October 2010


I’ve talked before about what a mash-up modern culture has become. Most days, I get a kick out of it. But a recent movie is making me rethink my enthusiasm for medleys.

Eat Pray Love got some modest hype (guffaw) when it was released. I have not seen the flick, but that doesn’t mean I’ve managed to avoid the marketing juggernaut that surrounded it.

We’ve all seen and heard about Eat Pray Love yoga mats, and Eat Pray Love herbal tea, and Eat Pray Love vacation packages.

Yeah, yeah, you might yawn. And I agree—what did I expect, that marketers would not plunge into a breach to find an extra nickel?

But over the past few months, I’ve been disappointed to see magazines too engage in the lowest form of mimicry—of the EPL title, of all things. They alter the words slightly to fit an article’s slant, and they’re off to the races, with hijacked spiritual cred trailing from their pages like so many prayer beads.

Come on, gang; magazine folk ain’t marketers. We should be above all that.

Unless …

I did get to thinking this weekend about how Arizona Attorney might make a little filthy lucre off this scam. So like all bad ideas, let’s write the titles first, and worry about the content later.

My desk is at least as cluttered.

So here are a few approaches aimed at our audience of lawyers; let me know if you can think of more. Who knows? Maybe Julia Roberts could play me in the movie version (as you can see in this photo, I think we may have the same office organization system).

Sue

Bill

Love

Draft

Bill

Eat

 

Your entry here. …

By the time you read this, I and many others of the legally interested will be tuckered out from what I bet will be a great screening of To Kill a Mockingbird. (Yesterday I wrote about this event, which was in honor of the book’s 50th anniversary.)

But it’s Friday—Change of Venue Day—so let’s get to something sort of fun and rather odd.

Today’s winner is a hoot—and it falls into the category of font humor.

I know, I know—I like font humor too much. I’ve written about it a few times (here and here). But my ears perk up when I hear, “Calibri, Garamond and Wingding walked into a bar …”

Anyway, I enjoyed this story of woe and angst among our font brethren. I hope you do too.

Thank you to Steph Abbott at the Clark County Bar Association in Las Vegas, Nev., for excavating this Serif gem.

The confession is a central icon of the law—and of the Catholic Church, come to think of it. And because I’ve operated in both of those worlds, the declaration of guilt should come easily to me—you would think.

Well, I may as well get on with it. My mea culpa for the day? I have never read To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

Yes, I know, that is a standard of the American legal literary sphere. Written in 1960, it won a Pulitzer Prize. It travels deeply into issues of racial injustice and the loss of innocence. But it never passed before my reading glasses.

Strange, I know. I even got a few English degrees, along with a law school education, and still no Kill for me. How could I have slogged through Pennoyer v. Neff but skipped the novelistic moral high ground?

All I know is, I can’t be the only one. Anyone care to share?

The timing of this emotional outpouring is related to a State Bar of Arizona event this evening—a screening of the classic 1962 film version of the novel. People like “Atticus Finch” and “Scout” and “‘Boo’ Radley”—much-loved characters in the American lexicon, I’m told—will come to life on the big screen.

(The showing will benefit the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. I wrote about the October 14 movie screening here. And more detail is here. One thing to note: Bring cash, which is all the concession stand will take—not To Kill the Classic Movie Feeling, or anything.)

You never read it, son? I'm very disappointed.

I plan to be there in the Pollack Tempe Theater, with my daughters, as I watch and expiate for my literary sins. I’m hoping you join us too, whether you’re a Harper Lee groupie or not.

I have to admit: I’ve been overcome by a sudden crush, one that defies common sense and all reason. But there it is: I’m wowed by Prezi.

Prezi’s a looker—like any presentation software should be. It grabs a viewer like a suitor singing “I Can Show You the World” in Aladdin.

Here’s an example of what it can do.

OK, that was pretty sales-y. So how about something with illustrations?

 

This new tool would make anyone drop PowerPoint, and makes PP feel like the “safe” date your parents may like.

