Category Archives: New Media

The Truth. I need it.

It pains me, but  I have taken a serious hiatus from blogging. Why? It’s hard to say. My day job has drained me. The fate of journalism scares me. And it feels impossible, without giving up absolutely everything, including a personal life, to seek original content in my spare time, not just spin what’s already been spun. I think you all, the people who visit my blog, deserve some original stories. Not more spin.

Since MTV ended, I have had a ton of offers to write/produce for free. I get it. I’m young in my career. I should be willing to work for free or little cost. But seriously? It degrades what I’m trying to do: prove that real journalism, real information, can’t be found solely at the keypad on my computer.Sure, I can build sources, I can research, read other perspectives. But I can’t go out there, attend a hearing, get reactions at a rally…get a soundbite that actually informs the direction of a national dialogue or changes the perspective of a student, a voter, a President.

While working full time for free, hustling for stories and uploading all the time to iReport, HuffingtonPost and TrueSlant  sounds great, I am a pragmatist. And I’m not about to jump ship, leave my day job, without knowing who is steering us to a better place. To a journalism that doesn’t deny the possibility the Internet brings. To a journalism that admits many jobs will be lost but many more created.  To a journalism that wants to embrace web 2.0 to inform the public to make better decisions. Why, with all that is at stake, are we not there yet?

One of the first times I interviewed Helen Thomas, I told her I considered her the first “blogger” in the White House. I don’t think she was expecting the words that had come out of my mouth. As background, this was back in 2007, when BPhoto Credit: Jason Novakush was still in control, and the word “blog” was a sure shot to get my mouth washed out with soap in the wrong company. But Helen listened, and then she asked, “what do you mean?”

I went on.

“In a way, you are. You aren’t trying to kid anyone. You are going for the facts, but you are also going for reactions – and you are putting yourself in the question. Your peers are totally shocked. They don’t know what to do with it,” and thought to myself, “except ignore you.”

A while later, I was at a happy hour with a bunch of people who worked at ABC, NBC, CNN, etc. A senior White House producer from one of these major networks asked me about Helen. I answered by asking her why people in the Press Corp didn’t follow up on Helen’s questions, the ones that were so OBVIOUS, like, Mr. President, are you certain Iraq has WMD? Why do intelligence reports contradict? Do we torture? You know, the basics.

The Producer’s answer? “She makes us all uncomfortable.”

Uncomfortable? What a waste of a press pass. Someone who seeks the truth makes the Press Corp “uncomfortable.”

Why does this matter?

As important as the niche, bulldog blogs have become inside the Beltway, mainstream press is still mainstream press. People from Indiana to Idaho are still busy, focused on raising families or farms, paying bills or the doctor. They don’t have time to do their homework. So they turn to comfortable brands, like network and cable news. The same places that proved in the run up the Iraq war, that they were comfortable reporting what they were told, and uncomfortable looking for more.Note from Helen Thomas, to Erica Anderson

But we all know what asking tough questions in recent years has brought Helen. Animosity from her peers. A cold shoulder from a President. A status as a “has been.” Between you and me, she does care that people attack her work. But she also tells me this, “You don’t go into this business to be popular.”

Perhaps that is what we are all afraid of. Not being liked. Or even better, not being rich. Honestly? I’m past it. This democracy is in need of truth. It is in need of a financially vibrant system of press. One that can be trusted, competitive, and open for debate. And above all else, run by people who get the fact that the Internet and technology will make journalism better off. More informed. More conscious. More like Helen.

Iran’s Election Disputed, American Activism Crashes Ahmadinejad’s Web site

If you haven’t been paying attention – here is the skinny. Over the weekend, Iran held presidential elections. The incumbent, supreme leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pulled out a landslide victory. Or so it looked. Massive amounts of people organized in a visceral reaction to Ahmadinejad’s second-term victory, claiming his contender, Mir Hossein Mousavi, had been cheated. Mousavi almost immediately demanded the election results be annulled.

One U.S. blogger, Andrew Sullivan, described President Ahmadinejad’s leadership and said he is dedicated to “conflict abroad,” manipulative of “rural, religious voters,” and engaged in other abuses of “the state.” Even perhaps more illuminating, Sullivan asked whether Iranian voters can “trust the process” when they have a President who “pulls tricks” like Karl Rove.

Back in Iran, tens of thousands of Iranians took the streets in opposition to Ahmadinejad victory. Citizen journalism video reports and the use of micro blogs and hash tags(#iran #iranelections) broadcasted a raw and emotional look at what Iranian organizers, press and activists were going through in the capital of Tehran.

One YouTube user, theamirzare, who apparently just signed up on the video sharing network to post this video, sent a simple message:  “Ahmadinejad is NOT my President.” In just two days, the video has over 23,000 views.

Back in the U.S., activist bloggers chased the story with original content created by on-the-ground reporters from the New York Times, CNN and others. Tracy Viselli, a blogger at Care2, pulled together a well-organized summary of key highlights as well as a few videos from the ground. Below I posted my favorite, which is from CNN’s Chief International Correspondent, Christiane Amanpour. Her cameras caught one woman shouting, “People in Tehran hate Ahmadinejad! People in Tehran hate Ahmadinejad!””

Finally, on Sunday night, as hundreds, if not thousands of U.S. bloggers watched the chaos unfold, some decided to start a little chaos of their own. TechPresident broke the news that a group of cyber strategists had temporarily shut down Iran’s state-run media web site, The effort was lead by D.C. political consultant and new media authority, Josh Koster, who leveraged free web app called Page Reboot, to bring the site down. The customized anti-IRIB link was passed around through Twitter and list servs until finally, at 9:24 PM EST, @joshkoster proclaimed, “(PLS RT!): We just brought down Iran’s media site. 2 More: #iranelection (PLS RT!)

