Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Tag Archives: blogging
Some years ago, I stopped blogging on howardowens.com for personal and professional reasons. With the site dormant, it became an easy target for script kiddies. I had a major problem with spam being injected into the site. I didn’t have … Continue reading
If you’ve ever tried to register for the site and were not successful the reason is: ever since I moved howardowens.com to the current hosting service, e-mail hasn’t works, so there are no e-mail notifications going out for registration.
Also, I get a tremendous number of spammers trying to sign up for accounts. This leads me to (combined with how busy I am running The Batavian) not to ever look at the new account list.
So, if you have a registration pending: e-mail me and I’ll approve it (if I believe you registered with your real first name and last name). And in the future, new registrants will be asked to contact me via e-mail to request account approval.
I’m at gmail and the username is howardowens (humans will know how to turn that into an e-mail address).
I’m feeling a little inspired by this post from Leo Laporte to turn away from social networking sites and post a little more here. If that happens you can expect a mix of subject matter, from the more personal stuff I would most likely share on Facebook, to more profession oriented stuff I generally saved for Twitter.
Right now, I’m not thinking of dropping either service (twitter is how I get most of my profession’s news these days), but I’d like to do a little more with this blog.
Bottom line is: People in the business who expect nothing from me but profession related posts will be disappointed.
On May 1, we launched a project in Batavia, NY to work out how to build an online-only, local news business. We wanted to go to a town where we didn’t have a newspaper so that we could have the freedom to experiment without concerns about disrupting one of our own publications. We picked Batavia because it’s a neat, vibrant town; it’s close to our home office; and the daily newspaper there was doing nothing on the web. Scott Karp has been aware of the project almost from its inception and after a couple of regional bloggers uncovered it as a GHS project, Scott nudged me about doing a post himself. Here’s his post.
The site is still very young, still under development (we’re working on a new design and adding additional features as we speak), but the local reception has been pleasantly strong so far. Continue reading
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, many newly minted bloggers expressed frustration at the mainstream media’s (soon to be dubbed MSM) lack of attention to serious international news.
Case in point was cable news obsession with Chandra Levy’s death. So, when on the E&P site today, I saw a link about the WaPo getting ready to launch a 12-part series on the forgotten cold case, it intrigued me.
But that’s not the point of this post.
The point is, this quote at the end of the article:
Throughout the series, this blog will feature a daily update and preview of the next chapter from the reporters. Stay tuned.
Uh? This blog?
Go look at that link — in what was does it look any different from a typical E&P story? How is it written any different? Not only does the “post” lack the personal voice, insight and perspective of a good blog, it lacks a person — it’s just a generic “E&P staff” byline. Nor can you leave comments on it, nor can you get to, from that post, any sort of blog home page.
If E&P is running any blogs, there’s no evidence of it on their navigation or from their home page. (Hey, but they do have a podcast).
So if the biggest trade publication in the industry is so clueless about the web, what hope do we have for the rest of the industry?
Or am I just missing something? Is it just bad site design? Continue reading
I’m seriously behind in my gmail inbox … can’t sleep tonight for some reason, so thought I would try to widdle the pile down a bit …
While John said he’s completed 7 of the 10 objectives, he said he was just wired enough prior to the post that he doesn’t qualify for the gift card.
But here’s the interesting thing — to me at least — there is a direct connection, I think, from this post of mine to this post of his. Let’s just say, it’s nice to see the Department of Homeland Security have such a keen interest in blogs. Continue reading
Sean Blanda is out to own Blanda. I wish him well. It will be a tough task. (Note on those links: There’s two of them. The first to his post; the second to help his SEO by linking his root domain to the word he wants to own).
I’ve never set out to own “howard” or “owens” in Google. I score very poorly in both (I gave up on each after going five pages deep, so I may not show up at all). My friend Ken Layne used to be the #1 Ken on Google. That’s like, wow!. Then he stopped blogging on his personal site for a long time, and even now his blogging is light on the links in and out to other bloggers. Result: he’s fallen to #6.
