J2150, you will be missed

The end of this semester marks the first time I have ever been sad to leave a journalism class. I can honestly say that I learned a lot over the course of the semester. I went from never having used WordPress or a DSLR, to creating a Web page. I learned how to use different editing programs and how to do this:

Not how to spin fire, just how to take pictures. I think that was one of the only things I didn’t learn in this class.

Just a Student?

Charles Davis mentioned during his presentation on media law that the university has, in the past, attempted to block students’ work from being published. When I heard this, my first thought was, “Why is the university that houses the world’s first school of journalism infringing on the First Amendment rights of its own students?” My second thought was, “I don’t think I’ll be covering anything that controversial while at MU.”

When I go out to do journalism assignments and interview residents of Columbia, I do my best to not step on any toes. People who agree to interviews are gaining nothing; they are just helping me gain experience and complete my projects and articles. I don’t work for a news organization. I don’t have a press pass. To my interview subjects, I am just a random college student prying into their lives.

Although I have the right to publish anything I want, it is not necessarily ethical to publish anything I want. I feel that my status as a student does not allow me to ask tough questions and dig into matters that may be controversial.

However, I also have a problem with this complacency. I fear that I won’t learn about journalism properly if I don’t do it properly during my four years at MU. I don’t want to get too comfortable, because I know it’s unlikely that I will spend my career as a journalist doing glowing profiles on the leaders of non-profits. So here’s my dilemma: as a student of journalism, how far should/can I go in interviews?

David Gilkey, you’re my hero

I know I’m supposed to write my weekly blog post about Monday’s lecture, but I would much rather write about David Gilkey than Lonny Magazine. So that’s what I’ll do.

I want David Gilkey’s life. I am starting my convergence sequence next semester, and my emphasis area is multimedia producing. If I can land a job that allows me to travel, shoot photos and video, record audio and produce slideshows for the Web, I will be overjoyed.

Gilkey’s work is extremely impressive. I hope to eventually achieve at least a fraction of his skill and professionalism. I can’t imagine the courage it took to stay level-headed and shoot phenomenal photos in the middle of gunfire in Afghanistan. His photos from Haiti also provided a haunting account of the earthquake aftermath. There is a particularly disturbing photo of a man walking through rows of exposed corpses. Gilkey showed, again and again, courage and determination in his photography.

I like that Gilkey spoke about juggling all of his multimedia equipment when out in the field. I experienced the same problem when I tried to simultaneously take photos, shoot video and record audio at the Citizen Jane Film Festival. I tried to condense the equipment into the fewest bags possible, but it was still awkward. There is nothing that can be done about that bulky tripod. I thought I was just being awkward and inexperienced lugging all that equipment around, so I was happy to hear that Gilkey runs into the same problem with equipment. It is also very difficult to decide when to switch between the different pieces of equipment. I hope these logistics and decisions become a bit smoother and more intuitive with experience. At the very least, I will become accustomed to making those decisions.

Loeffler Campaigns in the Rain

 

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Greg Loeffler campaigns for MSA president Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, on Lowry Mall in Columbia, Mo.

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A banner marks the spot where Loeffler and Damico campaign to lead MSA Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, on Lowry Mall in Columbia, Mo.

Greg Loeffler braved Tuesday’s rain to campaign for Missouri Students Association president on Lowry Mall.

Elections began Monday, and vice presidential candidate Lauren Damico stood at the ready with an iPad for students who wanted to vote immediately. Loeffler passed out damp flyers with QR codes for tech-savvy voters.

Loeffler believes diversity is the most important issue facing the MU student body.

“Diversity means a lot of things,” Loeffler said.

If elected, Loeffler and Damico plan to advocate for LGBTQ rights and to work with the existing One Mizzou campaign.

 

Infographics

As people’s expectations for the immediacy of information become higher and higher, Infographics will become more and more relevant. Many people don’t want to read long-winded descriptions of statistics or demographics. Glancing over a well-made infographic that demonstrates rich content, inviting visualization and sophisticated execution can convey key information in a fraction of the time it would take to read an article.

Combining Infographics with mobile technology would be, ultimately, the most efficient way to get information. When I envision my ideal way to digest statistical information, I see an interactive graphic on my smart phone. I could simply tap different parts of the graphic and see more information appear. Infographics look great in static form, but the interactive aspect helps readers personalize the information they get and the way they get that information. Hopefully, this will be common by the time I actually get a smart phone.

I like to think about how fun it would be to design an infographic, but I think the real work comes into play when you have to work with numbers. First, you need to find reliable data. I can imagine this might be difficult because 89 percent of statistics are made up. Then, the data needs to be condensed in a way that is relevant and comprehensive. When designing, parts of the graphic need to be drawn to scale in order to accurately represent the data. Just when I thought being a journalist exempted me from math…

Infographics, besides showing statistics, can also provide instructions. This infographic teaches readers how to properly choose and use sunscreen.

This infographic combines statistics to refute the belief that the HPV vaccine is deadly.

“New” mobile technology

Cell phones, and particularly smart phones, have clearly done a lot for journalism. Smart phones are extremely useful for both reporting and consuming news. There are even some news outlets, like Newsy, that exist primarily on phones and tablets.

The technologies that may be possible “in the future” will apparently further revolutionize American journalism. Clyde Bentley mentioned geolocation and augmented reality as two new technologies that will be utilized by news outlets.

Although these technologies may seem brand-new and futuristic, news outlets in the U.S. and other countries are already using them. Süddeutsche Zeitung, which is based in Munich, has already developed augmented reality experiences for smart phones (iPhone and Android) that interact with their print magazine and with the streets of Munich, Berlin and Hamburg. Users just need to get a certain app and hold their phones over the pages of the magazine or in front of a building to see information pop up.

