Filtering through the noise

I finished my story and chose not to publish it here since it will be printed in Janet’s book. Storify is an incredible tool. It is absolutely amazing what I managed to find using Storify. I found tweets from citizen journalists, activists and others on the ground in Cairo during the protest.

All of these people were using Twitter to spread and receive information. They were tweeting directions to protests, pictures of what was happening on the ground, maps and pointing to others in different locations on the ground. I watched them strategize and assemble in real time. With Storify I was able to filter through all the noise and find them all. I’ll say it again, amazing.

Here’s one of the more memorable tweets that I came across:


Poynter used Storify to show how false reports of former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno’s death spread and were debunked. This is a great use of an important social media tool. It’s also a great way to teach a valuable lesson.

Let’s this be a reminder to all journalists and bloggers. Getting it first isn’t always getting it right.

See the full post below:

| Poynter.

How false reports of Joe Paterno’s death were spread and debunked | Poynter..

NECIR-BU investigation: Poisoned Places

New England regulators are taking months — and sometimes years — to sanction factories the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls HPVs or high priority violators of the Clean Air Act. These are facilities that repeatedly exceed air emission limits or violate state and federal environmental orders.

New England has nine of these facilities which are recorded on a closely guarded U.S. Environmental Protection watch list. And late last year, the list was made public for the first time following a joint Freedom of Information Act request from the Center for Public Integrity and NPR.

The following story is a result of that FOIA result.

Poisoned Places: Slow state action against New England polluters

Check out the entire Poisoned Places series on the Center for Public Integrity’s website:

Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities

or on NPR.

Presenting: “In The Moment”

I wanted to share a documentary my classmates, Shuyi Wang and Tamara Starr, and I made for our documentary filmmaking class at Emerson College. It’s called “In the Moment” and runs a little over 12 minutes long. It is about a young fashion design student named Marie. She is our protagonist and spends most of her days sewing at the School of Fashion Design on Newbury Street. Her story of self-discovery will surprise and delight you.

The cinematography and editing must be credited to Shuyi, a young independent filmmaker who is more amazing than she realizes. Tamara also was a great asset. She is enthusiastic and has many fresh ideas.

Anyway, check out the doc below.

NECIR: Mass unevenly applies mandatory life law for teen murderers

Massachusetts is one of the few states to sentence teens convicted of first-degree murder to prison for life without the possibility of parole, according to a recent New England Center for Investigative Reporting story.

The state has a mandatory life sentence law for juvenile murderers — a law most states like Texas consider so harsh that they refuse to hand it out or even keep it on their law books.

Massachusetts passed its law after Somerville teen Eddie O’Brien stabbed his best friend’s mother 97 times in 1995. The juvenile life law, which passed a year later, was meant to crack down on juvenile “super predators” like O’Brien.

NECIR-BU interns and staffers Sarah Favot, Kirsten Berg and Jenna Ebersole spent months reviewing juvenile justice cases across the state to find out how the law has been applied since it was enacted in 1996.

The results are definitely interesting. Read the full report on NECIR-BU’s site here.

You can also hear Maggie Mulvhill, co-director of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, discuss the story and the center’s findings on WBUR.

Congratulations to Maggie, Kirsten, Jenna and Sarah for the publication of their report.


I’ve reinvented myself.

I used to be in the newspaper business. Now, I’m in the news business. My method of disseminating the news is no longer confined to one medium. I can write. I can shoot. I can edit. I can produce long form. I can write short for the Web or for broadcast.

Am I the best at it all? Honestly, no. I can do some things better than others. But I know that if I had to do it all alone I could manage. I can produce a product that is ready for the masses.

It took two and a half years to get this far, and it’s been the hardest period of my entire life. I’ve cried. I’ve spazzed out and laughed uncontrollably and jumped with glee. I’ve pushed and been pushed to my limit. And along the way, I’ve met a lot of interesting people, did a lot of cool things and learned more lessons than I could ever imagine.

Now, I’m here, sitting at my kitchen table allowing the deem pilot light from the stove to cast me in a glow. My only thought right now is, what’s next? Where do I go from here? What can I add to journalism? How can I do something new?

