Sunday, June 14, 2009

Knees? What kind of joint is this?
Blog Guy, you've helped other readers in the past with unusual photo collections. You remember, one person collected shots of rich people eating ice cream, and another wanted dancing U.S. presidents. Anyhow, I collect photos of golfers' knees. Can you help me out?

Blog Guy, you’ve helped other readers in the past with unusual photo collections. You remember, one person collected shots of rich people eating ice cream, and another wanted dancing U.S. presidents.

Anyhow, I collect photos of golfers’ knees. Can you help me out?

I’ll try. Here’s one of Tiger Woods’ left knee. Enjoy.

Oh, sorry, my photos have to show BOTH knees, or they’re no good to me.

Ah. Okay, here’s both of them. Enjoy.

Thanks. Also, got any of chess players’ elbows?

No, that would be stupid. Go away now.

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Golfer Tiger Woods sitting courtside during Game 4 of the NBA Finals basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers in Orlando, Florida, June 11, 2009. Woods returned to the PGA-tour in February after an eight-month lay-off for knee surgery. REUTERS/Hans Deryk

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Davos through social media
The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos illustrates how social media is changing the nature of conferences. writes Reuters News Community Editor Mark Jones.

I spent last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos producing content for reuters.com, running some experiments in new ways to cover a conference, and observing the growing integration of social media into a major mainstream event.

We had great success with giving our correspondents ‘Flip cameras’ with which to grab short comments from delegates on the key issues of the Forum. You can see some of these on our ‘Davos debates’ on the economy, financial regulation, environment, and ethics. The major learning point was that these were much, much easier to use than the mobile phones we used last year in Davos.

Less successful was our attempt to make the Forum more participatory by turning the tables and getting delegates prepared to admit they didn’t have all the answers to 'ask the audience' via Reuters. This was a good idea in theory, and one that we'll try again, but it was a struggle to find delegates comfortable with the notion that the Davos brainpower might not be enough to solve the world’s problems.

Nevertheless, World Economic Forum President Klaus Schwab set an excellent example (and got a very healthy response):

Elsewhere, we did use mobiles and the qik video-streaming service to go live ‘behind the scenes’ of the forum and the Reuters News operation.

I was co-sited with the team that produced the WEF-sponsored 'Davos Today' programme -- a high-end TV show with a professional team of Reuters broadcast journalists behind it.

Comparing the two kinds of video output is a bit like putting a garage band up against a symphony orchestra, but we think they'll prove complementary.

Since last year's Forum, the micro-blogging service Twitter has achieved widespread uptake and we encouraged our correspondents to use it to provide short updates on their impressions of the Forum publishing the best of their output, and that of other delegates, journalists and bloggers in our 'Davos Chatter' feature.

Our editor-in-chief, David Schlesinger, even managed to scoop his own news service during one session, prompting a debate about whether micro-blogging services like Twitter might come to form a part of news organisations’ output in the future.

Other highlights of social media at the WEF included a series of vibrant YouTube debates, voting via Facebook during a dozen sessions (including one on the economy that generated 120,000 responses) and a crowd-sourced interview with Kofi Annan via Seesmic – a video version of Twitter.

Via qik, I asked Seesmic founder Loic le Meur for his impressions of social media at Davos and how he’d gone about the social interview with Annan.:

What does this all add up to?

Davos was a good illustration of three forces changing the nature of conferences,

First, the availability of cheap, easy-to-use, highly portable technology makes it easier to capture the ‘third voice’ of conferences – the ‘chatter’ between delegates about the event. (The 1st voice being that of principal speakers, the 2nd the output of professional journalists or analysts.) This is what we attempted to do with our ‘Davos chatter’ feature.

Second, the ubiquity of social networks makes it possible to amplify the impact of an event by projecting it into social media, where there is a bigger and more diverse audience, and then bringing the responses back in to liven up proceedings. This is an aspect of what Klaus Schwab was getting at and what the Facebook voting was doing.

Third, there’s a longer-established trend of ‘humanising’ content – first-person, conversational forms that started with blogging, became video-based via upload services like YouTube, was radically simplified via micro-blogging and now, with services like Seesmic, is supporting conversation via short-form video.

The Annan interview particularly interested me because it brought together all three aspects.



What’s wrong with this picture?
Blog Guy, can you clear something up for me? I saw photos of President Barack Obama and other major European leaders at the D-Day ceremonies in France, but there was one guy in a uniform who wasn't identified.

Blog Guy, can you clear something up for me? I saw photos of President Barack Obama and other major European leaders at the D-Day ceremonies in France, but there is one guy in a uniform who isn’t identified.

Yes, I noticed that, too. I believe he is Captain Kangaroo.

Excuse me? Why would Captain Kangaroo be with world leaders?

He was a war hero in World War II, fighting alongside actor Lee Marvin. So it makes sense.

Not really, since a) that Lee Marvin/Captain Kangaroo urban legend has been widely debunked, and b) Captain Kangaroo is dead and c) you’re a total moron!

You know, I think Captain Kangaroo was a NAVY captain, so it must be someone else. Maybe he’s the head of the military junta that runs Belgium. I’m glad I was able to help.

