“Evangelical Power Vastly Diminished Headed Into Super Tuesday”

OffTheBus MastheadThe so-called “evangelical vote,” often cited by media analysts as a crucial constituency in securing the Republican nomination, is likely to exercise considerably less influence this cycle, according to a series of interviews with clergy and political analysts conducted by HuffPost’s OffTheBus {citizen journalism project.}

I recently participated in the Huffington Post’s OffTheBus citizen journalism project, which can be read at the above link. I interviewed Executive Pastor Marty Thompson of Bethel Evangelical Free Church in Fargo, North Dakota, for the piece.

It was my first such participation in a citizen journalism project and I was both impressed with Amanda Michel, Marc Cooper and Dan Truel for coordinating the effort, as well as pleased with the final result. Although many of the issues discussed in the article fell outside the scope of my specific conversation with Pastor Thompson, I still felt my interview informed the article and helped the group arrive at a collective truth regarding the so-called “Evangelical vote” leading up to Super Tuesday. Namely, we dispelled the notion that evangelical Christians are somehow to be perceived of as a homogeneous voting bloc in the United States, a notion reflected in my particular interview with Marty Thompson.

The best new magazine Web site of 2008

PopSci LogoI just wanted to take a moment and recognize the folks over at Popular Science magazine for their Web efforts. They quietly launched a redesigned site, PopSci.com, in 2008. It’s built on the Drupal platform and one way of looking at it is that, functionally, it’s a group blog. Each navigational bucket along the top represents a category, but all posts/articles/stories appear time-stamped in reverse chronological order on the home page.

PopSci home page

If you haven’t checked it out, I recommend.

It offers a unique model for a traditional print company to leverage their assets on the Web. It also gives me hope that old media companies will come to realize that a blog is just as easily (and perhaps more helpfully) understood as a medium, not as a genre.

Does Facebook’s ‘friend limit’ thwart the ability for mass organization?

A friend of mine sent me the following story of a Canadian union organizer banned from Facebook for making too many friends:

CUPE organizer/Labour Start correspondent Derek Blackadder’s foray into labor-related social networking was rudely interrupted by a warning from Facebook saying that he was making too many friends.

Facebook LogoHe then asked me, “Does this thwart the potential for organizing through Facebook?”

No, I said. And here’s why:

Obviously, if you want to get a message out to organize a protest, a prayer service or anything else , you’ll get that message out most QUICKLY by having a lot of friends, say, more than the 5,000 limit. Note I said most QUICKLY. (This is the equivalent of broadcasting a message through a traditional one-to-many medium).

But not necessarily most EFFECTIVELY, nor most SUCCESSFULLY, if the barometer for success is how many people take the desired action you’re hoping for.

Here’s the key

Successfully organizing on Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean one person broadcasting a message to 5,000 people. If anything, that message is going to be watered down for broad appeal, less relevant to each specific person, and prompt the least (percentage wise) action.

The KEY is getting 50 people to each tell 50 people to teach tell 50 people, etc., etc., etc. (Or, really, 5 people to tell 5 people, etc., etc., etc.) Each message then becomes a relevant, targeted message, and a message that the recipient of which is most likely to pass on.

And that’s what gives social networking sites, such as Facebook, such a great potential for organization.

So you sort of have two issues: 1) crafting the right message and 2) getting that message to the right people.

Obviously what I’m describing here is simply viral marketing in theory (the practitioners of which will tell you in reality is anything but simple).

Catholicism 2.0: Religious blogging, podcasting & online communities

Call to Action logoEach year Call to Action, a progressive, reform-minded organization within the Catholic Church, convenes a National Convention. This year the group aims to hold a few sessions on how to utilize new media technologies to inform and galvanize the laity to action. Some suggested sessions include blogging, podcasting and social networking. I had a conversation last night with an organizer, and hope to sit on a panel for the group. The convention is in November and preliminary information can be found here. More to come soon…

New York Times startup LifeWire provides syndicated lifestyle content

I recently saw a job posting on JournalismJobs.com for a full-time editor to commission and copy edit articles for LifeWire, an online content startup from the New York Times Co. that creates “on-demand lifestyle content” for top Web publishers.