I first saw Prezi last week at the SPJ convention, when CNN’s Victor Hernandez gave his presentation on All Platform Journalism. It was a great seminar, revealing some of the cutting-edge work that their correspondents are doing. But that wow-inducing opener will likely stay with me longer than the urge to apply for a CNN gig.

Why do I say that my Prezi crush is without reason? Merely because I rarely create e-presentations. And when I have, I’ve found the industry standard to be pretty lackluster. But so strong is my Prezi attraction that I may seek out some more speaking gigs. Why should Victor get to wow everyone?

I’ll let you know how my new love and I progress.

While I’m treating you to some video tours de force from the Las Vegas convention, let me mention two others that brought a response from attendees, either applause, smiles or gasps.

The first is one you’ve probably seen. A Google representative shared a TV commercial that told a love story in 53 seconds, from a brief trip to Paris to a lifelong affair of the heart.

 

Yes, it was charming, and it did make many people (even mildly boiled reporters) grin like schoolkids. But the reason I share it here is because of its story-telling quality. Most of us struggle to create a full-blown world in 20 column inches. But 53 seconds, and no images? Bravo.

The last video turns us from marketing back toward the best kind of journalism.

Rob Curley of the Las Vegas Sun presented on what we sometimes still call “new media,” and he demonstrated that paper’s mastery of multimedia platforms.

But for anyone caught up with the technology, he reminded us all that it is the story and the writing that matter. As an example, he showed us a series on gambling addiction the paper did that really can’t be beat (and in fact has won an award). One of the many stories they told was captured in a video, made by a man whose life was crumbling, and then edited into a short film by the paper. (The series opening page is here. Tony McDew’s story of his own addiction is here and here.)

It’s the best marriage of tool and story I’ve seen in a long time. After you watch it, traipse around the Sun’s website for a bit—I guarantee you’ll stay longer than you planned.

Here is a recipe for what sounds like an awful way to learn: Gather hundreds of people together in a few large rooms; require them to balance coffee and muffins on their laps while they juggle a notepad and laptop; place seats as close together as possible; start early and go late.

What I’ve described, of course, is the modern-day professional conference. But despite its 19th-century methods—plus the laptop and that dreaded PowerPoint—I have to admit that it often works. I’ve walked into exactly that scenario grim-faced and skeptical. When I walk out, though, I’m often reconstituted with a new sense of purpose—or at least with a hint of a new path to try.

I had another one of those experiences last week. When I returned to Phoenix from the SPJ conference in Las Vegas, I came back with quite a few great ideas. Will they take root? Hmmm. Well, the roots would have to shoulder their way through the stacks of work that remain on my desk—but I’m optimistic.

To help keep my feet to the fire, I’ve bullet-pointed a few of the ideas I came across, or the comments that struck me. And so here are a few more of my thoughts that arose at last week’s annual convention. 

  • Richard Gingras, founder of Salon.com: For every Facebook “share,” you get 10x exposure. Facebook referrals are roughly 10x those of Twitter.
  • Richard Gingras again: Facebook adoption outpaces Twitter, it is more mainstream, and it allows longer status messages, which may make people feel more welcome (and less risky).
  • I think that I met the four people at the casino who were nonsmokers. One of the people, a man, sat hunched over a slot machine while holding a handkerchief over his mouth and nose. When I caught his eye and asked why he tolerated the smoke, he just stared at me like I asked about his cell structure. (Note to self: Mind your own damned business.) 
  • 80/20 rule: 80% adding value to the stream with your comments, thoughts, humor and intellectual capital; 20% providing and pushing your own content (some say 90%/10%).
  • Online, be conversational, add attitude.
  • Yesterday I whaled on AT&T for its iworkwheniwantto 3G network. And no, I’m not done: How can AT&T still be solvent? “3G” should be changed to “MayB.”
  • Can you hear me (getting frustrated) now?

