Wednesday, September 1, 2010

You call THAT news? That was some sloppy work, son.

First off, let's get this out of the way; Am I a journalist? NO. Do I understand real time news and social media? Yeah. Pretty damn sure I do.

I joined Twitter in August of 2008, but that is not when I actually started using it. All I knew is that I thought I should sign up and at the very least, squat on my first name.
(Oh look! Notes, not tweets!)

Now, I do not want to get all into when I became active or fully engaged in Twitter, because it does not matter. What does matter is what I started using Twitter for, what many others started using it for and how it is evolving.
Breaking News.

Whether it is a wildfire, police chase, presidential speech, protest, hostage situation, etc., we have all become accustomed to getting the very latest and the tiniest detail about the event we choose to lock-on to.

Why? I am not 100% sure, but it is similar to rubber-necking a nasty car accident. We get to go "ooooh, ohhh, *tisk_tisk* and what have you.

Sometimes real-time news is beneficial. Take wildfires, for example. Sharing valuable information such as evacuation maps and places of refuge is helpful for those that are affected. Or an Amber Alert, traffic incident, road closures, on and on and on. Useful.

Other times, this rapid spread of information holds little to no value to the general public other than to gawk.

Although I can present many different examples of this, I will use today's hostage situation at the Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Around 11am pacific time (that is where I am located, so I use it as my reference), I instant messaged Tray McGuire, the founder of the online Twitter news account we maintain (@UpfrontNews), to a message I had seen coming from a local Maryland news source about a "possible hostage" situation. From just that simple message I could tell something was going on. Now, that could turn out to be a small, localized incident such as a domestic dispute or it can turn into something much larger, like it did today.

The point being, it was unclear yet how big this situation was going to be so I never tweeted on my main account that this was going on. Why? Well, a lot of locals follow me, they were all engrossed in the Apple iPod press event that was going on and I still was gathering information. Gathering, digging deeper, cross checking. Not sharing yet. That is important.

After I felt I had enough details to assume this was a much larger situation unfolding, I did tweet what I thought was worth sharing with others on my private account.

The first tweet I posted was "It's weird that #Discovery can be used for two events going on right now on opposite sides of the country". Referring to the Apple press event and the Silver Spring situation. It's vague. I am not saying much of anything, rather I was suggesting that people could follow the hashtag #Discovery.

This went out to a much smaller audience (approximately 900 followers) than it would have if I had used my main account, @Alonis.

I had scanner feed for Montgomery County pulled up and we both had the local news feed on, had made contact with local authorities and started looking at maps of the area. What schools are nearby? How are they handling this situation? What transit systems could be affected. Are there any government buildings located within close proximity?
In my opinion, the majority of people, the general public, didn't need to know everything that we were working on.

We knew we had enough information to post a tweet about it on our news account, @UpfrontNews, sourced CNN to be on the safe side. Then Tray and I continued to dig and gather as much as we could on the incident.

After hearing the suspect's name on the local live feed, the first thing I did was write it down. Secondly, search it like mad on the Internet. Search engines, social networking sites, telephone listings...all of that.

Yes. I got to his MySpace page, his manifesto, some random addresses from British Columbia to San Diego, but WHAT good would that do to post on our news site? What good would that do for the public? Nothing. Nothing at all.

That information was only pertinent for news gathering, to get a better perspective on the POSSIBLE person that is a suspect in a developing situation.

Of course I was not the only person in the world 'Googling' the crud out of this man's name. The difference however, is that I was not spreading every little find of his web trail of crumbs to the masses. But, you bet your sweet ass that others were.

** Be the first! Get out there with the scoop! More traffic, more clicks! MUST. TWEET. EVERYTHING. Even if we have not confirmed. Even if we have not cross checked it. Who cares! People will flock because we have *this*, we have *that* and when we change details or correct ourselves, every one's brains will be hazed over with a new tantalizing link we can share with them! Go, go, GO!**

Okay. So maybe that is not what folks in newsrooms were saying out loud, but it is how they behaved.

@BreakingNews (now operated by MSNBC) tweeted: A picture posted on Twitter possibly of the suspected #Discovery gunman, re-tweeted widely -

This tweet ALONE was retweeted more than 100 times. And you can see just how many people tweeted this UNCOMFIRMED picture of the SUPPOSED suspect on Twitter Search

The initial tweet came from @jdivenere. His profile information states his name is Jason Divenere but his location is given as Snowmass Village, CO. Really only one thing made his tweet SEEM to be credible...
his bio says he works for Discovery. That is it.

Discovery what? The store? A local affiliate in Colorado? Who knows. He may even work in Silver Spring, Maryland, but not a single person had verified that at the time.

@NewMediaJim retweeted it as well as many others with high follower counts.

