Friday, December 23, 2011

Journalism Trailblazers: Jim Spencer

Former NBC News Exec Dramatically Transforming Journalism with "Newsy"

"Design is not just what it looks like. Design is how it works."

                                                                                            Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Jim Spencer has helped lead several successful Internet start-up and established online companies. Spencer was Vice President of Content and Answers at Ask Jeeves (, where he was responsible for all search queries and helped lead the company to a top 15 website and through a successful initial public offering.

Prior to Ask Jeeves, Spencer was the General Manager of News and Information Programming at AOL (News, Sports, Health, Research and International) leading the content, business and partnership operations for one of AOL’s major business units. 

The Newsy president also served as director of strategic partnerships at NBC for, leading the direction of the website and the coordination of the newsrooms of NBC News in New York and MSNBC’s newsroom on Microsoft’s campus in Redmond, WA.

Spencer began his online career as General Manager of New Media at Multimedia, Inc. Prior to graduate school, he represented and distributed motion pictures, including Academy Award-winning movies, foreign films and U.S. independent cinema. 

The multi-talented media maven earned his M.A. in journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and his B.F.A. from New York University’s Film School.

In 2008, Spencer launched Newsy -- a multi-source, multi-platform video news company that has received critical acclaim from broadcast, print, and online news sources. He currently serves as the company's president and founder.

According to Newsy's website, "It's the only news service that allows users to compare bias by highlighting nuances in reporting. Through short, professionally-produced videos for mobile devices and the web, Newsy provides context with convenience - making you smarter, faster. It's MSNBC next to Fox News, CNN next to ABC, The Huffington Post next to the Daily Beast. From Tech Crunch to TMZ, it's a broader view, in a concise format." 

Lead411 recognized Newsy as one of the "2010 Hottest Companies in the Midwest". The company went on to win the 2011 Appy Award, in the news category, defeating CNN and Flipboard.

From The G-Man recently conducted an exclusive interview with Spencer to find out more about his trailblazing company, future goals, and how it has literally transformed the journalism industry over a three-year period. 

G-Man: What was the inspiration for Newsy?

Spencer: People have become more aware of a bias in the media and they have become more interested in multiple sources for news. Fewer and fewer people are relying on just their local newspaper or the evening news as their sources of information. 

G-Man: What convinced you, beyond all doubt, that the time was right for a state-of-the-art, mobile news service?

Spencer: Five years ago, there were predictions about the upcoming proliferation of mobile devices - these forecasts have not only been realized but surpassed. Also, YouTube and Hulu had proven that online video would be the next popular medium. We started the company in 2008 - and launched the right product at the right time.

G-Man: Thus far, what has proved to be the most challenging aspect of building, marketing, and promoting Newsy?

Spencer: As a startup, we had to carefully choose where to spend our limited resources. We spent it on getting the product right - our advertising budget was limited. We’ve garnered a lot of press and attention because of our unique offering of highlighting the key differences in reporting. For example, our apps have been promoted by Apple (in iTunes) and Google (in the Android Market), which helped immeasurably.

G-Man: What one business decision do you wish you could go back and change regarding the creation of your media/news company?

Spencer: Honestly can’t think of one - we were spot on timing wise with the launch of our products and relocating the company from San Francisco to Columbia, MO to partner with the Missouri School of Journalism was one of the best decisions we made.

G-Man: What is your response to those who believe a company like Newsy is doing a disservice to the public by attempting to cover complicated and important news stories in two-to-three minutes? 

Spencer: Every news service is going to abridge a story, there is only so much information that can be substantively conveyed in a given newscast. That’s why our format is so useful. In two-to-three minutes, the user isn’t just getting one top-down approach to the story - they see the story from a number of  different perspectives. Newsy links to the original sources so users can dig deeper into the issues.

G-Man: What do you think Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite’s reaction would be to Newsy? 

Spencer: Ha, I don’t want to speak for those legends … perhaps they would appreciate that information is becoming more easily available and transferable. I think they would also appreciate Newsy’s mission - that multiple sources help tell the “real story.”  

G-Man: What is your greatest concern regarding the current state of journalism and will you somehow use Newsy to address it in the near future?

Spencer: Newsy certainly addresses my biggest concern: the increase in opinion news. Also, the increased polarization of media companies and the effect that has on consumers (people’s opinions become more extreme because their initial views are corroborated and they find out their views are shared by others).