    No one says “widget-structured” better than Salon.com CEO Richard Gingras. #ilovejargon

  • From Google expert: If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the top 10 searches, abandon that search and go to “Advanced Search.”
  • Google tool for cellphone (under Advanced Search): Speak a phrase into phone, it reads back the phrase translated into language of your choice (“Donde esta la embajada Americana?”)
  • Use Google.com/trends for funny interactions. Pre-holiday search for “vodka” is huge nationwide. Two days later, “hangover” is the trend leader.
  • Google Moderator: Can’t host a candidate debate yourself due to limited resources? Google may help you host an online debate.
  • Prezi.com is cool new presentation software whose quick cuts may cause nausea, but which makes PowerPoint look like your great-grandfather’s chalkboard.
  • CNN is looking to recruit All Platform Journalists for various U.S. cities. But if you have to ask CNN what they are looking for in that kind of journo, you probably are not what they’re looking for (take that, conference attendees).
  • What possessed Apple to make an exclusive partnership with AT&T? I have two tin cans and a string, and I’m thinking of bidding for the gig.
  • Get to know Final Cut Pro.

For those who have slogged through a few days of these observations, I’m looking for a few great videos that were shown at the convention. Let’s aim for tomorrow.

I promised to report back with some of the tips and lessons I picked up at last week’s annual convention of the Society of Professional Journalists (which I wrote about previously here, here and here).

Later this week, I’ll provide a few videos (or at least links to them) that made an impression in Vegas. And maybe I’ll report on what the Las Vegas Sun is, and why you should pay attention to what they do and how they do it.

Once I wrote the list, I decided it was too long to foist on readers in one post. So I’ll give you my remaining observations another day.

So in no particular order, here we go with my highlights and observations:

  • In a workshop dedicated to social media, I should not have been surprised that there was no handout containing all the links mentioned and discussed. We were told they would be available online on the SPJ site afterward. Understood and agreed. But am I the only disorganized busy correspondent who finds it hard to remember to go excavating online when he returns to the office? Gimme a list.
  • Freelancers may have their own difficulties, but they do not have to beseech anyone above to try a new tool or to download a new free application. Lucky.
  • “Citizen journalist” is a term that irks many trained journalists. If you don’t know why, consider submitting your car to the meanderings of a “citizen mechanic,” or your body to the probing of a “citizen doctor.” Ouch. (Of course, I live in Phoenix, where rickety home construction makes me believe we have quite a few “citizen architects” scrawling about.)
  • The iPad was a great laptop replacement for conference lugging. But the delicate nature of the AT&T 3G network was maddening. It makes the device untrustworthy to carry to a story that I absolutely have to get.
  • Best overall tool for a journalist? King (or Queen) Google.
  • Was the presenter joking? Is Bing an acronym for Bing Is Not Google? (Don’t know. Must Google that when I get back to the office.)
  • My sympathy goes to conference organizers who promised conference-wide wifi, only to see it collapse numerous times. Take a breath. Pour a drink. Repeat.
  • Cool aggregator of mondo seach engines: Addictomatic
  • The next big story source: Census data, which will include a million stories waiting to be extracted.
  • News gear may be new and cool, but it’s about the journalism, not the technology.
  • But as long as we’re talking about technology, you’ve got to go to http://newsgear.info/.
  • In a session titled “Re-Imagining News,” Rob Curley of the Las Vegas Sun demonstrated that paper’s remarkable use of new media.
  • He mentioned something he used to say about his paper’s website, which we all might want to try for our own site: Can you imagine anyone saying about your site, “Wow, I can’t believe I was on your site for four hours last night.” Unlikely? Then it probably needs improvement.
  • Rob Curley: Every day give your readers a gift, something they weren’t expecting.
  • Also by Rob Curley: Online comments by readers are like an old bitter lover; they ruin my day, but I still love them.
  • Rob Curley, on the movement away from anonymity on the Internet: “Being who you are on the Internet is the new black.”

