October 2007 Archives

Mirror mirror on the wall, who has the fairest blog portfolio of all?

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This blog will list and explain a series of blogs that I have written. All of these blogs have been submitted as homework and used in the classroom in order to promote discussion amongst the students. I will also include a short summary of each blog alongwith why I chose to include them in this portfolio. Many of these blogs will include student discussion that took place first online before being incorporated into a classroom environment. 

1. In terms of coverage, I have made sure to create and post a blog on each of the assignments that have been given to the class. Since the last portfolio that we were assigned to create, I have posted six blog entries for News Writing EL 227 and a single blog for my other class, Media Lab EL 200. A list of my entries is listed below from the earliest written to the latest:

1. Hedgehogs vs. Foxes
2. Americans and risks
3. Glasses of milk 
4. Follow Up Anyone?
5. Tomatoes
6. Plus vs. Minus
7. Twisted Logic - EL 200

2. If you follow this link you will discover a blog that demonstrates my ability to write in depth on a particular subject. The subject of this blog was chapter 5 and 6 of the book "It Ain't Necessarily So." In this blog I wrote my personal reflection on these chapters which included several quotes taken from the chapters and relating them to newspapers and the polls used by them.

          Glasses of Milk

This is another link that will display that I can write in depth on a subject though it is not as long as the blog above. This particular blog focuses on chapters 3 and 4 of the book "It Ain't Necessarily So." In this entry I wrote about the manner in which things are viewed. Specifically, tomatoes as they were also used in the book as an example. Everyone sees items in a different light and this blog presents my views on this topic in relation to the book. 


3. Throughout my blogging history I have had to interact with my fellow peers in class by posting comments on their own blogs. It is a part of each assignment that after we have created our own blog that we comment on at least 2 -3 of our peers. If you were to follow the link that I have listed below you will find a comment that I posted on one of Vanessa Kolberg's blogs. Kolberg's blog covered her thoughts on the media and how it oftens promotes the needless fear of Americans to the point that we have simply become immune to the terror. In her blog she also used a great analogy. 

This is a copy of the comment that I left on Kolberg's blog: You're absolutely right. Maybe the news has constantly plyed us with exagerated stories that we've simply become numb to it all. We just do our best to try and not become one of those said stories. I really liked your analogy to the Little Boy who called Wolf story, it fit perfectly.

Another example of a comment that I posted on my peer's blog is the response I left in reaction to Jacquelyn Johns blog entry titled "Those crazy, tree-huggin' activists." When I had read this assigned portion of our reading I didn't devote a great deal of my focus to this particular example. However, Johns blog allowed me new insight into something that I had previously thought little about. If you follow the link below you will be able to read my comment for yourself, but I have also included a copy of it below. 

Copy: I liked the conclusions you drew about journalism not being about activism. I agree with you that journalists should be fair and objective no matter what the reporter or others might think. Your quote and your vernacular version were great too. You made me think about something that i just read and skipped over before. Thanks.

4. Discussions are an imprtant part of blogging. When someone posts an entry they tend to appreciate it when others find their point of view worthy of notice. Often times blog entries have the ability and do spark conversations online resulting in numerous comments. Below is a link to my blog that received 8 comments (one comment was repeated twice from Mitch). This entry related my thoughts on risks and why they are more likely to be covered by the media as opposed to items that involve little or risk. 

                 Americans afraid of risks

Yet another blog entry garnered 6 different comments on it for discussion. Throughout this blog I posted my thoughts on how people often look at the world as either half-full or half-empty and that essentially, both views are correct.

                 Glasses of milk

5. Blogs that are posted ahead of class with plenty of time to spare enable my classmates to read my blog and comment on it. If it a blog is posted just before class, none of my peers are likely to be able to see it. An example of my posting a blog in advance is: 

                   Twisted Logic - EL 200     

This blog was created for Media Lab and published on October 15, 2007. It turns out that we were on Fall Break at the time and I had created my blog a week in advance.
6. Contributing to other web blogs that are not my own and giving credit where credit is due is important when commenting or reviewing others blogs. Below are 3 examples of xenoblogging:

1. I was the second person to leave a comment on Kolberg's blog, Creating Optimism, but I do have a lot of knowledge about Batman and his related comic book characters. Perhaps too much.:

 Agree with ya on the silver lining of those clouds Nessa. If I read that crime has gone up in Gotham (obviously Batman's been out partying a bit too much) I'm gonna believe it and not go out after dark or tell my little cousin that it's a great idea to have a clown at her birthday party. It's good though sometimes to take a step back and try to think critically about what definately went into making those statistics or how those polls were worded. After all, the Joker could have had all of his henchmen calling the pollster to give us all the wrong answers. Or maybe it was the Riddler...something tells me that I've been drinking too much of the contaminated water.

