Monday, December 8, 2008

Adam Gaffin and Universal Hub (final)

Universal Hub has been around since 2005, and not even the creators realized the attention their Boston-oriented site would get.

Universal Hub was created by Adam Gaffin and Steve Garfield, who both wanted to collect the "best" stories from Boston-area blogs and collect them all at one site. Using advertising on the website, Gaffin says he pulls in an extra $15,000 per year from the website. But he's definitely not in it for the money. He's in it to show the best blogs Boston has to offer.

An executive editor at Network World, Gaffin said there were a couple of different things that happened that got him into blogging.

"I was blogging at work and I was starting to read some interesting Boston-area blogs. I thought it might be interesting to do a digest of what local folks were talking about."

Enter: the Boston Common. According to Universal Hub's "About Us" page, Boston Common started as "a Weblog that tried to capture the best writing from the hundreds of bloggers in the Boston area." They then changed the name from Boston Common to Universal Hub. Gaffin follows hundreds of Boston blogs looking for great blog entries that he believes others would enjoy reading.

One of those blogs is Undercover Blonde, which chronicles the going-ons of Kirsten Amann, a writer and waitress in Boston. Her blog entries are often posted on the Universal Hub front page, and Amann says she enjoys it.

"I think it's a great site and enjoy scrolling through it for news, interesting stories, and Boston-centric anecdotes. I'm happy to be a part of the Universal Hub community," Amann said in an e-mail interview.

However, Amann said since her blog is about her personal life, she often gets a mean comment, but says Gaffin has helped her out.

One post that Adam excerpted last winter elicited an abusive, threatening response on both the site AND on my personal blog, which was really offensive. Adam was quick to come to diffuse the situation in a fair, neutral way and made it very clear that such commenting would not be tolerated on the site, which led to a broader discussion there about good commenting behavior and Internet decorum in general. The way he handled it really made me trust him and feel loyal to his initiative and the site. That said, I was happy to see that he didn't link to Undercover Blonde for a few weeks thereafter. I know I should expect to be contacted by at least some crazy-folk this being the Internet and all, but that person's comment was so nasty it left me feeling a bit unsafe.

Universal Hub has recently changed the commenting procedure - one who wants to comment on the entry must sign up for a free account and provide a legitimate e-mail address, so there is no more completely anonymous commenting.

Amann said she can see traffic to her site go up around five to six times as much after being linked to on Universal Hub, and said, "I'm sure I have more regular readers today thanks to his [Gaffin's] cross-linking."

It is becoming more common nowadays for bloggers to "break" or "uncover" stories that newspapers find and then study further. Gaffin said, "When people see something firsthand, they usually do a pretty good job at telling the story. It's more when you get into the 'why' and second-day-story phase that professionals gain the edge." Bloggers usually do not have the capability to follow-up on their stories, whether it may be because they don't have the experience or the capabilities to do so.

That being said, Gaffin has had experience, as a former reporter for the Middlesex News, now known as the MetroWest Daily News. Gaffin said he helped start the newspapers' online ventures while he was a reporter there. He's also had the opportunity to post some of his own stories about living in Boston on Universal Hub, including this story on a car crash at 2 a.m. that occured on his street.

"Fortunately, there are a lot of people out there with stories to tell. I will post about unusual and odd stuff I run across on those rare occasions I do get out," Gaffin said.

Amy Derjue, who blogged on Boston Magazine's website, says she really likes Universal Hub. In an e-mail, Derjue wrote, "I think Adam Gaffin does a good job of pulling quality quips/observations/stories from local blogs and putting them out there for others to read. When I was blogging for BoMag, I learned just how hard it is to keep up with all the sources he monitors and make sense of it, so I admire his tenacity."

Tish Grier, a community developer at Place Blogger, said she has Universal Hub listed in their blog database. Place Blogger is another aggregating website that lets people submit their blogs and they organize the links by where they are from.

"I think it's a really great site," Grier said. " Adam does a wonderful job with it, it's clearly a lot of work."

She also spoke about the importance of blogs in a hyperlocal sense.

"These aggregators [like Universal Hub] are necessary. You find out about local things by hyperlocal blogs," Grier said.

She added, "It [picking out stories to post] is like being an editor. You can just do so much in the digital realm, but you have to have a human context as well."

Marie DeFer, a Northeastern student majoring in political science, says she turns to Universal Hub for the latest news in Boston while she has been on co-op in South Carolina.

I check Universal Hub at least once a day Monday through Friday; however, I read it more often when I'm at work for several reasons. First, it connects me to random, funny, and interesting stories in Boston. Second, I absolutely love that posts are added throughout the day. Third, it is all about Boston. As a wanna-be Bostonian not living in Boston, it makes me feel more connected and on the inside of developing news. Fourth, it posts news about Boston that I really can't find anywhere else. More specifically, I read Digg often but it is not Boston based.

