November 2007 Archives

A different spin

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Although the first half of this chapter served as a friendly review of journalistic skills, the second half really caught my attention because of its new content.  Starting at the "Writing to Inform, Writing to Engage" section, the chapter's discussion turned from basic reporting to more story-telling type of journalism (features, I guess).  The authors explained how an article can be completely dictated by stories, while having only small interjected sections of background information and "news."  At other times, however, an anecdote can serve to break up a very cut-and-dry article (see Corey’s blog).  I liked how the authors presented both uses of this strategy. 

Also, I thought the chapter's discussion on the role of the reader was new, interesting, and helpful.  As an introduction to this idea, the authors described Louise Rosenblatt's ideas on the role of the writer and the reader: "Reading is a transaction in which each reader brings his or her own biography, experiences, prejudices, knowledge and ignorance to the text.  The writer may create the text, but the reader makes the story." Later in the chapter, the author's apply this sense of the reader's role in their "Thinking Tools" and "Drafting Tools" sections.  For instance, the author suggests that journalists should "envision a general audience," "develop a chronology," and "consider the impact" all when writing complex stories, to both perk reader's interest and help aid their understanding throughout the article.

 

Is this a novel or a newspaper?

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"All he could think about was the police drawing their guns on Eugene in a case of mistaken identity.  Carl had to hurry.  'I'll bring him to you,' Carl said.  'Give me 10 minutes.'" 

I thought Hull's "Metal to Bone" article was a prime example of how truly great crime reporting can be just as gripping and powerful as any fictitious TV crime show - or even more so. I was completely drawn in and captured by Hull's explanation of the crime, the victim, and the criminal. I quoted the last two lines of the article, which really left me wanting more.  But because this article was the first installment of a series, this was exactly how the article wanted to leave the reader feeling. 

I also thought this article served as an interesting contrast to the crime reporting we've predominately been studying and writing.  That writing has been the exact opposite to what Hull's article displays: it was stark, short, and to the point.  Here, Hull turns crime reporting into an insightful narrative; as the abstract says, she brings the police reports and mug shots to life.  However, I'm not trying to bash the short crime blurb; sometimes, this form of crime reporting is the only form appropriate, due to timeliness and limitations on information. 

 

A sunshiny day

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"by wondering if in all of history there has ever been a day so glorious and concluding that there hasn't" (213)

It's not your run-of-the-mill weather report that gives you insight and revelations like that!  Although it was very out of the ordinary, I really enjoyed Ken Fuson's "Ah, What a Day!"  In fact, I think the passage's uniqueness is what I liked the most about it.  I have never come across, or even thought I would come across, a single-sentence piece of journalism.  In this way, I think "Ah, What a Day" shows the versatility of journalism; even though the nuts and bolts of the practice revolve around objectivity, leads, and quotes, within some areas journalism can flourish into a truly expressive art form.

 

When Mars Attacks!

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From the Classics chapter in ABNW, I read "Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion" by Dorothy Thompson.  Thompson wrote the article in 1938, after a radio performance of Orson Welles' The War of the Worlds was mistaken by many listeners as an actual event, rather than a fictional, theatrical performance.

Thompson interprets the public's reaction as proof of "the appalling dangers and enormous effectiveness of popular and theatrical demagoguery.  They have cast a brilliant and cruel light upon the failure of popular education." (264)  Beyond Thompson's conclusions on the connection between increased mass hysteria and decreased education, this quote shows how her article utilizes one small, newsworthy can as an inkling to a much larger event, especially by applying her own opinion to the subject.

 In my upcoming article, I am writing about stress around the holidays in students/young adults.  Although my approach to the article has already been through many transformations, and still isn't quite nailed down, I am now hoping to utilize Thompson's concept of self-involvement and interpretation that will take my personal interviews with students about their holiday stresses and apply them to an overall trend or occurrence in stress levels of students. 

 

Same story, different name

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"The press doesn't have to be fair in order to be free." (71)

Although it is supposed to be the beacon of truth in this country, the press, which often equates to the written press, can fall far short of that role in many, many, different ways...  Wait, haven't I heard this some place before?

Much of the Best Practices booklet seemed like a repeat of the journalistic traps we've been discussing throughout the semester - It was like a compellation of all the highlights of IANS and the various crime/victim and science reporting readings.  In this way, however, it also made for a very monotonous read. 

