JessieFarine: February 2009 Archives

The Absence of Objectivity

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"With little empirical evidence about the world, the country would divide further into solipsistic, isolated communities. There would be no agreement on even the most rudimentary facts: We would look back nostalgically at those days when "only" half of Americans were so ill-informed, and susceptible to government propaganda... In this ignorant yet loudly opinionated future, our shared civic culture would degenerate, and demagogic leaders would flourish."
-("The death of the news")

This was the scariest part of Gary Kamiya's article, even if it is only a possibility.

If the newspapers all sink, it would be doubly tragic if objective and investigative reporting go down with the ship. Not only would we potentially lose the kind of interesting and insightful stories that we get from newspapers (this makes me think of all the interesting stories that I've seen on the front pages while I'm on break at work), but in the absence of reporters and subsequent rise of stay-at-home bloggers not unlike myself, we may also lose the sense of objectivity that reporters work with when they bring us stories so that we can get the most truthful look into a story with the least amount of bias. Bloggers with no sense of unbiased reporting will spew whatever tainted nonsense to those who want to hear that point of view, whether liberal or conservative, radical or reactionary. This would only serve to widen the great divide in our country; who knows, it could even bring another civil war if given the right circumstances.

But this is drastic and an entirely hopeless point of view. It is not like bloggers have to be biased; some bloggers have done great things with their blogs and open our eyes to important information. It is not impossible for bloggers to be objective or investigate, but it all depends on the person. I would hope that a majority of the reporters who would lose their jobs in the collapse of newspapers would become the primary bloggers of the new age of information, because we will need bloggers who still care enough to search for the truth and keep their personal bias out of their stories.

This is the most important thing to watch as news evolves from print to Internet. While some parts of the journalism may grow bigger and better in Internet form, we still have to maintain and nurture the aspects of journalism that it was born with - the ideal of objective and invesitgative reporting. 

It Could've Been Worse

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"Much of the media scrutiny in the days after Virginia Tech centered around the university’s immediate response to the shootings and the decision not to lock down the campus. In both the Northern Illinois and Louisiana cases, the shooter died moments after the first and only attack. Both campuses also had the benefit of looking at their notification policies following Virginia Tech; Northern Illinois had messages up on its Web site within 20 minutes of the incident."
-(Live From Another Stunned Campus)

Thankfully, colleges have learned from Virgina Tech's mistakes and have improved their alert systems. I didn't even know about the incident that occurred over the weekend until I checked my email and found several campus alerts, the latest of which informed me a SHU student died in a shooting.

This incident hardly tested Seton Hill's alert system; imagine how much worse this incident could have been. Instead of containing himself in his apartment, Briggs could have taken his rampage onto the nearby sleeping campus. This really would have put the system to the test. More people could have died. However, I think SHU's alert system is effective and would have been very helpful in the event of an even worse emergency. I don't have the emails anymore to check how quickly they were sent out in response to the incident, but I know it sent out a warning before the incident was over, which is always a good move.

The story has been gaining coverage very quickly. I think this story appeals because, despite only one fatality, it was a student that was killed by police (awkwardly, the Tribune-Review titled their article "Police slay Seton Hill student..."). Worldnews has a collection of articles on the incident already, although most are the same blurb of general information. It's remarkable how fast information travels these days.

Back to the latest stunned campus.

Setonian Online: A New Hope

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A lot needs to be done for our Setonian Online. Many bugs - links that go nowhere and other small errors - need to be fixed. The website definitely needs a facelift with some more colors outside of greyscale and a less generic layout. I think the most important thing to do is to let people know that it even exists. I don't think I even knew of the website until last semester.

But of course, all of this is easier said than done, etc. Especially when only one person is responsible for the website. Jeremy needs a staff. I'm willing to be a part of that staff.

My suggestions: I've brought up the idea of putting videos of bands that I review on the website, and in a discussion with Dr. Jerz, ideas of putting up mp3's, NPR-style review segments, and possible interviews with the bands themselves came up. Interviewing a particular band would depend on what band would actually be around in time for me to write a review, but it's a cool idea nonetheless. In the realm of overall website improvements, I would definitely add some Flash; however, I have little experience working with Flash, so I'm not much help there. Video and narrated slideshow segments would be interesting as well, and I have some editing skills in video and audio, so I could help there. 

