Entries from blogs tagged with “Student Journalists”

Tweet with caution

As a member of the first generation to grow up with the Internet, I am accustomed to constant access to people and information. If I want to know something, such as a celebrity’s birth date, a movie time, or how many hairs are on the average human head ( that would be 100,000), I immediately reach for my laptop and open my browser to the familiar Google home screen.

But the sort of information available in an Internet search is largely superficial. For the kinds of answers journalists are looking for, it is usually necessary to ask questions of a person, to get out of the office.

There’s a price to pay for the ease of e-mailing a source or quoting a web page. You lose depth. You lose perspective.

Similarly something is lost when news reporters read tweets as part of their news coverage. While twitter is a convenient and useful way to get feedback from viewers and readers, it should not be the only source. A tweet can serve as a good starting point for a discussion, but if I want to read a string of tweets I can read them myself.

Viewers (I hope) tune in to see journalists interview high profile people and experts, who the average people do not have access to. They want to see information from a variety of sources formed into one coherent whole. They want video elements to transport them to the scene of the action. They want graphics to make complicated facts and figures easy to understand.

They don’t want to see a shot of Twitter or Facebook on a correspondent’s computer screen. Or at least I don’t. And based on a segment from his show on March 2, I don’t think Jon Stewart does either.

Social media can certainly be a great tool for journalists, as The Poynter Institute. But as Roger Cohen said in a New York Times Article, Twitter is not journalism. Twitter is more like the information you find in a Google search. It can be interesting, helpful, even compelling. It may be a platform for much needed discussions. But it does not filter large amounts of material to create a concise, factual and relevant description of an issue or situation. It does the opposite.

We, as journalists, need to be careful not to overuse such tools at the risk of loosing content and viewer respect.


The Distillery

Twitter was a powerful tool during the 2009 Iranian election. The sometimes trivial communication tool produced astonishing information while the country’s media was silenced. Participants and eyewitnesses to the bloody protests happening in the streets were able to share their firsthand accounts with the world.

Without Twitter and other social media sites, the flow of information coming out of Iran would have slowed to a trickle if not stopped all together. But the flood gates were open and there was no stopping the thousands of voices screaming from the ground.

But the question remains as to how legitimate these voices were. Isn’t it possible that “citizen journalists” could have been planted by the powerful? Isn’t it possible that someone realized Twitter could be used for deception and deceit? Millions of people around the world were mesmerized by the words and images coming out of Iran. With no substantiated news outlets to verify stories, how are we to trust everything that was splashed onto Twitter?

Some of the suspicious question why so many tweets coming out of Iran were in English, but if you wanted the world to listen; wouldn’t you use the language that would capture the biggest audience?

In New Tweets, Old Needs, Roger Cohen describes journalism as the antithesis of the raw material that came out of the election and subsequent protests. “For journalism is a distillation,” wrote Cohen. “It is a choice of material, whether in words or images, made in pursuit of presenting the truest and fairest, most vivid and complete representation of a situation.”

While Twitter was absolutely implemental in grabbing readers by the throat and forcing us to listen to the Iranian condition, it wasn’t distilled. It may or may not have been the truest and fairest representation of the situation. The best thing about Twitter is also the worst. The endless possibilities create a sense of chaos. It’s always a good idea to question the source of information but is that even possible with Twitter?


To Receive News, Please Enter PIN

“Other businesses have been able to figure out how to make [technology] work, such as the finance business. You can get money wherever you go,” said Helen Connors, executive director for Kansas University Center for Health Informatics.

This quote from today’s Journal-World concerns the nation’s struggle with health care. But it echoes a discussion that continues in the journalism industry.

Not only seeking the balance of convenience, accessibility and profit, which the finance business has certainly conquered with ATMs, but also of location. Wherever you go, your bank account is there.

But location and journalism, specifically citizen journalism like Twitter and blogs, does not always happen as easily as slipping your debit card into the nearest ATM.

In an Op-Ed column for the New York Times, Roger Cohen opined Sept. 10 of this year on the way in which Twitter has affected how information comes out of Iran during its current turbulent political atmosphere, caused by the election. Newspapers and broadcast news have been outlawed and so tweets and blogs are the main source of information coming from inside Iran.

“To be a journalist is to bear witness” and that “To bear witness means being there,” Cohen said. But Cohen does not believe that using Twitter makes you a journalist. He said that “journalism is distillation,” which would be needed for the “deluge of raw material that new social media deliver,” which Twitter is part of.

Certainly not all tweets are news, such as when Biz Stone, a Twitter founder, tweets about his wife’s vegan lasagna.

But tweeters and bloggers in Iran might disagree with Cohen. Especially Mojtaba Saminejad, who blogs and tweets about the conflict in Iran where he lives. On Oct. 14, The Lede, The New York Times News Blog, published an interviewwith Saminejad.

Saminejad has been jailed several times for his blogging and its criticism of the Iranian government, but he persists because of his love for blogging and because he feels that “defending human rights is a duty for me.”

Hmm. Government watch dog? Check.

Desire to provide the people with pertinent information? Check.

Even I, who has been wary of Twitter and blogs like Cohen, can admit that Saminejad sounds an awful lot like a journalist. His blogs and Tweets might not go through the same distilling process that a story for the Times does, but things in Iran are messy and happen fast. The journalism is going to be the same way.

So the ATM of journalism doesn’t quite exist yet, providing a precise amount of necessary journalism funds with the scan of a card. Sometimes you’re going to have to sift through the news, online as well as print, to get a story you read all the way to the end. Location and first-hand observations are still important to journalism, but the medium used to relay these observations is less relevant. A 14 year-olds tweets about what happened at the mall are far less news worthy than Saminejad’s provisions on Iran. With all information, you the consumer still has to question the source.

