Monday, December 29, 2008

You are what you Google

Slate did this cool twist on the whole "2008 in review" story. Instead of just writing about what happened, they did a story about what people Googled this year.

You heard me.

Using some fancy programs (Google-based, of course) and their own generous knowledge of pop culture events, they looked at any search term that got more hits or searches than the major political candidates (Obama, et. al). They even took the time to explain how they did it:

Our methodology was pretty simple: We pitted the number of Google searches for a wide variety of cultural products and figures against the number of searches for the top candidates, looking for any story that was more Googled than politics on a given day. (We used Google Insights to compare the terms.) In effect, this means we were looking for cultural figures more searched-for than Obama. (His name was a more popular search term than the other candidates' for most of the year; Sarah Palin held the top spot for a month or so after she was selected as the Republican running mate.) Below is a sample chart that compares various candidates with two of the biggest nonpolitical stories of the year. Google data is displayed on a 100-point scale set by the highest data point on the chart.
So, America: What did we Google?

Some of everything. From Ashley Dupré (Eliot Spitzer's escort) to Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon (who were married in April) to Marc Chagall (Russian-born modernist artist) to Bernie Mac (died in August) and a whole lot of stuff in between.

Check out the article here.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008


In this season, I'm thankful for my ankle length puffer coat.

Oh, it's just about the most unflattering thing I've ever worn in my entire life (and I grew up in the era of stretch pants and scrunchies). But it's warm. Oh, my goodness, it's warm.

I thought twice about breaking it out, but my assignment Friday required it. I was on the storm team.

Yes, the dreaded storm team. That meant that while everyone was bustling home, I was bundling up and finding people who braved the storm.

I tried to postpone it. I really thought that maybe the meteorologists were wrong. I slipped into my brown tweed coat, zipped up my flat brown boots over my hiking socks, and called it a day. That morning it was cold, but clear as I drove to work.

I was prepared though. The night before, I hit up Wal-Mart and stacked up on the essentials. Heat. A fleece blanket. Ice melter. Anti-freeze. In my backseat, I had a reusable shopping bag filled with canned soup, peanut butter and crackers, bottled water, bottled Arizona iced tea (lemon, please), and plastic silverware. I even through a thick scarf and my puffy sausage jacket in the back, just in case. Oh, I was ready.

By the time 2 p.m. came around, it was still pretty clear in Providence. We looked at the radar.

It was all green, except for Providence. It was just a matter of time. I hooked up with a photographer and we headed out. My assignment was to go to the airport and talked to people who were stranded, and go to the mall to see if anyone was shopping in the middle of the blizzard.

Of course, they were.

Kathy - the photog - and I slogged out way through the blowing snow and slippery slush to take pictures, talk to people and basically freeze our butts off.

We slipped and slid down Interstate 95 back to the office. I filed my notes and, after a quick run to the mall, went to go dig my car out from the nearly foot of snow that was dumped on New England.

I thought I was smart, parking in the garage. I figured at best, my wouldn't end up looking like this poor soul's did.

See that? When I came in around noon, the parking lot was empty. Everyone was trying to fit into the garage. I lucked up and found a spot right at the entrance on the second floor.
But here's one piece of advice: park toward the inside of the garage -- always.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

J-School students are masochists

"Despite less-than-lucrative job prospects for graduates, journalism is an increasingly popular major at colleges ..." making journalism school students candidates for case studies in masochism.

A Times Union article
shows why those of us really interested in where our struggling industry are not put off by rapid decline in the paid journalism work force.

Why masochism, you ask?

A 2007 survey of journalism & mass communication graduates compiled the average starting salaries for students who earned degrees, comparing them with other disciplines.

Here's a breakdown:

Computer science graduates: $60,416
Information sciences graduates: $52,418
Finance graduates: $48,547
Business admin. graduates: $45,915
Liberal arts graduates (teachers): $35,419
Journalism and mass communication graduates: $30,000
(Realizing you should have double majored in college: priceless)

Ouch. Stings a little bit.

A hint for those entering college and interested in journalism ... information sciences graduates are in high demand, as news Web sites expand on their utility.

Is Aaron going back to school? Hmmm ...

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 9:35 AM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

MediaNews execs speak out, stating the obvious

"MediaNews Sees Bad Timing on Newspapers, Not Bad Bet..." reads a NY Times headline.

Really? Bad timing? Hmmm ... That's an interesting way to put it.

MediaNews has not had a good year. But then again, neither has Tribune, McClatchy, Gannett ... the list goes on ...

