Category Archives: media

Penn Jillette on Talk of the Nation

I’m a big fan of magician, showman and noted Atheist Penn Jillette, so it was quite a surprise to hear his booming voice today and see him come walking by my desk at NPR. He was there for an appearance on NPR’s Talk of the Nation to talk about his book God No! Just another one of the ancillary benefits from working at such a cool place.

Here’s the audio from his chat with host Neal Conan:


Notes on covering a disaster

If you haven’t already done so, Brian Stelter’s account of covering the aftermath of the Joplin tornado is a fantastic read. It gives a really insightful perspective on the challenges and problems (both technical and emotional) a journalist can encounter coverings disasters of this magnitude. I highly recommend taking the time to read it.

I sent a few e-mails and made a few calls to The Times suggesting that my Twitter feed somehow be incorporated into the coverage. It was, after all, the place where my latest reporting was being posted. Late in the afternoon, The Times published a link directly to my Twitter feed on the home page.

Looking back, I think my best reporting was on Twitter. I have archived all of the tweets here.

Update: I’ve thought about this comment a little bit more. I believe it’s true that “my best reporting was on Twitter,” but only up until a certain point on Monday, probably around 11 p.m. local time. After that point, with a more stable Internet connection, I was able to file complete stories for, not just chunks of copy.

People later told me that they thought I was processing what I was seeing in real-time on Twitter. I was.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The value of broadband Internet

A project by some MPR colleagues recently looked at the value and necessity of high-speed Internet for everyone, including rural communities. As they put it:

High-speed broadband has been called the infrastructure challenge of the 21st Century, and the United States is often portrayed as trailing behind many other nations. How fast does Internet access need to be? Is providing it a government role, a marketplace question or something in between? How should people be encouraged to use it? How does it affect a community? The federal government is heavily involved; should the state be?

Never has this been more evident than in my own recent personal history. About a month ago my Internet, provided by Comcast, started to get sluggish once in a while. I thought it was just normal Internet hiccups, but then it became more regular. I pay around $80 a month for high-speed Internet, the 20/Mbps plan from Comcast. Right now I am speed testing at between 1 and 3.5/Mbps. That is atrocious, almost dial-up speed. I called tech support and we ran through everything and eliminated every obvious variable. To his credit, the Comcast tech support guy was very patient and tried everything he knew, to no avail. We settled on me trying to replace some cables and then calling back if that doesn’t work. I think it is the modem and that will be the next step.

However my point is that not having my readily available, high-speed Internet has shown me how much I, and I’m sure many others, rely on and take for granted the ability to surf, download and interact online. Outside of the personal luxuries of Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and Hulu, there are so many things that everyone should have access to that is currently relegated to those in big cities and for those that can afford it. Paying bills, online banking, applying for jobs, training and online education; those are just a few of the things that are more easily accessed with high-speed Internet. Access to those things should not be cordoned off for the more fortunate, especially when that access would have a higher benefit return for those less fortunate.

In this day and age, when the Internet is an everyday part of life, it feels more and more that the infrastructure for broadband and the access for the public should be a utility as readily available and easy to access as water and electricity. I know I’m not the first to have that thought, but it’s just become so apparent in the last few days. How can that be accomplished? I’m not exactly sure. But I see a future where having high-speed Internet access is no longer luxury.

When I was in Thailand nearly 10 years ago, I traveled to my grandfather’s village about 10 hours northeast of Bangkok. They lived in small farming village that barely had electricity. However, you could take a scooter ride or catch a truck and in about 20 minutes be at an Internet café with fast Internet access (for the time) and take care of your business. While not ideal, even in the jungles of Thailand everyone could get access to a relatively fast connection that is probably better now. The fact that they can do it there and we don’t have it in every square corner of the U.S. now is almost embarrassing. And the fact that fixing my Internet is so problematic, even though I pay $80 a month, is also evidence of a deficiency in how we handle broadband access and service.

TL;DR version: Broadband and high-speed Internet should be everywhere in the U.S. Everyone should have it, and everyone should benefit from it.

Oh, and a postscript. Through whatever Internet magic they’ve created, even at the lowest bandwidth I’ve had, Netflix streaming on my PS3 has continued to work. Hulu Plus, not so much. So kudos to you Netflix and continuing to feed my addiction for TV series and obscure documentaries.

More reading…

I fear that I am edging closer to the dark rabbit hole of this becoming simply a link farm, something I definitely want to avoid. Daily work has kept me busy however and I truly have not had much time to take a longer look at some issues and events popping up lately. I’ll get into some deeper posting eventually, like the old days.




Not really looking forward to the wave of media coverage of the Michael Jackson memorial. I understand why they (we) have to do it, so get it out of your system media. Tomorrow, we go back to the news please.

In personal swag/vanity purchase news, I’ve decided against buying the Canon T1i. It’d be an upgrade, but not so much of one that I should be buying it now. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t use the video all that much. If I want to do some video projects I can get a separate camera for that. The little HD flips are less than $200. Instead, I am going to save up to a get a Canon 50D, a logical step up from the Rebel line for those dancing between professional/hobbyist. It’ll be a while though, body only it’s still about $1,200. That’s a hefty financial commitment and my current camera suits me fine right now.

Carry on, off to work.