The continuing adventures of Beau Yarbrough

The greatest journalism video of all time

Thursday, February 20, 2014, 9:13
Section: Arts & Entertainment, Journalism

iPod Top 100: 2013

Wednesday, January 1, 2014, 15:35
Section: Arts & Entertainment

A little later than usual this year, but here’s what I was listening to the most in 2013.

Previous editions can be found here: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011, 2012.

There’s probably something a psychologist could tease out of the number of female rockers on these lists, which seems to be the only consistent element over the years.

1. “Party Kids” - Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
2. “The Sword By My Side” - The Thermals
3. “Awkward” - San Cisco
4. “Black Sheep” - Gin Wigmore
5. “They Told Me” - Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside
6. “Holy Roller” - Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
7. “Summer in the City” - The Eels
8. “Island Song” - Zac Brown Band
9. “Slyd” - !!!!
10. “Water” - Brad Paisley

Books read, 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013, 8:00
Section: Arts & Entertainment

Bad Monkey coverSo, by any measure, I improved on the 12 books I read in 2012 and 2011: I read 13 or 14, depending on whether you count me giving up on one book in eye-rolling disgust. (Failure to “end” a short story once might be interesting, doing it for every story in a book is a ridiculous affectation.)

Here’s what I read in 2013, including my periodic re-reads of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series (Mostly Harmless will get polished off in 2014):

Feb. 5: Swords Against Death by Fritz Leiber
Feb. 15: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
March 21: The Bible Repairman and Other Stories by Tim Powers
April 21: St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (abandoned)
May 20: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
June 2: The Old Editor Says: Maxims for Writing and Editing by John E. McIntyre
June 10: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
July 10: Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen
July 30: The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel by Neil Gaiman
Aug. 24: Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams
Sept. 29: The Elements of Style Illustrated by William Strunk Jr.
Oct. 29: Can Journalism Survive: An Inside Look at American Newsrooms by David M. Ryfe
Nov. 30: Year Zero: A Novel by Rob Reid
Dec. 22: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas Adams

I’m currently reading Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State by Dana Priest and listening to the audio book of Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley.

EIJ13: Our Digital Shadows: Journalists and Online Reputation

Friday, November 1, 2013, 8:00
Section: Journalism

Excellence in Journalism 2013Journalists need to carefully guard their online reputations, according to Marie K. Shanahan, a professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut, speaking at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism 2013 convention in Anaheim, California on Aug. 26.

Credibility is a key component if you want to be a successful journalist,” Shanahan said. “It’s your calling card.”

Where once, journalists only had to worry about their tweets and public Facebook posts, now all sorts of publicly visible social media interactions are under scrutiny.

“Now ‘public’ includes any online posts,” including liking an image on Instagram.

This should be familiar territory for journalists, even if they’re not used to being the objects of the scrutiny: We use search to do research on our sources; there’s no reason people aren’t going to do the same to us.”

Shanahan recommends that journalists vanity search themselves on Google and Google Images.

And don’t be fooled that deleting an image or post or tweet makes it go away: “The Internet is a giant copying machine; it never really forgets.”

Likewise, restricting a Twitter profile is just a red flag that a journalist has something to hide, she said.

Shanahan recommends journalists be pro-active about their online reputation:

“Use a consistent byline” online and regularly associate their identity with the company they want to be known as working for. (And find out the company’s social media policy and abide by it.)

Get journalists should get their own Web domain, preferably with their byline name as the URL, which will rank high in Google searches for that name.

She recommends that journalists use nice headshots for their profile pictures on social media: “Don’t make your Twitter profile pic an egg. No one trusts an egg.”

Shanahan also recommends that journalists take a look at and

EIJ13: Curation Station: Effective Use of Social Tools for Breaking and Big-Issue Reporting

Thursday, October 31, 2013, 8:00
Section: Journalism

Excellence in Journalism 2013“News consumers are turning to Twitter in ever-larger numbers when big news breaks. But the news media make the same well-publicized mistakes during breaking news and most organizations fail to use the platform to its full advantage.

