DISHing out guns

Steve Strand, who has owned the Radio Shack in Hamilton, Mont. for seven years, poses in front of his store Tuesday, March 29, 2011. Strand said he is going to fight any effort to stop his sales promotion that allows customers with a clean record to get a free gun when they sign up for new Dish Network service. (AP Photo/Ravalli Republic, David Erickson)
Steve Strand, who has owned the Radio Shack in Hamilton, Mont. for seven years, poses in front of his store Tuesday, March 29, 2011.  Strand said he is going to fight any effort to stop his sales promotion that allows customers with a clean record to get a free gun when they sign up for new Dish Network service. (AP Photo/Ravalli Republic, David Erickson)
Steve Strand, who has owned the Radio Shack in Hamilton, Mont. for seven years, poses in front of his store Tuesday, March 29, 2011. Strand said he is going to fight any effort to stop his sales promotion that allows customers with a clean record to get a free gun when they sign up for new Dish Network service. (AP Photo/Ravalli Republic, David Erickson)

You may have heard already, but the Radio Shack in Hamilton is offering a free gun to any qualifying customer who signs up for Dish Network service.

“I think it really, really fits the Bitterroot Valley,” the store’s owner, Steve Strand, told the Rivalli Republic last week. “It’s been really successful.”

Customers who qualify are given a gift certificate for their gun, a Hi Point 380 pistol or a 20-gauge shotgun, available at Frontier Guns & Ammo north of Hamilton. Those who do not want the gun can opt for a $50 Pizza Hut gift certificate instead. (Strand told the paper that customers who don’t quite qualify for the gun still get a pizza certificate.)

You can learn more about the promotion at its website: (also Awesome URLs, I must say.

I’m not going to comment on the appropriateness of the promotion. I’ll leave that to you. However, I will say that it seems a little unfair that your option is to get a gun, which is probably worth at least a $100, if not more, or $50 in pizza. Shouldn’t you get the same value out of either free gift?

Data: Montana has slowest Internet speed in the country

According to data from the last two years, collected by M-Lab, a joint effort of Google and the New America Foundation, Montana has the slowest average download speeds in the country — a measly 2.57 Mbps. The fastest was Delaware, with an average speed of 11.26 Mbps.

The graph below is a little hard to read, but when the timeline gets to the end, Montana’s on the bottom.

There’s a lot more data and ways to visualize it on the Google Public Data Explorer. Check it out.

Oh, and a question for the commenters: How’s your Internet speed in Montana? Bad, good, fair to middlin’?

Judge rules against Google settlement with publishers over book scanning

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

A New York judge has denied final approval for a proposed settlement between Google and book publishers, saying that the agreement is not fair, adequate and reasonable.

The settlement, referred to in the decision as the “Amended Settlement Agreement,” would have given money to rights-holders whose works Google has already digitized while allowing Google to continue its work scanning books.

In his decision, Judge Denny Chin said the ASA would give Google an unfair advantage over its competition, “rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission.” Continue reading “Judge rules against Google settlement with publishers over book scanning”

AT&T acquires T-Mobile

This map provided by AT&T shows the projected LTE coverage of Montana after "the future build out" of the network.

AT&T announced this morning that it has acquired competitor T-Mobile, buying the company for $39 billion from its German owners, Deutsche Telekom.

In a statement announcing the deal, AT&T said the purchase was a sign of its commitment to “expand 4G LTE deployment to an additional 46.5 million Americans, including in rural, smaller communities.” The company said this will mean that 95 percent of Americans will have access to the company’s “4G” network. The release also says the deal will help America reach the broadband access goals set forth by the Obama Administration — though it will certainly also help AT&T compete in the increasingly wireless future many predict.

“This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future,” AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson said in the release.

AT&T said the purchase will give the company more wireless spectrum to make its service faster and more reliable. When the deal is done, AT&T will “gain cell sites equivalent to what would have taken on average five years to build,” increasing AT&T network density by about 30 percent in some heavily populated areas.

As for Montana, spokesperson Sandy Goldberg sent along maps of the “future build out of the important LTE mobile broadband network” in Montana. It was unclear whether “These maps speak for themselves!” Goldberg wrote.

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Quiet week

It’s spring break week, which, as we reported today, means that the city of Bozeman becomes considerably quieter. People from all walks of life plan their vacations to coincide with break week, turning the city into a ghost town. And when I say people from all walks of life, that includes newspaper people too. We are tremendously short-staffed in the editorial department at the paper this week, so I have had to turn my attention elsewhere — what which medical marijuana raids on local businesses and an earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis in Japan.

Rest assured that when things are back to normal next week, regular posting will resume here.

Get your own hashtag!

Well, since everybody at the Montana Legislature discovered Twitter a couple weeks ago (even Republicans), the #mtleg hashtag has become rife with partisan tweets. So, reporter Emilie Ritter started a new press core-focused hashtag: #mtlegnews.

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That tweet came through on Wednesday. Since then, the hashtag has seen slow adoption while its parent, #mtleg, chugs on as normal. Today, some of the #mtleg posters have begun to notice the press corps’ departure — and mock them for it.

