#158 – Free speech in the age of mass surveillance

The phone in your hand is not just a tool for staying connected and taking care of errands on the go. It’s also a big welcome mat to the “age of mass surveillance.”

David Greene, senior staff attorney and civil liberties director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, addressed the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s conference in Salt Lake City recently, shedding some light on the covert and not-so-covert-anymore ways in which a person’s information and private habits can be uncovered, tracked and recorded with a few clicks. His group, based in San Francisco, works to protect civil liberties in the digital world.

David Greene is the senior staff attorney and civil liberties director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

David Greene is the senior staff attorney and civil liberties director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Mass surveillance — which Greene defines as “when the government just collects information about people’s communications in bulk” — has been going on for a long time, well before Edward Snowden fed documents to The Guardian, hesaid. It’s easy to see the difference between mass surveillance and targeted surveillance, which is when someone’s habits and communications are specifically monitored because they’re suspected of wrongdoing.

The reason there’s more attention paid to mass surveillance now, especially following the Snowden releases, is that it’s easier to do.

“Technology has really made it much more efficient for the government to collect, to store and to analyze massive amounts of data.”

“Technology has really made it much more efficient for the government to collect, to store and to analyze massive amounts of data,” Greene said. “The storage thing is one of the more recent technological developments. In this state, in Utah, the NSA has built a very large storage facility for the purpose of storing massive amounts of communications data it’s collected. A few months ago, we flew a blimp over it … with a big sign saying ‘Mass Surveillance Below,’ with a big arrow pointing to it.”

People might think they control their data, and to some extent that remains true. But mobile phones perform so many other functions and have so many other capabilities than in the past that the amount of personal information they contain is almost overwhelming.

“We use our telephones to do all sorts of things,” Greene said. “We communicate with our doctors, we make travel arrangements, we do banking, shopping,” and all this with a company that might have an agreement to provide that information to the government, no questions asked.

“It’s more efficient for the government to go to one entity and say ‘Give me all the information you have’” than trying to collect that same amount of data from a variety of sources.

And while Greene praised Congress for passing the USA Freedom Act in June, he stressed that it did not end bulk phone record collection entirely. Now, instead of collecting all incoming and outgoing call information from all phones on certain providers—the government admitted it had been gathering all such data from users on the Verizon Business Network Service and that other companies had been involved, but has not identified other participants — the government has to specify when it wants incoming and outgoing call information from a particular number.

Amber Healy

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#126 – Digital security protects free speech

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#73 – Willow Brugh: Open Source to an open world of Internet freedom

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#157 – Mark Goodman: Music journalists win online


As effective a tool as streaming services like Pandora and Spotify can be for introducing listeners to new music, a playlist designed by an algorithm is no comparison for suggestions made by a real live person someone has come to know and trust.

Mark Goodman

Former MTV VJ Mark Goodman says music can still resonate online. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

Mark Goodman should know. From his early career with a radio station in Philadelphia and his place as one of the first VJs at MTV to his current gig as host of a daily show on Sirius XM’s The Spectrum, Goodman’s insights on the importance of music journalism in local media outlets combine the changing tides of publication and the growing frontiers for music and listeners alike.

“The Internet is overwhelming but it’s where everything is already or is going to if it’s not there yet. Especially for music,” he said, during the Association of Alternative Newsmedia‘s conference in Salt Lake City. “We need a floodgate. People don’t know what to do with it. Journalists are setup perfectly to be that floodgate.”

Pre-Internet, music fans would turn to critics, whether in their local newspapers, alt publications or behemoths like Rolling Stone or Creem, to find out about the next big bands or to get the latest news about their favorite artists. Readers would eventually learn to trust a writer or DJ’s opinion on bands based on what they recommended or played, and those readers could check out a new band’s performance based on a critic’s recommendation.

Using a playlist devised by a computer program is nowhere near as effective, Goodman says. iTunes or Pandora might pull up a song by an unknown artist because the listener liked something the program believes is similar, and the listener’s reaction is along the lines of “What the hell is this? It’s crap, you don’t like it,” he said. “Journalists, people who you wind up trusting over a period of time, especially local because they’re part of the community, they know who’s been in town… that really is important.”