Geolocation is another tool that is already being used, but it has not caught on to the extent that other social media like Facebook and Twitter have. Foursquare is probably the most popular geolocation tool. Users “check in” to locations that they visit, and this information is viewable online or on the Foursquare app. Brian Manzullo discusses the pros and cons of geolocation in journalism. Some newsrooms, such as the Grand Rapids Press, already use geolocation as part of their Web presence. It’s interesting that geolocation has yet to catch on as more of a mainstream technique for news outlets.

Preparing for my convergence sequence

I woke up at 7 a.m. on Oct. 17, 2011, and swore I would never enroll in an 8 a.m. class again. Later that day, I walked into my J2150 lecture just in time to hear that the first class of my convergence sequence starts at 8 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2012. I then accepted that I would be sleep-deprived for the rest of my college career.

That was a bit dramatic. I’m actually very excited to delve into my sequence next semester. I’m also nervous. Amy Simons made J4804 sound like it would be the most difficult class ever. I imagine it must be challenging to alternate weeks of working in newsrooms and turning in major multimedia projects. But I will gladly accept that challenge if it means I am able to do interesting work.

In addition to working on the types of projects I want to be working on, I’m excited to go into my sequence because the people around me will also be excited. I’m sick of sitting in J2150 and hearing complaints from Strat Comm students who insist that the class is a complete bore and waste of time. I want to work with people who are interested in what we’re doing. I feel like that kind of enthusiasm and dedication will make the workload more tolerable.

What I love about 4804 is that I’ll get to work in several newsrooms, rather than slave away in one newsroom all semester. I am especially excited to work at Newsy.

Google+

KOMU’s Sarah Hill demonstrated how Google+ Hangout sessions can be used in a journalistic context. But will Google+ ever catch on? It’s nice to have a speedy, real-time video chat connection to people anywhere in the world, but those people need to have Google+ accounts to participate.

As an aspiring journalist, I should probably be bowing down to Google+ and all of its wonders. Instead, I’m dreading the moment when I will have to create a new account with a new brand of social media. Google+, to me, just represents a new username, a new password, a new tab constantly open in my Internet browser and a new venue in which to obsess over my cyber-popularity. The people I’ve talked to who have heard of Google+ don’t bother to open an account, or they open an account and promptly abandon it.

If journalists want to use Google+ effectively, people besides journalists need to be using Google+. It’s great to get the opinions of other journalists via Google+ Hangouts, but there needs to be more variation in sources and commentators contacted through this social media tool. That’s why Facebook and Twitter are such helpful tools for journalists: they both have millions of active users from every imaginable place and situation. If Google+ can eventually gain this kind of following, it will become much more useful for journalists.

In the meantime, Google+ is not doing so well, and one of Google’s own engineers offers an explanation.

Shine a light on the Beacon’s fan-base

I love the idea of the St. Louis Beacon. It’s a creative concept funded in creative ways. It provides a more in-depth look at the St. Louis region that can’t be found at larger news outlets, like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Beacon does a good amount of community outreach. Their barroom conversations encourage community members to discuss issues facing their neighborhoods and families. The Beacon can use these discussions to find story ideas and to gauge some regional public opinion on different issues. “Beacon and Eggs” is another event that allows people to talk about what’s going on in their areas.

These are all great ideas, but I can’t help wondering about the people who attend these events. Is it often the same people who come back to the events? I can’t imagine that each barroom conversation includes a fresh roster of random individuals. The people who attend these events are probably mostly donors and fans of the Beacon.

I would like to know if the Beacon actively tries to reach out to people of all different classes and ages and, if so, how they do this. What do the participant demographics look like at the Beacon’s barroom conversations? What kind of people and areas does the Beacon get most of its story ideas from?

It would be interesting if the Beacon kept track of this kind of information and presented it on the website. It could serve as a way to inform readers and to encourage readers from less-represented areas to attend events and speak up.

How Süddeutsche Zeitung makes bank

What I found most interesting about Wolfgang Krach’s presentation was his explanation of the way the website works for Süddeutsche Zeitung. Their Web content does not match the print newspaper. There are articles on the website, but there are also teasers that hint at the print copy’s content. This seems like a great strategy for the business realm of journalism.

The New York Times allows people to read 20 articles online, for free, each month. The reader can even click on the front page and read full versions of the front-page articles. This limit on articles is still enough to satisfy some readers. There are plenty of people who read news inconsistently. The Times does not gain revenue from these readers.

With the shaky state of the newspaper industry in the U.S., one would expect newspapers to do everything possible to increase revenue. Free online content that matches the print version strikes me as counterproductive. If newspapers used the Web to entice readers to buy the print version, newspapers could possibly increase revenues. There has been a lot of discussion about establishing paywalls for the use of online news articles, but there is disagreement over the possible methods that could be employed.

For people who want to read the news solely online, but who are willing to pay for full articles, there could be a separate subscription that allows online access to full articles. This would be similar to online research databases and encyclopedias, which allow non-registered users to view a portion of the article, but only registered, paying users have access to the full version.

It’s strange that Süddeutsche Zeitung does not have a full-access online option. From my experience traveling in Germany, people are much more environmentally conscious in Germany than in the U.S. An online subscription option might be more attractive to Germans who don’t want to throw paper away each day.

Although Süddeutsche Zeitung operates in a country with a more favorable attitude toward newspapers than the U.S., the German newspaper’s success is probably partly attributed to the supplementary relationship between their website and print version. Large newspapers in the U.S. should look into adopting that method.

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