Monthly Archives: September 2008

It’s the little things

Living in the USA is really similar to living in Australia. You know, there are schools, public transport, etc. But some things, little things, can make it seem really freaky. And that’s really fun.

For example, the mail. In Australia you have a home letterbox where mail is delivered to monday to friday. If you want to send snail mail, you go to the post office. Rarely do you get stamps anywhere else. There are postboxes in the streets, etc, and when you’ve stamped your letter (it’s 50 cents to anywhere in Australia for standard mail) then it’s good to go. It takes about a day or two to get wherever you send it to. Unless you’ve put money in it, then it might never arrive.

In Boulder you can buy stamps at the supermarket, and heaps of other places. There are nowhere near the plethora of post offices, but there are quite a number of shipping places that specialise in packages.

The really great part is that when you have a standard letter to post, you simply put it in your own letterbox and the mail carrier (the US version of the mail man) picks it up when they drop off your mail. All you need to do is raise the little red flag next to your letterbox.

Super cool. I’m pretty convinced this is why NetFlix, the movie rental service that works by sending the movies out to you via mail, has taken off in a big way here. It’s all so simple.

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MSM journalism and Twitter

Moving online has caused Mainstream Media (MSM) quite a few headaches. I explored this a little during my Pubcamp presentation earlier this year.

Unlike many, I believe there is still life in MSM yet – they just have to learn to adapt to the new environment and, staying true to their code of ethics, make the most of new media in a way which better serves the audience.

Too many MSM consider they are making use of new media by simply having an online space. Quality of MSM journalism has taken a nose-dive as the stress of creating content (repurposed or not) on a continuing cycle for the online entities has reduced the time available for researching and fact checking. The seemingly limitless amounts of space online, and the audience demand for updated news combines with the advertisers’ demand for minute-by-minute hit ratios.

Any ethical news organisation would reasonably buckle under that pressure. And many have.

It’s time for MSM to look beyond coming up with new ‘stories that aren’t’ and flimsy angles on old agendas in order to maintain their readership. It’s time to revisit your mission, reconsider who you serve, and then integrate new media to that end.

The whole reader comment thing is really iffy for MSM. I believe in brands. Whether online or in print, MSM is professional and has a branding that reflects their years of commitment. A stamp of professionalism if you like. When you run a slurry of reader comments online under news stories you invite commentary that is neither professional nor reflects your branding. We are seeing stories that are 300 words long but which have 2000 words of reader comments, most of which is simply diatribe – or worse, just plain offensive bigotry.

Who does that serve?

Additionally, you have your reporters running their own blogs which are nothing more than a bit of fluff that nobody, not even your MSM journo’s themselves, take seriously. Honestly, you’re getting it wrong. If it’s not fit to print then why do you believe it’s fit for the web?

No wonder your sales continue to slide.

The Rocky Mountain News (RMN) and a few other organisations are to be congratulated for looking further into new media. The RMN is trying to use Twitter. But so far MSM hasn’t got its head around the possibilities of social networking tools, and it’s falling a bit short.

So if you’re listening, here’s what you need to do.

Train your journalists in social media and focus on the social aspect. Twitter can be used as a broadcast tool, sure, but that’s not its limitation. In fact, why not tell your audience that you’ll be at a certain event, and ask them to get online and use the journalist as their eyes and ears at that event? Yes, Twitter goes two ways!

I can see a really great potential here for MSM to make a mark using social media, and for the professionalism and integrity of journalism to get a real kick back on track. MSM can offer its very wide audience the opportunity to be part of the democratic, authentic, balanced journalism the public seeks. Sure you can use Twitter as an advertisement link to other news stories, but that’s simply advertising. Why not integrate the tool in your reporting and at the same time bond with your audience?

Now that’s something I’d love to see. That’s something that will get people believing in you again.

Breastfed is best fed. The End.

Yes, I breastfed all four of my children.

Yes, I did for at least three years for every one of them.

And no, I make no apologies for it.

If you’re uncomfortable with my headline, then as the Queen of Spain says, #suckit. (Yes, I do finally get that.)

