Archive for the ‘Assignments’ Category

Friends of the White Geese, online approaches to raise awareness

Bob La Trémouille and Marilyn Wellons joined forces in 2001 to create Friends of the White Geese, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting the Charles River geese and their habitat from future government destruction.

Their first attempt to raise awareness consisted of newsletters and flyers around the city of Cambridge that voiced out the government’s plans for a futuristic city that didn’t include the geese.

Today, the organization is trying to embrace modern approaches to raise awareness. Online tools have replaced the newsletters that once educated people on the issue. Through their website, Friends of the White Geese, and a Facebook group, Charles River White Geese, these co-workers are still going strong.

Friends of the White Geese has a website containing updated pictures, useful links to outside sources, historical facts about the geese and a blog, which is updated regularly by La Trémouille and Wellons.

“We have posted a lot of reports showing the damage,” La Trémouille said.

La Trémouille said the blog, containing more than 400 posts, replaced their former newsletter, which reached about 1,300 members.

In addition to the website, they have a newly created Facebook group called Charles River White Geese.

Its creator, Nick Cheung, a Maine native, created the group after becoming interested in the Friends of the White Geese cause.

He contacted La Trémouille, who agreed to the creation of the group in attempts to spread their mission.

“I haven’t visited the geese personally, but check in on their blog,” Cheung said. He handed administrative rights to La Trémouille, who became a group administrator.

The group has 72 members and has a wide variety of pictures people can enjoy. Additionally, there are numerous links with information on the geese, as well as updated wall posts, mostly written by La Trémouille himself.

“The Facebook page has complemented the blog to a certain extent. It’s possible to put up a lot more photos,” La Trémouille said.

John Tyson, a Cambridgeport resident and Facebook group member, has been active in Friends of the White Geese since La Trémouille and Wellons started to raise awareness.

Tyson, who says the Facebook group has been active for one or two years, has been following the group’s progress through the regularly, updated information.

“They’re certainly getting the message out,” said Tyson, who educates himself on petitions and new information through the Facebook page and the blog.

“I make some contributions; I’ve signed some petitions sometimes and I try to vote for candidates who are supporting the geese’s cause,” Tyson said. “I think it’s an important, immediate neighborhood thing we can do.”

But, the neighborhood is under construction these days. On the Boston University Bridge, which overlooks Magazine Beach and connects Boston with Cambridge, massive construction is taking place where peaceful, beautiful scenery was once enjoyed by the Charles River geese that have lived in the area for over 25 years, grazing at Magazine Beach and nesting in a nearby meadow.

A cardboard sign at the goose meadow. Click here for more pictures!

Officials introduced the geese in the 1980s to guard the area between the beach’s playing fields and the bridge. The geese have survived for generations, but for many years now, their habitat has been repeatedly destroyed by local agencies working on behalf of “environmentalism” and “animal-friendly” approaches.

State projects around Magazine Beach have ultimately confined the geese to one area: what was once their nesting area during the spring. They can no longer graze on the beach and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, DCR, and the Cambridge City Council have destroyed their habitat year after year.

“Everybody I spoke to was unanimous in the agreement that they wouldn’t be so irresponsible,” said La Trémouille, Friends of the White Geese co-chair .

The DCR denied any intent to hurt the geese, but their actions proved to be inaccurate.  They destroyed vegetation needed by migrating waterfowl and starved the geese in 2004 by introducing a vegetation blocking at the foot of the beach, avoiding geese from coming ashore to feed on the grass.

Moreover, their nesting area was fenced until 1999, when the DCR opened it for human access. La Trémouille said, “they created concrete stairs opening up to human beings what had previously been for nature.”

Nowadays, those rusty, old concrete stairs lead to the goose meadow, a small place where the geese are currently confined and where Wellons, co-chair of the organization, feeds them corn and apples.

“The geese are still being harassed and their lives are being made very difficult, but the fact that they are still on the river and people still enjoy them and visit them is an incredible achievement given the odds when we started,” Wellons concluded.

