No Guarantee...But I Think I'm Going Through With It

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Over the past few weeks, I have done some researching and I have tried to determine if I should continue with what I have chosen for my Capstone project. As Dr. Atherton commented when first discussing this project with me, what I have chosen to do is for some their lifetime profession. I think the biggest factor I took into consideration was that I could do all this research, interviewing, visiting to mine drainage/ mine areas, and have the whole project end with no accomplishment other than I learned a lot about mine drainage. I'm hoping to make some type of positive impact on my home community with this project, but there is the chance that it may not happen because either it is not financially possible/beneficial, or some other group/organization already has a plan on the way that will include the areas around my home, making my project irrelevant.

I've decided that even though my project has the potential to not go as planned (or even close), there could still be some sort of benefit I could get out of it. Even if it is just writing articles on the research I am doing and possible organizing some local clean up events. I'm still nervous about going through with it, but I guess it's worth a try.

Originally, I picked this project because I live in a mining area that has seen several problems caused from the mines. After working on a road crew for the past few years, I have seen firsthand some of the damage done from the abandoned mines, from orange rivers to houses caving in on hillsides from the collapsing abandoned mine underneath.

Over the next few days, to create a sort of "base" for anyone reading my blog (which I am going to use as a sort of journal for this project), I am going to start including links and information for mine drainage. I want to include some basics, such as what acid mine drainage is and how you can test water sources for it. I also am going to include background information for my home area, such as the water sources that have been damaged by mine drainage, the history of mining in my area, and any clean up systems that exist. I have managed to collect several newspaper articles on recent coverage on mine drainage in the area from the past year. I plan on using information from these articles as a way to find some starting points for some interviews and for some visits to mining areas.

Also, even though I live in Somerset County, I plan on researching and visiting areas in Cambria County as well. I live almost on the line between the two, so several of the water sources around my house are also a part of Cambria.

Finally, I am also going to start sharing some information about the mine drainage cleaning systems in Westmoreland County, with a focus on the systems at St. Vincent. Dr. Atherton said his wife is active in the research and some of the environmental studies at St. Vincent, so hopefully I can contact her soon and possibly set up some visitation dates.

I believe this project has a lot of potential in both positive in negative extremes: either I can really make an impact on my community or it may be a total flop. I have a feeling that there is a little chance for it falling in between. I guess I could have picked a project that could guarantee a safer and probably more successful outcome, but I feel that this project is really forcing me out of my comfort zone and to try to do something that isn't going to be a guaranteed success.  

Honors Capstone Proposal

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Comparison of Mine Drainage Systems (or lack of) in Somerset, Cambria, and Westmoreland Counties

For my Honors’ Capstone project, I plan to study and compare methods of mine drainage systems. Through the process of studying the mine drainage systems and as a final product of my project, I will also be creating a writing portfolio. This project will require me to incorporate three academic fields: chemistry, biology, and English/journalism.

            The main focus of my project will be to compare the mine drainage systems of Somerset, Cambria, and Westmoreland counties. I will be comparing the different methods and strategies used in each system as well as comparing the cost and efficiency of each system. Also, I will be researching areas with untreated mine drainage to see how the environment around this drainage is affected as well as to determine why there is a lack of a cleanup system. To make my observations, I will be visiting several mine drainage sites and mining areas throughout Somerset, Cambria, and Westmoreland counties. I plan on using the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St. Vincent College (it utilizes a natural system for cleaning up mine drainage that is highly effective) as a source of comparison. I will compare it others located throughout these three counties. I will also compare this system to areas lacking any effort to clean up mine drainage and compare the results of each situation’s affects on the environment.

            The part of my project that will be related to biology will be the comparison and contrast of the systems as well as studying the consequences from lack of a system. The chemistry aspect of my project will be learning how the different systems are created, how they chemically change the substances draining from mines, and also learning how to test and determine if a water source is being negatively affected from untreated mine drainage. I am also going to include how untreated mine drainage areas/water sources impacts the health of those in the surrounding communities.

