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Case Study10: Wordle

17 Apr

In Obama’s first State of the Union address in 2009, his main vocabulary included words like “plan,” “education” and “responsibility.”  In 2010, his speech was more about the economic crisis and the housing market, with words like “banks,” “investments” and “problems.”  His 2011 speech seemed to be more of the same vocabulary, with “spending” and “deficit” being among the most prevalent words used.  What I interpreted from this was that his first speech was an attempt to ensure the American people that he had a plan, and that he was confident his plan would work.  His next two speeches focused more on the current economic crisis and the steps he and his administration had taken to address the crisis.

This tool is a great way to take an extremely long speech or piece of text and evaluate it in seconds, with the most common words being the biggest.  I was able to gather the main points of each speech by observing some of the key words.  This tool is useful to journalism for just that.  It can be used to illustrate points to readers, or just for personal use while writing a story.

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Week13: One-Dimensional Journalism No Longer Acceptable

15 Apr

While the Internet continues to evolve and grow daily, journalists of all different facets are facing the challenge of how to evolve and grow with it.  As time goes by, the distinction between radio, broadcast and print journalism is fading.  Journalists who in the past may have considered themselves “print only” are beginning to realize that this is no longer an option — they must expand their skill set to include much more.  Reporters are taking their own photographs for stories and journalists are editing their own content before publication, while regularly maintaining blogs as well.  Demand is up, but revenue is down. This is forcing publications to blend their resources together, resulting in the creation of the modern-day multi-functional journalist.

Contrary to the past, people today don’t seem to care where their news comes from.  They may turn to social media networks such as Facebook or Twitter, or to nightly news programs on TV.  Some even rely on websites such as Wikipedia for information, even though that information is not guaranteed to be accurate or reliable.  On average, people in the U.S. spend about 12 minutes a month on news sites, compared with seven hours a month on Facebook, according to the Neiman Journalism Lab.  To some journalists, this may be very alarming.  However, I believe this just reiterates the importance of a well-rounded journalist in this modern age of the profession.  Being one-dimensional won’t get you very far.  In order to be successful and really connect with a wide audience, today’s journalist must be able to blog, report, photograph and edit single-handedly.

In addition to being multi-dimensional, journalists must be wary of overloading their audience with too much information. Whereas readers may have received their news from one or two sources in the past, they now have the ability to aggregate information from several different sources and media outlets.  This is why grabbing and keeping the reader’s attention is of utmost importance.  Linking is also a fundamental way of inserting extra information into a story without overwhelming the reader.  By linking certain words or phrases, this allows  readers to do more research on the subject if they wish, without taking away from the original content.  Ultimately, your goal as a journalist is to get as many people as you can to read your content, while maintaining accuracy and professionalism.  This is becoming increasingly difficult to do.

Week12: Twitter Becoming a Leading Source for News

11 Apr

The impact that social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter are having on journalism is no longer a secret, and news organizations that aren’t embracing this new wave of modern journalism are being left behind.  Social media can no longer be ignored.  Its importance in the newsroom and out in the field is paramount.  Twitter, for example, allows journalists to report and update news instantaneously, and also enables journalists to share and collaborate on news stories.  This may not have been acceptable in the past, but with this new technology comes an understanding that the times are changing.

Twitter is slowly developing into a news site all its own.  News is broken on Twitter faster than anywhere else.  An example of this is given by Brenna Ehrlich, a writer for the website Mashable.  She explains how a radio DJ, Aaron Lazenby of Pirate Cat Radio, was scanning Twitter one night last year when he noticed #iranelection trending. Curious, he clicked on the hashtag, and started looking over the flood of tweets about the “stolen” election.  What he discovered was there were protests going on in Iran and that the news had not spread to any mainstream media outlets here in then U.S.  Lazenby was able to get an interview with one of his Twitter sources, and that interview was later picked up by  CNN’s iReport, a citizen journalism portal.