I am not necessarily calling Jim Long or others out for a sloppy retweet but I am pointing out that there is a serious problem in new media and the spread of unverified information being shared at lightning speed.

It needs to stop. For the sake of actual news, it needs to stop.

Finally, @MSNBC_Pictures posted this tweet: Help! We're trying to verify where/when/who for this: - Info? Call 425-706-1950 (@jdivenere)

Yup. You guessed it. I called.

I called because I was tired of seeing this image get posted all over the place when it was not the suspect but was instead an image of a SWAT officer. You could see in the press conferences that other SWAT members were dressed the same way. Besides, when I first saw it, several things stuck out in my mind; The suspect was seen with devices attached to him. None in the pic. Also, the suspect's body build did not match. Lastly, my gut told me "eh-eh".

I spoke to a nice gentleman in the Media Relations department at MSNBC. I told him what I could tell from others tweets that were posted by people whose bios actually said they lived in the area of Discovery Channel HQ. Ya know, NOT Colorado. People like @kibrly

Which is what this entire post is about.

WHY are news organizations that have schooled journalists not verifying what they toss out on the web before doing their homework?

 Whatever happened to keeping your mouth shut until you were sure, I mean REALLY sure and could publish (post) something that you felt you could stand behind?

Does the fact that Twitter is 140 characters lend itself to the notion that any random crap we spew forth from our finger tips is a novelty and therefore not something we should worry about being authentic, verifiable, credible, accurate??

In my opinion, NO. I stand behind every tweet I post, every Facebook status I make, every word I speak. If I am in doubt, I will mention that I am not sure. And better yet, I will not share it with millions of strangers to leave it open to their interpretation.

It is not the general public's job to digest all this crap and then determine what is real or valid. That is the reporters, editors, journalists, etc., job.

Is it that we just want to be first? To be popular? To get the most attention? To be able to say "Yeah, I know already, I tweeted it."?

I know we are all learning in this ever changing medium, but some restraint and better judgement needs to be exercised.
I truly hope that some better policies get put in place at the news organizations, QUICKLY. The public deserves better.

So what do you think?

Do you think that you should be glued to every tweet, every Facebook status, every YouTube posting as a breaking news situation unfolds all of the time? Do you still trust a news agency that shares information that has not been verified, sourced or is inaccurate? If so, why?
George Kelly shared this link to a post by O.N.A. (Online News Association) with me today. It was recorded yesterday. It's about an hour long, but it is all about the current dilemma with breaking news and social media's role in it. I hope more of you will listen to it.

(Even this stupid Facebook link was shared. Although I admit the 1-800-Flowers order is funny, it was tacky and irrelevant to any actual real news)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Station Fire: Where to get accurate information

Where can you get credible information on the Station Fire burning in Southern California online?


Accounts that I know to be official News Sources or Fire Fighter Sources;
@LAFDtalk @LAFD @CalFireNews @eneitzel @AngelesNF @latimesfires @ktla @ABC7 @CJamz

*@LAFD & @LAFDTalk are for the City of Los Angeles and not the account for the Los Angeles County Fire Department. However, there is no verified @LACo account on Twitter.

Accounts that I know to be trustworthy Citizens spreading information;
@winecountrydog @twnstar2 @socalincidents @ChopperKat

Mike Brown, @plutokiller, is live tweeting the top floor of Caltech library.
: Astronomer, planet hunter, Pluto killer.

RT @plutokiller: OK, all, I'm going mobile. From roof I have line of sight to Mt. Wilson towers & scopes. Stay tuned. #station


  • UCLA Dept of Physics & Astronomy webcam View of Mt. Wilson. *Due to heavy visitor traffic to the site, you may have to refresh several times. I have found better success with my iPhone app: WorldView Live (Search iTunes app store for that)
News Stations

On Facebook
iPhone as a Scanner
  • Emer. Radio app (Los Angeles County (Santa Clarita Valley) Fire, Sheriff and EMS)
Handy evacuation checklist posted by Santa Cruz Sentinel

How you can help

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation: Honors all firefighters across the nation

RT @latimesnystrom: Want to help with SoCal fires? Here's how via @lanow @latimesfires @latimescitydesk

The Station Fire burning in Los Angeles County has claimed the lives of two fire fighters, Captain Tedmund "Ted" Hall and Firefighter Specialist Arnaldo "Arnie" Quinones.
Quinones was a soon to be first-time-father.

Five people have refused to evacuate their home and are reportedly trapped at a ranch near Gold Creek. I was listening to the L.A. County Fire and EMS scanner when they decided it was simply too dangerous to send personnel back into Gold Creek to evacuate them. Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County sheriff said a helicopter was unable to immediately reach them because of intensity of the fire but that they would try after the flames passed through.

Note: As I am typing this, I am listening to the scanner and hearing that the five people in the Gold Creek area are still being defiant. Not sure if I heard correctly that it is either the Hathaway house or if that was the name of the road that these five people are holding out on.

