Monthly Archives: March 2011

Using computers for better journalism

First posted at, the website of the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The Hong Kong University Journalism and Media Center sponsored a talk by Rutgers University media researcher, Nick Diakopoulos late last month.

The topic: Innovation and Computing in Journalism.

“As information comes at us faster and faster, we have more and more data to deal with,” Diakopoulos said. “Social media is pumping out terabytes of this every day. We need computers to help us deal with that scale.”

Diakopoulos defined computational journalism as “using computing to facilitate, enable and reinvigorate the practices and processes of journalism, including collecting, organising, making sense of, communicating and disseminating news information, while upholding the values of journalism such as fairness and accuracy.”

As part of the presentation Diakopoulos presented two programs to help wade through all that data.

  • Videolyzer” is a fact checking application designed for online videos.
  • Vox Event Analytics,” that asks, “What would a journalist ask from social media, what could be interesting?”

JMSC Media Talk: Innovation and Computing in Journalism from JMSC HKU on Vimeo.


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Filed under International News Coverage, Story Ideas

Threats to Mexican media workers now include comic sidekicks

Thanks to Deborah Bonello and her Mexico Reporter  service for pointing this out.

Monterrey TV personality is abducted, slain

Two others kidnapped with ‘La Gata’ are killed; motive said to be unclear.

MEXICO CITY — Gunmen abducted and killed a comic sidekick on a popular Monterrey television show shortly after Mexican President Felipe Calderón warned a gathering of the industrial city’s business executives that a criminal cancer had been allowed to flourish there.

Read rest of story.

The war against Mexican media workers — comics to journalists — is intensifying.


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Filed under Corruption, Killings

Journalists shot, intimidated in Honduras

The Committee to Protect Journalists reports on the latest attack on journalists in Honduras.

Honduran community radio director shot; staff threatened

Franklin Meléndez, 35, who directs the Voz de Zacate Grande community radio station in southern Valle province, was shot on March 13 at a local bar, according to CPJ interviews and local press reports. Meléndez told CPJ that he was approached by two men angered by the station’s critical coverage of local land disputes as he and two colleagues were playing billiards. According to Meléndez, one of the men threatened him and as he was retreating, the second man shot him in the left thigh. A second shot was fired but missed him.

The two assailants, who Meléndez recognized as relatives of a prominent landowner in the region, followed him before the radio director was able to flee on bicycle, he told CPJ. He was later driven to a hospital in nearby Choluteca, where he underwent surgery to remove the bullet.

Rest of report.

The CPJ reports that nine journalists have been killed in Honduras since March 2010. At least three of the killings are tied directly to their work.

The Committee published a special report in July that showed a pattern of negligence on the part of authorities in investigating the killings.

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Filed under Central America, Harassment

Ethics in journalism: Belize women have an issue with a publication

Many thanks to Holly Edgell for pointing this out.

Seems The Guardian, the newspaper aligned with the ruling party, in Belize published a less-than-flattering picture of the head of the opposition party’s women’s group. The picture was of Gina Tillett leaning on a wall while sitting on the floor with what appears to be a bottle of rum in her hand.

For a number of women and women’s group the issue was political. (Women protest political tabloid’s publication of private photo) But it is also a lesson on what NOT to put on your Facebook page and a lesson in journalism ethics.

The editor of the Guardian says the picture was fair game because it was on Tillett’s Facebook page for all to see.

Fair enough. And there is the lesson in picture posting. (Something a lot of job applicants are finding out as well.)

As for the ethics of the posting, I think most fair-minded people would agree it was out-of-bounds.

The picture was clearly published only for its shock value. The accompanying text just identified her and her position. There was no explanation of where the picture came from or why the paper thought it important enough to publish.

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Filed under Central America

Spoofed certificates traced back to Iran

While not strictly a “journalism” issue this is easily a freedom of speech and expression issue.

