December 4, 2009

Blog Portfolio 4: The Final Curtain

This is my final portfolio of blogs for my Newswriting class at Seton Hill University. I've learned a great deal about journalism, a world that as a theatre major I've had very little exposure to. While it was certainly challenging to write in a very new and different style than what I am used to, the blogging that I've done has helped me understand the basic principles behind this writing style. Without this basic foundation in theory, I'd have had a much harder time writing the articles.

Coverage (all the blogs I've written during the final section of the semester)
Matchmaker, Matchmaker--blog on the New York Times
Too much garbage--blog on the Arizona Star's multimedia presentation on garbage and recycling
What happens when the story (or window) comes crashing down--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 57-67
Morbidly Twisted Links--blog on Wired.com
This Just In--blog on the Harvard Crimson
So what if they're not Harvard? They can do bad all by themselves!--blog on The Cavalier Daily
Integrity wins out in the end--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 71-73

Depth--blogs in which I examine a concept in depth
Integrity wins out in the end--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 71-73
So what if they're not Harvard? They can do bad all by themselves!--blog on The Cavalier Daily
This Just In--blog on the Harvard Crimson
What happens when the story (or window) comes crashing down--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 57-67

Interaction--blogs I've written in which I interact with other classmates
Matchmaker, Matchmaker--blog on the New York Times
Integrity wins out in the end--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 71-73

Discussions--blogs that drew comments from classmates
Matchmaker, Matchmaker--blog on the New York Times
Integrity wins out in the end--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 71-73

Timeliness
Matchmaker, Matchmaker--blog on the New York Times
Integrity wins out in the end--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 71-73
Too much garbage--blog on the Arizona Star's multimedia presentation on garbage and recycling
What happens when the story (or window) comes crashing down--blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, pages 57-67
Morbidly Twisted Links--blog on Wired.com

Xenoblogging
my comments on Jeanine's blog "The Press: Non-Essential for Our Lives"
my comment on Kaitlin's blog "Cluttered"
my comment on Jen's blog "Article Spacing"
my comment on Andrew Wichrowski's blog "My Life and the New York Times, One in 8 Million"

Wildcard
I think my comments on Jeanine's blog about the unnecessariness of the news show what I've achieved in blogging in this class in terms of how much discussion can happen outside of actual class time. Jeanine's blog really got me thinking about the role of the press in our lives, and we got into a pretty lengthy discussion that in some ways veered from the topic of the actual readings we were blogging about. However, online we were able to discuss the topic of basic survival needs and how news media fit into these needs. I think my comments demonstrate how far I've come from the self-centered actor monologue I did during our "News and I" presentations at the beginning of the semester. This class has definitely helped me see how newswriting may not get us our next meal or provide us shelter but still plays a huge and valuable role in our lives.

November 27, 2009

Integrity wins out in the end

“Jefferson’s concern about libels was not for loss of popular confidence in the government,
but rather for loss of popular confidence in the newspapers themselves,”
Mayer noted.
In other words, an unfair press threatens a free press."
--page 73, Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists

I think this is a wonderful point for this book to end on. While the government won't and shouldn't censor the freedom of the press, that doesn't mean there aren't still consequences for publishing unfair journalism. Journalism, after all, is completely dependent on its target audience. The more that audience finds the journalism to be inaccurate or unfair, the less useful the audience will find journalism, and so journalism loses its audience. If an article gets written and posted in the middle of the woods with no one to read it, is it still journalism? I don't think so. Also, journalists who are unfair in their treatment of those they cover will lose their effectiveness because fewer people will trust them to cover their stories. Fewer sources to interview means less accurate information, and less accurate information leads to fewer readers, and the cycle goes on and on.
I think in this day and age of online journalism, it's even more important to stay as fair and trustworthy as possible. There are so many publications that people can read on the Internet that it is very hard to win loyalty, unless you're only one of a handful of publications in a small area that covers local stories. Obviously, the Setonian doesn't have a lot of competition in that arena. But I remember Andrew Wichrowski saying that the New York Times was his start-up page, but this newspaper doesn't really feature any news pertinent to the immediate area of Greensburg. The New York Times is a well-established and respected enough newspaper to inspire that kind of loyalty, but for lesser-known newspapers, it's hard to compete. Now you can try to compete by being a trashy rumor mill that gets attention because of sensational stories, or you can try to be as objective and accurate as possible and capture people's attention through a sleek design and easy-to-follow organization. If you choose the former path, you might get people reading your stuff just to see what wacky thing you're going to say next, but the latter choice is more likely to attract a wider readership and get you longevity, in my opinion. Perez Hilton's blogging is personality-driven and will probably lose its attraction over time; the New York Times has existed since 1851. There's no question that as we enter further into this age where people primarily get information from the Internet, journalists will find they have to deal with more and more competition. I hope that it inspires greater accuracy and fairness and that journalists don't deteriorate into Perez Hilton; I don't think you could really call him a journalist. In the end, I think people can be entertained by trashy rumor mills but just as you get tired of a joke that you hear over and over, trashiness can only be entertaining for so long. Eventually people want to know the truth and turn to more reputable sources. So it's the journalists who hold on to their integrity that win out in the end.

