Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Journalism Next" Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of Journalism Next covers the crucial topic of information overload.

Few other causes of anxiety are more germane to the digital age; with Facebook and Twitter providing us endless insight into the mundane inanities of everyone's lives, with YouTube and Flickr and Tumblr broadcasting endless images our way, and with a formidable array of unfiltered blogs proliferating in the vast data pool that is the Internet, it's easy to get lost.

Briggs offers several important tips for turning the tidal wave of information we all face into a manageable stream:

  • Organize your e-mail: Any reporter (or college student) is bound to have an e-mail inbox filled to bursting with Facebook notifications, personal messages, academic deadlines, potential leads--at least in the case of the reporters--and, naturally, spam. Going through your e-mail on a regular basis can help reduce the buildup, and not every e-mail needs to be read in full. Many e-mail services (including MasonLive, the official e-mail provider for George Mason, now provide categorizing features. 
  • Utilize productivity tools: Google calendar has saved a thousand thesis papers. In the online maze there are also plenty of tools to help you stay organized and sane. RSS feeds can filter your news intake, while e-mail alerts can remind you when an important deadline is on the way. 
It's also important to discriminate in your selection of data sources.  The local blogger who lives one street down may be a good source for developments involving the community watch system, but the reality, a reality often lost in the sea of the Internet, is that not everyone is qualified to speak on every topic.

Remember: numbers don't lie. Statistics are a sure way to enhance a hard news story. Without objective data, everything is in a sense anecdotal.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Journalism Next" Chapter 8

Chapter 8 of Journalism Next concerns a topic that is pertinent to any modern newsman: video.

Video has, of course, been an important element of journalism for a long time. Beginning in the 1950s millions of Americans received nightly broadcasts from ABC, CBS, and NBC. The first major conflict to take place in the video era, the Vietnam War, was described as a "living-room conflict" because images of its carnage arrived in American homes every night by way of television.

The action in Vietnam consequently sparked the largest anti-war movement in U.S. history and became deeply unpopular with the public.

In the digital age, the power of television had been democratized and the means of production given to the masses. Video-sharing site YouTube, which launched in 2005, has revolutionized both journalism and video production by allowing any user with a mobile device to upload footage at any time.

Briggs notes that "by mid 2009, YouTube reported that 20 hours of footage was being uploaded...every minute." (Briggs, 209) 

Beyond providing a journalist with a wide-reaching platform, video is more attractive to potential consumers of journalism. A video embedded in an online article can convey essential information in an easy way to a large audience.

And video journalism is no longer the expensive hindrance it once was: the Flip Cam from Cisco retails for $130 and is slightly larger than a classic iPod. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Journalism Next" Chapter 10

Chapter 10 of Journalism Next aims to demonstrate the art of "managing news as a conversation."

News has always been a topic for discussion, but it is only since the advent of the Internet, blogging, and comment boards that news has become a genuine conversation wherein the audience, who once had no choice but to mutely receive news from an elite coterie of reporters, now actively influence not only what is covered but how it is reported on.

Users have come to expect that they will have a voice in their news, and that isn't changing. 

This development has several implications for journalists:
  • Gauging Public Reaction: The public's response to a news story can now be assessed immediately. Readers may give their opinion as to the event that has occurred, complement on the reporter's skill in handling the item, or even give their thoughts on whether the story was worthy of coverage at all.
  • Obtaining leads: Particularly where local journalism is concerned, readers can prove to be not only an audience but a valuable source of information. Social networking sites like Twitter can be a good source of potential data for a beat. 
  • The Tyranny of Traffic: Not all outgrowths of user-driven journalism are positive. In an environment where news organizations are hypersensitive to page views and comments, worthwhile news stories may be scrapped in favor of those that are more salacious or attention-grabbing. 
Remember to network through social media. If your audience lives on Facebook, then that's where you must reach them. 

Allen calls for smaller government

Senatorial candidate speaks to George Mason students

Former U.S. senator George Allen of Virginia, who is running to recapture the Senate seat he lost to Jim Webb in 2006, addressed a group of George Mason University students on Feb. 15. 

Allen echoed many of the concerns voiced in recent months by conservatives and Tea Party activists concerned with President Obama's healthcare initiative and the ballooning national debt. 

