September 23, 2009

Money makes the world go 'round

Story ideas pop up in the strangest places.

Transparency International looked at 180 countries and came out with its latest report on corruption in the world.

Go to my blog to see a few choice comments and to get all the links to look over the 500 page document.

So how does this fit in with students and student journalists in the United States?

To begin with, the U.S. is no angel. We came in below Canada (#9) at #18. And seven other countries are less likely top pay bribes than the U.S.

But reporters could look at the cost of corruption and corrupt practices. The could look at:
  • What rules and regulations are in place to prevent corruption in the bidding process to do business with the university.
  • What local laws are on the books to prevent corruption in city, county and state purchases.
  • Have there been any cases of corruption or questionable dealings in university or local government contracting.
A lot of this will require use of the freedom of information act. Good exercise for the students.

BTW, Chile (#23) was praised for enacting whistle-blower and freedom of information laws. The TI said these laws are a big help in fighting corruption.

How successful has the use of whistle blower or FOI laws been in finding corrupt practices?

Good hunting!

September 22, 2009

Getting data where you can

I just posted a story idea blog item on the DC SPJ web site. It's all about using the Census Bureau data to build good stories.

You might want to consider inviting a person from the Census Bureau to explain to your students how to really mine the Bureau's databases.

September 3, 2009

Herdict: What is and isn't accessible

A while back Tom Crampton wrote about a website that tests accessibility of other web sites. The site, Herdict harnesses the reporting power of the entire Internet to see what sites are being blocked in what countries.

To no ones' surprise, I am sure, China and Iran lead the way.

For example, in the past week FACEBOOK received eight inaccessible reports. Five were from China.

YouTube had 15 inaccessible reports
. Here China led with three of the reports, followed by Indonesia and the United States (2 each), Egypt, France, Israel, India, Morocco, Malaysia, Portugal and Tuvalu with one each.

Granted some of those reports may have been because of network glitches. But the overall pattern is that China leads the way with the most sites made inaccessible to Internet users.

If you are a traveler, you should think seriously about joining the Herdict herd. I regularly send in reports from Brazil (a very open place).

The more we know about how and where information is being denied, the more we can report on it. Download the browser add-in here.

September 2, 2009

The Mindset list is ready!

I love this list.

The Mindset List is a collection of the way the incoming freshman class of college sees things.

For example for the class of 2013:
  • They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
  • Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.
  • Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
  • They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.
  • Condoms have always been advertised on television.
  • They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
  • “Womyn” and “waitperson” have always been in the dictionary.
  • There has always been blue Jell-O.
For those of us who had to teach these students, it offers an insight into how they think and how they perceive the world.

Just think about how many times j-profs ask their students, "Who reads a newspaper every day?" Usually 90% of the hands go up.

Then when the question is changed to, "How many read a paper newspaper everyday? That is one that is not online?" Almost all the hands remain down.

Times and perceptions change. This list has always helped me better understand those changes.

BTW, the list goes back to the class of 2002. So you can look at how your 4th year students see things as easily as the 1st year students.

Story idea: Just how prepared are college campuses

This month is National Preparedness Month.

The whole is idea is to be ready for anything. And I wonder, as I looked over the NPM web page, "How well prepared are college campuses?"

I don't know.

Do you? Do your students?

Just think about how panicky the Washington area gets with just a few snowflakes. And the traditional run on milk and toilet paper. (I never understood why those two items. But every time a big snow presses down on DC, people stock up on milk and toilet paper.)