October 26, 2003

Hedgehog Territory

What's the difference between a map and a territory? It ain't necessarily explained very well.

1.) What's the difference between a map and a territory?

This concept, while accounting for the chapter subheading, was not addressed directly in the reading. What I could make of it was that we, as readers as well as reporters, need to be wary about the ground we're covering. Regardless of how it's marked up and measured or who's controlling it, what's important is the lay of the land. An example is a scientific report. Who's paying for it may be of note, but the important matter is the information gleaned from the study. In addition, we should question its applications (and implications). The way one reporter surveys it and determines its value may not be the only sensible way.

2.) Hedgehog reporting

Based on the Greek tale of the hedgehog and the fox, this refers to the journalistic concept that a reporter can write a story based on a single chunk of information or a credible trail of insights. "The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows one big thing." Acting like a fox allows the reporter to pack a story with more valuable information. It prevents them from getting tunnel vision. A hedgehog makes for an exciting scoop but has limited informative value.

Posted by Jess P at 7:13 PM | Comments (4)

October 20, 2003

Blondes

I think the Globe and Mail put it best in the story Blondes Aren't Going Away by stating "It's almost an irresistible story for journalists...news organizations around the world took the bait".

Going on to say that "work routines are such that reporters are cutting corners or feeling that they can get away with cutting corners", however, may have been going a bit too far.

Both of these statements are probably true. In terms of news value, even if blondes were in danger of imminent extinction, the fact is there really isn't any. It's a story about vanity more than anything else. When did hair color start determining species?

The appeal of the story, of course, is that it's interesting to both sexes. Blondes, women who believe they have more fun and the gentlemen who prefer them would snap a newspaper up in an instant if they saw a headline trumpeting the cessation of their golden-coifed existence.

The second statement is worrisome not due to its honesty but rather its emphasis. The repetition of the phrase "cutting corners" creates a focus that implies that reporters are being lazy. Were the true emphasis on the idea of "work routines", it would more clearly indicate the root of the problem.

I read a story that cited a press release as the source of the erroneous information that was the basis for this story. It is easy to piece together how this whole fiasco may have played out - provided it wasn't a planned hoax. Press releases tend to be handled quickly and usually not by regular reporters. Those experienced professionals have beats to keep up with, meetings to attend, and would be burdened - if not offended - at being asked to process a press release. PRs contain most of the information pertinent to a story, so they usually receive less time and attention than spot news or investigative pieces.

It is conceivable, then, that an editor handed this release to an ambitious young reporter new to the newsroom. The writer of this article found an impressive second voice in Jonathan Rees, which indicates that they were genuinely trying to write a credible news story. The problem is that press releases are considered to be reliable sources of information. The organization responsible for the release is providing the news, and the tendency is for a reporter to seek out the impact of the info on the audience, not to question its validity. When the limited amount of time allotted for the processing of releases is taken into account, it is easy to see that it is often the work routine and not necessarily the slacking of reporters that creates situations like this.

Posted by Jess P at 12:12 AM | Comments (4)

October 19, 2003

Stats, Superfluous Stories and Switches, Oh My!

Chapters 2-4 of 'It Ain't Necessarily So' raised a lot of questions that got my head spinning. Most of them were in regard to determining the relevance of information when reporting the news. The book is very successful in raising issues. Suggesting answers, however, is a different matter. In the end, what this section of the reading communicates to me is the need for literacy...for citizens to stand up and take responsibility for forming their own opinions.

In its examples, IANS reveals many instances wherein reporters could have consulted additional sources. Several of these were in reference to statistics which could be brought into question by the findings of conflicting studies. The book seemed to indicate that every related study be consulted. When the news is what's right now, sorting through all that information and determining its relevance is inconceivable.

In delivering statistics to an audience, a reporter needs to strive to get the point across without creating a story bogged down with numbers. The goal is to simplify the information to communicate the impact on the average reader. Each conflicting (or supporting) statistic one adds to the story, the more tedious it becomes to the reader. How then, are we to determine how many sets of statistics to report? How do we determine which are the most important?

What struck me the most about Chapter 4 was the statement on page 75 that said "news stories...simply relayed the findings of the FRAC study to the public without negative criticism of any kind." The problem that arises regarding this topic is that reporters (ideally) are constantly striving for objectivity. This statement indicates that reporters should have sought out negative criticism. The findings, regardless of the degree of subjectivity of the criterion that led to them, were presented to the media as the results of a scientific study. Since science is accepted as a predominately objective discipline, I think that in reporting it I would try to slant such a story as little as possible. Verification is certainly important, but it seems to me that what's suggested here would be best left to the op-ed page. When the line between objectivity and subjectivity is so blurred, how do we determine whether we're adding a slant or merely reporting both sides?