And like this country's president, newspaper execs seem to be allowing sobered introspective reflections to slip from their usually mum lips.

Exhibit A:
Many current and former Mercury News executives say that a lack of investment by Knight Ridder and MediaNews have given the paper a fairly ordinary Web site that has been slow to adopt practices that keep readers coming back many times a day, like publishing articles online well before they appear in print, updating them frequently, blogging and posting videos.
For real? Really? Hmmm ... so how long have executives held that opinion? Is this a recent epiphany?

... I'll go out on a limb and assume that said executives are preparing to invest in these "ordinary Web sites that have been slow to adopt practices that keeps readers coming back" ... right? Right.


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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 9:06 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Journalist's shoe seen 'round the world

You'd have to be living under a rock to not have already seen this:

I mean, wow. This trumps the "don't tase me, bro" moment. Clearly, no shoe will ever be as famous as the size 10 that narrowly missed our lame-duck president. And it's clear this "journalist," at the Bush-Iraqi prime minister's press conference, let go of all journalistic professionalism and common sense to make his point.

Question: at what point should you decide not to "cover" something if you cannot resist the urge to throw things at the people behind the podium?

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Gov't paying for young reporters' internships?

Here's an interesting concept.

A radio segment in last week's On The Media featured New Republic writer Mark Pinsky, who suggested -- in so many words -- that the U.S. government could (should?) pay writers (i.e. journalists) to writer the nation's history.

A short history lesson:

During the roll-out of FDR's New Deal in the 1930s, the Works Projects Administration created the Federal Writer's Project, which employed out-of-work writers to "(compile) local histories, oral histories, ethnographies, children's books and other works."

Project workers famously collected narratives from former slaves in the South and created the American Guide Series. They were paid about $80 a month, which is $1264 today.

Pinksy suggested media workers could push for the Obama administration to resurrect the project as part of his economic stimulus plan. For example, that could mean a government agency could hire journalists right out of school to record current events for the nation's archives...or subsidising student internships for the nation's struggling (failing...dying...imploding) print media industry.

Here's a podcast of the show segment. Listen for yourself. Then leave a comment.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grazed by the Axe

The worst part is watching the names trickle in.

Management refused to disclose the names of who was let go, for good reason, I suppose. But on some level, I'd rather just know, not because I want to be in people's business, but because these are my friends, my colleagues -- in some cases, what I consider my family -- being shown the door.

Instead, I have to read names in the paper or on the blogs.

And my heart is broken all over again.

Some of you know I spent a long time trying to get into the place where I work today. And it hasn't been easy staying -- no place is when you're the kid and the minority. But I've been blessed with what I called a "workplace family" -- folks who encouraged me, challenged me, gave me a swift kick in the butt when needed, and quite literally saved my ass when something was about to go down. They encouraged me and protected me, all because they knew, too, the difficulties of being the odd man out.

But now I'm reading their names. On blogs. In the paper.

And now my support system is shattered.

Suddenly I feel like I'm standing alone. And I can't help but to feel a little shattered too.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Go Look at this Project

Some of my former collegues at the Freep just did a great project where they got unprecedented access to children in a local foster home. The Freep writes:

Free Press photographer Kathleen Galligan spent three years photographing the children at Christ Child House. The Michigan Department of Human Services, which rarely grants permission to openly photograph children in its custody, gave the Free Press this unusual access to highlight the plight of Michigan's foster children.

"It's an effort to educate the public on the challenges we face," said Bill Johnson, head of the Michigan Children's Institute, the DHS division with legal custody of the kids.

Referring to Christ Child, he said, "They're a small agency, but they do a great job."

The project features stories, video, and great photographs featuring the boys that live at Christ Child and tell you a little about who they are and what they've gone through. The project features things you can do to help, as well. They also did something I thought was really cool --- they did a gallery of kids who still need adoptive homes. It's a small thing, but I just thought it was great.

If nothing else, flip through the pictures in this project. I did that quickly after reading about the project in Al's Morning Meeting. For some reason, seeing these kids just living their lives almost brought me to tears. Maybe I'm just a sap, but that's what journalism is about: giving people a glimpse into someone else's life.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

My Name is Marcus And I'm Unemployed

The alarm went off at 8:30am Thursday morning and I hit snooze.

Stuffy and congested, the plan was to call out sick and come in the afternoon for a 2:00pm meeting.

But something told me to check the Blackberry to make sure there were no important e-mails.

Anytime you get a company e-mail from Debra Lee before 9:00AM, it's not good news.

