Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reporting When a Sex Abuse Scandal Hits Home

This morning the lead story in the Philadelphia Inquirer was probably one that no one at the paper ever imagined they would have to write. Award winning baseball writer Bill Conlin had been accused of multiple instances of sexually abusing children back in the 1970s. The story on details horrific acts and how the allegations managed to remain secret until now. Also accompanying the article is another piece from the editor of the Philadelphia Daily News talking about how it was difficult, but necessary for the Inquirer/Daily News conglomerate to report on these allegations against one of their own.

While editor Larry Platt pledges vigilance in their coverage of these accusations, I wonder how this story will impact their coverage of the Penn State and Catholic Church sex abuse scandals. Will they be less likely to write about the ignorance of those closest to the alleged abusers since they themselves didn't know an alleged abuser was in their midst for 30 years? I did notice that neither of the Bill Conlin articles online allowed for comments and I'm interested in why that is. Perhaps the papers have seen the hurtful comments that people have left on their stories about the other two scandals and don't want to have all that venom spewed in their direction? What does that say about the value of comments left on news stories?

It will be interesting to watch how the Inquirer/Daily News conglomerate handles the Bill Conlin abuse scandal and others going forward.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Plagiarism Goes to Court

When I teach my library session on citation and plagiarism, I always like to throw in the story of Adam Wheeler, the former Harvard student who was criminally prosecuted, in part because he was awarded scholarship money for works of literature that he plagiarized.

Now, I have another story I can add to my repertoire: Apparently reporter Susan Bradford has sued the Huffington Post and the New York Times alleging that they stole her stories about notorius financier Jack Abramoff.

So students, let this be a warning to you: If you steal someone else's work and claim it as your own, you may not only fail out of Towson but you may end up in court.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Baltimore Sun is Going Pay Wall!

If you blinked, you may have missed it. The Baltimore Sun will be putting up a pay wall on October 10th. What this means is that through the Sun's website, you get 15 free story views per month and you will need to pay a subscription fee after that . They estimate the fee will come to about 35 cents per day and even if you subscribe to paper copy, you still need to purchase a digital subscription for to get past the pay wall. For all the nitty gritty, see their relatively well-hidden FAQ. I think it is relatively interesting that the paper has somewhat kept quiet that this is coming and I also wonder how effective it will be. After all, look how quickly advice on how to break the New York Times' pay wall appeared when it was launched...

Of course, I'd be remiss as a librarian if I didn't remind all you Towson folks that you can access the Sun all the way back to 1837 through our databases and this won't cost you a dime :-)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mediamark Missing the Mark

A new semester is underway and with a new semester invariably comes the semi-annual updating of my library instruction handouts. One of the updates that I usually make in late August is to my MRI+ Quick Guide and Powerpoint because Mediamark adds last year's data to MRI+ around that time. (For those of you who don't know, MRI+ is a consumer data set that advertising students can use to learn how to best target their campaigns).

This year was different. The new data was just added yesterday and as of my writing this, it appears to be less robust in some areas than last year's data. For example, it is missing the data for women throughout.

Also, we are still trying to get clarification on what some of the categories mean. An example of this is the listing of dollar amounts in the Contributions to Public TV/Radio report. This report also seems to list contributions to other types of charities such as religious organizations so this raises the question of whether the dollar amounts refer to just public media contributions or to charitable giving in general. A colleague of mine began investigating the meaning of this report last school year and still hasn't gotten an answer.

I think that Mediamark's MRI+ can be a great teaching tool for communication students, but I wish they would do a better job of communicating with their customers about product changes and what their data means.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fix the Broken APA Please!

Just last week I was looking at an article in the Communication & Mass Media Complete database and when I clicked on the cite link, a new screen popped up. Instead of the usual pop-up box containing a tiny disclaimer and the incorrect APA citation for the article, I now see a larger disclaimer and still the incorrect APA citation in the middle of the page. This is not what I meant EBSCO when I asked you to fix your broken APA this summer at the American Library Association conference!

While the new disclaimer is a step up from the old one (which was minuscule), it doesn't really make anything better. I highly doubt that students will give it a second or even a first glance. They want to be able to get their citations and get on with their research. Even if they do look at it and click on the EBSCO support site, they still have to go through pages of text to find examples and some of those even aren't correct.