Because this booklet was so similar to the other readings, it speaks volumes about the true traps of journalism.  Obviously if so many writers are writing about the same repeated problems, these errors are significant and easy to commit.  Thus the topics covered in Best Practices showcase the true concern a journalism student should show for bias reporting, science reporting, crime reporting, or any other topic covered in class.  The problems are real and they could happen to you, and could change your life and career in a big way.

What I did like about the text was the round table approach.  This format helped convey information in a way that more clearly showed how real readers, more-so than a trained expert or author, reacted to the errors of journalism.  The suggestions offered by the booklet also seemed more concrete and specific, rather than general suggestions or proposals for improvement, 

 

A true balance

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"And we must never allow ourselves to forget that until the lives of all citizens are fully and fairly represented in the staffs and content of all news-papers, the American press has made a promise it has not yet kept." (48)

This chapter of Best Practices jumped out at me because it was different, different than any of the other journalistic problem areas that have been covered (multiple times) between this booklet and It Ain't Necessarily So.  Also, the chapter's content even covered some aspects of diversity I hadn't realized were an issue.  I thought issues of diversity would be limited to coverage and stories - I wouldn’t even have considered the issue of diversity in the news room as a part of the hiring/promotion process. 

The ways to improve diversity were very through.  They showed that even though issues of diversity may not be the hot stories they once were, diversity, and moreover ensuring that a news paper has diversity in both practice and coverage, is always an issue. 

 Even though news rooms have improved in leaps and bounds from generations past, there is still much work to be done to ensure diversity.  Hopefully following this chapter's tips- from education, training, minority audits, and outside consultations with members of minority communities and minority experts - will help papers find true equality, which ultimately helps them produce a higher quality, more balanced paper. 

 

Just say you're sorry

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When you make mistakes, that is.  As the Best Practices text conveyed, errors in general, factual and grammatical, can hurt the reputation of an entire paper if they are in abundance, and moreover, if they paper refuses or seems reluctant to correct them.  Although this section of the reading went into great detail on the Chicago Tribune's approach to eliminating errors at their paper and their successful turnaround, it shows that ultimately perfection will never be attainable.  Rather than covering up mistakes, however, a paper should strive to fess up to their mistakes.  In the following section on corrections the authors say that:

"...the public see it quite another way. They say they understand that reporters have to work very hard and fast under pressure, and they acknowledge that is not a system likely to produce protection." (13)

Thus it is a cycle: inevitable mistakes may hurt a paper's reputation, but admitting the wrong repairs the paper’s reputation.

As a personal example of the detrimental effects of newspaper errors, I'll cite the front page picture and caption that accompanied what at the time, about 7 years ago, was a major story for my local, small-town paper.  The front page story was about how a local, successful, family owned restaurant burnt to the ground over night.  The family was well-known and popular in the community, and the owner's daughters attended the local high school.  The picture that accompanied the paper's story showed one of the daughters and a random on-looker watching the building burn.  However, while the random guy was identified in full detail, the owner's daughter was identified as an "unknown on-looker" (or something generic like that).  In such a small community, that was a major flub since everyone knew who it was; it made the writer, and by extension the paper, look completely unprofessional.  However, I can't place all the blame on the paper because I never did check to see what, if any, correction was made. 

But I do think my example shows how a seemingly "simple" mistake can stick in the minds of readers for a long a time.

 

Power of the Personal

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"If great literature can be said to be the best work created under any circumstances, then great journalism is the best work written under these circumstances."

This quote was referencing Richard Cramer's " Shiva for a Child Slain in a Palestinian Raid." In Cramer's article, he relies heavily on the quotes, dialogue, and details of a single family to relate a Palestinian terrorist attack on an Israeli bus.  Cramer thus details a large-scale, international event by foucusing on its personal impact.  He tells of the slain daughter's injuries, the mother's heart-pounding ride to the hospital, and the other daughter's escape from danger all in gruesome detail.  Rather than downplaying the worldwide impact of the attack, I think his personal approach to the story made the terrorist attacks stand out even more to those of us who live a relatively safe and quite US life.

To draw a comparison, this story and its vivid details reminded me of a recent program I saw on HBO.  I realize this isn't the best source of news, but the special was a very eye-opening documentary; the film compiled interviews, still pictures, and video clips of injured American soldiers and focused primarily on comparing their military lives to their new civilian lives and physical impairment.  What I found similar between this program and Cramer's article was the powerful imagery.  Through his descriptions and quotations, I was able to see the events of the terrorist attack played out in a very real way.  At one point in the documentary, they showed a collection of pictures that a solider had taken while fighting in the war - one was of a man who had been shot in the head.  Although I've watched war movies and seen violence in the media, this picture was unlike anything I had ever seen; like Cramer's article, it truly drove home the reality of war and violence. 