Wired Magazine reports that a hacker — traced back to Iran — obtained legitimate web certificates for some of the top sites on the Internet. What that means is the hacker could set up fake pages for Google and Yahoo. A visitor’s browser would have accepted the certificate, giving the hacker access to the visitor’s information.

Hack Obtains 9 Bogus Certificates for Prominent Websites; Traced to Iran

The government of Iran, like any other dictatorship, is mindful of how the Internet can be used to subvert it. That is why Iran has poured a lot of money and effort into controlling the Internet within its borders and using the Internet to track down Iranian dissidents outside the country.

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Filed under Censorship, Middle East, Press Freedom

Miami NBC gets the local-global thing right

Congrats to NBC Miami. They see a world beyond their local beat.

The station ran a story today about how Brazil is now the No. 1 trading partner with Florida. (Brazilian Businesses Booming in South Florida) (And that doesn’t count all the Brazilian tourists that are flooding into Florida creating jobs in Florida.)

Here is another example of how a local news organization uses local information to build on an international story.

FYI: According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, while Brazil is the #1 international trader with Florida, Florida is the #2 exporter of U.S. goods and services to Brazil. (Texas is the #1 exporter.)

It is a pity that so few local news organizations have taken the time to use the occasion of Pres. Obama’s trip to South and Central America to look at how the politics and economies of that area directly affects their own local areas.

BTW, Besides being the #2 exporter from the United States to Brazil (value $7.2 billion), Florida is also the #2 U.S. exporter to Chile (value $2.8 billion) and ranks as #1 to El Salvador (value $2.4 billion). And it took me less than five minutes to get that information. Now think about how much those export sales add to the income of the state and how much the state budget would be hurt if those exports were cut or ended.


Filed under South America, Story Ideas, Trade

China serious about blocking free speech

The Olympics are over. The World Fair has closed. Therefore, no more reasons to allow for relaxing the rules on speech and press in China.

In recent weeks the Chinese government has taken off the velvet glove to reveal the iron fist of censorship.

  • First all mention of Egypt and Mubarak were blocked from microblogs and other web sites.
  • Then the term “Jasmine” caught the censors’ eyes.
  • Directives were sent out about what was and wasn’t allowed in the Chinese media.
  • And now the hordes of Chinese censors are hard at work making sure no one talks about protests or other things that could destabilize Chinese society.

The New York Times reported yesterday that censors are apparently listening in on more mobile phone conversations. (China Tightens Censorship of Electronic Communications). The censors use their authority to cut off the connections when “improper” terms are spoken or typed.

The results are predictable:

A Beijing entrepreneur, discussing restaurant choices with his fiancée over their cellphones last week, quoted Queen Gertrude’s response to Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” The second time he said the word “protest,” her phone cut off.

He spoke English, but another caller, repeating the same phrase on Monday in Chinese over a different phone, was also cut off in midsentence.

Then there is the episode feminist, sociologist and sexologist Li Yinhe had with the nanny state.

Yesterday, I found myself suddenly unable to send emails, but had no problem receiving emails. After looking through my email settings multiple times, I could find absolutely nothing wrong and as a last resort, I decided to call up the customer service. On the other end of the call was a polite male voice, who requested that I give him the error number, which I did. The troubleshooting took no time. He asked, “Can you see if your email has the following three English letters — ‘s’, ‘e’ and ‘x’?” I was flabbergasted beyond words. This was a business email discussing the publishing of the works of renowned German sexologist Erwin J. Haeberle in China — of course there was the word “sex” in it. Be that as it may, we finally spotted the reason, and I was able to send the email as soon as the word “sex” was deleted from the email.

And let us not forget that the battle between Google and the Chinese government is still going on. The most recent example came this week in an attack against Gmail users. (Google Says China Is Hindering Gmail)

Google says that Gmail users in China have been reporting difficulties using Gmail and that it has checked its systems and found no problems. “There is no technical issue on our side; we have checked extensively,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail.”

And so the battle continues.

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Filed under Censorship, China