Kathryn Podgers, who works alongside Friends of the White Geese, would like more people to become involved in protecting the wildlife habitat.

She has also sought the help of online tools to raise awareness. Her blog, Captain’s Island, is not updated very regularly, but has information on environmental issues around the city.

“I started a blog for the purpose of highlighting and informing folks of what the challenge is of preserving and protecting wildlife habitat in the city is,” Podgers said.

Other environmental organizations in the area are also trying to take advantage of online tools because information reaches more people in a faster and more effective way.

Alexandra Smith, operations manager at “e”-inc, a Boston- based science learning & action center whose pairing of science education with community action leads to environmental change in urban communities, said their organization is attempting to raise awareness through online tools, such as their website, Facebook and Twitter.

“We just actually got a Twitter page a few months ago. I’ve been trying to update all our constituents of everything that’s going on with the organization and it seems to be helping,” said Smith, who admits the organization has not taken full advantage of the effectiveness of social media

Smith also said that other environmental organizations have been following them on Twitter, something that can certainly be helpful. Their Facebook group has photo albums, links to outside sources and events. Smith said they mostly use it to promote upcoming activities.

For now, Friends of the White Geese continues to expand through social media tools. Every day, more people join the Facebook group in hopes of creating conscience about environmental issues that seem to be unnoticed.

The organization that once raised awareness by handing out flyers is spicing it up. Hopefully, an online spin will help them make more noise than ever before.

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Pinyadda

Every day, more people are trying to approach the fast-changing media environment through different tools, tools that consumers will find helpful. In times when people rarely sit down to read a newspaper, the Internet has proven to be a successful forum for a quick overview of the day’s news. Either they read it on their mobile devices–smart phones, Ipads, Kindles– or quickly visit the newspaper’s online website.

Pinyadda is one more approach. It tries to combine every popular forum out there, including Facebook and Twitter, but with a fun spin.  It allows people to create a profile and follow their interests.  After test-trying it, I feel a bit uneasy about Pinyadda. First of all, it’s not easy to find in a normal Google search. I had to click the link on Dan Kennedy’s assignment post to get to the home page. Secondly, it’s quite hard to get around the site, mainly because hitting the “back” button never takes you back to the previous page. Not that these quirks are a main issue, but they do distract the reader, who just wants an easy way to get through his or her interests.

The idea of having “killer badges” and “yadda points” just makes this whole website a bit childish for my taste. The more stories I pin and the more I participate in Pinyadda, the more badges and points I will get. This just reminds me of a game I used to play in the sixth grade, where I had to unlock keys to reach a new level. On the other hand,  I think the Newsstand is very original. Its categories are well distributed and offer the viewer numerous options to chose from. You can also do a quick find to find a person, site or topic. I have to admit that most of the things I’m interested in are offered in the Newsstand.

The following aspect of Pinyadda reminds me of Twitter, which I never, ever use. I like following certain topics and organizations, but I hate the fact that random people can follow you, when you don’t even know them. The topics you follow appear on the left side of your profile and you can arrange these in folders, which I’m a fan of,  or simply organize them however you like. It’s easy to accommodate them by dragging them.

One of the things I do like is the idea of pinning stories. It’s very easy to use and immediately appear in your home page. Also, when I’m following a magazine, for example, I can click on it and choose which section I want news from, which is very helpful when you’re into fashion, but not exercising.

Notifications, the Facebook aspect of it, works. I think it’s the simplest way of showing you how many people are following you, who pinned you in a story, etc. On the right side of my profile, I can see my followers, the ones I’m following and  how many sites and topics I’m following. I like this because it’s kind of a summary of your participation in Pinyadda.

With everything I’ve learned from Pinyadda, I’d have to say that I think no one would really use this to find breaking stories online. I think it works perfectly for our class, for example, because we have blogs and like to follow certain beats. Pinyadda is perfect for it! As we’ve said in class, it can replace Google Reader and it’s 100,000 alerts per day. You just login to your Pinyadda account, click on environmentalism, and have a quick overview of what’s happening on the web related to your topic.