Posted by Jess P at 11:15 PM | Comments (1)

October 7, 2003

HTML Delights

Despite the fact that I don't think I like FrontPage very much and I can't figure out what my background is doing, I now have a webpage. Come check it out :)

Posted by Jess P at 2:40 AM | Comments (5)

October 6, 2003

Traffic Withdrawal

So, Ed filled me in that the reason no one seems to be coming to my fabulously exhilarating blog could be the "Go Griffins Go" color scheme. That and the thing at the bottom. I'll get right on that.

Posted by Jess P at 8:20 PM | Comments (1)

October 3, 2003

An Attempt at Being Daily

This has absolutely nothing to do with anything, but it was creepy.

Tree, if you're reading this, this is for you. I'm just waiting for you to contact me so I can post a pissycat section. There would be much rejoicing.

So, I'm running today at Twin Lakes, and things are going on that typically go on when I do that. A little dog chased me, a man would pass me, then I'd pass him, then he'd pass me...a sweet-looking older fellow waved and said hi. It was a glorious nice day today, mind you, so all of these things were particularly joyous. So on my second time around the lower lake, this guy in front of me stops on the bridge, turns around, and keeps looking at me like he's waiting for me. I can't make out who it is and think maybe he's someone I know, but then I realize his sweet-looking older female companion is wearing a tossle cap with a big pot leaf on it. Then I realize it's the same sweet-looking older fellow from before, and he waves at me again, says "Hello again", and leaves the bridge as soon as I'm past him. I think he's friendly. Fine. When I'm coming back from the upper lake, however, I recognize the pot leaf hat in the distance. Then I realize that the increasingly-creepy-seeming older fellow has noticed me. He leaves his female companion and starts running toward me. Not like running in my general direction but he'd pointed at me and started running right at me. He, however, is quite a bit older, so I manage to reach the place where the lakes meet before he does and I keep on going. I've had puppies chase me at twin lakes, but never an aged man who's left his companion behind to follow me. EW. Then my imagination started going, and I worried that maybe this older couple had no heir and was looking for someone like me to carry on their legacy. But that was about as likely as the idea that maybe the reason that car with flat tires with mice in it was sitting in front of my building for so long because someone had killed the owner and put them in the trunk. I must've had Arnzen's class the day I thought that.

I clearly shouldn't try so hard to post every day.

Posted by Jess P at 5:07 PM | Comments (7)

October 2, 2003

Technical Difficulties

This is where I rant for a minute.

Is there anyone out there who can explain just why the computers on campus aren't aware that they're equipped with Microsoft Office? I don't need a technical explanation, I just want to know that they're unaware for a valid reason. Granted, it's nice that they can usually find it eventually, which is an improvement over last year. Still, it takes them longer to get the program working than it does to use it most of the time. I don't understand.

Also, everyone should just bombard geocities with hate mail because they've finally figured out a way to screw us and make it look good, and I just found out about it. I made a page today with 8 pictures and a little bit of text on it, and by the time I had those elements in place, I'd exceeded my data transfer allocation. So if I don't want my site to be taken down every third time I go to it, I have to pay $12 a month. What's the point of having something free if you can't use it?

Posted by Jess P at 11:51 PM | Comments (1)

The Good & The Ugly

Doesn't it figure that the most and least fun occurrances of my recent life would happen at the same time?

First, as per Amanda's post, everyone is getting sick and I've become a statistic. Despite the fact that I live off-campus (where there are no germ-spreading cockroaches), I managed to contract the insanely evil stomach death flu. Such things are so much worse when you live alone. Aside from the absence of someone to comfort you, being forced into self-sufficience leads you to believe you're better when you're not. And then you go to poetry class, which is also death. At least when you live in the dorm there are people in your hall who'll let you whine to them.

Then something happened that was so great I never expected it to happen in life. I'm the kind of kid who gets excited to see people I graduated with. So imagine my surprise when someone I haven't seen since six years ago in Brussels (I think) called my mom's house. In the midst of my death flu, I called my poor mother at 6 a.m. to whine, and then I found out that I'd be getting a call on my cell. He's calling tonight. Joyousness abounds!

Posted by Jess P at 5:23 PM | Comments (1)

October 1, 2003

RW RR Insanity

It's official. I'm addicted. Somehow, I will find a way to not only watch but tape (that might be easier anyway) every one of this season's RW/RR Challenge. I've assembled my team, I've joined message-boards, and I kept score during the first episode even though it doesn't count for anything. Next on the agenda is a date with my sister to make an audition tape because since the age of twelve I've aspired to propel myself to whatever point in the universe is the greatest distance from Elk County. That, my friends, would be going down in MTV infamy.

In case you care:

An RW/RR blog that promises teasers

The Fantasy Challenge sign-in

The ezboard site

Posted by Jess P at 10:20 PM | Comments (1)