Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Why Facebook needs a public editor

Mark Zuckerberg should hire a public editor for Facebook to benefit journalism's relationship with the platform. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

Mark Zuckerberg should hire a public editor for Facebook to benefit journalism’s relationship with the platform. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr)

It’s been a wild week for Facebook. The social network came under criticism this week for allegedly suppressing content that advocates Conservative policies when it comes to the content that appears on its Trending Topics list.

It also prompted a letter to the social network from John Thune, the Republican senator from South Dakota, with the senator saying if the bias were true, it was a violation of the values of an open internet.

The questions surrounding the allegations come as Facebook’s relationship with journalism continues to evolve. Facebook, according to a report from NPR, says it will be reviewing its practices and will be responding to the senator.

The social network has become one of the most quintessential platforms for dissemination of news, and a platform that news organizations have used to inform and engage audiences. Users flock to social media for news and information when they are on the go as well as to engage in conversations, which have become a signature of journalism in the 21st century.

The letter comes as documents from Facebook released to The Guardian newspaper in Britain shows guidelines similar to that of a traditional news organization, where editors are relied upon to exercise journalistic values in addition to the algorithms that sort the content for each user.

Yet as the questions continue, and as Facebook and other social platforms continue to be at the intersection of journalism for audiences, it perhaps could be time for Facebook to consider hiring public editors. They would, as Jeff Jarvis suggested in a post yesterday on Medium, not edit content, but be an advocate for the public. The idea also got an endorsement from Kelly McBride at the Poynter Institute, and it gets my endorsement too.

The rule however should not apply to just Facebook. Twitter, Google, Snapchat and others should also look into hiring public editors. These editors would be in a unique position to give insight on the core components of the interaction between users and these platforms, including the algorithms that shape these results.

Most importantly, these editors would help us better understand journalism’s relationship with these platforms, and how they can work better. It would be imperative for these public editors to be in place, and the quicker they are in place, the better the relationship will be for not just those who develop and curate this content, but for those who social networks, journalists and news organizations ultimately serve — the audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Can Google be more than just a reference site?

A sign for Google during its Developer Day in 2007. Researchers have created a search engine ranking sites on factual accuracy. (Image courtesy of meneame comunicacions, sl/Flickr under CC)

A sign for Google during its Developer Day in 2007. Researchers have created a search engine ranking sites on factual accuracy. (Image courtesy of meneame comunicacions, sl/Flickr under CC)

The search engine Google is synonymous with the search for information – the word itself signifies the search for the truth. Google is used by everyone in every profession, including this one. But could Google, at some stage, lead the way in becoming an encyclopedia of fact, in addition to the reference we all have come to know and love?

A paper by a research team working for the search engine has shed some light on that very question. Instead of ranking web sites by links, rank them by the quality of facts. The paper, published last month and reported on last week by the New Scientist magazine, includes details of a system that would count the number of incorrect facts on a page, instead of incoming links.

It hasn’t been announced by Google if something like this would actually become available for usage by the public, but should this be public, as Caitlin Dewey wrote in the Washington Post, the implications could be huge.

“A switch could, theoretically, put better and more reliable information in the path of the millions of people who use Google every day,” Dewey wrote. “And in that regard, it could have implications not only for SEO — but for civil society and media literacy.”

Should Google come out with such an engine, it will be significant for journalism, particularly in terms of verification between all of that user generated content. It may also change how we approach writing for the web, but while it remains to be seen, the next fact can soon be made available by uttering the phrase, I’ll Google that.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is chairman and blogger at large of SPJ Digital, and community coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also serves as Deputy Editor, Media Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Digital Journalism takes a big step forward

SPJ DigitalFrom typewriters to Twitter, technology has shaped and reshaped journalism. Only now, the technology is coming faster than we can master it.

In the span of a lifetime, hot type gave way to cold type, which in turn sank beneath a wave of websites and blogs and social media apps. Today, we have come to think that two-year-old tech is obsolete, and that new news can become old news before readers reach the last sentence.

Moreover, we’ve entered an age when, thanks to rapidly evolving technology, the practice of journalism is no longer restricted to journalists.

All of this is why the Society of Professional Journalists has tried to evolve as well — it’s casting a wider net for freelance news gatherers and non-affiliated journalists, and revising its Code of Ethics to meet the needs of the new age.

And it’s expanding the Digital Journalism committee into a digital journalism community.

The new community, SPJ Digital, began unofficially last week but already has a Twitter account (@SPJDigital) and a presence on Google+. It debuts officially in September at EIJ in Nashville under the shrewd guidance of student journalist and editor Alex Veeneman.

Incoming SPJ president Dana Neuts says SPJ Digital’s mission is to “examine and raise awareness of current trends in social media, as well as digital innovations and the digital culture and their affect on the culture, craft and practice of journalism.”

In committee form, Digital Journalism has been chiefly a conduit for information on digital culture. Members met at SPJ’s annual convocation to discuss potential topics for Net Worked, as well as the Digital Media Toolbox and occasional features in Quill, and report on hot tech and trends worthy of special consideration by SPJ leadership.

As a community, SPJ Digital will keep the discussion going year round, encourage input and participation from digitally savvy citizens both inside and outside journalism, and help everyone see the blur of onrushing technology a little more clearly.

The mission is to “serve all members interested in the digital future of the industry as well as the profession,” Neuts said.

A new landing site for SPJ Digital on is in the works. Neuts and Veeneman invite those who are interested in joining the community to stay tuned for updates and registration information at @SPJDigital, Google+, and right here at Net Worked.


David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.




