Tuesday, January 24, 2012

NYT's Deep Dive

Interesting piece from the Nieman Journalism Lab on Deep Dive, a project from the New York Times that is still in demonstration mode.

It uses the Times' "massive cache of metadata from stories" to help pull archived stories related to the one a reader is currently looking at. I'm curious to know about the metadata itself: who came up with it, who applies it, how it is applied, etc.

--Julie Domel

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Newsroom Wikipedia contingency plan

Let me preface this by saying, this should always be the Wikipedia contingency plan...

One of our reporters tweeted the following:

--Julie Domel

Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Way to Look at the Congressional Record

I'm going to start this Tech Tips post by assuming that, unlike me, most people don't love reading the Congressional Record. But newsrooms often like to know what's in it, and when their elected representatives said it.

The tried and true route for answering such questions is to search via Thomas, the Library of Congress legislative site, or you might try C-SPAN's Congressional Chronicle. Now there's another way to see what members of the House and Senate say in the Record from the folks at the Sunlight Foundation, called Capitol Words.

Capitol Words is a search engine for the Record with some nice extras built-in. For example, you can find out the popularity of particular words or phrases over time, or popular words or phrases. The site allows you to narrow the focus to lawmakers from a particular state or party, too. For example, here's what a comparison of the terms "bailout" and "big banks" looks like.

The site also allows you to browse by date, where you can see popular words and phrases month by month or even day by day. Individual terms have their own pages, so you can see the history and popularity of words such as "preexisting", for example.

Sunlight gets the text of the Record straight from the Government Printing Office, so it's the official version. Capitol Words just applies a bit of structure to it by attempting to definitively identify every speaker and index every word. See what you can learn about your state's delegation by exploring it.

And by the way, if you haven't checked out that C-SPAN site I referenced, it's a great way to isolate video or find recordings of a particular speaker - not just in Congress but of any C-SPAN appearance.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Notes from the Chair: Preoccupations for 2012

It has certainly been a very intense year in media: sometimes I wonder if it is the nature of the topics, our times or that there is so much more coverage and awareness. At present I think it is all of these.

As you read this post, massive, visible struggles continue all over the world, most recently this past weekend in Russia, where voters disenchanted with their leadership adopted the slogan: "We Exist." And since January, countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa have just as fervently been demanding freedom. This Arab Spring movement has some success stories to report, but how these developments will take shape is still unclear. Americans, Canadians and other nations joined the "Occupy" movement to protest economic inequality, some literally occupying the streets and public spaces of their cities, starting their own libraries and newspapers, perhaps feeling that the only way they could achieve change was to establish these societal pillars anew and sit with others under rain-spattered tarps, as many more of their fellow citizens shrugged or sympathized.

Some say the news depresses them. Though this has been a very challenging year in many ways, I am still very hopeful. And as far as all of this outward discontent: it's hard to imagine people would be so angry, if they didn't feel hopeful too.

"Person of the Year: The Protester," TIME magazine cover, announced December 14, 2011

As we wrap up the year, and my term as News Division Chair, I have very much appreciated these tests and lessons learned. I took on this position as it is a good leadership opportunity, and in the process was shown its challenges. Some of the most provocative moments came from hearing directly from members seeking suggestions on, among other issues: advice on keeping a team motivated and guidance on careers. Speaking of teams, we're fortunate to have one of the finest I've worked with in our board and volunteers who have in turn been working for you -- in addition to all of us observing and experiencing firsthand the changes in the information ecology and media business.

As I mentioned in this column back in June, it is almost pointless to try and predict the future. So here are three important lessons for any news librarian. These are largely common sense, but I've tried to live by these lessons this year and carry them forward into the next, and I thought they would be good for the information / knowledge professional -- or anyone.

1. Get on the team(s).

Leadership is about building and continuing relationships, as well as constructing and working in teams. The innovative, successful company is flexible, always learning and doing work within these teams. This should include media entities and their information professionals. If these last two are absent, then I would be very worried. As a potential team member, it's important to be visible and demonstrate your abilities and knowledge base. We have all heard about developing that "Elevator Speech." It turns out you need several of these to call up, depending on what needs to be done. But overall, being part of any team will give you good experience in project management - and leadership.

2. Be part of the "pipeline."

Our managing editor coached me that the library should be as "close to the pipeline as possible." We worked very hard on that. Clearly for an editor that means: writing and creating content for posting and publication. That's something we're doing much more of.

Certainly the development of new ways of thinking and opportunities for archival content as to additional editorial use, context and revenue sources is essential. News librarians should be involved in this process. (I have to give Lany McDonald credit for encouraging me in this area; she's a terrific leader, team builder and news professional who received the News Division's highest honor.)