Oh, democracy. Aren’t you fun.

The Need for Watchdogs in Washington

The need for Watchdogs in Washington is more important than ever.

I recently had a conversation with a progressive news organization. They intrigued me by explaining how they are expanding their political coverage online. But employees, for the time, are to be based in New York City. Don’t get me wrong, I am currently wearing a tee with those exact letters strewn across it. But leave Washington at this moment in history? It would feel so wrong.

dc_wards_smallIt is a natural concern for all of us, as newspapers collapse and resources constrict, that American journalism is about to suffer. In an article in The New Republic called “Goodbye to the Age of Newspapers (Hello to an Era or Corruption),” Paul Starr wrote:  

“One danger of reduced news coverage is to the integrity of government…” He went on, “…corruption is more likely to flourish when those in power have less reason to fear exposure.”

Does anyone else think it is ironic, and completely illogical – that at a moment when the news media is finding it financially impossible to do their job, the government has more power and influence than ever before? Continue reading

100 Days in Several Ways

I feel guilty for not spending much time on my own blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading yours and yours and yours.

In any case, I am always reading what other blogs put together – so I have for you all my top posts around Obama’s First 100 Days.

Blogging in Iran? Watch Your Back.

ThinkProgress reports:

Al Jazeera’s Nazanin Sadri reports that Iran is considering a new law that would allow the death penalty for “offensive” bloggers:

Under a strict interpretation of Islamic law, Individuals can be sentenced to death for two main categories of crime. The first is murder. The second is known as ‘fasad,’ which means spreading mischief or undermining the authority or stability of the state. What that constitutes is open to interpretation. In the past it has been applied to rape, adultery, drug-related offenses, and homosexual behavior. Iran now wants to introduce the death penalty for bloggers who write about and promote illegal activities.

The Citizen Journalist’s Legal Guide to the Inauguration

There is no doubt the four-days of events for this Presidential Inauguration will be a shit sandwich. Well, let me rephrase. Pack light and don’t drink liquids. With 2 million people (plus locals) – do you really expect a place to pee?

All kidding aside, this post is for you, for us: citizen journalists. Come hell or high water we are determined to bring gear and capture the moments. Watching Obama on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial – pinched between hundreds of thousands of people en masse before him. We will witness a political awakening in our neighborhood, on our steps, in our country. And the world will be watching.

Thanks to the Citizen Media Law Project and the ruthless research of the one Harvard Law Student, we have the Guide to Documenting the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. This legal primer has been put together with information from (1) the Secret Service, (2) DC Metro Police, (3) U.S. Capitol Police and (4) National Parks Service.

Here are some highlights from the report:

You should have no problem if you bring small, handheld equipment and carry it in a small bag (but not a backpack). 

Tripods, backpacks and large bags (exceeding 8″x6″x4″), including camera bags, are not permitted.  A non-exhaustive list of additional prohibited items is available at the website of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies and the Secret Service Presidential Inaugural webpage.

Now, where does it say anything about a flask? Get the full report here!

Happy documenting!





NPR To Inaugural Bloggers: Max Out the Towers!

Yesterday one of my friends sent me a link from Google Reader. The story: “Help NPR Plan Our Social Media Activities for the Inauguration.” Read on to find out how you can help – or just be part of a colosso, Y2-Obama-K, power failure that will trash DC’s cell phone towers on Inauguration weekend.

Now, NPR – and Andy Carvin, Senior Product Manager in the Digital Media department, are on to something different. To add on to what they did for the Election (VoteReport), they have two techies building iPhone Applications for the Inauguration — so that people can post audio, text (and maybe even video?) online. I will definitley take part and text updates from @ericaamerica to NPR. If you are a DC Local, use the tag #inaug09. If you are coming from somewhere else, use the tag #dctrip09.

With all the early reports of cell phone towers being stretched with an estimated 2 million out-of-town visitors, it is safe to assume this project, though smart and ambitious, will have problems. But how do you cover such an event through social media — when technology and towers will be so seriously challenged?

If the towers fail us all – which would be tragic considered how connected we are – watch out for me on my little red rider, biking back and forth to my media station in Dupont to upload, tag and blog. Then, I’ll be back again on the streets. It’ll be like a little post-Street Team reporting marathon. 🙂

**If you are an iPhone App guru, or have any other ideas for NPR’s social media coverage, contact Andy via Twitter. (@acarvin)

Social Media Making Policy

I was at lunch today with an old Washingtonian. She is someone who had a big impact on politics in the ’80s and well into the ’90s, as a female pioneer and a staffer in the Senate. I have no doubt from her stories that she totally kicked ass…which I totally, completely respect.

But today, I mentioned a way the new generation was kicking ass. And her look was of total disgust — which I took as a complete compliment.

In the days after the election, new media leaders like Jim Gilliam of Brave New Films, have created Web portals for voters to continue their civic engagement. Sites like Change.Org and WhiteHouse2.Org are modern social voting tools – that allow interested users to rank the policy issues that matter most. With that, some raise to the top, others fall, and eventually will disclose a microcosm of what voters want.

These two sites act almost like social bookmarking sites such as DIGG and Technorati. While it may sound crazy… there are some real players creating and partnering in these initiatives.  Will social networking change the world? Who knows. But as Howard Dean said,

“The Internet is the most important tool for redemocratizing the world since Gutenberg invented the printing press.”

Who knows how far this will go – for good and for bad. We will have to wait and see how far the Millennials, with the help of Obama and his leadership, take it. But from my perspective, the future couldn’t look brighter.