Because you’re not just going to stick that debit card anywhere, are you?


We the Tweeple

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Nov/02/birds.jpg Twittering the twilight near 19th and Iowa.

Twitter was the first social media that I was ever skeptical of. Maybe it was something in the way that every CNN broadcast had to include something stupid about it. Maybe it was because I already knew what my three friends who were using the service had for breakfast. Maybe it was because I knew if I looked at one more cute guinea pig photo, I would have to officially declare my life a waste of time.

As I spent more time with Twitter, I was finally able to unlock its potential.

From the beginning, the Internet was hailed as this great technology that would bring us information and bring us together. At first, the Internet didn’t seem to bring us much: porn, videos of dancing hamsters (RIP Geocities) and the breakfast updates of friends far and near.

But then the Internet grew up into something more meaningful. It became the way for people to check into the parts of the world that they couldn’t see at the moment.

As the Internet grew, it became harder to see what my next door neighbor was doing. Where Google failed us, Twitter stepped in.

I spent a few months completely out of my element in Germany this summer, and when I came home, I was desperate for a sense of community. It was something that I hadn’t ever felt before, and I wasn’t sure where or if it could be found.

Twitter has provided that for me. Through the #Lawrence hashtag and the new lists feature, I can check the pulse of what is happening in this community and check in with people I know and people I don’t.

In the broadest definition of the word, news is what people are doing. Twitter is the best, although still very selective, aggregator of news in a place.

The Tweeple of Lawrence might not be journalists, but that’s not the argument. I learn more about the people who live here from Twitter than I ever could watching or reading the news or even from another social media service.

— Lauren Keith


Who the heck is reading this?

The media is so pervasive, so enormous, so important, that at times I’m overwhelmed by it. There are too many options!

This, as a journalist, is absolutely terrifying. We send our work out into the world, hoping we are heard. But when everybody’s talking, how can you hear anyone?

A 2008 Harris poll found that only 22 percent of Americans read blogs regularly. This is a disheartening statistic for those of us eagerly typing away.

Matt Pressman asks why the public hates the media in a recent Vanity Fair article . But the word media itself is almost too broad to mean anything anymore. How can we have an intelligent conversation about this thing that doesn’t differentiate between Access Hollywood and the Washington Post? Another good question is why the media – doesn’t hate – but is mildly frustrated with the public.

Everyone’s got a blog. Heck, now I’ve even got a blog. And it’s difficult for me to imagine how these words will ever find themselves under another human being’s eyes. But I will continue to type. Because I care. Because I have interesting thoughts. Because, dang it, I’m a journalist.



In the ongoing, perhaps never ending, transition the media industry is making the territory of the Internet is typically the focus.

As Matt Pressman pointed out in the June 2009 issue of Vanity Fair, much of the public believes that the industry was too slow to jump on the digital bandwagon (http://www.vanityfair.com/online/culture/2009/06/23/a-media-guy-asks-why-do-they-hate-us.html). Because of this the media is still suffering from its inability to utilize the Internet effectively and use it to make money.

Rupert Murdoch hopes to change that. As Vanity Fair reported this month, Murdoch will begin making readers pay for the online version of the London Sunday Times (http://www.vanityfair.com/business/features/2009/11/michael-wolff-200911).

Payment for online journalism has shown almost zero success in the past, but Murdoch's business zeal might be the factor needed to make it work. Only time will tell on that front.

What the Murdoch situation illustrates however is a man who is certainly not Internet savvy, if the article portrays him accurately, attempting to do something with the Internet that much more capable people have failed to accomplish.

But will my generation (I'm a junior at KU) be able to do anything better? I don't think there's any doubt that the days of the printed newspaper are numbered. There are countless statistics saying that only the older generation reads the paper with the morning coffee anymore, and that generation won't be around forever (Sorry, Mom and Dad).

One member of this older generation (how much of a pretentious young twerp do I sound like when I say "older generation?") does wax on the troubles of the media industry, the blogger Newsosaur. One recent post of his gave his feedback on the recent Columbia University study titled "The Reconstruction of American Journalism." (http://newsosaur.blogspot.com/2009/10/text-of-columbia-report-on-msm.html)

The study is 98 pages long, so Newsosaur's thoughts will have to serve as my source. What he focused on did not concern online journalism, ironic since he is a blogger. The popularity (I don't have any numbers on this, only the focus and media attention given to some as my back up) of blogs is interesting.

Pressman mentions in his article that a common complaint from readers is that journalists screw up facts, stories, all of that. And yet blogs, without the ethics and editing of print, are read widely and the information repeated by readers. Just look at what Perez Hilton has done with a blog.

But here I am, writing a blog for a journalism class so maybe blogs will begin to move into a legitimate area for journalism.

I mean, you are reading this, right?


Green with Envy

Everyone wants a cool or glamorous job, something that will keep them on their toes. The thought of performing the same tedious tasks day in and day out is not very sexy. And yet there are folks out there who do just that. Certain industries would die without these steadfast workers.

Working in the media definitely has an appeal that can truly suck people in. The atmosphere of constant change, new stories, new sources, new leads, offers the promise of never a dull day. Of course there are always slow days, fluffy days, but they don’t last long, and before you know it the tempo has jumped back up and your heart is kicking again. Matt Pressman wrote about the envy attached to the profession in his Vanity Fair article A Media Guy Asks: Why Do They Hate Us? This is a link

He lists talking to celebrities, seeing your name in print and drinking during lunch as common reasons why non-media folks may be jealous of us media folks. These aspects of the job certainly add some excitement to the profession but aren’t going to keep you passionate and diligent about your work.

