Friday, February 28, 2003

Responsible Journalism I (or, The Union of February Past)

(and won't the title of this post look silly if Responsible Journalism II never arrives...)
At the bottom of The Union (hard copy) this week runs a teaser for their online poll, saying
"Would you support recalling California Gov. Gray Davis? Vote on!"

So your response to it might be, nice. They are encouraging public participation in the news making process. Community involvement good, a step in right direction. Good paper.

There's a problem though. Online polls are, to quote a local unnamed highly-placed source, "totally unscientific", and are regularly targeted for manipulation by political groups. Unfortunately, since there are no referees, the group that cheats (or the one that cheats the most) will win the appearance of popular support for its cause. To put it baldly, in an attempt to drum up website traffic The Union is peddling Influence to the sleaziest faction. In carelessly run polls as in soup pans, the scum rises to the top.

Not so good for a community newspaper.

And, Union-ites, if your response is "everybody knows our online poll is meaningless in gauging popular opinion", then you're being misleading in calling it a poll--that's like calling a paid advertisement "news". Call it a Pretend Poll and you won't risk misleading your more trusting readers.

For an example of a newspaper enlightening its readers, see the San Francisco Chronicle's injection of fact into reporting crowd estimates. I understand that The Union is planning to follow suit (with fact-based reporting - ed.), which if it pans out is excellent news.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

The terrible twos


The great tragedy of Science;
the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis
by an ugly fact

- Thomas Henry Huxley

Two ugly facts--


A thread on Plastic about how you'd spend your remaining time if planetary destruction was imminent. Two of the better postings--

  • On the last day I'd go on a long hike into the woods, because the worst part about backpacking for me has always been that you have to carry all that gear.
  • No Survivors - The Ultimate Reality Show: Watch twelve average families around the globe react to their impending doom.

sorry. morbid sense of humor.


And a pair of stellar (as in particularly insightful and well written) weblogs--

  • UC Berkeley Economics prof. Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal. Primarily from an economist's perspective, high-quality content, and he points to great stuff too.
    As merchants and passers-by in Old Constantinople would hear screams and thuds from the Topkapi Palace, so we read in our media faint echoes of a struggle inside the White House over which economic policy faction will gain the ear of our underbriefed President.

    Past echoes of the screams and thuds have come from International Economy, the Wall Street Journal, Robert Novak, Business Week, and others. Today's echoes come from the G-7 Group's (very valuable, although usually much less entertaining) daily email...

  • Swarthmore history prof. Timothy Burke's Easily Distracted. Great writing, for example
    What aggravates me [about the virtual community] isn't so much the actual positions that people take, which I happen to agree with in many cases, but the fact that they come to the table with enormous inflexibility, smugness and preternatural hostility to any view that does not closely replicate their own fixed position

    History is a good teacher, but if you just go looking for the lessons you want, I promise you that you will always find them, and learn very little in the process.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

General info on weblogs

If you're interested in putting up a weblog yourself, Dave Winer has some very basic instructions on how to start a weblog. I wish I could say it's easy. It should be, and I hope for you it will be, but I fought with this one for 3 nights before we finally came to an understanding. It should take five minutes to get yours set up. If Blogger causes your mouse to freeze up like it did mine (twice in 24 hours, 2 different computers) try unplugging the mouse cable and then plugging it back in. (and if you want to see an eclectic collection of links, go to google and search for "freezing mouse"...)

If you have an open mind and are interested in dialog, in learning from and discussing with others, in exploring ideas and viewpoints that may not match your own, civility is good, it helps to improve the lighting as opposed to the torching. Alternatively, if you already know the One True Way, most likely you'll prefer to divert your energies into rants, obscenities, name-calling, and righteous rage at stupid unbelievers. Your choice. I liked this recent Washington Post article on the subject.

Don't be afraid to link to other sites; that's why it's called the Web--one of the Internet rules is that you gain power by sharing it. First and foremost (which is why I mention it last?), think of your readers, and make your site as useful to them as you can, else you may not get any.

problem solved

apparently it had decided to post to the future, and since the future isn't here yet, the posting wasn't either.

In the beginning...



I decided to start this weblog & to beg Yubanet to create a Weblogs category (thanks!) because weblogs are the way of the future and I feel that news and discourse in Nevada County have for too long been "owned" by individuals or institutions, & that we need to be able to discuss issues amongst ourselves without such intermediation. I believe that weblogs will be "where the community gets its voice", to dig up an old slogan from a local radio station. As Dan Gillmor of the San Jose Mercury News recently put it--
...weblogs often point to other weblogs in an ecosystem of news, opinions and ideas...[The] vision, shared by other blogging pioneers, has been to help democratize the creation and flow of news in a world where giant companies control so much of what most people see, hear and read..."

(I will be doing a lot of quoting; so many writers have expressed so many things so much better than I could that I'm happy to yield the metaphorical floor.)