With oil spill coverage, Grist sees record web traffic

An oil skimmer works on the Gulf Coast spill

This spring, the BP oil spill caused environmental devastation of epic proportion in the Gulf Coast.

It also brought record breaking traffic to Seattle online environmental publication Grist.

Grist saw its highest readership numbers yet in the first half of this year. For January through June, site visits were up 30 percent over the same period in 2009. Grist now attracts an average of 800,000 unique visitors each month from readers around the country.

Grist’s staff members cite oil spill coverage as one key factor in the jump, along with the public’s overall heightened interest in the environment and Grist’s own efforts in social media outreach.

Rebecca Farwell, Grist’s general manager, said the site’s oil spill stories were among the most clicked on this spring, and the content was in turn picked up by a number of other national sites.

“The oil spill definitely had an impact,” Farwell said. “People are really passionate about it.”

Grist wasn’t the only news outlet to benefit from oil spill intrigue. Left wing magazine Mother Jones saw record breaking traffic on its web site, with visits this spring up 125 percent from the same time period last year. Mother Jones staff attributed the jump to its team coverage of the BP oil spill.

Since its inception as an online environmental newsletter 11 years ago, Grist has been growing steadily. The nonprofit now has 25 staff members, which include 9 people in editorial.

The growth has come, in part, by Grist reaching out to young readers with its cheeky, humorous coverage of serious topics. This year, Grist worked to build up its Twitter and Facebook presence to draw more of the younger demographic.

Grist has also been striving to devote more attention to green urban topics. In recognition that more people now live in cities than do not, the site started to run more stories on transportation, waste, energy, architecture, and other urban living issues.

This fall, Grist plans to launch a redesigned home page. The site also plans extensive coverage on gubernatorial candidates and their environmental records leading up to November elections around the country.

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Welcome to our new, improved website!

the Washington News CouncilPlease come in! Take a look around. Make yourself at home.

We have completely redesigned the WNC website. (It’s about time, some say…)

Our goal is to make this site timely, engaging, interactive, helpful and fun! We hope it will become a key forum for discussion of news-media matters in Washington state – including ethics, accuracy, fairness, issues, people and trends.

Check out these features on our new site:

  • WNC Community – Join our online community and be part of stimulating Group and Forum discussions.
  • Latest Topics – Weigh in on current media debates – and suggest new ones.
  • WNC Blog – Read our recent blog posts and please add your comments.
  • NewsTrust – Visit this WNC partner site, then start submitting and reviewing stories from Washington state news media.
  • Twitter Stream – Follow “tweets” from savvy media people statewide.
  • WNC Projects – Scan our expanding list of projects and give us feedback.
  • Washington News Lab – Help us encourage innovative new media experiments.
  • Complaint Process – If you have been the subject of inaccurate, unfair or unethical media stories, consider filing a formal complaint and using our effective process.
  • TAO of Journalism – Take the “TAO Pledge” to be Transparent, Accountable and Open, and display the “TAO Seal” on your website.
  • Supporting Members – Become a “NewsHound” or “News Junkie” and help the WNC continue our vital work to promote media excellence statewide.
  • 100 Friends of WNC – Join our distinguished group of friends and receive special benefits, including two VIP tickets to our Gridiron West Dinner.
  • Archives Page – Review the WNC’s accomplishments over the past 12 years.
  • Gridiron West Dinner – Reserve your tickets or tables for our 12th annual gala event, a fun-filled “toast” to five former Mayors of Seattle on Nov. 12, 2010!

[Read more...]

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Seattle editors weigh in on anonymous comments

(Weigh in with your own thoughts in our community forum)

It happens every time a news story on a controversial topic hits the web: Angry rants, nasty name-calling, personal attacks, and defensive replies.

All can be found regularly in the comments sections of online news articles and opinion columns, including many blogs. Some topics, such as public safety, racial conflicts, immigration policy, and urban bicycling, seem to draw the most vehement responses.

Many readers – probably now the majority – post their comments anonymously. Unlike printed letters to the editors, on which most newspapers ask writers to include a real name, street address and telephone number for verification, online news sites don’t typically require full public identification. Even if commenters are asked to register online, they may use nicknames to conceal their true identities.

The Buffalo News recently became the first major American daily newspaper to ban anonymous comments on its website, which provoked nationwide discussion on the policy.

As a journalist, regular online news consumer, and occasional commenter, I go back and forth on my own view toward anonymous comments. I’m accustomed to putting my name next to my opinions in articles and on the web, so I don’t mind identifying myself in a discussion forum. I figure that if I’m willing to write an opinion, I should be willing to back it up with my name.

