Monthly Archives: October 2012

Mobile Journalism Assignment: Newsy

Monday, October 29, 2012 – An outside view of Newsy, a multi-source news service located in Columbia, Mo. (Jennifer Marks/J2150C)

What is Newsy

Located in downtown Columbia, Missouri, Newsy is a multi-source news service that covers trending and global news. This means that Newsy looks for their news from various sources from around the Web including cable news, video news, and blogs.

How does Newsy work?

A Mizzou Journalism grad and one of Newsy’s producers, Madison Mack explains how Newsy gathers its news: “We take a look at the media landscape using a few tools that we have… We look at everything that’s online and we say, ‘okay well here’s what’s happening, Al Jezeera had this to say about the story … we try to bring in an array of perspectives.”

Columbia, Mo., Monday, Oct. 29, 2012. A look inside the Newsy office where several University of Missouri journalism students began working after they graduated. (Jennifer Marks/J2150C)

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Choosing my area of interest …

Since I’ve been in college, there are a couple things that tend to knock the wind out of my sails (pretty short list, silver lining to follow).

1. I’m sort of homesick. The “sort of” part originates from all the lovely stresses associated with being a college student. The homework assignments, projects, and my weekend job at a restaurant keep me very busy. I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t usually have the time to be homesick. From the time I wake up, it’s running here and running there, and by the time the coffee has worn off, I crash. However, there are those rare nights when I can’t sleep. Those are the nights when I can’t escape it: I’m homesick. I miss my family and my parents annoying yippy dog too.

2. I’m broke. I have accepted this as part of college life, and I’m okay with that. I have resigned myself to the fact that I will be sick of spaghetti and jarred tomato sauce by the time I graduate. But until then, I’ll have a good friend named Prego.

That used to be it.

…But thanks to last Monday’s lecture I have a new addition.

3. Last week’s lecture felt a bit like this:

“The next few years of your life at the Journalism school are going to be downright impossible. But, if in some rare off chance, you somehow make it through the gauntlet without raising a white flag; you’ll graduate. And in best case scenario, find a job that pays you diddly-squat! Then, 6 months later, you’ll get student loan bills and so that you can begin paying back the thousands of dollars you’ve borrowed. So, anyway, do you want to major in broadcast or print journalism?”

Teachers from each journalism department spoke at the lecture. They told us what classes will be like in future semesters, and what kind of jobs we can expect to get with various journalism degrees. Now, I’m pretty sure that they meant well. But, despite their intentions, we all trickled out of the auditorium looking like someone just burst our bubble.

At what point did my bubble burst precisely? That’s a tough one. Well, let me take a look at my notes… The assignments: daunting, the internships: dog-eat-dog, the pace: fast and getting faster, the future of journalism: uncertain. Like I said, it’s difficult to pinpoint at what point among the array of great news I started to feel deflated.

As if the fear wasn’t obvious enough, Professor Rice asked some 300 journalism students for a show of hands: “Who here isn’t scared?” I saw one hand raised, presumably belonging to someone who has either more courage or more ignorance than the rest of us. Either way, its been a few days since the lecture. Thankfully, I feel much better. And guess what? I still want to be a journalist. In fact, I want to be a journalist more now than ever before. Probably because I stumbled across this quote:

“Work to become, not to acquire.” – Elbert Hubbard

Despite anyone’s words of encouragement discouragement, I will fight to become what I want to be. I want to be a journalist. If it wasn’t as challenging as it is, I probably would lose interest in it. I believe that everyone should go after a job that they find fulfilling, and in order to achieve that, we need to do something that we love. For me, that is-and always be- journalism.

 

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The role of aesthetics

A University of Exeter (UK) study reveals that infants are born with inherent preferences that give them direction and help them to make sense of their new environment. Newborns were shown images of two kinds of faces side by side: attractive ones and less attractive ones.

The study concluded that newborns spent, on average, 80% of the time looking at the attractive faces, and only 20% of the time looking at the unattractive faces. According to Dr. David Alan Slater, a psychologist at Exeter, “that attractiveness is not simply in the eye of the beholder, it is in the brain of the newborn infant right from the moment of birth and possibly prior to birth.”

So, how does this tie into journalism or the media? Well, it shows us that we are all biologically programmed to be drawn to things that are pleasing to the eye. In fact, this draw toward visual stimulation is something that is rampant in the animal kingdom. For example, take the Riflebird and the extraordinary dance  that it uses to attract a mate.

In advertising, companies use similar tactics to attract consumers. In a funny stand-up comedy routine, comedian David Cross pokes fun at this concept. The beer company Coors Light has created a new beer can. This beer can has a picture of the Rocky Mountains which turns blue when the beer inside is “rocky mountain cold.” Cross pokes fun at the useless novelty of this concept, saying his sense of touch “has worked literally every time.”

But is there more to the story? It seems apparent that the executives at Coors also have the sense of touch, so maybe they invented this new can because they know that consumers, like infants, have a powerful draw to things that are visually attractive. So how long have humans been creating things that are not only functional, but also aesthetically pleasing?

Perhaps this idea is what Kevin Quealy, a graphics editor at the New York Times, had in mind when he spoke to our class about an important principle to remember; he said: “the future has an ancient heart.” This concept ties into what lies ahead for info graphics and journalism as a whole. Quealy said that “we are not necessarily thinking up new things for the first time… but improving upon things that have happened before.”

