September 28, 2005

Blog Portfolio 1

This semester, my blog portfolio includes selections from my adventures in journalism:

Coverage: "demonstrates your intellectual involvement with the assigned readings"

The Reporter's Notebook - An analysis on how this text was helpful.

Brevity is the Soul of Wit - Discusses how the first three chapters of the AP Guide to Newswriting helped not only my news writing, but all my writing.

Elements in Journalism - Discusses the third chapter of this text in relation to the media today and in response to a peer blog.

Quotes Quotes Quotes - Discusses my ongoing struggle with quotations in response to the AP Guide to Newswriting Chapter 8.

Media Analysis - An analysis of print journalism, online journalism, and television journalism.

Article Comparison - A brief comparison between my spot news story and the version that appeared in the Setonian.

Depth: "ability to examine a concept in depth"

Elements in Journalism

Media Analysis

The Reporter's Notebook

Interaction: "should demonstrate your ability to use weblogs to interact with your peers"

Elements in Journalism

Discussions: "demonstrate that your blog sparked a discussion that furthered your intellectual examination of a subject"

First Article Reflection

Quotes Quotes Quotes

Timeliness: "written early enough that it sparked an online discussion"

First Article Reflection

Xenoblogging: "demonstrate your ability to contribute selflessly and generously to the online classroom community"

Idea Regarding Homecoming News by Michael Sichok

Communicator/Opening Liturgy
by Kayla Sawyer

Is That Off the Record?
by Evan Reynolds

Back to Basics
by Valerie Masciarelli

Newswriting: Spot News Differences
by Katie Aikens


Grizzly Man - went into detail about the documentary and its uses of objective and subjective journalism.

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Article Comparison

When I read David Denninger's article "Students receive awards at annual convocation" in the Setonian, I noticed many similarities with my own. Our articles were structured similarly, beginning with a brief overview of the convocation. We then used student interviews in the middle section, then moved on to the speaker, Mr. Highberger, for the last section.

There were some notable differences, however. First, Denninger went into greater depth describing the different awards handed out. While we both mentioned Jimmy Pirlo's attendence in support of his fellow students, I used my second peer interview to give a negative viewpoint on attending the ceremony. This interview also addressed the speaker and his ability to engage the crowd. Regarding the speaker, Denninger was able to quote more of his speach than I was which was a very nice touch to his article.

While both articles were very similar in their approaches to the story, they each managed to report it differently.

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September 27, 2005

Elements of Journalism

I found chapter three of Kovach and Rosenstiel's text "Elements of Journalism" very interesting because I had never really given much thought to the question "who do journalists work for?" I am very glad that Kovach and Rosenstiel made a point in emphasizing that "journalism's first loyalty is to citizens." I feel that too often today journalists write with a skewed view of what the public needs to hear.

For instance, from what I observed of the Hurricane Katrina coverage, I felt that an overwhelming majority of it focused on attacking or defending a particular political slant. Now, while discussing the politics involved in the disaster is certainly important and newsworthy, I felt that it really overshadowed some of the other stories that should have been covered more. For instance, this story on foreign aid appeared seven stories below a story regarding the political "blame game."

If a journalist's first loyalty is to the citizen, then shouldn't that journalist make an effort to report every story with equal voracity? I think it's wonderful that young journalists are given texts that emphasize this notion of writing for the people, but I also feel that those journalists who have been in the field a while may need a reminder. I wonder if there are any journalism conferences that remind working journalists of the values they should be upholding?

Lou Gagliardi's blog about the same subject took this idea a step further and accused all modern journalists of giving their first loyalty to "the PR machines that spew out what journalists are and aren't allowed to say." While some modern journalists may not have put the citizen first, I do not believe that the system has become completely corrupt. The simple fact that there is a text for aspiring journalists that educate them to this principle shows that modern journalism hasn't completely lost its idealism.

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Media Analysis

On August 30th, we were asked to compare and contrast the TV version, the print version, and the online version of the same news story. In the hard copy of the Tribune Review, the article entitled “McDonalds robbed” appears under the In Brief heading on page A14 of the regional news section. It is at the very bottom of the page, and is given the least amount of attention. The article gives nothing but the barest facts, no eyewitness accounts, and only a brief description of the suspect. He is described as “a black man between 18 and 21 years old, about 6 feet tall, with a lanky build, and wearing all black clothing.” The article also claims that “there was no information available on what, if anything, the robber took.”

