Showing posts with label research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label research. Show all posts

Friday, June 4, 2021

Ida, Nellie and Ida: Trailblazing Women Journalists in the Victorian Age

I thought I would take a break from the coronavirus pandemic and politics to take a look at the history of the craft we call journalism.  The late 1800s were a period of yellow journalism led by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst where sensational headlines were what sold newspapers.  There were trailblazing male and female journalists who worked on hard news stories that mattered to people's lives.


Ida B. Wells (profiled in the above video) was born into slavery in 1862.  She never forgot her background and she wrote extensively on the horrors of lynching and discrimination in post reconstruction south.  She died in 1931.  There is now the Ida B. Wells society to support investigative African American Journalism.  She also received a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 2020.

Nellie Bly (a.k.a. Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman) was another female trailblazer who was born near Pittsburgh.  She went undercover in a mental institution to expose the abuse that women received there.  She then went on an journey to simulate Jules Verne's novel Around the World in 80 Days.  She managed to complete the journey in 72 days and had many great stories to tell.  She died in 1922 only 2 years after women got the right to vote.

The last trailblazer in this post is Ida Tarbell who wrote the seminal book (The History of Standard Oil) that brought down John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil monopoly.  Like Nellie Bly, she was from the Western Pennsylvania.  Unlike Wells and Bly, she was born before the Civil War and lived until 1944.  The journalist and whistleblower Wendell Potter has created a news organization named after Tarbell.

I don't know if Ida, Nellie and Ida ever met.  They must have known about each other.  It  would make for an interesting play with the three of them discussing their work and comparing notes and the struggles they faced.  There were other significant male journalists at this time such as Upton Sinclair.  Did he have advantages that the other three ladies didn't?

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Friday, September 28, 2018

Eighth Anniversary Post, Time for a Change

It has been a turbulent year for me with moving and other responsibilities.  Since my last anniversary post I have written 27 posts here compared to 41 posts the year before, a 52% decrease.  The decrease in posts is reflected in a 19% decrease in traffic.  This discrepancy in the traffic and the posts suggests that the impact of posts matters more than the mere quantity of them.  

I thought I would take a closer look at what is driving the traffic drop.  Visits to the main blog page were down by 23.91% (1,174 in 2018 from 1,543 in 2017) with similar decreases in the other analytic measures such as time on page and unique page views.  

The most viewed post from 2017-2018 was my post on documentary filmmakers in Johnstown, PA which was posted in January of this year which had 513 views.  Of the top ten most viewed individual posts, 3 were posted in the '17-'18 period.  Of the seven posts in the top 10 which where posted before this year, four of them showed an increase in traffic from the previous year.  This suggests that the enduring popularity of posts from this year and the previous year are have buoyed traffic this year.  The top 10 most seen posts can be seen in the table below.

Page Title
Post from this Year
Unique Pageviews
Avg. Time on Page (s)
Page Value ($)

Google analytics now provides demographic information on users (when their algorithms can decipher it or when they have gmail accounts).  The gender data accounts for only 40.01% of total users.  The bar charts at the left show that the ratio of male to female visitors to the blog remained unchanged for both years.

The data by age and year is shown above.  This graph accounts for 38.17% of total users.  Even though as before the pattern for age groups for 2018 is the same as 2017 with less traffic this year.  For both years users in the age group 25-54 was the most common type of user.

Last night I went to an event sponsored by Public Source called the business of the blog.  They talked about search engine optimization (SEO) and ways to earn money off blogging..  They said that search engines will not show your site unless you buy a domain and move to another platform like Wordpress ($12/year).  I believe that with the current state of my traffic that it is time to take the plunge.  I've done everything I could in the past to build traffic except this by trading URLs with other sites, building a following on Twitter and Facebook, and writing for other publications with some success.

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Sunday, October 11, 2015

Changes in the Algorithms of Research and Facebook

The clip above from the Daily Show (the first on this blog with new host Trevor Noah) discusses how traditional journalism is being supplanted by computer algorithms that can create legible news articles from multiple sources on the web.  In my field I have recently become acquainted with new methods such as natural language processing, agent based models, and markdown files.

Natural language processing is a method that works like an internet search engine where thousands (possibly millions) of text files are searched for certain topics or word patterns that are relevant to a given research question.  Agent based models are a simulation method for social interactions in a large organization such as a hospital.  Markdown files are files in the stat package R that synthesizes the results of an analysis in R and places them in a text file such as html, Microsoft Word, or a pdf file that is coherent.  

Cutting edge methods like these are automating processes that used to be carried out by humans to produce faster and, hopefully, more accurate results.  To keep competitive one needs to understand and adapt to these algorithms.  One cannot understand them when the algorithms are proprietary but one can use experiments to get an idea of how they work.  

I have written before about how Facebook and other social media sites use algorithms to give viewers what they want to see in their news feed to keep them engaged with the site.  Mat Honan of Wired magazine did an experiment to see what would happen if he clicked like on every post for 48 hours.  He says that very soon there were almost no posts from friends on his timeline, they were all political.  By the next day the posts moved far to the right.  

Elan Morgan at tried the opposite for two weeks (not liking any posts but she did comment on posts she liked) and said that her timeline improved.  Before she says:

You would think that liking certain updates on Facebook would teach the algorithm to give you more of what you want to see, but Facebook’s algorithm is not human. The algorithm does not understand the psychological nuances of why you might like one thing and not another even though they have comparatively similar keywords and reach similar audiences, so when I liked several videos and images of heartwarming animal stories, Facebook’s algorithm gave me more animal stories, but many of them were not heartwarming. They depicted inhumane treatment. Apparently, Facebook’s algorithm mistook my love for animals as a desire to see images of elephants being brutalized.

After she would see more posts from friends and had better interactions with them.  She kept no statistics so it was a qualitative study.  I'll increase the number of subjects in her experiment to two.  I will compile statistics on my timeline but I need a way of classifying the posts I see on my timeline.  Here is a sample of the first 10 posts I saw in my news feed.

Post Type
Post from group
Post from page
promoted post

I will look in two weeks to see if the frequencies change in two weeks to see if the types of posts change.

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