Adversarial journalism part 2

Did you see the New York Times op-ed debate between Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald? It’s about “the future of journalism,” and the Times doesn’t use that language lightly. If you’re interested in the press, you should at least read a short commentary, like this one. But for a more thorough selection, see my relevant pulls below.

Greenwald appeared in the column on the heels of announcing, a bit prematurely, his new media venture—described succinctly as something supporting “adversarial journalism.” I don’t think what he spoke of in the column is really all that adversarial (in the real sense of the word), and I bet Greenwald wouldn’t either. But compared to the way a lot of old-guard American outlets operate, it seems we can all agree to use the descriptor.

After the break, here’s Greenwald in his first important declaration:  Continue reading

Adverserial journalism part 1: disclaimer


If you’re a source and I want to interview you or someone else you work with, there’s almost no chance (0.00%) that the story I’m writing will be an adversarial one. I’ve done some work in this vein, but what I do today isn’t it. The nature of my recent freelance contracts isn’t to inflame the public’s sense of right and wrong. Believe me: if it becomes that, you’ll know it, because I’ll tell you, and I’ll ask you what you think about it.

I frequently discuss so-called “adversarial journalism” on my site simply because I have a high regard for it. I believe it has the potential to nudge democracy in the right direction. And because it’s worth discussing. What are blogs for if not discussing?

I felt compelled to make the above disclaimer because a source recently returned my call to say, more or less, that they weren’t going to talk to me. They had read some of my website and—the implication was—it didn’t sit well with them. (I wonder why they called me back at all.)

I happen to agree with one of their sentiments: they’re from such a cool organization that they don’t need my promotion. Maybe they thought the risk of my doing an incendiary story (again, in reality, 0.0%) was just too high. But it’s their loss. I wasn’t lying when I said I was going to focus on their innovation and that alone.

What’s the moral here? Quick-hit interviews do not investigative reporting make, and I *will not* write incendiary things unless I have solid basis for it.

Chicago: the greenest city *snicker*

Based on the frequency of news coverage about polluted soil or buildings in Chicago, you might think there really isn’t much of that here. After all, only a single EPA National Priorities List site exists in Chicago. But it was tough to get listed because the city would rather not have those blemishes on its record.

And cleanups of pollution happen all the time, all over the city, as the map below shows when you zoom into Chicago. Have there have been any near your house or workplace in recent years? The key below explains the different colored pins.

BLUE: Federal CERCLA (“Superfund”) sites in Illinois that are on the National Priorities List. There is only one NPL site in Chicago, at Lake Calumet on the far south side. (Note: Except for the location of the Lake Calumet site, these pins are approximations based on the city associated with the listing.)

YELLOW: CERCLA cleanups that are NOT on the NPL, whose city is listed as “Chicago.” Exact addresses were used in this case. These cases, as you’ll read below, are interesting.

TURQUOISE: “Non-voluntary” (usually court-mandated) cleanups performed or supervised by Illinois EPA. Again, exact addresses used.

A few disclosures after the break…

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Mobile tech + democracy = awesomeness

So I’m in this class called mobile journalism, and we’re doing a lot of cool stuff.

Liveblogging Arianna Huffington was only the beginning—we’ve Skype’d with people in Africa and Japan on the same day about how they use their phones, Skype’d with Kevin Thau, a VP of Twitter about (what else?) the future of Twitter, and now we’re designing the mobile presence of Chicago News Cooperative, the new nonprofit heavy-duty reporting outfit that covers the city for the New York Times.

Also my fridge project is for this class. Orion Magazine, whose photo project was inspiration for mine, has tweeted about me TWICE THREE TIMES. They’re my favorite mag and have been called the most important environmental magazine, so you should know I’m psyched. Feel free to follow my prof, Dan Sinker, on Twitter.

But interestingly enough, today I felt compelled to post because of the textbook for this class—Mobile Design and Development by Brian Fling. An excerpt:

The Estonian government will be putting the concept of media context to the test in their 2011 parliamentary elections, allowing citizens to vote for their leaders using SMS. In this case, the government can tabulate results instantly. But imagine a day when citizens can vote on local or national issues in real time, eschewing having to wait for traditional media to report on the effect of their vote, instead seeing the results in real time, as it happens.

There are already many opting to use the mobile media context in order to be heard. On the immensely popular television show American Idol, more votes were cast using a mobile phone in 2009 (178 million total text message votes) than votes cast in the 2008 presidential election (131 million ballots cast).

If that doesn’t deserve an “OMG,” I don’t know what does.

My idea: direct democracy. I think it’s possible with saturation of mobile.

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Industry turmoil

The Chicago Tribune sports the largest newsroom in the midwest, according to its advertising campaign. I chuckle at that choice. I wonder how many other journalists do, too. (CC Flickr photo from Alex Barth)

When I turned to the journalism field for my career, the thought that most plagued me was this: generally, to make any money, one must join a very large corporation—likely a conglomerate with lots of power.

That just never sat right with me. With lots of power comes lots of responsibility, which isn’t usually handled properly. Not that I could do better. Just that I know people are human like me.

But in the past couple years and months, the larger news corporations have fared much worse than smaller ones. …Am I the only one who’s happy about this?

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