Thursday, February 28, 2013

Citizen Media Leads to Citizen Activism; A Link

Earlier this evening I watched the Movie "Bernie" directed by Richard Linklater (of Dazed and Confused fame) starring Jack Black as Bernie Tiede, Shirley MacLane as Marjorie Nugent and Matthew McConaughey as Danny Buck.

Here is the Netflix summary of the movie "Bernie": In this black comedy inspired by a true story, affable Texas mortician Bernie befriends the small town's wealthiest widow and then kills her.

Just for fun, here's the movie description: In small-town Texas, the local mortician strikes up a friendship with a wealthy widow, though when he kills her, he goes to great lengths to create the illusion that she's alive.

These two descriptions get the very basic points across of the movie but they both wholly miss what the movie is actually about. Linklater, on the Bernie Tiede blog (located at, writes a post about the film, why he is proud to sign the Free Bernie Petition, and what fascinated him about the relationship between Bernie and Mrs. Nugent. Here is a quote from that post, which can be read in full here...

 "“Bernie” is not an activist film, in the traditional sense. That was not intended. However, I think that the movie’s ending has started to get a lot of people thinking about the nature of our criminal justice system, and how arbitrary and disproportionate punishments can end up being."

While I do agree with Linklater in his assessment of the potential for disproportionate penalties handed out by the U.S justice system I really want this post to focus on the fact that the movie "Bernie" led the real, incarcerated Bernie to be approached by Jodi Callaway Cole's law firm in Austin, Tex. This led to a renewed look at his case and circumstances under which his trial was moved to another county and of course the freebernie blog. I admit, that this case is by no means the first to garner renewed attention after a movie was made with well known actors and actresses, nor was this the first (or last) cause to be taken to the internet in the form of a blog but I feel it illustrates the point quite well.

The freebernie blog is not in and of itself citizen journalism as defined by wikipedia or the many other people who call the media their home. But it definitely falls under social activism and it definitely falls under citizen media (just as this blog does). Social activism and citizen media (I think) can be bundled under a branch or branches of citizen journalism as a whole because I think they play an important part in the whole process of citizen's becoming involved. The Free Bernie Petition probably best illustrates my point here. Without the movie "Bernie," I and many others would not have ever known this case or this cause existed somewhere else in the world. But thanks to the internet, social activism can be participated in right in your living room.

After the movie was over I searched on the internet for Bernie Tiede's name. As you would expect a lot of different results came up. I watched a three and a half-minute interview from jail and then stumbled across the freebernie blog. I clicked on the link and perused the content. I looked at updated pictures of him, saw the petition, read the post by Richard Linklater, got a jist for what the purpose of the blog was, which can be read here, and even read a NY Times article written in mid-2012 by Joe Rhodes, the nephew of Majorie Nugent, the murdered women. Which I highly suggest reading.

After a few hours of some discussion with my girlfriend and reading and watching old and new articles and videos about the whole thing, I signed the petition. I came to the conclusion that Bernie Tiede should be free.

Yes, he committed murder, but he was convicted in 1998 and is soon approaching his 15th year behind bars. Whether a person agrees that he has served his time and should be set free or whether murder, is murder and he should serve the entire sentence is not the debate here. That is up to the individual person to decide for themselves, but one can't argue that without citizen journalism leading the way and social activism being made easier for people to participate in through the easy creation of facebook's, blogs, wiki's, etc. a far smaller part of the population would have even been informed enough to decide whether or not to sign the petition. Without the access and the means for citizen's to take it upon themselves we all suffer and that's bad for the whole citizen media process.

P.S- here are some links to information about the case if anyone is interested.
-Freebernie blog
-Bernie Tiede's wikipedia page
-A jailhouse interview with Bernie
-An article in the Dallas News about the renewed interest
-More in-depth article from
-NY Times article written by Joe Rhodes, Marjorie Nugent's nephew

Friday, February 15, 2013

Give your Town a Toot at Toot'n Towns USA

After some time since my last post in late January and some mental kicking around about whether to continue to post new items here at DrinkStrong or just allow what I posted while a student at SF State to live on for eternity I have decided to continue posting.

A second formality is the need to post this code Y3927E7CG3X2 for the reason of a blog claim on the site Technorati.

Apparently Technorati must find that code in a published post in order to prove that I am in fact an author of the blog I'm trying to claim as my own. 