 

Breaking the Mold

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“Here murder has somehow become part of the everyday life.” (90)

 

Linnet Myers’ “Humanity On Trial” introduces to our class something we’ve only touched briefly upon before: the world of feature writing.  I really enjoyed reading Myers’ article, well enjoyed it to a point at least --  I think that the article was exquisitely written but frightening and disturbing at the same time because she conveyed such horrible crimes and described them in such grotesque detail.

 

However, I think crime was an interesting subject to focus on when writing her feature.  Usually I would think of “feature” stories as happy stories, stories that may even border on cheesy or fluffy.  Myers’ use of a feature story, in contrast to my preconceived thoughts, brought to life a painful reality of crime that is often sterilized through short, informational crime reports.  Also, the feature style made it appropriate for her to focus on only one or two sources - the judges - as well as her own experiences and insights, both of which would be completely inappropriate if writing a more hard-news story on crime.

 

Looking Back & Moving On - Blogging Portfolio #2

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With the reading and discussion of It Ain't Necessarily So (IANS) as part of this Journalism class, I have worked to more fully embrace the blogging spirit.  Therefore, this compellation of recent blog entries all pertain to the said text, but hopefully also show growth in my skills as a blogger, both in writing entries and giving and receiving comments. 

1.  Coverage - This list includes all blogging entries since my last portfolio, all submitted on-time, before class deadlines.

The Not-So-Invisible Observer - My first blog entry about IANS.  This entry sums up the theme that runs through the entire text: the impossibility of true objectiveness and the unavoidable bias in journalism.

We're Still being Duped - Here, I build on my ideas discussed in "Observer"; mainly, I point out how the IANS authors apply their ideas towards reporters in chapter 1-2 to researchers in chapters 3-5. 

The Truth is Out There - This blog entry accompanied a reading that was really pivotal to my understanding/opinion of IANS.  After reading several dismal chapters about the failure of journalists to produce quality work, I focus on the encouraging points I found in the reading of ch. 6-7. 

A Surprise Guest Star - A lighter and less formal entry that documents my reactions to President Boyle's visit to EL227. 

Those Crazy Tree-Huggin' Activists - An entry I felt very passionately about. The bulk of this entry contains my strong disagreement with the IANS authors and their seeming attack on all activists.

Think Hard Evidence, Not Motive - This entry includes my discussion of IANS chapter 9, in which I generally support the argument the authors make.

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover - An entry that sums up my thoughts on IANS, including my surprising revelation concerning the text as a whole.

 2.  Depth - This list highlights a few more engaging entries.  In these, I went beyond just the text to address some larger issues. 

 We're Still being Duped - In this entry, I ponder if those in journalism will ever truly find dependable facts.

Those Crazy Tree-Huggin' Activists- As part of discussion in reference to the text I develop my own definition of activism.

3.  Interaction - These entries interacted directly with a peer's work -- for better or worse.

Shateed!? by Mitch Steele - My comment on Mtich's blog shows my effort to politely disagree.   

4.  Discussions - This list includes blogs that generated comments and discussion.

The Truth is Out There                                             

We're Still being Duped

The Not-So-Invisible Observer

5.  Timeliness - These entries demonstrate my ability to both write entries before class and contribute to them after class.

The Not-So-Invisible Observer - This entry was written early enough to spark a handful of comments.  After hearing how class discussions were going, I headed back to this entry to post a follow-up comment.

A Surprise Guest Star - An entry published in response to a class

Think Hard Evidence, Not Motive - An entry I wrote yesterday for tomorrow’s class

6.  Xenoblogging - This list includes comments I have made to others that have sparked online conversation. 

      "Primo Comments" - Comments I made to others that were the first on their entry.

       IANS 5 & 6 and Much Ado About a Lot by Maria Pezzuti

      Who Ever Will Win… by Maddie Gillpespie - Besides being the initial comment on this entry, I also consider this comment to be of the more in-depth kind.

7.  Miscellaneous - Taken from my general list of entries, I point out some other aspects of blogging that my that weren’t covered by the other components. 

A Surprise Guest Star - In mentioning my previous school, I strove to work within the realm of good blogging etiquette.