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Above left: Captain Kangaroo

Left: France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama as they walk with Britain’s Prince Charles, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown before a ceremony in France to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day, on June 6, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Feferberg/Pool

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Keeping the faith: Connecting the dots with religion and ethics coverage
It’s an interesting question during this season of religious celebrations: Does a journalist have to be “religious” to cover religion?

dean-150Dean Wright is Global Editor, Ethics, Innovation and News Standards. Any opinions are his own.

Some years ago, an American reporter who covered religion was at Tel Aviv airport leaving Israel.

As she was subjected to the usual questions from Israeli security, she was asked what she did for a living. “I write about religion,” she replied. “Which one?” the security officer responded. “Well, all of them,” the reporter said.

“How is that possible?” the officer asked. After 20 more minutes of questions, the reporter was allowed to board her plane, but it was clear from the conversation that the security officer could not conceive of a journalist writing about a faith to which she did not subscribe.

It’s an interesting question during this season of religious celebrations: Does a journalist have to be “religious” to cover religion? Is it desirable to have a reporter of one faith covering stories about another? What about atheist or agnostic reporters?

Reuters News Religion Editor Tom Heneghan, who produces the excellent FaithWorld blog, says reporters “need to know enough about the religion they’re covering to get beyond the usual clich├ęs about the faith.” But, importantly, “they have to be ready to put aside the usual ‘either/or’ approach they learned covering politics or business. Religion often doesn’t fit into those categories, but into a ‘both/and’ perspective.”

For example, “Pope John Paul II was both liberal in some political issues such as defense of the poor or opposition to the Iraq War, and conservative in Catholic theology. Islam has radicals who commit violence in the name of God and moderates who say Islam is a religion of peace.”

Among Reuters journalists who cover religion are believers, agnostics and atheists, Heneghan says. His view, which I share, is that in principle all our journalists should be able to cover any religion because they are supposed to approach them objectively and that it’s hard to detect any differences in the reports they write.

“The real dividing line,” he says, “is probably between those with a religious background and those without one. Reporters who cover their own faith often have a big advantage over those who are not familiar with that faith — although they may also get too close to the story. Reporters who are believers or are from a religious background sometimes have a better feel for the complexities of a religion story, no matter which faith they are covering.”

No matter who does the reporting, Heneghan says, a good religion story is one that is clear and simple, without being simplistic.

FROM RELIGION TO FINANCE

This season of religious celebrations has also become a season of financial turmoil, alleged $50 billion Wall Street Ponzi schemes and wrenching business and government policy decisions that are putting many out of work. Against such a backdrop, it’s fair to ask how reporting on religion and ethics issues is relevant and how such reporting can help a professional audience make decisions.

The Bernard Madoff case has brought the intersection of ethics and finance into the spotlight, but even before that news broke Pope Benedict weighed in on the world economic crisis and the ethics of the financial community, branding the global financial system as “self-centered, short-sighted and lacking in concern for the poor.”

“Objectively, the most important function of finance is to sustain the possibility of long-term investment and hence of development,” he wrote in the message for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, celebrated on Jan. 1. “Today this appears extremely fragile: it is experiencing the negative repercussions of a system of financial dealings — both national and global — based upon very short-term thinking, which aims at increasing the value of financial operations and concentrates on the technical management of various forms of risk,” he said.

“The recent crisis demonstrates how financial activity can at times be completely turned in on itself, lacking any long-term consideration of the common good,” he said.

Stories like that one plainly illustrate the connections between “religion news” and “financial news.”

INTERPLAY NOT DOCTRINE

At Reuters News, “Our role is to cover the interplay of religious issues with society, politics and global affairs and to ensure that we are both expert and accurate in everything we write,” says Sean Maguire, our global editor for politics and general news.

“Sometimes,” he says, “that is about understanding how the differences between Sunni and Shi’ite Islam impact the Middle East. Other times it is about how different religious beliefs impact national approaches to the difficult ethical choices in health care provision.”

What you’re not going to see are reports on arcane doctrinal differences. What you will see is coverage of the religious issues that form a backdrop to our time, such as Benedict’s criticism of the global financial system.

Such issues “are at the core of disputes and conflicts that pit ethnic and sectarian groups against each other and tip countries into war,” says Maguire. “They inform the decisions that governments take, are a big influence on electoral behavior and they form the cultural matrix within which individuals make their daily decisions.

“So we don’t cover religion in isolation, but to better understand the actions, reactions and behaviors of groups, individuals and states. That aids us in our editorial goal of helping customers make informed professional decisions.”

Unfortunately, the financial problems of the media industry have been rough on religion and ethics reporting. In the 1980s, a number of U.S. news outlets, including such papers as the San Jose Mercury News and The Dallas Morning News, made big investments in religion and ethics reporting. Now, as the industry has contracted, so has the religion beat, as Boston Globe religion reporter Michael Paulson blogged from a Religion Newswriters Association conference this past fall.

This is bad timing. We live in a world in which investors and consumers are increasingly confused about whom they can trust. There’s never been a more important time for reporting on the intersection of religion, ethics, finance and policy.

What do you think? Are the media covering religion and ethics issues in a smart way? Are we making the connections between religion and ethics issues and politics, finance and other areas? What are the stories that need to be covered in 2009?




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