Alright, onto the original reason for this post; the wonderful world of citizen journalism. Here is a definition of citizen journalism from Here now is a definition of journalism from the same web site. I link you to these definitions just as a way of establishing a base to begin the discussion that began in my mind earlier today when I stumbled upon a website titled tootntownusa.

The basic idea of TootnTownUSA is to have citizens who live in or visit small towns around the USA write 250-500 word articles about their experiences and activities in each town. Small towns are defined as under 100,000 people as of the last census. Here is an excerpt from TootnTown's about page...

"Founded in January 2012, Toot’n Towns USA is designed for the tourist who wants to find the top places to travel to in small-town America. We list the towns in every state – every town with a population of 100,000 or less – and then print brief, informative articles and pictures of those towns written and photographed by the people who live or visited there. What better way to find out about a town than by hearing what the townsfolk have to say about their home? And if you’re planning to stop in a town on the Oregon coast or a village in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, wouldn’t you like to know what past visitors thought about them?"

The website seems to be under construction which is maybe to be expected considering it's only slightly over a year old and has positioned itself to take on a mighty task of organizing citizens articles about small, random towns around the US.

The articles submitted (at least the ones I read) are not what I would consider journalism based on our definition linked to above but I do think you could make an argument that TootnTown's mission fits into citizen journalism based on our definition above. To quote that definition "the involvement of non-professionals in reporting news, especially in blogs and other websites." Of course the articles submitted about architecture, hiking, sites, museum's, etc. at TootnTown is not news in the standard fashion but it most assuredly fits into a feature category of news. No different than any article in a newspaper or an on-line news site about similar topics but written by a "professional."

Which brings me to my argument. Citizen journalism consists of people with no formal journalism training using current technology to provide their own news and check that news provided by the professional journalists. But they are not considered journalists themselves. I ask, let's assume a person has no formal journalism training but works for a "credible" or "mainstream" news site. Is that person a journalist? They work for a "real" news site but have no professional journalism training. The question works the opposite way as well. What if a person has formal journalism training but writes his or her own blog focusing on issues they think are important that perhaps mainstream news providers are missing. Is that person a journalist due to the training or a citizen journalist due to the fact that their being published nowhere except their own blog? Another point based on these definitions, it is clear that journalists are superior to citizen journalists which seems to immediately draw a line in the sand that seems most unnecessary to the success of the journalists overall goal.
Citizen journalism is still evolving, it has been for some time and will continue to evolve for some time as technology advances are made and the role of mainstream news providers and the way in which citizen's interact with them continues to change. However, it is an interesting question. 

TootnTowns offers $2 an article via paypal, hardly a money making venture for a person living in or traveling to a small town in the US. So we can assume that any person submitting an article is doing it solely as a labor of love, which is (at least at the start) what the idea of citizen journalism is all about. 

I love the idea of TootnTowns, I love that one of their main mission goals is to focus on the small towns that riddle our giant country and I hope that TootnTowns survives and thrives in the new media world we live in. Check out TootnTowns if you get a chance and maybe even give a Toot about your town. 

In Other News: 

Eleven Sites Citizen Journalists Should Know About

Since I'm still catching up on the topic of citizen journalism and how it has evolved in the last four to five years my "In Other News" section at the end of each post for a time will revolve around articles and posts that show how and why the citizen journalist idea has evolved over that time. I found this article on The Next Web. It was written by Paul Sawyer on August 27th, 2011. Some of the sites on this list I have not heard of but I intend in the near future to take time and check all of them out. Please feel free to leave comments about any of the sites on the list if you are familiar with them.

The Pros and Cons of Newspapers Partnering with "Citizen Journalism" Networks 

This is a link to an article on On-line Journalism Review from February of 2010 written by Gerry Storch. It references Bleacher Report as a success story of citizen journalism (which is probably debatable) but what I really like is the quotes from experts at the bottom of the article. I think it does a good job of showing how large the discrepancy is among experts on the role, effectiveness, and future inclusion of citizen journalists.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

I created this blog back in early 2007 while studying Broadcast and Electronic Communications at San Francisco State University. It was a required part of a class I took in the BECA department as part of my undergrad. The class revolved around media and society and I chose (obviously) free, citizen journalism and it's growing popularity/following in the mainstream as my topic. This would include vloggers and bloggers mainly because way back in 2007 the current state of social media and citizenesque media was much less developed than the current state we find it in now.

I re-stumbled upon my blog while sorting out my google account. I've recently become extremely annoyed with google and it's incessant push of google+, so in response I was going to delete my entire google account/profile because frankly, I don't do much through google with the exception of searching. But as with many things in life, my frustration bloomed into reminiscing as I read through my old posts that I researched and wrote while a young blossoming college student at SF State.