Supreme Court paints a bull’s-eye on the ‘cloud’

U.S. Supreme CourtA high court ruling this week that sent a renegade over-the-air TV provider reeling could leave a scar that stretches into the digital ‘cloud.’

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court cinched shut a legal loophole that let upstart Aereo tap the prime-time broadcast signals of the major networks and stream them directly to customers, bypassing cable and satellite providers altogether and skirting the systems and agreements networks created to charge for their broadcasts. Those charges created a revenue stream worth about $4.3 billion in 2013.

A legal challenge arose almost the moment Aereo started two years ago intercepting the network signals relayed from the antennas atop the Empire State Building in New York City and sending those signals straight to subscribers’ computers or mobile devices. Aereo grew to serve 11 metro areas.

The networks said what Aereo was doing amounted to copyright infringement. Last year, a federal appeals court disagreed.

But the Supremes ruled 6-3 on Thursday that Aereo resembles a cable TV service and so should comply with federal rules cable and satellite providers follow in distributing copyrighted material. The rules were first laid in place in 1984, when home VCR recording was popular, and were extended in 2008 to cover remote storage and DVR usage.

Aereo is not expected to survive. However, Thursday’s ruling likely will ripple out much further.

Aereo logoDuring the case’s oral arguments, held before the Supreme Court in April, a point arose that widely available cloud storage services managed by Apple, Dropbox and Google are not held to the same standard as Aereo though they offer similar remote data access. Currently, the onus of copyright violation involving files stored in the cloud falls on users and not the services themselves.

In other words, if a pirated broadcast is discovered in someone’s Dropbox account it’s the account’s owner who suffers, not Dropbox.

The Supremes stepped gingerly away from the door they opened by saying, “We cannot now answer more precisely how (copyright provisions) will apply to technologies not before us.” Analysts of the ruling say this just opens a path for data providers to squeeze usage fees out of cloud storage providers.

“The court is sending a very clear signal that you can’t design a system to be the functional equivalent of cable,” University of Maryland legal scholar James Grimmelmann told Vox. “The court also emphasizes very strongly that cloud services are different. But when asked how, it says, ‘They’re just different, trust us.’”

If it ever comes down to making a legal distinction, cloud users may also suffer, says Mark McKenna, associate dean and professor of law at Notre Dame.

“That’s the cloud companies’ concern — do they have to now make sure all of their users are only making available things they own?” he told


David Sheets is a freelance writer and editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.


Get familiar with Google Maps Engine Lite

Google Maps Engine LiteIf you haven’t tried it yet, try it now: Google’s Maps Engine Lite.

The stripped-down version of Google’s corporate-level Maps Engine, Lite, still in beta, lets you get geospatial without cost or high-level mapping skill. Lite debuted in late March, but the latest good example of its use can be found in a recent blog post by multimedia consultant Robb Montgomery.

“It’s a great tool for learning to build maps with data, making tailored maps without a lot of clutter and for adding database information to location and routing maps,” he writes.

Montgomery’s example was a small map he drew to show a travel route through downtown Berlin. But Maps Engine Lite also allows users to download small spreadsheets and up to three data sets for a much more nuanced presentation.

As Montgomery demonstrates, for most journalists, Maps Engine Lite is a great tool for devising simple locators that can fit neatly and effortlessly inside news sites, blogs and mobile apps, and best of all it doesn’t require a degree in cartography to master. Start with the tutorial, which takes newbies step-by-step through their first map.


David Sheets is a freelance editor, Region 7 director, and past-president of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter. Reach him by e-mail at, on Twitter at @DKSheets, on Facebook and LinkedIn.


Keep learning with Scribd

As the 2009-2010 SPJs’ Digital Media Committee year comes to a close we are hard at work putting together Part II of The SPJ Digital Media Handbook. Many of our loyal readers have written in asking when the next section will be published. Our goal is to have Part II available before the SPJ 2010 Convention in Las Vegas.

As an homage to Scribd for housing our content and making it accessible to journalists around the globe, I thought I might recommend some other incredible resources that can be found for FREE on Scribd.

The Future Journalist, by Sree Sreenivasan and Vadim Lavrusik (posted by Scribd user api_user_5814_user82644)
Sree and Vadim explain why it’s critical that journalists learn to think digitally and why it’s important to have a strong grasp of how to use digital media tools BEFORE news breaks.

33 Sites Every Journalist Should Know, by Jeremy Caplan (posted by Scrib user silverboat, Jeremy)
Jeremy Caplan’s 3 part series handout has a great selection of sites that will help you distribute and publish your content.

Twitter, by Claire Wardle (posted by Scribd user cward1e, Dr. Claire Wardle)
Wardle takes you step by step on how to use Twitter, in case you don’t already know how. More importantly, she shows how journalists can use Twitter as a tool for reporting, in case you still need convincing (or know someone that does).

Google Guide making search even easier, by Nancy Blachman (posted by Scribd user rumisprite, Nancy A. Henry)
Learn how to perform a Patent Search, get Flight Tracking Information, set up Google Alerts…her document is so chock full of information on using the Google search engine that it’s exhausting. You’ll need to set aside a few hours to get through it all. Really.

Google Search tips for journalists, by David Paulson (posted by Scribd user Hastimal Shah)
A lighter alternative to the aforementioned document.  (Don’t forget that Google will be giving a presentation at the SPJ 2010 Convention – here was our recap of the Google 101 event in Chicago – Google 101 for Journalists: A Review)

Find any other must-reads for journalists on Scribd? Leave a link in the comment section below.

Hilary Fosdal is the associate new media editor at the Law Bulletin Publishing Company located in Chicago, Illinois. You can visit her site and follow her on Twitter @hilaryfosdal.


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