The hope to provide truly worthwhile news, even if it’s every other assignment, will get you out of bed every morning. Blogger, Matt Cheuvront doesn’t think you need to love your job, liking it is enough to create a decent work/life balance. This is a link

He writes that he is interested in too many things to really pinpoint his dream job, the ideal career. Maybe that’s what I love so much about the media; at some point you will cover just about everything. I don’t have to commit myself to one industry, one issue, because I can write about them all. Will people be jealous of me and my future career in media? I don’t know. How much do you love your job?

Mackenzie Steffen


It’s not so easy that any idiot could do it

In June of 2009 Matt Pressman wrote an article for Vanity Fair focused on why the public hates journalists. Number seven on his list of nine things they hate about us was “They think they can do a better job.”

To all of the people out there who think journalism is a piece of cake and they could easily sit down and write a better story, I call bull****.

But I must admit I once thought the same thing. As a high school student I thought I was a great writer who could easily write better articles than most of the ones I read, and could definitely edit them better. I thought my work would be similar to writing papers for English classes and that the information would be relatively easy to gather.

I was so wrong.

I soon learned what it takes to be a good journalist and I’m still trying to figure out if I’ve got it.

As Lizette Rabe says in her article on news24.om, it takes a tendency to be inquisitive, to criticize everything, to be precise, and to agonize over the perfect phrase or rhythm.

You must also have the drive to go out and find a story from nothing. You can’t be shy. Sometimes you have to bug people until you get an answer and sometimes you spend countless hours calling people and doing research only to realize that you don’t have anything worth writing. And you start all over again.

The biggest realization for me is that you can’t be afraid. You have to keep trying and giving it your best shot even when you get articles back with red editor’s ink all over them and you feel completely lost.

It’s easy to sit at home or in the classroom and say you could do a better job. It’s easy to look at someone else’s writing and see holes or phrases you might like to rearrange. But getting out there and doing it yourself presents a thousand challenges you never expected.

And if you really think you can do a better job, I say go for it. Show me what you’ve got. If you succeed I’ll buy you a drink and applaud your efforts. If you don’t I’ll buy you one anyway and we’ll have the age-old talk about what went wrong, how we can do better, and how to save the industry from almost certain doom.


The Partisan Press

      The issue of media bias is certainly not a new one to be discussed in the public forum, but in recent years it has been increasingly mentioned, during both political campaigns and major policy battles. Last year, we saw spokespeople for Senator McCain's campaign claiming that the New York Times is no longer a legitimate news source, and now we see it again in the Obama administration's recent tiffs with Fox News. Some people are concerned with the alleged press bias one way or the other, and have grown cynical toward the media as the fourth estate. I acknowledge that many media outlets do have an editorial bias, but Americans should analyze the reporting done by places like the Times as wholly separate from the (quite-existent) bias.

      First off, we should not immediately discount news sources based on their biases, because the idea of a partisan press is not new in American democracy. In fact, the concept of objectivity is the newcomer to the political press arena. It used to be that newspapers were published specifically in favor of one candidate or set of ideals, and these biases were stated. Now, in the case of television outfits like Fox News and MSNBC, they might as well come right out and say who and what they advocate for, because viewers already know. However, I have been involved in more than one political discussion in which I would reference a New York Times or other newspaper story to support my claims, only to have it decried as being lies fabricated by the liberal media. Now, while I know that yes, the Old Grey Lady has a left-leaning agenda, I have enough faith that it does not compromise the professional integrity or ethics of the reporting staff. In fact, much integrity has been sacrificed in the name of objectivity over the last decade or so. There was the admittedly poor work of Judith Miller, the Times, and really most American media during the run-up to the Iraq War. As the fourth estate, they should have been asking questions about the war instead of cheerleading it. Also, reporters sometimes work too hard in an attempt to show "both sides" of an issue like climate change, when in fact one of those sides is composed only of kooks and "scientists" on Exxon's payroll.

     Also, this facade of objectivity and the alleged necessity of it is purely an American concept. In the United Kingdom, newspapers have preset and publicly-known political allegiances. The Guardian leans left, the Times of London is the centrist paper, and The Daily Telegraph is the Tory rag. Everybody knows it, and often your political affiliation is made known to your fellow Tube riders on the way to work every morning by what paper you've got. The British still seem to hold some faith in the capability and truthfulness of their media, even if it's publicly politicized.

     So I guess what I'm saying is that political bias in the media shouldn't be a big deal. It's been around forever, and is still the main modus operandi in most other countries. Those media outlets should just come right out and say who or what they root for. Now what readers and consumers of media in our American democracy should do is assess the quality of the reporting as something wholly independent of that paper, television network, or website's partisan links. I'm certainly not saying that every media outlet has good reporting. They most certainly do not. It might be my own political bias, but my assessment of Fox's reporting is that it's atrocious.


Why They Hate Us, and How They’ve Become Us

http://worldonline.media.clients.ellingtoncms.com/img/blogs/entry_img/2009/Oct/25/citizenjournalism.jpg photo by Moomettesgram, creative commons

The revolution will not be tweeted. At least that’s what we journalists hope.

While the mainstream media were sleeping, complacent with the one-way stream of information that flowed from behind the wizard’s curtain, the Internet awoke. Citizen journalism, through the power of the Internet, easy-to-understand wikis and social networks, has changed the “people formerly known as the audience” into important, information-wielding contributors to what’s happening in our world and how people learn about it.

What was once us-telling-you has now become an all-you-can-tweet buffet of information.

We know you hate us. Some years, journalism tops the list of the least respected careers.

However, the concepts of journalism and the so-called mainstream media have become detached and no longer represent the same thing. Who controls what is news has changed. The New York Times’ idea of what's important is very different than Digg's.

