Clay Shirky, open source and democracy

Every time Clay Shirky talks, I’m riveted. And this is an absolutely fascinating TEDTalk about why the way open source programmers operate will eventually change the way democracy works.

He says the open source method of building software and programs is creating communities using the new tools of the web and computer science. A technique, Shirky argues, that could be applied to government and law.

To cap off the presentation, he says:

A new form of arguing has been invented in our lifetimes. It’s large, it’s disriputed, its’ low cost. And it’s compatible with the ideals of democracy. The question for us now is, are we going to let the programers keep it to themselves? Or are we going to try to take it and press it into service for society at large?

I know it’s long, but it’s very much worth 20 minutes of your time.

#MoreForLess March

The More For Less campaign by the Missouri Students Association has another event planned called the #MoreForLess March. The event will be a student rally in Jefferson City in support of public higher education on April 26.

The shindig also comes with a very cool video from MSA about the state of higher education in Missouri, check it out:

MSA has done a really good job of getting students involved at the state level, and earlier this year delivered to legislators a ream of 6,000 letters signed by MU students opposing budget cuts to higher ed. As a student (and as a reporter) it’s cool to MSA mobilizing students and making what goes on in Jeff City a focus.

Where we’re at now

I read a really interesting article from the Chronicle of Higher Education today about the misconception that faculty salaries are driving up the cost of a college degree.

Here’s a quick excerpt of the most compelling piece of the story:

“The contrast is starkest at public institutions, where tuition and fees have increased over the past decade by 72 percent when accounting for inflation, largely in response to declines in state support. During that same time, the salaries of public-college professors, when adjusted for inflation, rose by less than 1 percent at doctoral and baccalaureate institutions and fell by more than 5 percent at master’s universities.”

All this just days after our own UM System administrators discussed the prospect of raising faculty salaries at last week’s Board of Curators meetings at Missouri S&T.

With the state funding roller coaster the system has been riding for the past few months, the future of any salary increases is still up in the air. UM has been pretty tight-lipped about its plan if it doesn’t get any funding cuts but discussed an average increase of 1.75 percent to faculty salaries across the four system campuses.

Of course, that’s still subject to change the system won’t be able to make any real decisions until it knows exactly how much money it will be getting from the state.

A Senate budget will likely be voted out of committee this week and will likely hit the Senate floor next week, when it would be open for debate. Last week the committee agreed with the House to keep stable funding for higher education, among other things, and the UM system’s VP of government relations Steve Knorr seemed optimistic at the meetings in Rolla that a budget without cuts to higher education would be sent to the governor.

Of course, this is potentially the slowest developing story I’ve ever worked on and there will continue to be updates. I’ve struggled to keep posting on this blog regularly, but I’m always spewing facts, figures and insights  — if you can call them that — on Twitter at @zach_murdock.

And the award goes to …

I’m very proud to say that while I was in Europe, Ray Howze (who’s in Buenos Aires this semester) and I won an award.

Our breaking news coverage of the UM System president announcement back in December earned us a third place nod in the Breaking News Reporting category of the regional 2011 Mark of Excellence Awards.

The awards are sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists and there are a ton of Missourian and MU kids being honored across nearly all of the categories.

It’s exciting to be honored, but without the help of Ray and the team of reporters and editors working behind the scenes it never would have happened.

The morning of the announcement we had literally no idea who could possibly be named. As soon as we had the name, the great machine of reporters and editors we involved got to turning. It was a wonderful effort and I’m very proud of the work that was done, so I’m glad we could all be honored this way.

Third place is terrific, but I can’t wait to make a run on a first place next year. Here’s to producing more good journalism.

Budget Debate

I’m tweeting throughout the afternoon with some updates from the debate going on in the Missouri House today. Representatives are discussing amendments to a budget proposed by Rep. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, among other bills.

From the documents I’ve seen online, the most relevant amendment to my UM System coverage is an amendment to the system’s $360 million in proposed state support (section 3.210). If approved, the amendment would knock about $4 million off that state funding.

Follow me on Twitter for more info as it becomes available.

Hooray Jefferson City!

**This post was originally published on one of my class blogs.**

*UPDATE: An earlier version of this post was too generous in estimating Phil’s weight. After speaking with him Friday afternoon, I’ve updated his weight to more accurately — but still pretty generously — identify my friend’s dimensions.*

I had a wardrobe malfunction Tuesday morning.

On Monday night I was stuck scrambling trying to figure what I was going to need in Jefferson City for Tuesday morning’s House Higher Education Committee meeting.

I was already a bit nervous because I’ve never done any reporting at the Capitol before, and then it occurred to me: my closet ≠ Capitol dress code.

So after an hour-long panic attack, I was able to find my one nice tie — that I wouldn’t have brought to Columbia had my mom not hassled me about it in August — and sent out a series of messages to men of all shapes and sizes.

I have one broadcast friend with whom I share such a likeness we could pass for each other’s Hollywood stunt doubles, but his jackets were at the dry cleaners. Then a sampling of his KOMU colleagues left me just as jacket-less as I was an hour earlier.

After a few minutes of frantic pacing, I had a stroke of genius. I remembered an old friend from high school who definitely had a navy blue blazer, definitely wouldn’t need it on a Tuesday morning and was definitely home on Monday night to cough it up.

It was a lock. A text message and phone call later, I was en route to the savior jacket.

When Phil opened the door after two knocks, his six-foot-two, 220-pound frame filled the doorway.

With too-big jacket in tow, I retreated back to my bedroom to plot my reporting for the morning and figure out how I’d manage to pull off this wardrobe.

On Tuesday morning, I set out for my first trip to the Capitol and in true Missouri form, the weather was gorgeous. So gorgeous, in fact, that one wouldn’t even want to wear a jacket because it would be too hot.

To make something out of nothing — as all good reporters have had to do at some point — I draped the too-big jacket over my arm as a prop. I never once put it on, but looked as though I had just taken it off for the meeting the entire time I was there.

The whole ordeal reminded me of this Red Stripe commercial, though I’m not sure why.

Hooray Jefferson City!