G-Man: Your company seems to place a great deal of emphasis on diversity in its news coverage, especially where your news anchors are concerned. Was that a major goal when you launched Newsy? 

Spencer: Yes, we look for diverse story topics, feature various anchors and use diverse sources in our stories. When we launched the service, one of our early users said they love Newsy because it introduces them to sources they wouldn’t normally find on their own. I love that.

G-Man: Speaking of diversity, do you have any plans to expand your coverage by reaching out to or partnering with Black, Chinese, Latin, or Russian news organizations, be they independent or mainstream? 

Spencer: Newsy’s current international plans are to produce videos in a wide range of languages (Mandarin, Spanish, Korean) - we plan to launch videos with native-speaking anchors as well as videos with subtitles.

G-Man: Print and broadcast news organizations are rapidly being replaced by the Internet, as more and more people seek alternative news sources and viewpoints. At some point, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, NBC, and even PBS may decide it’s in their best interest to “borrow” the Newsy formula. Does that worry you in any way? 

Spencer: Not too much .. we have an innovative model with one of the world’s best journalism schools and an economically viable business model that makes us a formidable contender. Also, Newsy is a small, agile company that can innovate quickly and often.

G-Man: As you are well aware, there are many in the country that cannot afford computers or high-tech gadgets to follow Newsy on a regular basis. Moreover, this digital divide will have dire consequences on millions of young people in the future, particularly in the inner-cities. Having said that, would you consider collaborating with public schools, nationwide, and offer Newsy as a teaching tool in underserved communities? 

Spencer: We would love an opportunity like that. I’m hopeful that as cheaper tablets come on the market, they will help to bridge the digital divide. Newsy currently is used as a teaching tool by middle school current events teachers. Newsy is also used by ESL teachers - they love the transcripts, worldly topics and that the videos can be rewound. For example, The English Blog is an international ESL teaching hub that uses Newsy videos.

G-Man: Complete this sentence: My ultimate goal is to have Newsy….

Spencer: My ultimate goal is to have Newsy be the first name that comes to mind when people think of mobile video news and multisource video journalism.

G-Man: Finally, what advice would you offer to young people that are currently pursuing, or thinking about pursuing, careers in journalism?
Spencer: Don’t confine yourself to legacy models - make sure you gain experience in the digital space. It’s also important to be well rounded. It isn’t just about writing stories, it’s about producing content on every level and having the ability to market that content as well.

In April of 2011, in collaboration with the Newsy organization, From The G-Man began publishing many of the Newsy videos on its site. The videos continue to play a significant role in the growth and success of this independent news and information source. 

Photo credit: Jim Spencer

West Wing Week 12/23/11 or "#40Dollars"

Navy Gets First Same-Sex Couple Welcome Home Kiss

Two petty officers embraced and kissed in Virginia Beach. They were both women, marking a first for the U.S. Navy.

By Lauren Zima
Anchor: Lauren Zima
Link courtesy of

France Passes Genocide Bill, Angers Turkey

The bill would make it illegal to deny the 1915 genocide of Armenians by Ottoman Turks despite Turkey's rejection of the term.

By Harumendhah Helmy
Anchor: Lauren Gores
Link courtesy of

Fears Of Cancer From Breast Implants Spread Through Europe

Hundreds of thousands of women have implants that were made with an unapproved silicone gel. What are the risks, and what's being done?

By Lauren Zima
Anchor: Lauren Zima
Link courtesy of

Observers: Sectarian Rifts Deepening in Iraq

After a series of bombings, observers fear long-simmering rifts are close to a full-on boil in Iraq.

By Christina Hartman
Anchor: Christina Hartman
Link courtesy of

Jobless Claims are Down

Jobless claims are at the lowest point in more than three and half years. Analysts say it's a sign the U.S. economy is coming around.

By Jim Flink
Anchor: Jim Flink
Link courtesy of

Ron Paul Battles Media Over Racist Newsletters

Ron Paul is fending off questions about writings that appeared in a newsletter bearing his name and circulated in the late 80s and early 90s.

By Christina Hartman
Anchor: Christina Hartman
Link courtesy of

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'This is Good News, Just in Time for the Holidays'

President Obama Lauds Congress on Tax Cut Agreement

For the past several weeks, I’ve stated consistently that it was critical that Congress not go home without preventing a tax increase on 160 million working Americans. Today, I congratulate members of Congress for ending the partisan stalemate by reaching an agreement that meets that test.