But maybe “professional” journalists and citizen journalists aren’t so different after all. We both have our biases, liberal or conservative, and we lose sight of objectivity. We have our own agendas. We could all stand to be fact-checked. And you’re just as interested in Lindsay Lohan as we are.

So perhaps this whole war of the mainstream media machine against Joe Wikipedia is completely unfounded. Whatta ya say, truce?

—Lauren Keith


Maintaining professionalism an important trait for reporters

Blogging is a very effective tool for reporters, but should be used with caution. I am of the school of thought that believes blogging helps create a more personal link between reader and reporter and has the potential to enhance credibility, but reporters must be weary of their opinion corrupting the facts. While blogs may offer the chance for reporter to become more than simply talking heads, they must remember to stay true to factual reporting and offer a reliable blog for news-seekers to obtain information. With so many blogs and so many people offering opinions and facts, it is difficult to know what is truth and what is just someone typing to hear something rattle. There is a relationship between news providers and their audiences and when offered the opportunity to hear more opinion and voice, it strengthens the bond and allows the audience to view the news provider as a real person.

I checked out a couple staff blogs on the LJWorld site. For the most part, the blogs offer space for story expansion rather than opinion. I particularly enjoyed Mark Fagan's Wheel Genius blog because it offered a personal spin on some transportation issues, whether hard hitting or not. As a news seeker, it is nice to attach some personality to the names I read in the byline every morning. But these are approved blogs found through the company Web site.

A post in Bloggasm (http://bloggasm.com/44-of-newspapers-wouldnt-allow-staff-writers-to-blog-during-free-time-without-prior-approval), a blog by Simon Owens, deals with this very issue: should newspapers allow reporters to keep personal blogs without prior newspaper approval? His research showed that 44 percent of newspapers polled would not allow unapproved blogging by reporting staff. Opinions are important, but the fact of the matter is, as a professional journalist, you must show some amount of professionalism. When you agree to work for a company, you agree that you will not work for a competing company. Is freelance opinion blogging flirting with the competition? Sure, if it takes away from your own credibility as a professional and also from your company.

It's a tricky situation for everyone involved. There is the right to free speech, one very familiar to all journalists, but there is also an expected amount of professionalism involved in having a serious career. Being a positive role model and encouraging the company's business should be a priority (after all, newspaper is a business) and there should be pride in what you do. Is it worth tarnishing the fair and balanced work of reporting the news--a journalistic value-- to simply voice your opinion on a topic? We are all required to take a journalism ethics course as undergraduates. The course culminates in creating our own code of ethics. Mine included core values like equality, loyalty, compassion, honesty and truthfulness--values I try to apply to all aspects of my life, especially my professional life. Reporters should have a personal code of ethics and should apply it to their personal and professional lives. Whether or not personal blogging is explicitly mentioned in a professional contract, a reporter should always ask him or herself if what impact his or her actions has on image. It is important to be what you believe; cliche alert: to practice what you preach.

It is evident that I champion technology and believe that applying its capabilities to better news-gathering is important to the future of news. Blogging falls in that vein. Blogging for reporters is an excellent way to expand on a story or offer a personal take, but maintaining a balance is key. Just as reporters should maintain a balance while reporting, they should maintain a balance while blogging.


All a-Twitter about AMP

Pepsi recently released an iPhone application to promote their Amp energy drink. The application, called "Amp up before you score" allows users to typify a possible female mate and offers "useful" information and pick-up lines to lure the female in. Once users have been successful by employing the information offered in the app, they have the opportunity to share their success stories, or brag, to their friends via twitter, facebook, or email. Using the Amp name, of course. New age target marketing at it's finest. This article on mashable by Adam Ostrow (http://mashable.com/2009/10/12/amp-before-you-score/) discusses the app and starts a conversation with readers about whether this application and marketing by Pepsi is alienating to female Pepsi fans. But what is really interesting about this case is how successful the advertising campaign is.

Personally, I think the application is excellent marketing. A good friend of mine, who had found out about the application because it was a trending topic on twitter, posted a link to the above article on my facebook wall with the tag "hahahahaha" so I read the article and I installed the application on my iPhone. It was free and I wanted to see for myself what all the hubbub was about. I laughed for half an hour. Honestly, the only part that really got me even remotely riled up was the fact that you could keep a list of girls and share your successes like the girls are trophies. But there was a lot of truth in the stereotypes. The app is meant to be entertaining and serve as an advertising vessel, not a legitimate dating tool. After reading a lot of negative feedback on both the comments section of the article and twitter, I thought I would ask people close to me what they thought about the app and its negative suggestions. Oddly, many of the men I asked were more appalled than the women. But everyone noted that it was so ridiculous that it was impossible for anyone to take seriously. Yes, some of the stereotypes are offensive but someone who takes it seriously is missing the point of the advertising.

Other comments said that if the advertisers were catering to a female audience or provided a female version of a similar sexist theme, no one would be upset. Well, iPhone has similar applications that cater to a more female audience. This article on ABCNews (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/AheadoftheCurve/iphone-app-puts-sleaze-detector-pocket/story?id=8653776) discusses the application. Is it on the same level as the AMP Up Before You Score app? It certainly has a more serious theme and seems to imply a similarly, misanthropic, if not misandristic, nuance. But users aren't demanding Sleaze Detector be recalled.

Twitter's role in all of this was intrinsic to the advertising plan. Pepsi launched the controversial advertising application, AMP became a trending topic so Pepsi apologized via tweet (http://mashable.com/2009/10/12/pepsi-and-amp-app/) and suggested consumers provide feedback. And here we are, discussing AMP energy drink. Successful marketing? Absolutley. Using social networking Web sites for extra promotional emphasis. Flawless. The power of twitter never ceases to amaze me.


