Monday, April 18, 2011

Links We Love

Today, a news website can't just be a news website — it needs to talk to you, to make you laugh, to show you videos, to let you hear something new, to link you to other fun places on the web and to work within your social network. While most websites, independent or mainstream, rarely have all of these components, it's interesting to see how they are trying to adapt to a web savvy audience that wants it all.

A site that I came across today that I thought was a great way to incorporate another form of news was HerCampus' Links We Love. If you are anything like me, you click on that funny, fresh new video, article or photo that your Facebook friends post in their status. You laugh or say 'oh wow' and you send it to your other friends so you all can talk about it. This is how our generation functions. We like all of these little fun factoids that everyone wants to talk about. Links We Love isn't just a page of news articles that you have to sift through, it's quick little blurbs and links that can start those viral conversations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cisco will stop making Flip Video

Sad news: Yesterday, a few news outlets — like Yahoo — picked up the story that Cisco Systems, Inc. "is killing the Flip Video, the most popular video camera in the U.S., just two years after it bought the startup that created it."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Huffington Post Slaves

"“The Huffington bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” Mr. Tasini said in a conference call with reporters. He vowed to picket Ms. Huffington’s house and turn her into an outcast in the liberal circles where she made her blog so prominent."

Let me Tweet in class

I cannot keep up with my Twitter account and I know I'm not the only student saying that today. When I first signed up, I really didn't know how I wanted to use Twitter. I didn't want it to turn into a human GPS of updates as to where I was at all times and I didn't want it to only aggregate national or world news. I wanted it to be an interesting news source from me. But, when I started Tweeting, I didn't have a data plan for my phone and the only time I could Tweet was when I was at home sitting by my laptop. And, well, nothing interesting was happening then. When I was at a journalism conference two years ago, I noticed a lot of people Tweeting conference information they thought was interesting through their feed. I thought that was good idea — use Twitter to tell people what you are learning throughout the day. But, I found it really hard to do that when I came back to school.

How many times has your professor told you to shut your laptop and put away your phone in class? If you've been in any of my classes, you've heard that rule quite a lot. Using media in class is considered rude in a lot of classrooms. But, what are they so afraid of? Do they think I'm going to be on Facebook during their class? Well, I probably will be. But, what if I'm posting information I'm learning from class? Isn't that beneficial? That's the way students work today. We need to be plugged in to social media and we usually are at any other time of the day. But, until recently, I haven't found a professor who whole-heartedly agrees with the idea of using social media in class.

Yesterday, our college hosted the 2011 Izzy Awards for independent media and before the ceremony I, along with several other students and visitors, had the opportunity to have dinner with Robert Sheer, editor-in-chief of TruthDig, and Jarrett Murphy, editor of City Limits. The dinner was presented more like a panel discussion with my professor Jeff Cohen mediating comments between the two journalists. But, Sheer was the clear voice of the evening and early on in the conversation he asked why the students at the dinner weren't on laptops.

He seemed pretty disturbed that we weren't Googling, Tweeting and researching while we listened. And, at that moment, I thought "YES! FINALLY! HE UNDERSTANDS!"

Do I think I'm going be able to Tweet in class? Probably not. But, maybe soon ...

photo from

Monday, April 11, 2011

On the Record

In the age of immediate Twitter feeds, Facebook updates and high-speed Internet, Americans expect news immediately. I think most people would agree that we are a fast-paced society. We are impatient and we want what we want now. In the realm of journalism, reporters are very familiar with the idea of instant news and the problems that accompany that desire — like, throwing up information as soon as it is received, without fact checking. Also, news consumers are giving more attention to citizen journalists for news, because it can be a faster way to get the information.

But, there is still a clear distinction between what is mainstream and what is citizen journalism and that is, the editing process and the reporting style. Mainstream media, while they do get the facts confused sometimes and mess up, have a newsroom, with editors and, in theory, they are suppose to fact check and report as educated journalists. Citizen journalists are usually self-editors and don't follow specific rules when reporting. For example, a citizen journalist might not say, "Hello, I'm a blogger for the Huffington Post. How do you feel about the article that was recently published in Vanity Fair?" No, they are more likely to say, "What do you think of that hatchet job somebody did on you in Vanity Fair at the end of the race?" That's exactly what Mayhill Fowler did in 2008.

Fowler, however, was a hybrid citizen journalist/mainstream journalist in a sense. She bounced off of the Huffington Post and had some editing help. But she conducted herself like a citizen journalist when she asked a question to former President Bill Clinton like she was a supporter, instead of a journalist. But, what's the big deal? Well, Clinton responded with a few harsh words towards the writer of the Vanity Fair article and received backlash because of Fowler's article. But, the main controversy seems to be how Fowler approached the question.