DeFer added, "I really like its user friendly format and lack of obnoxious ads, I feel comfortable reading it at work and not worrying about co-workers assuming I'm up to no good on the WWW."

On a personal note, I have been featured on Universal Hub several times, including a post on a ringing phone on the Blue Line and the riot police outside my apartment when the Red Sox were playing Game 7 in the ALCS down in Florida. The times when Universal Hub links to my stories, I see the traffic on my website go up exponentially. Usually, there is an extra 100-150 hits to my blog, linked from Universal Hub. It's great to see my traffic go up after having just one entry featured on Universal Hub.

If you're a blogger who wants to be featured on Universal Hub, Gaffin suggests an interesting blog entry title because of the way his aggregator is set up.

"My aggregator shows RSS headlines like a wire feed, so it's fairly easy to browse them. It also provides a sort of serendipity factor - since I don't organize them by topic, I never know what I'm going to run across," Gaffin says.

Additionally, he's a fan of any stories about the MBTA, and says he will post "almost every interesting T-story I come across."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Adam Gaffin and Universal Hub

First of all I must note that I have been looking forward to Adam speaking to our Reinventing the News class for awhile. As I have mentioned many times before, it is always great to have blog entries posted on Universal Hub, because it brings up the traffic to my blog and it's also fun to know that other people were also interested in reading what I wrote, and following the link to read the rest of the story.

Adam talked to us about the website and how it came to be what it is today. One of the things that he noted is that he will almost always post stories on Universal Hub that are about the MBTA, or put in a better way, the ongoing problems and stories that arise with the MBTA. He also talked about how maintaining the website is a hobby, and he makes a small amount of money from advertising on the website. Adam mentioned if he were to ever hire people to help build the website more, he would hire people who could help with advertising. One thing that he noted during my interview with him afterwards, that he forgot to mention in class, is the French Toast Alert System. Found here, when there is a chance of measurable snow on the way, a little alert box comes up in the right hand corner of the top of the Universal Hub front page. It is described as such:
The French Toast Alert System has been developed in consultation with local and federal emergency officials to help you determine when to panic and rush to the store to buy milk, eggs and bread.

Currently, the French Toast Alert System is blue, which means guarded. The description for blue is "Guarded: Light snow predicted. Subtle grin appears on Harvey Leonard's face. Check car fuel gauge, memorize quickest route to emergency supermarket should conditions change." Adam often posts a link to go to a local weather page for the actual amounts we are going to expect. I pointed out to him in class Wednesday that snow was in the forecast for Sunday, and he changed the alert that night and thanked me in a post. No problem!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Let me say it first and foremost in 5 short words: I do not like Twitter.

Why, you may ask?

Twitter, to me, is just a version of Facebook's "status" updates, except people are more obsessed with it. And apparently, after scouring the website, people seem to use it to describe every moment of their day. Not exactly something I would consider newsworthy. However, some news organizations believe that this could be newsworthy.

@Bostonupdate, the twitter account for news updates, is basically a complete failure. First of all, it's the same thing you get in the RSS feed except without a few sentences saying what the headline is all about. I'd rather just go to the webpage, or go to Google reader, rather than "follow" them on twitter and end up on their webpage reading the rest of the story.

I briefly (read: for less than a day) followed @mumbai, to see what updates were coming out from Mumbai during the terrorist attacks. I'd consider this newsworthy, although I couldn't tell you who or what runs this account.

Some guy named @joethunk continues to post every hour or so a bunch of #googlenews links through his account. I don't really see the point, and if he's trying to be newsworthy and helpful, because I don't think he's doing that much.

Twitter altogether is just too confusing to figure out in itself with all the @ and the # and after awhile, it just gives me a headache. It says from Twitter's about us page that "In countries all around the world, people follow the sources most relevant to them and access information via Twitter as it happens—from breaking world news to updates from friends." Twitter, clearly, wants to be a newsworthy source. But the whole play-by-play of events can be taken a bit too far, like the example from the Rocky Mountain News funeral coverage that was covered in class. I feel that Twitter is more of a weapon for journalists than a tool, because I don't think it is helpful enough or relevant enough for journalists to use on a regular basis.

New America Media

New America Media is the website that I decided to research further and present to the class last week. The website claims to be the first and largest collaboration of ethnic news organizations. According to their about me page, New America Media says:

New America Media is the country's first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. Over 51 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3000+ ethnic media, the fastest growing sector of American journalism.

Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, NAM is headquartered in California with offices in New York and Washington D.C., and partnerships with journalism schools to grow local associations of ethnic media.

I chose this website to present because I consider it to be new and interesting. I haven't found any website that aggregates news by ethnicity. New America Media has partnered with UMass-Boston, among other journalism schools, and the UMass-Boston project is called New England Ethnic News. Their website is updated regularly with stories about different ethnicities in New England places. One of the headlines that is on the "front page" right now is "Mumbai Terrorism Touches New Haven’s Hasidic Jews".