            For the English/journalism part of my project, I will first be creating an online web blog journal to keep track of the progress of my project. In this journal, I will discuss my research and observations of my visits to the cleanup sites/untreated areas. Blogging will also permit my project to become invisible to an online audience which allows opportunity for feedback from others interested or possibly involved with these systems. I plan on using this blogging journal as a means to start discussion on the blogs of researchers and others more involved with the topic who have posted their work online. Along with this journal, I will be performing interviews with those working at the St. Vincent site, water authority figures and personal connected to other sites/untreated areas, and residents living in communities surrounding a mine drainage cleanup site or untreated area. To explore further into what the possible human health benefits a mine drainage system can provide to a community, I plan on interviewing health professionals at local hospitals. When visiting cleanup sites, I will be taking pictures (and video when permitted) to add extra media and visual information for my portfolio.

            My main goal for this project is to create a portfolio based off of solid research and investigative reporting that would be presentable and useful in the creation of a proposal for a mine drainage cleanup system in an area where one has not been established. I also would like to use this portfolio as support for proposals I plan on writing to help improve systems that are inefficient or have the potential to become more advanced. Although this is my overall goal, I realize that depending on the information I find, creating a proposal for a system may not be possible (my research on the cost of a system verses the benefits it would bring to a community will be key in determining this). My portfolio will include several sections including: an area discussing the researching I have used, pictures video I have taken, interviews I have conducted, reflections for each of my visits to cleanup sites, reflections for each visit to an untreated site, information on human health effects from systems of lack of, and a section on the methods for determining if a water source is being negatively impacted by mine drainage. Depending on how my project progresses, more categories may be added as needed. My online journal will also be included in this portfolio.

            Through this project, I plan to gain experience with an area in my academic discipline as well as explore two other academic areas out of what I am studying. I hope the combination of the three disciplines will help me to create a final product that will aide in helping to clean up and maintain the environment in mining areas.

 

Portfolio 4 - A Final Look

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For those unfamiliar with EL227: This is the fourth and final portfolio I have created for my EL227 Newswriting class at Seton Hill University. Throughout the semester, we explored some basics of journalism as well as had the opportunity to practice writing some of our own articles. The blogging portfolios that we created contain collections of individual blogs on certain topics that our class discussed online prior to attending classes.

It feels like December arrived in a hurry this year. Although I am glad to have the semester end (as most of us are by the time finals week rolls around), I still can't believe how quickly the semester passed. In the amount of time spent in Newswriting, I have gained alot of experience with studying and producing different types of journalism. From TV news to physical newspapers to web pages, our class seemed to have covered a good bit of ground. Before getting into my final relfection of the class, take a look at some of my recent, and final, blog posts for the class.

Coverage

Here are a few blogs to start out with.

 Might Be a Little Too Much - Investigate reporting deals with searching for something someone is trying to hide. I'm trying to do a little bit of this with my Capstone project, but I'm starting to wonder if I'm in over my head with the whole idea.

A Tough Situation - Minority groups in journalism need to be included, both in what is written as well as in the faculty of the newspapers. This topic causes some touchy debates.

 

Timeliness

These are blogs I managed to get posted on time.

 Two Sides- Unidentified sources, how important are they for the readers? Would readers rather receive news later with identified sources or would they rather receive breaking news as quickly as possible even if some of the sources cannot be identified? There are perks and downsides to both.

The Press Should Protect the Kids - When it comes to interviewing, the press should take special care when interviewing minors. What is quoted could affect them for the rest of their lives. 

Depth

For some topics, I had a longer discussion. Check out what caught my interest and kept me typing.

 Daily American vs. Tribune Democrat - Comparing the two papers I receive at home.

Would I Want That to Happen to Me? - Sometimes reporters need to take a step back from their work and consider how they would feel if they were the ones being written about. This self reflection would provide a quick fairness check to their article.

Win-Lose - Freedom of the press: is it being taken advantage of? Where would the line be drawn if it were to become more limited?

Interaction

This is a blog where I mentioned and linked to a few blogs that belonged to my other classmates.