So what if they're not Harvard? They can do bad all by themselves!

The Cavalier Daily website has its advantages and disadvantages. One improvement I think it has over the Harvard Crimson is the fact that it's much less cluttered and has fewer distractions. On the initial page, you see pictures for three top stories and that's it. I think this actually makes it easier to make a decision on what to read than having many top stories that are not all associated with pictures. On this website, the pictures are big, and it's easy to see what's going on in them, whereas some of the Harvard Crimson's were smaller and sometimes hard to make out. So, although you have fewer choices displayed, it's easier to tell whether or not it's the kind of story you want to read. I actually prefer this approach, probably because I'm so neurotic and have a tough time making choices, but someone else might prefer the Harvard Crimson's more inclusive approach, which I find chaotic. The Cavalier Daily also has good, clear organization going for it, with all of the categories displayed at the top of the page. If you have a particular kind of story in mind, it's very easy to use these categories to find it.
One of the more major problems with the presentation of this site is the fact that you don't get any headlines or links to stories to click on above the fold. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that the pictures are eye-catching and made me want to scroll down to see the headlines they're associated with (well, at least the picture of the Pilgrims eating Chinese food did, but maybe this isn't always the case). But on the whole, this website is almost completely dependent on the pictures to lure potential readers in to find out more. If the pictures by themselves don't do it, then there's nothing to draw the reader in. I think redesigning the site so that the headlines are visible above the fold would be very beneficial. Another problem with the site that I'm not sure has a solution is the recent comments section. Both times I've looked at this site, the comments featured tend to be negative ("Your food reviewer doesn’t know what broccolini are? Great choice for a restaurant reviewer. Keep up the high quality work!"--I think this is meant to be sarcastic.) I also saw some negative comments on another person's article about feminism that criticized the writer for not knowing enough about the topic. These comments reflect poorly on the quality of the writing of this newspaper, and they made me not want to read it. While I understand this is a college newspaper and will not always have the best quality, the comments section should probably at least be adjusted so that negative comments are not on the home page. In the section where you can post a comment, they say they'll remove comments they think are "in poor taste or unfit for publication," but if they start removing all the critical comments, it'll look like they're censoring, which will also reflect poorly on them. Ultimately, I think the best solution is to maybe not feature the comments on the home page and make sure the writers are aware of these kinds of complaints so they are sensitive to the criticisms in the future and make sure they thorougly research the subject they are covering.