One of his first trusted publications, when he was working in Philadelphia, was an alt weekly called The Drummer. “As I got older, with other alt weeklies, I looked to people like many of you … to keep tabs on the music trends wherever I happened to be living at the time,” he said.

The path to success, for media outlets and musicians alike, might be online, but both need assistance from good writers.

“It’s clear to me that in order to survive and thrive, you have to embrace the Internet and find how to reach your readers through this technology as it proliferates around the world,” said Goodman, who’s in charge of content at the new online music venture, American Weekend Entertainment. “The Web may be vast, but it’s cold. It’s impersonal. Here is where journalism wins. This is where someone’s impression of you, your knowledge, your sense of humor, this can engage in a way an algorithm can’t.”

Amber Healy

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Learn how to podcast in 5 easy steps

This bonus podcast features audio from my Friday, July 17, presentation on podcasting at the 2015 Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s annual convention in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It's All Journalism Producer Michael O'Connell at the Great Salt Lake.

It’s All Journalism Producer Michael O’Connell at the Great Salt Lake.

Here are the updated pdfs from my presentation.

I tried to give a down and dirty, quick and easy guide to launching a podcast, including some of the technology you need to master.

There are lots of different ways to produce a podcast and there are lots of questions to think about beyond recording and posting audio, like:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What type of content would they be interested in listening to?
  • How much time are you willing to commit to a regular podcast?
  • How much money are you willing to spend?

This isn’t the first time our podcast has talked about podcasting. Here are a couple of related podcasts that touch on this subject:

Pop Goes the Podcast at Awesome Con

#114 – So you wanna podcast? Tips on how to be an online audio star

I also appeared on the JellyVision Show recently talking about podcasting:

Podcasting Will Change Your Life: Ep. 184 with Michael O’Connell of It’s All Journalism Podcast

My goal was to demonstrate that podcasting is really not that difficult to do, once you break down the basics. It’s also an incredibly flexible platform that allows for a great deal of freedom of expression and creativity.

Let us know if you launch a podcast.

Michael O’Connell

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#156 – ONA15 to shed light on online harassment

Trevor Knoblich, the digital director of the Online News Association, joined It’s All Journalism producer Michael O’Connell in studio this week to talk about the 2015 ONA Conference.

Trevor Knoblich, digital director, Online News Association (Courtesy photo)

Trevor Knoblich, digital director, Online News Association (Courtesy photo)

The annual event brings together thousands of digital journalists from around the world to talk about new technology and storytelling techniques. It’s a great opportunity to meet people, network and pick up some skills to use in your newsroom.

A variety of experts will be speaking at the conference on topics ranging from the trauma social newsgatherers face covering violent stories to pushing back against online harassment.

The conference will also spotlight The Boston Globe’s award-winning investigation into abuses by the Catholic Church.

ONA15 takes place Sept. 24-26, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles. For more details, go to the ONA15 website.

Michael O’Connell

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#116 – Josh Stearns — Building sustainability for local news

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Hanging out at the JellyVision Show Podcast

I had a fun time this week talking to my buddies Tim Trueheart and Jennifer “Jelly” Crawford on the latest episode of the The JellyVision Show Podcast.

We talked about how entrepreneurs can use podcasting to promote their businesses.

We’re all members of the DC Podcaster Community, a coalition of podcasters in the Washington, D.C. area. We meet monthly to swap ideas and share podcasting strategies.

DC Podcaster is sponsoring the first ever DC PodFest, which will take place Nov. 6-8, 2015, at The Wonderbread Factory in Washington, D.C. You can find out more about the event at the DC PodFest website and you keep track of updates by following us on Twitter: @DCPodFest.

Michael O’Connell

Related Podcast:

Pop Goes the Podcast at Awesome Con

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#155 – Long-form writing and avoiding a terrible lede

A barber once rescued Stephen Fried from a terrible lede.