As a librarian, the new disclaimer doesn't help my credibility. I need students to be able to trust the library and the information we provide--that is the only way for us libraries to survive--but how can I do that when one of the primary resources I am telling students to use is riddled with errors? I've had students lose points on assignments over incorrect EBSCO citations and it breaks my heart. They trusted us and I now have to tell them that sometimes they are better off doubting us.

Basically the only one the bigger disclaimer helps is EBSCO. It allows them to feel like they have addressed a complaint. But it doesn't really accomplish anything. Please EBSCO, I am begging you, fix the APA citations in your databases--for the good of everyone.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NBC Learn Higher Ed

As many of you know, streaming news video can be tough to locate. That's why I was more than happy to take a look at NBC Learn Higher Ed at a recent library conference. This product makes thousands of NBC news videos, as well as content from their partners such as the Washington Post, available to universities. Also interestingly enough, they have collections of educational videos in chemistry and environmental science too.

I have registered for a free 30-day trial of this resource and you can too at I think it is at least worth a look because streaming news content is so hard to get.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The CSI Effect

Yesterday twelve men and women managed to do what presidents and politicians have been unable to do in quite some time--emotionally unite a large section of the United States populous.

When the Casey Anthony verdict came down yesterday, and she was acquitted of murdering her daughter Caylee, it seemed that a cry of outrage echoed across the country. Legal commentators like Nancy Grace said "the devil is dancing tonight" and celebrities from Kim Kardashian to Jason Biggs tweeted their shock and dismay.

So how did this jury come to reach a different conclusion than so many other people across the country? One theory I have is the CSI effect. Basically I wonder if TV shows like CSI have gotten juries to expect to see physical evidence in murder cases and when it isn't there, they won't convict. Some anecdotal evidence and research back up this theory. For example, a 2004 USA Today article outlines a number of cases across the country of how crime dramas have had an impact on the courtroom. Also a 2006 study by Judge Donald E. Shelton, and criminologists Young S. Kim and Gregg Barak found that those jurors who watched crime dramas like CSI were slightly more likely to expect scientific evidence of some kind in murder cases than those who did not. If the Casey Anthony trial was held 20 years ago, pre-CSI, I wonder if the verdict would have been different.

To learn more about the CSI effect and its impact, check out this ebook.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Roper and the $1000 Sundae

Earlier this week, I went to one day of nearby library conference and I attended a session about public opinion resources. One of the presenters at this session was from Roper Center at the University of Connecticut which produces iPOLL, a database of the polls from every major survey organization going back to the 1930s. For me, watching the presenter demo iPOLL was like watching a chef make the $1000 sundae at Serendipity restaurant in New York City -- You salivate over the end product, but you know there is no way you can afford it.

Luckily for those of us who crave public opinion data but can't part with a silver spoon to pay for it, Roper has put some free resources on their website. One is their Topics at a Glance section which contains preselected iPOLL data on a variety of what they call "hot topics". So for example, you can get some recent numbers related to the public's confidence in the economy or education or Congress. Also you can find poll results on social issues like drugs or lifestyle information like following sports. It's not as robust as I might like, but you can't beat the price. In addition, Roper provides historic data on presidential approval for free. So if you want to know how Obama's high and low numbers compare to other presidents back to FDR, you can find out.

While I may never get to devour the $1000 sundae of public opinion, I think I can make do with the occasional free scoop that comes my way. After all, finding something wonderful for free, even if it is only a little bit of it, makes this librarian smile :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Welcome to the New Communication Books!

We were able to do some last-minute end-of-the-fiscal-year book ordering and a few new gems have joined our collection. They include:

Summer is one of my favorite times of year because it affords me the opportunity to catch up on my reading and explore new ideas and subject areas in communication. I hope you get that chance too!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Searchable State Employee Salary Database

For those of you that know me, you can imagine me as a curious little kid. So when I was about four years old, I was learning about numbers and money so one night at the dinner table I blatantly asked my father how much money he made. The room went silent and my dad said it wasn't polite to ask that question. Well if my dad was a state employee in Maryland now I wouldn't have to go through the impropriety of asking. I can just find the figure online thanks to the Baltimore Sun.

