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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Wading through Facebook’s newest privacy changes

Interest in Facebook’s privacy settings is growing almost as fast as the number of users joining the site. Yesterday, the social networking giant announced even more changes in a series of revisions to the site’s privacy settings:
  • People searching through Facebook’s user directory will only receive minimal information about others, including name, profile picture, and gender.
  • Facebook will make it easier for users to restrict access to their information from third-party websites.
Although these changes make it easier for users to control their privacy settings, the site still requires users to change the default privacy settings if they don’t want to give third-party websites the ability to access their information.

With more than 170 options to adjust how much profile information is shared publicly, it’s no wonder that many of the site’s more than 400 million users are confused. The GH Spin is committed to helping you make sense of Facebook’s new privacy features and what these changes mean for you. Check back here for updates.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Central Corridor nears the funding finish line

The Central Corridor project, which has been in the works for nearly 20 years, reached another milestone Tuesday. The Federal Transit Administration gave approval for the project to enter the final design stage.

Although the federal government still hasn’t officially agreed to cover half of the cost of light-rail construction, this final step is almost inevitable. According to officials, all projects that have reached the final design stage have received federal funding.

The utility construction that has been plaguing downtown Saint Paul for months will make it possible for the 11-mile light-rail line to be finished by 2014.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When the new world and the old world grammatically collide

The Associated Press has well-established principles that most newsrooms and reporters are expected to follow when they write a story designed for official publication on a Web site, newspaper, or magazine. These guidelines determine the official ways to reference and abbreviate, and most of the world follows.

But what happens when these same reporters and editors who follow AP style are encouraged to embrace social media and Twitter? Should the same rules apply to the 140-character realm as they do to a 1,200 word article? According to Bloomberg News Editor in Chief Matt Winkler, some tweets may not hold up to traditional newsroom standards.

Winkler was less than pleased by some of his journalists’ recent Twitter activity. The reporters were tweeting during a congressional hearing. Winkler did not appreciate that the journalists were broadcasting a running commentary of the testimony rather than factual information, as seen below.
Twitter post by Bloomberg reporter: “McCain thumping on the ‘’you big bankers make too much money.’ Blankfein looks really uncomfortable.”

Winkler comment: ((xxx thumping xxx is an assertion that can’t be reported. Authenticity of quotation is questionable followed by assertion/opinion as there is nothing substantiating subjective xxx uncomfortable xxxx and therefore inaccurate.))

Twitter post by Bloomberg reporter: “Is Levin too cranky by half? Wonder if he’s making GS boys sympathetic characters.”

Winkler comment: ((xxx cranky by half xxx is an assertion/opinion and therefore inaccurate. xxx wonder xxx invites judgment which can’t be verified and is therefore inaccurate.))
What makes Twitter valuable is its immediacy, but the staccato conversations that Twitter facilitates should not be devoid of facts and grammar. AP style is an important way to help organize the written word, and it is interesting to see how established media organizations are struggling to find a place between the new and old world.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rock Star PR Move

Despite the word spin in the name of this very blog, we do believe that the best spin of all can be no spin at all. We found Campbell Brown’s comments today about her show to be refreshingly straightforward and honest. The result? Her credibility soared. We’re confident she’ll land a new job quickly. Maybe in PR?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Social media use on the Minnesota campaign trail

As a libertarian Republican, I’m not in the habit of reading the MN Progressive Project blog. But “The Big E” has done some nice original work in comparing the social media presence of the gubernatorial and select congressional candidates’ campaigns.

Monday, May 17, 2010

To quit or not to quit: The online privacy debate

Last month, the GH Spin reported that Facebook is allowing select third-party Web sites the ability to access and store users’ personal information. But now, Facebook has taken these privacy settings (or, lack of) further. Most of your personal profile information, including where you work, what music you like, and where you went to school, is now made public by default. Some of your information is shared.

Debates over these changes are swirling. A group of computer engineers started an online petition to encourage people to quit Facebook on May 31 to protest the privacy changes. Nearly 3,000 people have committed to canceling their profiles.

There is even a Facebook page dedicated to “Quit Facebook Day.” The GH Spin finds it ironic that these Facebook-haters can’t help but use said networking site to organize more haters.

