Wow, I am about to complete my final portfolio for news writing, where did the time go?  This semester went by incredibly fast.  So fast, in fact, that sometimes it’s difficult to realize how much we’ve learned since the beginning of the semester until we take a few moments for reflection.

 At the beginning of the semester, my attitude was not overly positive towards news writing.  I had to take it as part of the education requirements.  It’s not that I was uninterested in the subject, I just begrudged it a little since it was taking space in my schedule when I could have been taking something else I was more interested in (the curse of being a double-major and dual education certification student completing everything in four years is the inability to take any classes you want to take, just for the sake of taking it). 

 I’m not going to lie and say that through the course of the semester I came to really love journalism.  I don’t.  I would never want to be a journalist for my career.  However, I have come to terms with some things.  One thing in particular is the claim that journalism is “unbiased or objective.”  This actually made me quite mad.  It is impossible to be objective and the claim that such an ideal was possible upset me.  However, our readings by Haiman helped me realize that it isn’t so much about the writing being “unbiased,” but the effort to try to make it so and the process through which the articles go to become as bias-free as possible. 

Furthermore, while I may not love news writing, I can appreciate the challenges news writers face and all the work that goes into it.  I understand the differences between writing an academic essay and writing a news article.  I am more skeptical (and more accepting of) what I see in papers.  I know why they do what they do and I know when they do something wrong.  I also pay more attention to the news now.  After being required to continually check up on a breaking news article, I got into the habit of reading the news daily.  I have come through this class a more informed and prepared person for the real world.  And, most importantly for me, I feel capable of guiding high schoolers through their own journalism journey should I be called upon to do so some day. 

Coverage and Timeliness: I completed all assigned blogs and posted them all on or before the time that they were due.  I list here only the blogs which did not fall under another category. 

Depth: These are a few blogs that I put some extra thought into.

  • The Three Keys to Effective Video Use After watching four videos on the NY Times’ website and analyzing each, I create what I think are the three keys to using videos on news sites effectively.
  • The Danger of Preconceptions In this blog, I discuss the similarities between allowing one’s preconceived notions to control you in both academic writing and in journalism.

Interaction: These are some of my classmates’ blogs that got me thinking and which I therefore commented on.

  • Angela’s Pleasing the Eye I agree with Angela on how powerful the video clip of Megan Fox is, Angela answers my comment, and Josie and Aja get involved as well.
  • Derek’s Freedom, Fairness, and Futility I leave Derek a long comment disagreeing that paper’s should not clearly admit what side of issues they may stand on.  He answers me, I answer back.  Wendy and Angela also leave comments. 
  • Josie’s There Must be a Story Here Somewhere   I agree with Josie about how frustrating it might be for journalists to do a lot of work and then find there is no story.  Josie considers what a journalist could do in such a situation and I suggest that one could write about how there is no story, using the Seton Hill swine flu incident as an example.  Angela also comments. 
  • Angela’s This is ok…I give it a C+  Derek, Angela, Wendy, and I discuss Harvard’s layout.  I disagree with Angela’s criticism and opine that she is being a bit harsh.  Angela responds admitting she was a little harsh, but notes that she did observe good things about the page too.

Discussion: These are some of my blogs which sparked discussion.
 
  • Violation of the Brevity Rule I complain about how long the videos were that the Arizona Star used.  Angela and Josie both agree with me and I respond to their comments.

Xenoblogging:

The Comment Primo:  

 The Comment Grande:

The Link Gracias:

  • Any reflection entry

Wildcard: I picked, “With great power, comes great responsibility,” because I think it sums up what Haiman was trying to stress throughout his entire guidebook.  I related a famous line from Spiderman to stress this responsibility.  I also deal with objectivity in this entry, I wrote, “As I’ve pointed out many times, it’s impossible to be completely objective, but that doesn’t mean reporters can’t try to do their best—just as Spiderman can’t save everyone and bad things will happen sometimes, he still does his best to save as many people as he can.”   

 

Reflections: These are blog entries I wrote before class.  They are based on my classmates’ blog entries.  I expand on what I have learned from their blogs and what I now understand better thanks to them.  If I use a reflection in another category, I do not include it here at well.

