April 2008

Link of the Week: Google News sources

In my job, I’m a very heavy user of Google News. Sometimes I need to know whether a particular news source is among those feeding Google News, so that if it isn’t, I can visit/subscribe to that source separately.

Bad news: Google treats this information as proprietary. Good news: somebody else has compiled a list by analyzing a zillion Google news search results.

Newsknife, a New Zealand-based Google news ranking service, maintains what seems to be the most complete and up-to-date list of Google News sources. It’s not perfect–there’s a chance they’ve missed some, and any sources Google has dropped (or which have closed up shop) may still be on the list.

Another alternative, if you just want to confirm whether a known source is feeding Google News, is to do an advanced search on Google News, and fill in only the name of the ‘News Source.’ If there are any search results, Google (obviously) is using that source. If there are no results, then Google is probably not.

Tools for emphasis

Many newsreaders, including some veterans, seem to think there is only one tool for emphasizing the important words in a sentence, and that is to punch them. That is, to make them louder. But if you’ve ever heard a radio newscast or TV news story read this way, you know that having the significant words punched the same way, over and over, can sound monotonous and robotic.

In fact, there are at least three other techniques skilled broadcast reporters or newsreaders can use to highlight important words. These tools also add variety, shape, and ‘music’ to a reader’s delivery. Besides amplitude (i.e. louder), there’s also pitch/stress (making your voice slightly higher and tenser), e l o n g a t i o n (stretching the word out a bit), and   pausing   (surrounding a word with slight pauses tends strongly to draw attention to it).

In fact, there’s also another kind of amplitude variation (besides, did I mention, louder?) that can be occasionally be used to emphasize a word. Some times lowering your voice can draw the audience in, and convey just the right note of intimacy or conspiracy.

Anyone have other techniques they use for emphasis besides those I’ve mentioned?

Link of the Week: Grammar, not gramma

With almost every entry on this blog I toss around grammar jargon like they’re working overtime at the factory. Most of it is stuff you probably thought you were done with when you graduated middle school. But, oh no, here it is again… and related to something you should know in order to make a living in newswriting. I bet you didn’t count on that when you flushed your mental cache around the time you graduated from college.

So for those who need a very condensed but readable guide to basic English grammar–technical terms and all–here’s what I use to double check my hazy recollections: Grammar Topics.

There are a thousand similar pages on the web. I happen to like this one (from the University of Victoria, British Columbia web site) because it’s very concise, correct (as far as I can tell), and from an academic (i.e. reasonably authoritative) source.

5 years worth of busy

I haven’t forgotten my responsibilities here. It’s just that last week was a total bear as we tried to push a special commemorating Sirius OutQ’s Fifth Anniversary out the door. The special, “Sirius OutQ News: Five Years in Review” debuts today, Monday, from 5-7pm EDT.

As the title suggests, it’s a 2 hour review of the biggest stories in LGBT News since Sirius OutQ went on the air on April 14, 2003: Same-sex marriage, gays in the military, gays in schools, the courts, Congress, state legislatures, religion and HIV/AIDS. It features the first-ever long-form reports by our correspondents around the U.S. and around the world (Many of whom are NLGJA members, by the way). Those keen to hear it but who don’t have a Sirius receiver can get a 3-day trial subscription at SiriusOutQ.com. Just look for the “Get a Free Online Trial” link at the right side of the page.

The special will repeat in the future, though the dates have not yet been set.

Mind the table

In American British journalistic prose, to “table” a bill, amendment or other measure is to offer or propose it. But in British American usage, to “table” a measure means to suspend consideration (i.e. to “shelve” it). In other words, “table” has more or less opposite meanings in the UK and America. Many an editorial ship has crashed on this particular shoal. Beware, and make sure that when you see this word, you know whether your source is British or American.

Link of the Week: Convert-Me

In an earlier entry, I recommended Yahoo’s online “precision tool” for converting foreign currencies. Today’s Link of the Week is more of a Swiss Army Knife for converting any kind of quantity into another. There are several of these conversion sites available on the web, but among those I’ve tried, Convert-Me has the most different measurement systems listed: weight, distance, length, volume, area, temperature, cooking measures, power, flow, speed, and on and on. It’s possible that another site I use, ConvertIt.com, might have even more different measures. But it requires you to specify the input and, optionally, output measures in a more free-form kind of way (i.e. “5 feet”; “inches”), which for some reason I find disconcerting. In fact, I probably use them both about equally.