Subscribe to Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous

A visual guide to fake and real news

Fake news on laptop

The online image archive Imgur got more than three million views in three days for an image that tries to graph major news sources on spectrums of journalistic quality and partisan bias. Breitbart and Addicting Info scored low on quality and were at opposite ends of the bias spectrum, the former conservative and the latter liberal. Major newspapers and TV networks herded near the center on bias but varied in quality. Comments on BoingBoing BBS.

It's not your eyes, it's the font

Blurry iPad

Web designers have more tools than ever for adjusting colors on their websites, and Kevin Marks says that's not always a good thing. Marks delves into details of typography to show how some websites sacrifice legibility for looks: "There’s a widespread movement in design circles to reduce the contrast between text and background, making type harder to read. Apple is guilty. Google is, too. So is Twitter. Typography may not seem like a crucial design element, but it is."

The motives of Internet commenters

Hands on keyboard

Prompted by some off-target comments on one of her own stories, Christie Aschwanden wades into the world of Internet comments and concludes that the story itself might not be the motivator for many commenters: "I’ve begun to think that many comments sections, including ours, are like a book club where members routinely fail to finish the book. The reading material is merely a starting point — the real purpose is to gather together to discuss interesting ideas."

Data journalism and the Han dynasty

UNIVAC I operator's console

Kristen Hare interviews Andrea Lehr, a marketing strategist, about her agency's report on the explosion of data in news, and some of its roots in the journalism of earlier decades, even centuries: "The fact that a computer was used in 1952 to accurately predict Eisenhower's win is incredible; even in the mid '50s, the country wanted to know who would be the next president before the election was even over." Also, newsrooms expand their data teams.

On that feeling of being a fraud

Road signs

That little voice that says you're incompetent has a name — impostor phenomenon. Sandeep Ravindran interviews experts who study it and science writers who feel it: "The impostor phenomenon seems to be common in science journalism. Many of the journalists I talked to for this article had either experienced it or heard of colleagues experiencing it. A session on impostor syndrome at the 2013 ScienceOnline conference generated much discussion among journalists on Twitter."

A scientist, a cartoonist, and a book

The Madhouse Effect cover

Josh Chamot interviews Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles and climate scientist Michael Mann about their new book The Madhouse Effect, and what their collaboration was like. Says Mann about Toles: "Somehow he’s able to do in a single cartoon what takes me half a chapter to describe in words. Sometimes there’s a message that’s being delivered but it’s almost subliminal. In our book, the cartoons and the text compliment each other."

Students take the Wikipedia challenge

Wikipedia logo

More than 240 college science classrooms have students working to improve the quality of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, Rosanna Xia writes, citing examples from California universities whose students have reworked hundreds of entries: "Professors, once averse to Wikipedia, now see its potential. Midterm papers and literature reviews — usually read by only the instructor or perhaps a teaching assistant — can be turned into comprehensive, accurate Wikipedia entries."

Ten tips on how to be a writer

Fountain pen on paper

Rebecca Solnit takes a journey through the writer's mind, with advice such as this thought on the importance of keeping at your work even when the muse isn't anywhere in sight: "Carpenters don’t say, I’m just not feeling it today, or I don’t give a damn about this staircase and whether people fall through it; how you feel is something that you cannot take too seriously on your way to doing something, and doing something is a means of not being stuck in how you feel."

An introduction to the use of drones

Drone aloft

As the Federal Aviation Administration issues guidelines on using drones commercially, Benjamin Mullin writes about a a user-friendly guide to drone journalism: "Some newsrooms will have manned helicopters and experience with this," says one of its authors, Matt Waite of the University of Nebraska. "Most won't. We wanted to give everyone from the freelancer to the global media empire a document that helps them stay safe, be smart and use the devices in the right way."

An embargo break and its consequences

EurekAlert logo

Ivan Oransky reports that the Motherboard web site and its parent Vice have lost access to embargoed EurekAlert! content for six weeks after jumping the gun on a Science paper's release. He quotes AAAS chief communications officer Ginger Pinholster: "We very much appreciated Motherboard’s swift response to the problem as well as their public apology … however, we determined that reporters at Motherboard had, in fact, been involved in a prior embargo violation."