Another example of Twitter being at the forefront of breaking news sources is what transpired on the social network following the plane crash in the Hudson River.  News of the plane crash broke on Twitter instantly, and Lauren McCullough, social networks and news engagement manager for The Associated Press, immediately began searching for any information available.  She came across a picture posted by a man named Janis Krums, and began a process to get in touch with him and to find out where he was, where he had taken the photo and whether it was something that they could distribute.  The photo was published and stands as another reminder of how important a role social media can play in the gathering of news.

We as journalists must constantly stay updated on the latest trends in social media.  We will no longer thrive working alone, but instead need to embrace each nugget of information and collaborate to report the news.  The readers have now become part of the reporting process, and this isn’t a bad thing.  The more insight and information a journalist can gather, the better the story will be.

I wasn’t able to post my graph for my Google Correlate search, but I found it to be a very useful tool, along with the Google Trends search tool.  The Google Trends could be used by journalists to show readers what is popular or trending at that particular time.  Journalists could also gather story ideas from Google Trends, with a simple search to see what people are looking at the most.  Hot topics may lead to story ideas.  Google Correlate was a bit more complex.  This can be used by journalists for research or to correlate search terms state-by-state.

Media Ride Along: Boise Guardian

5 Apr

David R. Frazier, founder and sole proprietor of The Boise Guardian, is a man on a mission. The 66-year-old award-winning photographer and blogger founded the Guardian in 2005, out of what he called “necessity and frustration.” His objective is to give the residents of Boise a voice, while keeping the city honest. Although Frazier may be considered a thorn in the side of the city council, he has been successful in the courts and is raising political awareness in the community. Frazier has thus far sent half a dozen people to jail, had a court case named after him following a successful lawsuit and won a $3,000 award from the Sam Adams Alliance. His extensive knowledge of the federal constitution has enabled him to hold the city accountable to its laws and stipulations. For example, when the city announced it was going to build a $20 million police station with taxpayers’ dollars, Frazier pointed out that Idaho law first requires a vote of the people, unless the structure or measure is ordinary or necessary. Appearing as his own attorney, he fought the city and won. This victory earned him a fiery reputation and added credit to his name.

On its website, the Guardian claims no affiliation with any religious group or political party. “If you value the rule of law, free speech, truth, honesty, and a voice in your government, the Guardian is your friend,” it reads. Frazier has no agenda, other than to raise awareness in his community. He is the only writer for the website and receives news tips from people at least once a day. Anonymity is OK with Frazier, but he checks every tip thoroughly before reporting on it. The same principle is applied to the comment section on his website, where false accusations or inaccurate information is deleted. Only constructive narratives that add substance to the story are permitted to remain. The Guardian is currently run through donations only. Although the site has no ad revenue as of now, Frazier doesn’t rule out the possibility. “There’s always that potential of gaining advertising. We get between 1,500 and 2,500 hits per day that are unique visits, and the vast majority of those are educated people in the demographic,” he said.

Journalism runs in Frazier’s blood. “I’m an old newspaper guy. Third generation and my grandfather and father were both newspaper people and editors.” He has freelanced for the NY Times and Time magazine, among others, and he also worked for the local Boise newspaper from 1968-1973. Now, though, his “hobby” is The Guardian, written to fill the void of the local “legacy” media. “With the cutbacks in newsrooms, nobody covers anything anymore unless it’s handed to them on a platter,” Frazier said. However, he has no intention of replacing the day-to-day local newspaper. Instead, he points out and publishes the ills of the city. Lawmakers and city councilmen are held responsible for their actions while on Frazier’s watch. His job, in his own words, is “to be the name, the Guardian, to let people know when something’s crooked and where it’s bad.”

Modern Journalism

4 Apr

As many in the journalism industry already know, traditional print media is being shuffled out the door to make room for a new kind of journalism.  Newspapers are being run into the ground by the Internet.  Any journalist who doesn’t acknowledge this happening is simply in denial.  The key to newspapers’ survival is to embrace this new era, rather than run from it.  The Internet is taking over every aspect of our lives, from where we get our news, to where we buy our clothes.  If professional journalists want any chance of saving the historic industry, they have to act now.