As I was reading an article on the Baltimore Sun's website about how Gov. Martin O'Malley makes less than many University System of Maryland VIPs, I noticed a sidebar that invited me to search a database of all state employees' pay. I clicked on this link and discovered that I can search salaries by name. So now my neighbors, coworkers, and anyone else can find out how much money I make. As a librarian, I generally like information to be freely available, but this creeps me out a bit and seems like a violation of my privacy. If my census record must be kept confidential by law, why not my pay too? I can see the value of aggregate data and that should be available, but pay data on an individual, identifiable level just seems wrong to me.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

JTA Jewish News Archive

A fantastic new news repository came online last week -- The JTA Jewish News Archive.

This free searchable database contains 250,000 news reports from JTA: The Global News Service of the Jewish People (formerly the Jewish Telegraphic Agency) from 1923 to the present. (The JTA organization is a not-for-profit media company similar to the Associated Press.)

One of the most significant parts of this archive is the JTA coverage on the Holocaust from the late 1930s and early 1940s because the bulletins shed light on what was actually known about the Holocaust during that time period. It would be interesting to compare coverage in the JTA news bulletins with coverage in secular news sources from around the world and see what the differences were.

You can obtain more information about the archive on the JTA site as well as through this YouTube video.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Movie on "Selling Out"

Morgan Spurlock, the man who took us along on his month-long fast food binge via his documentary "Super Size Me," has a new movie coming out this Friday. This time, he is taking aim at the pervasiveness of advertising. According to an interview with CNN, Spurlock has made a documentary about advertising that is completely paid for with advertising. It's called "Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."

As someone who personally contributes to the advertising clutter on Towson's campus and also helps train future advertisers to contribute to the overall general advertising noise, this movie makes me a little bit nervous. Will Spurlock distinguish between socially responsible advertisers like non-profits, or will he condemn us all for trying to get our messages across? I guess I will just have to go to the movie and find out.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of advertising, here are a few books about the topic that you can get at Cook :-)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

"One Life to Live" Taken Off Life Support

ABC announced today that it is canceling two of its soap operas, "All My Children" and "One Life to Live," because of declining ratings. Apparently daytime drama isn't the draw that it once was because programming tastes have changed and "many of the women who made up the target audience [are] now in the work force."

The passing of these two former broadcasting heavyweights is somewhat sad for me because it represents the demise of a communication research subject that was once so very rich. A quick search for soap operas in the library catalog yields a plethora of books from the 1970s, 80s, and into the 90s. You also find soap opera articles in our databases such as "Soap opera viewing motivations and the cultivation process" which was in a 1985 issue of the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. I guess what I am trying to say is that in their heyday, soap operas like "All My Children" and "One Life to Live" helped us better understand communication so it is somewhat tragic to watch something that was once so vital fade into oblivion.

But time marches on and so does research. So if you want to study soap opera's younger, hipper sibling (reality TV) we have resources for that too :-)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cook Library and the NYT's Pay Wall

As you may have heard, the New York Times' pay wall came up on Monday. This means that individuals are limited to 20 free articles per month on the New York Times' website unless they have a home delivery subscription. In that case, full digital access is free. The key words here are "home delivery subscription".

It is unclear what that means for libraries like Towson that get a handful of print copies each day. My fellow librarians and I aren't hopeful that our hard copies will translate into full-access passes and we are trying to get clarification from the paper about what their pay wall means for us.

In the meantime, the best way to get to the New York Times is through the library databases. (Don't forget -- you will need your TU OneCard to log on from off campus).

I'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Where Does It Count? Census Data and the News

I am a self-described "news addict" so needless to say, I spend a lot time on news websites. In the last few weeks, I've noticed more and more news stories about population shifts on local papers' websites. For example, today in the Baltimore Sun, we have one about "white taggers" -- the people who have moved up I83 to Pennsylvania but haven't changed their license plates yet.

So what is the reason for all these demographic stories? Beginning this month, the US Census Bureau is releasing the data from the 2010 Census. You can see the release schedule here and given the schedule, it looks like we are going to see many more news stories based on Census data in the coming months.

As a researcher, I welcome all these news stories because they give us one more access point for Census data. Anyone who has worked with government information knows that it can be difficult, if not impossible sometimes, to find the data you need because they are often buried in a maze of hyperlinks on government websites. Also, even if you do find the right data, it's not unusual to encounter broken links and this too can make finding old data difficult. Thanks to the hard work of librarians though, news stories usually get stored in a searchable archive.