Previous Portfolios:

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The Public’s Role

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Michelle brought up an interesting point in her blog.  While I highlighted the responsibility which the news media has to be fair, Michelle focused on the public’s responsibility to fact check.  The news media is held accountable by the public, but how is the public to hold them accountable if they do not keep themselves informed?  We need to question and doubt and fact check, just as reporters do.  Read an article about the same subject by several sources, do your best not to let yourself accept “biased news” as fact.  If the public is to ensure the news media does not abuse their right to the freedom of the press, they need to keep themselves skeptical and knowledgeable.  

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“With great power, comes great responsibility”

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From Robert  J. Haiman’s Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists:

“There’s a case to be made that while the press has no constitutional duty to be fair, there is a societal obligation to do so. The press is like no other industry in American society. Its importance is acknowledged in the Constitution and its liberty is part of our nation’s foundation. Doesn’t the press have a duty to live up to its special role in our democracy?” (72)

 

I’m going to take a page out of Angela’s book with this blog and make a movie reference.  When I read the quote above, the first thing that popped into my head was Uncle Ben’s advice to Peter from Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”  Peter Parker, like the press, has been given special powers/rights and along with these rights comes “great responsibility.”  The press, as Haiman observes, has a unique right and power to write what they want and what they think is necessary.  While the press does have some legal issues encouraging them to be fair, they can get away with a lot.  However, if they abuse these rights they have been granted, the public will and does lose faith in them.  As the survey Haiman cites shows, 53% of Americans feel that the press has too much freedom.  News organizations have the responsibility to the public to be fair, if they’re not the public will become disillusioned with the news media and no longer trust them.  It’s a reciprocal relationship.  If reporters are fair, the public will trust them more and news organizations will make greater profits.  If reporters aren’t fair, no one will believe them.  News organizations have the responsibility to their readers, those they are reporting, and themselves to do their best to be fair and unbiased.  As I’ve pointed out many times, it’s impossible to be completely objective, but that doesn’t mean reporters can’t try to do their best—just as Spiderman can’t save everyone and bad things will happen sometimes, he still does his best to save as many people as he can.   

 

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A Little Spoonful of the Positive

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I was surprised by how positive a review some of my classmates gave The Cavalier.  I personally didn’t like it very much.  Mostly, I didn’t like the absence of pictures below the fold.  However, after reading Angela’s blog and the comments left on it, I think I was able to moderate my dislike a little bit.  Josie pointed out in a comment to Angela that The Cavalier’s page was more “user-friendly.”  On a second look at the webpage, I could really see what she meant.  While there were no more pictures, there were clearer divisions between sections.  It is very easy for a reader to see where the “Recent News” section is, where the “Sports” section is, etc.  In this way, if a reader wanted to read an article from a particular section, it would be a lot easier for them to find.  

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You Can't Please Everyone

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 In all three of my classmate’s blogs that I have read so far, I seem to be the odd one out as far as opinions go on the Harvard Crimson’s layout.  Angela gave it a C, Josie was not overly impressed, and Derek while commenting that it was professional, didn’t really keep his attention.  While I would not claim that the layout was perfect, there are some small things they could do to improve it (such as making their masthead more prominent or adding a pdf of the print edition of their paper), I thought it was overall pretty well done.  They had a slideshow, videos, plenty of graphics, and lots of articles.  Perhaps part of one’s preference is entirely personal.  I mean, what looks good to me, may not look good to Angela.  And what looks good to me may not look good to her.  It would be so hard to be a layout editor, because no matter what you do, you can’t please everyone.    

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The Cavalier Daily’s masthead is big enough.  It is clear that it is the title of the paper and not just another headline.  However, I do not think that they make it clear enough that it is a college paper’s website or that it is the University of Virginia’s paper.  In fact, I searched over the entire homepage and cannot find anything that names the association.  Above the fold looks good, there are lots of pictures.  However, as one scrolls down, the website becomes less and less interesting.  There are clear divisions between the sections of stories, but there are NO graphics.  It’s just text, text, and more text.  Frankly, it doesn’t entice me to keep scrolling down or to click on any of the articles.  I do like that they have a little section where you can see today’s print version of the paper.  Harvard did not have that.  This way readers can chose which format they prefer. 

