Archive | October, 2010

ACES article!

23 Oct

So for those of you who don’t know, I recently started an internship for the American Copy Editors Society. I help write articles for ACES’ website and newsletter. It’s a nice way to find out some of the things that are going on in the industry and make some good contacts. Plus, I get to dust off my reporting skills!

My first article recently was published online, so go ahead and check it out!
http://www.copydesk.org/news/features/2010/new-business-stylebook/

Say what, Kansas?

20 Oct

Like most posts on this blog, this one is a little dated. But it concerns something that hits really close to home. So I had to say something.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard the news that Kansas legislators were considering cutting vocational funding — $700,000 —  for traditional journalism classes in high schools. The curriculum would be passed along to already overworked art, technology and business teachers, many of whom frankly aren’t qualified to teach the subject.

It would kind of be like asking Dora the Explorer to teach you French. Close to what she knows, but definitely not the same.

This leaves countless high school publications — newspapers, magazines, yearbooks, websites, TV shows — at risk of simply falling by the wayside. Speaking from experience, I can say that it’s already hard enough to produce these publications even when students have entire class periods dedicated to that very purpose. Take away those class periods and those expert advisers and I’m not sure you’d be able to find enough time or manpower to get the job done.

So what’s the reasoning behind the proposed changes? Education officials argue that teaching traditional journalism and its skills will no longer lead to jobs in the real world.

Let’s dismantle this viewpoint, shall we?

Personally, I’m not sure if I would be so secure in my future plans right now if I hadn’t been exposed to journalism as a high schooler. Unlike many of my friends, I still have the same two majors that I entered college with two and a half years ago. In my mind, journalism has always seemed like  a degree that offers graduates a variety of solid career options.

Funny? Or increasingly reality for many students?

Sure, those career options aren’t as clear as they used to be. Being a journalist in the 21st Century demands a wider set of skills than it used to and jobs in the industry are incredibly unstable. But isn’t that true in most career fields? Our generation isn’t going to have the luxury of life-long jobs with one company, like our parents did. As the Internet and other technology continues to develop, almost every career field is going to operate radically differently than it did in the past. Hospitals without paper, completely digital record labels, genetically modified crops — it’s all changing.

In fact, if Kansas educators are going to demand that journalism courses teach students about digital media and information technology in order to stay relevant and on the budget, shouldn’t they be allocating more money to journalism programs? Software, computers, cameras — students need it all to keep up with today’s multimedia.

(True life, my laptop is my best friend.)

Plus, if we’re going to talk about relevance, what about people who graduate with degrees in English or American Studies? No offense, but that qualifies you to do absolutely nothing except go to grad school and immerse yourself in academia. Should we stop teaching English in our public schools? What about social studies? They certainly aren’t preparing students for fruitful careers.

In addition, journalism teaches students skills that can be used anywhere, in any job, at any time. Writing, grammar, research, persuasion, organization — I’ve learned them all as a journalist and I could apply them to any job I took on.

 

Looks like someone could've used an editor.

So, Kansas education officials, stop listening to all the media doom and gloom out there! Times are tough and times are changing. But journalism isn’t over and future high schoolers deserve the chance to learn it and learn it properly.

Here’s an interesting piece NPR did about j-schools. It ties in with the theme of this post, except at a college level.


Grab bag! (Part three)

7 Oct

I love me some Facebook, but…

(Note: Go see The Social Network! I thought it was a good movie. And the only other options right now are five subpar horror flicks. Rent those for free from your local public library.)

 

Plus Jesse Eisenberg is a total hottie...

I love Facebook. I really do. I check it every day before I go to school. I use it to share my thoughts with others, keep in touch with people I don’t get to see a lot and find out what’s happening with my favorite companies and media outlets.

That being said, I was taken aback when my first amendment professor told us the latest version of OnStar — a communication system included in some GM vehicles — will have”apps,” including one for Facebook. OnStar will be able to read you wall posts and let you respond to them, all while you’re cruising down the highway.

Is this necessary? I certainly don’t think so.  It’s probably not healthy to spend every waking moment connected to the digital world. Researchers have already found that our ability to concentrate is being shot to hell the more wired we become.  When I was in Spain this summer, I was sans cell phone for most of the trip. It was nice to not be tied to an electronic device, constantly waiting for the vibration that signals someone needs me. It all begs the question, just because we can be constantly connected, Should we?

 

Plus, I was in Spain. So that rocked too.