I’ve spouted for a long time that breast fed is best fed. I think it’s a great line and it describes my feelings well. All four of my kids deserved the best, and still do. I have sacrificed a lot for my kids.

After walking the talk for 18 years on natural birthing and breastfeeding, I am very familiar with the reasons why people don’t do one or both of the above.

Some are valid reasons – and I recognise that. But the World Health Organisation’s statistics are not possibly wrong. How can Western Nations suddenly need vast numbers of c-sections and women worldwide continue to *choose* to formula feed over breastfeeding for reasons that are non-medical?

Doesn’t your child deserve the best?

Learning how citizen journalism works

What is the difference between citizen journalism and traditional media?

That’s the question BlogWorld & New Media Expo, being held in Las Vegas from Sept 19 to 21, 2008, seems to not know the answer to.

Billed as the world’s largest blogging and new media conference, BlogWorld is holding a one-day workshop for citizen journalists.

Great!

While I don’t want to offend anyone with my own opinions on this, I felt pretty offended by what followed. Looking through the program overview, it appears that to be taken seriously as a citizen journalist, you need to be trained by traditional journalists. After all, as the site says, “Traditional media has tried to learn from the blogs…  Now it’s time for the bloggers and other new media journalists to mine the history, tradition and most importantly, the knowledge base of traditional journalists.”

Simply part with $350 and you too will be able to be trained by four out of five people who don’t actually practice citizen journalism… or that even have blogs. In fact, upon looking through their bio’s which are linked in the speaker profiles, only one of them (the same one) actually has any relationship with Web 2.0 at all.

And at the end, you’ll get a certificate which you can have on paper, or for those ‘new media’ types, in a web badge format! What a bargain!

I’m sure that Norg and allvoices will be searching out for cit j’s with accreditation offered by BlogWorld. Nope. Maybe it will make me feel more ‘professional’ or make me more ‘influential’ or add to my branding?

I really don’t think so.

Getting trained by old media journalists and academics who work in a model which is failing to profit doesn’t reflect the demands of journalism of the 21st century. If I had $350 to spend, it wouldn’t be here. But I’m sure many will.

Monetizing citizen journalism… at last someone’s worked out how to do it. Thanks BlogWorld!

MSM forgets what sets it apart

The Rocky Mountain News has taken a lot of my attention this week. Primarily because it is one of the first MSM outlets which I’ve come across attempting to incorporate a greater range of Web 2.0 usage as part of its general reporting effort.

Virtually all MSM now features online sites with reader polls and reader comments. Those have their own incredible issues which are related, but I won’t delve into here.

However, the RMN decided to incorporate a Twitter-feed as part of its news service, on the front page of its online issue wednesday this week. And the story they covered? The funeral of a 3-year old boy who was killed by accident while at an ice-cream store.

The result of running this piece was that the RMN was brought to task by The Poynter Institute, its own readers and other media over two things.

Firstly, the appropriateness of using the ‘tool’ of Twitter at a funeral. A child’s funeral. Well, you know what? They didn’t really use Twitter. They might as well have video taped it (oh, actually they did that too) because while Twitter is a social networking tool, the RMN (like all other MSM) only use it for broadcast purposes – there was no conversation going on. The RMN, like all other MSM, simply doesn’t ‘get’ Twitter. If you’d like a metaphor, it’s the same as if the telephone was invented and the RMN called you and said stuff, then hung up. No interaction. The RMN still sees the potential of Web 2.0 as tired old Web 1.0. MSM uses Web 2.0 with an ‘it doesn’t really count, it’s just a bit of fluff’ attitude. And that’s why the brains of MSM, with all its years of journalistic experience, is failing in the 21st century. 

But the more important issue is the content.

The editor of the RMN responded to the outrage caused by his decision to run the Twitter feed. His excuse was basically “Well, we’re struggling with this new technology stuff, and we had permission.”

FAIL

‘Struggle’ away. However, I have listened to many MSM journalists describe the difference between them and bloggers. This usually comes down to ‘We are professionals’. Tack onto that other qualifiers like “We’ve been doing this for xx years” and “All bloggers do is write about us anyway, so if we disappeared then what would be left?”