So 50 or 100 years from now it will probably be a whole lot easier to find out how many people moved from Maryland to York, PA between 2000 and 2010 using the Baltimore Sun news database than it will be to try and search a government website for that same data.

I guess the moral of the story is that if you are looking for Census data, it doesn't hurt to search the Census' website, but you may also want to check out the library's news databases like LexisNexis or the Baltimore Sun Historical too.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Researching Journalists' Safety

Between the story of the sexual assault of Lara Logan while she was covering the Egypt protests and the story that came out of China today about police intimidating ABC reporters in that country, the world seems to be getting tougher and tougher for journalists.

If you want to keep track of how reporters faring around the globe, there are a few organizations that can help you find this information:
  • International News Safety Organization (INSI): A coalition of news organizations, journalists, and other support structures that try to provide a "global safety network" for reporters who are abroad. They have a good news feed about the latest dangers facing reporters abroad.
  • Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ): Independent, non-profit started in 1981 that is devoted to press freedom. This organization keeps statistics on reporters killed or wounded on the job and provides information for journalists on how to be safe while abroad.

Monday, February 21, 2011

When it Comes to Article Searching ... It's Location, Location, Location!

A couple weeks ago, I taught a library session for a section of Nonverbal Communication. As those of you who have been to one of my sessions know, I usually work through a sample search and this session was no different. The sample search in this class was "the role of gaze in the courtroom setting" and we looked in the PsycINFO database for peer review articles.

So I'm going through the usual brainstorming synonyms exercise (the point in my session where I ask students to think of all of the possible ways to express the sample topic) and a student mentions that a possible search term could be "trial". That's perfectly logical term. It makes good sense. Except...we're searching in a psychology database. So I showed the class what happens when we add trial to our search. Wouldn't you know we doubled our results...but most of those new results had nothing to do with the justice system and had everything to do with animal and human behavior therapy experiments. Not quite what we need.

So when it comes to finding articles in a database, where you are matters as much as what you search :-)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Social Media Changing Super Bowl Ads?

Not only was last Sunday the biggest day of the year for football, it was also the biggest day of the year for advertising. USA Today acknowledges this significance and has been measuring the popularity of ads run during the big game for the last 20 years. To see how the 2011 ads fared, check out this article.

I think one of the more interesting trends, though, was noted in an article by Bruce Horovitz that ran today in USA Today. The author points out how social media is changing how Super Bowl ads are rolled out. Companies no longer wait until the big game to unveil ads--they are pushing them out before kickoff via social media, like Facebook and Twitter. Also the article notes that this pregame unveiling didn't seem to hurt how popular the ads were during the game. Could this be a sea change in advertising?

To learn more about social media and advertising, check out these books at Cook Library:

Monday, January 31, 2011

Researching Egypt and Communication

If you're hungry for more information about what's behind the chaos in Egypt, Cook Library has you covered.

We have a new guide on researching countries and cultures, which you can use to get background information and international news.

These are a few of our books that look at Egypt and communication:
And to find out about the history of and the current state of press censorship in Egypt, look at the Committee to Protect Journalists' website.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New Books!

Cook Library has just gotten in a number of new communication titles in a variety of disciplines. Here are some of the new books:

In Advertising:

In Business Communication:

In Interpersonal Communication:

In Journalism:

In Media:

In Political Communication

In Public Relations:

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Way to Search Online Journalism Outlets

Columbia Journalism Review launched a new database for searching digital news outlets today. The News Frontier Database is a searchable tool that allows users to find digital news outlets that meet certain criteria (such as location, type of coverage, and revenue sources--to name a few). They've started with only 50 sites for the launch (there aren't any in the database from Maryland yet), but they plan to grow. Also the pull down menus make it relatively easy to use. This looks like it has the potential to be a very good resource since it has two of the qualities I like best in a database--free and straightforward to use.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Communications Theory Encyclopedia!

Happy new year! I've been searching for what to write about for the last few days and then I realized that in the hustle and bustle of finals week that I forgot to formally introduce the latest member of our communication resource family!

We now have an online Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. To access it, just click on the yellow "Find It" button at the top (you may need to log on if you are off campus) and click on the "Read Full Text at Sage Reference Online" link.

This is a great reference source if you need to look up an unfamiliar theory that you come across in a journal article and it has "Further Readings" links at the end of each entry so you can continue to explore.

I'm very excited about this new resource :-)