Contextualizing the Crimean invasion

Ukraine reports Russian ‘invasion’ on eve of Crimea vote

Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of invading a region bordering Crimea and vowed to use “all necessary measures” to repel an attack that came on the eve of the Black Sea peninsula’s breakaway vote.


The invasion reported by the Ukrainian foreign ministry was small in scale and concerned a region that lies just off the northeast coast of Crimea called the Arabat Spit.

The dramatic escalation of the most serious East-West crisis since the Cold War set a tense stage for Sunday’s referendum on Crimea’s secession from Ukraine in favour of Kremlin rule — a vote denounced by both the international community and Kiev.

The predominantly Russian-speaking region of two million people was overrun by Kremlin-backed troops days after the February 22 fall in Kiev of a Moscow-backed regime and the rise of nationalist leaders who favour closer ties with the West.

President Vladimir Putin has defended Moscow’s decision to flex its military muscle arguing that ethnic Russians in Ukraine needed “protection” from violent ultranationalists — even though Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday that Moscow had no plans “to invade the southeast region of Ukraine.”

But the Ukrainian foreign ministry said 80 Russian military personnel had seized a village on the Arabat Spit called Strilkove with the support of four military helicopters and three armoured personnel carriers.

The ministry in a statement demanded that “the Russian side immediately withdraw its military forces from the territory of Ukraine.”

“Ukraine reserves the right to use all necessary measures to stop the military invasion by Russia.”

Footage released….  read more

Eating meat as bad as smoking cigarettes, says study. Does it really?


Update: Only upon posting this exercise did I think to Google for stories and find the above CBS “news piece.”

The following is an exercise in marking up a EurekAlert press release with three different fact-checking schemes. Bolded sentences denote hyperbole. Yellow highlighting is linked to a passage in the scientific study. Grey highlighting refers to citations of previous studies. I was later turned on to the Chrome plugin Churnalism which does something similar–though much spiffier–by comparing news articles to press releases. Here’s the Longo et al. study.

Click below to see the “web app” in action.

Chasing El Dorado: an interactive map of open pit mines in South America by Aleszu Bajak

Imagining I was working with another journalist who’d put together a story on mining in Latin America, I set out to build an interactive map in four hours (7-11pm, February 16th, 2014.) that could accompany that piece. I wanted to see how long it would take me, on a deadline, to make this kind of thing. And I’m pretty happy with the result. With another four hours it could be ready for prime time.

The results can be explored by clicking here:



Was this journalism? I felt for the coders and developers at ProPublica, NYTimes, Boston Globe, etc. Did they run into existential questions about whether they were actually doing journalism versus just making pretty things? Does the demand for interactivity from the Internet readership mean more resources are being diverted to building these kind of things rather than actual reporting?

Finding the right images Did I want to tell the story with aerial shots from Google Maps or on-the-ground photography? Which was best to show the immensity of these open pit mines?

What to write for the blurbs The 70 word budget I had for each interactive slide was extremely limited. What did I have to leave out?

Coding, coding, coding The javascript for this basic interactive map was not (overly) difficult, but making the thing look pretty with CSS was time-consuming. Still not happy with it.

Only made 4 of 10. My top 10 list is six short. Too much time was wasted cropping images, debugging code and researching the blurbs. Had I access to in-house resources–like a journalist’s database with the latest stats and newspegs on each mine–I’d have been golden.



Leaflet is a Javascript library whose inventor was recently hired by the folks at MapBox. It’s streamlined mapping and allows for tons of customization.

Aleszu’s Media Diary

mediadiary_AleszuHow I harvested my data (a self-scrape using IFTTT)

The breakdown of my 13 and a half hours of media consumption over 6 days revealed some interesting patterns.

– I listen to a heck of a lot of podcasts. Well, I used to work in public radio. They’re incredibly efficient at giving me news. (No click bait and barely any ads)

– The only entertainment media I consumed was music and that was 22% of my consumption.

– My breakdown of news by language was interesting. 25% in a foreign language. I’ve been reading a lot more Brazilian outlets since my trip there.

– My week is interesting to look at. I consumed the most on Friday and on Monday. Monday I know was because I spent lots of time walking and at the gym–so lots of podcasts. Friday I can’t think of anything besides a lot of free time to sit around and surf the Internet and read.

– Most articles came from Feedly, most radio from NPR/PRI. Seems about right.