I warned you these would be random. See you tomorrow.

Next week, I’ll report to you some of the great lessons and tips I picked up at the annual conference of the Society of Professional Journalists. That occurred earlier this week in Las Vegas.

But as long as we’re both here, and it’s Change of Venue Friday, let me share one small indicator of the state of the journalism today. As you may have heard, it ain’t great.

First, I should tell you that a number of people tweeting at this week’s conference found spirits high. It was nothing like the angst that descended on the 2006 convention, one correspondent said.

Well, perhaps, but I was brought up short in the exhibition hall. It is not altogether odd to see the occasional booth space unsold, at any convention. But to have a space labeled with a company name, but empty, means a tough decision had to be made after the space had already been purchased.

The Celebrity Ballroom in Planet Hollywood was a pretty busy place. That made Booth 10 look even more out of place. So what underfunded little mom-and-pop exhibitor decided at the last minute to forego their space investment and stay home?

It was Gannett.

Here are a few photos.

Every journalist strolling the hall must have gulped when they saw that the behemoth couldn’t rouse the budget pennies to send a few hearty souls to the biggest journalism trade conference in the country.

Is that angst in your pocket, or are you just sorry to see me?

When I returned and fired up my computer, one of the first stories I came across was a Gannett tale of woe.

The AP story reported that USA Today, a Gannett paper, was cutting 35 positions. That’s USA Today, the paper that nearly invented the short-attention span—even they are discovering that readers find those little ink words and colorful chartlets too demanding. You can read the whole story here.

It’s enough to make the editor of a niche-y association magazine—Arizona Attorney—breathe a sigh of relief.

Have a great weekend.

I’m looking for an Arizona pro bono story—or maybe a few.

During October, many people across the country will pause to think about—legal representation. More specifically, pro bono representation.

As the ABA says:

“Nationally, lawyers spend thousands of hours providing free services to people who can’t afford legal representation. To recognize their contributions to clients and the nation’s system of justice, the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service is sponsoring the 2010 National Pro Bono Celebration from October 24 through October 30, 2010. During this week, local communities will hold events to celebrate these individuals and the amazing work that they do.”

Through the wonders of the Internet and something called Pledgebank.com, I’ve made a commitment to write an online story in that week on the topic of pro bono.

In fact, it would be great to tell a few pro bono stories that week. After all, Arizona has great pro bono stories to tell—doesn’t it?

Comment here, or write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Tonight, the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona is hosting an event that may be worth attending. And some may be surprised it’s being held at all.

It is the second in a series of Community Civil Rights Forums that U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke is holding. (The first was held on July 6, and we wrote about it the next day.)

Tonight’s event is billed as a forum with Arizona’s gay community. The news peg is the anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

(This forum is scheduled the same day that we learned the U.S. Attorney’s Office is investigating allegations of misconduct against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. No shrinking violets, these prosecutors.)

Did you think that Obama administration officials would lay low until after the November elections? Burke’s committing to a forum on gay civil rights may be a fly in that political ointment. (Perhaps they predicted that it was going to be a rocky month at the ballots for them—no matter what they did.)

Dennis Burke, United States Attorney for the District of Arizona

Of course, it’s true that Burke’s topic of “hate crimes” seeks to keep tonight’s conversation narrowly focused. But announcing an event with the words “gay” and “civil rights” in the same sentence could be felt like a sharp stick in the eye to certain portions of Arizona’s conservative populace.

And he may not get much love from the other side, either. The gay, lesbian and transgender community supported this administration, and probably still does. But their support has tempered over the past year and a half as they saw the president take what they view as half measures and tentative steps toward their positions.

They had hoped for Obama’s full-throated support, and got quite a bit less.

Will anyone at tonight’s event press the speakers on things like civil unions, or “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”? Activists nationally have been vocal in asking about what they see as an unequal timeline on a path toward equal civil rights. Will they be vocal tonight?

