some sites worth the click…

After letting the sites on my Google Reader grow exponentially the past couple of weeks, I finally went back in and hacked it down to truly worthwhile sites. And so I figured I’d pass along some of the ones (photo/journalism/photojournalism related) that made the cut!

  • No Caption Needed: NCN, run by two professors at Indiana University, a blog that is “dedicated to discussion of the role that photojournalism and other visual practices play in a vital democratic society.” They have some wonderfully insightful commentary on all sorts of images, and feature new photographers each week!
  • 10,000 Words: “where journalism and technology meet.” All sorts of neat lists and tips on multimedia journalism, often linking to other great, lesser-known sites.
  • Hey, Hot Shot!: the blog is for the competition of the same name, which is “the premier competition for photographers seeking greater exposure and recognition for their work.” More fine art oriented, with some really beautiful work popping up from time to time. And hey all you young, emerging photographers – you should think about applying!
  • GOOD: a really fantastic site that describes itself as “a collaboration of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits pushing the world forward.” You can submit photoessays to them, contribute to the blog, or view the portion of the site dedicated solely to infographics. And who doesn’t love infographics?!
  • a site run by Tom Engelhardt with a slew of fantastic guest contributors, it offers smart, insightful commentary and criticism on “our post-9/11 world…a clear sense of how our imperial globe actually works.”
  • Mort Unplugged: Mort Rosenblum has co-led a number of [EXPOSURE] workshops with VII Photographer, Gary Knight, and is a strong voice for the need for quality reporting. Mort’s pieces are thoughtful and thought-provoking, reflecting his current goals to “to rescue ‘the media’; to reclaim democracy; to halt terracide; to fight poverty and plagues; to curb corporate colonialism; and to set a great but misguided nation back on course.” Good stuff!
  • The Spinning Head: Asim Rafiqui co-led [EXPOSURE]’s most recent workshop with Sara Terry, founder of the Aftermath Project, and this is his personal blog that explores a plethora of issues, including but not limited to a discussion of contemporary journalism, in a fascinating and provocative way.
  • DVAFOTO: “is two young photojournalists, Matt Lutton and M. Scott Brauer, sharing their work and the news and pictures that they find interesting.” They also have a fantastic blogroll with links to other great sites.
  • Neiman Reports: “For more than six decades, Nieman Reports has explored what it means to be a journalist, examined major shifts in the industry, and shared with its worldwide audience articles about the rights and responsibilities of news organizations.” A great go-to for journalists, run by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

So that’s a few that I’ve been particularly fond of as of late – feel free to follow one, or none, or all of them! And post with your own favorites – always great to have interesting new things to play with on the internets!

[And in case you need a way to keep track of all these sites, try using an RSS aggregator like Google Reader, or set up an account with, a ‘social bookmarking’ site (whatever that means…!) that lets you tag pages and then reference them from any computer, so you’re not tied down to a specific machine or browser. A lifesaver for all things research and interesting!]


crash blossoms

Now there’s a name for the phenomenon of ambiguously or bizarrely worded headlines: “crash blossoms,” as suggested by a poster at the Testy Copy Editors site in response to the headline “Violinist linked to JAL crash blossoms.”… Crash blossoms are a variation of “garden path sentences,” a type of sentence that leads the reader into grammatical or logical sinkholes that were not intended.

(via GOOD)

For someone who loves a good pun, crash blossoms, also known as garden path headlines, might just beat out the old standbys.  While I might not laugh out loud that easily, these had me chuckling at my desk a few moments ago, and so I just couldn’t resist passing them along.  Enjoy!

From whence the term came:

  • “Violinist linked to JAL crash blossoms” (“If this seems a bit opaque, and it should, the story is about a young violinist whose career has prospered since the death of her father in a Japan Airlines crash in 1985.” John McIntyre @ “You Don’t Say”) Continue reading
photography, research

education for all?

