Not many answers but lots and lots of questions!!!

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Saturday, January 01, 2005

Hopefully Vidlit Is More Than Just Some Flash That Gets Panned 

VidLit has set out to prove Thomas Wolfe wrong in some unspecified way. I think Liz Dubelman et al may disagree with Wolfe's assertion that "You have reached the pinnacle of success as soon as you become uninterested in money, compliments, or publicity."

While giving Vidlit money would violate journalistic objectivity and this blog won't give it much publicity, I can offer some compliments.

As claimed, Vidlit tells tales like Craziest well. The site also offers book excerpts such as the hilarious Yiddish with Dick and Jane and the poetry of retired nurse Venetta Mason's The Arithmetic of Nurses.

Vidlit, which is both the name of the site and the format, is a novel marriage of words (both written and spoken), music, sound effects and pictures. Editor and founder Dubelman explains what it is and how she got the idea in her current editor's notes.

One of the best uses of Flash I've seen yet. I knew Flash had to be good for more than annoying web site intros.


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VidLit’s goal is to have about half the content paid for by publishers and to have half our content showcase unknown or little know authors. (That's the part where we don't care about the money.) We’ve only been up since the middle of September 2004, so we’re still finding our way. Thank you for blogging us. It’s nice to know that what we’re doing is being received with appreciative eyes.

By Blogger Liz, at 1/04/2005 12:54 PM  

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

JournalismNet's Top Ten of 2004 Provides Excellent Alternative News Sources 

Among the Google tools, RSS newsfeed software, and blog and news search engines in JNet'sTop Ten of Picks 2004 are some off-the-beaten-path news collections.

Included in the yearly round-up of top news providers and useful Web sites are:

"Columbia University's Newsblaster. This news spider crawls a series of Web sites every night, downloads articles, groups them together into "clusters" about the same topic, and summarizes each cluster. The end result is a Web page that gives you a sense of the day's major stories. There are no human editors involved -- everything you see on the main page is generated automatically, drawing on the sources listed on the left side of the screen. Newsblaster is an academic project from the Natural Language Processing group at Columbia University's Department of Computer Science."

===Most of the sources Newsblaster works with are American with a few international sources rounding it out. There are plans to enhance the service with more sources, languages and multi-day event-tracking ability. - PB===

The Newseum's "Today's Front Pages" Every morning, more than 300 newspapers from around the world submit their front pages to the Newseum via the Internet. .... The electronic files are printed out on large-format printers at the Newseum's offices in Arlington, Va., then are transported to the Pennsylvania Avenue site and mounted inside the 98-foot-long steel and Plexiglas display by 8:30 a.m., seven days a week. All of the front pages received that morning are then posted on the Newseum's Web site. The full selection of each day's front pages is available on the Web site by 9:30 a.m. daily."

===Front pages are a compelling mix of text and art. They provide an interesting snapshot of each paper's view of their readership. - PB===

===This is rivetting!! Reuters Feedroom lets you watch the latest TV news from Reuters News. Channels are: top news, world stories, business, life, entertainment and the quirky Oddly Enough. Today's page had some 143 videos ranging from raw footage of the tsunami aftermath to fully-formed segments. Videos are a few minutes long and may not have voiceovers. One the easiest web sites to use to get a glimpse of breaking TV news. Just click on it and it will roll a selection of the available footage or pick a channel and work through it on your own. -PB ===

===The next choice is a disappointment. It seems while the BBC broadcasts live via Windows Media Player (WMP) it archives shows in Real Player (RP) format only. If you've used RealPlayer recently you'll know why this is not a good thing. After upgrading RP a while ago it started popping up ads. I banned RP from my computers after the first few interuptions. While I'm not a fan of Microsoft at least WMP stays in the background and just plays the stream. I can't agree with J-Net's characterisation of RP as an "easy, free player". If you're willing to tolerate RP you can choose from dozens of BBC's top World Service programs.-PB===

===P.S. J-Net itself is one the web's best collections of journalism research and training resources. -PB===

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

U.S. to Take Bigger Bite of Iraq's Economic Pie 

Still wondering why the U.S. invaded Iraq? This story is much more balanced than I made it appear here but doesn't shy away from objectively pointing out the economic controls being put in place.

CHALLENGES 2004-2005: U.S. to Take Bigger Bite of Iraq's Economic Pie

by Emad Mekay

"WASHINGTON, Dec 23 (IPS) - The United States is helping the interim Iraqi government continue to make major economic changes, including cuts to social subsidies, full access for U.S. companies to the nation's oil reserves and reconsideration of oil deals that the previous regime signed with France and Russia.


The government, which is supposed to be replaced after elections scheduled for January, will also pass a new law that will further open Iraq's huge oil reserves to foreign companies. U.S. firms are expected to gain the lion's share of access in a process estimated to be worth billions of dollars.