However, I’m also well aware that many people – including some of my friends and family –  are far less comfortable leaving their names on open forums on the Internet. They aren’t accustomed to being a public face or name, and they worry

about privacy and personal attacks. In some cases, they may be commenting on topics that relate to their own workplace or social networks, and feel they can be more honest by remaining anonymous.

As an advocate for free and open dialogue, I’d rather see comment sections filled with posts rather than completely empty. And, for my own personal needs as a journalist, comments often help me write a better story or follow up news with subsequent articles. I do cringe, however, at times when reading particularly nasty attacks in online forums.

When Washington News Council president John Hamer asked me if I wanted to weigh in on the issue, I decided that given my own conflicted views on the subject, I’d like to hear what local editors are doing and how they feel about anonymous comments. I emailed questions to The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Crosscut, West Seattle Blog, and the Federal Way Mirror, and a few other news outlets that did not respond. Here are their responses:

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WNC welcomes summer intern Colin Moyer

WNC intern Colin Moyer updates new donor database.

WNC intern Colin Moyer updates new donor database.

Joining the WNC team this summer is Colin Moyer, who just completed his first year at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

As a high school senior at Curtis High School near Tacoma, Colin made a name for himself when he approached school officials about starting a school sponsored newspaper.  School administrators said sure, but they insisted on reviewing content of any paper before allowing it to go to press.  Finding this unacceptable, Colin pulled together a group of Curtis students, who launched “The Viking Underground” — an off campus student-produced paper. They printed and distributed the paper during the entire 2008-09 school year, covering a range of topics relating to the school community, and did so without prior review by school authorities.

For his efforts on behalf of student press rights, Colin received a Special Recognition Award from the Washington Journalism Education Association. He also received the National and Washington state ACLU Youth Activist Award for outstanding commitment to the protection and promotion of civil liberties.

Colin now works on the staff of the Occidental College newspaper, and looks forward to starting his sophomore year there in the fall.

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Trendy online web deals fuel neighborhood news sites

Justin Carder

In recent months, the Seattle start-up Neighborlogs has stumbled across the perfect match: neighborhood news sites and online web deals.
Ad dollars from popular coupon sites like Groupon, Tippr, and Living Social are now fueling the local news sites Neighborlogs supports. Companies like Groupon can pay a package rate for their discounts to appear on all 22 neighborhood and city news sites on Neighborlogs’ Seattle Indie Advertising Network. The network’s members include sites like Central District News, My Green Lake, Wallyhood.org, Seattle Crime, Publicola, and Seattle Transit Blog.

“The Groupons of the world are all trying to buy web traffic cheaply,” said Justin Carder, vice president of business development for Neighborlogs. “Neighborhood news sites make sense for them.”

The influx of ad revenue from coupon sites marks a shift for Neighborlogs, which previously found its advertising from more traditional venues. Service providers such as dentists, lawyers, and real estate agents used to be the main advertising clients. While Neighborlogs still sees some of that traffic, online deal sites now provide the bulk of business.

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Save the Date! Gridiron West Dinner on Nov. 12!

SAVE THE DATE for the Washington News Council’s 12th annual Gridiron West Dinner — Friday, Nov. 12, 2010, at the Washington State Convention Center. We will “toast” (i.e., roast) five former Mayors of Seattle — Wes Uhlman, Charles Royer, Norm Rice, Paul Schell and Greg Nickels. We’re happy to have David Horsey and his “flying pies” drawing back for our invitations and programs. Mike Egan will emcee again this year, and Jim Anderson/Cabaret Productions will provide music and songs.  Reception starts at 5:30 pm, with dinner and program at 7 pm. This has become a favorite event of the fall season, with video, photographic, musical and personal “toasts” to our honorees. Tables and tickets are available now. Call our office (206.262.9793) for more details.

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Pulitzer cartoonist David Horsey takes on new media

A Horsey cartoon of Las Vegas, from the Death Valley piece

A Horsey cartoon of Las Vegas, from the Death Valley piece

After decades as a newspaper cartoonist, David Horsey is trying out a new medium.

The two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Hearst cartoonist has been experimenting with narrative film. Horsey signed on with MSNBC to create a series of short cartoon and photo films this spring. The History Channel funded the first round of shorts, and Horsey is currently seeking a funder for the next phase of the project.

Horsey, who pens cartoons for Seattlepi.com and Hearst papers around the country, first met with MSNBC and Hearst’s directors of new media last fall.

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