It's clear she didn't say she was a reporter and Clinton probably wasn't expecting his comments to end up on the Huffington Post. But, why is Fowler unethical here? So, what if she wasn't a Huffington Post writer. What if she just posted his comment on her Twitter or Facebook? It's still online. A reporter from a mainstream outlet could have seen it and called her up to verify the quote. It still could have been seen by hundreds or millions of people.

I think to say the response from Clinton should have been "off the record" because of how the question was asked is ridiculous in today's world. Nothing is off the record. I don't even think that exists anymore.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to balance a job and Facebook

The New York Times reported a problem that has been discussed over the past few years dealing with conflicts between social networking and a career. Police Officers are now receiving at the least, public humiliation and lack of respect when media sources report inappropriate comments or photographs on the officers' Facebook, Twitter or Myspace pages. It's clear what the officers say through social media can be damaging, but courts and legalities are still a little confused about how to handle those problems.

"Officer Trey Economidy of the Albuquerque police now realizes that he should have thought harder before listing his occupation on his Facebook profile as 'human waste disposal'. After he was involved in a fatal on-duty shooting in February, a local television station dug up the Facebook page. Officer Economidy was placed on desk duty, and last month the Albuquerque Police Department announced a new policy to govern officers’ use of social networking sites." Read Police Lesson: Social Network Tools Have 2 Edges

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wait a minuteThe New York Times reported this morning that, a website promoting Donald Trump as the next presidential candidate, was started by "a group of New Hampshire Trump loyalists" and "they said Mr. Trump had nothing to do with their efforts."

BUT, if you go to, it says that the site is paid for Michael Cohen and Stewart Rahr. BLTWY reported on March 21 that Cohen, "an executive vice president in the Trump Organization who also serves as his special counsel," was "allowed" by Trump to "found" the website to "gauge the public's interest in a potential presidential run in 2012, as well as to carry out other politically related activities." As far as Rahr, he was featured in Forbes last year after securing a deal to sell a $1.3 billion company to Cardinal Health and interested in promoting "his friend Donald Trump as a candidate for president in 2012."

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Review: The World of Modern Men

A few days ago I was thinking about how I haven't come across many independent news sites specifically targeted to men. I know, at least in magazines, women are typically the best target audience. But, there has to be some kind of news for guys, right? So, I Googled "modern men online magazine" and The World of Modern Men came up. And, to be honest, I was pretty unimpressed. But, I'm a woman and I felt like I shouldn't be the judge. This site is not geared towards me. So, I asked my boyfriend, a 20 year-old male who visits about four news sites at least once a day, what he thought about it:

First of all, he said he didn't like the overall design of the page. "The tabs are okay, but the overall look of it isn't that appealing to me. Features like the grey news icon doesn't look professional, it looks unfinished."

To get better acquainted with the site, he clicked on Men's Health and skimmed these articles — 5 Reasons Why You Should Start Running and Skincare: The 4 Dangers of Winter. He said he clicked on these particular articles because they pertain to his life. The only piece of information he remembered from these articles when he navigated away was a skincare tip: don't take hot showers, it dries out your skin.

After he was about 5 minutes deep into the website, he said he wasn't really that interested in it and wouldn't be coming back. Why?

"There are other sources that seem more reliable. I would rather go to Huffington Post or The New York Times. I've never heard or seen this site endorsed anywhere. I don't think he is the most reliable source and nothing shows me that the information he is writing about is credible. Typically I don't get my news from bloggers unless I have heard of them from someone I know or if the blogger is someone I know."

With my boyfriend's input, I think a huge problem with the website is home page appeal. Second, he needs to prove why he is an expert about these topics he is writing about or at least interview an expert. I didn't read any articles where he cited where he got his information from. Also, I went a little further and clicked on a few links in the articles on the page — all of the links send you to a weird search engine. I thought this was really unrelated to the story content and frustrates the reader. This also cuts down this bloggers credibility for me, because it makes me feel like he isn't trying to help the reader.

C'mon, help a guy out. Pull your news together!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Huffington Post new subject tabs

The Huffington Post recently reformatted the top of its website. It made the search feature top and center as well as condensed its subject tabs into main topics with drop-down menus. I think this is a step in the right direction for the website to be more user-friendly and less cluttered.

