mstem | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent blog posts by mstem

Tim O'Reilly, Pattern Detector

Tim O'Reilly at the Media Lab

One of Tim O'Reilly's favorite quotes goes, "The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think" (said by Edwin Schlossberg).

Tim's detected a pattern of success across his long and accomplished career, and it is the ability to detect and annunciate patterns that haven't yet been named. He frames and contextualizes big ideas and, across his writing, publishing, and event hosting, helps people tie together related threads and see, in a new way, that which was already right in front of them.

Tim's first successful attempt at framing the dialogue was with open source software. Richard Stallman and others were talking about it, but they were talking very narrowly about Linux and the GNU project and ignoring Apache and DNS and the web, which by that point was in the public domain. The framing and context was a political one, but O'Reilly was able to create a context (and a conference) to help the actors see what they had in common.

Trayvon Martin Media Coverage Takes on a Tabloid Tone

My piece on Trayvon Martin ended up getting a lot of attention, and, as part of that attention, some questions about why I didn't address the role of coverage by African American media outlets. I'd like to address that missing element, and ask for your help in fleshing it out. The short version is that my study looked at the early coverage, and I can't find any examples of African American media coverage predating this March 7th Reuters article. Help me be wrong with links in the comments!

Never Assume A Shared News Experience

How to Liveblog Events with a Team

(or, The Six-handed Liveblog)

three people typing

When Nathan and Matt joined the Center for Civic Media in the fall of 2011, each had significant blogging experience. But we were to serve under Ethan Zuckerman and Sasha Costanza-Chock. Zuckerman is co-author of Tips for Livebloggers with Bruno Giussani, and he fervently believes in liveblogging all events. Sasha Costanza-Chock, a long time media activist, is also passionate about live, collaborative note-taking.

The Center hosts several public events each week, from guest lunches to evening forums to special events, and Ethan and Sasha quickly established a strong norm of liveblogging these events. Which is to say, they made it clear that we weren't just expected to attend these events, but to blog them. (They help. Sometimes.)

The Internet Didn't Make Trayvon National News, But It Did Sustain the Story

Updated with industry benchmark petition conversion rates (4/11/12) and illustration by Lyla Duey (8/18/12).

Rough illustration of how the Trayvon story took off

For weeks, the only Trayvon Martin coverage I saw was on Twitter, where every progressive I knew had shared a link to the petition. Eventually, I saw more media attention around the story. This led me to form a hypothesis that people talking about the story online, and specifically, linking to the petition, kept the story alive long enough for the national media to pick up on it.

I looked into all of the data I could find, including some provided by, and found out that my hypothesis was incorrect. But the story of how Trayvon Martin became national news, weeks after his death, is still a revealing portrait of our media.


The Event

Jay Rosen's Three-Layer Journalism Cake