Both New America Media and New England Ethnic News have blog posts on their website. On New America Media, there are blog posts that are posted every few days - which I would hope to be more frequent, but whatever. One of the things I really like on the website is how you can search by ethnicity and by special "beats" such as education, immigration, health, etc. I also like how they live-blogged the Mumbai attacks. One of the things I don't like about the site is the fact that the "photo of the day" hasn't been updated since May 28, 2008. As a fan of's Big Picture and the Wall Street Journal's photos from the day, it would have been nice to add another one onto my google reader.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


For Wednesday's class, one of the editors over at NewsTrust, Mike LaBonte, came to speak to our class and we all participated in reviewing a news story in groups. We had all signed up during Monday's class so we were prepared to read stories and then judge them. This was probably one of my favorite classes all semester because I really enjoy the website. My newest short-term and long-term ambition is to become a featured reviewer or have a story I submitted be a feature story on the "front page" of the web site.

NewsTrust is also organized really well. There are a number of tabs on the top where you can look for stories you specifically want to review that you may have an interest in, such as world news or United States news. You can also look by more specific categories, and submit stories for a NewsHunt of the week - this week was the global economy, and at the end of this entry you can see the stories that I submitted and rated on the topic of the global economy. Also, besides rating stories, you can also rate other users' reviews on stories. The reviewing process is practically neverending on this web site.

NewsTrust is definitely a valuable tool. At the very least, you can see how others view the credibility of your favorite newspapers, since that is one of the options that people can rate. I like how you can rate basically ANYTHING about the article, from the way it was written to the number of sources that were (or weren't) quoted. The site is very user friendly and I wouldn't consider changing much. It helps that you can look at all the articles that were published online that very day, so you can read what others users believe to be credible news, but I still think I'd go to BBC and CNN, and maybe Yahoo news (for their AP reports) to read the top stories over there before going to NewsTrust.

Stories I submitted and rated over the weekend:
1. Bush spurs economic action, but Obama sets agenda
2. James Watkins: Labour would profit by embracing Islamic finance
3. Recessions grip forces U.S. to flood world with more dollars

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Espresso Royale Cafe Review

I have to admit, although I live right down the street from Espresso Royale Cafe, I've never been inside to get a cup of... anything. So when our Reinventing the News class was offered a list of coffee places to go to and review, I jumped at the chance of finally going to Espresso Royale. There are a number of tables where students and professionals alike were sitting and doing work on laptops. I put two and two together and realized that Wi-Fi must be available at Espresso Royale. Clearly this is a place where you could get together with a friend or two, or do work, or both at the same time.

A cup of medium coffee costs $1.85, but I opted for the hot chocolate, because I consider myself a hot chocolate connoisseur. It was okay, nothing special to write home about. It was actually really bitter - a stark contrast from the hot chocolate that Dunkin Donuts serves. Espresso Royale hot chocolate could be labeled as bitter and watery. This would be a place I'd love to sit and do my homework in - it's very cozy - and perhaps enjoy a different drink and maybe a baked good that they offer, but with the whirring of the machines and the number of people talking loudly, I don't think I'd be able to concentrate all that well. Maybe if I went to Espresso Royale an hour or two before closing, I'd find a quieter environment.

For the Google map our class made of coffee shops around Northeastern's campus, please click here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Mapping the Parkersburg Tornado

On the Des Moines Register's webpage, they have a special interactive feature about the Parkersburg Tornado. After doing a little bit of research, I learned that this tornado was an EF-5 tornado: The strongest tornado category, with winds over 200 MPH. This tornado was over a mile wide, and had a 43-mile trek through Iowa on Sunday, May 25 2008.

The map is quite interesting. It definitely shows how far along the town is in rebuilding - the map is created in sections that you can click on for each lot. For nearly each lot, you can see before and after pictures, and sometimes even "latest pictures". For some of the properties, you can see absolutely nothing except plywood and debris instead of the house. It really is remarkable. For some of the properties, there is a story from the people who live/lived in the home talking about the ordeal of rebuilding, and how they survived the tornado. There are also video clips interviewing people who live in Parkersburg telling their stories. The after images, which should be noted, are pictures taken of each property 3 days after the tornado hit. It is definitely worth taking a look at - which I've been doing for the past 20 minutes. I'm pretty amazed that residents were able to survive this tornado in their basement, and watched as their house was lifted off its foundation above their heads. Unfortunately, it's also sad to note that a number of people did not survive this tornado - 7 people lost their life.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Emily Sweeney

Emily Sweeney, a Boston Globe staff reporter for the past 7 years, came to our Reinventing the News class today to talk about how she uses new media. She said she was one of few Boston Globe reporters to begin using video to accompany her stories online. On her website, she lists some of her most recent work. It's funny, because I actually remember reading this story when it was on and thought it was really interesting. It is about schools that are offering more "hip" and "new" things for physical education in high school, instead of the normal basketball and tag. Another story that I really liked was this story about school lunches in several schools.

