My Storify experience so far

I’m experimenting with Storify for the first time, and I have to admit it’s a bit more confusing than I thought it would be. If you don’t know what Storify is, it’s an online curation tool, or website, that allows you to organize information from Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr and the what not as stories or glimpses in time. You can see an example of it in my post titled, Verify, Verify!!!

My assignment is to create a “Storify” story for Janet’s book. A little background: my professor, Janet Kolodzy, is writing a new textbook on social media and convergence. It’s supposed to be a “how to” manuel of sorts. I’ve been helping her when I can. Here’s a very good example of what Storify can do: http://bit.ly/swXnhe.

For my assignment, I’ve chosen the Syrian protest in Cairo as the topic for my story. My plan is to find tweets that demonstrate how the protest played. In essence, I want a beginning, a middle and an end.

I’m coming across so many tweets, retweets and pictures. But the one question that sits at the front of my mind is: how can I trust any of this?

Sure, I can use the tweets from Al Jazeera or CNN, but wouldn’t it be cool to find the original tweets from people who were on the ground when the protest occurred? Is that even possible? And if so, how do I verify their credibility from my tiny room in Brookline? I know Storify is supposed to help me organize everything, but I kind of feel like I’m searching for a needle in a haystack (cliche, I know).

So to try to navigate my way through twitter-verse and facebook-verse and whatever-verse that exists within this Storify-sphere, I’m reading everything about Storify that I can find. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

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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.

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.

Gawker responses to family, removes gruesome photo

(Note: This blog was originally published on 11/10/2010 as a part of a class project for Emerson College’s New and Society class.)

On Friday, Oct. 29, Joe Jusko made the following plea on a deviantart.com message board:

“My 21-year-old nephew and godson Christopher Jusko, my brother’s only child, was murdered in New York City on Monday morning….. His throat was cut and he was then stabbed in the back, stumbled down two flights of stairs and died on the sidewalk. Someone with absolutely no conscience snapped a cell phone pic of his body before the police arrived and sent it to GAWKER.com who published it…..We are now hoping an email campaign that inundates them with enough negative feedback will result in the removal of the photo.”

Write the editor, Joe Jusko urged.

“It would mean the world to my entire family.”

Two weeks later, the blogosphere still is reeling from the graphic photo of Jusko’s corpse lying on the sidewalk as blood, draining from wounds in his neck and back, pools nearby.

Gawker editors eventually caved to the family’s request and rightfully so. Still, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan wrote, in an e-mail to Washington D.C.-based TBD.com, that the photo was posted as a warning about violence and is newsworthy.

Nolan is quoted as telling TBD.com that blood and gore do not make a photo unworthy of being published.

Hmm…Interesting. I can’t help but think that Gawker’s decision to publish the photo was anything but an attempt to get people to click on its Web site. It worked. People did click. They always do.

Those who side with Gawker argue that graphic photographs give readers and viewers an honest portrayal of life that they would otherwise not have. Readers get a better understanding of the world they live in. The New York Daily News reported a 15 percent increase in the number of murders in the city, Jusko’s murder among them.

The bigger issue here is that Gawker crossed a line at the expense of its readers, Jusko and his family. The photo added nothing to the story of Jusko’s death. It didn’t help give us any details of the alleged love triangle behind the crime or helpe us understand a city experiencing an increase in crime.

We just see the end result — a body, bloody and motionless. A photo of a white sheet covering Jusko as cops walked nearby would have told us the same story.

Sensationalized photos should not be used just because they are sensational. If the photo does not add anything of value to the story then leave it out.

It is true. A graphic photo can tell the story better than a writer can with words. AP photographer Eddie Adams captured the last minutes of Viet Cong Operative Nguyen Van Lam, who was executed at the hands of a Vietnamese general. The photo won Adams a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 and showed Americans the brutality of war.

Another famous photo shows a 9-year-old Kim Phuc running naked down a street after American planes dropped napalm during the Vietnam War.

These photos didn’t just tell Americans about war. They took Americans to the faces living in war zone.

Good photos, unlike the one published to Gawker’s Web site, add a level of depth and understanding.

War was a distance concept until photojournalists brought us images from the combat zone. It happened in faraway lands and never touched the lives of Americas until a loved one was shipped home in a coffin.

The photos added value.