Latest work: Sinking System: Tracking and Taxing Bay State Boat Owners

My colleagues at the New England Center for Investigative Journalism and I recently finished an investigation into Massachusetts’ excise tax system. The formula used to determine how much Mass. boaters pay in excise taxes means that a $60,000 boat would pay the same amount in excise tax as a $6 million boat as long as they were the same length and built in the same year.

We also discovered that the system, which a former state auditor referred to as “broken” and “ineffective,” results in the loss of millions in tax revenues from Commonwealth cities and towns.Simply finding boat owners is so difficult for some towns and cities so they have given up on collecting the statutorily required tax.

The final story appeared last Sunday in newspapers in Lowell, Attleboro, Cape Cod, and Worcester. The Dallas Morning News even linked to the story. The story ran last night on WCVB Channel 5 in Boston.

Read the full story here on NECIR’s website.

See WCVB Channel 5’s report here.

See the story in the following publications:
Lowell Sun
The Sun Chronicle
Cape Cod Times

Russia reopens beaten journalist’s case

(Note: This blog was originally published on 11/11/2010 as a part of a class project for Emerson College’s New and Society class.)

New York Times: Moscow Journalists Under Attack

The Moscow Times is reporting that an investigative committee has decided to reopen an investigation into the 2008 attack of journalist Mikhail Beketov.

Beketov, the former editor of the opposition newspaper The Khimkinskaya Pravda, was severely beaten outside of his home in Khimki for reporting on political corruption and the Khimki forest, his supporters say.

The beating resulted in Beketov’s leg being amputated. He suffered permanent brain damage, lost his ability to speak, lost three fingers and now uses a wheelchair. No one has been charged with his beating.

News agencies are reporting that the Russian government has yet to explain why it has reopened the two-year old case.

The announcement does come on the heels of the beating of another reporter, Oleg Kashin. Kashin’s beating, which occurred outside of his home, was caught on tape.

President Dmitry Medvedev recently came up fire from international press organizations to do more to secure the safety of journalists. Medvedev said Kashin’s attackers should be punished.

Kashin, who remains hospitalize, is no longer unconscious, but Beketov’s life seemed to get  a bit grimmer Wednesday.

A Russian court convicted him of defaming Khimki Mayor Vladimir Strelchenko.

The court ordered him to pay $160 (US) fine, but then said he didn’t have to pay it because of a technicality.

News outlets pay for exclusives

(Note: This blog was originally published on 10/23/2010 as a part of a class project for Emerson College’s New and Society class.)

Several media outlets reportedly dipped into their pocketbooks recently when some of the 33 miners rescued from a collapsed Chilean mine said they would talk to reporters for a fee.

News organizations should never pay anyone for interviews. It’s basic ethics, people.

You would think that our ethically-oriented media outlets would shake their heads at such a suggestion for checkbook journalism.

Well, you’ve guessed wrong.

Earlier this week, ABC News defended itself from accusations that it paid a miner for an exclusive interview.

ABC News acknowledged the interview in a recent New York Times article, but it claims nothing was paid for the interview.

According to the New York Times, the miners are asking for fees that range from $40 to as much as $25,000.

An ABC News spokeswoman told the Times it “licensed material” from the miner’s family.

Licensing photos and video, i.e paying, is a practice many news organizations have adopted in the race to be first in the 24-hour news cycle.

In March, accused killer Casey Anthony’s attorney revealed in a Florida courtroom that ABC News paid their client’s family $200,000 in licensing fees for videos and photos. The money was used to pay for Anthony’s legal defense, her attorneys said.

CNN reportedly paid to license a cell phone video of authorities hauling Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the alleged Christmas Day bomber, off a Chicago flight.

An interview with Jasper Schuringa, the video’s owner and a witness to the botched Christmas Day attack, came along with the video.

NBC went on the defensive last year when it was revealed that the network gave David Goldman and his son a free plane ride from Brazil to the United States after a highly-publicized international custody battle.

In a statement, the Society of Professional Journalists ethics committee chair Andy Schotz rebuked NBC: “The public could rightly assume that NBC News bought exclusive interviews and images, as well as the family’s loyalty, with an extravagant gift.”

Schotz and SPJ argued that NBC put its brand on the story when it paid for the flight and compromised its ability to report it fairly given its financial interest in how the story unfolded.

SPJ is right. The practice is misguided and stains journalism. Media outlets that engage in this behavior risk creating a market where information is not gathered, but acquired for the price.

In fact, it already exists.