Another thing that's very interesting is that Emily is featured in a documentary called Stranger Than Fiction: The True Story of Whitey Bulger, Southie, and The Departed, that is included on the 2-disc dvd set of the Departed, talking about Whitey Bulger with several other Globe reporters. It's really interesting to see how Emily can take her print journalism career so much farther than other writers may have done.

In class, Emily talked about the types of work she has done at the Globe and how she's outlasted the numerous layoffs that have happened in the Globe recently. She also discussed how she doesn't use iMovie like our class does to edit her videos. She is also really involved with a number of groups, such as NEPA and the Society of Professional Journalists. I've recently been on edge about continuing my print journalism dreams (I'm leaning more towards sports PR, thanks to the red sox gig) so it was interesting to have her come in and see all that she's doing with print journalism and show that the door to print newspapers isn't closed yet. The website that she mentions that she runs for the Society of Professional Journalist also lists a number of jobs that seems to be updated daily for journalism gigs in the Northeast area and New York City, and also has links to jobs recently posted on craigslist.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Polling Place Photo Project

The pictures that I took for the Polling Place Photo Project can be found here. Enjoy!

Monday, November 3, 2008

First Video

Here is my first video I made for my Reinventing the News class. I was hoping to have this uploaded last week, unfortunately circumstances (aka putting the clips together to form a video) kept me from putting this video up quicker. I did this video based around college students' thoughts about Halloween costumes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jennifer Hudson

By now everyone has heard about Jennifer Hudson's family tragedy, and if not, here's a recap -- her mother and brother were murdered in her mother's house in south side Chicago, and her nephew was kidnapped and found dead from multiple gunshot wounds in her brother's car, which the murderer had stolen. There was an Amber Alert out for Jennifer's nephew Julian King, whose mother is Julia, Jennifer's sister. Julia's myspace has a message talking about the murder of her son, and the only potential "suspect" is her estranged husband, William Balfour - who has not been formally named a suspect, but is back on jail for a "parole violation."

So, three people murdered, including a 7 year old child in the South Side of Chicago. Is this national, or worldwide news? It is now - if only because of Jennifer Hudson's celebrity status. Jennifer was a contestant of American Idol and really shined in Dreamgirls, winning an Oscar for her performance, and landed roles in Sex and the City and the Secret Life of Bees. However, would this triple homicide be news in Chicago, or be mentioned multiple times in the span of five days, if it did not have a celebrity connection? Unfortunately, the South Side is not known for being a safe neighborhood, quite the opposite. It is rumored that William is also a gang member, and his father is in prison for 30 years for murder, and William has also spent time in prison for attempted murder. So - Would this have been on national news if the family had no celebrity connections?

Photo respectably borrowed from

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Steve Garfield

Steve Garfield, video-blogger extraordinaire, came to our Reinventing the News class on Wednesday. He has this really awesome phone/camera/video that can shoot live through Qik, which streams live online. It was something I had never even heard about before he came to talk to our class.

One of Garfield's recent video blogs was about a Staples promotion for 50 free business cards. However, as he showed in his video, there were a number of things preventing a consumer from just receiving 50 free business cards in Roslindale. You have to buy 50 business cards to get 50 business cards, according to the voucher you must go in to receive. The problem is on the leaflet it does not say anything in the fine print that you have to buy 50 to get 50 free. If Staples execs saw that Garfield was upset about their tactics, he'd probably be able to get 50 free business cards, no exceptions.

The Steve and Carol show I also really enjoyed. It shows that videos can be entertaining and lighthearted even when you're just sitting on the couch and talking together. It reminded me of a lot of things you see on youtube from many amateur people, just trying to get their name out there, but Steve's is done much better and is not in their league.

I also enjoyed when Steve talked about how he became an iReporter for CNN during hurricane kyle, when he explained that he was on the Maine shoreline when the storm was coming in for a wedding. I thought it was great that he could get the video of the storm, which was definitely newsworthy, and then upload it even quicker and send it along to CNN and get more publicity for his website.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Flickr Assignment

Intramural Sports and Referees

At any given point during a night, there are numerous intramural sports games at the Marino Center, the Cabot Gym, and Matthews’ Arena. Sometimes, verbal fights break out not between the two opposing teams, but a team and a referee.

It is not uncommon with competitive sports for players to quarrel with referees, but as players begin taking intramural sports more seriously than before, words are often exchanged between referees and players over making bad calls. With the intramural teams only having their captain to be the one to formally protest a penalty, many teams are held back. The 19-page intramural sports handbook should be updated to allow more players on a team to oppose a call made by a referee.

Caitlin O’Connor is a referee for indoor soccer at Northeastern. “People are very disrespectful; they believe they have the right to yell at you and question any decision you make, when in any other job if they tried to do that they would be offended,” said O’Connor, a senior communications major.

O’Connor has also refereed wiffleball, which she says is easier to referee because it is not a contact sport compared to soccer and people do not get that aggressive. However, she has admitted to knowingly making incorrect calls during games. One time when she believed she made a correct call, a soccer goalie threw his gloves at her and stormed away.