Last night when I went to bed, the Station Fire had burned approximately 45,500 acres and by the time I got back to the laptop, around 9am today, it had nearly doubled in size to 85,760 acres. Just a few hours later, it reached 105,000 acres. Currently, the fire is only 5% contained and the estimated containment is date is September 15th.

I am sure there are many other resources out there that you can use, but really, this is plenty enough to follow.

Note: The title image is not mine and can be found via Yahoo search; Station Fire + Images

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Josie Faye Hall "Uccellina"

A dear friend of many is losing her battle with cancer. She has a soul & heart that shines like the Sun. We are rallying around her and we know that she knows we are all thinking about her & sending love her way.
She shut her Twitter account, @winkfromblueyes, down last night. This is why we are using the hashtag: #winkfromblueyes

Terry Travers (@TqNews) has a blog where there are some pics and loving thoughts for

There is not much more I want to say on this right now. I am very upset.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009's nothing. Really.

Thoughts for todayAlign Center
  1. If you leave an open bottle of white wine in the fridge for a month, it goes bad. Like REAL bad.
  2. Monavie and Vodka is DELICIOUS!
  3. Think I am getting less concerned about Saving the Trees the more I have to wash dishes by hand.
  4. "You're gonna love my nuts" makes me laugh EVERY time I hear the Slap Chop/ShamWow guy say it.
  5. One of my Twitter friends, @Arktist is a very talented artist, although I NEVER saw him tweet about his work. Very cool guy! Here's some of his sketches.
  6. Even though @Calamari and I are not dating any more, I am glad I met him because he is a TRUE friend. Even helped me with my Rez Zoom May today! What a sweetie!
  7. Thanks to Obit Wheelchair spam email, I am now aware that I MAY qualify for an electric wheelchair at little or no cost. Good cause I was tired of this whole 'walking' thing and I *should* invest in my retirement.
  8. Monavie and Vodka is REALLY DELICIOUS!
  9. The price of NYMEX crude seriously needs to come back to reality. People with NO jobs CAN and WILL decide to drive less furthering the rise in inventory. Just sayin.
  10. I am NOT an SEO or Social Media expert and I think that NObody is. You're either smart & 'get it' or you don't. It isn't magical.
  11. We MAY be able to save our HOME because we FORCED our lender into modification talks by not paying our mortgage for 6 months. I didn't have to pay any fees or get screwed by any scam artists.
  12. I don't know what the word "debian" means and I am too lazy to look it up.
  13. Talk show radio hosts who say that Twitter is lame and vain have little to no followers because in reality, they are pissed that no one gave a crap what they had to say.
  14. I can't figure out why people give a crap what I tweet about.
  15. Tweets like this are a total #Fail for me: RT @nbcbayareacom: Presented By:
  16. Tweets like this I actually LEARN something from: RT @dkmashino: - Pink Palace & the place in which Pave Paradise was penned apparently.
  17. My dad was out of his mind when he kept telling me "You catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar." Really, dad? Who the hell wants flies??
  18. I have something in my eye and NO it is NOT my finger.
  19. Our #CABudget sucks, but hey...budgets suck. Period.
  20. There's only ONE thing that could make this Monavie Vodka cocktail even better...It could clone itself so I don't get my butt up and make another!

    Note: I do not sell Monavie. I just like the taste of it.

Friday, July 3, 2009

#FollowFriday for July 3rd

Happy Independence Day Weekend America!

Please be sure to not only have a fun & safe fourth of July weekend, but be sure to take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are to have the freedoms & liberties that we do have here in the U.S.. For all of our bitching & complaining, we really do have it plush here.

I come from the Lee's & Dean's of old Virginia on my maternal side, so Independence Day has a really cool & personal meaning to me. Not that it doesn't hold significant meaning for ALL of us...just sayin'.

My G-G-G-G-G-G (eh, too many G's) Grand Uncle was George Washington. My GGGGGGG (whatever) Grandfather was Henry Lee III
who fought in the American Revolutionary War.

Mind you, some of my maternal ancestors are ones that enslaved, raped, killed, et cetera some of my paternal ancestors, but that is all water under the bridge now. It is what it is.

From my ancestors that are indiginous to this continent to the ones that helped shape our government, to the soldiers that have fought & those that continue to fight for our freedom & the freedom of others, to the firefighters, the law enforcemment, doctors, nurses, teachers, to those that bust their humps working hard every day, to those out of work & eager to find a job, to the bum in the streets, the activists, the pacifists, to the children & all others I may have left out...
"This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me." -Woodie Guthrie

I am SO proud to be an American. Sometimes embaressed, yes, but very proud nonetheless. This is OUR country because we make it what it is.

Happy Independence Day America!

Now, on with my #FollowFriday Suggestions...

