November 2009 Archives

Links for Article 4

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Link Use on Websites and Video Games

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My Wii just doesn't get much use these days.  I often have more pressing things to do, and I don't get hyped up too much about a lot of games that have been recently been released.  However, I do have a soft-spot for 2D games, and much of the space on my Wii's Virtual Console is reserved for classics like Super Metroid and Donkey Kong Country 2.

So I was drawn to Wired's review of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a multiplayer update of Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.  I have been looking forward to this game for a while, since it's simple, familiar design lends itself to competitions with friends involving inebriants.

But I liked how the website used links within the article.  Instead of simply explaining every obscure reference, or just linking to every video game, the article struck a balance.  The article explained more relevant information instead of just linking, and less relevant information was just linked to instead of taking away from the article to explain it.

Orignal Assignment

Arizona Star: Interactive Trash Report

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I've always wondered what happened to recyclables.  I knew that garbage went into landfills without much processing, but I did not have the slightest clue as to what happens to the newspaper and cans after they're put to the curb.

I found that the process seemed to me very inefficient.  Recyclable material is first sorted four times by both machine and hand, all before it undergoes the exact same process again.  I always wondered why there were so few products made with recyclable material, but after watching this, I see now how it might be easier to convert a few gallons of oil into new plastic.

Either way, I felt that I wouldn't have had the same impression had I been passively watching a news report on a television.  I was actively involved, and I was able to learn more by reading the facts and information presented along with watching and listening to the interviews with the workers.

Original Assignment

My Life and The New York Times, One in 8 Million

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It's been a while since the last time I was on nytimes.com; maybe a few seconds.  The online version of The New York Times has been my start-up page on Firefox for about a year now, and has become a immense part of my life.  It broke the news to me about Ted Kennedy's passing, the two major shootings in Pittsburgh this year, and most recently, Lou Dobb's resignation from CNN.  While the organization and layout can be hectic, and I don't care much for Chandler Burr, but it really has become an indispensable part of my life.

But my favorite feature of the site is by far One in 8 Million.  I actually mentioned the feature in a comment on Matthew Henderson's blogs recently, because it has featured LGBT people in the past.  It is an audio/visual slide show that highlights a different person living in the Naked City each week, but I can't describe it as well as The NYTimes does:

"New York is a city of characters. On the subway and in its streets, from the intensity of Midtown to the intimacy of neighborhood blocks, is a 305-square-mile parade of people with something to say. This is a collection of a few of their passions and problems, relationships and routines, vocations and obsessions."

It's a really unique concept, to try and profile an entire city one person at a time, and it's a really unassuming (but effective) name for the feature.  The tone and the black-and-white theme reminds me of listening to This American Life as a child, listening to unique and down-right strange people revealing the deepest parts of their lives.

Original Assignment

Portfolio 3: Back to Business

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While I would not say that blogging is easy for me, I find that it isn't as time consuming as it used to be.  I would often fret over what I was going to write, spending more time thinking than actually writing.  But the blogging process has helped me engage with the lesson, so I usually have at least an idea for a topic to write about, if not a plan for a whole blog already written in my head.  But even though blogs can be turned in anytime before (and even after) class, I am making a greater effort to complete blogs well before the class so I can get more comments and interactions with my blogs.  I found that in the beginning of this class that news-stories are always easier than the blogs, but now blogs aren't the chore for me that they used to be.


Portfolio:


For the Coverage section, I blogged for all of the assignments, including:

"Editorials" - The Ideal v. Reality


"Haiman 1-16" - The Importance of Race Representation in the News

"Haiman 17-28" -
"Some people say..."

"Haiman 29-42" -
...Me Either

"Sample Investigative Reports" -
"If your mother says she loves you..."

"Haiman 43-56" -
The Effects of Race Representation in the News

For the In-Depth
section, I connected a passage from the reading to my personal experiences about the perceptions people have about race in The Importance of Race Representation in the News.

 

For the Interaction section, I found that the content of an editorial that the instructor wrote went against some of the guidelines provided for editorial writing, which I discussed in The Ideal v. Reality.  The blog sparked some in-class discussion, as well as more discussion on the blog's comments section.

 

For the Discussion section, "If your mother says she loves you..." garnered an on-line response from the instructor.