Education for All? – Images by Elizabeth Herman

This piece was written and photos taken during the [EXPOSURE]/VII Photo Workshop in Siem Reap, Cambodia, June 2008. Co-led by Gary Knight and Mort Rosenblum.

“Education for All”
by Elizabeth Herman

The seven o’clock bell clangs and feet, springing to life, scamper towards the voice booming from the loudspeaker.  Its commands, singsong in cadence, bounce off white washed schoolroom walls.  Students fall into lines stretching the length of the building, rows of dark blue bottoms and light blue – collared shirts.  A passerby smiles: these kids found a way to go to school despite the poverty that surrounds them.

But as quickly as students scurry from the classroom, that thought evaporates.  The truth is that most kids their age at work now, either with parents at home, at a job they have likely had for years, or in the rice paddies.  Secondary school is an accomplishment only 31 percent of Cambodian children achieve as opposed to 90 percent who go to primary school.  Only 5 percent will reach the third level, and fewer still will graduate.

Some might say Cambodian children are lucky to have any schools at all 30 years after the Khmer Rouge.  Among their first actions on seizing power was to close all schools and start a systematic execution of teachers.  Only 5,000 out of 20,000 teachers survived.

After the Khmer Rouge’s rule, attempts to rebuild education moved slowly.  More civil strife left the country with sub-par schools and low enrollment rates.    Literacy rates were 85 percent for children and 75.6 percent for adults respectively compared to 98.0 percent and 93.4 percent elsewhere in Southeast Asia.  For adult woman, the rate is 66.7 percent compared to 90.6 percent for the region.

Cambodian education once brought pride.  After independence in 1953, King Sihanouk developed infrastructure with astounding vigor.  He built hundreds of schools in an attempt to create a national identity.

One man who has followed the fall and attempted rise is To Kim Sean, director of Education of Youth and Sport in Siem Reap.  Growing up in a peasant family, Mr. To said he would “go to school half of the time and work half of the time.”  He was educated in Sihanouk’s schools and then taught later from 1971 to 1975 after receiving his BA.  When the Khmer Rouge took power, he was one of the few teachers who survived.  His experience gave him perspective on the broken education system.

Mr. To recognizes the system should be overhauled.  “The government should train the children to get both a general education and technical training,” he said.  “From my experience, technical training is extremely important.  During the Khmer Rouge, though it was a hard time, I was able to survive knowing the technical farming skills that I know.  If we can train children in both ways, then perhaps they can achieve more success.”

This method might seem pointless in Siem Reap with its bustling streets and crowded markets, but it could be extremely useful in agrarian villages.  These villages are plagued by high drop out rates after primary schools.  Many have no secondary schools, and villagers can’t afford the time or money to head for town.

But even if the schools were in children’s backyards, many still could not go.  They’re needed to help their families.  Driving through Phnom Kong, it’s not rare to see a 4-year-old child washing clothes by a pump or tending to the family’s cooking fire.   As early as nine, the children are encouraged to work as recyclers, beggars, booksellers, and more.  When they hit their mid-teens, they’re often expected to have at least a part-time job.

To increase enrollment, some countries have adopted programs known as conditional cash transfers (CCTs) in which parents are given money, and sometimes food, in exchange for keeping their children in school.  In places such as Mexico, communities have seen startling results.  CCTs have been especially successful to help increase numbers of students continue on to secondary school, which is when many Khmer children drop out.

In the absence of such programs, many Cambodians see education not as an investment that leads to increased income but rather as a risk – and one that including losing an additional salary.  When families earn a dollar a day, that matters.

Anna Svey, now 16, was forced to leave school after eighth grade to work and care for her family.  Though she recycled cans from age 9 and hawked books on the streets since she was 12, she found a balance all too familiar to young Cambodians – school from 7 to 11, then work after lunch.  Anna was the first in her class and reading is still her favorite pastime.  But her mother’s seventh child, with the death of her father, was too great a strain.

