Olympics 2012 opening ceremony honors Tim Berners-Lee, but NBC anchors don't know who he is

"Tim being Englishman Tim Berners-Lee... if you haven't heard of him, [laugh], we haven't either." — Meredith Vieira, derping out with Matt Lauer during the opening ceremonies of the 2012 Olympics.

Meredith, Matt: You guys. You could look it up on the World Wide Web.

Video here, courtesy of Ethan Klapper.

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What news ombudsmen should do to make the news part of the Web, and vice-versa

Dan "Mediactive" Gillmor sends us his latest Guardian column, a thoughtful and fascinating manifesto for what the role newspaper ombudsmen could morph into, in order to maximize the relevance and centrality of newspapers and news organizations on the Internet:

• Aggregate (quote and link to) every thoughtful critique of the organization's work that I could find, and invite readers to analyze and comment on those critiques. I would ask permission to crosspost some of these on the blog. When I thought a critic was wrong, I'd say so. I'd also note when they were, in my view, making fair points. I'd deal with disrespectful critiques on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that sometimes a nasty person can make a good point.

• Create a robust, open forum about the newspaper's work. This would most likely take the form of a traditional bulletin board system where readers could create their own topics, using moderation software that would minimize staff costs while still filtering out the worst trolls.

• Strongly encourage newsroom staff to participate in these conversations. The discussions would still work to some degree without the staff, but with them, the conversations would be vastly better. Of course, some newsroom folks – Nicholas Kristof is a prime example – are already engaging with readers in terrific ways; I'd point to those interactions. But my main goal here would be, whenever possible, to have the newsroom explain how it operates and why it does what it does. Serious journalism is hard work, and I don't think readers understand how hard.

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You got your Syfy in my science

An Animal Planet documentary, which the station insists was intended to be taken as science fiction, has forced the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to publicly deny the existence of mermaids. If you need me, I'll be out back, drinking whiskey and taking aim at the television. Read the rest

How To: Get an amazing photo from the flanks of Mt. Everest

Image: Chhiring Sherpa provides the lighting for a photograph of Swiss mountaineer Ueli Steck. Photo by Grayson Schaffer, used with permission of Outside.

Hint: It involves a lot of sherpas.

Grayson Schaffer, an editor for Outside magazine, is currently embedded at Base Camp on Mt. Everest, covering several teams attempting to climb the mountain's West Ridge—which Outside describes as "a route nearly as many climbers have died on as have summitted." He's sending back stories and photos from the tallest mountain in the world. But that presents a problem. The kind of photography that's used in a glossy magazine is not the kind of photography that is easy to produce with a team of one in a bare-bones climbing camp.

In a recent post, Schaffer explains the tools he's using to get his shots and shows us how he's wrangled random sherpas, climbers, and camp staff into assisting him. It's a neat bit of media behind-the-scenes.

The key piece of gear that makes it all possible is the new Pro-B3 1200w/s AirS battery pack. It's the lithium-powered update to the older 7B power pack, and it delivers consistent flashes even in subzero temperatures at 17,500 feet. We've got two of these with a set of spare battery inserts but have yet to run down in a day's shooting. To charge these beasts, we've been using a basic GoalZero solar setup, which, thanks to the Pro-B3's built-in trickle-charging capability, can top off a charge in a sunny afternoon.

Read Schaffer's post on taking photos on Mt. Read the rest

Act now! Special offer!

Ridiculous subscription pricing policies at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Be prepared to headdesk so many times that you dent your furniture and/or give yourself a concussion ... especially when you get to the spreadsheets. (Via Nieman Lab) Read the rest

UK MPs: Rupert Murdoch is "not a fit person" to run an international corporation

The long-running UK Parliamentary investigation into the NewsCorp newspapers' practice of hacking emails and voicemails has wound down, and delivered a final, damning report. In it, the cross-party Parliamentary group describes Rupert Murdoch as "not a fit person" to run a major corporation. It also says that James Murdoch -- Rupert's son -- practiced 'wilful ignorance' of illegal activities at his papers. From Dan Sabbagh and Josh Halliday in The Guardian:

The cross-party group of MPs said that Les Hinton, the former executive chairman of News International, was "complicit" in a cover-up at the newspaper group, and that Colin Myler, former editor of the News of the World, and the paper's ex-head of legal, Tom Crone, deliberately withheld crucial information and answered questions falsely. All three were accused of misleading parliament by the culture select committee.

Rupert Murdoch, the document said, "did not take steps to become fully informed about phone hacking" and "turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications".

The committee concluded that the culture of the company's newspapers "permeated from the top" and "speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International".

That prompted the MPs report to say: "We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of major international company."

James Murdoch is described as exhibiting a "lack of curiosity … wilful ignorance even" at the time of the negotiations surrounding the 2008 Gordon Taylor phone-hacking settlement and later in 2009 and 2010.