I just got through saying that registration doesn’t cut down on participation on a newspaper.com. I’m pretty sure the same doesn’t hold true for a blog.
There is something fundamentally different about a blog audience and a newspaper.com audience — whether it is that the newspaper.com audience is less web savvy, or not as busy sucking up every morsel of information, or just more trusting of the local newspaper brand … I don’t know.
But it is highly likely my already pathetically low level of reader comments will decrease with registration, and it is unlikely that participation will ever again return to its current levels.
In part, maybe it’s because while adding registration to a newspaper.com helps solve a problem that both readers and editors recognize (getting rid of the idiots), such idiots aren’t really a problem on most blogs (especially ones mainly trafficked by same-industry professionals, such as this one).
Really, I’m not solving a problem for readers with registration. I’m solving my own problem, so why should you want to help? What’s the benefit for you?
Well, maybe, just maybe, without open comments, it will make howardowens.com a little less easy to hack.
I’m just damn tired of getting hacked, and can’t imagine when I’ll have time or energy to convert to Drupal, so I’m going to try the WordPress registration scheme (which is pretty simple, but does require an e-mail confirmation).
So, I’m really solving my problem, not yours, unless, of course, you find howardowens.com valuable enough that you would rather see it escape a few future hacks (with the subsequent downtime), too.
UPDATE: Pretty cool — six people registered within 30 minutes of this post going up. Though, one of them might not have been a person, but a computer. Since the default WP registration is very, very basic, I went out and found a plug in that contains CAPTCHA (though very simple CAPTCHA) and some additional registration fields. It would be cool if I could link a person’s name on a comment to a profile page — that would add some value to registration, I think — but I haven’t been able to figure out how do do that yet. Continue reading
Up until September 2006, I spent my entire journalism career on the West Coast, and mostly with very little travel.
I knew journalists and newspaper people throughout California, and because of online e-mail lists and such, I knew a handful of people based in other parts of the U.S.
Frankly, I was largely ignorant of a lot of the good work going on in the Northeast.
In these parts, my co-worker Shannon Dunnigan is a heavyweight, but I knew nothing about her before joining GateHouse. I’ve also gotten to know Dan Kennedy, Sean Polay, Joe Michaud, Lisa Williams, Bob Kempf and Bill Densmore among many others (I know I’m forgetting several people) since arriving in New York. Hey, I barely even knew my own boss, Bill Blevins, before coming east.
Not long ago, I got to meet and spend time talking with John Wilpers, whom I’ve discovered in one of the sharper minds in online news. The other day, I got an e-mail from him indicated he launched a new blog. As I would expect from Wilpers, the topics are fresh, insightful and on target. Continue reading
It looks like I’ve successfully restored my blog … and within the bounds of “well, this is WordPress,” some degree of confidence that the site is currently hack free. (Check this TechCrunch post for more on WP and security).
It turns out that the reason my initial restoration effort failed was the following bit of code had found it’s way into my header: <?php wp_end(); ?>. I found that only after completely wiping out all WP files and databases on my server, then reinstalling … but I did keep my WP theme, which I’ve modified a bit … so after seeing everything working with the default theme, I restored my back up custom theme … and the site stopped working again.
The main delay in my bringing the site back was a combination of being busy and choosing other priorities (such as my wife, garden and dog — you can find out a little more about how I’ve been spending my free time on Back Channel).
For the record: I hate all spammers. It’s not like me to hate. I hate spammers. No punishment the devil might devise for spammers is appropriately cruel. Continue reading
So this bit on Romenesko caught my eye today:
SPJ’s Neil Ralston says: “I encourage media executives who are looking for the next wave of high-quality journalists to pay attention to the winners. …These young men and women represent some of the best that journalism programs have to offer.”
Being a media executive, I was curious — do these students represent the future of the news business?
