Category Archives: Growing up digital

The ‘New Journalist’: the tale of a sexy SEO headline

I have to say, this one bothers me.

Over the weekend, Kashmir Hill of had a sensational instant webhit “How Target figured out a teen girl was pregnant before her father did.”

A sexy little piece of business analysis, it got more than 680,000 page views on a President’s Day weekend, and Ms. Hill made a name for herself.

But here’s the thing: Hill didn’t do any of the reporting for it.

Nick O’Neill was the first to call her on it. In a blog post titled ‘How Forbes stole a New York Times article and got all the traffic‘.

The original 6,700-word story, which ran in the Times’ Magazine under the headline How companies learn your secrets, with its months of research, was a great piece, O’Neill wrote, but “didn’t have the headline it deserved.”

Hill “cut out the crap and got to the real shocker of the story,” O’Neill blogged.

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Sorry Facebook, there are some things I won’t share

You may have seen a friendly offer from Facebook to ‘help subscribers find you by verifying your account.’

Click on the link to verify your account, and you’ll see a screen asking you to upload a photo of a government-issued, photo ID from your passport, driver’s license, work/military ID.

Don’t worry, the message continues, if you don’t have one of those, you can upload two of these alternate IDs:  a school or work ID card, library card, credit card (!!), birth certificate, Social security card.

These IDs must show my name, picture and birthday, be in colour… but here’s a key point:

“Have any sensitive information (ex. your credit card number of driver’s license number) blacked out or covered up”

I suppose I should be reassured by this message from Facebook:

Once we verify your account and name, we’ll permanently delete your documents.

Uh huh. Yeah.

Continue reading Sorry Facebook, there are some things I won’t share

Politicians, social media, and why journalists should pay attention

If you were living under a rock and missed it, U.S. President Barack Obama held a town hall ‘with the people’ via a Google+ hangout this week.

“Hunh,” said a colleague in the newsroom, “That’s neat.”

It’s more than neat – it’s a big shift we need to pay attention to.

As journalists, we have often functioned as ‘middle men’, the only way the public can access politicians.

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SOPA: Another country’s legislation messing with my Internet

I know I’m not alone on this, but Sopa really ticks me off.

The Guardian did a great explainer of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). But basically, the goal is to limit online piracy, especially when it comes to movie and music files. Seems reasonable enough.

But it goes way, way too far – entire domains, like Wikipedia, WordPress, YouTube and Facebook, can be shut down if any of their sites’ content is pirated.  Given the vast amount of content these sites provide – essentially a free information exchange, the bill is not unreasonable, it’s archaic.

One analyst provided this metaphor: “Imagine lawmakers saw that bank robbers are using getaway cars, so they banned all cars to cut down on robberies.”

In protest, some websites have gone black, to show the world what it would be like without them in it. has a selection of screenshots of black pages.

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Cocktails and community in news

There’s a quasi-time-honoured tradition of cocktails and banter that have led to news leads.

But a party I recently attended reminded me of the importance of involving the community in news. (By this I mean more than the lot of us getting hammered.)

Typically, party music is the job of the host. Indeed, for this party, the host spent the day on iTunes, downloading and cultivating the perfect playlist that would create the absolute ideal atmosphere for merriment.

She needn’t have bothered.

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Angry birds and life imitating app

My son went to a seven year old’s birthday party this weekend, so of course we found ourselves shopping for a gift only hours before the event.

When he saw the Angry Birds board game, he just about lost his mind.

“Oh yeah, that’s it! That’s it, that’s so cool!” he screamed. (Santa, take note)

I took a look at the box, which screamed (in English, Spanish and French, unlike the image to the left) that players ‘can play Angry Birds in real life.’

Because apparently, holding an iPad on the way to grandma’s house and playing the Angry Birds app is not “real life.” ??!!! Is an app ‘faux life’?

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Journalism and the ubiquity of mobile

When I sent my reporting class out to do an observational reporting exercise (basically ‘go be a fly on the wall’) this week, only about 20 per cent of them left with their note books.

Interesting, I thought. I wondered how they would do with this assignment.

They were told to go out and watch a scene, and come back with 10 details to share with the group.

How to remember intricate details of a scene without a notebook? I didn’t know how they would do it.

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The iPad on the wall doesn’t work

I’ll admit when I walked into the room and found our two year old standing on a TV unit,  touching and dragging his fingers across the flatscreen, I wasn’t immediately struck by his digital aptitude.

I shrieked, and shoo’ed him away and told him we don’t touch the TV.

He was was confused, and said only “I want iPad.” (In that pouty pathetic way that only really little kids can do.)

To him, that flatscreen on the wall was a giant iPad. He can find Diego with a simple touch and drag… so where was it on the TV?

Rob Woodbridge was talking about his five-year-old boys today during a presentation at work, and mentioned that they’d rather play on the iPad than watch TV.

My boys, like Rob’s are an ‘on demand’ generation. They want to watch Diego when they want to watch it, and they’re not waiting for TV to play the right show.

Continue reading The iPad on the wall doesn’t work