 The Cavalier  -  A look at a student newspaper. For this particular paper, there were some issues with the way the website was designed.

Discussion

Here are a couple of comments I left on my classmates' blogs.

Jessie's Blog - Here's  a comment I left on her blog on the discussion of the freedom of the press.

Jen's Blog - Another comment I left on a similar discussion topic.

Xenoblogging

For this portfolio, I had several blogs that had multiple links included (usually I only have a few). Since we were studying some online newspapers during this section, alot of links needed to be used in order to show what I was talking about.

 Series - An analysis of a slide show and related articles in the New York Times. The combination of the two allows readers to have options.

Comparing Sites - These are the links I used for some basic research for my Article 4, a practice exercise of investigative reporting. The Santa Monica link will probably be included in my final copy of the article, as an example of a link that would lead readers to more information about the topic covered.

Backup Needed - Our class was supposed to look at a website that provided information mainly through videos. I couldn't get any of the videos to work, causing me to miss out on the information. So, I decided to blog about how a website shouldn't have only one means of providing information, there should be a second option, or a back up plan, in case one method fails.

Addition or Distraction? - This blog takes a look at an article on Wired.com and explores how the several links that are provided in Wired's articles tends to allow the reader to get a little distracted from what they were orignally reading. However, sometimes the distraction can lead to additional information about the topic that can be important for the reader.

Harvard News - A look at a student newspaper. This paper had an organized chaos look that worked well for catching readers' attention to articles as well as providing a lot of information at a glance.

Wildcard

For my wildcard, I chose a few different pieces. The first is my Honors Capstone Proposal, which is kind of the kickoff to online blog journal I have to create for it. The other three pieces are the three portfolios I created earlier in this class.

Honors Capstone Proposal

Portfolio 1: Learning the Basics

Portfolio 2: A Second Collection 

Portfolio 3: The Semester is Flying

 

~ Relfection on Class ~

    I felt like we covered alot of different topics in journalism and were able to learn a little bit about each. I also feel as if my writing as overall improved, even when not writng news articles because I have learned how to become more condensed with my writing and not use so many fillers. The in class activities, such as mock press conferences and guest speakers helped me to understand how prepared and quick thinking a journalist has to be. Getting to write different styles of articles for the class also helped me to understand how to write differently depending on the situation and the audience.

   I think the only suggestion I have is that there could have been more opportunities for peer reviews as more as more experience with writing some of the articles. However, I think alot of this depends on the time alotted for the class, in this case there was only fifity minutes to work with.

 

Thanks for checking my portfolio out, feel free to leave comments. Bye!

Back to class

 

 

Win-Lose

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"Yet that faith in a free press was tempered over the decades by what he regarded as grossly unfair reporting" (Haiman 72).

As we have discussed before, news can do unrepairable damage. Some people may feel "attack" by news reporters while many feel that the right to privacy has been disregarded in trying to get good journalism.

However, if the freedom of the press was to become more restrained and forced to become more conservative, where would the line be drawn? In order to slow down and pull back on a press that is claimed to have taken advantage of their freedoms, limits would have to be set. But where would the limits end?

Public figures sometimes feel they are attacked by newsreporters, even when there isn't a story to be found. Even though they may complain, wouldn't they want the same reporters to questions other public figures who affect society if something could possibly be going on, even if the outcome was there was nothing to report? The same would apply to non-public figures as well. I think with this people too often only look at their own personal sitatuon, rather than looking how what they are proposing about what should be done with the freedom of the press would affect our nation in general. Yes, you may want limits to freedom of reporting when a reporter is trying to interrogate you, but I'm sure no one was complaining that the press had too much freedom when the Madoff situation first appeared. It would be a win-lose situation if limits were put on the press: it may prevent harm from happening in one story, but it may cause something important for the public to know to be lost in another.

Back to class.

Harvard News

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Compared to the Cavalier, I liked the busy look of the Harvard News layout. From reading other blogs, some people didn't like the way it looked, but I liked having so many different titles and pictures appear right on the mainscreen to give me a quick glance at what is happening with multiple topics.