The best way to find out is to Google them — what can Google tell us about their online life? Do they have their own web sites? Their own blogs?
Any active online person is going to own his or her own name on Google … and if you’re not active online under your real name, you’re not living up to the journalistic ideals of transparency and honesty.
So, I Googled these winners.
Here’s what I found:
- Meaghan Peters — Several Meaghan Peters in Google. Not clear if any of them are the journalist Meaghan Peters.
- Camden Swita — Shows up as a blogger on Washington.edu. Has a MySpace page (warning — auto play music). Also, several bylines on various sites.
- Claire St. Amant — May have her own web site, but hard to tell. There’s nothing there. Lots of online bylines, but little evidence of blogging. Demerit points should be given for letting the best SEO for your own name go to a Frat Boy News blog (site not work safe in some environments).
- Ryan Kost — Some bylines in Google, but no personal blog I could find. He did blog — if you can call it that (the writing being stiff, traditional reportorial writing) while an intern (that’s a guess) for the Oregonian. If that’s the same Ryan Kost. UPDATE: See note from Ryan at the bottom of the post.
- Jessica Sondgeroth — Again, some bylines. She has what we would think would be a unique name, but I’m not sure the Jessica Sondgeroth on Facebook, who is from Arizona, is the same Jessica Sondgeroth.
- Katherine Harmon — Fairly common name. Not much here for this Katherine Harmon.
- Jeremy Herb — This might be a Jeremy Herb blog. And Jeremy is apparently involved with this news blog.
- Alex Stawinski — Some bylines in Google.
- Sarah Neff —This looks like her blog, and it’s a good one.
- Jared Fields — Not much in Google to tie any thing this Jared Fields.
- CJ Moore — Common name. No evidence of this CJ Moore.
- Mark Viera — Ditto
- Bill Oram — Ditto
- Aaron Zundel — Is at least on LinkedIn. Plenty of online bylines, but no evidence of blogging.
- Petra Hendrickson — Lots of Google hits. Apparently, no blog.
- Phil Hands — Nothing obvious here. Oops. Big mistake on my part. Here’s his site. See his comments below.
- Samuel Ayres — Hire this guy. He owns his name.
- Philip Cannon — Ummmm …
- Jenna Lo Castro — Folks, we have a blogger. First Google result, too. There are not many entries, but, hey, look at the competition.
- Imani Jackson — One byline on the first page of results.
- T.J. Tranchell — This is good, an entirely personal blog. We’ll forgive the fascination with crappy ’80s metal. Lots of hits on his byline, too.
- Brandon Scheller — Is this Brandon? We’re not sure.
- Mark Dent — College byline first hit, then not much.
- Dylan Farmer — This might be Dylan on FB.
I’ll let somebody use Google the non-newspaper writers. Frankly, I’ve grown too discouraged to continue.
So, who do we blame, the students or the journalism programs?
Any students interested in getting it together online, check out Wired Journalists.
UPDATE: Shortly after my blog was hacked and the site went down for several weeks, Ryan Kost sent along this note:
I came across your blog while I was searching for the SPJ press release about the national awards. I haven’t been able to read your entry on the SPJ winners other than the google snippet and the headline. For some reason your site isn’t loading at the moment. In any case, I definitely wouldn’t consider myself super wired, but if you’re interested in editing your blog, I do have a small Web presence. My senior thesis was an online discussion of change (it includes video, soundslides, audio and text) that I created with another student journalist. You can see it here: www,definingchange.net. We haven’t been able to make it too google-able because we created it using only Flash. Still, we’ve been trying to get the word out about it, and any little bit helps! Also, for what it’s worth, I had a Web site up (ryankost.com), but I really hated the layout, so I took down while I’m designing another.
So, Ryan gets extra points for ego surfing and reaching out to demonstrate further what he’s been doing online. I also heard from T.J. Tranchell. And note the previous correction on Phil Hands. Continue reading