I think Pinyadda has a long way to go and it can definitely be successful, but not for hard news. I don’t think people will say: “Go on Pinyadda and read about the huge fire in Boston!”  I think people can use it as an alternative to finding everything they like without surfing the web for two hours. It’s nice for a person who reads three newspapers and five blogs, for example, because you can follow each one and have it right there at your convenience.

For now, my profile has a ROOKIE stamp, I have the Paperboy Badge, which is my first pin, and have 33 Yadda Points. I guess the game is only beginning. Take a look for yourself by clicking here.

My new source of international news, GlobalPost

No one would ever think that GlobalPost, a leading online-only international news website, would be operating from Boston’s North End neighborhood. Last Wednesday, in a brick building that mostly looks like another housing complex, our Reinventing the News class gathered around a conference room to meet Charles M. Sennott, executive editor and vice president of GlobalPost. Before rushing out to have a beer with a few of the website’s foreign correspondents, he gave a brief explanation of where they’re standing and how GlobalPost is moving forward.

Most newspapers focus on the local scene, thus putting aside foreign reporting. This “collapse” of international news, as Sennott said, is what sparked the idea of GlobalPost. Competing with websites like ProPublica and Politico, its website was launched in January 2009 and as of today, has had 22 million visits. Sennott said they’ve published 7,000 stories and have had an outstanding record of accuracy. GlobalPost has won many awards including one for its reporting on global economic crisis. Currently, GlobalPost has 70 foreign correspondents in 50 countries, in addition to 15 full-time staff members operating from the North End headquarters.

Sennott’s mission: “Less stories, but better stories.” “We want to cover stories in a way we can compete with CNN, not in resources, but in writing,” Sennott said. And this is exactly what the site has been doing. His idea is that GlobalPost can combine the old, traditional journalism with the endless possibilities of multimedia and social platforms like Twitter and Facebook. He wants stories that engage readers and affect change. For example, he said any story could go global in two days with the feedback of many foreign correspondents, the team they have assembled.

“Life, death and the Taliban” has a historical timeline, videos, pictures, and stories, all of which helped create a ground-breaking story. Many correspondents worked together to bring together an exceptional investigative work. In the introduction, Sennott, who is the reporter, explains how they tried to tell the stories “from the ground” in order to convey their message.  The story is a good example of how stories work well when accompanied by multimedia. Videos and pictures are the highlight of “Life, death and the Taliban.” Videos work fairly well because they are short, something viewers appreciate, and they explain in detail what the story is about. I think it’s also important to address how “user-friendly” the package is. You can easily click on videos, stories or slideshows. There is a lot of content on this so people interested in reading through it, have to become familiarized with all GlobalPost has to offer.

GlobalPost’s Study Abroad feature is an attempt to involve the community in their website. This feature allows college students who are studying abroad to report on their experiences. Students stationed all over the world –Russia, Namibia, Uganda– produce content for this feature. They can include videos and pictures that enhance the story. I haven’t studied abroad yet, but I’m interested in doing so. I’d like to go to Spain, mainly because I speak Spanish and wouldn’t have any issues with communication, or Costa Rica. I love to work with children so I think I would like to write stories that relate to them, to their education and out-of-school activities. This can definitely work by using pictures and videos, but working with children is always difficult because you need the parents’ consent, so that would definitely be a challenge. I think I’d mostly focus on cultural stories, something that makes the country different. What does this country have to offer that others would be interested in?

Overall, GlobalPost is positively moving ahead. The amount of content they have is unbelievable, so I think anybody can find something to read, from opinion pieces to specific feature stories from various countries. The pop-up that comes up every few minutes asking readers to register is a bit dreadful, but nothing serious. Sennott made it clear that he wants readers to comment on stories and give feedback about the site. This will assist them in becoming everyone’s go-to international news website.