 "Bad, onerous legislation"

Allen directed most of his criticism at the large amount of money being spent by the Congress and expressed a general desire to limit the reach of the federal government. 

“I think more decisions should be made by the people in the states," Allen said. "But the federal government is making so many decisions that affect us, and every vote counts.”

Allen said that deficit spending was a threat to the U.S.'s long-term security. 

“The federal government should not be starting new programs now when there’s so much debt," Allen said. "The fact that China owns more of our bonds than do Americans is not a good position for us to be in. What the federal government needs to do is get its house in order and operate the way families and businesses do. They have to curtail spending when they don’t have revenues coming in. [The programs being eliminated] may be nice programs, but we can’t afford them.”

Reducing the government's role

Allen had strong words for a federal government that he said had "exceeded its powers" by implementing "initiative-sapping measures."

The former senator spoke out against pork-barrel spending, a problem that he said could be resolved by giving the president a line-item veto by way of an amendment to the Constitution.

"That way, even a Supreme Court justice could understand it," Allen quipped.

"Cock-eyed energy policy"

Allen lambasted the "sanctimonious social engineers in Washington" who he said viewed the U.S.'s reserves of coal, natural gas, and shale oil as "a curse rather than the blessing they are."

The former senator said that the U.S.'s energy dependence on other countries amounted to a national security risk.

He also alleged that the federal government was restricting domestic energy extraction.

“We have a counterproductive, cock-eyed energy policy,” Allen said. "Preventing our country from developing its resources makes no sense. The extraction of coal and natural gas creates American jobs and doesn't involve billions and trillions of dollars going overseas.”

He also slammed proposed carbon dioxide caps. 

"CO2 regulations will cause skyrocketing electricity, food, and fuel costs," he said. "It would be economic unilateral disarmament. China, Brazil, and India are not going to impose those regulations on themselves."

Allen cited the ongoing unrest in the Middle East as one more reason for the United States to invest in domestic energy and said that Americans could learn from the example of France.
"The French get 70 percent of their energy from nuclear production, and they do it much more safely and efficiently than we do," Allen elaborated, noting that the French dispose of their nuclear waste through the process of vitrification, or encasement in glass. "I know darned well that if the French can do it, so can Americans."

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Journalism Next" Chapter 7

The goal of Chapter 7 is to show students about "making audio journalism visible."

Briggs offers compelling analysis of the current multimedia climate and advises prospective reporters on ways to utilize non-traditional media elements as a way of enhancing their storytelling ability and thus their final product:

  • Podcasts:  Podcasts are non-streamed Web productions that are broadcast over the Internet and can be downloaded in MP3 form. Podcasts are the radio shows of the 21st Century; users can save their favorite programs to their iPods and listen to them at will. 
  • Audio slide shows: An audio slide show is a happy medium between video and radio. These Web-broadcast  presentations not only carry a lot of information but are more cost-effective than traditional video journalism. 
Audio journalism is easier to do now than it's ever been; recording equipment is light and affordable, and in some instances can be integrated in your computer.

Editing is made simple with such programs as Windows MovieMaker, which can combine audio samples with pictures in addition to making films.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Journalism Next" Chapter 6

Photography has long been an essential facet of journalism.

In today's world of multimedia reporting, visual storytelling is all the more important.

The right image can illuminate a topic for the reader in a way that a thousand words of text would not have been able to. Particularly now, with attention spans falling and the number of outlets exploding, ensuring that you have visual aids sufficiently striking to attract eyeballs is important.

After all, the value of journalism is measured not by what is said, but by how many people are watching.

Perhaps with enough brightly colored pictures, pandering or misleadingly scandalous headlines, and plug-ins to the newest popular but inherently worthless social media fad, you will be able to momentarily hold the fickle allegiance of a bare segment of the common masses.

At least until CNN posts video of a water-skiing squirrel.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Journalism Next" Chapter 5

Mobile journalism is journalism on the go, facilitated by the critical aid of mobile devices like cell phones.

Briggs gives the example of Nicola Dowling, who was able to take pictures of a celebrity car crash with her cell phone and then e-mail them back to her newspaper before police had even arrived on the scene. Because Dowling was able to communicate share information in a mobile manner, she was a step ahead of traditional news organizations who sent professional photographers to the same site only to find that the authorities were keeping the press out.

The mobile journalist is always on assignment and always ready to report on what is happening around him.