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How to: Read science news

How you read matters as much as what you read. That's because nothing is written in a vacuum. Every news story or blog post has a perspective behind it, a perspective that shapes what you are told and how that information is conveyed. This is not, necessarily, a bad thing. Having a perspective doesn't mean being sensationalistic, or deceitful, or spreading propaganda. It can mean those things, but it doesn't have to. In fact, I'm fairly certain that it's impossible to tell any story without some kind of perspective. When you relate facts, even in your personal life, you make choices about what details you will emphasize, what emotions you'll convey, who you will speak to—and all of those decisions are based on your personal perspective. How we tell a story depends on what we think is important.

Unfortunately, sometimes, perspective can be misleading. That's why it's important to be aware that perspective exists. If you look at what you're reading, you can see the decisions the author made, you can get an idea of what perspective they were trying to convey, and you will know whether that perspective is likely to distort the facts.

Emily Willingham is a scientist who blogs about science for the general public. Over at Double X Science, she's come up with a handy, six-step guide for reading science news stories. These rules are a great tool for peeking behind the curtain, and learning to think about the perspective behind what you read. In the post, she explains why each of these rules is important, and then applies them to a recent news story about chemical exposure and autism. Read the rest

In Guatemala, pirate Mayan radio connects marginalized indigenous communities

I missed this great read published a few months back by photojournalist Connor Boals in Columbia Journalism Review, but it's worth revisiting now: a story about the indigenous pirate radio stations that connect poor rural Mayan communities throughout Guatemala.

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When life hands you cancer, make cancer-ade: via lemonade stand, 6yo boy raises $10K for dad's chemo

A story making the rounds this week: Drew Cox, a 6 year old boy in Texas, "decided to sell lemonade to help his father with medical bills." His dad, Randy Cox, has a rare form of metastatic cancer, diagnosed a few months ago. The family says Drew's lemonade stand earned more than $10,000. They have an online fundraising site here, where they're trying to raise more.

I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, diagnosed about four months ago. When I saw various versions of this story popping up on news sites, several thoughts came to mind.

First, hooray for this child. I hope his dad gets the treatment he needs, that the treatment is successful, and that the family doesn't go into debt or have to forego treatment for lack of funds.

But second: this is a disgrace. I hate it when stories like this are flogged in media as "feel-good" stories. This story should make America feel ashamed, not feel good. Seriously? A working father gets cancer, and the family has to rely on charity, and a lemonade stand manned by their 6 year old son, to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment?

It's not the first such lemonade/chemo-money story to make the rounds in the media, wrapped up in feel-good. When life hands you cancer, the news narrative seems to be, just make cancer-ade!

Well, I have cancer. I have insurance. I still pay what is for me a huge out-of-pocket sum, even after my insurance, for each chemo infusion every two weeks. Read the rest

How to blow the whistle

On this morning's Today Show segment on leakers, NBC's media analysts decided that people who anonymously leak evidence of criminal or ethical wrongdoing are attention-seeking narcissists. Don't be outraged! Now potential whistleblowers know not to leak to NBC. But there's more to the craft than simply avoiding hacks. At Wired, Ryan Singel has the essential guide on How to Be a Workplace Leaker Without Getting Caught. #1: "Don’t use your work computer or work phone to communicate with the recipient of your leaks." Read the rest

Canada to science: Drop dead

Not long ago, Cory told you about how the Canadian government has been muzzling scientists—refusing to let them speak freely with the press and, thus, controlling what research the public gets to know about. Not surprisingly, it's research on topics that are politically inconvenient to Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government—climate change, for instance—that end up getting frozen.

This issue was the topic of a panel at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver. And although the Canadian government did schedule a free press breakfast in the same time slot, word of this issue got out to a lot of journalists from around the world who hadn't heard about it before. That means we're likely to start seeing more attention being drawn to this issue.

Case in point: The Harper government and its opposition to the open distribution of scientific information was the subject of a Feb. 29th editorial in Nature—one of the biggest and most-read scientific journals in the world.

Since Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party won power in 2006, there has been a gradual tightening of media protocols for federal scientists and other government workers. Researchers who once would have felt comfortable responding freely and promptly to journalists are now required to direct inquiries to a media-relations office, which demands written questions in advance, and might not permit scientists to speak. Canadian journalists have documented several instances in which prominent researchers have been prevented from discussing published, peer-reviewed literature. Policy directives and e-mails obtained from the government through freedom of information reveal a confused and Byzantine approach to the press, prioritizing message control and showing little understanding of the importance of the free flow of scientific knowledge.

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What are the world's root problems?

Philipp Lenssen sez, "I've set up RootStrike as a minimalist site for easy referencing of root problems in online discussions. Problems -- like the corrupting system of US campaign funding -- which, if solved, would also help us a lot in solving many other problems. The site was inspired by Lawrence Lessig's book Republic, Lost, and many other sources and people." Read the rest

Julian Assange to host Wikileaks TV show on Kremlin-funded Russian cable network

Wikileaks announced this week that house-arrested frontman Julian Assange would host a new television interview series with "in-depth conversations with key political players, thinkers and revolutionaries from around the world." The theme, according to the announcement: "the world tomorrow."