Viacom had announced they were letting 850 employees go and that BET would be affected as a result.

One of those 850 employees is me.

Before you break out the box of tissues and offer your hugs (I'll take your hugs if you're hot), believe me when I say that I'm OK.

(If you have talked to me in the last 11 months, you will know that I'm really OK)

God works in mysterious ways and I look at this as an opportunity for a change of scenery and a fresh start in my career.

If you were expecting an angry Black man rant about how the man screwed me over, I apologize.

Now time to catch up on my DVR ...



Posted by Vandy at 4:54 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Toot, toot. Yeah, beep, beep.

I'm about to toot my own horn.

I rocked the rims off this story. And it was just a man on the street color piece about our local DMV closing.

Here's the link. Click it. You know you wanna read it.

Too lazy to click? Here's the lede:

WEST WARWICK — The wait time at the Registry of Motor Vehicles office here yesterday was about an hour and a half in the early afternoon. But you didn’t need a ticket to tell you that.

The blond wooden benches lining one wall were spotted with people reading books, chatting on cell phones or just sitting staring into space. Some men paced and read the signs on the scuffed rose-colored walls. Everywhere you looked, it seemed, someone was waiting for the automated voice to call their number over the loudspeaker: “Now serving 631 at window four.”

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

A Yule Log, maybe?

Everyone has to do it at least once in life: Work a major holiday.

Yup, it's a hazard of the job that most journos come to grips with early on. whenever I would tell my mother that I'm working on some holiday, she'd yell at me. And then I'd calmly ask her if she got a newspaper the day after Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.

That usually shuts her up pretty quickly.

Anyway, I probably set myself up this year. I asked my editor for Thanksgiving off because I wanted to go home to visit my family in Michigan. I hadn't been in a year. So I told him that I'd work any time between now and then in exchange if I got Thanksgiving -- though I'd rather not work Christmas because I wanted to travel to New York to be with my sister.

So I got THanksgiving off. And then, I got scheduled to work Christmas. From 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Thanks, guys.

So I tried not to worry about it. I sent a message out asking for volunteers to switch with me. I figured I'd deal with it when I got back from home. When I did, no one had responded. It was looking pretty bleak.

Then, a few people offered to switch their Saturday, Dec. 27 shifts with me. It would be better than nothing, I reasoned, but I wanted to see if I could get the entire weekend off. I was being greedy. So I went to solicit a few people I knew wouldn't care about Christmas.

After some talking and checking with her spouse, someone agreed to switch with me (joy!) so now I get to go be with my sister on Christmas! I'm so excited. So much so, that I'm trying to figure out what I could get my coworker who switched with me to show my gratitude. It might be something small, but I'm going to get something because this really meant a lot to me. Even if it's just a giftcard to one of the restaurants around here that might be open on Christmas night.

Least I could do is buy her dinner.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

CNN joining the wire 'game'

Move over, says CNN executives to the Associated Press.

Looks like the largely oligopolic news wire industry will soon have a new purveyor. It's not news that newspapers all over the country are letting go of their AP memberships, as they cut spending (staff). But with CNN pitching to offer a wire service for cheaper than AP, struggling newspapers could bite the bait.

Does this mean there will be more CNN bureaus and jobs created in the near future? Who knows.

Is the honeymoon over for the AP, which recently announced some troubles of its own. Again, who knows. The AP says it services 5,000 broadcast outlets, which is far more than its 1,700 newspaper subscribers. Heck, CNN uses AP wire services.

By the way, AP CEO Tom Curley says: "Breaking news is very, very expensive and if they (CNN) have the resources to spend on it, we welcome them to the game."

So I guess they aren't worried. And it doesn't seem like they'd need to be.

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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 5:58 PM | link | Tell us what you think [4]

Interesting take on community journalism

More than a few newspaper journalists were excited by the all-out-scramble to score print editions the day after the election. I'm sad to announce, if you hadn't already figured, that Nov. 5th and 6th did not save newspapers from trouble.

But there's hope...

Laidoff journalists, freelancers and community watchdogs are quickly (and, perhaps, have always been) turning to the Web and to non-profit organizations to fund the more costly (and often meaningful) journalistic endeavors. (When your paper won't...or can't.)

Spot.Us is a nonprofit project of the Center for Media Change, where-by "the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories."

Donors get tax breaks. And if the MSM picks up your work, donors are reimbursed. It's an awesome way to collaborate on on stories.

Now if I only had a story I need funding for...wait...I think I do.

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