2. On Jara White's blog, "Giving them what they want, but at what cost?" I was the first to respond.: 

You're right, as journalists we can't always entertain people unless our editor assigns us to an entertainment piece. We have to be continuously searching for the truth; even if it is exhausting!

3. Jeremy Barrick's blog, "When News Transforms from Reality to the Strange," I was the first to respond. I also wrote how I truly enjoyed reading his blog.:
I really enjoyed reading your blog and I think you made some good points too. I agree with you that the news would be a lot more interesting if journalists lives depended on keeping their readers interested, but then most of it probable wouldn't be true. Then again, who hasn't heard of the occasional two-headed baby who robbed a bank with nunchacks?

7. Wildcards are often seen as the lifesaver's of a losing cardplayer. I can only hope that my tomato blog will accomplish something even close to saving this blog portfolio! I choose..."Tomato!" This blog displays that I can accurately incorporate what I have learned in a lesson with my own creativity in order to create something vivid, even if I'm the only one that understands it.

Whoever will win, the Foxes or the Hedgehogs? - IANS Ch. 9 & 10

In chaper 9 I found it somewhat comforting and worrisome at the same time that scientific juries are just as human and fallible as their civil counterparts. When you read a study that lists in its credentials that it has been peer reviewed by the scientific community, it gives the study more credibility. I suppose that you can relate this situation to the awards that published books are often given. Just because a book earns a super important award doesn't mean that the average person who reads said book will think just as highly of it. In fact, depending on their preferences and biases, they may absolutely hate the book! At least Churchill was right when talking about democracy and how we can relate it to peer reviewing: it is the worst system for judging research, except for all of the alternatives that have ever been tried.

Even though having tunnel vision when driving is great, having it when thinking critically or intellectually is only inviting a crash with flashing neon lights. "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." It would certainly be of benefit to be exceptionally knowledgeable about a subject, but not to the exclusion of all else. Only covering one aspect of scientific research may lead you to think that you are simplifying the data for your readers, but you might also be short-changing them. Hedgehogs will always know the impact of impersonal forces on others, but the fox will be able to look beyond this and see other factors/solutions. So which would you rather be?

Americans afraid of risks?! I won't risk that!

"By now it's almost a commonplace that many American's are overly afraid of risks - and that thier fears are often magnified by alarmist reporting." This can be seen as true because alarming news sells the majority of newspapers. If something isn't a risk, then why would people be interested in it. Most people don't worry abour driving their cars on the highway, but many would see jumping out of a perfectly good plane for fun as a tremendous risk. That said, a reporter looking for news isn't going to want to cover a news story about everyday drivers, but instead the dare devils that dive out of planes. 

Since we've been talking so much about the ways in which statistics can be manipulated, I really liked the sentence: "In other words, statistical information is inevitably one level removed from reality." Every day individuals can't be expected to go out and create a statistical experiment in order to validate their own concerns. Thus, we're receiving our information second-hand, perhaps from someone else's reality. 

Chapter 8 discussed how some statistics appear to be rising but this may be due only to the better ways in which the data has been conducted. Child abuse reports may seem to be steadily rising, but this may only be due to the fact that the police are reporting more of these crimes. This is just another thing to think about when wondering just how valid those statistics that you read are.
"It's not that two bits of data can contradict one another; it's that the same bit of data can be read in (at least) two different ways." pg. 86 This sentence definately got the author's point across and gave me a clear impression of what they were trying to say. It's kinda like the tomato thing again; I may see a big tomato, but someone who grows radioactive tomatos in a lab might say my tomato's small! 

Different people can look at the exact same data and eventually come away with completely different views on the same subject. Just like the old saying where you either look at the world with a 'glass half full' attitude or its really 'half empty.' For example, the raw numbers pertaining to women infected with AIDS fell, but this resulted in a slight rise in the percentage. Some newspapers then could choose to run with a positive news angle or a negative angle. However, we all know that negative news often gets the most press.