During the 6:00 news, this story appeared as the first story during the Local segment. The reporters gave more details about how the crime was committed, describing how the suspect placed his order at the drive-thru, drew his gun, crawled through the window, held workers at gunpoint, took cash and fled, but left out the physical description of the suspect. They were also able to show the exact location of the crime in a video clip.

In the online version of the Tribune Review, the same story was given two separate articles. The first was given the headline: “McDonalds robber sought,” with the exact same text as the print version. Although it appeared about six articles down on the page, it was given proportionally the same amount of space as the leading article. Later in the day, however, another article was posted that gave more detail. Entitled, “Robber who crawled through window sought,” this article combined both the bare facts found in the original story with the descriptive details of the TV spot, adding a few more relevant details of the crime and the suspects appearance: “At the time of the robbery, he was wearing a baseball cap and a red bandana that covered his face.” The second article also incorporated quotes from authorities on the scene, including the investigating officer.

I was very disappointed at how irrelevant the TV’s version of the story was in comparison to the print and online versions of the Tribune Review. While the details given in the TV story were certainly more interesting, they did not give any useful information that would help readers recognize and identify the suspects.

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Brevity is the Soul of Wit

I really enjoyed reading the first three chapters of Rene J. Cappon's The Associated Press Guide to News Writing. Before entering this course I was very unfamiliar with the style of news writing. These chapters really helped me understand how news writing differs from creative and literary writing. The key to this new style is brevity and simplicity, two skills that I am definitely lacking. I often find myself relying too heavily on adjectives and modifiers rather than utilizing the clearest briefest phrase possible. Exercising this practice will really help me make my writing in all disciplines stronger.

The chapter on leads was very helpful because it went into more than just the black and white details of constructing a lead. The examples given really helped illustrate how the skills addressed in first two chapters influence and affect the construction of leads. I know as I was writing my first spot news story, I kept referring back to this chapter to make sure that my lead was following all of the guidelines. I was so tempted to write it as I would an introductory paragraph to an essay, thesis and all, and this chapter really helped me break out of that habit.

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September 26, 2005

The Reporter's Notebook

I have mixed feelings about Mark Levin's The Reporter's Notebook. The majority of the text was extremely helpful, especially for someone who has little to no journalism experience. However, some sections were obviously tailored to younger journalism students, minimizing the amount of help they could give college students.

The first section, "Journalism Basics 101" was extremely helpful. It gave a nice overview of all the topics we are discussing as we write our stories: Leading questions, the inverted pyramid, and the journalism vocabulary. The section on the inverted pyramid could have gone into a little more depth, but it was satisfactory as an overview.

The sections "Ten Ways to Find Stories" coupled with the "Future Book" were helpful in starting the brainstorming process, but the "Story Ideas Bank" wasn't as helpful since it was obviously geared toward younger students. While some of the ideas listed may prove helpful, others, such as "Bubblegum" probably aren't appropriate to collegiate level journalism.

I felt that the "Stock Interview Questions" were not very helpful, even for younger students. While questions such as "How would you change things about this school?" and "What has been the hardest obstacle you've had to overcome to get to where you are today?" may proove helpful in some feature stories, there just didn't seem to be enough ideas or starter questions that would prove useful in a harder news story. For someone who has always found the interview process difficult, I really would have appreciated a better guideline than the one provided.

The "Editing Checklist," "Commonly Misspelled Words" and "Top 10 Punctuation Tips" are useful for writers of every age and discipline.

While many parts of this text proved helpful, I would have preferred a different edition that specifically targeted university students.

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September 22, 2005

Quotes, Quotes, Quotes

While working on my first Spot News story, I found Chapter 8: "Your Words or Mine?" of The Associated Press Guide to Newswriting extremely helpful. What I was not expecting, however, was to find this chapter helpful for my essay writing as well.

Being a senior English major, I have written a gamut of literature essays using quotes in support of my thesis. Too often, I have noticed, I am unwilling to pare down a quote so that only the relevent information is cited. As a result, I often have much longer quotes than necessary, adding nothing but useless words to my essay. For this, the sections on partial quotes and paraphrasing were the most helpful.

I have never considered journalism my strength, but knowing that I will be able to use the skills I am learning in this class and apply them to other areas of my writing is exciting.

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September 20, 2005

Grizzly Man

This past Saturday, I went and saw Grizzly Man with a couple of friends. For those of you who aren't familiar with the film, it is a documentary of Tim Treadwell, a man who was killed by a grizzly bear after living with them for 13 summers. The documentary was filmed by Werner Herzog using Treadwell's own footage. It utilized interviews from Treadwell's friends and colleagues, people who were opposed to his work in Alaska and the coroner who examined their bodies.