I think simple changes can have a drastic impact on the website. SF Cabbie and South of Here are really innovative but still have simple layouts; their appeal, aside from having interesting subject matter, lies in their highly interactive layout styles and various videos, especially the narrated slideshows with captions on South of Here's site. Where Doubt Remains has a layout not drastically different than the Setonian Online, but it takes advantage of linking to so many different entries and articles, exposing the reader to a seemingly neverending stream of content, which would be useful for a newspaper.

Turning the Setonian Online into an award-winning website may be a long endeavor, but our EL200 class can take many small steps to lead future students on that path.

Out with the New, in with the Old

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"Surveys show that a majority still prefer getting news on TV or on paper. Not everyone wants to watch the news online or on their mobile phone. Now all wheels will need reinventing."
(Beckett, Supermedia p. 17)

This makes me hopeful for the future. Quite possibly one of the only conservative things about me, I don't like the widespread conquest of technology over every facet of our lives. New inventions like computers are useful, but reinventing those things so that we have to spend even more time in front of a computer is disgusting to me. I hate spending time in front of a computer. I don't want to listen to all of my music in iTunes; I want to listen to my music on a CD in my car, or better yet, on cassette or on vinyl in my room (which feels so much more real). I feel the same way about news. Sometimes, I random headline will catch my attention on my way to check my email in MSN, but all that does is increase the amount of time I stare into a computer screen. I don't want to sit in front of a television screen to be fed news. When I want news, I want to be able to read it on paper while I'm sitting outside, or while I'm on break at work. I don't want the newspaper to become extinct.

The world's increasing dependence on advanced technology is frightening. Technology is not always reliable (Seton Hill's server was down for the greater part of last night, preventing me from doing this assignment earlier). What if something much more important went down, like something for the government or the Pentagon? But more importantly, what if technology becomes too advanced? This may sound like a silly and old question, but it is an important question to keep in mind. This is why Terminator was made.

Keep technology on a leash. Newspapers can't enslave the human race; computers can.

Crucial Differences Between Essays and News Articles

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"Nevertheless, your goals as a news writer are different, so what counts as 'good writing' in the world of journalism is very different from a personal essay."
-Jerz, English Essay vs. News Story

Although I've written far fewer news articles than English essays, I can already notice the difference in writing between the two. Just last night I was writing an article about a band for the Setonian, and while I was writing I was thinking of the differences. Even though a music review is not as much of a journalistic piece as any other article in the paper, it is close enough to realize that the goal is much different than an essay. In the article, I tried to inform the public as much as I could about the album I was reviewing, and I also tried to make not only the album but the entire article as interesting and exciting as possible. Making an essay exciting may get you style points, but the point of an essay is to prove how knowledgeable you are rather than how exciting you can be (and many people tend to take advantage of that). Likewise, using advanced and elaborate words in your essay is a plus, but unfortunately the general public that reads your article may not appreciate it as much as your English professor would.

I have yet to delve too deeply into the journalist realm; nevertheless, I have already discovered the fundamental differences between the aims of English and journalist writing.


Natural Selection Strikes the Printed Word

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"At some point soon--sooner than most of us think--the print edition, and with it The Times as we know it, will no longer exist." - (Hirschorn, "End Times")

It's times like these (no pun intended) that show how truly impermanent everything is. I've always taken the existence of newspapers - and all other print - completely for granted, never once thinking that the wild frontier of the Internet could be the bane of print's existence. Frankly, I'm shocked that it is even possible that "several cities could go without a daily print newspaper by 2010."

I was completely unaware that this was even happening - and for how long. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's circulation declined at an average of 7.5% in a six-month period, and that item was from an article in 2006.

The loss of printed journalism, although a bummer, is not too heart-breaking for me. I'm not a journalism major, I'm in creative writing. Is the Internet strangling the printed art as well?  The most recent figures show that book sales declined 20%, but the finger is pointed at the economy, not the Internet. The most relevant article, although dated, implies that the Internet boosts the sales of books rather than being a hindrance (although I'm sure Dictionary.com is killing dictionary sales).

With all that being said, this doesn't spell doom for journalism as a whole. These aren't end times, but rather changing times. Printed newspapers may die off, but journalism will live on electronically. Those in the "newspaper business" have an ultimatum: Evolve, adapt, or die.

Consider it the "journalism business."

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