Link back to course website

November 25, 2009

This Just In

"17 hours ago"
--The Harvard Crimson

Much about the Harvard Crimson website impressed me, but the mentioning of how old (or new) each story is that I reference in the above quote was the most audacious and cool thing about the website to me. I suspect the people working on the website have gone home for Thanskgiving, since the most recent story is from 17 hours ago, but still, the basic organization is helpful. Most people visiting this site are probably most interested in the most recent stories, seeing how the website is supposed to giving us "news" and not "olds." It's pretty impressive because it implies the website is updated regularly enough to have stories from a few hours ago bury stories from a couple days ago. However, the stories aren't exactly arranged just by level of recentness. For example, a few stories in the magazine section are from "10 days ago" but are given more prominent placement than the stories under "More News" that are from "Yesterday" or "2 days ago." I wonder why they arranged it that way; perhaps they wanted to display the variety of content they have, so they put the less-frequently-updated magazine stories above the news stories deemed less important than the top stories. That's understandable, but I think the fact that they call so much attention to when the stories were posted makes it seem like all the stories should be organized according to how recent they are. That's one of the drawbacks of this website--it bombards you with so much information that it's kind of hard to sort out. The information is clearly organized--I like all the categories they have at the top, even the potentially confusing "Flyby" because it made me want to click on it to find out what it was. As for the rest of the website, however, I didn't know what to click because there was so much going on. The pictures especially caught my attention and then made me lose focus because of how fast they went by. In order for people to be able to read the captions in their entirety, the pictures need to change just a few seconds more slowly.
But overall, the website is very organized and eye-catching. Some of the headlines--"Sex and the Sprinter" and "The WTF Era Begins," especially--really grab your attention with their boldness. Courtney A. Fiske's opinion column is called "The F-Word," which I think is pretty bold and brassy. I can picture some professional newspapers that might not want to take those kind of risks. The only place where I think the boldness of the website gets into trouble is in keeping the website concise. If they trimmed down the amount of information on the page, it would be easier to follow while still remaining busy and active enough to get people's attention.

Link back to course website

November 18, 2009

Morbidly Twisted Links

"As a companion piece, the auteur behind fantastical spectacles Mars Attacks!, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman and a host of other morbidly twisted movies is publishing The Art of Tim Burton, a 434-page tome packed with drawings, doodles, paintings and evocative concept art dating back to Burton’s teen years in Burbank, California."
--Wired, "Concept Art Offers Peek at Tim Burton’s Twisted Mind"

I confess I'm not really so into the technology, so many of the articles on this website confused me and made me short-circuit. I decided to focus on the Tim Burton article, since it was the one I felt I could understand best. There weren't that many links in the article; the quote above used a link to imdb's information about Tim Burton, which can be helpful for someone who may have seen one or two of Burton's movies but doesn't associate the movie with him as a director. It also links to a search engine with the name of the publisher of the book they're talking about typed in; this seemed a bit lazy, because they could have just linked right to the publisher's website. They also link to a Wikipedia article on Bozo the Clown when talking about some of Tim Burton's influences, which once again can be a helpful starting point for someone who's never heard of Bozo the Clown and just wants some basic general information. However, I thought none of the links were particularly helpful or necessary, especially because the people interested enough to peruse this article are probably already familiar with Burton's movies and if so inclined will type in the name of the book themselves to order it. The main attraction of this article are the sketches, which are so colorful and bizarre they speak volumes more than any of the text possibly could. I think the most helpful link is the link to a related story (also featuring mostly pictures) about Burton's remake of Alice in Wonderland, because the audience for this article is very likely to be interested in his next film project. I think this article is an example where the visuals dominate the story so much, that unless the links all took the reader to more predominantly visual web pages, there really is no reason to navigate away from the page in the course of reading it.

Link to course website

What happens when the story (or window) comes crashing down

"Reporters become convinced the story line emerging from their investigation is the only one. And even the emergence of new facts or different dimensions or a broader context fails to enable them to open their minds to the possibility that the story has changed or that there may be no story at all."
--Haiman, Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists, page 57

I thought this chapter was particularly relevant for our investigative articles we're working on now. I can understand the impulse to want to make a story out of something that's not really a story, because that's sort of the nature of the assignment--investigative stories aren't supposed to obviously be stories on the surface, but there's something hidden or unconsidered that makes them newsworthy. But if you don't find the thing that makes them newsworthy, you can't just make it up, or pretend like it's there when it's not. Brace yourselves for another theatre analogy--it's like when we say in acting that you can't ignore anything that happens onstage; you have to be fully present in the moment. Even if something happens that's not "supposed" to happen, it ends up looking really stupid if you just pretend like it didn't happen. Take, for instance, this nightmare production of Peter Pan; when Wendy just continues with her line even though her house has been demolished, it looks ridiculous. There's no way to keep up the illusion that Peter did not just crash into the window. You have to do the same thing in newswriting! You can't just act like there's still a story even when your story comes crashing down. The only problem is when you've got a deadline and you don't think you can come up with a different story idea in time. But you still need to be truthful; perhaps the hidden part of this story is the surprising fact that there is no hidden or undiscovered aspect. Audiences love when stuff goes wrong, anyhow.