Fried, an author and long-form writer, was struggling to come up with a good beginning for a story he had written, a personality profile of Ricardo Muti, the former conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

“I wrote this sort of terrible lede, which my editor crossed out. He said, ‘Go find another lede,'” Fried said.

Stephen Fried

Stephen Fried is an author and long-form journalists. He teaches writing at Columbia University’s school of journalism. (Courtesy Photo)

There was nothing in the story that fit the bill.

“Ricardo Muti was known, besides for all his musicianship, he was known for his hair,” Fried said. “And so, out of utter desperation, I called the Philadelphia Orchestra and asked who cut his hair. And I went and, out of just complete fear of my editor and losing my job, I interviewed his barber. I attached the best part of the interview as the lede of the story to the rest of the story.”

Fried’s editor was satisfied and praised his ingenuity.

Sometimes, a solution is just an act of desperation.

Other times, according to Fried, it’s the writing process itself that can save the writer. This is especially true when it comes to thinking too much about a story.

“Thinking is not useful before writing,” he said. “Thinking is useful after trying the writing. Thinking about the writing doesn’t always make the writing any better. So what I’m saying is, especially when you have to build something big, that has a lot of foundation and you might have to tear out part of the foundation and build another way, outlining and thinking it through is not gonna solve the problem.”

The longer a story is, the more problems a writer can encounter.

“It’s not part of the reporting process,” Fried said. “It’s part of what your brain brings together when you’re writing. So, there’s no substitute for writing, even to have what you’re writing suck, but for you in understanding why it sucks, understand what you have to do. And you think that you can avoid that step by thinking really hard and not writing the thing that sucks, and that’s the big lie. Because, you should always just try to write.”

A common trap for writers is fixating on the lede. They write and they rewrite, trying to get it perfect.

“We write the beginning over a million times and then we don’t write anything else,” Fried said. “And one of the things that I’ve taught myself when I catch myself doing this is to stop writing the beginning, and to just start writing at chapter two and come back to the beginning. Because, in reality, a lot of times your lede is something that you find as you write in. The chances of it coming to you at the beginning before you start writing are much lower than if you start building. And you will either find it while you’re building or it will make more sense what it needs to be once you’ve built the rest of the draft.”

Enter Ricardo Muti’s barber.

Michael O’Connell

On this week’s It’s All Journalism podcast, producer Michael O’Connell talks to writer Stephen Fried about long-form journalism. He will be talking about long-form journalism and presenting a writing workshop at the 2015 Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s Convention, which takes place July 16-18, in Salt Lake City. Fried is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s graduate school of journalism. He’s also a non-fiction author. His books include Husbandry, The New Rabbi, Bitter Pills: Inside the Hazardous World of Legal Drugs and Sex, Lies & Dirty Laundry — Inside the Minds of Married Men. The Wall Street Journal and the Philadelphia Inquirer named his latest book, Appetite for America: Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West — One Meal at a Time, one of the top 10 books of 2010. For more about Fried’s work, visit his website.

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#154 -NPR One: Making audio storytelling personal

Dan Newman and Tejas Mistry are part of the team behind NPR One, public radio’s digital app that curates stories for you personally.

Newman and Mistry see NPR One as the future of audio storytelling, where what people want is delivered directly to them, without much prompting from the user. Given the challenges in the news industry, NPR needs to be prepared for what comes next in digital media and to make the experience more personal.

Dan Newman and Tejas Mistry talk to It's All Journalism about the NPR One app.

Dan Newman and Tejas Mistry talk to It’s All Journalism about the NPR One app. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

“We want to make sure we have the future forward-looking technology built,” Newman said.

Through NPR One, listeners can get a mix of shorter content — like the news stories play on Morning Edition or All Things Considered every day — and longer pieces public radio produces. For example, a podcast like Serial may stream for someone through NPR One in between more traditional NPR content.

“In NPR One, we want to learn what your favorite radio shows are and your favorite podcasts are and bring you something new,” Mistry said.

Surprisingly, NPR One is attracting users who don’t typically listen to NPR, according to Newman. Those people get to the app through personal referrals typically. NPR is hoping these new listeners will eventually become traditional members who donate to their local stations.