On Aug. 26 at the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence in Journalism 2013 convention in Anaheim, California, Prof. Kelly Fincham of Hofstra University and P. Kim Bui, an adjunct professor at Annenberg School for Journalism and Communication at the University of Southern California and mobile product manager for Los Angeles-area NPR station KPCC, ran through best practices for covering breaking news using social media.

The panel was inspired, Fincham said, by how much of the media mishandled the Christopher Dorner manhunt story this spring.

One way to do better is to make a plan before a big breaking news event happens, and to plan how to spread the load.

“One person can handle all social media, but that doesn’t mean that they should,” Bui said. “Work this stuff out ahead of time.”

Also created ahead of time: an online Twitter list of all the relevant first responders to watch when something happens.

“We made a big long list of all the people who would tweet (breaking news) and that includes our competitors,” Bui said. “Once there is a fire, or a terrible accident, all you have to do is pull up that list and it’s all there. … That’s something I suggest you do TODAY.”

If a newsroom doesn’t want to openly follow, say, politicians,Twitter lists can be made private, so no one but authorized account users can see it.

And vet the list ahead of time: KPCC checked out all of the first-responders they put on their list, and discovered a fake fire department account.

And one more task to do ahead of time: Figure out the hashtag for an imminent event.

KPCC staffers contact first responders about what agencies they’re going to use in their communications. In Southern California, and other areas, for instance, large wildfires are named. The station, Bui says, gets in touch with fire agencies to find out what the official name of a small blaze is before it turns into regional news.

And they don’t try and brand the breaking news hashtag:

“It makes more sense to latch onto a hashtag than start one yourself,” she said. “#KPCCRimFire — no one’s going to follow that,” as opposed to following the then-recent hashtag #RimFire. (And don’t go crazy with hashtags; use them when they’re appropriate and no more.)

But the biggest, most infamous — and most recurrent — problem news organizations have when covering breaking news with social media is getting things wrong, whether it’s the Sandy Hook massacre, the Boston Marathon bombings or any number of smaller, regional news events.
Avoiding that sort of basic error requires going back to journalism basics: question the origins of information, and verify it.

“It’s totally OK for you to ask (someone reporting news) ‘were you there? Did you see it?’” Bui said. “If you’re unsure, ask. You don’t have to be first on everything.”

Google Image Search allows journalists to upload images to discover their origins — think of the Hurricane Sandy subway shark image that was passed along, unquestioned, by many news organizations.

Digital photos also have metadata encoded in them that can reveal when and where they were taken. The data can be exposed in Photoshop and there are also smaller, dedicated EXIF data viewers to see the information as well.

At the moment, the only Facebook posts that can be edited after the fact — if, for instance, a update ends up being wrong — are photo posts, although the company has said that will be changing soon.

(Bui is a fan of Twitter, but says both major social media platforms have their strengths: “It’s easier to curate on Twitter. … It’s better to have photos and long deep conversations on Facebook.”)

To avoid misinformation coming out unvetted, Bui said, at KPCC, “(journalists) can break breaking news on Twitter, if your editor knows.”

But it’s not the end of the world to not be first on a news update — it’s something that mostly only journalists care about.

“If you’re the fifth person to retweet that the mayor got shot, you’re not breaking it,” Bui said, and don’t hashtag it #breakingnews.

If you can’t be first, she said, embrace it and fill in background details and other facts. During the Dorner manhunt, she tracked down who actually asked the media to stop tweeting. (Something widely attributed to the police or district attorney’s office.)

“It was really just one guy.”

And gone are the days when acknowledging the existence of other competitors — many of whom will also be appearing in readers’ social media feeds alongside your posts — was taboo.

“Journalism has changed so much that ideas like ‘it’s our exclusive, we can’t retweet it,’” Fincham said. “That horse has bolted.”

“Is it OK to retweet your competitors? It depends on your news organization, but I wish they’d all say ‘yes,’” Bui said.

But no matter who created content, whether it’s professional journalists or users creating YouTube videos, give credit where credit is due. It’s not just good karma, but it enhances your credibility with your audience.

And while the tools may change, the mission does not.

“We’re storytellers first,” Bui said. “That should never, ever stop.”


Copyright © Beau Yarbrough, all rights reserved
Veritas odit moras.