Now she spends mornings cleaning and cooking.  At night, she asked tourists in perfect English to buy her cheaply photocopied books.  She sells maybe one, maybe two, but more often none.  Her mother depends on this income, so she perseveres.

Older Cambodian children often forgo school to support their siblings.   Ms. Am, mother of four and recently a widow, was forced to let her two older sons drop out to support the family and keep the two younger children in school.  “I decided to send all of them to go to school and see which one is the better one and who can advance their education, so later on I can expect that they would work in a company and make some money,” Am said.

For children who only work, few hopes lie ahead.  When asked what she would like to do, Anna said, “Whatever my mother wants me to do.  I will do whatever she says.”  Most likely, that means working for the family, contributing her salary to feed for six brothers and sisters.

Even those children who stay in school face difficulties:  large classes, generic teaching methods, badly trained and unmotivated teachers, and a lack of resources. Teachers, underpaid, often take an additional job and become restless when they their students cannot focus.

Still, important steps have been taken over the past decade to train teachers. The Ministry of Education has opened new facilities, and foreign voluntary agencies help.  VVOB, an education for development program run by the Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance, works with the Provincial Teacher Training College in Siem Reap to train teachers.  Free of cost and working around a five-tiered learner-centered methodology, it is running from 2004 until 2009.

Tola Keng, a 23 year-old student there, managed to continue his education through high school, unlike to two of his eight brothers and sisters, who had to leave school due to economic hardship.

Now, he feels he’s found his calling.  “This school is so different from studying in the secondary school in the countryside.  In secondary school, you learn many different subjects.  But here, you are trained to become a leader; I’m being trained to become a teacher.  I want to become a leader for my people, to help them be good people.”

On Nguon, the assistant project director, said, “We want to work on capacity building here and fund and support teacher training in order to guide teachers to learn the learning-centered methodology.”  He sees this as a vast improvement from the repetitive and rote recitation of the traditional teacher-centered ways.

Although Mr. On is hopeful, he says there is a long way to go; “If you compare Cambodia to other countries in the region, like Malaysia and Thailand, we are still at a lower level than them, especially in the lower schools.”  Just as the killing fields stand as a constant reminder of the Khmer Rouge, so does the brokenness of the education system that persists today.

Most disheartening is the fact is that many feel the golden age of education in Cambodia is a past success rather than a future goal.  King Sihanouk’s overhaul of the education system created an incredible infrastructure of schools, but that surge in enlightenment thinking all but vanished with the country’s decades of civil strife that followed.

However, there is hope.  The Ministry of Education has passed three policies that are working to improve enrollment rates and quality of lessons.  NGOs like VVOB are working with the government to learn how to better teach Khmer youth.  And, when prodded a bit more, Anna admits that one day she would like to save up enough money to move to Australia or England and open a store of her own.  Perhaps, a bookstore.

red school

To view entire photoessay in a separate window, please click the above image.


in-bed’ing with the Pentagon?

This story broke a few weeks ago, but as it’s an on-going issue…

I first heard of it though Sara Terry, with her tweet of:

Dangerous. The Pentagon is profiling reporters and their reporting. Must read.

The link sent me to a story in Stars and Stripes (an excellent news source to follow, by the way!) about how the Pentagon has been profiling the reporters it has been granting embeds to during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The report finds that “Contrary to the insistence of Pentagon officials this week that they are not rating the work of reporters covering U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Stars and Stripes has obtained documents that prove that reporters’ coverage is being graded as “positive,” “neutral” or “negative.”

This pie chart was extracted from a report by The Rendon Group, evaluating the focus of coverage by a reporter for a major U.S. newspaper. It indicates the firm’s conclusion that the reporter’s coverage was 83.33 percent neutral and 16.67 percent negative in relation to the military’s mission objectives.