NPR One tries to incorporate people’s mood and pace — are you walking to work or hanging out in your house while listening? — in what content they receive. The app tries to measure mood by what content listeners are skipping or indicate they really like at the time.

“We find that news is more popular in the morning. … And we find that storytelling and podcasts are more popular in the afternoon,” Mistry said.

Users tell NPR One’s team that the aspect of the app that they like best is the “skip” button. If you are listening to a traditional public radio broadcast, you don’t have the option to skip, but the app allows you to do that.

The “skip” button also provides NPR with lots of new data about how audiences respond to particular stories. Specifically, the NPR staff has learned a lot about how listeners respond to introductions to stories through the “skip” data collected.

NPR One has a number of “homegrown tools” that show what material is resonating with listeners. For example, the app has become much less news-oriented — more podcasts have been incorporated — over the last year.

Julia O’Donoghue

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#59 – You should meet NPR’s Stephen Thompson

#31 – Pop Up Archive aims to add search, transcription to audio files

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#153 – FIU journalists report on Florida’s tidal rise

Few places in the United States are as vulnerable to the immediate dangers of rising sea levels as Florida.

“Some scientists suggest there’s been 10 inches of rise in the world’s oceans since the 19th century,” said Robert “Ted” Gutsche Jr., a journalism professor and researcher at Florida International University in Miami. “We’re seeing a lot of climate change worldwide, but some of those issues are really at the forefront in Southern Florida.”

Scientists and climate experts predict the oceans could be 3 to 7 inches higher by 2030, and by 2100, ocean levels could rise 5 feet higher than their current levels, Gutsche said.

student journalists

A local Miami TV reporter interviews students investigating flooding streets in October 2014 as part of eyesontherise.org, a journalism project based at Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. The project examines sea level rise in South Florida and is led by student documentarians, journalists, and scientists.

Already, Floridians are seeing their grounds saturated, as the water table is high and the land, at one point part of the swampy Everglades, is changing.

“It’s getting to the point where the saltwater that’s coming in is corroding underground infrastructure,” he said. “It’s infiltrating the aquafers and diminishing the freshwater. When we do have the next hurricane, we could be facing tidal storm surges.”

But a casual glance at most information provided by local media outlets in the region might leave readers thinking everything’s sunshine and roses.

“Anything that people might pick up on the newsstand or get on their mobile phones that’s coming from this mainstream media still tends to be about building luxury and the high life, and not really talking about the property issues of who owns what, and who’s going to be able to stay here, who’s going to be able to own property in the future when, basically, Florida sinks,” Gutsche said. “It sounds very dramatic because it is. It’s happening right now.”

He and his students are doing what they can to turn the tide, so to speak. Inspired by a documentary that aired on local public television stations a year ago, the university, in partnership with a STEM-centered magnet public high school on the university’s campus, kicked off EyesontheRise.org, a journalism project focusing on what flooding will look like across southern Florida.

The Online News Association administers the project, which is also supported by Excellence and Ethics in Journalism Foundation, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Democracy Fund, and the Rita Allen Foundation.

The program puts students at the forefront of storytelling while pushing the boundaries of who teaches journalism, and who’s doing the teaching. The university students are working closely with the high schoolers, but also learning about various applications of journalism they might not otherwise experience before graduating, beyond writing articles and finding stories.

“We started doing things like event journalism, pop-up journalism stuff,” Gutsche said. “South Florida’s very much about events and flash and flare. We’re trying to tap into entertainment markets, people who like to do entertainment events, so we can put the journalism out there in people’s faces.”

Amber Healy

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#152 – An alternative take on Salt Lake City

It’s not quite “Rocky Mountain High” — Colorado is one state over — but there will be mountains.

The Association of Alternative Newsmedia is heading to Salt Lake City July 16-18, for the 2015 AAN Convention.

Tiffany Shackelford

Tiffany Shackelford is the executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia.

The Salt Lake City Weekly is hosting the event, which is an opportunity for members of the alternative press to share ideas about how to cover their communities better against a backdrop of blue skies and snow-covered peaks.