NewsTrust, I’m my own editor

Yesterday was the first time I heard of NewsTrust, a nonprofit news service that “empowers citizens to access quality news and information– and learn to separate fact from fiction about important public issues.” NewsTrust has an interesting system where anyone can join the site and somewhat become his or her own editor, depending on your activities in the site. The more stories you review, the higher your rating and “respect” within the community. I think it offers visitors good, easy tools for reviewing and commenting on certain stories , but when reviewing a story, some items seem a little vague. Sometimes you’d like to say yes and no to something at the same time, but the system will not permit it. You review according to their own guidelines and have space to add additional comments.

The review form options are quite nice, but the “full review,” which is what I’ve been using needs more detailed information. I understand everyone would like something different, so they have to stick to an overall system, but a full review, I’d say, needs more detailed reviewing techniques. I like how you can see what each story’s review rating is and it’s pretty easy to share stories via Facebook or Twitter. As we said in class yesterday, for young adults highly engaged in the social media world, it’s important that the story is short and to the point, something you can post on Facebook or Twitter and have people follow it.

Having a profile is very helpful. In it, you can see the stories you’ve reviewed, as well as the stories you’ve posted on the website. Before posting stories, I had to validate my account by reviewing two stories and sending a “confirmation” e-mail. Within minutes, I received an e-mail validating my account and allowing me to begin posting stories, thus it was efficient. I thought it would take at least a day.

I think NewsTrust has a good rundown of stories. For example, it clearly states the top stories, the most read, most rated, etc. This is valuable for a reader who just wants a quick overview of what’s up with the news. Categories on top are helpful, but I would like to see an Arts category up there. If they have science, why not arts? I think this could certainly expand in the future.

GlobalPost has become my recent obsession so two of the stories I reviewed are from that website. They focus on Latin American issues. The third one is from the Christian Science Monitor and it interested me because it has to do with environmentalism, my blog’s beat.

Here are the links to all three reviews:

Torn between identities in Argentina– GlobalPost

In Costa Rica, it pays to go to school– GlobalPost

Your mail on an electric delivery cart: Postal Services goes green– Christian Science Monitor


 

 

 

 

 

Use your name…or not

Handling comments is one of those issues newspapers are trying their best to address. While some websites monitor comments, others don’t. Similarly, anonymous comments provide an unsteady platform where readers don’t have to take responsibility for their comments. As Rem Rieder from the American Journalism Review says in his article:

Comments sections are often packed with profanity and vicious personal attacks. The opportunity to launch brutal assaults from the safety of a computer without attaching a name does wonders for the bravery levels of the angry.

Launching personal attacks is pretty simple when there’s no name attached to it. Leonard Pitts Jr. from the Miami Herald said:

For every person who offers some trenchant observation on the point at hand, there are a dozen who are so far off point they couldn’t find their way back with a compass and road map. For every person who brings up some telling fact, there are a dozen whose “facts” are fantasies freshly made up to suit the exigencies of arguments they otherwise cannot win.

The New Haven Independent is one of the few websites that monitors comments and has a strict policy explaining to readers why the do what they do. They want readers to comments and be opinionated, but they have to do it in a respectful way. They say:

To keep it that way, we try our best to keep the debate civil, respectful, within the bounds of decency and of the law. Passionate, yes. Unpredictable. Raucous, even. And as diverse as New Haven itself. We have always censored comments that we felt exposed us to libel, or were just nasty, or outright racist or hurtful or profane. We make mistakes. We post some comments that should have been removed, and we apologize to the targets of those comments.

I think monitoring comments is successful, but I also think it is too time-consuming. So big newspapers like the Boston Globe can’t possibly monitor comments for every story they publish online. They would have to hire a complete staff whose only job consists of monitoring comments. For the New Haven Independent, it works, mainly because they are small and explicitly and honestly state their policy.

