; Adrian Holovaty is so innovatively partly since he has a background in both programming and journalism.

If CIOs are involved in strategic planning, they can help the business and editorial staffers not only understand what is realistic, but they can also introduce them to new ideas that someone without technical expertise would know.  Further, a CIO could also identify potential problems and other issues in advance and help either avoid them or prepare other organizational stakeholders in advance. 

Here are a few examples of how a CIO can help news organizations strategically plan: 

  • Broadcast journalists are now going out to the field with recording and editing equipment with fewer producers and camera people accompanying them.  Before such equipment and software is purchased, the CIO could help determine the requirements for such equipment and software and then help identify applicable products.
  • A CIO with a decent understanding of database management could help find new application ideas like the ones that Adrian Holovaty has developed.
  • During our newspaper studies we look at the website features that news organizations use by examining the different features (i.e. blogs, RSS feeds, video sections, etc.) they harness.  A CIO would have a valuable perspective on helping developing a strategic plan on what the organization’s website should do. Further, he or she she can help evaluate content management systems (CMS), applications, and vendors to determine how well they meet the organization’s needs and desires.
  • A CIO can help an organization envision and deploy an API – like NPR’s API — which allows members of the public to use its data in interesting ways that the organizations itself did not image.  This is one way that a CIO can work with the business and editorial people at a news organization to help them find ways to profitably exploit an API.
  • The CIO could help find ways to organize content for the public in many different ways.  For instance, tagging enables people to find information in ways other than the traditional divisions like News, Sports, International, etc.  In fact, The Guardian newspaper wanted a tag editor back in October 2007.  This would help make the news organization’s site more easy for the public to use.

These are just a few examples of aspects of journalism in which news organizations can turn to their CIOs for strategic planning, and considering the dire state of media companies, they can use all of the help that they can get.

How else can news organizations harness their CIOs to help strategically plan?

Bloggers to be Subject to FTC Endorsement Disclosure Laws

The Federal Trade Commission Monday released revised regulations holding bloggers responsible for disclosing any freebies or payment associated with their writing.

“The post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement,” the FTC said in a statement. “Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service.”

The regulations may have widespread ramifications considering the millions of bloggers and the variety of their audiences. The Associated Press reported Monday bloggers who are caught without providing this disclosure could face $11,000 penalties after the regulations go into effect Dec. 1, 2010.

The disclosure is very similar to the Federal Communication Commission’s Payola Rules for broadcast media, which state that “all sponsored material must be explicitly identified at the time of broadcast as paid for and by whom, except when it is clear that the mention of a product or service constitutes sponsorship identification.”

This update to the FTC’s regulations on testimonials and endorsements is the first since 1980. While the regulations don’t declare how disclosures must be made, they must be “clear and conspicuous,” the AP reported.

Some bloggers touted the new regulations and welcomed recognition of their presence in mass marketing. Others, however, worried the rules would be too difficult to enforce and would lead to favoritism.

MediaBistro’s GalleyCat blog listed several difficult questions and potential problematic areas with the new regulations, including questions about liability if a blogger is writing for a news organization.

“If an unpaid blogger at the Huffington Post ‘endorses’ a consumer product without meeting the FTC guidelines for disclosure of ‘material connections’ to the makers of that consumer product, who’s liable: the blogger or the Huffington Post?” the post asks.

While the new regulations specifically refer to the expansion of regulations on blogs, the FTC also tightened rules on celebrity endorsements, which include mentions in Twitter streams or social networks.

“Along with advertisers, stars can be held liable for making false and misleading claims about a product under the new rules,” the New York Post reported.

New NPR.org Pushes Multi-Platform Business Model

A shiny new NPR.org revealed itself Monday with a simpler homepage design packed with multimedia features and customizable choices.

Like most major media websites still afloat, NPR.org aims to keep radio content its core but offer up multi-platform, all-purpose news.

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The new site is a major improvement to its tightly-fonted, cramped and confusing predecessor. Now, homepage focuses on news, arts and the latest audio clips from the organization’s most popular shows.

National Public Radio CEO Vivian Schiller sat down with Newsweek to discuss the site’s re-launch and strategic steps for online media. Schiller, who was senior vice president and general manager of NYTimes.com just six months ago, has a unique perspective from the top of an industry struggling to survive.

One classic battle playing out in newsrooms and online offices across the country is the delicate balance of the traditional company and its online additions. Schiller says the relationship between the online newsroom and radio producers and reporters is symbiotic.

“In creating all this digital content, it’s not just to service NPR.org,” she said. “We’re giving them more digital content that they can pull down and use on their site.”

As a national public broadcasting institution, however, NPR is faced with a different set of challenges than private media groups in blending local public content with national news. Schiller feels local news stations are the ones suffering the most in the economic downturn, and says NPR.org is attempting to dissuade that trend.

“One of the major focuses of our digital initiative is to give stations the tools, the resources, the knowledge, and the infrastructure, so they can create a great experience in their communities,” she told Newsweek.

Local content, however, proves to be buried in national headlines and difficult to access on the new site, however. The site promotes its many blogs and includes local news in a few select places when relevant, but a strong push for promoting local content is a bit lost.

The new site may draw in new audiences, but its shift to multiplatform production indicates a core change in NPR’s business model that may be a tall order for an organization with such a strong production tradition.