Of course, the President won’t be at the Mercado tonight; Dennis Burke will. Continued props to him for fostering an ongoing conversation about civil rights in the United States. But how wide-ranging will that conversation be?

Unfortunately, I have a conflict and cannot attend. If anyone reading this plans to be there, please contact me (at arizona.attorney@azbar.org) tomorrow—I’d like to hear how it went. And if you take photos, even better!

Here is the complete release.

U.S. ATTORNEY TO HOLD CIVIL RIGHTS FORUM WITH GAY COMMUNITY

Forum on hate crimes law to occur on anniversary of Matthew Shepard attack

PHOENIX – United States Attorney Dennis K. Burke will hold a Civil Rights Forum focused on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community Wednesday October 6, 2010 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.  It will be at the ASU Mercado in downtown Phoenix.  The public is encouraged to attend.

At the forum, Burke will talk about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act signed into law last year by President Barack Obama.  He will also discuss how victims can report hate crimes and official police misconduct.   

The date of the forum coincides with the anniversary of the fatal attack on gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.  He was brutally beaten and tortured after meeting two men in a Laramie, Wyoming bar late on the night of October 6, 1998 and died days later.  Shepard was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

“We hold community sessions like this to inform people of their rights,” said Burke.  “The Department of Justice has a duty to protect the civil rights of all individuals from hate crimes or law enforcement misconduct.  I feel strongly people should have confidence to report violations to this office.”

The forum will bring together local community leaders, the U.S. Attorney and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to discuss the Department of Justice’s role in civil rights matters.  For more information on the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Arizona, visit http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/az/.

WHAT:  Civil Rights Forum focused on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

WHO:  U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis K. Burke, FBI representatives and local community leaders.

WHEN:  Wednesday, October 6, 2010 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.  Doors open at 5:30 p.m.

WHERE: ASU Mercado, Room C-145, 502 E. Monroe Street, Phoenix.

On Monday and Tuesday this week, I’m nestled in that bosom of excess called Las Vegas while I attend a conference.

Before you mutter “Uh-huh” with a knowing smile, you might want to know that I intend to learn quite a bit at this year’s Society of Professional Journalists event.

I’ve attended the annual convention before, and I’m always amazed at the good stuff people share—tips, tricks, resources: it’s all here (and for a reasonable price).

(A few weeks ago, I wrote about another SPJ event, sponsored by our local chapter. It focused on social media. My blog post was in regard to what a mash-up professional groups can be.)

This year, my conference schedule opens with a half-day workshop on what we used to call “New Media.” It’s called “The Entire Conversation: Using Social Media Tools To Reach Content-Hungry Audiences.”

Are we really all that hungry? Well, I guess I’ll find out.

I also plan to improve my skills with our family iPad. Typically relegated to Netflix use, I have signed it out for the trip. I’m also intrigued by a conference-specific app that the SPJ has provided for free. Will it really improve my educational experience? (Inquiring minds want to know.)

My trips to Vegas are rare, but I lived there one summer back in 1992. I was summer-clerking for the United States Attorney’s Office, and it was a blast. I split my time between the criminal section and the organized crime/racketeering section—apparently they have both in Las Vegas! (Who knew?) The work was phenomenal, and the buffets back then? They were actually cheap. I hear things have changed quite a bit since then.

I plan to tweet some from the conference (Find me here.). You can follow all the tweets at the dedicated hashtag: #SPJ10

Here are a few other seminars I may attend (in no particular order):

  • NewsGear 2010
  • Expert Advice on Covering Disasters (and other breaking stories)
  • Weird Careers in Journalism
  • A Federal Shield Law
  • Covering Courts and Crime
  • Networked Journalism
  • How To Use Liveblogging and Webcasts
  • The Art of Access: Getting Public Records
  • Business Journalism
  • The Art of Interviewing
  • Google 101
  • Dangers of the Borderland Beat

I’ll give you a roundup of what I learned (and where I ate) when I return.

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