One of the earliest examples of creating for aesthetic purposes is that of the Lascaux cave paintings in Southern France. Found by archaeologist Marc Azema and French artist Florent Rivere, “…suggested that Paleolithic artists lived as long as 30,000 years ago used animation effects on cave walls…” The artists attention to detail and techniques prove how early civilizations also sought to create beautiful images.

A modern version of these cave drawings would be info-graphics. While both of them strive to inform the viewer, they are also designed to give the viewer pleasure. Subsequently, the information is delivered in an enjoyable way, which brings viewers back again and again.

This info-graphic details the last 50 years of space exploration.

Another example of the role attractiveness plays in delivering information is the 2011 documentary entitled Jiro Dreams of Sushi. The film makers follow 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono and his business in the basement of a Tokyo office building. Whilst Sushi is a favorite food of mine, and Jiro is truly master of his craft, the success of the documentary does not rely solely on the charm of the story. There are many devices employed by the cameramen and editor that make the 90 minute journey into Jiro’s world a pleasure to watch. An array of tight shots and beautifully composed scenes, as demonstrated in this trailer, give testament to the notion that attractiveness plays an important part in retaining viewer attention.

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Writing for the ear

I’ve always been a visual learner. In my life, this has always gone hand in hand with accusations of being a bad listener. Yep, it’s true. I need insane amounts of sleep and/or coffee for my mind to be graced with the virtue of undivided attention. The rare occurrence where I could see myself uttering cliché phrases like:

“I’m hanging on your every word”

or

“what purple dinosaur in the corner?

If you are anything like me (average attention span of ~2 nanoseconds) then you need as much help as you can get when it comes to listening. Not listening for appearance sake, I mean really listening.

Radio programs, podcasts, television news reports, etc. all attempt to write and speak in a way that will help the listeners understand the message. Take for example, a busy mother who is preparing dinner while the 5 o’clock news plays in the background. If the reporters are writing for the ear, the multi-tasking mother should have no problem understanding what the report is about …even though she is not receiving the visuals.

Courtesy of Mr.Media.com , we have a few sentences to compare. Can you tell which of these sentences is written “for the ear” and which sentence is not?

“This multi-lateral agreement, and its steady progress forward, is critical because it will  protect Americans who could otherwise be maimed or killed should they consume – knowingly or unknowingly – unapproved imported meats, unpasteurized dairy products, or dangerous unregulated alcoholic beverages.”

or

“We need to sign this agreement quickly to protect Americans from unregulated and dangerous meats, dairy products, and alcoholic beverages.”

Take a look at the following article, 5 Ways To Write For The Ear, Not For The Eye  for more tips.

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Wiki-ethics.

In ethics, openness and transparency are certainly the goals, however, they are not the only values that need consideration in ethical decision-making. In fact, pursuing some ethical principles while neglecting others is inherently unethical.

For example, seeking transparency and openness above other values, creates a lopsided and perhaps unintended, “ethical hierarchy.” One where transparency and openness are placed at the top, giving them an authoritative position over other values that should have equal consideration. In ethical decision-making, neglecting certain values – such as minimizing harm, or maximizing the greater good – is a mistake. Without considering these factors, the decision becomes reckless and endangering rather than ethical.

On July 12, 2007 the US performed an airstrike in Baghdad. The event was recorded on video, which showed US soldiers using machine guns killing people who turned out to be innocent civilians. Two of the victims were journalists, whose cameras were mistaken for weapons. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the recording was the soldier’s cavalier attitude towards the killings. Phrases such as “light ‘em up” are things I’d expect to hear from a video gamer, not from a person who is actually taking someone’s life. The fact the U.S. was at war at the time of the recording is irrelevant to me. I don’t think that there is ever an excuse for this type of disrespect for human life.The video recording the airstrike, dubbed “collateral murder,” was leaked to the internet via the website WikiLeaks.

Created by Julian Assange, WikiLeaks is a website that provides a safe haven for whistleblowers (civilian or journalist) to shed light upon corruption or reveal information to the public. Although Wikileaks tries to keep the “leakers” anonymous, in this case, U.S. Private Bradley Manning was identified as the one who leaked the information. Following his arrest, Manning has been kept in military detention, reportedly enduring inhumane treatment.

It is difficult to determine the exact effect that releasing secure information has had on the war effort and on the attitudes of Americans towards their government. It is essential to democracy for people to be aware of these issues. However, at the same time, to maintain peace and public order, it is essential for certain military secrets be kept secure.

In the debate surrounding Wikileaks, it seems like there are two opposing priorities: are you on the side of liberty and freedom of the press? Or on the side of national and domestic security? I think Benjamin Franklin spoke eloquently when he said ‘those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ That being said, there is always a middle ground. I believe that while it is important for people have access to news that hasn’t been moderated by the government or filtered by regulation. It is also the responsibility of the source of that information to consider ethical principles before releasing it.

I am highly intrigued by hearing the different opinions regarding WikiLeaks and ethics. Some call Julian Assange a modern-day hero, and others think that he is an evil-doer who must be held accountable.

For me, the question that trumps all: have the actions of Assange and Manning make the world a better place?

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