A quick Google News search shows that, although their own page isn’t live yet, LifeWire has ran stories in CNN’s living, and travel sections for the past month or so.

I looked for some more information on LifeWire, but hadn’t read much about it. Any leads?

And P.S., doesn’t the site look awfully “Drupally”?

The future of journalistic objectivity

Chicago Tribune logoTimothy McNulty at the Chicago Tribune wrote a great article yesterday on journalistic objectivity.

Objectivity is an oft-debated topic amongst journalists. To what extent is it possible? Where are the lines drawn? Has it diminished in the age of cable TV’s talking heads and the numerous opining bloggers? Or, as McNulty says, does objectivity get reduced to neutrality? “On the one hand this” and “on the other hand this,” without any attempt to truly seek the truth?

One thing that interests me is the potential of objectivity on a macro level – especially given the democratizing potential and decentralized nature of the Web.

Continue reading “The future of journalistic objectivity”

Dean Lavine addresses Medill graduate students over lunch

Medill logoMedill Dean John Lavine told a group of Medill graduates today, “we are aggressively looking at a set of new clients” for their graduate run Medill News Service.

As we at Medill here have started turning more towards multimedia journalism, the clients who subscribe to our graduate-run wire service haven’t been able to support some of the Flash-based video pieces we’ve produced for our Web site Medill Reports.

The Medill News Service, a wire service run by graduate students at the Medill School of Journalism has provided local coverage on Chicago politics, business, legal affairs, etc. for area publications since 1995. Basically, Medill graduate students report in Chicago, and Chicago-area publications who can’t afford the reporting pay for the stories. (Clients include the Daily Herald, the Daily Southtown, the Northwest Indiana Times, the Chicago Defender, among others.) The Medill News Service also runs a Washington Bureau. Washington clients include the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier and the Greeley Tribune in Colorado.
Continue reading “Dean Lavine addresses Medill graduate students over lunch”

Gannett & Tribune team up to launch MetroMix LLC

I first saw this come over PRNewswire, than read about it on AP and others.

At first glance, I brushed it aside because, frankly, it’s not all that exciting to me that MetroMix is expanding. But after hearing a fellow student here at Medill make a comment on how excited she would be at the prospect of working for the Chicago Tribune, I thought I’d get on my new media soapbox.

This deal epitomizes what doesn’t excite me about traditional media companies. Expanding their MetroMix brand to deliver a national advertising network targeted at young, affluent urbanites? Not exactly a revolutionary self-examination of what the Tribune is, and is not, doing well, in my opinion.

Now, I’m not saying the joint Tribune/Gannett venture won’t be commercially successful. Obviously those who orchestrated the deal believe so. And I’ll readily admit, it’s a great resource for finding events in Chicago (where I live). But it still has so many old media hangups. Such as…

Submitting a listing

Below is a screen shot of the “submit a listing” button, neatly tucked away well below the fold, so to speak, on the lower left sidebar.

Metromix Submit a Listing

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of community participation.

If you do find, navigate to, or stumble upon the “submit a listing” button, you get the screen below:

Metromix Submit a Listing

This screen comes complete with the following disclaimers:

  • Metromix only accepts e-mail and online form submissions; no mail or fax submissions will be accepted
  • We are not able to confirm receipt of submissions, due to the amount of mail we receive.
  • We cannot guarantee the inclusion of any event in our listings.

Wow, they are really inviting the community to participate.

(In full disclosure, I’ve never submitted an event or a venue to MetroMix, so I can’t speak to how well they respond).

Although there are reasons (and valid ones) that such disclaimers exist, the fact remains that MetroMix failes to capitalize on an inherent capability of the medium: its decentralization.

Traditional media companies don’t do well with that.

Okay, I’m finished.