To bring in a third comparison though, take a look at The Flat Hat’s page.  The Flat Hat has a large masthead in a fun font.  It clearly says below the title of the paper that it is affiliated with William and Mary.  They have the weather in the upper right hand corner, like many print newspapers would.  It gives little blurbs of information about the longer article below the headlines, it intersperses pictures throughout the page to keep the reader interested.  It divides the articles into sections.  There is a newscast video for those who prefer watching/listening to the news.  You can chose to view the print paper in a pdf format.  There does seem to be fewer articles on their homepage, but I personally like it’s layout better than both The Cavalier’s and The Harvard Crimson's.

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Woah, They Even Have Videos!

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I think it’s a bit strange that The Harvard Crimson’s masthead is so small.  The title of the paper is not any bigger than some of their headlines.  When you open the webpage, the first thing that comes to your eye is not the name of the paper, which is not really a good thing.  I do think they make good use of graphics though.  They break up the different articles with a slideshow of pictures which goes along with the major articles.  They have thumbnails that go along with the blogs in the right hand side of the page.  They have a series of more pictures at the bottom of the page.  And they even have two videos on the bottom right hand side of the page.  Below the major headlines, they have little blurbs or outtakes of information from the article, which helps the reader know if they want to click on the link for more information.  They also have the page neatly set up into categories, such as “Top Stories,” “Opinion,” “Sports,” “Magazine,” “Arts,” “More News,” “Most Read.”  Over all, I would say they keep things visually interesting with pictures and headlines.  The only real fault is how small the masthead is. 

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Flight 93 Memorial Links

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In light of the recent (November 7) groundbreaking for the Flight 93 memorial, I am investigating how the school district and other area officials will handle the loss of funding from property tax for the local school. 

  • Welcome to Shanksville-Stonycreek School District—this is part of the local school’s official website.  This section of the website gives information on the school, the area, and the residents.
  • Flight 93 National Memorial—This is the National Park Service’s official website for Flight 93.  It includes information on the groundbreaking ceremony, the memorial design, video clips from residents and others involved, and more. 
  • People bound by a cause can achieve great things—This is an editorial about the Flight 93 memorial written by a local man which was published in the Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown's paper).  He expresses his pleasure over the beginning of the construction.
  • “We made it’: Ground broken for Flight 93 memorial—This is an article from the Tribune-Democrat about the groundbreaking. 
  • Ground broken for Flight 93—This is the Daily American’s (Somerset’s paper) article on the groundbreaking.  It includes a video of the ceremony.
  • PILT FAQ—This is the Department of the Interior’s FAQ on Payment in Lieu of Taxes, which is a possible way the school may be able to make up for some of the lost funds from property tax.   
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It was interesting comparing the different views my classmates had on links.  Jeanine voiced that links make her feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes.  They result in a never-ending cycle of information seeking.  In contrast, Angela stresses in her comment on Derek’s blog that she loves links and that, “it's fun traversing the web through links…”  On my own blog, I found it hard to even narrow down all the functions that links fulfill.  So, I think it’s safe to say, that links are extremely powerful.  They can either really please a reader or annoy them.  As Dr. Jerz pointed out in class, sometimes you will be excited about a link and then you click on it and find it to be completely useless.  There is nothing more disappointing then being promised something and then not getting it.  So links speak loudly.  You don’t want to use too many or too few, or to link to a place which isn’t actually helpful.  As in most cases, you have to search for some kind of middle ground and be careful what you link to.     

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Information or News?

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In reading both Angela’s and Kaitlin’s blogs on the multimedia news feature, I began to see more of the positive qualities of it.  Angela made it clearer to me how the interactive nature or the feature would interest viewers, while Kaitlin made it clear how unbiased and informative it was.  Both of their blogs steered me to consider the real function of this feature.  It seems like it would make a great informative tool to use in a classroom.  It teaches where the garage goes and what happens to the recyclables.  It seems like there is a lot more information and a lot less news.  They did have a good idea about getting that information across.  With the words, pictures, lists, interaction, and video clips, it would work well for almost any learning style (although, we all agree the videos need a little work).  But this makes me wonder how much of this feature is news and how much of it is just informative…

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