Facebook first became popular as a safer, more private alternative to MySpace. This is still the case, as long as you know how to change your privacy settings. Click here to learn how.

This conversation about privacy on social networking sites will continue, especially if Congress and the Federal Trade Commission try to regulate these sites. Check back with the GH Spin for updates on this unprecedented debate.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rock Star PR Move: Target Field’s Newest Craze

Kirby the Kestrel, a moth-terrorizing falcon, has stolen our hearts and attention at Target Field. From his perch above the right field foul pole, Kirby catches flies as expertly as his namesake did in center field.

Today’s Rock Star PR Award goes to the anonymous creator of Kirby’s Twitter account. Thanks for giving the media another Target Field topic to cover.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Ultimate Retweet

The Library of Congress dived into the electronic diaries of millions of Americans this month when it acquired Twitter’s entire archive of public tweets. Storing tweets ranging from the horribly mundane to the historically significant, the archive serves as a window into the common person’s reactions to cultural and political movements.

The Twitter archive is a 21st century version of the Gallup Poll. For more than 75 years, historians, sociologists, and other researchers have used Gallup Poll results to analyze public opinion about presidents, religion, foreign policy, and more. These statistics have been instrumental in understanding the 1960s counterculture and public reaction to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

The Twitter archive will broaden the scope of the Gallup Poll, increasing the opportunities for future historians to analyze American culture. Just think about the mountains of research that could be done about our obsession with celebrities (Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett’s deaths) or our fast food eating habits.

While weeding through the more-than 50 million tweets posted each day poses a Herculean task for any researcher, the trending topics will be extremely important to future researchers trying to figure out what the Justin Bieber phenomenon was all about.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Twitter signals the future of news

This morning I learned about the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Pawlenty’s unallotments not through a traditional news source but through Twitter. The past two weekends, I avidly followed the DFL and GOP conventions through Twitter. Even though I didn’t attend either convention, I knew the instant endorsements were made thanks to my fellow tweeters.

Twitter has rapidly evolved into the fastest way to disseminate information. In fact, some researchers recently heralded the site as the future of news. According to the study, timely topics make up more than 80% of discussions on Twitter, and 54% of tweets are “headline news.”

Twitter has become the best way to break news and share important information. In fact, many reporters get story ideas and information through Twitter. But, because tweets are limited to only 140 characters, links to more in-depth articles are essential. Traditional news agencies and reporters are not going to go extinct because of Twitter. Instead, they are adapting to the rigorous pace of digital reporting.

So, even though “flashing on the screen” might replace “hot off the presses” as the breaking news cliché, newsrooms will still be buzzing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The ever-changing meaning of change

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press just released a new study that tests Americans’ reactions to words and phrases that are used frequently in political conversations: “capitalism,” “civil liberties,” “civil rights,” “family values,” “libertarian,” “militia,” “progressive,” “socialism,” and “states’ rights.”

Here are the results, so look away now if you want to rank the words yourself from most positive to least positive impression.
1. Family Values: 89% positive/9% negative
2. Civil rights: 87%/10%
3. Civil liberties: 76%/14%
4. States rights: 77%/15%
5. Progressive: 68%/23%
6. Capitalism: 52%/37%
7. Libertarian: 38%/37%
8. Socialism: 29%/59%
9. Militia: 21%/65%
As expected, Democrats and Republicans differed in their reactions. Democrats were more favorable than Republicans to “civil liberties,” “civil rights,” “libertarian,” “progressive,” and “socialism.” Republicans responded more positively than Democrats to “capitalism,” “family values,” “militia,” and “states’ rights.”

But one word is conspicuously absent from the survey. It is perhaps the most used – or overused – word in politics: “change.” It was spoken so frequently during the last Presidential election that it became part of an Obama speech drinking game.

The word “change” also illustrates well that people’s reactions differ depending on who you ask and when you ask. “Change” generally has more positive connotations with younger people than older people, according to a February 2010 Pew study. During the 2008 elections, most voters would have probably said that change in American politics primarily meant a break from political leaders of the past. Those same voters today might instead associate political change with transforming Wall Street and corporate leadership.

Before the politicians of 2010 become overly fond of using any particular words, I hope they consider that words and connotations are ever-changing. If there is a politician out there who wants to talk semantics strategy, I’m all ears.