I follow a lot of ppl. Of course I can not catch every tweet they post, I am able to keep tabs on them pretty well. This is a list of SOME folks on Twitter that I look forward to chatting with and/or reading their tweets. Some are controversial. Some are informative. Some are just plain ol' Chatty Cathy's (or Chad's if applicable). Point being, if you add 1/2 of these ppl to your following list, you will A) Never be bored on Twitter. B) Learn something new. C) Make some great contacts. D) Smile & laugh.

Give 'em a shot & check them out!

@bnmeeks @LATimescitydesk @AdrielHampton @LATimesNystrom @markbriggs @tnsltwn @Art_News @winkfromblueyes @aNorthernSoul @Arktist @AlohaArleen @RayBeckerman @terri5me2000 @ZAGrrl @JDrive @andrewhuntre @Letiitaa @Zacharycohen @zachflauaus @Monkfishy @Adrigonzo @SaschaScarpulla @hlooman @tracy2be @Robert_Banghart @guruvan @ZAGrrl @mactavish @PhilHarrison @marquearts @verwon @egratto @CJamz @BilleBaty @Walterpic @nelsonmaud @wahliaodotcom @dreadw @drewtipton @pussreboots @motheringrocks @Adriel4Congress @gmkerwin @WriterLeeAnne @bhavinm @jonkolbe @smellycents @Meghan1018 @Irishrose54 @GumpB @DrDuran @thetalesend @christinajade @LishaBisha @judithsthoughts @Halibutron@@chrisblake @TankaBar_Linda @gregcollier joebrooks @TradingGoddess@Clifsoulo @ianryerson @Zab @zaibatsu@smashadv @purplehayz @JimMacMillan @entreprediva @3amjosh @aileen2u2 @QueenofSpain @TheExpert @FizzyDuck @bhavinm @littlefoxy @taosmesa @swellyn @campingblogger @Armageddontime @CHARLIEFOGG @pixel_jockey @LittleFoxy @LishaBisha @Calamari @BasilLeaf @ckanal @ocicat_bengals @elocio @infidelsarecool

*I didn't have time to hyperlink the names. Your mousing hand could use the copy/paste exercise. ;-)

SO sorry if I left anyone out. Please understand that I try to get as many ppl in as possible over the course of many #FollowFriday's. That and I am pressed for time. Running away to Lake Tahoe for the weekend! ;-)

Be safe & have fun!

Friday, May 15, 2009


My top #FollowFriday ppl for this week?

Those that helped get important info out to the public during the #JesusitaFire in Santa Barbara.

It was tough, at first, to determine who was giving accurate info out. I knew mine was since I was listening to Santa Barbara PD/FD scanners, watching streaming chopper coverage and that I get all of these BNO News emails.

Quickly the key players figured out who the right sources were.

RT @Cjamz Throughout the night PLEASE follow @Alonis, @socalincidents, @KCSB, @LATimescitydesk and @SBRedCross and more #jesusitafire

was on location and posted URGENT tweets about the fire. Every time he tweeted in ALL CAPS I knew it was important:


@LATimesCityDesk posted very useful information like this:

RT @LATimescitydesk: Check it out: Our interactive map of the Santa Barbara fire has been updated. It's packed with useful info. #jesusitafire

@Cjamz would post the evac orders on Twitter, but that wasn't going to work for me.

I had received them directly from sources such as KSBY and the City of Santa Barbara's PIO. (I've since deleted them because they are no longer needed.)

I couldn't flood all of my followers with evacuation orders in 140 bits. Instead, I posted them here on my blog & then would post them on Twitter with the proper hashtag, #Jesusita so those watching the fire via Twitter Search could link to it right away.

When all of the fire fighter's hard work began to pay off and the fire started to come under control, I realized I had connected with some great ppl.

RT @CJamz: @Alonis ALWAYS my dear! It's REALLY a pleasure to work with u and everyone else! All my best 2 you! #jesusitafire

RT @Alonis: @CJamz Keep up the great work! Be safe. Know that everyone's thoughts and prayers are with all of you guys! #jesusitafire

Nita Lelyveld runs the @LATimesCityDesk acct.

I also was trading DMs with @LATimesNystrom while he left work to go on vaca on Friday night. I got to know him a bit, as a regular person.

Great guy with ties to the Bay Area! Kewl!

Oh, and follow @ENeitzel - National PIO, Incident Social Media (ISM) cause he not only will let you know when & where the roof is on fire but he's a pretty damn funny guy!

You get a real chance to see how genuine and goodhearted ppl are during times of crisis. This was one of those times & these are some PPL with BIG hearts. :-)

Here are some other #FollowFridays that I love on Twitter but can't spend all day blogging about WHY I enjoy following them. Check them out!

And last but surely not least, my sister @TenayaLeDeux