Isabelle Roughol – The J junkie

The tribulations of a young journalist and writer looking for work

Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Hello, I’m Isabelle and I’m a plagiarist

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Thanks to Poynter, I found out about Jody Rosen’s discovery that her article (and many others’) had been grossly plagiarized by a Texas alt weekly. Articles under the Mark Williams byline in the Montgomery County Bulletin turned out to be mere collages of several other articles (not his work) in other publications. Rosen’s expose is quite edifying.

But there’s more revelation at the bottom of Rosen’s column (also pointed out by Poynter and Jeff Jarvis):

But perhaps the Bulletin is merely on-trend—or even ahead of its time. The Drudge Report, the Huffington Post, and Real Clear Politics have made names and money by sifting through RSS feeds; Tina Brown and Barry Diller are preparing the launch of their own news aggregator. Mike Ladyman and company may simply be bringing guerilla-style 21st-century content aggregation to 20th-century print media: publishing the Napster of newspapers.

Wow. Frankly, as a blogger I’m offended that the editorial work of linking and aggregating (and, by the way, sending traffic your way Jody) is compared to the gross practice of slapping one’s name on somebody else’s work and passing it as one’s own. Ouch. I expected this from The Associated Press, not from Slate.

That’s just one paragraph too many (that’s already angered at least one blogger) in an otherwise edifying exposé, which I will link to (er, plagiarize) here again. Just ‘coz.

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Written by Isabelle Roughol

Thursday, 7 August, 2008 at 06:53

Posted in Ethics, Journos, Web 2.0

Reader comments on nytimes.com? Ever?

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I’m going to pick on the New York Times again. I just read an article on the impact of Karadzic’s arrest on the credibility of war crime tribunals. Interesting stuff. I did, however, find an error in the story. Nothing too dramatic really: it says the International Crimininal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was created in 1983: in fact, it was in 1993. That’s not my problem; typos happen, and it doesn’t take away from the understanding of the story.

My problem is, there’s not one way on the page to notify the paper of the error. No comment option (seriously?), no way to email the writer or editor, not even an apparent link to a contact page. (My bad, it’s in 6-point font at the bottom if you scroll down all the way.) I don’t wanna write a gotcha comment; I just want to let a colleague know about something I noticed, so his error doesn’t stay up there for someone meaner to notice. That’s what you do; otherwise, it’s like letting someone walk around all day with a piece of lettuce between their teeth. You just don’t do that. So instead of sending a simple note to the reporter, I must resort to a blog post and hope it will register on their radar. (This shall be tagged appropriately.)

In addition to losing the precious insight of feedbacks, not making reader comments easy doesn’t make a paper look good. The Times doesn’t need another reason for someone to call them arrogant or disconnected.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Tuesday, 22 July, 2008 at 08:50

I got schmapped: Should I be giving up content for free?

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I got an e-mail yesterday that both flattered and irritated me, and I’m still on the fence about it. Schmap.com, a site/software of interactive city maps for tourists, contacted me about using a photo of Montreal’s Bon Secours market, which I took this spring and posted on Flickr. One of the features on their map is user-contributed photos of landmarks. Of course, there’s no financial retribution but “many photographers are pleased to submit their photos, as Schmap Guides give their work recognition and wide exposure,” they say. Reminds me of all those unpaid internship offers where they told you working in their newsroom was a privilege and a “great learning experience.”

As the daughter of a freelance writer, I early on understood that content is worth money and businesses who ask writers and photographers to work for free are hogs. Every time you give up content, you bring down the rates for thousands of freelancers whose livelihood depends on people understanding there’s a monetary value attached to writing and photography. Pick one cause you believe in, my mom once told me, and write for them for free; the rest of them can open their wallets or ask someone else. Then I started writing myself, and I got it even more. But I also jumped on the citizen-journalism bandwagon, which is pretty much the same thing. In fact, it’s the one thing that’s always bothered me about it: we’re asking people to give up material that, especially in breaking news situations, could be worth thousands to them, exploiting the fact that they may not be familiar with media and rights.

But what’s the difference between Schmap’s query and my putting the photo on Flickr, geotagged for everyone to see when they look up Montreal? Maybe it’s that I’m getting a service in exchange from Flickr: they host my photos. I could, I guess, get a service from Schmap if I was visiting any of the cities they cover. Maybe, I’d feel more comfortable if Schmap was an open-source, non-profit, good-doing kind of an enterprise, but it sounds too commercial for me to willingly get robbed of my picture. I have till Sunday to give an answer. What do you think?

In the meantime, my vacation snapshot — which frankly isn’t worth a blog post — will get “wide exposure” right here.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Wednesday, 16 July, 2008 at 09:33

Posted in Photography, Travel, Web 2.0

The Columbia Missourian should look to an online future, rather than strike a deal with the Daily Tribune

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Columbia Missourian editor Tom Warhover, my former boss, is asking readers what they think of a possible business partnership with the Columbia Daily Tribune, the paper across town. I am putting my thoughts down, but taking the liberty of overstepping Tom’s mandate. If we’re going to rethink the Missourian, we gotta rethink the whole journalism school. Bear with me; these thoughts have been forming for three years. Journalism junkies and concerned citizens, please read. Others, move on or put up with a 1200-word essay. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Thursday, 19 June, 2008 at 06:11

Columbia Missourian delivered on breaking news explosion story, mixing old and new media

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As Ryan Sholin aptly pointed out the other day, in media-blogging it’s best not to do too much navel-gazing on your own news organization. But the Columbia Missourian, my alma mater of newspapers, covered breaking news yesterday in a way that I think is worthy of a post.

