Center for Investigative Reporting

cir A year and a half ago, I left the Berkeley J-School to experience life in a high-energy web development shop with central campus. I learned a ton in that short time – the Agile process, Angular.js, building sites as Single Page Applications, strict separation between back-end and front-end systems, rigorous code review processes, and much more. And I had the opportunity to work with a crew of Java, Ruby, and Javascript rock stars, from whom I’ve learned so much.

Since my career to date had been as a web tech generalist (i.e. one person wearing all the hats), I found the experience incredibly illuminating. And yet… the project and I had some “creative differences” which ultimately resulted in me leaving the department at the end of May.

I’ve spent the past month working on personal and freelance projects, studying, and job hunting. I longed to work with journalists again, and really missed working with Django, which still feels like the most natural and effective way to build highly customized data-driven web sites I’ve ever encountered. At the same time, I wanted to make sure that my work had some kind of higher purpose – I wanted to be part of something with social and political impact.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find anything on campus that really fit my requirements, and finally made the tough decision to start looking off-campus.

Today, I’m thrilled to say that I believe I’ve found the perfect fit, as a full-time Django developer at the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley.

At The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), we believe journalism that moves citizens to action is an essential pillar of democracy. Since 1977, CIR has relentlessly pursued and revealed injustices that otherwise would remain hidden from the public eye. Today, we’re upholding this legacy and looking forward, working at the forefront of journalistic innovation to produce important stories that make a difference and engage you, our audience, across the aisle, coast to coast and worldwide.

CIR recently merged with the Bay Citizen and California Watch, two excellent journalism organizations that have had myriad overlapping projects with the J-School over the years. In fact, walking around the CIR offices today, I’m meeting former J-School students and instructors I haven’t seen in years – kind of a homecoming!

I’ll be enthusiastically starting work in mid-July. Yes, it’s tough to say goodbye to the University, but it really is an ideal evolutionary step for me right now.


Pollywogs Redux

Back in 2006, I posted a digitized copy of a 1950s Coast Guard hazing ritual on YouTube. In July 2008, the video suddenly became unavailable, with no reason given as to why, other than “Violation of terms of service.” I suspected that the video may have angered veterans who felt that the video depicted the military in an unflattering light, and that they had flagged it enough times that it was removed. I blogged about the takedown here.

A few nights ago, the Knight Digital Media Center (where I work) had as a guest speaker YouTube’s news manager Olivia Ma, who delivered a fantastic presentation. I took the opportunity to talk to her and try to find out what was behind the takedown, and whether anything could be done. In my view, the video was far more tame than tons of stuff on YouTube, and had historical/documentary relevance as well.

Ma took up the issue with her team and today let me know that the video had been reinstated, noting that it “qualified as EDSA (educational, documentary, scientific or artistic).”

While the version I put up on Vimeo in the interim is of higher quality, I’m happy to again be able to embed the YouTube version:

I’m now trying to learn what I can about any official appeals process for this kind of situation.

Mundus Journalism and More

A ton of excellent new sites maintained by journalists and artists have been added to the Birdhouse Hosting roster over the past couple of months, including:
Angela highlights issues related to women, girls and people of color in the Bay Area and abroad, and groups that have been historically misrepresented by the media.
Bloom began working in journalism as a newspaper reporter in Park City, Utah, covering everything from the Sundance Film Festival to skiing to town hall politics.
As a science teacher, I have the special privelage of getting to know my students and enjoy every one of them for what they teach me as well as what I might teach them. The values of their parents and the raw culture of our society greet me each day as plain as the eye can see when I walk into every class.
Raise The Roof is a free iPhone app with one simple goal in mind: to get you to dance with your iPhone and have a little fun. The app gives meaning to that infamous dance move “raise the roof.”
Green Tulip designs for textiles, T-shirts and the Web are truly handcrafted one by one. The look of each design is original because each design is made from scratch. Green Tulip designs are made from materials that feel good in the hands: paper, scissors, glue. Each design is defiantly non-digital to ensure a handcrafted feel even online.
Kim Bennett is an artist and writer based in the San Francisco Bay area.
An international consortium of universities and media outlets work closely together to run the Mundus Journalism programme.
I am currently a candidate for a master’s in journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. Before graduate school, my background was mostly in print journalism. Now, I am focusing more on producing multimedia features for the Web, particularly on business topics.
“My undergraduate thesis, which began with a summer at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, was on connections between the Unique Games Conjecture and semidefinite programming-based approximation algorithms.”

All sites also listed at the ever-growing list of Birdhouse Hosting Sites.