Website design is quickly becoming one of the most important newsroom topics. Even if media outlets are producing great news and content, if there website is messy or difficult to navigate through, users simply won't spend time there. Last week in my News Editing class, we looked at an eye-tracking study conducted by Nielsen that showed how important layout is when trying to convey a specific message through a website. The study showed how white space is a necessary part of a website so that the reader is not confused or overwhelmed when looking at the presentation of the site. To help organize important items, bullets, tight writing and subheads are important.

Also, here is a blogger that I found who gave some pretty good layout tips using the New York Times website as an example — Design O'blog

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Libyan Woman Struggles to Tell Media of Her Rape

New York Times
Libyan Woman Struggles to Tell Media of Her Rape

"A Libyan woman burst into the hotel housing the foreign press in Tripoli on Saturday morning and fought off security forces as she told journalists that she had been raped and beaten by members of the Qaddafi militia. After nearly an hour, she was dragged away from the hotel screaming."

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fashion Tips

Fashion blogs, fashion videos and many other forms of social media are now more popular than ever. It's a niche that will always exist because, face it, we will always have to dress ourselves and looking your best has been important for generations. Independent journalists enthusiastic about the fashion realm realize this and are sprouting up all over the internet.

Does it take extensive runway knowledge and designer clothes to be a fashion tips hit online? No. It just takes a dedication to the niche and a loyalty to your fan-base.

Check out xJOLE who I discovered today on YouTube. She's a 20-year-old girl from Toronto. She showcases her everyday outfits. She shows viewers what's in her closet and how to accessorize. She wears clothes from affordable outlets like Forever 21. And, she creates these videos without leaving her own bedroom. It's low-budget, simple, real and she gets thousands of hits! She even has a blog.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Memri TV

In class yesterday, we looked at a video on of Veena Malik being accused of wrong behavior by a mullah on Pakistani television. My classmates and I could easily follow along with the video because of the rolling subtitles. I was interested in who was translating these clips and did a little research on the video provider...

The video was translated by Memori TV, the Middle East Media Research Institute headquartered in Washington, D.C. They started in February 1998 "to inform the debate over U.S. policy in the Middle East." They are independent and work off of donations. They translate media to English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Hebrew.

Considering I've always been the student that was less amused and more frustrated at the thought of learning Spanish through classroom conjugations, I think what Memori TV is producing can be an excellent source for journalists looking for news translations. Plus, the content they are posting is relevant and the site serves as a good news source on it's own for people interested in international debates — like "Clashes on Facebook over Calls for Revolution in Qatar" posted earlier this month. The site has everything from a featured news blog to advocacy subject heads to learn more about topics like "Indoctrination of Children" to new projects like "Global Jihad News."

Also, to keep things interesting, Memri is working on a "Cartoon Initiative" project that's pretty entertaining.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

MSNBC airs feature on 'partner'

A friend emailed me a link to this story yesterday —

"NEW YORK (AP) — MSNBC aired a feature touting a company's "incredible" steel-making process this week, two months after saying the company would be its partner on a reporting trip about the American economy.

The five-minute feature on Nucor Corp. on Wednesday's edition of "The Dylan Ratigan Show" raised questions about whether a news organization was granting positive publicity to a company in return for financial help."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

History of Journalism - reflections on Voices of Revolution

Women who change history serve as role models of why journalists should always be thinking progressively, speaking for justice and reporting the truth. When Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan Brownell Anthony started The Revolution when they were both in their 50s, they proved that women journalists of any age have the power to change a nation — through a newspaper. Sure, they struggled with money, worked long hours and probably put their work, which often got them in trouble, before all else in their lives. But, they achieved greatness. They talked about job discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence and even abortion at a time when these issues were taboo. Women needed to be represented and the truth about the inequalities in America needed to be discussed. These women started the conversation.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Egyptian man names child "Facebook"

"... a man in his early twenties has named his firstborn child Facebook Jamal Ibrahim ... he wanted to honor the social networking site for its role in raising awareness about escalating discontent in the country..."

Global Voices: Vadim Isakov

I had the privilege of having Vadim Isakov as a professor when he worked in the journalism department of Ithaca College. He left the college last year and now works for the United Nations, but he is also an editor for Global Voices Online. I recently interviewed him about GVO as an independent media source.

Ashley May: How did you become involved in Global Voices?

Vadim Isakov: I have been reading GVO for years. I always wanted to write for it but did not have an opportunity. A little bit more than a year ago, I saw an ad for a managing editor of a new project at GVO dedicated to Russian blogosphere. I applied and got the position.

AM: What makes Global Voices a unique, but essential part of independent media?