After reading through many posts I have decided not to delete my google account (I did delete google+) and leave this blog alive and well right here for posterity. One thing I did learn in my earlier referenced BECA class is that the internet and citizen journalism must live permanently in the internet on the world wide web.

P.S- I have two other blogs, one a personal writing blog (of which I also do not post enough) and a second professional one focusing on my broadcasting career that I use as a virtual resume of sorts. Links here...

Freely Thinking Beings
Danny Angel

P.S.S- Also re-reading through this blog has renewed my interest in the whole idea of citizen media. I have no idea of the current state of it as a whole, but the thought of continuing this blog after my hiatus is crossing my mind. Stay tuned....

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Free Wi-Fi in San Francisco...?

Recently, as in today I found a troubling article in the SF Chronicle about Mayor Gavin Newsom's free Wi-Fi plan to accomadate all citizens far and wide, rich and poor. The "free" network, which was supposed to be built by EarthLink, who just announced yesterday it was pulling out of the deal due to financial difficulties. Interesting, maybe thats why EarthLink just announced it was laying off 900 employees.

This looks bad all around the country, not just in San Francisco. Anchorage and Chicago just canceled their plans to attempt to build a free Wi-Fi network in their cities as well. Conviently their networks were also supposed to be built by EarthLink. The doom sayers are apparently out in force because the system does not seem "financially viable."

To me what doesn't seem financially viable is the company EarthLink. Google won a bid in San Francisco to build the network and test out new products, why then give the entire project to EarthLink, a company that is spread so thin you can practically see through it. I understand the Google-EarthLink connection but why specifically them. If Google is so interested in testing new products and advertising techniques why not pay for it completely out of pocket? Why didn't Mayor Newsom realize that Google's Earthlink wasn't financially viable and either not award them the contract or begin looking in other directions?

Instead of blaming the proposed system of free Wi-Fi within cities people should start looking at other viable options. Maybe Google and its little brother companies aren't the answer. Besides, the network system Google was pushing was to be paid partially by advertising revenue (nothing new in America) and partially by a faster, better tier of service that subscribers would have to pay $21.95 a month for.

It seems that to make this net work you could feasibly keep the second, higher tier of service for a monthly fee and add a tax on the citizens that live within the city limits. Or possibly add a tax to multi-million (if not billion) dollar companies located in San Francisco's downtown district. After all it is titled the Financial District. This, it seems would easily net enough money to pay for a free municipal Wi-Fi network that could be accessed anywhere.

No doubt the companies will not adhere to a tax, because, well they usually don't. There are plenty of other ways to get this Wi-Fi network built in San Francisco and other cities without Google and without Earthlink. I do believe in the end it could and will be finanacially viable for companies to invest in. Especially if they have control over advertising content and reach.

Just because a few companies can't hold their accounts in the black doesn't mean that free city wide municipal Wi-Fi is a failing option that can never get off the ground.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

White Space and Unlicensed usage

Well ladies and gentleman after a long nearly three month Summer vacation hiatus from all things writing I'm back to continue what I started for a college course last semester. While I am not entirely pleased with my lack of content throughout the summer months I am not taking full responsibility for it. Some things which I will call life happen and must be dealt with accordingly before any other activity can take place. So with no further ado...

An interesting debate has been on-going since 2002 involving "white space" found in the spectrum between broadcast television channels. The white space is there to keep channels located on the spectrum next to each other from creating interference and potentially making the channel un-viewable for the viewer.

In a recently written article titled White Space Debate Rages it seems companies such as Google, EarthLink, Dell, Intel, and Microsoft have created what they call the "White Space Coalition" to lobby the FCC for unlicensed use of these spaces in between, in hopes of creating more broadband competition.

Obviously television broadcasters are opposed to such an idea because they say there is still too many interference issues. A total of 15 to 20 percent of the American public still get their television over the air and the potential interference would be to much.

When the government mandated switch from analog to all digital happens in Feb. of 2009 the 700 Mhz will be auctioned off, leaving a significant portion of it empty, including the white space. Market competitors think this is a great opportunity for wireless broadband companies to grab it up and combine it with their already in place networks. The 700 Mhz band of spectrum is especially valuable because it travels farther and has a better propensity to travel through walls and other obstacles.