In blogging we trust

With public trust in the news media declining http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/14/business/media/14survey.html?_r=2, could blogging reporters help to rebuild bridges?

When done well, I say yes. A good blog lets a reader know more about the reporter, allows the reporter to have more interaction with the readership and can bring fresh angles to reports. These can be steps in building trust between reporter and reader.
While perusing several news outlets’ blogs, I noticed a few key points that not only make for a good blog, and also can help build the reader/reporter trust.

-Clear mission.
One blog I’m particularly impressed with is Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” for the Atlantic Journal Constitution. http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/ It’s all about education, with an Atlanta focus. Surely Downey has thoughts on other subjects, but you won’t find them in her blog. A focus let’s readers know what to expect and ensures they aren’t wasting their time by perusing just hoping to find something of note and interest. It helps focus your audience as well. The better you know your audience, the better information you can provide, the better information you provide, the more you become a trusted source of information.
In my opinion, deciding the focus/mission of a blog should be a group decision between the reporter, the newspaper editor and the online editor. This group should know the reporter’s strengths, what the online community will want, and how the blog will fit into the larger mission of the newspaper.

  • Post regularly.
    No brainer: Posting regularly signals to readers that the blog and their readership are important. There’s nothing worse than seeing a blog that’s been stagnant for weeks. Well, perhaps equally as bad is seeing a bunch of postings that are there just for the sake of putting something up.
    Have a regular posting schedule, maybe it’s once a day, every other day, Monday mornings. It depends on the blog. Posting every day doesn’t make sense for every blog. If it’s a blog about the hometown football team, posting every day may be a stretch and make for less than news-worthy posting, which is a time waste for readers. Keep to a posting schedule and supplement and other issues arise.

  • Respond to user comments.
    This shows it’s a two-way street, that reporters want the readership to be part of the discussion. If issues are big enough, Downey has used reader comments as a jumping off point for a new post/report. http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2009/10/12/adderall-on-campus-response-from-legit-user-at-tech/ Also, nearly all of her postings end with questions and encouragement to get a discussion going.

  • Keeps it local.
    It’s clear from Downey’s blog she’s on top of local education issues. Posts range from simple posting of events her readership might want to know about to local issues. It’s also clear that these are issues she cares about, not just what she’s assigned.

  • Look beyond the local and relate it back.
    Downey keeps her readership informed of other cities’ educational issues, and relates them back to Atlanta. http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2009/09/26/why-we-cant-count-dropouts-or-much-else-in-georgia/

  • Blend reporting and opinion With more opinion, readers get to understand where the author is coming from on issues. For me, much of becoming a reader of a certain blog is like becoming a reader of a film or book critic. You get to know the blogger well enough that you can gauge where his/her opinions will fall along a spectrum in comparison to your own.
    I would imagine this is a tricky line for most journalists. We’re trained to keep ourselves out of the news. But blogging offers a new medium, where personal opinion is appropriate in a way it is not in traditional reporting.
    Take her posting on a boy who wanted to wear a dress to school. http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2009/10/07/no-need-to-dress-down-boy-for-his-feminine-attire/. She lays out her opinion, supported it and encouraged discussion.
    Her tone is good – she doesn’t apologize for her opinion, but she’s encouraging a discussion.
    Downey also shares a bit about herself. For example in this post about a Tufts university policy http://blogs.ajc.com/get-schooled-blog/2009/09/30/no-sex-tonight-my-roommate-is-trying-to-study/ she mentions the college experience in relation to her own and to her children’s.
    the majority of her posts are not focused on her opinion. Most give insight to her viewpoint, but are not saturated with her own personal beliefs. She provides a good mix of fact, others’ opinions and her own thoughts.

  • Ethical standards for journalism and ethical standards for journalists who blog.
    For me, the ethics of blogging should be the same as reporting. Sources should get the same scrutiny. Facts should get the same checks. Just because the tone of a blog may be more conversational, doesn’t mean reporting becomes more lax. If readers can’t trust your blog to be a source of information with integrity, they certainly can’t be expected to give your reporting off the blog any higher regard.

  • Editing is part of reporting. It’s part of blogging too. Blogs deserve an editorial eye, just like any other piece of reporting. In a perfect world, a newspaper that has a significant number of blogs would have a devoted staff member as the blog editor. This person should have blogging and Web writing experience as well as an understanding of the integrity and ethics of reporting.
    Newspaper and online editors also need to realize that maybe not every reporter needs or should have a blog, or maybe the blog takes the reporting in a new direction. Maybe a feature writer blogs specifically about green topics, while his or her print reporting covers a wider array of subjects. It should be recognized that blogging, like all forms of writing has its own sets of challenges. Just like not every reporter goes on to write opinion, or long-form investigative pieces, not every reporter is meant to be a blogger. Some reporters may need more time, training and feedback before becoming effective bloggers. Blogs should not just be a recap of reports in the paper. If a reporter’s blog isn’t giving a new angle, it’s a waste of cyber space and does more harm than good.

Bringing blogging into a reporter’s repertoire can be an effective addition. But just like every part of a journalists job it takes dedication, cultivation of a certain skill set, ethics and good editors behind each posting.

And I don’t think blogs should just be for the reporters. In my opinion, an editor or ombudsperson blog http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ombudsman-blog/ could be a great trust builder too – responding to reader concerns, explaining what goes into tough decisions and just offering a window into the day to day of the newspaper business.


Blogging: handle with care

Delivering the news in the most informative and fair way possible, free from biases; that is a basic job description for a reporter. But just because we mustn't voice our own opinions in our work does not mean they don't exist.

