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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