"Engagement" with citizens means listening, employing their ideas, following up on their suggestions and direct conversation and contributions. This has emerged over the past year as a top priority in media. News organizations need help with this. How are you fitting into this (two-way) pipeline?

A company getting some buzz as being an evolving news entity is the Journal Register Company. This past month one of their properties, the New Haven Register, announced a reorganization around investigative and local journalism, as well as an emphasis on engagement. Angel Diggs, the news librarian, was cited as being part of the Engagement Team. I called Angel to ask her about this new direction. This had just been announced, and it isn't clear how this will work yet, but she said that there's plans for a physical move, as well as direct engagement -- face to face -- with citizens in person, quite possibly in conjunction with the public library.

This is a continuation of a digital first, "open newsroom" strategy, within this chain that launched at the Torrington, (CT) Citizen. This paper, that welcomes the public into the building, utilizes open news meetings, crowdsourcing of factchecking and other forms of transparency and inclusion.

3. Own the idea. And do it.

If you attended the SLA Conference in Philadelphia this past year, or followed along online, you may have heard about Tom Friedman's keynote address. It is always great to have a journalist headlining this forum, and he spoke engagingly about the many changes in society -- including media -- and offered some strong and thought-provoking recommendations. He said: anything that can be done, will be done. If you don't do it, someone else will. The question is: will it be done by you, or to you?

I watched this commencement speech given by inventor Dean Kamen a few years ago. In it he emphasized how everyone is looking for new, applicable ideas and energy. While there's more receptivity after what hasn't worked -- to the point where companies and industries in business for over a century suddenly no longer exist -- there's also been a corresponding pragmatism and reliance on analytics to aid in decision making. Bottom line: keep the ideas flowing, but be prepared to say "I would support this," test it, and provide results. If it doesn't seem worth it, move on. But be sure to follow up, and steward it.

It has been a great privilege to lead our group of dedicated, versatile professionals perservering in a very challenging environment. Thanks to everyone for your friendship, hard work -- often for years at a time -- by our fantastic board and volunteers, and ALL of those ideas. I look forward to continuing our conversation together in the new year.

I hope your holidays are merry and bright, and all best wishes for a fulfilling 2012.

--Leigh Montgomery
2011 Chair, SLA News Division

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Monday, December 05, 2011

Santa Fe librarian Rebekah Azen has passed away

Thanks to NPR's Laura Soto-Barra for alerting the newslib community about the passing of Rebekah Azen, who had served as a librarian and consultant for the Santa Fe New Mexican for 15 years.

An obituary for Rebekah can be found here.

--Julie Domel

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Aside Bar - From the Editor

Is it November already? I am already feeling left behind by whirls of activity and the holidays are not yet upon us.

And I don't just mean in my personal life. Professionally, I'm feeling as if the rest of the world is moving on without me while I'm putting out the fire of the day (or fires, on some days) and not making any headway on the pile of archiving on my desk and other tasks on my to-do list.

Are the days moving faster? Am I moving slower?

How do I push my way back out front of the rush? I don't like to say no to a reasonable request because that just discourages reporters and editors from asking the next time. Plus, as a colleague on our online staff said the other day: no one has free time for anything anymore.

Am I less thorough in my work? Sorry, but this is a definite no.

Do I hand off work to a colleague? As I mentioned earlier, no one else has free time either -- and we all have backlogs. I am doing more push back, as in getting a reporter to a certain point and having him or her make the phone calls. Plus, when I'm the only one who knows the best ways to soothe a savage archive, I have no choice but to pull the burr from the tiger's paw myself. But having unique skills has its own rewards.

Lately, I've been trying to embrace the backlog. I can't change the nature of the work or the daily addition to the pile, so I focus on what I can do at that moment. I climb it, bit by bit. Some days there are lulls and I make headway, and others where I slip down the rocks a bit. But I will still get there eventually.

What are you doing to make headway as you make do with less? Leave your ideas in the comments.

--Julie Domel

Friday, November 04, 2011

Washington Post ombudsman lauds paper's researcher

In his blog, Omblog, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton corrects a previous post where he neglected to mention the work of Post researcher Alice Crites in the debunking of U.S. Senator Marco Rubio's embellished past. Personally, I was impressed that the reporter himself took Pexton to task for the omission.

Pexton then goes on to praise the work of the entire Post research team: "Without them, Post stories, particularly investigative ones, would not reach the quality that they often do."

So true!

--Julie Domel