Patrick’s Army Chronicle

Patrick's Army Chronicle Miles (7) has started his own newspaper, The Patrick’s Army Chronicle. Well, “started” may be too strong a word. He created issue #1 sometime between 5:45 and 6:45 one morning, before we got up. Nice ratio of copy to ads. And just in time to beat the SF Chronicle’s move to full-color printing by one day!  Way better photos, too. A bit of concern on this end re: his interest in advertising, but with conversation keeping undue influence at bay, it’s all good. Gotta admire his industriousness. My fave: “New code pen. It doesn’t rite Inglish, it rite’s codes!” Though the sheer terror of “Beehive hangs from catsle wall” is nothing to sneeze at. Also includes a one million dollar reward for the unconditional capture of Squid Man.

Full-size version.

“‘Charlie Rose’ by Samuel Beckett”

Something has happened to PBS favorite “Charlie Rose.” The erudite conversations and sober intellectualism have been replaced by an absurd world where illogic, inane dialogues, and open hostility rule. The one-on-one interview between Charlie and his guest begins as usual but quickly goes awry, so much so that Charlie is warned that, somewhere, a man named “Steve” is “not happy.” Though this seemingly random statement might confuse us, Charlie understands it for what it is — a threat. But who is “Steve” and why is he angry? And why does the mere mention of his name stop Charlie cold? Using appropriated footage from a single episode of “Charlie Rose,” filmmaker Andrew Filippone Jr. creates something both disturbing and farcical in “‘Charlie Rose’ by Samuel Beckett.”

Tech Training for Reporters

Another big week of podcasting coming up as we (the Knight Digital Media Center at UC Berkeley) launch a week of training for working journalists in “new media / digital media” internet technologies. This week will be a variant of last month’s workshop – we’ll be working with reporters rather than editors this time around, and tuning the training to suit. As always, the workshop will be peppered with panels and conversations with fascinating experts, and those sessions are open to the public.

Can’t make it to the J-School? Tune in to the podcast series live, or catch archived versions the following week. I’m especially interested in “100 Megabits across the Digital Divide,” with Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive, but all of the sessions are bound to be worthwhile.

Knight Digital Media Center April 2008 Lecture Series

Music: Thomas Chapin :: Golgotham

Tech Training for Journalists

The Knight Digital Media Center has been running workshops providing multimedia skills training to journalists for a while now, but this week marks the start of a program expansion, as we offer our first Tech Training for Editors workshop. Rather than Photoshop, Sound Track Pro, and Flash, we’ll be teaching RSS, podcasting, map mashups, and other essential internet technologies to editors looking to expand the web savvy of struggling newspapers.

I’ve been busy setting up WPMU as a mock CMS for the editors to work on, relying heavily on the PodPress, Twitter Tools, and WP-Flickr plugins. I’ve also got the new Prologue theme installed, to demonstrate how publications can provide Twitter-like services of their own (I’ll be demonstrating it in a mini-session on microblogging).

The mid-day and evening sessions will be webcast as usual, but this time we’re adding a new element to the mix — rather than panning the camera to a screen displaying output from the presenter’s laptop, we’ll be using Vara Software’s Desktop Presenter to mix output from the speaker’s laptop with camera output, directly into our webcast software (knock wood). Tune in!

Zuckerberg Train Wreck

Just witnessed the most disastrous keynote event — Sarah Lacy of BusinessWeek interviewing Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Wasn’t that interested to begin with, but Lacy was an embarrassment to herself. Flirting with Zuckerberg. Cutting him off left and right, then insulting him when he looked puzzled. Repeatedly turning the conversation back to herself. Bringing up semi-private moments from the past. Getting facts about his life wrong. Teasing him about his age. At one point she compared herself to Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes (“I feel you, Leslie!”)

Zuckerberg has become an artful dodger, dancing around many of her transgressions politely (rendering everything he said pretty banal). Between the two of them, it felt like a high school TV journalism class gone horribly wrong. Except that it happened in front of thousands of people.

I walked out halfway through. Outside, in the halls, everyone was talking about the debacle, re-hashing the worst moments.

Update: The interview was such a disaster that c|net has an article about it. Wired has another. Whoa – Lacy’s video response. She seems oblivious to just how bad she really was, tries to blame the crowd and the “mismatch.” So it’s confirmed – Lacy is on another planet.

Here are the notes I had taken up to the point I walked out anyway (not juicy).
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Responsible Web Design

Loose notes from SXSW 2008 panel Responsible Web Design with:

Greg Rewis Adobe Systems Inc
Stephanie Sullivan Principle, W3Conversions

This session was a bit elementary, focused on basic standards-compliant development practices, but stayed with it to hoover up a few teaching tips. It’s always a dilemma at these things… by the time you realize you wish you were at a different discussion, it’s halfway over, and the one you wish you were at is two blocks away. Sometimes better just to ride it out.
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