I thought that Herzog's documentary was an excellent example of both objective and subjective journalism. Herzog didn't use the film to sway the audience either way about Treadwell's decision to live with the grizzly bears - he let his interviews and Treadwell's own footage speak for him. Herzog did, however, narrate the film, occasionally inserting his own opinions about Treadwell and where they disagreed. While one could say that these narrations were merely bringing to light an argument against Treadwell so that the film could examine both sides of the issue, it could also be argued that with Herzog's skills at interviewing, his own opinions were not only unnecessary but took away from the film.

Regarding Herzog's interviewing skills, I thought he was a master. His interviews with Treadwell's closest friends humanize the man, while his interviews with the the Alaskan native and a man from the rescue crew bring to light some of the reasons Treadwell's mission was so vehemently opposed. The man from the rescue crew would not have been a good source on his own since his own ignorance was proved in many of his statements, but the Alakan native's take on the situation was really fantastic. He didn't try to attack Treadwell's sanity or intelligence (like the man from the rescue crew), but explained the Alaskan belief of the grizzly bear and the inherent respect the creature must command. He said that he felt sorry for Treadwell since he obviously loved the bears, yet he was disrespecting and harming the bears by pretending he could live among them safely.

Herzog's interview with the coroner was extremely disturbing. Not having known either Treadwell or the girlfriend who died with him, the coroner gave his account of the attack after examining their remains and listening to the audio tape that recorded the incident (this tape was later destroyed and not used in the film). His explanations, along with Treadwell's own footage of the bear that did the deed, were extremely compelling.

While there were certain instances where Herzog inserted his own opinion on Treadwell's fate into the film, the mere fact that my two friends and I walked out of the theater each having reached a different conclusion about the man's mission and fate is a testament to the power and skill of his journalism.

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September 16, 2005

First Article Reflection

I have to admit, I was really nervous about this assignment.

I've never had a penchant for journalism, and my naturally reserved personality doesn't particularly make the best interviewer. I had a very hard time psyching myself up to ask people questions, and limited myself to personal interviews with students because I found myself not wanting to untrude on the faculty or make myself a nuisance. I regretted that later, because I know my article would have been stronger with a quote from someone with more authority. I was able to use quotes from the speaches of Dr. Gawelek, Pres. Boyle, and Mr. Highberger in my article, but because my shorthand has not yet been fine tuned I was unable to catch every quote I wanted to use.

I enjoyed writing the article, if only because it really called my attention to those areas where I am weakest, and gave me the conviction to make those areas stronger.

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September 12, 2005

Peer Profile: Mike Diezmos

Michael Diezmos has many faces. He is a student, a teacher, a writer, a politician and a mascot. In his third year at Seton Hill University (SHU), Diezmos has devoted himself to not only his roles as the SHU Griffin, Setonian journalist, Eye Contact business manager and Seton Hill Government Association (SHGA) Vice President, but to his dream of educating children through literature.

Originally an education major, Diezmos said that he has “always loved the enthusiasm kids show and their openness to learning.” He wants to teach them, but by appealing to the creative side of education rather than the administrative. Despite his role as SHGA Vice President, Diezmos does not enjoy politics. “I like dealing with the community, people, and activities,” he said, “not the bureaucracy.”

In the summer of 2006, Diezmos will visit the Philippines to do research for the culturally aware children’s book he plans to write and illustrate. The story will feature a small town and will be used to educate children on cultural diversity. If he is unable to find any suitable stories, Diezmos will translate, interpret, and illustrate existing Philippine works. His friend Bianca Cintron expressed complete faith in Diezmos’ dream: “Mike is the kind of person who will do well with children’s books – he is energetic and friendly, which is good for kids.”

“Mike goes out and gets what he wants, when he wants it,” said his Eye Contact co-worker Neha Bawa, “He has this perpetual thirst for knowledge that makes him extremely resourceful.” His fellow Setonian Amanda Cochran described Mike as: “the only guy I know who is comfortable in his own skin.” Perhaps that is why he is so comfortable jumping into the skin of the Griffin and cheering on the school that has given him the tools he needs to complete his dream.

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September 02, 2005

Back to Blogging

One more semester of very exciting blogs. I'm nervous about this newswriting class...I've never been the best at interviewing. But I suppose we all need a challenge!

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