Although The Importance of Race Representation in The News, "If your mother says she loves you", and The Effects of Race Representation in the News were submitted on time, all of the blogs failed to get a response in a Timely manner.  I actually wanted to discuss some of those blogs with my classmates, but I didn't get the chance to.

Xenoblogging:

For the Comment Primo, I commented on Richelle Dodaro's blog I like this.  I drew similarities between her post and mine.

 

For the Comment Informative, on Matt Henderson's blog, Homosexuals have more fun!, I talked about The New York Times and some of the ways that they cover the gay community.

For the Link Gracious, I was inspired by, and linked to, Jessie Krehlik's I'm not looking forward to this... in my blog ...Me Either.

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For my
Wildcard, I shared an observation I noted in a small group I was a part of in class for the whole class to read in Pittsburgh's Northside and News-Writing Math.

-Andrew Wichrowski


Original Assignment

...Me Either

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Jessie Krehlik's blog entry, I'm not looking forward to this..., made me think about the balance between the rights of the victim's family and the public's right to knowledge.  While I often feel that relevant information about events in people's community should be shared for everyone to see, this section of Haiman's Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists showed that many times, reporters go too far.

I found one passage particularly, and painfully, ironic:

"A woman whose daughter was murdered on her 19th birthday said: 'Our lives became a nightmare. Our yard, our street and neighborhood were suddenly covered with reporters and cameras at all hours for several days. A neighbor told us she had seen a writer actually putting our trash bag in his car and speeding away. They put our family finances in the paper, which was totally irrelevant in the murder of our daughter.'"

While it is likely that this quote that the author used was taken out of context, it does seem like the woman is saying that the real tragedy were the events that followed her daughter's murder.  Even if that isn't what she was trying to convey, the injustice done to the memory of the murder victim and her family is still there.  While they may be the subject of your news-story, these people are still human, and there are boundaries between what is your duty and what is distasteful.

Original Assignment

"Some people say..."

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This section of Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, dealing with unnamed sources, made me recall a movie I was shown in my High School current events class, Outfoxed - Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism.  The film highlighted a tactic frequently employed by the organization, where an anchor, pundit, or reporter would introduce an idea that they did not have any quotes or statistics for by saying "Some people say...," and then stating what ever it was that they wanted to say.  By doing this, they distanced themselves from the statement and abdicated responsibility, all while still achieving their goal of spreading inaccurate information.

It is important to credit sources because if you do not say where you got your quote or your information from, you can't be held accountable.  While this may be a good thing to unscrupulous reporters, it is a great disservice to the public.  And regardless of your political affiliation, most people can agree that Fox News is almost completely devoid of newsworthiness.  Fox News recently went as far as to use old footage from a rally organized by their commentator Glenn Beck to make a more recent, less popular rally held at the same location appear to be larger than it actually was.

Original Assignment

Pittsburgh's Northside and News-Writing Math

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Today in class, we were given a lesson in "news-writing math," as described by our instructor.  This consisted of useful information, such as averaging salaries and calculating the size of a crowd.  We worked in small groups, and we were encouraged to discuss our results.

In several questions, we were asked to compare the numbers of crimes in two different cities.  I mentioned to my group how when I attended CCAC, one of my instructors explained how crime rates are calculated.  He mentioned that depending on how the area was divided, the area around the campus of the school had the highest rate of crimes in Pittsburgh.  Because so few people lived in the area, if any crime occurred, the number of incidents per capita skyrocketed.

That being said, the Northside is far from a pleasant place.  One evening during the first week I was there, while trying to find short-cuts for my morning commute, I saw a young adult with a back-pack lying face-down on the ground by the nearby Elementary school.  There was an emergency medical unit there, but they didn't seem to be in a hurry, so the victim was likely dead.  There were also about four shootings (that I can recall) in the nearby area during the year I spent there.

The Ideal v. Reality

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I started this entry, but didn't complete it before class.  I was asked about what I was writing about in class, and it started a discussion between me and my instructor, Dr. Jerz.  The subject of the assignment was Editorial writing, and Dr. Jerz provided his guidelines for writing editorials, as well as an opinion piece he wrote several years before about Seton Hill's new football program.  While reading the piece, I noted that there were several times that Dr. Jerz did not follow his guidelines for editorial writing.