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And then this:

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It tickles me that the last time the legislature met, Twitter really had no impact on it at all. How much things can change in just a couple years!

Attorney General Steve Bullock registers Web address for possible gubernatorial race

Steve BullockA spokesman for Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has purchased, further evidence that Bullock may run for governor in 2012.

KTVQ reports that the domain is registered to Bullock’s spokesman, Kevin O’Brien through the registrar

In a statement sent to KTVQ, O’Brien said it is no secret that the attorney general has been encouraged to run for governor and that “purchasing domain names is simply a smart move given all the hi-jinks and dirty campaigning out there.”

Update: This article from the New York Times, originally posted by John S. Adams on Twitter, explains why it might be a good idea for a politician to get out ahead of domain squatters.

The day I killed a whole town with a headline

I killed an entire town yesterday for a few minutes.

Our reporter turned in a story about a man who died after being struck by a car in Belgrade, a story that raised questions I wrote about yesterday, you might recall.

What didn’t fit into that post was the foul I committed when posting the story to the website. I accidentally typed the headline as:

“Belgrade dies after being struck by car Saturday night”

Then, not realizing I left out a word, I proceeded to send out the breaking news e-mail and post a link to the story to Twitter and Facebook.

Readers more eagle-eyed than myself immediately spotted the error and mocked it. The error certainly deserved mocking, even if the subject matter of the story made such mocking a bit morbid.

I corrected the headline within five minutes and sent out a new breaking news e-mail with the right headline. Still, my error stubbornly persisted on the Web for about 10 more minutes as various caches were refreshed on our servers.

Lesson learned. Take more time and reread your headlines before you post them.

Tom Brokaw talks new media with ASMSU Exponent editor

NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw.
Image via Wikipedia

Last week, former NBC Nightly News anchorman Tom Brokaw was in town to accept an honorary doctorate from MSU, and he took the opportunity to speak with the editor of the ASMSU Exponent about the state and future of journalism.

Of note:

“The Internet is a game-changer,” [Brokaw] said, pointing to the recent revolutions in Egypt and Libya, where social media have been used to communicate information and ideas. “Now, with a keystroke, you can organize people in distant lands,” he said, adding that groups in the U.S. such as the Tea Party have begun largely as online movements.

Really? It’s 2011. Saying the Internet is a game-changer now is like telling the survivors of Hiroshima that the atom bomb is going to lead to a new era of peace for all mankind.

Mr. Brokaw, the Internet — and by Internet I think you mean the World Wide Web — was a game-changer back in 2000 or even earlier. The game has already changed, like it or not.

Of course, I’m picking on one quote, and I’m sure that doesn’t capture the totality of what Brokaw talked about. In fact, in a clip from a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Brokaw says he likes the fact that there are more people finding their voices and entering into political discourse, and he compares new media to the pamphleteers of Thomas Paine’s day. However, Brokaw also had some serious worries about blog writers looking only for “gotcha” moments and eschewing deep discussions because they are too young to have enough experience to have deep discussions.

The newsman expressed similar thoughts in a May 2009 speech before the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. (See the video embedded to the right.) The Minnesota Independent, reporting on the speech, said that Brokaw was concerned that most of the social change wrought by journalism in the 20th century couldn’t happen in a world where Twitter drives journalism.

Brokaw’s speech moved from nostalgia for the newsgathering of old to an indictment of new media today. Would civil rights advances, Vietnam protests, or Nixon’s downfall have happened, wondered Brokaw, “were any of these events left to the bloggers or people who Twitter?”

It’s a good question that I’m not going to discuss now.

I will say this: It was the opportunity of a lifetime for Exponent editor Eric Dietrich to get to interview Brokaw one-on-one while members of all the other Bozeman media outlets sat in the audience drooling and taking notes — including the Chronicle’s reporter (our coverage). Read the Exponent’s write up and then take some of Brokaw’s advice about vetting your news sources — including Brokaw — to heart.

When is it “breaking” news?

Today is Monday. A reporter sends in news that a man died after being hit by a car in Belgrade. The accident happened Saturday night, but we didn’t hear about it until two days later.

The question: Is this breaking news?

The answer to that question has repercussions for how the news is presented to readers on the Chronicle’s website. A story flagged as “breaking” gets pushed out to our readers much more aggressively, with automatic postings on Facebook and Twitter, e-mail alerts and even text messages to our subscribers. All of that is in addition to the glaring breaking news banner that appears on top of the website.

(I also asked this question on Quora, but feel free to answer here in the comments.)

Some news sites, including a few of our sibling papers in the Pioneer chain, put up the “breaking” banner a lot more often than we do at the Chronicle. Some sites even leave it up all the time.

I think leaving it up all the time destroys the breaking news banner’s visual appeal. The point of putting a big, red banner on top of the site is to have it stand out, and it won’t stand out if readers’ eyes get used to seeing it there.

On top of that, we are very selective as to what constitutes breaking news. I say “selective,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a definitive process for making the decision. There is no written policy. The decision is made on a case-by-case situation.

We, obviously decided to make it “breaking” news in this case. What choice would you have made?