Journey from Blurry Vision to Clear Sight: Localized News Article
When we first got the localized news article assignment, I didn’t really see a difference between it and the spot news article. However, in writing my own localized news article, the distinctions between the two became very clear. They both have the same ultimate goal, but that goal is achieved in two opposite ways. In a spot news article, you go to a specific event. The lens is zoomed in on one specific thing and then you zoom out to the big picture, making the event seem more universal. The localized news article begins with the big picture and your job as a reporter is to zoom it in closer and closer until it becomes relatable to your paper’s reader. You’re trying to make the topic universal enough that it speaks to your local readership. So in both cases, the real goal is universality.
As I was reading through the headlines on CNN under the world section, I stumbled across an article headlined “Fast Internet access becomes a legal right in Finland.” This made me curious; I doubled clicked on the hyperlink which would take me to the full text. To sum up the article very briefly for those who may not wish to read the whole thing (which by the way, it’s not very long): Finland announced that broadband Internet is now a legal right. This will require telecommunication companies to provide all people in the country with an Internet connection. They have ruled that the connection must be at least one-megabit per second with the hopes of increasing the speed later.
When I finished reading the article, my first reaction was how great this idea seemed to me. I remember (as many probably do), the old days when you would have to sit patiently listening to your computer make those strange (and mildly annoying) noises as it “dialed-up” to the Internet. Once connected, the Web pages loaded slowly and you always had to worry about whether someone might call your phone line while you were on-line. With these unpleasant past memories rekindled in my mind, I could not help but agree that everyone should have a right to Internet (and not just any Internet, but reasonably fast Internet).
I could see how fast Internet could be seen to provide an unfair advantage to those who had it. The person would be much more likely to be able to do Internet research instead of relying on (sometimes) outdated books. It provides a quick and easy way to search for jobs, find answers to questions, and connect with other people. If we wish to work towards an ideal world, why not make sure everyone has access to fast Internet?
This is where I made my first mistake. I allowed myself to form an opinion. As I considered angles with which I could approach my story, they were all tempered by my viewpoint. I intended to write an article painting Finland as an advanced country, moving in the right direction. I decided I would interview some unfortunates who had slow Internet about the undue hardship Internet caused and that would be my article.
However, as I interviewed and discussed my topic with other people, I began to perceive my error. As I talked to different people who had varying opinions on the matter, my eyes opened wide to the multi-faceted nature of the subject I had chosen. Originally, I was unable to see past the benefits of having fast Internet. After all, who would argue that fast Internet is bad? However, there was a lot more going on here than just Internet access being good.
My article took place in Finland, I was groping a bit for whom to interview. Unlike the spot article, my story was not local at all. I had no previous knowledge base. Furthermore, I am no expert on the Internet or computers. I know enough to do what I need to do and that’s about it. I had thrust myself into the realms of danger which real reporters face everyday—reporting on something I knew little about. Remembering from a previous blogging conversation that the best way to deal with this was by going to the experts I tried to think of people I could ask about Findland and the Internet. Unfortunately, I could think of no one I could easily approach about Findland, but there was naturally one person who came to my mind when I thought the word “Internet": Dr. Jerz.
Unsure of what exactly I should even ask, I created a list
of questions that I thought might help my article, typed them up, and hit send. Off went my e-mail to Dr. Jerz. Shortly after hitting the send bottom, I
considered the fact that sending 13 questions to someone was probably not the
most respectful thing to do. But the
send button was hit and I decided if Dr. Jerz didn’t have time to answer them,
To my surprise the next morning when I got up, he had answered with a very lengthy reply. Reading over his answer, something finally began to sink into my conscious. This topic that I had picked, thinking it was so black and white, was not at all. I had forgot how blurry the world becomes when I become so confident in my own opinion that I take off my glasses, thereby missing the details underlying the seemingly simply issue. Dr. Jerz brought up the net neutrality movement, which I had never actually even heard of. He explained (for those of you who may not know what it is): “[the net neutrality movement is a] guarantee that my cable provider will treat fairly all data that moves along the pipe they provide me, as opposed to letting my internet service provider block or hinder my access to information provided by a company that’s competing with my internet provider.” Or to give a more specific example, some internet providers want to divide the internet into portions, each provider having their own part. So let’s say that I own an Internet providing company named “Greta’s Internet” (very original, I know), then if you chose to get your Internet from me, I could make it so that you could only access the Web sites I allowed you too.
Dr. Jerz continued to explain, “I support the net neutrality movement, and recognize that online communication is a vital form of speech in the US, but the First Amendment guarantee that congress shall not abridge the rights of free speech or press does not mean that Congress must provide a platform for everyone who wants to speak or publish. In a similar way, the freedom of religion does not mean that the government has to guarantee to build and staff a church for your particular faith in every town in the nation. I don’t like being around smokers, but I don’t think it’s fair to expect the government to arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate smokers. I don’t like being unable to connect to the internet, but I don’t consider my rights violated.” My automatic acceptance was challenged by Dr. Jerz’s comments and I realized I had allowed myself to become too biased. My original plan just to interview Dr. Jerz and students who had slow Internet changed. I realized this would not be representing the issue fairly.
Besides interviewing Dr. Jerz and a student who didn’t have access to fast Internet, I interviewed someone who creates Web sites, an attorney, and a member of Seton Hill’s Computer and Information Technology Staff. I began to consider how much work it was for Seton Hill to update our Internet here. If we translate the effort undertook here at our small university and shifted that to a national scale, the difficulties became clearer. The localization was complete. By narrowing the issue down to Seton Hill, I had gained a better understanding of the world issue. And by interviewing a plethora of people and hearing from many different voices, I was able to present a clearer, fairer article.
Granted, I was still presented with difficulties, for example, the never-ending challenge of dealing with a word limit especially considering what great quotes I had. It was so hard to determine which quotes would make my article most effective while still balancing it so that no person or “side” overtook it. Working within 400-words certainly required a dwindling down of information.
However, besides gaining all kinds of journalistic experiences (overcoming my preconceived opinion, writing about something I knew little about, interviewing many people, dealing with a word limit, etc.), I also became a more informed person. I had no idea any of these debates and controversies were going on in regards to the Internet. I just take it for granted. Every day, I get on-line, surf the Web, do as I wish. But there are no clear directions as to whether this will remain this way. There is nothing protecting our freedom of Internet-use. The main issue we hear about both in the United States (and globally, France is a perfect example) relates to illegal downloading. This is not the only issue out there regarding the Internet. There are so few laws and regulations ensuring freedom or restriction of Internet use that we should be more aware of what is going on world-wide about it. Anything could happen.
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