Abdel Hadi, formerly a member of the exile Iraqi opposition, said the interim government will also reconsider deals signed between French and Russians oil firms and the regime of former President Saddam Hussein. It is still not clear whether those contracts will be cancelled altogether or just reduced.

France and Russia both opposed the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of the Arab country and companies from those nations were initially banned by the U.S. occupation administration, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), from helping to "rebuild" Iraq.

Washington later said non-U.S. firms could work there, after the world's rich nations agreed to forgive part of Iraq's debt, a decision that opened the door to Baghdad signing on to a loan programme designed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

But to date all contracts let for "reconstruction" by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have gone to U.S. firms, which have then subcontracted some work to foreign companies.


The IMF has been notorious for imposing conditions that its economists say are necessary to slash nation's budget deficits.

Development groups and anti-poverty campaigners argue those measures favour corporations in the most industrialised nations while harming the poor and middle class in borrowing countries.

The programme with Iraq appears to be no different.

Called the "enhanced post-conflict facility," the IMF programme bestows 420 million dollars in loans to the Iraqi government as a first step, promising more in 2005 if the nation meets more demanding conditions.

The IMF, which is dominated by the United States and other rich nations, has said it is willing to loan Iraq 2.5-4.3 billion dollars over three years now that an internationally recognised government is in place in the nation."

Is the U.S. trying to make Iraq a debt-slave to an organisation (the IMF) where it is confident of its influence?


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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Some PR Truisms Worth Repeating 

Journalists read a lot of press releases and most of them are terrible. Some PR people seem to think they should write our stories for us. If you read the blog entry on rip n' read, you'll know why they think that. Personally, I would be happier if they just stated their facts and gave a contact. Unfortunately I spend a lot of wading through a page of verbose bumph trying to glean the few things worth knowing that it does contain.

Once I do get those facts I have a quick and easy rule to immediately differentiate my copy from the rip n' read artists. I absolutely do not use the quotes and if at all possible avoid the source(s) quoted on the press release. They all say the same thing pretty much. "Whatever the press release about is good and we're glad."

This is from people who are probably reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable in their field. They might actually sound that way if their PR people dug past the glib sound-bite-isms and got their "sources" to say something meaningful. Something anyone with half-decent interview skills is trained to do.

Frankly, although being a _great_ interviewer takes years of practice, pretty much anyone can pick up the fundamentals of interviewing in a few hours. Actually I found learning interviewing improved my communications skills both personally and professionally because I learned a method for having a conversation about a certain topic. People react better to me because I can make them sound more interesting to themselves.

Disclaimer: I come across many honest, ethical, hard-working PR professionals who actually care about getting me the information or source that I seek on behalf of my readers. You know who you are. You don't get enough recognition. I try to remember to express my gratitude but if I didn't please accept it now along with my sympathies for having so many mediocre peers.

i-newswire.com is a free press release distribution center. There are several of these on the 'net. They usually carry crap. People who really have something to say are usually willing to pay to be able to say it and so it should be. But every rule has exceptions. Why i-newswire caught my eye is a few things on their site that, if true, bode well for them.

Unlike many other press release distribution services, they say they "care about quality press releases."

They go on to define the problem quite well.

"The new PR killer - Press Release Spam (PR Spam)
A common problem in today's distributions are distributors who publish anything to make money. This results in journalists and editors ignoring [free press release services] time after time. Today's journalists and editors are not interested in "PR Spam" (abusing press releases to advertise products or services)"

Furthermore (and this is what really caught my attention) they offer a solution.

i-Newswire.com Press Release Help: "While no one can guarantee your press release will be published or used for an article, there are things you can do to improve your chances. The biggest obstacle to most press releases is the release itself.


"When you write your press release, remember your audience. It isn't your customers. Your audience consists of journalists. Journalists are in the fact business. Their goal is to provide their readers with a complete portrait of whatever they're writing about.

"To appeal to the fact-oriented mind of a journalist, forget marketing emotional appeal. You need to give them the facts about your product or service, hard data that shows why your product or service is good and news-worthy. Then let them decide for themselves. If you forget this, there's no way they'll run your press release."

Well done i-newswire. I hope they're listening.

While we're on the topic. Here's another thing PR people do that bug me.

Don't say you have a source when you don't. You might have someone to interview but, if they don't have something authoritative to say on the subject in question, not only have you wasted everyone's time, I've probably stopped looking for a source for that part of the article (or worse, turned one down) and I'm that much closer to the deadline. If you're the reason I'm rushing to file the story (or, horror of horrors, late) that is what I'm going to say to my editor who is usually sympathetic but still frying me to file. You and your source just slid way down the list for next time.

If you don't feel your source is authoritative in the subject area then say so up front. I will go away disappointed but feeling you're a straight shooter. More importantly I will know I still have to find that source material.


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