Reporters may work for the media machine, but they are not machines themselves. They are real people who sleep and eat and have their own opinions.

I am in favor of reporter blogs and twitter feeds, or any preferred method of online communication, so long as the writing demonstrates that the author treats the freedom outside the newsroom with the same amount of respect as the work inside the newsroom. But I can't imagine having to cover a story on something I am passionate about and never having the chance to express it. Hence, the blog.

But as I said, just because the restraints of the newsroom are loosened on the Internet does not mean there are no rules.

For starters, if a journalist wants to maintain a personal blog that is not associated with his news organization, that is completely up to him and he has every right to do so. However, if a reporter maintains a blog through his news organization's Web site or under the persona of an employee of that organization, he should be willing to let an editor approve of his postings. Either way, I encourage the practice as a way to voice personal opinion in a professional manner and improve journalistic skill away from the office.

An example of this is Alan Mutter's blog, "Reflections of a Newsosaur." I stumbled upon it one day and found that he discusses relevant media issues with all the professionalism of an official story, but also with much more voice and humor. http://newsosaur.blogspot.com/

Twitter should be handles with even more caution. Its potential to become dangerous is even higher than typical blogging because, with a limit of 140 characters, it is a rapid-fire weapon. Therefore, journalists should be sure to observe one simple rule: think before you tweet. I work in a restaurant, and sometimes the servers forget to ring in customers' orders or they enter them incorrectly, and mayhem often ensues. So my manager asked us to ask ourselves one simple questions before hitting the send button on that computer screen: "Am I about to do something really stupid?" Tweeters, take heed. Because your stupid mistake will probably not be easily fixed with a free dessert.

A few more simple things to keep in mind when writing online:

  1. Strict style guidelines are not necessary, so you may give your AP Stylebook a rest and even err on the side of creativity instead of conciseness in your writing.

  2. What you write online has the potential to reach a vastly greater audience than print news, whether it does or not. Take into consideration just who might have access to your work before you publish it.

  3. If you are trying to be ironic, sarcastic or funny in some way, make sure you have the skills to pull it off. You don't want a harmless joke being misconstrued by an angry mob in your comments section.

  4. Be respectful. If your opinion about something or someone is disapproving, be honest, not hateful.

  5. In the event that you do screw up, be willing to laugh at yourself and take responsibility. Matt Pressman humorously evaluates media stereotypes, even the ones that we truly need to work on, in his article "A Media Guy Asks: Why Do They Hate Us?" which I also cited in a previous post.



Stalker Networking Sites

Social networking sites seem to be in the midst of constant controversy for one reason or another, be it privacy, content, frequency of use, etc. This is evident just from scanning the topics of blog posts in the Student Journalists group. And with the recent on-campus rape at KU (http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/sep...) and the warning that the serial rapist strikes during school breaks (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,559880,00.html) as fall break draws near, I have to wonder: how strong is the correlation between the use of a social networking site like Facebook, Twitter or MySpace, and the likelihood of becoming the victim of a sex crime?

When I was in high school, a complete stranger messaged a friend of mine on the internet and convinced her to meet with him. He did not rape or otherwise assault her, and they actually dated for a few months, but he was not a good guy. He lied about all kinds of things, including his age, and harassed her family with phone calls in the middle of the night. She finally came to her senses.

A girl in the UK was raped last August by two men she knew only from Facebook chat. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1175512/Teenagers-raped-girl-met-Facebook-jailed-years.html) The article says the girl did not arrange to meet with the men the night of the crime, but they found her and raped her in the street.

I'm not saying that all members of social networking sites are in imminent danger, as I myself have a Facebook page, along with just about everyone else on the planet. And I'm not saying the victims should be blamed for the crimes committed against them because they were unwise in their use of the Internet. But I do want to reinforce what we've all heard one thousand times before but often ignore, that the Internet is not a safe place and we have to be careful about the kinds of information we share. For instance, don't broadcast your every activity via your Facebook status or Twitter feed; I'm terrible with directions and even I could find you.

We have also heard that perpetrators of sex crimes often know their victims and aren't who you would expect. And what better to way to get to know your victim than to frequent her Web page and learn everything about her, often without her knowledge?

Chris Hansen's To Catch A Predator on MSNBC has apprehended countless online predators primed to make their move. But how many other are out there who have not been caught? For all I know, the serial rapist could have a Twitter account.

So whether or not the Internet is the number one place to unite sex offenders with their victims, it happens, and if even one life can be spared, it is worth it.


Blogging a useful tool if used correctly

Before I started writing blog entries, I used to think that blogging was rarely useful in modern society and should not be used by newspapers of TV stations. I thought blogging was a form of expression that should not be used by professional media and did not really see the use of reporters writing blog postings. However, after my experience with this blog, I have started to see the positive effects that good blog entries could have on the media.

One example of a blog that I think could be very beneficial is Jesse Newell's blog on ljworld.com. http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/newel... In his blog entry titled "KU football's top 10 surprise players," Newell takes a look at the football players he thinks have unexpectedly contributed the most to the team. He includes pictures in his entry and it really comes across as a nice sports column in the form of a blog.

Blogs such as the one written by Jesse Newell are beneficial to newspapers in today's society. They give the readers more information about their favorite teams or topics and provide added insight into the beats that the reporters cover. In this case, Newell provides more analysis of the Kansas Jayhawks that Lawrence fans can read by looking at his blog entries. I think that blogs that do this are perfectly acceptable when used by media. However, newspapers should never allow blogs to become the main source of context or opinion. They should stay true to their product and make sure to use blogs only to enhance their publications.