Mark Goodman, one of the original MTV veejays, will be a keynote speaker, talking about music journalism and music content.

“Maybe it’s the Gen-Xer in me, but I think he knows more about music than a lot of people we hear from,” said Tiffany Shackelford, AAN’s executive director. “We’re pretty excited about that.”

Other speakers at the conference include:

  • Eric Bright of Deseret News – “He’s really done a ton on successfully moving from print to digital in smart ways,” Shackelford said.
  • Online news pioneer Elizabeth Osder.
  • Steven Fried, who Shackelford called a “legend among long-form journalists.”
  • Former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson will talk about some of the city’s free speech initiatives.

“One of the things that was interesting to me is with all of the hullabaloo around Indiana’s religious discriminatory possible practices and Religious Freedom Act, Utah actually did it right,” Shackelford said. “They got together with the gay and lesbian leaders in Utah and both sides of the aisle and passed a compromise anti-discrimination and religious freedom act that’s really quite successful. We’re dedicating a session to that, which I think will be really fascinating.”

The convention will have a number of sessions devoted to data, long-form journalism and identifying revenue streams.

“We’re talking a lot this year about successfully packaging, but also circulation and the digital future and how that’s going to look, both from a print point of view, as well as a digital one,” Shackelford said. “We also have a great design track that we haven’t had in a few years. And that’s dedicated to both print and online design.”

In this week’s podcast, It’s All Journalism producer Michael O’Connell talks to Tiffany Shackelford, executive director of the Association of Alternative News Media, about AAN’s annual convention, which takes place July 16-18, in Salt Lake City. They also talk about some of the challenges alt-weeklies have faced over the last year and some of the big successes going on in the alternative arena.

Michael O’Connell

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#35 – Tiffany Shackelford: Journalism flourishes in an alternative space

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#151 – Journalism education reimagined

The rise of digital technology has not only changed the journalism industry, it’s altered the institutions of journalism, where young storytellers learn the craft of reporting the news.

This week, three former guests of the podcast discuss some of the changes going on at universities and journalism schools and what the future of journalism education might look like.

Amy Webb

Amy Webb

Amy Webb is a digital media futurist, founder of Webbmedia Group Digital Strategy, and co-founder of Knowledgewebb Training and Spark Camp.

She’s working on a book about forecasting the future and finishing a book about the future of journalism education, which the Nieman Foundation at Harvard will be publishing in June.

“It should be in academia that the very best research and development and truly the future of communications is being built,” Webb said. “That’s where it should be happening. And so, I think if we recast what is journalism education with an eye towards the future, I think it is completely indisputable that journalism education, at least in the undergraduate realm, it has to continue. It just has to look slightly different than it does today.”

Andrew Lih

Andrew Lih

Andrew Lih is the author of The Wikipedia Revolution and an associate professor at American University. He began his career at Columbia University, where he conducted a new media makeover of the journalism program. While teaching at University of Hong Kong, he helped set up that school’s new media program. Before coming to Washington, D.C., he revamped the journalism program at the University of Southern California. He’s now helping AU to revise its undergraduate and graduate journalism programs.

“For better or worse, most journalism schools still have shoe leather, municipal reporting as the cornerstone of what they do,” Lih said. “And we really have to rethink if that’s the way to go. Marketing wise, we are not really appealing to a lot of journalism students who might see journalism as an exciting thing, that they don’t really want to be an urban beat reporter to start off with.”

Doug Mitchell

Doug Mitchell

Doug Mitchell is the founder of Next Generation Radio at NPR and The Journalism Diversity Project. He’s also an adjunct journalism professor at Georgetown University.

“It’s a little interesting to feel like, when someone graduates from school, that they’re a little bit behind,” Mitchell said. “And maybe that’s just the result of schools not focusing on where they’re going. Journalism is a trade to me. People get a job. They get skills and they get a job. And it’s always been that way. But I think that too has to change in some way. Maybe we need to create broader people. We need to create people who are interested in talking to people who are different from themselves.”

Michael O’Connell

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