Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tweets as quotes?

In the not-so-distant past, I remember being outraged when one traditional media outlet or another quoted from someone's Facebook wall for a story. It usually happened after a student's untimely death (look about 12 grafs down), and the TV stations would dig up the flood of condolence messages left on the student's wall in the aftermath and report them. Easy, low-labor quotes for color. I was upset, however, that the traditional media I respected so much would stoop to taking quotes not given to a media member or intended for consumption by many and reuse it for their own purposes.

In time, however, I came to accept that this is not just the reality of how we're to find commentary, it's also valid journalistically. These quotes are not provided to the media, but if we can access them as easily as typing in a URL, they're fair game. Students know by this point that anything they say online is completely out in the open, and the newspaper can be no exception to that. The problem remains, though, that if I quote Jack Ripper's wall post, I've got no way of knowing that Jack Ripper is a real person, or that Jack Ripper himself wrote the wall post. Especially now that Facebook is open to anybody with an email address and not just an address, additional avatars beyond your actual name are easy to create and play with. (For example, my own mother wanted to explore Facebook, but instead of creating a page for herself, she created one for the dog.)

As a result, journalists still need to take with a grain of salt the use of many (if not most) social networking sites for quotes. But this raises the question as to whether there are degrees of acceptability in social network quotation. If a Facebook user's name is "Jack Ripper" and their listed email is, in fact, an address, does that make it more likely that Jack Ripper is legitimate? Does that likelihood decrease if the listed email is or

And then there's the application of that same principle to other social networking sites. An old editor of mine wrote me a brief recommendation on LinkedIn, but had to retract it when he decided that if he was going to use LinkedIn as a source, he could not be in the business of recommending people. I understand that fully, it's a conflict-of-interest if he were to endorse me and then use the same network to dig up information for an investigative article. I'm inclined to believe LinkedIn would be of greater validity for the purposes of quotation than Facebook or MySpace, but there's such less availability for usable quotes in LinkedIn that this advantage is meaningless.

But what about Twitter? I'm subscribed to the "official" Twitter feed for Gov. Deval Patrick. If I ask him a question on Twitter and he responds, can I use that as a quote? Does it become a story if what Gov. Patrick (or any other "official" feed) says does not mesh with what he/she says publicly or when asked for comment by a reporter? And do the rules change when a social media "celebrity" is involved? Say I want to quote Chris Brogan in an article I'm writing. Now, Chris is a big proponent of social media, but does that give me permission to quote his blog or a Tweet of his? After all, it's similar to the Facebook-wall-quote grab: once it's online, it's in the public domain.

I suspect that there is not yet any sort of code for how traditional media can exploit social media in this manner. Scouring Facebook or Twitter for sources to then call up personally is obviously fair game, but I wonder what an editor would say if I turned in an article quoting a Tweet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Adam of all Trades

Considering it's my last semester here at Northeastern, I picked my classes with an eye to studying what I'm interested in instead of what I thought I had to study. Consequently, I'm taking French for the first time in six years, I'm taking a microeconomics course (in no small part to re-brainwash me from the libertarian perspective of the course in Washington) and I'm taking a photojournalism course.

The first meeting of that course presented us with an interesting question: why are we taking it? Something like 75% of the class answered, "because I like journalism and I like photography". A fair answer; I'm not going to argue that they're wrong. I just happened to take a more pragmatic approach to the question:

"Because I know that given the industry's trajectory, if I can't take a half-decent picture, I'm not getting a job."

For whatever it's worth, the professor has mentioned that response two or three times since. Apparently the cynicism and pragmatism of knowing you need to have every tool you can in your toolkit has become an almost laudable awareness. But I look at the hoops I'm jumping through to attain those tools and I wonder just how many of them I'm going to need and which ones will prove to be the useful ones. I can already claim a familiarity with video production and editing, podcasting, various forms of social/new media, the processes for writing and editing a story to work for both online and print...but it's not enough, apparently. You have to be a one-man media unit in order to even dream of success in this new age.

Ironic, isn't it, that I maintain one foot firmly in the camp of traditional media while simultaneously doing all I can to ready myself to replace those who remain there?

Image courtesy of Flickr user rolands.lakis.

Monday, January 12, 2009


The other night I attended my sister's middle school performance of Les Miserables. I will admit that I was very apprehensive before sitting down; it's an epic musical and the most recent production of the school's had bored me. I was concerned that a bunch of 7th-graders would fail to do even remote justice to the beauty that is the story of Les Miserables.

I was surprised, then, that they rose to the challenge. Sure, there were parts that weren't great, but it was substantially better than I anticipated it being. It was an unexpected success.

That word, though. "Unexpected". I'd classify a lot of what is going on at the moment as "unexpected." On the positive, meeting Conor was unexpected. Being in DC for the election (and having it go the way I wanted) was unexpected.

However, it goes both ways. For example, I've got a phone call tomorrow to see if a particular job application I put in did me any good. It was somehow unexpected that I've not heard from the company in question since I sent in my resume and cover letter before the new year. I had such excellent luck in getting the jobs I wanted for co-ops and internships that the potential failure to get that first "good job" I found would be unexpected. I don't want to have to cross it off and move on, I liked what I saw as an entry-level job that paid pretty well, but that's a very distinct possibility come tomorrow.

I suppose that boils down to what some friends of mine have already discovered: "the job search sucks". It's not as though everything I wanted with respect to workplaces was given to me; I like to think I earned it. But in being conditioned to experience success when I decided I wanted it, I have to gear myself up more than might be normal for failure so as not to let it be discouraging.

Image courtesy of Flickr user eole.

Monday, January 05, 2009

A Boston "Dumbocrap"

A couple of things happened when I returned from Washington a couple of weeks ago: one, I got to see more people of my own particular political ideology (most of the people in my DC program were markedly conservative); and two, I returned to working part-time at the Globe. I got a bit of a when-worlds-collide moment when a recent City Desk shift showed me an angry letter that was sent to the Globe. In part: gay Marxist atheists at the Globe are really afraid of a small woman from the real world taking out the holy one, Half-Black Mohammed Islamobama and his anti-change partner, White Bread Joe Obiden....Dumbocraps like you fools never learn.
Yes, well. Setting aside for a moment the absurd assertions this particular "writer" makes, I find the letter interesting. This, the City on a Hill, my liberal sanctuary, yet houses types like the author of that letter.

What I'm particularly curious about, though, is why it seems as though the most virulently conservative members of our society are the ones who sit down and write something like that. Look at's article comments - most frequently you'll find outlandish right-wing commentary provided on even innocuous articles. Why is it that this particular political ideology seems more mobilized to respond to mainstream media? It's not as if there are no left-wing bloggers and commenters out there, just look at Talking Points Memo, MoveOn, and to a lesser extent, Politico. But it's the right-wing that assails the press.

Is it because the press is viewed (mistakenly or not) as biased for the left? Is it because the left-wing bloggers are too busy patting themselves on the back for being on the "correct" side of the spectrum?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user kevindooley.

Thursday, January 01, 2009


Okay, putting aside for a moment the sublime cliche that is New Year's Resolution season, I'm going to make a simple one that I think applies across the board: resolution itself.

I've come to the conclusion that most anything can be accomplished by ingenuity mingled with a great amount of sheer will. Getting a job after graduation, maintaining my stable relationship, finding a decent place to live, continuing to wade into the waters of community theatre, reconnecting with and fostering old friends and expanding my network of people, all of these can happen with simple willpower and energy.

I therefore resolve to have resolve. When I commit to something, I will follow through on it, regardless of what it may be.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user vaXzine.