Broadcast television companies are lobbying for the FCC to wait until the transfer from analog to digital is complete before potentially allowing unlicensed use of these white spaces. In a report released by the FCC on Aug. 1st with the test results of the first potential white space prototype that will detect signals from occupied channels, so as not to interfere with them the FCC slammed the device. Microsoft, the builder of said device has charged that prototype A was broken already and prototype B, which Microsoft tested on it's own in front of the FCC performed at 100 percent.

I agree with the White Space Coalition on this one, wasted spectrum is dead spectrum. Officially the public still owns the spectrum and I see no reason to deny the usage of unlicensed white space areas to new, or small wireless broadband companies trying to find a niche in an increasingly competitive and closed off market. Besides in urban areas these white spaces are very small and by themselves do not offer enough spectrum to viably compete with any company already established. While I do agree that channel interference would be a huge negative and should not be allowed to happen, this option needs to explored further before decided on. Especially if the coalition is already putting money up front to explore and build devices that can operate within the white spaces. This doesn't seem any different then a pirate radio station securing a small amount of bandwidth to broadcast from. If interference is the only issue, it seems the white spaces should be used.

In Other News:

Politics Meets Mobile Technology

This is just another step in on-going direction of peer-to-peer and digital technology interweaving itself in life. Democratic presidential hopefuls have begun using text messaging to garner support in areas where the candidates will be campaigning soon. This effort headed By John Edwards involves sending text messages to his campaign and receiving updates as well as phone calls from Edwards if the phone user texts back "call." Barrack Obama has started allowing supporters to text the numbers that spell out his last name and include in the text a question regarding just about anything. This idea seems revolutionary now but in the grand scheme of things was just the logical next step in the process. Text messaging can be used to a great degree when trying to gather people in one geographical location such as a city, or county and should just become another media tool in the arsenal of candidates.

Media critic Solomon pushes limits of fair-use in new documentary

Norman Solomon is about to release a documentary titled "War Made Easy." It documents presidential administrations going back 40 years and their use of the media to galvanize public opinion on war. On the surface it appears to be a scathing assessment of the current administrations usage of the media in the run-up to the Iraq war. But as the film moves through it uses tons of clips and footage from television news to show exactly how the media has been toyed with. The lining behind this is simple, in an age where some media companies are trying to increase control over their content this documentary tests the limits of fair use. Which is protected under copyright laws. Many media companies are actually allowing content to be used on sites such as Youtube, or even personal blogs, but many of these companies have limitations, or at the least guidelines on how such content can be used. Give Solomon credit for scoring a double hit with this documentary for democracy. In the realm of politics and in the realm of copyright.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

25% Newsroom Job Cut-SF Chronicle

Even local, progressive newspapers can't seem to keep their money grubbing owners happy enough with advertising revenue and subscribers to avoid having news rooms jobs cut. The SF Chronicle has decided to cut 25 percent of its staff members.

To give you an idea of how much news gathering ability that really is here.

"Eighty reporters, photographers, copy editors and others, as well as 20 employees in management positions are expected to be laid off by end of the summer. Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega said Friday that voluntary buyouts are likely to be offered."

Hearts News explanation bordered around the absurd. In order to adapt to a changing market place and of course to offset advertising loses as more and more people abandon what is known as traditional media for the glowing world of cyberspace.

Dan Gillmor has some great commentary on the sad situation at the SF Chronicle in his post SF Chronicle Whacks Jobs.

Then there’s this howler, albeit attributed to Rosenstiel:

(This is an excerpt from the SF Chronicle article)
He said the effect, even for people who don’t read the paper, “is that 25 percent of what goes on in the Bay Area won’t be covered. It will happen in the dark. … Our research shows that there is a lot of information that appears in a daily newspaper that doesn’t get covered by TV stations or citizen journalists or bloggers when a newspaper’s staff is cut.”

The premise here is that the Chronicle is actually reporting 100 percent of what goes on in the Bay Area now. I suspect Rosenstiel was either misquoted or was being ironic. He’s too smart and knowledgeable to believe this.

Dan Gillmor makes a good point here in his comment on the SF Chronicle assuming they are covering 100%. No way, as good as the Chronicle has become since Hearts purchased it, it still doesn't come close to diving deep enough into Mayor Gavin Newsom's affairs (and no not with women, his political ones), immigration, or low and behold itself. In fact, I'm almost surprised the SF Chronicle ran a story about cutting it's own employees.

I'm Still waiting for the Chronicle to write a story about the MediaNews -Hearts Corps distribution deal that was struck down in court...

