August 25, 2008

Comparing the Convention Cities

It's an election year.

People looking for story ideas might want to look at how the convention cities compare.
The Census Bureau put out a comparison sheet but if you want to see the basics in table form, go to the DC SPJ blogsite.


A very funny look at end-of-summer columns

August 25, 2008

In Week Before Labor Day, Pointless 'Filler' Columns Abound

Lazy Columnists Pad Out Stories by Quoting Experts, Experts Say

By Andy Borowitz

In a phenomenon that occurs every year in the week before Labor Day, national columnists across America file pointless, content-free "filler" columns, enabling the lazy scribes to hit the beach earlier, according to observers who have been following this trend.

The "filler" columns are churned out in a matter of minutes with no loftier goal than meeting a deadline and filling up space -- meaning that columnists will often resort to using the same words or phrase again and again and again and again and again.

And rather than doing any original writing, the slothful columnists will rely on so-called "experts" to supply them with quotes to fill up space, experts say.

"They'll often quote people you've never heard of," says Harold Crimmins, an expert in the field of filler columns. "It's pretty shameless."

The typical "filler" column is often a reprint of a previously published column, but the writer will later plug in one cursory reference to current events, such as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, to disguise this fact.

And in order to fill up space even faster, Crimmins says, the lazy beach-bound columnist will compose his summer "filler" columns with short paragraphs.

Many of these paragraphs will be as short as one sentence, he says.

"Or shorter," he adds.

There are other telltale signs a reader can look for in order to determine whether a writer has, in fact, filed a so-called "filler" column, according to Crimmins.

One of these is a tendency to repeat information that the reader has already read earlier in the article, with columnists even stooping to using the same quote twice.

"They'll often quote people you've never heard of," Crimmins says.

Another tip-off is if the column ends abruptly.

August 23, 2008

Mindy McAdams does it again...

Here is a great link to Mindy McAdam's latest contribution.

She looks at graphics and how news organizations present information.

Because she now teaches journalism, she discusses how j-profs can use the sites in this link as a "teaching moment." But for journalists "in the real world" this same "teaching moment" should be taken to heart.

URL: How you look at data

August 20, 2008

What are j-schools doing for future journalists?

Mindy McAdams cites a few examples of how some j-schools are not doing what is needed to prepare their students for the future of journalism.

And she asks: "What are your schools doing?"


Here is Mindy's blog entry:

August 19, 2008

Proving copy editors are needed

The AP either showed bad copy editing skills or its political leanings.

The following is from the Daily Kos but if you use Google you get a similar result.

HILARIOUS - AP calls out Joe Lieberman

Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 08:18:07 PM PDT

Thank you AP for giving us a good heartfelt chuckle this evening! Fantastic.

His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and
former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices
mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an
abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the
Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.

the Google "Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in
2000" and you will find a handful of papers who have it. Some others
seem to have the G-rated friendly, but much less funny and correct

Notice the staff writer's last name. For some strange reason, snicker, that was left intact.

Brilliant AP, positively brilliant! BWWAahahahahaha!!

Feature Story Idea: Mindset of 18 year olds

Once again Beloit College has its annual Mindset List.

The list for the class of 2012 has some interesting items that make some of us feel old but at the same time helps mark how society and world views change.

Here are the top 5 items.
  1. Harry Potter could be a classmate, playing on their Quidditch team.
  2. Since they were in diapers, karaoke machines have been annoying people at parties.
  3. They have always been looking for Carmen Sandiego.
  4. GPS satellite navigation systems have always been available.
  5. Coke and Pepsi have always used recycled plastic bottles.

Tapping the hot asphalt jungle for energy

Now this is a neat idea. But don't think of it as a way to generate power. I figure we should look at it as ways to heat buildings. (Like the steam pipes that dominate the subsurface in New York.) If the buildings use less electricity or nat gas to heat their water or rooms, then then need less energy from the grid.A handful of Massachusetts researchers on Monday published a paper detailing a technique for using water-carrying pipes to convert the built-up heat in asphalt roads into usable energy.

read more | digg story

August 13, 2008

CHINA: China's media censored over stabbing

A look at what is going on during the Olympics.

A double standard is clearly in place. And people are surprised because???

AsiaMedia :: CHINA: China's media censored over stabbing: "China's media censored over stabbing"

August 11, 2008

Georgian government: websites attacked by Russian hackers

Russia's actual physical invasion of Georgia has garnered much of the headline space devoted to the two countries, but the conflict is playing out online as well. Attacks against the Georgian Government Websites.

read more | digg story

August 4, 2008

Teaching Moment: Affect v. Effect

Each term I included two questions in my opening quiz to see just how much grammar the students understood.

One was one on media as a plural noun. (Trapped just about everyone. The only ones who got it right were previous students of mine.)

The second was on affect v. effect.

Each term nearly all the students got it wrong.

Grammar Girl had a wonderful posting on the differences: Effect Versus Affect

The sad part is that even after hammering on the differences for the whole term, in the final quiz, about 1/3 of the students STILL don't understand the difference. (Oh well, you can lead a horse to water...)

BTW, I strongly recommend assigning Grammar Girl as part of the official reading list. She has a weekly short column, which is also done as a podcast. (That way the students can listen to the lesson at their leisure.)

And she does it all with a sense of humor normally missing from grammar nazis.

Here is a mnemonic cartoon she uses to keep track of affect and effect: