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Do You Reply To Offensive-Sounding Twitter Account Names?

December 8, 2010
Image of Twitter icon for

Source: gesamtbild's Flickr page

Someone (a random person) mentioned to me on Twitter the other day that I should watch who I @ reply after I responded to someone who had a Twitter username that referred to Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “loser.”

My mention of the account was made from the @KIRO7Seattle account, which is to say, it was from the account of a news brand — no different than The New York Times, for instance, replying to someone named @ObamaIsAFailure.

My attitude was, and is, I don’t really care about people’s politics and I was merely responding to someone who asked a legitimate question (not even having to do with politics, for whatever it’s worth). The comment telling me to “watch it” seemed to insinuate that by @ replying this (apparent) anti-Pelosi-ite, I was somehow endorsing his or her assessment of Speaker Pelosi.

Frankly, that seemed ridiculous to me.

If someone from an account named @SaveTheSpaceShuttle asked me a question and I responded, would anyone care? Probably not. Would anyone think KIRO was endorsing saving NASA’s space shuttle program? Probably not.

At the same time, responding to an account with a truly offensive name — the N-word, an F-word or something else along those lines — gives me pause.

Ultimately, I responded to the “watch it” commenter with this:

“Person at [the Pelosi/”loser”] account asked a legitimate question, we responded. Only way we wouldn’t is if acct. name was esp. egregious.”

(Note: I’m not posting the full conversation or linking to anyone’s Twitter names because these people didn’t ask for any attention over the issue and I see no reason to direct it their way.)

Is my “policy” any good? Is it fair? Does it make sense? What’s your policy for responding to offensive-ish Twitter accounts? I would love to hear your feedback, so please leave a comment.


UPDATE: Are You Having Facebook Pages Problems? This May Be Why

December 6, 2010

UPDATE 2: I regained access to my News Feed status updates and Facebook Pages as of about 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

UPDATE: I got some help on this from Javier Sandoval, one of my Twitter friends. He said the issues I’m having could be related to an SSL certificate error on Facebook’s end:

Based on Javier’s observations and the fact that I’ve now observed the same issues on two separate computers (on two separate networks), I’m confident this is a Facebook problem. What’s odd is that I haven’t heard anything from the major tech blogs (Mashable, RWW, etc.). I’m going to send them this post to see if I get any response.

Here’s my original post describing my issues:

I’m having a couple Facebook problems right now and am wondering if anyone else is having them, too:

  1. I can’t see the Walls of any Facebook Pages — including the ones I admin — when I’m logged in (I can see them fine when I’m logged out).
  2. I can’t post status updates from my News Feed.

I’ve tried logging in to Facebook in three different browsers (Chrome, Firefox 3.6 and Internet Explorer 9) and have gotten the same result. I would assume that it’s a localized problem (some sort of caching, CSS, etc. issue) except that I can see the Walls of the Pages just fine when I’m logged out of Facebook.

I’ve tried clearing out my cache, dumping my cookies, etc. and nothing has worked. I’m hoping someone has some suggestion or is at least having the same problem so I don’t have to sit here feeling like I’m taking crazy pills.

I “upgraded” to the new profile layout today, but I don’t know that it has anything to do with the problem I’m having.

I’d post from my phone, but as you can see from the second screenshot below, my posts are showing up as me and not as my Page (meaning that our 2,600 fans aren’t getting my updates in their News Feeds).

Here are a few screenshots — any help would be appreciated:

KIRO 7 Page (which I admin) when logged in:

KIRO 7 Page when logged out:

Status update box missing in News Feed:

Hey, AP: Here’s How To Link Properly

December 2, 2010

The AP is hopeless and useless when it comes to linking.

Check out this story about a Naval officer in Kitsap charged with assault in its native AP format:

Image of how AP cites websites in text(Note: I’m not picking on The Seattle Times; I just happened to locate this story on their site via a Google search.)

I noticed the same story on the AP wire and corrected how the link was presented before I posted it to

Image of the way AP should cite websites in text(Note: Blue, bold text = hyperlink.)

The difference is that the AP’s way of citing websites doesn’t give any meaningful credit to the sites they take information from — that is, those sites receive no link referrals, which would otherwise help boost their search engine rank. Readers are left copy/pasting a link to a home page and then searching around for the original story if they want more information (guess how often people do that). What if a reader access this story a year from now and wants to look at the original report from the referenced site?

One of my favorite things about my new job is that I can correct this, to a certain degree (again: mountain of AP content).

I’ll continue to alter the AP’s linking style when I find AP content that I want to post to’s home page, but it’s far too late in the game for the AP to still be optimizing for print. Presenting HTML-encoded wires should be standard. It’s pretty easy to delete the code (especially when staffs have all day to work on a newspaper); it’s a hell of a lot harder to comb through all of these referenced websites and put the code in.