In the guidelines, Dr. Jerz warned of vilifying the opponent you are arguing against.  But in his article, Dr. Jerz called student athletes "testosterone-for-brains Neanderthals", and said that "[b]y embracing football, the school lofts a mighty 'Hail Mary' pass to muscle-bound souls conditioned to respond to no other call."  He also mentioned that college recruits are at "the most self-centered, hormone-addled, celebrity-obsessed, marketing-controlled, "voting-is-for-old-people" phase of their lives."

Dr. Jerz also warned about using vague or unnamed sources in an editorial, and stressed the importance of interviewing sources and citing specific statistics.  But in his article, the only first-hand source he used was an unnamed student he paraphrased, who was making a generalization about how student athletes spend their time in computer labs.

By pointing this out, I wasn't trying to mock Dr. Jerz, but rather prove a point.  While there is an ideal for editorial and opinion piece writing, it is rarely followed.  Editorials do not follow the same rules as news-writing, and because of that, they also do not follow the same standards for accuracy and bias.  However good editorial writing, while it may have a point of view, will make an effort to be factually accurate, as well as making concessions to the opposing viewpoint.

Original Assignment

The Effects of the Representation of Race in the News

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"In every city, complaints were heard that the newspaper's coverage of minorities -- while improved -- still was sporadic and marked by large gaps. Many of the complaints were similar to ones that have been voiced for years:

   -  That the newspaper was sending reporters into black and Hispanic communities mostly to cover crime, violence, poverty or drugs.

   -  That positive developments and improvement efforts in minority communities
rarely were covered. "
- Best Practices for Newspaper Journalism (page 43)

While I already touched on this topic in an earlier post when the subject of the representation of minorities in the media was first brought up in Haiman 1-16, I also wanted to share some of my other observations about news reporting in minority communities.

I was talking with a friend of mine, who grew up in a nearby rural area, about my Haiman 1-16 blog entry.  He mentioned that an African-American family moved in next door to his family while he was in High School, and that they were the only minorities his family knew.  His mother, while she could hardly be defined as a racist, was extremely distrustful of their new neighbors.  Something I did not get to address as much as I would have liked to in my original article were the actual effects of negative news reporting about minority communities.  I mentioned in passing that the only time many Caucasians are exposed to minorities are in news reports, and with no other frame of reference, their opinions will often be shaped by the negative news reports that are far too pervasive. 

Aside from local crime in inner-city communities, which always makes headline news on TV, the only other stories covered are the reactions of the community to the crimes.  While this is an attempt to be balanced and unbiased, the story is still at it's core, a negative news story.  While a local news organization may cover a local rally against violence, or an event to promote peace that brings the community together, these events are always in response to violence or other crimes.  I mentioned to my friend about how there are always many special interest and evergreen news stories about non-minorities that has nothing to do with their race, but if there is a special interest story about an African-American or another minority, their background and race always places a factor into the story.

Original Assignment

"If your mother says she loves you..."

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I have found that on occasion, a person you interview will make a false or inaccurate statement without all of the facts about the subject.  It is human nature, and I can't say that I am immune from doing the same.  It is generally easy to tell when sources are lying or are mistaken when interviewing for a hard news story.  If one witness says that six men robbed a liquor store, when the other witnesses and the police report say that there were only two, it is easy to disregard that information.  However, it may become more difficult to verify information that sources give you when doing an investigative report.

For an article I was doing, I asked a subject about thefts that specifically occurred on-campus at Seton Hill University (SHU).  They immediately shot back, recalling how property of theirs was stolen, and how they were displeased with the way that SHU had handled the incident.  I could have stopped right there, quoted that person as saying that they had their belongings stolen on campus at SHU.  Why would I need to check it if I got a first hand account?  But I asked them to clarify their statements, and it turned out that they actually did not have their belongings stolen on campus, but on a University sponsored field-trip.

When you are doing investigative reporting, you will generally be unable to verify information you find by doing a google search, so it is important to get as accurate information as you can get from as many sources.  Just because you can quote someone, even if they misspoke, it's not always a good idea.  If you do not frame the quote properly or use it as a fact when it is false, it will not matter if it is a quote from someone else.

Original Assignment