In contrast, I think the Sun Chronicle doesn’t handle comments well. Asking people to register a legitimate credit card doesn’t make people feel comfortable in times where the Internet has so many flaws regarding identity theft and money transfers ending up badly. The policy states the following:

The poster’s name as it appears on the credit card will automatically be attached to the poster’s comments, as will the name of the community in which they live. Registrants will also be required to acknowledge they understand that under existing state and federal laws they are legally responsible for any comments they post.

I think people should definitely register in order to comment on stories, mainly so they take responsibility for what they say, but having readers register a credit card won’t be successful. I think comments will decrease in all stories with this approach. Providing a forum for comments is completely necessary. After all, editors and the staff want to know what readers think and comments help improve a newspaper’s approach toward stories. If you look at the most commented stories in the Sun Chronicle, they contain six comments maximum, thus I think approaching the commenting section of newspapers is tricky.  My policy would only require readers to register with their real names, no credit card or other personal information required.

Crazy Dough’s Pizza, more gym time!

Crazy Dough's Pizza in Boylston Street.

Who doesn’t love pizza? Not me. I can have a full dinner of chicken and rice, but if the pizza’s there, I’ll eat it too! Today, one of those lazy Sundays, I went over to Crazy Dough’s Pizza on Boylston street for a non-healthy, late lunch. Located at 1124 Boylston Street in the heart of Boston, Crazy Dough’s Pizza is the perfect joint for students who want cheap pizza and beer.

I went over there around 2 p.m. and the place was empty. There was a couple sharing a $4.00 pitcher of beer, pizza and watching the Patriots on TV. I ordered a slice of plain pizza, which costs $2.55, and a slice of one of their signature gourmet pizzas. The pepperoni slice is $2.80.

One of Crazy Dough's gourmet pizzas

Their gourmet pizzas include the customer favorites, the Potato Bacon Cheddar (mozzarella, seasoned red bliss potato, smoked bacon, scallions and freshly shredded cheddar with ranch dressing on top)  and the Nutty Tuscan (plum tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, crumbled gorgonzola cheese and fresh stem basil & pesto) which was voted #1 pizza in America in 2004.

I asked if there was any particular day that had special discounts for students, similar to student discount days on some of Boston’s movie theaters, but the answer was no. The only way to get coupons is if you have the Boston/Cambridge Collegiate Coupon Book, which offers various discounts for students (you know, the buy one, get one free deal.) This pizza was cheap, so discounts are not essential. There is a veggie option, but nothing extravagant. There’s a vegetable pizza and that’s about it.

I ordered two slices, one of plain cheese pizza and one of the teriyaki chicken pizza. Needless to say, the teriyaki pizza was amazing. The server put both slices in the oven and told me to sit down. He was going to bring it over when it was ready, so the service was very good. He also said I could get free refills. For two slices of pizza and a regular Pepsi, I was charged $7.50, which is so cheap. I would’ve thought the gourmet pizza alone was about $5.00. Now I know why they get so many customers, especially students. They can have cheap beer and pizza. What else can they ask for?

As I said, there was one couple besides me, but pretty soon more people started to arrive and they were all students. Almost all of them ordered gourmet pizzas. Among them, buffalo chicken pizza and cheeseburger bacon pizza. There were two TVs with the football game on, so most of the guys just stared at that.

It was my first time at Crazy Dough’s Pizza and the experience was great. It’s close to home and cheap. I don’t know if that’s good or bad! Those two options can have harsh consequences for any student around here. Overall, no more BHOP for me. Crazy Dough’s Pizza it is.

Their phone number is 617.266.5656 and their website is www.crazydoughs.com. They operate Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Friday 11-2 a.m.; Saturday 12 p.m.-2 a.m.; and Sunday 12-10 p.m.

Click here to see more pictures.

A Google Map error

gizmodo.com

How Google Maps led to an accidental invasion.

I thought this story was so interesting, especially when we’ve been working with Google Maps recently. Apparently, a Nicaraguan commander ordered troops to invade a Costa Rican territory, take down the Costa Rican flag, and put the Nicaraguan one…all of this because of a google map error. There was a disparity among the borders!

Read it here.