November 16, 2009

Too much garbage

I thought this multimedia presentation had its good points and bad points. While part of me likes the fact that you have to click multiple times to see each step of the process for collecting garbage and collecting recyclables, part of me realizes that if I hadn't been assigned to look at this presentation for a class I wouldn't have had as much patience with it and might not have gone through the whole thing. Breaking each step down with both diagrams and videos makes it very clear just how the journeys for garbage and recyclables are different; this is very informative. However, unless you have a lot of time on your hands you probably won't click on each step and only get a partial understanding of the process; if all this information was streamlined and put into one place it would be more convenient for people to learn about. Also, unless you're really examining the site it's not that obvious that there are multiple steps to click on. The multiple steps are easy to miss because there are no graphics that call attention to them; you have to move your cursor in the white area at the bottom in order for the titles to pop up. Another problem I had with this presentation was that part of the graphics on the side are cut off, and there was no way to scroll sideways so as to be able to see the full diagram. Overall, I like the methodical structure of this presentation, but a lot more work could have been done to make the information in its entirety more accessible to someone who would just be casually browsing through the website.

Link back to course website

Links about Seton Hill's sculpture and how it reflects alumni relationships

Seton Hill's web page devoted to alumni

Post-Gazette article about the controversy over "Pipe Theme in Red Orange"

Tribune Review article on the same subject

Setonian article about the controversy

another Setonian article about the controversy

"Save Pipe Theme in Red Orange"--Causes on Facebook

Seton Hill Alumni Facebook page

November 15, 2009

Matchmaker, Matchmaker

"Melissa Gold met Adam Gottlieb when their grandmothers set them up on a blind date. Now the groom is about to discover what it means to marry into the Gold family horseradish legacy."
--NY Times

I found a video about this couple on the video library on the New York times website. What a wonderful way to include positive news! The way this site is set up, you get a much clearer sense of who these people are than you would when just reading a short little blurb about them in an actual newspaper. Here you get the full force of their personalities--complete with them misspeaking (I thought it was hilarious when the woman accidentally said their grandmothers were in a "Yente" club--you have to know Fiddler on the Roof to get it). You get great visuals like them in the horse radish factory and the puzzle that Adam made to propose to Melissa with; you also get great audio like Adam imitating his grandmother telling him to "make sure you keep your pants buttoned." If you look at the actual article that goes with it, it just doesn't have the same vitality. There are some interesting tidbits of course, like Melissa wondering why Adam wanted to hear her voice because she thought it was annoying, but it's just not the same as actually getting to see these people interacting in such a warm and pleasant way. I think stories like this that don't have anything shockingly newsworthy about them are much more effective when you can do videos like this, because people are able to connect with ordinary people much more when they can see their physical and vocal quirks, which often communicate so much more than just quotes they read in a newspaper.

November 10, 2009

Blog Portfolio 3: Making New Discoveries

This is my third portfolio of blogs I have written for a Newswriting course I am taking. With every week, I'm learning new things about this style of writing that I've never really considered before. It's definitely a more complex style of writing than I realized.

Coverage (all the blogs that I've written on assigned readings)
Editorials
Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 1-16
Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 17-28
Best Practices of Newspaper Journalists pages 29-42
Best Practices of Newspaper Journalists pages 43-56
Sample Investigative Reports

Depth (blogs in which I examine a concept in depth)
Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 17-28
Best Practices of Newspaper Journalists pages 29-42
Best Practices of Newspaper Journalists pages 43-56

Interaction (blogs in which I interact with my peers)
Editorials
Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 17-28

Discussions (blogs that drew comments from my peers)
Editorials
Best Practices of Newspaper Journalists pages 29-42
Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 1-16
Best Practices of Newspaper Journalists pages 43-56

Timeliness (blogs completed before the day of the assigned reading)
All of my blogs were timely during this part of the semester.

Xenoblogging (comments on peers' blogs)
Greta Carroll's blog on Editorials
Jeanine O'Neal's blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 1-16
Wendy Scott's blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 17-28
Richelle Dodaro's blog on Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists pages 29-42

Wildcard
I think my blog on Editorials is the best representation of my blogging from this part of the semester. It drew a lot of comments, and I think that's partly because I was articulating something I really care a lot about--fostering intelligent dialogue about issues. I really don't like when people shut down and refuse to listen to people they don't agree with, because they're missing out on an opportunity to get a broader and more complex understanding of an issue. I'm glad that the blog itself fostered discussion.

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