I do think that all the articles could have been categorized a little better. Instead of just throwing all the article links together with a subheading here or there. It kind of needs to have a more organized chaos look rather than just chaos.

I think one of my favorite characteristics that can be found on a lot of news sites is when there is a continuous slideshow of pictures with news captions below them at the top of the main page. If I only have a few mintues to browser, these slideshows can provide me with a lot of information in a short amount of time.

Back to class

The Cavalier

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The Cavalier seems well organized and user friendly. Its categories and the way they are presented on the website make it very easy to find a story that you are looking for. Some newspaper websites are harder to navigate because they aren't so organzied, especially when it comes to searching for older articles.

A neat feature I found a little unique to the website was its option to view the print form. I've never seen this feature on any other news site I have been on. Although it seems a little pointless (why show pictures of the physical newspaper why the same stuff is already on the site, with added features), I still found it sort of considerate of those creating the website acknowledge the print form. I think this was because I'm so used to the debate about whether the internet is going to cause newspapers to go out of print (which it probably will someday), that I found it surprising that the website would provide this link to the print source.

What I thought could improve on the site was some of the spacing and the design. Although  the design aided to the organziation, I think it could be adjusted to where more news, pictures, and links could be provided on the site instead of just filling the space with the design. Also, there seems to be a lot of white space between links, stories, and headings. Richelle commented in her blog how the spacing caused her to become distracted. However, Jen commented in her blog how the spacing helped her view the paper. I guess this is just a personal point.

Back to class

Addition or Distraction?

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Links: harmful or beneficial to an article? Or can they be both? For a reader who is extremely interested in the article they are reading and is disciplined with their link usage, links can add a lot of useful information and help to expand on a topic. However, if an article is too link happy and it is being explored by someone who can't resist not exploring a link, links may distract from an article instead of help support it. This especially occurs when the links included in the article lead to sites filled with other links, and so on. When this happens, I feel myself paging through everything website in the Internet. So, with this assignment, I decided to perform a micro experiment to show an instance of when links can distract from rather than expand upon what an article is talking about.

On the Wired.com website, I clicked on a link to an article titled Music: Too Expensive to Be Free, Too Free to Be Expensive. This article was discussing streaming free music vs. paying for downloads. I noticed at first that it was very link happy, with links scattered in several places throughout the entire article. So, for my experiement, I decided I would click on the first link on any page I would encounter to see how distracted I could become.

The first link I clicked on this page led to a You Tube Video about how one executive of News Corp Digital was answering a question on the topic. I watched the video and found that it did add helpful information to understanding the topic. I was able to return to the original article without having been distracted from the topic.

The next link in the article I came to led to a site with another article. Imeem Not Closing, Though It Wants New Label Deals had its own article which again was link happy. I began reading the article, searching for how it related to my original. Before I was able to make a solid connection however, I found my first link to click on.

This link led me t o a site called Listening Post's Top 10 Hottest Music Sites. At this point, I was becoming distracted from my original topic. Although this site wasn't relevant to what I had been reading, I figured I would still check it out. Once again, there were plenty of links in the article to chose from, so I selected which one came first.

This link led me directly to the Imeem main page. On this site, I immediately saw a link for music, so I clicked. And....magically I ended up even farther away from what I had been reading.

Now I found myself on a site called New Music Tuesdays....and do you know what it was encouraging me to do? Stream music, basically for free. I couldn't download and keep any of the songs on the website for free, but I could definately listen to all of the songs and artists on it for free as long as my browser was open to the site.

At this point, after tracking through several websites, I decided to end my experiement. What did I discover? Something that surprised me. Although I did feel distracted when looking at the links in the articles that appeared in the middle of my experiement, the final website I found myself on wasn't necessary talking about the subject I had been originally readind about, but was encouraging me to do something that had been talked about in my original article. This forced me to think back to the original article I had been reading and made me begin thinking about some of the concepts I had already read in it. It also encouraged me to open up the original article, finish it, and compare it to the situation the last website presented me with.