“There are times when the game does not have my full attention and I will make a call when I’m not 100 percent sure,” said O’Connor. She added that when she made those types of calls, she had to be very self-assured, and has noticed after refereeing for two years that more players are getting angry during the game.

A difference here is broomball. Broomball is a contact sport, arguably the intramural sport that has the most hits and falls in a game. With 10 people on the ice at the time, along with 2 referees, fights break out often over bad calls.

"We had a loss at our last game because of a bad call a referee made," said Eric Chen, a junior economics major. Chen added that if the bad call had not been made, the game would have likely been called a tie.

Jon DiBiasio, a junior computer sciences major, is a referee for several different intramural sport, including intramural ice hockey. DiBiasio is also an avid player of intramural sports, playing on flag and arena football teams, broomball, dodgeball, and basketball. Of the four he plays, DiBiasio believes broomball has the most contact.

“During a football game, I caught the ball and collided with a member of the opposing team when I came down with it, and the touchdown did not count because the referee thought it was an illegal motion,” said DiBiasio, a middler computer science major. He added that the football referees will call any penalty they can, compared to broomball referees who will “let players come in contact with one another, which makes the game intense.”

DiBiasio added that although he disagreed with many rules in the intramural sports handbook, such as flag-guarding, he likes the rule that only the captain should be the one to complain to the referee. “If everyone could protest a referee’s call, more fights would break out and it would get annoying,” said DiBiasio. “It’s better to just have one person talk it out.”

For more pictures, please click here.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Radio and the Internet

During Wednesday's class, Robin Lubbock of WBUR came to talk about the ways the radio station is using new media to connect with more people. I think it's a great idea that WBUR is doing so much to get involved with using new media but I don't think it's going to be greatly successful. Not many people that I know, personally and professionally, use Twitter. I have an account, but I don't believe I've updated it in a month or two. It reminds me a lot of the "facebook status" updates, just without all of the other functions facebook offers. I like how they're allowing visitors to upload photos and videos, because those are two things you can't see on radio. It brings radio to another level because you're using other senses, rather than just your ears, to experience radio. I like how on the site they also had links to pages that explained what each new media site was about - including facebook, myspace and gather (the latter of which i had never heard of before).

Personally, I rarely listen to the radio at all, even in my own car (I'd rather listen to the music streaming through my ipod through the tape deck, because radio commercials annoy me) and I don't think I've ever listened to a podcast or a radio broadcast over the internet. The only station I really enjoy is Jamn 94.5, and according to their website they don't seem to be doing anything involving new media. Also, I'm ashamed to admit I've never listened to NPR, either on the radio or online. So I can't really talk much about that station.

A website called RAIN (Radio and Internet Newsletter) caught my attention. There are daily newsletters here all about different radio stations and what they're doing involving the internet. It includes news and information about the radio industry and also some commentary. Another website that I found, Live365, is internet radio. People can go onto the web site and find a radio station and stream it live through their computer so they can only listen to music they like. You can also pay for a VIP membership to get more access to the site. It kind of reminds me of Pandora, which I don't use but I've heard about by a lot of my friends, and Pandora is basically free music on the internet that comes up with new artists to listen to based on the artists you already like.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Wired Journalists

I've had a Wired Journalists account for a few months now, ever since I created my first blog. Unfortunately, for some reason or another, I've never really explored the website so much. I had uploaded a photo, updated my "about me" section, and only joined the Northeastern University group. On Monday, I had gone to ALDS Game 4, so I uploaded some photos onto Wired Journalists to show people what I saw in the hours before the game. It was slow uploading them - I'd say it took the same amount of time to upload 3 photos on Wired Journalists that it usually takes Facebook to upload 60 photos - so I was pretty disappointed about that. This is a photo I took from five stories up in Fenway Park looking over Yawkee Way. I jiggled the camera a bit while taking it to show more motion than there was when I took the photo. To see the other photos I took from Fenway that I uploaded to Wired Journalists, please click here.

I joined the group, Get Wired, Get Hired on Wired Journalists just to see what kind of opportunities come up. It's a place for people to join and for papers and web developers to print jobs they may have for wired journalists and bloggers. I don't know how often it is updated with new jobs, but there's only a little more than 100 people in the group as of today. Altogether, I don't love Wired Journalists because it just isn't as popular as I'd like it to be. I wish more people could join and it could be developed further, and then I believe I'd use it more often. It's kind of like a (slowly) growing facebook for journalists.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Link Journalism

On who other but America's sweetheart, Sarah Palin. Here's what Boston-area bloggers are saying:

Hub Blog only has a one-liner about Palin and then links to a Huffington Post article. According to Hub Blog (Technorati authority: 30), Palin misused a saying by John Winthrop, founding governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The person behind Anali's First Amendment (Technorati authority: 38) is convinced that Sarah Palin is going to kill her in a nightmare she had.
"Anyway, here is my Palin nightmare. I think I was locked in a basement. It was really dark and I was so scared. All I could see was a gigantic vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting and multi-colored candies on top. I don't remember even seeing Palin, but her presence was looming and ominous. I knew she was there and that I had to get away, because she was going to kill me. I was getting more and more terrified and I couldn't see to get away from her. I was paralyzed with fear and trying to scream."