John Maynard Keynes' observationfit really well into Ch. 6: "in the long run, we are all dead." pg. 91 It's just like when you say that 9 out of 10 smokers will die...well, the 10th does too. The data that says this though doesn't specify that all 9 will die from the effects of smoking. This also ties in to leading pollers with questions that are geared toward a certain goal. If you word someting eloquently enough, you'll expertly be able to bury the bull crap within pretty little tresses. Add this to the fact that newspapers and the media often only want to give their reader's the answer (or any answer), and you truly have to put some thought into what it is that you're reading. 

I really like Gertrude Stein's response when asked, "Gertrude, Gertrude, what is the answer?" and she replied, "Alice, Alice, what is the question?" pg. 98 This clearly emphasizes how newspapers look at polls and statistics. After reading these chapters, I don't think that I'll ever look at a poll quite the same way. I've learned my lesson: I shall not trust a poll unless I can seeth the said poll's questions!

Follow up anyone?

I really enjoyed today's mock press-conference. It was slightly awkward at first but once people actually started to ask questions, I think it went smoothly. I was quite impressed with how willing President Boyle was willing to answer our questions - nothing seemed to phase her. I can only say that I'm just glad that it wasn't a real press-conference! That would definately put me on edge with everyone vying for another's attention. 

Benjamin Franklin once said, "Energy and persistence conquer all things." From just looking at the scene today in class, I'd have to agree. If a real reporter truly wants to get an answer to their question then they have to go after it. Unless of course, they're sitting in the front row in front of an important person. Then they only need to raise their hand, but they'll still have to compete amongst one another.

You say Tomato and I say...well, something different!

It only makes sense that if big, important news stories don't always make it into newspapers and whatnot, that less newsworthy stories will make their way to the headlines in their absence. After all, society at large would find it alarming if a nuclear explosion was going to suddenly happen in Nevada and this would most certainly make it into the news! Add to this the possible fact that the human species may be dying out and you've definately cause for a panic attack. Thankfully, these stories were fatally flawed because the data that was used to substantiate them was flawed. 

"The important thing to realize, of course, is that not all tomatoes are created equal: some tomatoes are much bigger than others, even though a common term describes them all." Nothing is as it seems all the time. Everyone characterizes certain events/facts differently. As a reporter, should we start to hold ourselves to a higher standard? Instead of merely digesting the information and numbers that are given to us, perhaps we should try to delve a little deeper. Unless we're under a dreadful, looming deadline! Even then though, would it not be possible or at least a good idea to try and be unambiguous about the facts/sources used in the article? 

It's been said that you can't  believe everything you read. Woudn't this apply then to what people say as well? After all, you can't believe everything you read because it's based on what a person said. This is a prime example of how Proxies aren't always 100% correct. You just have to take everything with a grain of salt. I'll just leave it up to you on how big you want that grain to be!

Plus vs. Minus and everything in between

Throughout Ch. 1 the authors gave several examples of reports that were optimistic and ignored the negative sides to those findings. Why not report on the 5,717 drop in AIDS cases between the years of 1994 and 1995 and only focus on the increases? Even the few papers that reported on this decrease managed to find pessimistic viewpoints about it. Wouldn't it be nice for the general public to know that the age-old threat of tuberculosis was on the decline, that cases were at an all-time low? These reports were never written nor published though. It is almost as if newspapers and reporters would rather focus on something that can bring about a sense of doom and gloom as opposed to bringing the reader a happy feeling. Is this perhaps done on purpose because if you can whip the masses into a frenzy, then you'll sell more papers or get more exposure? 

I also found it interesting that some newspapers chose to quote/cite findings that were notably less-reliable than others even if they found similar facts. I don't understand why this would be done. It seems lazy to not try and find the best source to use, and the most reliable, when reporting something to the masses; this goes double for items that could significantly impact news consumer's lives.

Vanessa Kolberg's blog really opened my eyes to another part of the intro. and chapter 1 about truth and news being completely different things and how you can't believe everything you read. It's up to the reader to determine what is true and what isn't and everything in between.

