Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Newspapers, blogging and the Internet

I started this blog more than 5 years ago as a class project. I kept up with it pretty well over that year, then had a three-year hiatus. I always thought it was a good idea, I just didn't know how to work it in with my life. I'm trying to be inspired again, so I'm reposting the very first post from February 2008. Sorry for the crappy formatting. I have to reteach myself how this works.

I was 10 years old the first time I worked for a newspaper. I woke up one morning and decided that I wanted to start a newspaper for my fourth grade class. I convinced my classmates to write various features, which I edited, typed up on my parents' PC (running Windows 3.1 and a horrible word processing program) and pasted onto printer paper before Xeroxing the pages and handing them out to my classmates. We were very proud of the final product, which the class decided to call "What's Up?"

At the time, I didn't realize that I would later realize that I was born to spend the rest of my life working in the media. I certainly didn't anticipate how computers, and later the Internet, would change the newspaper industry. Back then, my 10-year-old self thought the clip art I found on the now-ancient computer that still sits in my parents' church office was cutting-edge technology. Today, I am sitting on my couch accessing The Washington Post over a wireless Internet connection on a computer that would have fit inside the Lisa Frank Trapper Keeper in which I carried the issues of "What's Up"

Although I've blogged for years — I began after I finished my undergraduate education because I missed writing — the idea of blogging as an alternative media form or even the idea of newspapers online bothers me a bit. Too often these days, real, balanced journalism is replaced by bloggers on one side or another of a debate. This is not always bad — I read a few myself — but when people start to believe that the opinions of biased bloggers equates to a "fair and balanced" version of the truth it becomes detrimental to what journalists should be attempting to accomplish. I've used blogs for personal posts — recent entries include a piece on why I love Oregon, a story about a weird girl I met on the Amtrak train and photos of my parents' new puppy. It's certainly a nice way to kill a few minutes and feel connected to the few friends who read the blog. I've also used blogs to share my opinions, always linked to newspaper stories, and while I stand by the things I wrote, I would always want readers to read the newspapers and form their own opinions rather than think that what I wrote was fact. ...

This blog is a class project, and while I seem to be more familiar with blogging than others in my class, I hope I can use it on my resume someday. It's certainly a medium that budding journalists need to be familiar with, and I do appreciate the use of blogs associated with actual newspapers or news services as a tool to enhance coverage and explain the news in a way that is still fair and accurate but can be more casual than the main coverage. I expect to use this blog to write about the experience of being a new journalist entering the field at a time when technology is leading to rapid and dramatic changes in the field.

I have a love/hate relationship with this. I love computer assisted reporting and all the positive ways computers and the Internet enhance what we do, but I'm scared about what's happening in the industry right now, and the idea of not having an actual paper to spread out in front of me every morning makes me a little sad.

I spend hours a day on the Internet. I scan multiple news sites a day and occasionally read the news blogs. But as long as a physical paper exists, I'll always subscribe. For one thing, I'm afraid that too much time attempting to read small print online with damage my eyesight, but more than that, I enjoy the tactile experience of reading a real paper. Having to click on headlines and work my way through several Web pages to read the entire day's edition is my least favorite way to get the news. I like to spread my New York Times out on the couch, read all the stories on the front page and their jumps, and then work my way backwards through the rest of the section. I like the entire story, complete with photos and headline, to be out in front of me so I can quickly scan the first few graphs and decide what to read. I like the way the ink looks on the page and the way the paper smells. I like that I can fold the paper under my arm and carry it around to pull out on the bus or in the few minutes before class starts. I like tearing the crossword out of the arts section and doing it in pen throughout the day. No technology will ever replace this experience for me.