I can't disagree that I would be terrified if Palin was in my dream. It's not someone I want to see when I'm sleeping, let alone when I'm awake on my television screen.

Steve Garfield isn't writing asmuch as talking about Sarah Palin. In his blog, Off On a Tangent (Technorati authority: 42), Garfield posts a YouTube clip of a song (with subtitles!) called Hey Sarah Palin. It's pretty ridiculous and super funny. Clearly, he knows how to share his thoughts about Palin through his videoblogging.

On the Bay State Liberal blog (Technorati authority: 24), the writer talks about in this post, and writes: "With evidence mounting that Sarah Palin is now becoming a drag on the Republican ticket, the Republican fear and smear machine is kicking it up a notch, trying to plant the seeds of bias and doubt in advance of her debate with Joe Biden." The writer also manages to fit in a few blows to Fox News on how they covered the pre-VP debate, noting that the person who runs Fox is the same man who ran Bush's '88 campaign.

Over at Pundit Review (Technorati authority: 64), a post on Oct 3 mentions that Palin wins by not losing, written by a person named Kevin. I quote from his post:

I think Palin should send a dozen roses to Tina Fey this morning. She clearly benefited by people expecting so little from her.
Palin did just ok in my book. She clearly has a wafer thin understanding of most issues outside taxes and energy. She ignored many questions and just retreated to her warm and comfy areas of expertise.

Kevin discussed more in depth about the debate, mentioning that Palin left lots to be discussed on the table and didn't answer the harder questions, while Biden wasn't his "overbearing self". It's funny, because at the end of his post he shows his distate for Barack Obama. I wonder who Kevin will vote for then..

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Database Journalism

Matt Carroll, a Boston Globe reporter, spoke to our class Monday about something he excels at: Database journalism, which is a fancy way of saying putting in a lot of data and thinking up story ideas from what the data shows. On, there is a section called Your Town (scroll to the bottom) and we were asked by Professor Kennedy to pick out three of the databases that interested us... keep in mind, the three that I chose are not exactly the most IMPORTANT ones to pick from, but they were some that either intrigued me or (in the case of the third choice) made me laugh:

1. Violent Crimes: List of violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggrevated assult) per 1,000 residents in 2006. Another good list to look at if you're deciding to move to Massachusetts. Ashfield, it should be noted, is 0.0. Lowell is 8.9. Lynn is 9.5. It's definitely something I'd look at if I decided to permanently move to Massachusetts after college is completed, although I hope there's a more recent database by the time that comes along.

2. Auto Thefts: This is a list of the number of auto thefts per 10,000 residents in 2006. Of course, there are a lot of auto thefts in Boston. But this is a great list, just like the above, for people moving to Massachusetts and wondering where they should settle. Clearly they should look at this list, as the list above, to decide between towns as to which is safer to live in. Also, something that should be noticed - both Chelsea and Brockton have higher percentages than Boston in this category. This database out of the three would probably make the best story opportunity. In places where auto theft is high, you can do more research to see if it is centered in a certain area of the town and write a story about that.

3. Dunkin Donuts: I had to pick this one just for laughs. This is a database of the number of Dunkin Donuts in each town. According to the database, there is 67 Dunkins in Boston alone. I can't really think of a story that this could be used for -- except that it could be used by Dunkin's competition to put their donut/coffee chains in cities and towns that don't have even one Dunkin Donuts. So Tim Hortons, Bess Eaton, etc... buy land in Lincoln and Carlisle. I wish it could be said in the database, however, if any of the cities or towns banned chain stores.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Online Political Databases Factcheck does exactly what the name says - they check and double check what politicians claim against the cold, hard facts. Basically, it's a bunch of articles, mainly on Obama and McCain's speeches and television commercials. Before this class, I have never heard of this website. I do like the "Ask FactCheck," where they answer a daily question. Today's was:
How many times did Obama vote 'present' as a state senator?
He did so 129 times, which represents a little more than 3 percent of his total votes.

Frankly, I don't like it that much. I don't think that it's organized as well as it could be. I don't like how the website is set up in general too... and they don't offer much else besides articles. I wish they had more to offer and a more user-friendly setup.

PolitiFact: This is one of my favorite political database websites. My favorite part of PolitiFact is The Attack File, where the staffers collect quotes from the candidates and then measure the "truthfulness" (thank you Stephen Colbert) of each quote, with a cute little image of a meter that measures the truthfulness. I also like how they're somewhat satirical in explaining their quotes in detail. I love how their newest feature is the flip-o-meter: Somewhere, Mitt Romney is crying. There's not much I don't like about this site, and nothing I'd want to change about this website.

