A Duke University team is spending the summer experimenting with "structured journalism," an approach that breaks down news into continuously updated data fields, Laura Hazard Owen writes. The project is led by PolitiFact founder Bill Adair, who says: “It’s hard to measure how many hours of a reporter’s time are wasted writing a paragraph about things you have written before. When we get accustomed to it, I think it will actually save reporters time and readers time.”
Matt Waite comments on the FAA's long-awaited action proposing regulations to legalize commercial drone use: "It’s surprisingly flexible and permissive given what the agency has required of users up to now. Put simply, drones for journalism becomes very possible and very legal under these rules. Only a few things wouldn’t be allowed, and they’re minor in the grand scheme of things." More from Ben Popper and Al Tompkins.
They've been around for almost a decade, but Cynthia Graber writes that podcasts have struggled to find a niche. Now, that may be changing, thanks to new equipment and new ways for their creators to earn revenue: "Today, podcasting is making a comeback, in part because the technology — smartphones and audio recording programs — is easy to use … Apps like Stitcher encourage seamless podcast listening, and websites like SoundCloud make embedding and sharing audio a snap."
Joel Simon of the Committee to Protect Journalists discusses what journalists can learn from the new movie Rosewater, about the Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, who was interrogated in Iran during the 2009 election protests: "The standard email and social media account contains the kind of information that interrogators used to pull out fingernails to get — your friends; your colleagues; your associations; your private opinions; your political beliefs."
What can you do when you have to send someone a large file over the Internet and it's too big to attach to an email? Is Dropbox the only alternative? Not at all, Amit Agarwal writes. For example, there's Skype: "The popular Skype app can also be used for sending documents, photos, videos and other large files of any format to your Skype contacts. Just initiate a chat session or a audio/video call with a contact and choose the Send File option to initiate a transfer."
The Associated Press will start using computers to generate routine business stories, and Mathew Ingram thinks that's a good thing for both journalism and journalists: "By widening the pool of available reporters to include both amateurs and robots, we increase the amount of potential journalism being done," Ingram writes on GigaOM. "All it means is that as a professional journalist, you now have to make sure that you are better than a robot."
Writing for Nieman Journalism Lab, ProPublica's Scott Klein warns that journalists who shun data and programming can lose out in the chase for stories: "We all know reporters who don't know how to write a FOIA letter and who can't bear the thought of reading the avalanche of documents that, with luck, arrive in response. You can be a good journalist without being able to do lots of things. But every skill you don't have leaves a whole class of stories out of your reach."
When in doubt, reboot. That summarizes one tip in this PCWorld compilation on troubleshooting your own PC problems. Other advice includes which malware scanner is best, how to measure your download speeds, and what to do when your computer is slow to start up. There's also a warning about knowing your limitations: "If you think the problem is too complicated, call up a more knowledgeable friend, or bite the bullet and work with a professional tech support service."
It's too easy for writers to get sloppy about security in their digital communications, Casey Frechette writes for Poynter in a post with 15 "best practices" tips. Take email, for example. Before it gets to your recipient, your message may pass through any number of other computers. "In principle, anyone with access to those computers can monitor the communications that pass through them. We think we’re sending a sealed envelope, but we’re really mailing a postcard."
Steve Henn reports on NPR about a recent move by the New York Times to let Google handle the news organization's email: "This summer, the paper moved all of its reporters onto corporate Gmail accounts. Before the switch, Times emails were stored on servers it owned; now those messages are in Google's digital filing cabinet." Henn raises a question: How strong is Google's committment to protecting reporters — and confidential sources — from government subpoenas?