I put my reporter cap back on yesterday. Around 11.15 a.m., an explosion razed an entire house in the East Campus neighborhood of Columbia, Mo. In the explosion and the fire that ensued, Carl Sneed, 87, died, and his wife, Merna, 84, was gravely injured. A firefighter was also injured.

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It was just 3 blocks away from my house, which actually shook from the blast. I honestly first thought it was my roommate once again slamming doors, but the sirens of fire trucks and ambulances told me otherwise. I rushed over there, though to his great credit, my roommate, photographer Kuba Wuls, got there even sooner and got some very telling pictures.

I called the Missourian and what ensued was an awesome example of teamwork on a local breaking news story. Our friendly neighborhood citizen journalism team, led by Clyde Bentley, practically a neighbor of the Sneeds, right away put together a Flickr gallery and got information from neighbors. One such neighbor submitted pictures that helped us identify the hero of the day, a firefighter who pulled Merna Sneed from the fire. We had a breaking news burst very quickly on the Web site and many updates throughout the day. The full story at the end of the day and the many sidebars painted a much more complete picture than the competing paper’s. We sent news alerts via text messages. We had reporters and editors working on site, in the newsroom and at the hospital. Convergence reporters brought back video, Kuba brought back wonderful pictures, and I was equipped with my own camera, too. (See below my first ever published picture. The slideshow above is a mix of published and unpublished ones.) See the whole coverage at www.columbiamissourian.com.

Rescue workers wheel Merna Sneed to an ambulance that took her to University Hospital. She had severe burns over more than 30% of her body. ISABELLE ROUGHOL/MISSOURIAN

The most unusual thing that came out of that day’s coverage was an interesting twist on new media meets old media. Everyone in East Campus was asking questions all day. But East Campus is an odd neighborhood with a large student population and just as large a population of elderly people, who may not have the instinct (or even the Internet connection) to check the Web for more information. The Missourian’s Saturday edition being a weekly printed on Thursday nights, we had no way to get the news in print out to the people in time. (Note: We are also cursed with the Friday breaking news.) So we made one up. I use “we” loosely because I’m sure the credit goes to someone; I just wasn’t around when the idea came up so I couldn’t tell you who. Anyways, the Missourian had launched in partnership with the East Campus Neighborhood Association an email newsletter about the neighborhood. We revamped the idea for print. We designed a one-page, front-and-back newsletter with excerpts of our Web coverage, made 300 copies and 8 of us hit the streets, fixing the newsletter to doorknobs with rubber bands.

What really matters in this story is the tragedy of an old couple being stolen their right to a peaceful, quiet death. I’m usually wary about covering such tragedies because there is a fine line between serving the needs of your community and just plain preying on victims. I don’t mean to celebrate this day as an achievement in journalism, and I hope it’s not what this post sounds like. But in the end, I think we served our community right yesterday: when so many people were worried about what was going on and wanted to share who Mr. Sneed was, the Missourian delivered.

The work, of course, continued today. In no particular order and unfortunately not exhaustively, here are some of the people to be credited for these two days’ outstanding work: managing editor Reuben Stern, editor Katherine Reed, editor Clyde Bentley, assistant editor Katie Fretland, reporter Sean Sposito, reporter Matt Harris, news editor and Web site wizzard Jake Sherlock, photographer Kuba Wuls, photography director Rie Woodward, photo editing staff (don’t even know all your names, I’m so sorry), photographer Katie Barnes, editor Liz Heitzman, editor Jeanne Abbott, production chief Joy Mayer, convergence editor Mark Lewis, reporter Jonathon Braden, reporter Annie Harp, reporter Lauren Fredman, convergence editor Beth Androuais, convergence reporter Jenn Herseim, convergence editor Jennifer Leong, circulation yesmen Rob Weir and Bruce Moore, photographer Joshua A. Bickel, citizen journalist Jackie Kreigh … (Yes, we are a huge newsroom, and that helped.) Those are only the ones I personally saw work or whose credit I could find on the Web site. I know there are plenty more. I am both proud and humbled to be a part of this team.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Sunday, 16 March, 2008 at 03:30

Funny how the Spitzer prostitution ring scandal blew up in two hours…

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… and it took the Watergate investigation months to grab the nation’s attention. You gotta love the Internet age. I wrote on del.icio.us two hours ago when I got the NYT news alert: “Ouch, give it a few hours and that’s gonna hurt.” Was I right or what? Cable news is having a field day.

That’s all I gotta say about this, and apparently this is all Spitzer’s got to say.

It’s pretty much screaming “I’m guilty,” without actually using the words. No mention of a resignation yet, but it’s not looking good for Spitzer. As TPM ironically points out, that takes the debate on driver’s licenses to unauthorized immigrants off the table. Way off.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Monday, 10 March, 2008 at 20:43

Posted in Links, News, Web 2.0

Everyblock has launched

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… as of a few minutes ago. Go check it out, I sure am. Full report later today.

(Update) Nice aggregation of user-generated content (Flickr, craigslist), straight news (local papers) and public records. Tons of public records. Nice possibilities for residents and journalists alike, as far as mining data. Still some progress to do on Web 2.0 features: the site needs more interactivity, more embeddable widgets and the possibility for users to suggest more hyperlocal sources of content (starting with blogs). But a great start overall. I just wish there was a Columbia, Mo. site so I could really judge how much more it brings to the table compared to your average news coverage.

Written by Isabelle Roughol

Wednesday, 23 January, 2008 at 21:44

Posted in Innovation, Web 2.0