Just for posterity, here’s the Kitsap Sun’s original report.

Why Does WikiLeaks Get More Attention Than MSM’s Own Reporting?

December 2, 2010
Julian Assange (WikiLeaks)@HITBSecConf2009 KL

Source: biatch0r's Flickr page

I’m not disputing the “big story”-ness of the latest WikiLeaks…leak, but I can’t help but notice that the mainstream media seems to be anticipating each new WikiLeaks release with the fervor of an impending Halo 3 launch party while its own investigative journalism wallows in relative obscurity.

Maybe I’m out of touch, but the last time I remember a mainstream investigative piece capturing the national conversation the way WikiLeaks apparently does on a regular basis was when Rolling Stone published their Stanley McChrystal profile. And that wasn’t even really a product of a traditional “mainstream media” outlet. And it wasn’t really an investigative piece, either.

A couple theories on this:

1. WikiLeaks does things that MSM just can’t do. I was thinking back to this old “New Avengers” story where Captain America confronts Tony Stark about recruiting Wolverine, a known murderer, into the Avengers. Cap’s a by-the-book type of guy and doesn’t want a murderer on the team, but Tony argues that sometimes, bad guys need to die; rather than Iron Man or Cap become impure when one of those situations pops up, why not just have Wolverine do it?

This isn’t me passing judgment on what WikiLeaks does; I’m just saying that maybe MSM likes what WikiLeaks provides, but doesn’t want to expose itself to the same kind of persecution (prosecution?) that WikiLeaks is currently experiencing.

2. The old-school competitive mentality is too strong for a piece of journalism to become the conversation. It’s rare that MSM orgs credit each other, unless it’s in passing, and even then, that reference usually disappears by the second day’s reports (“once the news is out there, he who broke it doesn’t need to be referenced again,” seems to be the mentality). MSM can sit around and openly debate what WikiLeaks is and what it means for journalism, but would The New York Times’ investigative division ever become the focal point of the day’s news for some story they broke? I can’t really think of an instance (save for maybe the John McCain/mistress story from back in 2008).

I admittedly may very well be far off base here and if I am, please correct me in the comments.

The Importance Of One, Anonymous Tweet

November 16, 2010
Twitter bird logo icon illustration

Source: Matt Hamm's Flickr page

We got a news tip the other week from a completely anonymous person whose name is provided on Twitter, but may not in fact be real. As a result of said tip, we dispatched a helicopter and produced a story that helped lead off one of our evening newscasts.

OK, I glazed over a couple details in that set up: (1) the chopper was already in the area and (2) we didn’t just fly over there on the advice of someone who messaged us on Twitter; we checked the information and proceeded accordingly.

The story didn’t turn out to be huge, but it mattered to people and it mattered to me that we were the ones to look into things for them and tell them what was going on. (Note: For what it’s worth, I’m the one who wrote the web copy.)

The larger point is that Tweets — even anonymous ones — Facebook posts, YouTube videos and whatever else are part of the news ecosystem and deserve to be treated seriously. Not all of them deserve to be treated seriously, but they deserve consideration. How do you determine whether some one who phones in a tip is legit or just prank calling you? Use good judgment. It’s not hard.

What may be hard for some people is getting over the idea that some of your information is going to come from people whose voices you may never hear, whose faces you may never see and whose names you may never verify — that’s OK. We are journalists and information is important to us; fretting over funny-sounding screen names is not.

Newsroom Tools: Do The Best With What You’ve Got

November 12, 2010

Walk into the average newsroom, and the hardware and software you find will probably be less than ideal. Not necessarily bad, useless or outdated, just not what you’d reach for if you had the storeroom of a BestBuy at your disposal.

That’s OK.

The equipment you’re given won’t determine how good a journalist you are; how you use it will mean the world. A well-packaged video shot on a shaky flip cam, for example, will always look better than a talking head speaking into a perfectly steadied Canon 5D.

Don’t worry about what you don’t have — learn to make the best of what you’ve got. Chances are, those MacGuyver moves you end up having to pull from time to time will make you a more skilled journalist anyway.

Update: MSNBC Either Admitted Its Bias Or Isn’t That Serious

November 8, 2010

Keith Olbermann’s suspension: two days.

Jack Shafer has already said everything I would’ve said:

If the network was hoping to telegraph that it doesn’t think Olbermann’s offense was much of an offense at all—the consensus view of his ideological soul-mates and even some of his ideological opponents—it succeeded hugely. […] The best way for the network to exit the morass it’s created is to stop pretending that Countdown and The Rachel Maddow Show are straight-news programs.

I don’t often just cede my opinion to someone else, but Shafer’s column literally says everything I could’ve thought to say and links to some really smart columns that echo some of what I already said.