Because of this agreement, every working American will keep his or her tax cut – about $1,000 for the average family. That’s about $40 in every paycheck. Vital unemployment insurance will continue for millions of Americans who are looking for work. And when Congress returns, I urge them to keep working to reach an agreement that will extend this tax cut and unemployment insurance for all of 2012 without drama or delay. 

This is good news, just in time for the holidays.  This is the right thing to do to strengthen our families, grow our economy, and create new jobs. This is real money that will make a real difference in people’s lives. And I want to thank every American who raised your voice to remind folks in this town what this debate was all about. It was about you. And today, your voices made all the difference.

Photo source: The White House

Author: Pete Souza
Permission: Public Domain

Newsy Now: Breaking News Headlines

Baghdad bomb leaves 60 dead; missing Kansas woman found safe; Texas jury awards $150 billion settlement; France to remove dangerous breast implants.

By Erik Shute
Anchor: Lauren Gores
Link courtesy of

Braylon Edwards Makes Good on Scholarship Promise

In 2005, the 49ers receiver offered students a $10,000 college scholarship if they hit certain academic and social achievements.

By Jim Flink
Anchor: Ana Compain-Romero
Link courtesy of

Newt Targets 'Activist Judges'

In the field of GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich isn't alone in his disdain for what he calls judicial activism, but he's arguably the loudest.

By Christina Hartman
Anchor: Christina Hartman
Link courtesy of

Thousands Of Egyptian Women March In Protest

Men and women marched through Cairo in protest of military violence against female protesters.

By Lauren Zima
Anchor: Lauren Zima
Link courtesy of

Oval Office Chat Session: Obama and Boehner

Trying to Work it Out

Speaker Boehner called the President this morning and the President reiterated to the Speaker that the only viable option currently on the table is for the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan Senate compromise that received the support of nearly 90 percent of the Senate.  The President told Speaker Boehner that he is committed to begin working immediately on a full-year agreement once the House passes the bipartisan Senate compromise that prevents a tax hike on 160 million Americans on January 1.

Photo source: The White House
Author: Pete Souza
Permission: The White House

'I Am Announcing an Additional $113 Million in Emergency Relief Assistance'

President Addresses Horn of Africa Famine

As we enter the season of giving and renewal, more than 13.3 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance amid the worst drought the region has seen in 60 years. The heartbreaking accounts of lives lost and of those struggling to survive remind us of our common humanity and the need to reach out to people in need.  I want to thank the many Americans who have reached out in support, and made donations over the last several months to support people in need in the Horn of Africa.

Today, on behalf of the U.S. Government and the American people, I am announcing an additional $113 million in emergency relief assistance for the Horn of Africa.  This funding will support urgently needed food, health, shelter, water and assistance needs. To date, the U.S. has provided approximately $870 million for relief purposes. Importantly, and even as we help to meet the emergency needs of the people of this region, we are also investing in their long-term food security

For more information, please visit the FWD Campaign run by the U.S. Agency for International Development, and to learn more about how you can get involved, please visit

Photo source: The White House
Author: Pete Souza
Permission: Public Domain 

Mainstream Media, Do Your Damn Job!

Ron Paul Attacked on Race, While "Nu-Nu", "Lyle", "Big Tex" and "Lady Blah-Blah" Get a Free Pass

Recent news reports indicated that GOP/Libertarian  presidential candidate Ron Paul walked out of a CNN interview after reporter Gloria Borger questioned him about racist articles that were published in Paul's newsletters over 20 years ago. Paul has repeatedly claimed that he has no idea who submitted the articles or that he had prior knowledge of the inflammatory content. 

Prior to Paul storming out of the interview, he told Borger that the reason the newsletter is still a point of controversy is "because of people like you". The Texas representative may have a point. However, the fact remains that he bolted from the interview segment faster that a New York lobbyist headed to Washington, D.C. That did not and will not serve him well going forward, especially with Black voters who may want to support him but have serious concerns about the newsletter content. 

Ron Paul supporters, as you would suspect, are furious that their political savior is being attacked on this issue. Moreover, because Paul has surged in the Iowa polls, his supporters view the attacks as a blatant attempt to discredit the Texas legislator and his candidacy. Many of them also believe that the loyal Libertarian is under attack because GOP leaders would rather see Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, or Mitt Romney as the potential nominee. Ron Paul supporters may also have a point. 