Today, news that the network involved is none other than RT, the Russian cable television outlet founded by the Kremlin in 2005, which remains funded by and effectively under the editorial control of the Russian state. If you thought Assange's story already read like a pulp spy novel, none of this should be particularly shocking.

In a hyperbolic news release at RT.com, the network today revealed that the program will be filmed at the rural British manse where Assange has been residing under house arrest for more than a year while he fights extradition to Sweden on charges of sexual assault. The first episode will be shot "just a week before Assange's Supreme Court hearing in the UK."

And at the end of that RT announcement: “Details of the episodes and the guests featured are secret for now.” Secret. LOL.

More: NYT Media Decoder blog, Moscow Times, LA Times.

(Original Images: REUTERS) Read the rest

The most contrarian opinion on Slate

Slate.com is great, but it does have a predictable theme. That theme is contrarianism. If there were a contest for "most contrarian position Slate ever published", it's possible this is the story that would win. (Via Dr. Hypercube) Read the rest

Who is a journalist?

Writer and comedian John Knefel reaches for his glasses as police pull him away during an Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City yesterday. This really great photo was taken by Jessica Lehrman in the lobby of Winter Garden, a building owned by Brookfield Property, the same company that owns Zuccotti Park. To get a different view on the same scene, check out a video that someone else was filming at the same time. You can see Knefel falling down around 6:30.

The photo and video bring up something interesting. Knefel is a writer and comedian, one of the many people documenting OWS from the inside while trying to navigate the very grey boundaries of journalist and participant in the age of Internet journalism. Personally, I think this conflict is pretty interesting. If I can get all "journalism ethics class" for a minute here, I think OWS is drawing attention to the already existing need for new definitions of who constitutes "media" and who doesn't. Why is this more confusing than you might thing? Let me use Knefel as an example.

Knefel doesn't work for a major media outlet. But he's also not just some random bystander. He's got a political podcast with new episodes three times a week. Do we only call someone a journalist if they have enough page views? Do they have to have a journalism degree? What's the line?

Knefel is a biased source of information. But so are a lot of mainstream commentators. Read the rest

The dronecam revolution will be webcast: Interview with Tim Pool of "The Other 99"

Webcaster Tim Pool of "The Other 99."

In recent weeks, one source of live news coverage for the Occupy Wall Street movement stood out above all others. Not a cable news network, not a newspaper, but a 25-year-old guy named Tim Pool. He packs a smartphone with unlimited data, a copy of Ustream's mobile video streaming app, and a battery pack to keep it all going — which he has for 21 hours straight, on big news days. Soon, Tim and team plan to have have their own hacker-made flying camera-drones, to provide aerial footage TV news chopppers can't. The guerrilla web stream "The Other 99" has reached more than 2 million unique viewers over the last two months, and become a source of eyes on the ground unmatched by big media. The project runs solely on donations. Is The Other 99's webcast the start of a new news normal, and could Pool be one of many DIY backpack broadcasters to come? I tracked him down in New York between streams to find out what he thinks, and how and why he does what he does. — XJ

Xeni Jardin: Break down your current gear setup for us, would you?

Tim Pool: The backpack I use is just a regular backpack. My gear is a Samsung GALAXY S II (on Sprint, because they offer unlimited data) and an Energizer XPAL 18000, and I literally slide the external battery into my back pocket and I plug my phone into it. Read the rest

In the first issue of Scientific American: Centrifuges and levitating haystacks

Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in America, began life on August 28, 1845 as a 4-page, black and white newsletter. There were only a couple of illustrations. The cover model was one of the vastly improved railroad cars of the age, which could seat 60-80 passengers, "run with a steadiness hardly equalled by a steamboat," and (perhaps best of all) was capable of "flying at the rate of 30 to 40 miles per hour."

In this early incarnation, Scientific American was published weekly—"Every Thursday Morning" in New York and Philadelphia, promised a sidebar. Articles were packed together in that great "NO WHITESPACE!" style common to 19th-century newspapers. Besides that brief on modern train cars, the front page featured curated clippings from other newspapers and publications, ranging from an explanation of where the sound of thunder comes from, to a report from the "village of Moulton" about a levitating haystack.

There was poetry. There was a column all about new inventions—which includes, if I'm reading correctly, an announcement about the invention of the centrifuge. There was a long list of recently issued patents. There were descriptions of basic scientific principles and some gadget-hound fawning over Morse's telegraph.

If that makes good ol' Sci Am sound frightfully blog-like ... well, yes. That's sort of an interesting point, isn't it? Meet the New Media, same as the Old Media.

During the month of November, you can acquaint yourself better with media and scientific history by browsing through online archives of Scientific American issues from 1849 to 1909. Read the rest

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