Blogs can be a valuable tool for newspaper or TV reporters to use, but only if they use them in the right way. They should always remain separate from the actual publication and should never become the primary source of information. One particular article I read illustrates how one newspaper is trying to combine blogs with the printed publication and how the author thinks this will not really work out for the publication. http://www.usnews.com/money/blogs/fresh-greens/2009/01/27/the-printed-blog-newspaper-really.html In the last paragraph of this article, which is titled "The Printed Blog Newspaper: Really?" the author sums up his points with the line "let blogs be blogs." I agree. Media should let blogs supplement their regular publications, instead of trying to combine the two forms of communication.

Newspapers and TV stations should set guidelines for how blogs should be used and adhere to their standards. I think an editorial system should be in place that ensures that blog postings are read by another staff member before they are posted. No blog entries should be posted unless they have been proofed at least once to ensure that facts are accurate and that the entry could not create major problems for the publication.

Like most forms of communication, blogs can be successful and useful for everyday media. To do this, guidelines need to be followed to ensure that readers have a consistent, accurate source of information to count on in addition to the traditional products. Blogging has been a valuable experience for me during the last few weeks. I now have a better appreciation of how they can have positive effects on media if used in a responsible manner. They provide a way for readers to get even closer to the reporters that they follow, and this allows readers to better connect with publications.


When blogs can be used against you

Blogging is a tool that can be useful to writers in the media. It provides an outlet to express opinion, personal details and even humor.

But what happens when readers just don’t get the joke? When topics become too controversial or ethically questionable? When can a blog be used against you?

While it is true that blogging can get reporters into trouble for various reasons, I think the benefits outweigh the possible negative effects.

Reporters and writers usually write the most engaging blogs out there. People who have the talent should put it to use.

On LJWorld.com, Culture Crumbs is an example of a blog that has more benefits than liabilities. The topic, Project Runway/Top Chef, is lighthearted, the writing is witty and downright hilarious. The blog is arguably more entertaining than the TV shows themselves. It enhances the standing of the reporter, Sarah Henning, and adds to her credibility as a humorist in her own right.

Blogs shouldn’t be treated with the flippancy of, say, a personal journal or even a Facebook page. They are available to the world on the Internet.

The New Atlantis story, “Blogs Gone Bad,” goes in depth explaining real-world consequences that can result from blogs. In summary: Professionals have been and will continue to be fired because of content posted on blogs.

For media writers, whether a blog has to be approved by an editor or not, another pair of eyes to look over a blog before it's posted is always a good thing.

A few ways blogging can get you in trouble:

  1. Writing about the workplace.

  2. Writing about something you wouldn’t bring up in person

  3. Naming names (personal defamation)

  4. Writing about personal experiences of a controversial nature

  5. Writing something that can be easily misunderstood (being ironic)

Scott Karp says in his Blog, Publishing 2.0: The (r)Evolution of Media, that every newspaper journalist should start a personal blog and a blog for their publication.

He says, “There’s no value for journalists in starting a blog with anything other than full transparency and disclosure, and ideally with the support of their news organizations—this may be a challenging path, but it’s something the news business has to confront.”

He thinks blogging is a good idea and suggests journalists get support of their news organization before starting a personal blog. By getting permission first, it could prevent consequences down the line.

The main reasons Karp thinks journalists should blog:

  1. To learn how to use the technologies that are transforming media

  2. To create an online resume that shows you can do new media

  3. To network within a new form of media

What about the ethics and rules of blogging?

The fact is, “There are no rules out there in the blogosphere.” Karp says there are both users and abusers in the blogging world. But is this the fault of the medium itself?

Just like any other form of the media, there will be people who abuse it. This is not the fault of the medium, It’s the fault of the abusers.

The great thing about blogging is the freedom and creativity that it allows. Restrictions and rules are not needed. Let the people decide how they want to use blogs.

In the end, there will be some who have no sense of blogging responsibly and others who do. This is how it should be––Let no rules stifle the voices of bloggers that use the medium, whatever the product may be.


“Culture Crumbs”, LJWorld staff blog: http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/cultu...

“Blogs Gone Bad”, The New Atlantis: http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/blogs-gone-bad

“Every Newspaper Journalist Should Start a Blog”, Publishing 2.0 http://publishing2.com/2007/05/22/every-newspaper-journalist-should-start-a-blog/

“Users and Abusers of Online Publishing”, Publishing 2.0 http://publishing2.com/2007/05/07/users-and-abusers-of-online-publishing/


Bearing witness in the twitter age

"To be a journalist is to bear witness. The rest is no more than ornamentation. To bear witness means being there--and that's not free. No search engine gives you the smell of a crime, the tremor in the air, the eyes that smolder, or the cadence of a scream."

Roger Cohen penned these words in response to Twitter as a journalistic tool. His column in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/opinion/10iht-edcohen.html) he discusses bearing witness and the impossibility of bearing witness through social media.

Bearing witness is to carry on a legacy. What immediately comes to mind are the books Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B DuBois and All But My Life by Gerda Weiss Klein--books we must read in Western civilization class to carry on a legacy, to bear witness to the events, the oppression, the crimes--the smolder and screams echoing from the pages and become alive in our minds. If we can bear witness from the pages of books, why can't we bear witness from youtube videos and tweets? It's a new kind of bearing witness. Some of the senses are removed but you're still in the heat of the recorded moment as it unravels, linked to visual images--whether still or video, and offered real emotion and opinion from those who are there or also following the event from afar. (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2009-09-22-social-networking-real-time-web_N.htm?csp=usat.me) Through the immediacy of social media, you can still experience the event through twitter, still bear witness to the event in an atypical way.