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Back on the horse

Lately I've really been feeling that I"m missing out on something by not writing. I am going to attempt to revive this blog (I say this late at night as my ambien starts to kick in. It might not take, but I'm pretty determined.) This is a short week for me because of one of the realities of the newspaper industry these days -- the furlough. We have to take a full work week off between this month and the end of the fiscal quarter. Ty always tries to take the first two days of the NCAA basketball tournament off and this year, I'm taking the same time to have the time together. So we'll spend part of the weekend here and part with friends in Ellensburg, but quite a lot of basketball will be watched. The furlough is such a part of life these days that instead of being stressed out about losing the money (although we are), it's just nice to have some time off. That's not to say we WANT to be furloughed -- so if for some reason one of my bosses sees this, furlough is not good. OK. This was just a quick inaugural post, mostly to make sure the blog still existed. But here's hoping I'll keep my promise to myself.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Back in the game

It's been a busy two years. Short update: I've been working as a newspaper copy editor since 2008, but am now temporarily leaving the industry. I hadn't posted in a while because I wasn't sure what the newspapers' policies on blogging were, but now that my future is a tad uncertain, I'm definitely interested in using this blog as an outlet. I'm hoping to do some freelance writing and may post some of that here.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Random stories of the day

I found a few interesting stories today that I thought I'd share. The first, from the American Journalism Review, discusses whether Twitter is just the latest techno-fad or can be used as a serious reporting tool.

The article does discuss the fact that may "tweets" are boring and/or useless (I'll admit that mine aren't always interesting); however, it does discuss the many ways in which the micro-blogging site can help reporters.

While I'm sick of the trend of older TV journalists (By that I mean those at least the baby boomer age) "discovering" Twitter and getting all excited about learning the new-fangled technology, I certainly appreciate the possible applications of Twitter as a reporting tool. The first photos of the crash of a plane into the Hudson were posted to Twitter, after all. Is most of the stuff on Twitter pretty useless? Probably. Is it depressing that more people follow Ashton Kutcher than CNN? Absolutely. CAN it be used as a reporting tool (both to find sources and to disseminate information) by journalists who know what they're doing and know the difference between useful information/links and crap? Definitely.

This article I found today has some reaction to the story I posted a few days ago about that claimed the New York Times had tips about Watergate before the Washington Post but dropped the ball on the story. I'm not familiar with the site the story is on, but it's interesting.

• This story is several days old, but I'm going to post it anyway because it is another example in the debate over who qualifies as a journalist (and when). An unnamed student at San Francisco State University who was present on the scene of a murder refused to talk to police, claiming that journalism shield laws protect him because he was there as part of a photojournalism project for school.

It is a bit unclear whether the SFSU student was with the victim, who was a subject of the project chronicling life in the community, or if the student just happened upon the scene of the crime. But he knew the victim and called police and the victim's family after the murder. An LA Times column says police did confiscate the student's photographs and points out that courts have made it clear that journalism students are covered under shield laws. The student's lawyer, who is quoted in the LA Times column, says there is no evidence the student saw the murder happen. I am of the opinion that student journalists should have the same protection under shield laws as professionals, but the question of who should be protected and under what circumstances is an interesting one in an age where anyone can start a blog, take photos and claim to be a journalist.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Tough times

There's not much going on here. It's a tough time to be looking for work in journalism, particularly in newspapers. It seems that every time I consider giving up and looking to work for a different medium, something reminds me how exciting it can be to work at a newspaper.

A story in today's New York Times reports that during the Watergate scandal, the director of the FBI allegedly divulged sensitive information to a NYT reporter -- including the involvement of Attorney General John Mitchell as well as White House involvement -- before the Washington Post got the story.

The reporter in question had quit the paper and was leaving to attend law school but went back to the office and told an editor what he had heard. The editor took notes and recorded the conversation. But as we know, the Washington Post got the story first — from Mark Felt, then the number two man at the FBI ("Deep Throat") — and the Times never got the story.

It's rare that we hear about the story the paper didn't get, so it's interesting to look back on now. But what this does for me is remind me of what journalism is all about.

Watergate started out as a cops beat story. What seemed like just a break-in, only interesting because it happened to be at the Democratic headquarters, took down a president because a reporter (who happened to be friends with the number two man at the FBI) followed his instincts and looked into who the burglars were. The question today is, if that NYT editor had followed up on his reporter's tip all those years ago, how would the story be different?

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