This controversy makes you wonder about, makes you return to the very role and purpose of journalism. Conflict photography, for better or for worse, overwhelms mainstream news sites, so what does it mean when a significant portion of mainstream reporting is being funneled through official channels in the form of embeds? One quote in particular stood out to me in this story:

Rear Adm. Greg Smith, director of communications for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, wrote: “To imply journalists embedded with our forces only serve to highlight positive aspects of our mission slights the professional journalists who regularly embed with our forces and report what they experience, both good and bad.”

If you’re wearing sunglasses, all will look shades darker peering through their frames – things beautiful and terrifying alike. And while this metaphor may be a stretch, I’ll leave it at that and open this one up to discussion, as it’s quite late and I’d rather hear what you all have to say on this issue rather than listening to myself write! Thoughts? Questions? Ideas? What are the advantages of embedding, and what about the reports they produce need to be taken with a grain of salt?

photography, video


“Satellites” is the culmination of Jonas Bendiksen’s fascinating seven-year photographic journey through unrecognized countries, enclaves, and isolated communities on the periphery of the former Soviet Union. From Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Siberia, he takes us into little known places where the stark legacy of the Soviet collapse continues to evolve: Transdniester, Abkhazia and Nagorno Karabakh, the Ferghana Valley, the Jewish Autonomous Region, and the spaceship crash zones on the Kazakh steppes. In these outposts, the transition to the post-communist world order brought mixed results – some lost everything to bloody civil wars, while others find themselves in tiny pariah states that remain all but closed to the outside world. Some evolved peculiar self-styled brands of capitalism, others simply packed their bags and left.

unfortuantely, i can’t embed it here, but take my word for it, it’s worth the click through…

Jonas Bendiksen‘s “Satellites” is smart, insightful, illustrative work with a thoughtfully constructed narrative and beautiful images; i can’t recommend it enough.


10,000 words: a journalist’s to-do list

Stumbled across this great blog – 10,000 words: where journalism and technology meet – in looking for audio slideshow software tips, and now can’t get enough of their recs. They have a great checklist of to-dos for aspiring journalists, and I wanted to pass along a few of the better, and more manageable ones.

  • Start a blog and post at least twice a week
  • Shoot 100 amazing photos and post them on Flickr
  • Improve at least 5 Wikipedia entries
  • Create an audio slideshow using Soundslides
  • Shoot and edit a 3-minute video and post it to YouTube
  • Create and maintain a Delicious account with at least 50 links that you find interesting
  • Create an online portfolio
  • Learn another computer language besides HTML (e.g. XML, PHP, MySQL)
  • Learn how to create a basic slideshow in Flash
  • Subscribe to at least 25 non-journalism blogs using an RSS reader
  • Record, edit and embed a 3-minute piece of audio.
  • Interview 10 people using a handheld audio recorder
  • Create a multimedia project that incorporates, video, audio, and text

Check out the full list here.

Showed it to Jess, who said, “oh this list makes me nauseous…sooo much is expected of journalists – who will not get paid nearly enough for it all.”  True!  But who doesn’t love a challenge?


technology goes home

I’m in the middle of working on a piece for Technology Goes Home, a fantastic program that runs through the Boston Public Schools, providing 24-hour workshops on computer literacy and internet safety for students and their families.  Over the course of many weeks, it teaches various skills, from building a PowerPoint presentation to activating I-Safe filters, and at the end of the program participants can purchase a computer, fully-loaded with Microsoft Office, for a mere $90.

I knew this would be a challenge when I took this assignment on – I’ve never written a feature of this length or depth before.  But what I’m learning through the process is both surprising and exciting: how to conduct a better interview, the make-up of Boston’s city-wide school system, how far parent engagement in a school can really go – the list goes on.

Unfortunately, the story’s hitting a few road bumps in the form of the swine flu – many schools in the Boston area are closed for a week, which casts an ominous shadow over the graduation celebrations, which are scheduled for May 30th.  But I’m plugging along anyway, and a hoping to get a draft done sometime soon (before then, at least).  Just finished transcribing, now finally onto the fun part!  Perhaps I’ll post bits and pieces here as they come about.