Congress Votes Database: This website is run by the Washington Post. The site allows visitors to look at every vote made by any senator or representative since 1991. I love how organized the website is: There are links to late-night votes, key votes, members who have missed the most and least number of things to vote on, and narrow and wide voting margins. This is a website that everyone should look at before November 4th, especially to prepare to vote for their state representative and senator. I learned that my senator, D-Jack Reed, votes with his party 95.8% of the time. He's missed votes 0.8% of the time. He's up for re-election this fall, and there's no doubt in my mind that I will be voting for him. My other senator, D-Sheldon Whitehouse, has similar numbers, but has only missed 0.5% of votes. My state representative, D-James Langevin, has missed slightly over 1% of the vote and votes with the Democratic party 98.7% of the time. I love that this site is super informative, but on the negative side, all it is is statistics and doesn't have any fluff, or any wit/sarcasm that some of the other political sites out there have. However, you do learn a lot about your state's participation in Congress and that's what matters in the end. I wouldn't change a thing about this site.

Project Vote Smart: I did not know about Project Vote Smart before taking this class, and now I'm trying to learn as much about it as possible. Their about us page is absolutely perfect, and a quote from their about us page where they talk about themselves:

Picture this: thousands of citizens (conservative and liberal alike) working together, spending endless hours researching the backgrounds and records of thousands of political candidates and elected officials to discover their voting records, campaign contributions, public statements, biographical data (including their work history) and evaluations of them generated by over 100 competing special interest groups. Every election these volunteers test each candidate's willingness to provide citizens with their positions on the issues they will most likely face if elected through the Political Courage Test.

This is just a great effort by the staffers working on this website. Their main concern is that the average voter can go onto their website and find out everything that has been uncovered about any person in office. They also have links that direct people how to register to vote in their state if they haven't already, voting records for their candidates (just like the Congress Votes Database) and so much more. My only complaint is that I wish this site could be a little more fun. Their about us pages, as much as I like them, are a bit too serious and I hope they lighten up a bit. Also, they don't really write their own material, there are no links to articles that staffers have written. They really only have dedicated themselves to gathering information.

David Blaine and Celebrity Blogs

This is most of the blog entry that I had written last night on my other blog after watching David Blaine's special. I wanted to post it here and then do some more commentary from the celebrity blogs' point of view. I quote myself..

I just wasted two hours of my life watching David Blaine's latest and lamest stunt. He hung upside down for 60+ hours (and also took lots of breaks, according to witnesses), and then ABC pumped up this huge finale, called Dive of Death. I'm too bitter to think of a better name for it. But here's how it went.

It was 1 hour and 59 minutes of watching David be upside down, and taking breaks. In between that, there were clips of him doing street magic. The entire time I'm wishing that David supported a charity, and raised money during these specials (possibly a telethon) that all went to a charity. Then at least it would have been useful! Then, in the last minute, David jumps from the rafters held by a cord. The cord then pulled him up and out of sight into the night. Yes, he "disappeared" into the night. It's 11:15. Not much can be seen in the dark, and if I remember correctly... I'm pretty sure he was wearing all black!

I'm so unimpressed and I want two hours of my life back. The crowd watching him in Central Park was speechless, but not in a good way. One of the commentators ends the broadcast as "He's GONE! He disappeared into thin air!" The credits began to roll, while myself and hundreds of thousands of others are just sitting here, confused about what just happened. Again, not in a good way.

David Blaine had not gotten much attention from celebrity blogs until people who went to see his stunt got to witness him taking these much-needed breaks to relieve himself and release pressure on his brain from all the blood flowing to his head. It was then that people wrote to celebrity blogs like TMZ and Perez Hilton calling Blaine a faker. The blogs, who were not there to witness it, posted some of the emails they had received. This morning, both websites posted about how David Blaine's stunt was disappointing.

Perez says:

We previously mentioned that many folks felt like David Blaine 'cheated' his way through his 3 day, 60-hour hanging stunt over New York's Central Park because he took multiple right side up breaks during the endeavor. At least one an hour. Sometimes more!

New Yorkers are a vocal bunch and they let Blaine know how craptasticlly they viewed this latest attention seeking gig.

The 'magician' was booed by onlookers at the big, ceremonial 'conclusion' event of his 'death defying' hanging stunt in New York City on Wednesday night.

Does this mean we won't hear from Blaine for a long time!

Don't come back unless you have something really, really good, Davie!

Had ABC muted the scene after David "disappeared"? I don't recall hearing any booing. Although, like I mentioned above, they began rolling the credits right after he went out of sight.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TMZ's mishandling of Travis Barker and DJ AM's plane crash

Possibly my favorite drummer around and a DJ I only know because he was once engaged to Nicole Richie were involved in a deadly plane crash that occured shortly before midnight on Friday. Out of the six people aboard the small plane, Travis Barker and DJ AM were the only survivors. The dead are the pilot and copilot, Barker's assistant and Barker's bodyguard. It's a devastating tragedy and I'm glad that the two men survived the crash, and are recovering in a burn unit in Georgia where they are being treated for second and third degree burns.