To conclude this, a lot of links can lead to distractions from the article, but they also provide opportunities to expand upon the information being presented, even if it is in a roundabout way.

Back to class

Backup Needed

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I tried several times (waiting long periods of time each time) to get the videos to load and work, but in the end, I failed. I think it had something to do with my laptop connecting to the sites because the text alongside the videos was slightly distorted as well. I also don't think I was able to see or use all of the links I saw everyone talking about in their blogs, but I did mangage to access one or two that appeared on the screen.

I thought about trying another computer to try to access the sites, but since everyone else had talked about most of the site and the multimedia, I decided to talk about the sites from the perspective of when multimedia fails on sites.

Although there was text beside the video to provide me with some information, I was interested and wondered what I was missing in the videos. I read through the blog entries of several other people, figuring out what I had missed. It seems like the majority of the information had been given in the video, for some it seemed like too much information had been given.

If I had been someone who had to use the site and I didn't have a back up of ten of my classmates' blogs to refer to, I would have had a lot of difficulty making any use out of the site. I think this proves that although multimedia on websites is a great tool and usually provides a great advantage, it can also cause the site's downfall. Had there been more text, I can have refered to that and probably have learned at least a few more facts.

A postive note about the website was the extra links I was able to manage. These links, such as The City of Tuscon Environmental Services Website  and the Google Map of the city of Tuscon allowed me to explore some more information that wasn't offered only in the videos. 

Back to class 

Would I want that to happen to me?

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"In conversations with journalists, we asked how often the professional and ethical obligation to be fair came up in news staff meetings or in informal newsroom conversations. The answer, with few exceptions, was almost never. Several journalists said they recalled hearing caveats against bias during conversations about stories on minority groups or women or instructions to be 'balanced' in stories about controversial political races. Many recalled frequent warnings about libel and privacy laws, and regular questions from editors about whether they were sure they had something "right".

 But they could not recall any general newsroom conversations about fairness, nor could they recall ever having been asked by an editor if they were sure they were being fair to all parties in a story. Some journalists even reflected a sense of discomfort at the ideas of being asked to discuss fairness in a public forum. Such discussions, lef by the top editors, not only reinforced the newspaper's journalistic values but give everyone a clear roadmap of what is expected" (Haiman 60).

   Although I have never been in the news for a major story or something controversial, it makes me nervous knowing newspapers aren't really concerned with fairness. If I were to be in the news, I would want the story to be treated fairly. I think to keep fairness in mind, it would be a good idea if some reporters and editors would take a step back from their work and think "Would I want this to be done to me?"

There are some cases where even a "no" to this answer shouldn't stop a story, like when a reporter has found information out that needs to be made known to the public for safety or other reasons. However, in some cases reporters dig up information where there is no story or highlight information that damages a person's reputation when it isn't needed. Being unfair or biased in an article can also sway the audience's viewpoint of the situation, especially when the only information they receive on the topic is from a biased reporter.

Although a reporter may gain more information who have a better story by avoiding thinking about what is fair, I think fairness should still be an important topic between editors and reporters.

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Comparing Sites

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Santa Monica Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Group - This is where the idea and actual guidelines for the program originated. This site has been really useful in developing interview questions for the high school athete directors and trainers I have been talking to.

Bryn Mawr Sports Medicine- Gives background information on what an ACL injury is, how it occurs, and when a program for rehabilitation should be started. Many of  the links found on the site refer back to the Santa Monica website.

ACL Prevention Program Now Available to Individual Female Athletes - Gives a sample of what the program may include as well as some research pointing out that the program is mostly beneficial for women.

**For my this article, I'm considering either videotapping or taking pictures of someone going through the steps of the program. I will probably ask a trainer to do this because I doubt if I would be able to get permission to tape a student. There were several Youtube videos online, each differing in what exercises were used in the program, so I thought it would be a better idea to video/take pictures of a program one of the high schools I interviewed was actually using (if possible).

 Back to Class

 

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