What lies ahead…

Unfortunately, I don’t know that the digital lifestyle, or our nation’s addiction to Facebook, will ever fade. Some people argue Facebook will go the way of MySpace, but I’m not so sure. I discuss developments on Facebook with my friends every day. Multiple times every day. Is your relationship “Facebook official?” Have you seen the post I left you on Facebook? Can you believe that picture she tagged me in? And so forth…

The children of today will never know life without the Internet. I myself can barely remember when my mother didn’t have a cell phone. Apparently, 92% of children in the U.S. have an online presence of some kind, be it a picture or their very own profile on a networking site. That’s a heck of a lot of kids online.

So what does it all mean for journalism? Multimedia, multimedia, multimedia. Our readers/consumers aren’t content with being passive receptors. They want interactive. They want influence. They want entertainment.

Unfortunately, I think the industry is still having a hard time adjusting to all of this. Especially on college campuses. (I’m going to pick on my own, the University of Kansas, a little bit.)

I love my school’s newspaper. We’re popular and we’re successful. In part because we put out a good product. But we also have a very captive audience and limited competition. So it’s hard to see a reason to change our ways. We’re trying, for sure. But our multimedia elements continually leave me disappointed. We had one focus — print — for 100 years. It’s easy to make our online presence an afterthought. But it’s also a mistake.

Don’t get me wrong; good writing will always be in vogue. But finding a way to enhance this as we move forward will be vital. There’s a reason the Hearst Competition – the “Pulitzer Prize” of college journalism — has a multimedia component. I would love to see my school’s name on that list in the future and I know our staff members can make it happen.

Grab bag! (Part two)

4 Oct

Burnin’ up the media

Early in September, some disturbing news started surfacing in Florida. Terry Jones, a pastor of a small church in Gainesville, was threatening to burn Korans on Sept. 11. He wanted to protest the building of a “mega mosque” near Ground Zero (Note: It’s a cultural center six blocks away) and bring attention to the “radical” elements of Islam. (Ironic?)

After his 15 minutes in the spotlight, Jones announced he would not be burning Korans after all and has since faded back into obscurity.

This post isn’t about Jones and his plans. (For the record, I think they were driven by hatred and ignorance but also protected by our nation’s first amendment.) It’s about how the media took an event planned by the leader of a 50-member church and turned it into headline news.

Apparently these lovely Kansans burned some instead. Oddly, I didn't hear much about that.

Do I think that this proposed event deserved coverage? I guess so. Part of me wanted to urge the media to simply not spread Jones’ message by refusing to cover it. But that gets into some tricky territory. Is it our job to deny coverage of events in order to protect our citizens? What’s protection and what’s censorship? It’s a thin line.

I don’t think we should flat-out not cover events. But I do think we should revisit how we cover events. Jones runs a church with 50 members. Fifty people! Coverage should reflect the scope of the event. In this case, maybe a short article by The Gainesville Sun. That’s it. If readers wanted to make a bigger deal out of it on the blogosphere, etc. that would’ve been their decision.

The circus that surrounded this controversy was inappropriate and unnecessary. It strained already tense relations between religions and countries. That seems more harmful to me in some aspects than Jones  burning Korans in the parking lot of his church.

Grab bag! (Part one)

4 Oct

Wow.  I haven’t posted on this blog in a while. It seems as though school and work have had me busier than expected. Nevertheless, I’ve still been paying attention to the news and I have three things that I want to talk about. (Some of them are a little dated now, but still important to discuss.)

Twitter: Funny name, serious consequences.

It’s easy to not take Twitter seriously. It’s got a goofy name. You can identify yourself however you want. Kanye West is a faithful user.

I mean, seriously.

But so are many journalists and news organizations. And while Twitter might seem to have different rules than other media outlets — it’s only 140 characters, for Pete’s sake! —  in reality it doesn’t. Mike Wise, a Washington Post sportswriter, learned that the hard way.

Back at the end of August, Wise deliberately tweeted false information about the length of a football player’s suspension. Wise was experimenting, seeing how often media outlets fact check when obtaining information from social media such as Twitter.

I see his point. But the way he went about proving that point was wrong and I think his month-long suspension was fair. Because he actually proved two things with his false tweet.

1) People should fact check more often.

2) People see Twitter as a legitimate source of news.

Number two is the biggie. Obviously, people aren’t reading newspapers as often as they used to.  But they still want news and they still want it from legitimate sources. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Now that pretty much anyone can publish whatever they want via the Internet, we don’t hold a monopoly on news anymore. But we can hold a monopoly on good news. Accuracy sets us apart and makes us relevant.

I don’t think Wise is a bad journalist or a bad guy. He just made a bad decision. But I think we can all learn from his lesson: Think before you tweet!