I argue that twitter is a new brand of journalism-- a reduced, crack cocaine type of reporting. It is incomplete, raw, cheap and dirty--but journalism, yes.

A couple of fluffy personal examples: every Saturday, I have to work, so I miss the football game. It's terrible, I know. So I keep updated on the game regularly by following what my friends and local news organizations have to say on Twitter. I would say it feels like I'm at the game. I hear about each successful play, the man in front of my friend who spilled contraband beer on her shoes, the guy in the student section a couple rows down who punched another student, the halftime show...the list goes on. I can practically smell the stale popcorn.

When the fights broke out on campus between the KU football and basketball teams, I heard about it first on twitter only a few minutes after it happened from people who were there. The tweets were just as accurate, just as meaningful, as the articles in the paper the next day. In fact, it was easier to understand the outrage and confusion of the community from the tweets than from the articles.

Even further removed example: I follow John Mayer on twitter and have been working on a project for a journalism class that involves documenting mentions in the media of a celebrity. Often, Mayer tweets about his up-coming album and the process. It has been interesting to follow the artist process and experience the album with Mayer (and a million of his closest twitter friends). Now, I understand this example is a little stretched, but it still serves as evidence that twitter allows users to bear witness to events without physical involvement.

Ultimately, seeing is the purest form of bearing witness--of being a journalist and living the experience to share with others--but technology allows us to come so close to being there, it is impossible to say that the only form of bearing witness is seeing.


Twitter vs journalism

Roger Cohen is all atwitter about Twitter, citizen journalists and traditional journalists. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/opinion/10iht-edcohen.html

To me, he contradicts himself. He says journalists are there to bear witness, but then he talks about the true practice of journalism – “…journalism is distillation…an organizing intelligence, an organizing sensibility. It depends on form…” That seems little more than just bearing witness. And I don’t think anyone ever attributed that type of form to twitter, texts and cell phone pictures.

He specifically spoke to the protests in Iran, events that happened after much of the traditional media was jailed or forced to leave the country. It is abhorrent that they were not there to do the job of distillation, but thank goodness for the protestors with cell phone videos. The iconic image of the protest – Neda Agha-Soltan – came from a cell phone video. (This is VERY graphic, please use discretion before viewing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OjQxq5... journalists had been there, would one of them been there with a video camera?

And even if journalists had been there, I would only give weight to reports that included the voices of non-journalists, the protestors in the thick of things. Theirs are the witnesses I want to be bore. I just want trusted journalists to distill it for me. I don’t want their witness.

And trusted journalists have several things Twitterers do not. Ethics (perhaps like the ones laid out by SP http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.aspJ), editors, years of experiences, institutional memory, training (academic or on-the-job).

I’m grateful for all this information that came out of Iran thanks to people on the ground. I’m also grateful for all the journalists who made sense of it.

And in my mind, the job of a good journalist will never be eclipsed by twitters, cell phone photos or texts.


Congress holds hearing on state of newpaper industy

Last Thursday the Joint-Economic Committee heard testimony about an industry that is facing tough times and proposed legislation could help revitalize it. And which sinking ship was the subject of this hearing?


To be sure, no newspapers are hitting up Uncle Sam for cash. (Nor was this hearing the first this year to try to tackle problems of the newspaper industry http://commerce.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_ID=7f8df1a5-5504-4f4c-ba34-ba3dc3955c61)

But there is some proposed legislation that would give certain papers 501c(3) status, making them tax-exempt non-profit entities.

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney chaired Thursday’s hearing about the state of newspapers (http://jec.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.HearingsCalendar&ContentRecord_id=ce03ce4d-5056-8059-76f2-8b02fccb18e3). The publisher of the Washington Informer, the CEO of Newspaper Association of America, a Princeton professor and the Director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism all testified.

Everyone mentioned the old news that newspapers are suffering from the lack of advertising revenue and things like craigslist are taking away from the once tried and true money stream of newspaper classifieds.

Denise Rolark Barnes of the Washington Informer urged for broader language in her testimony. The Informer focuses on African American audience and hopes legislation would expand to include weeklies and not use the term “general circulation” because that could cause many minority-focused papers to be excluded.

John F. Sturm, President CEO of Newspaper Association of America reminded the panel that newspapers are not looking for money. His testimony touched on a few non-newspaper specific pieces of legislation that assist business in general and could help many newspapers get out of tight spots for the time being. In regards to the news revitalization act, he said the nonprofit model could work for some. He also said papers must be more vigilant and have made steps to their guard content better against aggregators who are making a profit off newspapers’ work.

Dr. Paul Starr, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton Universiy, gave a brief history lesson of the U.S government’s relationship with the press as it is the only industry guaranteed a right to practice under the U.S. constitution. Though he didn’t suggest the government should put checks in newspapers’ stockings this Christmas, he did mention that in the past the government has given a little help to papers, citing a time when the US subsidized the mailing of newspapers between editors. He also spoke to the success of the public broadcast model and that the more expansive models in Europe have actually increased competition among for-profit models. He advocated for the creation of new category of non-profit journalistic organizations. And while he doubted there was a serious threat to national news coverage, he expressed concern over the waning of local coverage, mentioning the steep decrease in statehouse reporters.

Tom Rosenstiel, Director of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, offered little insight other than newspapers promote democracy, ad revenue is down, and something new needs to be done. Maybe the nonprofit could work, maybe not.

Not everyone is excited about some of these ideas. Slate blogger urged that the bill to help some papers be granted non-profit status be “strong armed by Obama.” http://www.slate.com/id/2229092/pagenum/all/. The opinions are well-supported, but the urgency may not be as great. The bill has sat in committee with no new action since it was proposed in March. You can keep track of any new progress here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d111:s.00673: