Principles of American Journalism Ch2

This chapter mentions “confirmation bias,” which is when the idea of a story “appear(s) to confirm what people had already begun to believe” and therefore is not corroborated properly (47). This is a tendency I try to fight and try to find when I encounter news at home.

For example, recently there was news on Facebook about a plan the president has regarding the 14th amendment. The news articles I read upset me, but I did not do much to corroborate the stories. I figured that because they came from big news sites, CBS and NPR, I could trust them. Later on, I talked with my mom about the news story and she helped me corroborate some of the upsetting information I took as facts. I had a preconceived notion to be upset by the articles, and this bias made them affect me more. In the future, I will try to check out stories so that I do not let my emotions control my takeaway of the news.

Source: Principles of American Journalism Ch2

Principles of American Journalism Ch1

According to this chapter, the roles of journalism in a democracy is that it “informs, analyzes, interprets, and explains,” “investigates,” “creates a public conversation,” “helps generate social empathy,” and “encourages accountability” (11). In this class, I have covered local stories, some so local that they would only interest this campus.

My personal interest article would be considered a “generate social empathy” story since it focuses on one person’s life experiences and aspirations. My Honors Convocation article and art museum article fit mostly in the “create a public conversation” category because they cover small but still significant events that matter to certain members of the community. And all of these articles “inform” and “explain” to an extant, or else they would be speculative fluff and not news.

On the other hand, the breaking news activity we did would have been an “investigative” story if it were real, because we were uncovering information on an unfolding story that was both unusual and high-stakes. My follow-up article of the breaking news would also count as “encouraging accountability,” this time in myself: I corrected an error from the previous breaking news story. From actual reporting experience to the simulations in class, I’ve gotten to experience writing news stories that play many different roles in our democracy.

Source: Principles of American Journalism Ch1

Principles of American Journalism Ch3

This chapter revisits the factors that make a story newsworthy, something I am struggling with on my late Article 2 assignment. We’ve known from the beginning of the course that a newsworthy story is timely, impactful, local, and/or unusual. I conceived my idea to write about SHU’s trees right after the storm in September that knocked over the big tree in the grotto lot. Had I written the story then and opened with that tree, it would have been timely news. However, because that storm happened more than a month ago, that particular event is no longer breaking news.

This chapter mentions novelty and emotions as an important factor of newsworthiness. For this assignment, we are to focus on a serious/formal news story, not a human interest piece like we did earlier in the year. However, because the trees of SHU are so dear to its campus, I’ve realized I can use that fact to keep readers interested in my article and focus more on the long-term plan for the older, historical trees. I am having trouble starting, let alone finishing, this article, so to have the factors of newsworthiness in mind while I am looking for my final sources to interview will come in handy.

Source: Principles of American Journalism Ch3

NM The Future (4 of 4)

The final section of “The Future” elaborates on the growing duties of journalists as individuals as opposed to big news corporations in order to keep their services relevant today. From personal branding to mastering non-writing skills like data analysis and design, a journalist must put a lot of work into making their news presentable.

The growing multi-discipline aspect of journalism seems like a perfect advocate for the argument of teaching “STEAM” in schools, or “Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics.” Many consider journalism strictly a liberal art, not a science or fine art, but in a world where numbers and graphics are the best ways to catch eyes, this is changing. “Data journalism,” which uses statistics and quantitative research to “‘go beyond the anecdotal,” gives readers more precise details about news stories than vague interviews can (155). The public wants numbers connected to issues, which they then use to form opinions about news topics.

The notion that future news stories may feature “interactivity” where readers will get to “‘play’ with journalistic data,” “personalize it,” and “visualize it in different ways” brings to mind the idea of data graphics embedded in digital stories that can be clicked, adjusted, and customized to present news data in different ways (156). This goes along the lines of responsive web design, which means customizing websites to adapt to different platforms such as desktop, mobile, and tablet. A journalist would have to know a great deal about design, from an aesthetic and a technical standpoint, in order to craft infographics like this to include in stories. This is a far cry from the reporters of the 1800s, who had minimal education and focused solely on gathering news and writing about it.

In a world where news companies keep downsizing, journalists now must support themselves in order to stay successful amidst the information overload online. By increasing their skillset and including other disciplines, they become “entrepreneurs” of news writing, and will hopefully continue to provide reliable news for generations to come.

Source: NM The Future (3 of 4)

NM The Future (3 of 4)

In past blog posts, I’ve written a lot about the effects of social media and popular websites on the way people get the news. In this section, Anderson et al continue with this theme. Though newspapers are shrinking and even closing, Internet news “allows communities to come together around topics of shared interest,” independent of where these people live (142). The example they use is about a “small group of people with an extremely rare disease” now having the ability to access research, breaking news, and communicate with others about that disease (142). This is the way online news is able to unite very specific groups with very specific news.

Take the website www.playbill.com, which offers news about Broadway productions. Though these shows take place in specific cities, people all across the US and even the world are interested in news about them. However, the topic of musical theatre still only appeals to a narrow demographic, unlike a story about nuclear war or government scandal would. In this way, the Playbill website is a “non-location-specific news service” (142). It is doubtful that Broadway news will suddenly become a pressing issue to everyone around the world, but it is also unlikely that the audience who want Broadway news will disappear. Because of this, the Playbill news site will likely last longer than many local newspapers.

Portfolio 2

Here is my second blog portfolio. You will notice it is unimpressive. This is because there were only eight blog posts to choose from for six categories.

Depth:
This time, I have tried to go deeper into topics instead of writing brief paragraphs. My post on The Present (1 of 4)  explores the shrinking of newspapers from a specific point of view, that of a newspaper cartoonist. My post for The Future (2 of 4) goes deep into the issues with local websites by actually examining a local website. My post for The Present (2 of 4) ties back to an earlier assignment and discusses its issue more thoroughly. And my post for Details Matter goes in depth of my own experience with writing an article and choosing which details go where.

Riskiness:
I’ve tried to take more risks instead of making general statements this time around. My post on The Future (2 of 4) is risky because it uses my own original analysis about design elements of a local news site. My post for The Present (3 of 4) is risky in its format, which mimics the style of clickbait sites in order to make a point. And my post of Details Matter is a little risky because I admit my own weaknesses in writing.

Intertextuality:
This is the category I have improved on the most this time. I have been tying ideas in the text to other forms of media. My post for The Present (1 of 4) even cites a separate interview with one of my favorite newspaper cartoonists. My post for The Future (2 of 4) as I said looks specifically at another website. My post for Point of View ties in a cartoon I drew that appeared on someone’s website and my post for The Present (2 of 4) refers to an earlier post of mine.

Discussion:
No one commented on my blog posts this time, but I commented on others. On Caitlin’s post, she wondered what celebrities would advertise a newspaper and I gave examples. And even though it was not commented on in class, my post on Point of View received a lot of discussion when I shared it on my Facebook page, where four or five different people weighed in with advice on what to do in a situation where someone misinterprets my work.

Timeliness:
Unfortunately, this was my worst category this time, as every single assignment was late except for Point of View and The Present (4 of 4), which discusses objectivity vs. accountability.

Coverage:
I’ve tried to write better posts this time around. My post most fitting for coverage is The Future (1 of 4), which is short and relies mostly on personal testimony. And while the format for the Present (3 of 4) is risky, its assertions are not particularly risky or profound.

Conclusion:
Rather than improve since the last portfolio, it seems I’m moving backwards. I have tried to write more for each post instead of just skimming a topic, and I’ve also tried to make riskier arguments, but the fact that I submit them late and get no readers sort of defeats the purpose of writing good posts. In the future, I will try to turn in good work on time to get the most out of these blogging assignments.

 

Source: Portfolio 2

NM The Future (2 of 4)

Anderson et. al. suggest that one reason local news isn’t doing as well as national news is because local newspapers have lousy websites (139). I am currently taking a web design class, so I’m studying what factors make a successful website. So let’s explore a local news website and see what is effective about it.

First, here is the website for the Tribune Review, the local paper for Greensburg and other cities in Southwestern PA. When opened, the home page looks like this:

At first glance, the interface looks pretty clean. The colors are muted and not distracting, though some might describe them as boring. The navigation bar is clear, and top stories are pictured with luring photos. Scrolling down reveals more stories, links, and even a poll, with the website’s information at the bottom. As far as I could see, there weren’t any distracting ads.

But then I remembered that I employed an ad-blocker. Up in the top by the url, there’s a little red square that says “13,” meaning 13 ads were blocked on that page alone. Curious, I reloaded the page without content blockers to see what would happen:

For some reason, the page itself looks the same, but the ad number in the corner skyrocketed to 62! I don’t know why this happened. Maybe I pressed the wrong button and did not disable what I thought I did. But if this website actually contained 62 ads on one page, that would definitely turn away readers.

So I opened the website on my iPad, which doesn’t have an ad blocker, and found it looked much more distracting. As soon as you click on an article, the ads take up more space than the article itself:

I clicked on a story on my computer, and from what I could see, the story was uninterrupted by pop-ups. (Thank you, ad-blocker.) Without ads in the way, I can say that the news stories were prominent and easy to follow, with graphics to hook the readers’ attention and no major site glitches that I could spot.

But after looking at many local websites (okay, the other ones I found were all in Wyoming) I started to see that they all pretty much looked the same. Maybe the reason local sites don’t do as well as national ones is because of how plain they are without their pesky ads. Newspapers may depend on ads for revenue, but they get in the way of what readers go to the site for in the first place: news.

Source: NM The Future (2 of 4)

NM The Future (1 of 4)

It is interesting that many news outlets are depending on “mobile web” traffic for funds, as in putting advertisements in apps as opposed to print or regular online (128). This is because my brothers and I have a profound hatred for ads popping up in the apps we use, everything from music streaming to mobile games. To think that adds like these make up a significant part of news services’ advertising profit is a little depressing, because more often than not these type of ads annoy us and cause us to hate their product instead of persuading us to buy it. But perhaps the news ads are more effective than the noisy, colorful ads that interrupt “Angry Birds,” or maybe other mobile users are just more accepting of disruptions than we are. Regardless, I feel as though journalism needs a better source of income than cheesy mobile ads if society hopes to have reliable news sources in the decades to come.

Source: NM The Future (1 of 4)

Details Matter

I have often inflated skimpy arguments with academic-sounding filler in a hasty attempt to craft an essay minutes before it is due. I have also often received praise for my writing skills on such assignments. This is one reason news writing intimidated me at the beginning of this course.

I am getting the hang of formatting quotes in AP style and separating fluff from the good stuff. However, I now run into a different problem. Without relying on “a very general introduction that leads into a specific example” or “padding that summarizes the contents of quotes,” there are times when my details and quotes seem sparse and choppy (Jerz). Transitions have been a problem spot of mine ever since I first started writing essays, so it is no wonder this aspect of news writing is taking me a little longer to learn.

I also have trouble deciding which details are most important and should go at the top of the story. For example, I covered a museum exhibit for my Article 1 assignment. I attended the opening by myself and interviewed over ten different people including total strangers, a feat I was very proud to have pulled off. However, once I had all that info, I couldn’t decide how to order it in my article. It turned out three events were taking place at the same time that evening. Should I talk about the new opening first? Or the original exhibit that was the reason for the new opening? Or the “Art on Tap” event and the fact that it drew in 150 attendees? They all seemed important, but I wasn’t sure which was most so.

As the semester progresses, I suspect I will make at least a few improvements in these areas. As long as I gather enough information, I can pick through my interviews for quotes and details that matter.

Source: Details Matter

NM: The Present (3 of 4)

FIVE WAYS TO FILL UP A COLLEGE BLOG POST THAT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!!!!!!!!

 


5. Hook your readers with a weird list

This section brings up the role of digital media in news reporting, a popular issue of concern nowadays. With the prevalence of “clickbait” online, the concern is that inaccurate or incomplete stories with sensational headlines will take people’s attention away from reliable news and muddy the waters of what is fact, what is opinion, and what is straight-up nonsense.


4. Mention Cats

While the presence of cat videos may indicate otherwise, popularity of a story has absolutely 0% correlation with its truth value. For example, bloggers can make up their own statistics about the correlation of two things and few will check to see if this intriguing number is factual. Another major issue with such sites

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is that ads from sponsors interrupt the flow of text, showing where the site’s true priorities lay. Sadly, people fall for the flashy headlines’ promises anyway, and many even take the “articles” as fact without question.


3. Interrupt your own post with random pictures

But because the rise of clickbait is so prominent, combatting it is also gaining attention. For example, Facebook recently removed its “trending” sidebar for the stated reason that it wasn’t receiving enough viewer traffic. This might mean people were bored of hearing constant bad news, but it also implies that people are less and less frequently clicking on what news story is

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most popular at the moment and instead are seeking news from reliable sources.


2. Start sentences with a “while” clause

While many editors including Cory Haik consider social media “‘the great unbundling of journalism,'” it has a few perks for journalism (99). While news sites now must weigh “going viral” against covering “serious subjects that may not be so popular,” they can also use the platform of social media to advertise their organization and search for breaking news from eye witnesses who post photos and videos of events right as they happen (99). While the downsides to easily sharable stories may outweigh the advantages of easy advertising, the ability to quickly search for stories, facts, and people is at least convenient.

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1. End with something lame

In conclusion, it is more fun to mess with readers than it is to write helpful blog posts. After all, most blogs “remain solo voices who may or may not mix newsy information with their commentary for relatively small audiences” (97).

Source: NM: The Present (3 of 4)