VI: It is truly a global community of bloggers. People from all over the world come together to write about online developments in their countries. Those bloggers can write about one event from the perspectives of many countries (like GVO posts about recent events in Egypt, for example). I cannot think of any online community that would resemble GVO in scale. And that is what makes GVO unique.

AM: What makes Global Voices a good source of news?

VI: The bloggers at GVO are people who live in their countries, speak at least two languages, know may people and actively participate in different aspects of life in their home countries. Those people are the best sources of information on what is going on in any particular country. When writing an article for GVO, people usually try to provide historical background to an event, they explain why this event is important and what it means for the future of the country. Many bloggers of GVO are not paid for what they do. People write because they are very passionate about the past, present and future of their homes.

AM: How would you like to see Global Voices improve?

VI: The GVO bloggers (like many bloggers in the world) are not journalists and they very often lack basic understanding of how an article should be written. I would like to see more GVO bloggers receiving some kind of training on how to write an interesting story. At the same time, GVO never positioned itself as a professional media outlet. It is a global community of passionate people.

AM: How do you think Global Voices attracts readers?

VI: GVO has many partner projects with different media outlets (NY Times, BBC, Guardian, Echo Moskvy (Russian radio)). GVO is very active on Twitter and Facebook. It constantly searches for new ways to promote its stories. When news happens, the GVO authors are among the first to report on it. The GVO Web site is constantly updated and the articles are written so they are easy to find via any search engine.

AM: What would you like students to know about Global Voices functioning as a form of independent media?

VI: The GVO created a community where the terms "independent" and "global" unite to create a unique online platform. It is not perfect but it tries to provide a coverage for stories that one cannot find in traditional media. It is good that some media outlets realize the need for GVO (like GVO feed on NY Times: and its extensive coverage of different topics.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Feature: Alex Dunbar

In addition to being a WSTM/WSTV news reporter, Alex Dunbar is owner, director and producer of Wind Up Films, an independent production company.

The company’s last documentary, Blanchard Road: A Murder in the Finger Lakes, centers on the murder case of Sabina Kulakowski and the man sent to prison for her death, Roy Brown.

I spoke with Dunbar about how the documentary functioned as an important piece of independent media as the case unfolded and ultimately revealed that Brown was innocent.

Ashley May: Initially, why did you decide to work on a documentary about Roy Brown’s case?

Alex Dunbar: Whether Roy was guilty or innocent…we thought the initial trial raised enough questions that it was worth pursuing and looking at both sides.

[The prosecutors] had a forensic dentist saying that Roy’s bite mark matched the bite mark pattern on Sabina Kulakowski’s wounds… The defense put an expert who said… not only does this not match, but Roy Brown is missing two of the teeth that he would need to even have a bite mark pattern close to this.

AM: How did you finance the documentary?

AD: We had offers of people who were willing to invest, but we were fortunate enough that we didn’t have to take on any investors or financial assistance. We were able to do it on our own, financially, which I thought really benefitted the story in the end.

AM: You said earlier that you wanted to keep the documentary objective. How did you do that?

AD: Neither side thought that they had our exclusive attention. They were both aware that we were actively talking to and showing the perspective of the other side.

AM: How did you think the story benefited from an independent documentary instead of a form of mainstream media?

AD: TV stories are generally limited to maybe two to four minutes at the most. Newspapers have a limitation … we could really spell out the whole story.

AM: You work in mainstream media as well as independent media. What is the role of independent media?

AD: Independent journalism can compliment mainstream journalism. It’s also a good checks and balances to have independent journalism out there to keep mainstream journalism in check so that things don’t get out of control.

*Photos courtesy of Alex Dunbar
Last summer, I worked as a broadcast reporting intern at WSTM/WSTV.

Monday, February 7, 2011

AOL is buying Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington says this is "a merger of visions" in her latest post today. What does this mean for independent media? In class, we've been discussing the HuffPost as a prime example of independent media done right. Now, the HuffPost cannot be considered independent with AOL peering over it's shoulder. I think it will be a test of the site's integrity to see if or how the news changes on

Fun fact: Arianna says in her post the merger was signed at the Superbowl.

Friday, February 4, 2011


the blogger: Ashley May is completing a journalism degree with photography and religious studies minors at Ithaca College. She is currently a freelance writer, video journalist and photographer but has also worked in print and broadcast newsrooms.

the blog: This blog will focus on selected areas of independent media to compliment a class taught by Jeff Cohen at IC.

the purpose: This blog will give readers a sense of what other kinds of news media are available apart from the mainstream and show how independent media is an important part of news today.

*If you are interested in downloading the syllabus for the Independent Media class, click here.