Weekly listserv journal – RSS, ethics for online media, and camera phones

As part of a class project I’ve been reading the Online-News mailing list and responding to some of the issues and discussion brought up there.

I went ahead and looked up some info on RSS.  It seems pretty interesting-details can be found at http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss.  RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, a common format for content you want others to be able to pick up through their news sites, blogs, and web applications.  It’s a flavor of XML, which allows you to set up different channels and different items within the channel, with some other standard tags like creator and description.  It’s nice because it’s an open format, and it seems to be getting pretty big.  Like so many other things, there’s a set of dueling specifications for it, though some are backwards compatible with each other which is nice.  If more sites keep using it, I’m sure Microsoft will ad their own proprietary version to Office any day now.

One thing that’s interesting about this list is that people use it to announce papers, books, and projects.  For example, there’s “The current status and potential development of online news consumption: A structural approach” by An Nguyen at http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_9/nguyen/index.html, which makes the bland assertion that more news web sites are going up and more people are getting their news from the web.  That one was mentioned by someone who had read it; other times the writers themselves make announcements like Robert Berkman, who co-wrote Digital Dilemmas: Ethical Issues for Online Media Professionals.  This book likes kind of interesting, just because I’ve read a few journalism ethics books and they usually don’t have much on online journalism.  There are some important issues which are particularly pressing online as opposed to print–like reader privacy.

In other threads, some people have been discussing a poster called “JOE BIALEK” who seems to have appeared out of nowhere to write huge diatribes.  The name looked familiar to me and some of the other posters confirmed my suspicion-he’s a troll from Usenet and other forums who tries to start fights.  There was an interesting meta-thread about how these sorts of things happen.  Another thread was about the use of mobile phone cameras by reporters.  The first poster talked about how great it could be, but others quickly added there could be ethical concerns.  It might not be a great idea to let your reporter (who’s not a trained news photographer) take insensitive pictures of victims and post them without going through an editor first.