TMZ had been updating constantly with information on the crash and their conditions all weekend. It was on Sunday when they posted this bit of information on their website (which post has since been taken down):
Travis Barker's assistant wanted to get home in time for his pregnant wife to give birth.

We've now learned why Barker and his friends decided to get on that doomed Learjet in South Carolina late last night, and the explanation can only be described as a horribly cruel twist of fate.

It all started some time yesterday, when Barker's assistant, Chris Baker, told the guys that his wife was going into labor. Barker told him that he would do everything in his power to get Baker back to the hospital in time.

The quickest way back to Van Nuys was that Learjet. We're told Barker usually won't fly on private jets, but made an exception for what was supposed to be one of the happiest moments of Baker's life.

The plane crashed shortly after midnight, killing four people -- including Chris Baker. Baker's wife went into labor early this morning. Baker has another young child as well.

Why was the post taken down? Well, it turns out that Baker's wife was not in labor! TMZ soon posted again, and the link can be found here, but here is an excerpt:

A publicist for Travis Barker and DJ AM contacted TMZ and says our sources are incorrect -- that Chris Baker's wife was not in labor when he died in the plane crash and that was not the reason Travis and the others flew home on a private jet.

What sources did TMZ have? Did they know that their story could have been incorrect and still knowingly decided to post it on their website? This is just one instance where this type of celebrity journalism should not be called "real" journalism.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Introduction/First Assignment - Blogs

Some of you out there in the internet world may know me as the "R.I. girl living in Boston"... aka, by the name of my other blog, which can be found at If you have not visited that blog already, please visit! It's a great time.

I started this blog for my professor Dan Kennedy's class, called Reinventing the News, and plan on holding this for longer than just the fall semester. I first got really into blogs when I became obsessed with celebrity gossip and needed to finally enroll for a RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feed of my favorite gossip websites and blogs. Strangely enough, my first assignment is to write about my three favorite blogs.

Number 1 Favorite Blog: Perez Hilton.

Perez Hilton is the man. For information on this gossip gangster, visit his Wikipedia page. Whenever there is breaking gossip news, Perez is often the first to have it uploaded onto his site. His trademark is to draw little white lines or dots on the pictures, and writing words like "sexy" or "eww" next to a celebrity. He's also known to draw a white stick figure baby onto a pregnant celebrity's stomach.

Perez's website allows everyone to comment on each post. Perez was one of the first celebrity bloggers to really make it big in the celebrity blogging world. He's appeared on specials for VH1 and MTV giving his opinion on celebrities, and even has his own 1-hour special around award-season time, called "What Perez Sez," when he sits down and interviews celebrities and often gets even the tensest celebrity, such as Victoria Beckham, to open up and talk about her life (and why she never smiles).

Number 2 Favorite Blog: Universal Hub.

Universal Hub is maintained by Adam Gaffin and Steve Garfield and together, they comb the web's best Boston-area blogs and post entries and pictures that they think others would like to see on their blog. I am partial to Universal Hub because several of my blog entries have been posted on their site. Just yesterday, there was an incident where a person tried to imitate a police officer and rob somebody, and Universal Hub is where I first read the story, which is also link here by Adam:
Boston Police report they managed to nab a Roxbury man dressed as a cop just as he was about to rape a woman in a school yard early this morning and that they think he also attacked a second woman in Egleston Square - who fled before actual police officers could get to her.

Sometimes they will add funny comments, and Universal Hub also allows registered people to comment on each blog entry.

Number 3 Favorite Blog: BPD News.

This is the blog that is run and maintained by the Boston Police Department media relations team. They post several times a day about the crimes and bad going-ons in Boston. It is both a scary and interesting read. One thing that I have noticed is that they will post stories and incidents that the newspapers and local tv stations don't always cover -- such as a group of robberies in one area of the city. I wish this blog was more popular because it would make people more aware. When I wanted more information about the assault that I first heard about on Universal Hub I came to BPD News to learn more, where I was not let down. An excerpt here, the rest can be found at the link:
Officers then spoke with the female, who stated she was en route to visit her boyfriend who lived nearby. She then stated that the suspect approached her and identified himself as a police officer. She then stated that the suspect pulled the gun from his waist, pointed it at her and took cash from her pocket. Victim further stated that the suspect then made a sexually suggestive threat. She also said that is when police arrived. Officers asked the victim if she needed medical attention but she declined.

As a result, officers arrested Royal Smith, 23, of Roxbury and charged him with Armed Robbery, Attempted Kidnapping, Attempted Sexual Assault, and Impersonating a Police Officer. Officers believe this individual is also potentially connected to the earlier incident in Egleston Square.

I hope you all enjoy my favorite blogs just as much as I enjoy reading them!