I find it utterly impossible to say, think, or feel that the SF Chronicle is going to become better in any way shape or form because of this purely financial decision. I hope this isn't Hearts Corps reaction to having his purposed deal with MediaNews shut down, as a way of "showing" us who is boss.

I find it hard to believe the newspaper industry is in as bad of a financial crunch as it has been saying it is. Even if they are cutting news room jobs brings me back to an older idea; the real problem with the media industry is the people in charge think it can solely be run as a business with the bottom line deciding most, if not all things. If the media is not one thing, it is not a business.

In Other News:

YouTube Pioneers Challenge Pentagon

Recently the Pentagon has banned access to YouTube by soldiers serving in iraq and Afghanistan but also to all soldiers using computers on any Department of Defense property. This very conveniently coincided with the military releasing a proposal for YouTube to host a news "Boots On The Ground" series. Showing the iraq war thourh the eyes of soldiers on the ground.

"In a Pentagon news conference Thursday, Defense Information Systems Agency Vice Director Rear Adm. Elizabeth Hight said the decision was primarily driven by concerns about bandwidth, or the capacity of the Pentagon network to handle data-heavy material such as video.

Company officials said they were especially puzzled by the block because it came just days after the military launched its own channel on YouTube offering what it calls a "boots-on-the-ground" perspective of scenes of combat."

My guess is the military is smarter than running into a band width problem with it's troops relaying information. I don't think the military wants any of our troops to see what this "Boots On The Ground" is actually portraying. Simply put (which is really obvious) "Boots On The Ground" is going to be pure propaganda for our war machine and the military/pentagon/white house doesn't want to give our troops the ability to realize that everyone is caught in this lie, them and the people at home.

The South Carolina State will dis-continue home delivery and News stand sales in 18 counties

This cancellation, which is self inflicted will result in the loss of around 1,800 subscribers. I find this story interesting because The State is considered South Carolina's "paper of record" and is the largest one in the state. Similar to the result the SF Chronicle will have because of the staff cut The State's coverage of local news will decrease. Just another example of self-inflicted wounds to the newspaper industry. Maybe if one of these huge newspaper conglomerates should figure out how to incorporate the Internet with their print edition. That is where the true money making and content providing will come from.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Consumer Doesn't Need More Media Convergence

Usually I have to hand it to what Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks says. I often cite him on this blog and all of them have been agreeable. But His post titled Newspapers, TV, and the Net - It's Convergence Time, written on May 2oth on his Blog, titled Blog Maverick.

I'll just tell you what he said that I fine difficult to swallow.

"Why isn't a CBS News merging their news department with a NY Times and rebranding itself as the 6pm NY Times News? Or with Time Magazine News? Or NBC News and???"

This sounds dangerously close to an advocation for increased corporate convergence not only simply media convergence. Is the CBS NY Times News really necessary? The NY Times has never dipped into T.V and did not build their reputation on T.V.

He later goes on to say

"But what is happening is that everyone is cutting back individual news operations rather than partnering to ramp up. Consumers don't need more brands, they need more in-depth reporting of more stories."

I agree with him when he says consumers don't need more brands, we don't. Its also apparent that news organizations are cutting back international and local news departments.

But partnering to ramp up means partnering up what advertising and distributing departments. In earlier posts I talked about the Media News-SF Chronicle deal, titled A Win For Clint Reilly.

The court ruled that any form of convergence in these departments eliminated competition and was therefore not allowed. I'm confused about what type of convergence Cuban is advocating. This idea sounds dangerous and I don't think should even be contemplated without much further discussion. It has already been proven that increased media convergence leads to loss of jobs, and lower quality news reporting, not better quality. By examples that are already in place More "brands" lead to better, more in-depth reporting, not the other way around.

In Other News:

Microsoft Makes Biggest Buy Yet

Microsoft will buy aQuantive for US$6 billion ($8.2 billion, paying an 85 per cent premium to snap up one of the last large independent companies in a consolidating web advertising market.

Interesting Microsoft acquires more advertising companies. And so be it another one bites the dust as mentioned in the quote. This was Microsoft's largest purchase in it's history and sends a signals to Google, and Yahoo that, at least for now it isn't planning on going away. This purchase of course followed Google purchase of DoubleClick.

Notes On Being a Better Citizen Journalist

This is a guide with some helpful but useful tips about how to build your citizen journalism site. How to create a personal experience with your audience and links to other similar sites. It is a quick read with a lot of helpful information that people who are interested in citizen journalism should read.