Well apologies if this seems harsh, but guess what the bloggers are writing about? What a crap job you ‘professional’ journalists are doing. How unbalanced, biased, ignorant you have become.

And if you are ‘professional’, then how about reading through your Code of Ethics a few times? Hell, why not stick it up on the wall to remind yourselves what you’re trying to do? What it is that sets you apart from bloggers?

I sincerely believe that the Code of Ethics is the one thing – the touchstone – that journalists have to rely on. 

In Australia we have a Code of Ethics which compels the professional journalist to “resist the compulsion to intrude.” (Let’s leave aside the fact that the Code isn’t found on the first page of the MEAA’s website… if fact, it involves lots of clicking to get to it.) Even though the RMN had permission to report the funeral, it wasn’t the right thing to do using the words, images and portrayal you did. It was incredibly biased and the resulting feeling in the audience was one where you grew a moral panic about the ‘illegal immigrant’ who caused the accident. (Demonstrated by the reader comments.)

The USA’s code as stated by the Society of Professional Journalists, is even more clear. It states, flat out “Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiousity.” The RMN didn’t do that. In the words of one reader’s response; ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’.

If you are to be professional journalists, behind every struggle,  whether it is over the use of technology or the content you create on that technology, you should stand true to your professional Code of Ethics.

If not, a blog awaits.

No, not that ‘change of life’

Living here couldn’t be more different than what we’ve been used to. And it’s pretty much all good. It’s a 1 minute walk to the bus stop, and the bus comes every 10 minutes. And this is the view I have while I wait:

We have at least one squirrel in the tree which overhangs our condo’s back patio. Of course there are squirrels everywhere here. But this one is in our tree.

He’s cute. Fast. Brown. And yet…

I’m sure he’s a ninja. As are all squirrels here in Boulder. (You heard it here first.) Why? Nothing that moves that fast is all good.

In any case, this little guy is very cool. I see him every day. Mostly in the  morning or evening, when I’m actually sitting still long enough for him to whip past. I took a pic of him this morning and the flash made him stop and look at me as if to say “paparazzi.”

Additionally, we have a gorgeous family of deer who also hang out in the backyard. (We call it the backyard. It’s actually open space and a park). The mum has a radio collar on her neck, the dad has only been seen a couple of times (he must work a lot), and the kids bounce around like the Disney Bambi. They like the grass and don’t mind it when people bike past or walk down the path. Sorry I don’t have a pic of them at the moment, but will add it when I do.

All these guys could do with names. Suggestions most welcome.

Click your heels together three times. We’re not in Mulletville any more, Toto!

Moving to Colorado in 5 Easy Steps

We jumped. We are now in Colorado. The suitcases are in the cupboard under the stairs. The kids are at school and I am at the SJMC (School of Journalism and Mass Communication) at the Uni of Colorado at Boulder. I thought I’d take you through what was an extremely tiring and exciting 8 weeks to share the joy, and thank those who helped us get here.

Step One – Getting Ready to Jump

Packing up our life. Four simple words that took an incredible amount of time. It’s pretty straightforward to book the shipping and storage people, and organise the garage sale.

Kid1 helps out at the garage sale

Kid1 helps out at the garage sale

We have a whole heap of stuff kept in storage in Sydney, and we’ve brought with us the essentials. We’re also shipping 1 cubic metre of crap I’ve decided I can’t live without. Tips for garage sales? Only have it on a Saturday because Sunday is pointless, and make sure you tag everything. We had the sale about three weeks before leaving, and had my friends come over to help at various points to distract me from potential emotional overload (yay Kathy and Jacqui). We gave leftover stuff to charity or freecycle. However, what we found most successful and amusing – put all of it on the front lawn with a big free sign on it. It went in a flash! We had quite a few laughs.

Ship or store?

Ship or store?