Borger and other media representatives have a responsibility, to the institution that is journalism and concerned voters, to pose important questions and ride any presidential candidate like a Harley Davidson until they get an answer. I don't have a problem with that. What I do have a major problem with is when the mainstream media treats other candidates differently when they, too, have been caught up in controversies regarding race. 

It is a well-known fact that Newt "Nu-Nu" Gingrich made many controversial remarks about Blacks and others during his political career and was never really pressed on the issue. Nu-Nu is still doing it and still getting away with it, thanks to the punks, sellouts and corporate whores in media.

Romney, aka Lyle Wagner from the "Carol Burnett Show", staunchly defended Mormonism when the late, great Tim Russert called him out over the fact that Blacks were not allowed to become priests until 1978. Still, there was no mention of this during any of the GOP debates and every news organization, especially NBC, should be ashamed of themselves.

The link provides more detail on the Book of Mormon's previous views on Blacks within the church.
An argument could be made that the decision to allow Blacks to finally become priest was not based on "a revelation" from God", as indicated by a church official, but the fact that President Jimmy Carter was on the verge of pulling the church's tax exempt status because of its controversial policy. It wouldn't surprise me, in the least, if the latter -- no pun intended -- was the real reason behind the church's decision. Politics is a bitch.

Rick "Big Tex" Perry got stuck in "Niggerhead", and there was no way out of that one. That was a story that screamed to be followed-up on, primarily because numerous elected officials knew about the name of the ranch and still chose to attend events hosted by the Texas governor. 

The story was spun to focus on what Perry knew and when he knew it, but the real story involved finding out how many well-known elected officials -- particularly those who represent predominately Black districts -- blatantly disregarded the ranch's name and showed up for a weekend of fun and frolic with Big Tex. Perry, like Nu-Nu and Romney, were simply allowed to pass "Go" and collect campaign contributions....with the help of mainstream media.

Even Michele Bachmann, aka "Lady Blah-Blah", has made comments that would make journalism icon Edward R. Murrow leap from the grave and exclaim, "What the hell?!!" 

From The G-Man does not and will not endorse candidates, and this was not written to provide a "push" for Paul's campaign. It was written in order to hold the mainstream media accountable and to make sure they hold every political candidate to the same standard. This has not been happening, and it's a major reason why journalists are loathed and the public is becoming fed up with the two-party system. 

Go ahead, mainstream media. Continue to attack Ron Paul on the issue of race and give other candidates a free pass. Go ahead! I dare you! You do so at your own peril and run the risk of looking even more incompetent, inconsistent and incorrigible than you do now.

This commentary is from the heart and.....From The G-Man. 

Image courtesy of

Romney clip uploaded to YouTube by  on Apr 26, 2011

Canadian Scientists Get Approval For HIV Vaccine Trial

In a first for Canada, researchers have approval to start HIV vaccine trials on humans.

By Lauren Zima
Anchor: Lauren Zima
Link courtesy of

Lowe's Refuses To Reinstate Ads On All-American Muslim

The home improvement chain was presented with a 200,000 signature petition, but still won't back down.

By Lauren Zima
Anchor: Ana Compain-Romero
Link courtesy of

Analyzing Newt Gingrich’s Gay Voter Comments

Gingrich told a gay voter in Iowa if gay marriage is his number one focus, then he should vote for Obama.

By Charles McKeague
Anchor: Ana Compain-Romero
Link courtesy of

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

White House Briefs

Presidential Delegation to Czech Republic to Attend Havel Funeral

Madame Secretary Clinton to Lead Delegation

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of a Presidential Delegation to Prague, Czech Republic to attend the funeral of former President Václav Havel, on December 23, 2011.

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State, will lead the delegation.

Members of the Presidential Delegation include the Honorable William J. Clinton, former President of the United States, the Honorable Norman L. Eisen, U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic, and the Honorable Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State.

Photo source:
Author: Harald Dettenborn
Permission: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Germany

Gary Johnson Leaves GOP to Run as a Libertarian

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is set to announce he's dropping out of the GOP race for the White House in favor of a run as a Libertarian.

By Christina Hartman
Anchor: Christina Hartman
Link courtesy of

Shine, Give, Share: Honoring Military Families for the Holidays

Go inside the White House and the Naval Observatory, the official residence for the Vice President, for the holiday season as we honor military families and their service to our nation.