Twisted Logic and the first Newspapers - Ch. 8&9 EL 200

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"Whether the subject is love, birth, weather or crime, journalists' tastes inevitably run toward the unnatural, the extraordinary." This sentence aptly discribes the basic search that journalists perform when seeking the latest news. If anything can be seen by the earliest news pamphlets and newspapers. Journalists than and now were looking for love involving strange circumstances (like a husband and wife killing one another), birth (the birth of royalty), weather (something that left a lot of people dead), and crime (some psycho killer wielding an axe and hunting down defenseless lil' wabbits!). In other words..."When we choose to enter the world of breaking news, we enter a fun house."

Never before had I questioned what the word Gazette meant. For most of my life I heard, read, or saw this word (my father's favorite paper is the Pitssburgh Post-Gazette) but I never once thought about how it came to be related to the newspaper. No one really knows how the term gazette was coined, but maybe that's just it - a coin? It only made sense for newspapers to be printed more often as forms of communications improved but it's interesting how the internet has made such publications nearly obsolete. Now, newspaper companies need only update their websites when breaking news happens and save a printed version that includes more detail in the morning edition. Maybe in the future we'll develope little see-through electronic pads that will be connected to the internet wirelessly and will constantly updated, just think of Star Trek. Who knows?

Portfolio 1: Ready for the Masses

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News Browser to New Understanding of News

This has been my first semester of college at Seton Hill University and I have been taking Newswriting, EL 227. This course is an introduction to news as well as newswriting as a style of writing. Throughout this class we have written mock news articles in addition to writing blogs on various topics for further discussion. My portfolio will display several new items and skills that I have learned. This course has taught me the things listed below:

1.the basics of newswriting 

2.what is considered newsworthy

3.what a nutgraf is and how it tells the reader why they should keep reading

4.the best way to write a news article: with what’s important

5.every story needs at least 3 sources

6.the basics of blogging

When to press as Press? This blog shows that I am capable of reading the assigned text and commenting on it without rushing to get it done before class. This entry is also significant to me because of how important it is for reporters to still act human when confronting victims of crime. 

Other Accident Story: This particular blog displays that I am capable of writing a blog entry that my peers are able to respond to. I recieved three comments on this blog and all of them were welcomed. Through this blog I proved that I can interact with my peers.

Crafting Compelling Leads: This blog shows that I can write in-depth on chosen subjects. However, there is always room for improvement and I plan to write more in the future. The thought that others are so easily able to see what I write has me a bit intimidated, but hopefully that feeling will pass in the near future. 

Chaos in England!: This article also displays the fact that I can write at length when analyzing various subjects and still get some positive feedback from my peers.

I left this significant comment on Vanessa Kolberg’s blog discussing my thoughts on the video clips that we watched in class:

I completely agree with you! When I first started watching The Haiti spoof, I thought that it was a reall broadcast. I don't have a habit of watching the news but what I'd seen seems pretty close to what was going in Haiti, at least at first. I can also say that I'm easily distracted by the words running along the bottom of the screen beneath broadcasts. It's not unusual for me ot start watching the running words and forget to listen to the reports! 

Click, Click, Clicking Away

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I really like being able to work in the computer lab with others in the class. I think it helps when I can ask my peers what's going on or what I need to do to get this particular item while Dr. Jerz is helping another student. These blogs are really new to me so help and input is much obliged! I do think it's pretty weird though when all you can hear in the class is the clicking of computer keys! Working on the computers for class work as a class also helps me feel more included in the class as a whole.

Jumping like Lightening! zzzzzzt!!

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In the Something Happening in Haiti video by The Oinion, the reporters jump from subject to subject and speculation to speculation on what might be happening. It's funny to watch but if this really happened in the news world, we'd be up to our ears in some pretty deep doo-doo. A person can gain nothing from the news if the news reporters or stations themselves don't even know what's going on. People say that lightening doesn't strike twice; they'd be wrong, especially if looking at a field of tall metal rods! This video reminded me of a field of metal rods and lightening just keeps jumping from one rod to the next in no specific order.

Write me a ballad and fill it with news!

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It really surprised me that ballad writers often composed there works to common songs. Maybe these little diddies made the reader feel more engaged in the news?

Chapter 7 really made a lot of sense to me when it tried to explain exactly why the masses are so focused on crime. It seems to me, that the more heinous and unique the crime, the better news it made in olden days. The same can still be said of today. Looking back on the examples that the book gave, I think that most of what was considered newsworthy then is still newsworthy today. Most everyone wants to hear the latest low-down on Spears and how the judge won't giver custody of her kids and whether or not Brad is going with Angie or Jen right?