My pal Kathy also helped a lot when I had a crisis of “what do I do?” She turned up and spent literally days putting her own life on hold while she helped the kids pack their stuff, aided my crisis over helping my two eldest kids move out of the house into their dad’s, and told me lots of funny stories about her own moves. There is a special sort of woman in the world. She’s the mum of more than three kids. I’m lucky to count some of my best pals in the world in that category. Kathy will forever have a special place in my heart for her help with this stage. And her skim mocha is the best I’ve ever had. Ever.

Tip: Get the kids involved and video bits of the process. Between Jacqui, Kathy and I we have 13 kids, who were all very keen to whack the dead furniture into pieces to put in the mini skip. We got some great, funny videos of kids with hammers. And miraculously avoided injuries!

All our tech ready to go

All our tech ready to go

Also, great tip was to have the lawnmower, whipper snipper and lounge suite we are keeping all professionally cleaned out, ready for storage. Of course, these were each done differently, but the cost was worth it knowing we’d be opening the storage crates in a few years to things that were pristine when they went in. We stored the fridge, washing machine and dryer quite easily, with small preparation. We have an incredible amount of Ikea furniture too, and we got a great guy out who dismantled everything back to IKEA flat pack with his helper dude, and saved us heaps of space in storage. They were nice guys too.

Step 2 – Organise and separate.

I really could have done this better. I separated the stuff I really needed in Colorado, but didn’t put it in a suitcase to be sure it didn’t get shipped – or worse still, stored. Things like the latest bills that you can’t afford to pay yet, your PIN number stuff, personal documentation, etc. To cut this long story a bit shorter, I am pretty sure they’re in shipping. Maybe I’ll see them sometime before Christmas. If not, the electricity gets cut off in the old house and I’m not there so I really don’t care that much. So ner.

Step 3 – Book good quality people, and use your friends.

Thank goodness we booked Allied Pickfords to handle all our storage. They were great (well so far, they still have all our stuff of course). When you’re talking about all your worldly posessions, going with the quote based solely on price is dumb. Instead I went on gut. We’re happy I did. These guys were efficient, hard-working and best of all, happy blokes to be around. They really deserved the crates of beer we got them at the end.

The bloody big truck

The bloody big truck

And my friends were key to success. I love my friends. I’m so lucky to have them. They made me feel like I’m a pathetic loser of a friend, given all they were willing, ready and able to do to ensure we got this move done. We are so grateful to all our friends for the ongoing help, love, assistance, moral support, advice that they continue to provide. Whether we’ve known you for a long time or short time, you are so important to us. We can’t wait to have you all stay with us here in Boulder. (Please stagger your visits. The condo is small.)

The old school friend, Cherie, who I hadn’t seen in ages, my fabulous work friends (yes, TAFE sucks), our Twitter pals who braved the horrid weather to say bye, and all the kids school friends. Visit us soon!

Step 4 – Triple check how much you can take on your flight.

We had three different estimates of how much we could take on board our flight to the USA. Syd-LA with Qantas said 32kg each bag was fine. What most of the Qantas people didn’t tell us was that for our connecting domestic flight from LA to Denver, the limit is just 23kg. It sucked to find that out two days before leaving. We ended up taking 13 bags, all weighing at least 20kg, with Jed’s three bags (super duper flyer allowance) topping the 32kg. It was a heap of luggage, but well worth taking it rather than shipping or paying air freight for it, which would have been far more. (On our stopover in LA we saw Ringo Starr in the Admiral’s lounge. That was cool.)

This is just for the weekend? Um ... no.

This is just for the weekend? Um ... no.

Step 5 – Take mum.

Big bonus. Taking my mum meant that we had three adults trying to maneuvre all that luggage. She has also been here in Colorado helping me settle in. She goes back to Sydney next week. I am ready to hire her to others. She’s great. She’s my mum. We’ve had a lot of fun working out what the US equivalence is to many products in the supermarket, driving around Boulder, hitting the stores, looking at ninja squirrels etc.

So here we are. That’s the basics of getting here. I’ll be getting the video camera up and running soon. I’m getting used to classes here and the amount of reading I’m having to do as a grad student is staggering. I’m sure the squirrels are out to kill when I’m not looking. That’s scary. More posts soon, including video, asap.

Love and hugs to all.