Open for Questions: Women's Entrepreneurship

Christine Koronides of The White House National Economic Council and Ana Harvey, Associate Administrator of the SBA for Women's Business Ownership, take your questions on women's business ownership.

EPA Issues First National Standards for Mercury Pollution from Power Plants

Historic ‘Mercury and Air Toxics Standards’ Meet 20-Year Old Requirement to Cut Dangerous Smokestack Emissions

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, the first national standards to protect American families from power plant emissions of mercury and toxic air pollution like arsenic, acid gas, nickel, selenium, and cyanide.

The standards will slash emissions of these dangerous pollutants by relying on widely available, proven pollution controls that are already in use at more than half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants.

EPA estimates that the new safeguards will prevent as many as 11,000 premature deaths and 4,700 heart attacks a year. The standards will also help America’s children grow up healthier – preventing 130,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 6,300 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.

"By cutting emissions that are linked to developmental disorders and respiratory illnesses like asthma, these standards represent a major victory for clean air and public health– and especially for the health of our children. With these standards that were two decades in the making, EPA is rounding out a year of incredible progress on clean air in America with another action that will benefit the American people for years to come," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.

"The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards will protect millions of families and children from harmful and costly air pollution and provide the American people with health benefits that far outweigh the costs of compliance."

“Since toxic air pollution from power plants can make people sick and cut lives short, the new Mercury and Air Toxics Standards are a huge victory for public health,” said Albert A. Rizzo, MD, national volunteer chair of the American Lung Association, and pulmonary and critical care physician in Newark, Delaware.

“The Lung Association expects all oil and coal-fired power plants to act now to protect all Americans, especially our children, from the health risks imposed by these dangerous air pollutants.”

More than 20 years ago, a bipartisan Congress passed the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments and mandated that EPA require control of toxic air pollutants including mercury. To meet this requirement, EPA worked extensively with stakeholders, including industry, to minimize cost and maximize flexibilities in these final standards.

There were more than 900,000 public comments that helped inform the final standards being announced today. Part of this feedback encouraged EPA to ensure the standards focused on readily available and widely deployed pollution control technologies, that are not only manufactured by companies in the United States, but also support short-term and long-term jobs.

The EPA estimates that manufacturing, engineering, installing and maintaining the pollution controls to meet these standards will provide employment for thousands, potentially including 46,000 short-term construction jobs and 8,000 long-term utility jobs.

Power plants are the largest remaining source of several toxic air pollutants, including mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and a range of other dangerous pollutants, and are responsible for half of the mercury and over 75 percent of the acid gas emissions in the United States.

Today, more than half of all coal-fired power plants already deploy pollution control technologies that will help them meet these achievable standards.

Once final, these standards will level the playing field by ensuring the remaining plants – about 40 percent of all coal fired power plants - take similar steps to decrease dangerous pollutants.

As part of the commitment to maximize flexibilities under the law, the standards are accompanied by a Presidential Memorandum that directs EPA to use tools provided in the Clean Air Act to implement the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards in a cost-effective manner that ensures electric reliability.

For example, under these standards, EPA is not only providing the standard three years for compliance, but also encouraging permitting authorities to make a fourth year broadly available for technology installations, and if still more time is needed, providing a well-defined pathway to address any localized reliability problems should they arise.

Mercury has been shown to harm the nervous systems of children exposed in the womb, impairing thinking, learning and early development, and other pollutants that will be reduced by these standards can cause cancer, premature death, heart disease, and asthma.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which are being issued in response to a court deadline, are in keeping with President Obama’s Executive Order on regulatory reform. They are based on the latest data and provide industry significant flexibility in implementation through a phased-in approach and use of already existing technologies.  

The standards also ensure that public health and economic benefits far outweigh costs of implementation. EPA estimates that for every dollar spent to reduce pollution from power plants, the American public will see up to $9 in health benefits. The total health and economic benefits of this standard are estimated to be as much as $90 billion annually.

The Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and the final Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which was issued earlier this year, are the most significant steps to clean up pollution from power plant smokestacks since the Acid Rain Program of the 1990s.

Combined, the two rules are estimated to prevent up to 46,000 premature deaths, 540,000 asthma attacks among children, 24,500 emergency room visits and hospital admissions.

The two programs are an investment in public health that will provide a total of up to $380 billion in return to American families in the form of longer, healthier lives and reduced health care costs.