Newspaper publications across the country have begun to figure out that print versions of its newspapers just aren’t enough.  In order to keep or increase readership and revenue, online versions of newspapers are becoming necessary.  All of the largest institutions, including the NY TImes and The Washington Post, not only have online versions but apps for mobile devices as well.  These newspapers are branching out, in hopes of reaching a wider audience through technology.  People who have never read the NY Times in the past now have the capability of reading it from home, or on the go from a phone. This concept of accessibility has remarkable potential for the media industry, if only it is willing to make some changes and leave the ways of the past behind.

For traditionalists, the past may be hard to let go of.  As former Los Angeles Times writer Erin Weinger said, “Journalism has remained so unchanged … that journalists didn’t feel they had to change.”  Weigner makes a great point.  Journalism has remained virtually static for 200 years, with only minor changes here and there.  It has never experienced change of this magnitude.  Weigner furthers her point by adding, “Leads can be found everywhere now, from places you’d never deem credible in the past.  But, five years ago, if you said you were citing a stranger on the Internet you’d [probably] get yelled at by an editor.”

The Internet will continue to reshape and redefine the journalism industry.  If print newspapers don’t embrace it now, they will find that the competition is too much to handle.  Penn State’s student-run online newspaper Onward State is a great example.  Completely separate from the print edition of the university newspaper, Onward State has established a name for itself on campus, and provides readers with live updates via Twitter.  Readers are also able to comment on stories and give suggestions of their own using Twitter.  This is something that the university’s print newspaper, The Collegian, can’t do.  Slowly but surely, the Internet is replacing the hard copy version of the traditional newspaper.

Facebook and Journalism

4 Apr

Facebook is just now beginning to come around to the idea of blending journalism with social media.  Twitter has long been a go-to for journalists, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the following that Facebook does.  Journalists have begun to create their own Facebook pages, complete with stories and the latest breaking news.  One main difference of putting articles on Facebook rather than on an official news website is that people are much more likely to post comments on Facebook regarding their feelings about the article.  People are used to conversing with friends and sharing their thoughts and feelings on Facebook already, so it isn’t much different when commenting on articles they have just read.  Equally useful to journalists are the social reader apps, which allow Facebook users to share news article that they have read.  Instead of the journalist being the only promoter of his or her work, readers can now also share any article they find interesting.  The benefits of this are obvious.  As far as any legal or ethical issues, I can’t really think of any other than what Poynter calls “frictionless sharing.”  It goes on to say that “Facebook-embedded apps are a violation of the relationship between the Web and its users.”

The only promoting I have done on Facebook for my blog is to tell some of my friends that I am doing a blog through comments.

Case Study9: Ethics in the Newsroom

30 Mar

I agree with public editor Timothy J. McNulty when he says, “We walk fine lines in reporting and editing, especially when there are conflicting and reasonable arguments.”  As journalists we must always be aware of the way we write and report our stories, making sure that it’s free of any personal opinion or bias.  In regards to the story about the grandfather, I think there would just have to be a judgement call made by the editor of each paper.  Although personally I believe that the unborn child should be considered a murder victim along with the rest of the family, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to reflect that in the article, since some people would not feel the same.  I think the most appropriate thing to do in this situation would be to reword the headline, so that it includes the family of three and the unborn child as well.  For example, I may use a headline like “Man Charged With Killing Pregnant Daughter and Family in Fire.”  Or, if there isn’t enough room for that I may shorten it.  The point would be to not give a number of deaths, but rather make it known that the woman was five months pregnant at the time of the killings.  I think this is the most unbiased way to write the headline, so that neither side is offended.  Although the style book says not to refer to unborn babies as people, this is clearly an ethical dilemma, one that is sure to strike up a debate as it did with this story.  Even more conflicting is the court acknowledging the unborn baby’s death as a homicide.  So, just to play it safe for the sake of everyone, I would not acknowledge either side, but instead let the readers decide for themselves.