Sunday, March 29, 2009

Google Understands Word Play, China Doesn't Get It (Again)

Thrilled to find out Google now takes into account semantics - how we use words and how they work together - when searching on your terms, just a little bit surprised it took so long.

And will Google let us "turn off" the semantic interpretation when we don't like how it's "reading" us? We'll find out....

Unfortunately, China pulled the plug on YouTube again last week. It's censorship, folks. Old-fashioned but alive and well. Please fight for your right to read, and write.

China's citizens did, circumventing the government's block of the terrific site (which is owned by Google). By Friday, the site was streaming in China again...but for how long?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Yay! A New Use for Old Writers

Thanks to an innovative plan at Stonybrook University and a grant from the James L. Knight Foundation, 50 laid-off journalists are about to get new jobs teaching "news literacy" to non-journalism college majors.

I love this!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Editor as Floral Arranger

If you've read one entry you know my bias: I think journalism is here to stay, it's a worthy, beautiful profession, and it's absolutely necessary to a civilized society.

Biased as I am, I think (good) editors are artists; I see an Op-Ed spread, or just about any section of the paper, as a carefully constructed work of art. Balanced, and if not lovely, at least interesting to a variety of viewers. It's not always a floral arrangement; sometimes it's just a collage. But it's art, baby. Art. (A good page designer sure helps, but the editors and writers collect the material.)

Consider a recent two-page book section in The Plain Dealer. Of course, you won't see it online, so try to imagine...
Two equal but very different three-column reviews sit front and center: one on the weighty Cheever, a biography by Blake Bailey, is balanced by a look inside the lighter Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee. The "grownups" hover over reports on two tales for teens - it's as if the arranger knows that the kids are growing up fast. Fiction and nonfiction reviews hold up the edges of the spread.

It's big-headed hydrangeas and graceful young buds, a bright spray here and bit of greenery there. A fresh look at a new-in-paperback book and a glance at the NYT Best Sellers list poke up from the bottom of the page like baby's breath.

There's something for everyone.
Keep reading.

- - - This post also appears on my reading blog - - -

Saturday, March 7, 2009

What Are Words For?

Missing Persons asked the question, What Are Words For? in the early 80s, and it seems we're still asking. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The answer is, words are for human communication.

I hope you'll forgive me when the question "is content still king??" makes me roll my eyes and spew sarcastic sound bites. Such as, well, you only need content...if you want to communicate.

Full disclosure: I'm a writer who just laid off from a company (Viacom) that recently hired a half-dozen (more) SEO/Social Media Marketing gurus.

Sour grapes? No!

We need SEO that works. We don't live to search, we live to find. And what we're looking for - in a gazillion different forms - is content. Ergo, good SEO is pointless without good content.

Content, of course, can be a picture, a game, a form, a joke, King Lear or step-by-step instructions on hotwiring a car.

I think we've heard the "reading is dead" argument enough over the centuries (Plato?) to realize it's not. I think content is still king as long as SEO marketing firm Best Rank (and others) say it is. True, content has taken a hit in accounting. But even as stately old newspapers are disappearing others are starting to ask the right questions, like: what about distribution? and how can the print product add value to the web product? Aha! Now we're getting somewhere!

(But where? It's hard to say. Just keep reading.)