Category Archives: J2150

J2150: It’s a wrap!

My multimedia journalism class is officially over. Looking back, the first week of J2150 was terrifying. After reading over the syllabus and the class website, I felt so overwhelmed. I had no prior experience with Nikon cameras, Audacity, Soundslides, WordPress, Wix, transcript writing for a TV style news video, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Illustrator, or multimedia journalism in general!

I was freaking out. At the time, it felt like I’d been thrown into a gauntlet that I had never trained for. However, after some encouraging words from Chaz, I knew I would survive.

Now that the class is over and I am flip side of all of those emotions, I am amazed at how much I learned from this class. While I am positive that I made plenty of mistakes, jump cuts, and AP caption flubs, etc. I am so glad that this class introduced me to a plethora of tools and programs that I will be using in future journalism classes. The chance to jump in and experiment has invaluable to me personally and professionally. Knowing that I can succeed at something that I’ve never tried before is a great feeling.

So thank you J2150 and thank you Chaz Maddi, it has been great.


Leave a comment

Filed under J2150

Web Analytics… ever heard of it?

Have you ever heard about something for the very first time and immediately after, realizing that everyone around you has already known about it for a long time? If you haven’t ever experienced that, I’ll sum it up: you feel like you’ve been living under a rock.

Web Analytics. Ever heard of it?

Its ‘techy’ jargon makes it seem complicated. But stripped down to its basic definition, it’s simply “the process of collecting, measuring and analyzing user activity with an ad and or website.”

Those who use web analytics software do so to better understand and achieve the intended objective(s) of a specific ad or website. This intended objective could be anything from getting more traffic to your website, finding out which specific buttons visitors are clicking on once they get to your website, which keywords they are searching for using your site’s search tool. This data shows the user if visitors are using the site in the way that the site owner intended for them to use it. If not, then the website can be tweaked accordingly.


Our guest lecturer, Brad Best used “google analytics” to show us how websites can use this powerful data to determine how the public are responding to a change. For example, the Missourian recently added a pay wall, which prevents people from seeing certain content without paying for a subscription.

Best was able to use web analytics to look at the Missourian’s website traffic a year before the pay wall was introduced, and compare that data with the Missourian’s current web traffic. It was amazing to see how the public reacted to the pay wall induction. As you probably guessed, people like free.

The Missourian did take a pretty big hit as far as web traffic goes; but as pay walls  (or other methods of paying for content) become more common, web analytics will be able to provide the data for which kind of paid content does better or worse. This will be immensely helpful in the future for newspapers, magazines, etc. who want to have a large online readership but need to pay their journalists for their work.

The powerful insights web analytics provides, could be what makes or breaks many online based news. This is extremely important us journalists who want to have jobs and be successful when we graduate.

I don’t know much about web analytics, but if someone mentions it again in future lectures, at least I won’t feel like I’ve been living under a rock!

Leave a comment

Filed under J2150

Presentation is Key

As I write this I am sitting in my hotel room in Fort Lauderdale, my grueling journey south to warmer climates comprised of a 30 hour bus ride from St Louis, with a charming layover in Atlanta at 1am on Friday night. In an effort to save money I decided to take a Greyhound bus instead of flying, which at this time of year is expensive. Although my travel left a lot to be desired, it certainly gave me a lot of time to think. During my travel I considered what we learned during our lecture with Charles Minchew. He discussed the importance of the user-friendliness of our website designs and about how web sites are “all about the presentation of the content you’ve gathered.”

I came to realize that transport, as an industry, offers an essential service. But just like a website, what makes a customer choose one company/mode over another? The content of the two forms of transportation was essentially the same – they are designed to get you from point a to point b. So what really makes the difference (and this is reflected in the more popular use of airplanes) is the way in which your journey is presented.


A good website is aesthetically pleasing, it welcomes you – in text and design, is easy to navigate, and gives you a reason to come back.  Just like a badly designed website, Greyhound buses, in general, don’t appear to understand the importance of the list above.

Let’s start with aesthetically pleasing – Now to be fair, the buses were cleaner than I thought they’d be, and I was lucky to have gotten a seat that had an electrical outlet nearby so my iPod stayed charged for the entire 30 hour trip. However, if my fellow passengers where to be considered part of the scenery, it would be a different matter. I witnessed man in a full-blown, furry white pimp suit with a top hat and gold shoes (would’ve got photo but afraid of being stabbed) and a middle aged, toothless woman in a pink track suit with a swastika tattoo on her back, These people act as not-so-great mascots for all Greyhound clientele, dismantling any notion of family friendly travel on a budget.


It welcomes you – Well, out of the Greyhound employees I met, I’d say that roughly 9 out of 10 of them hate their job. Walking around the station like chronically disgruntled robots, if you stop and ask them for help or direction they will respond by either telling you they don’t know, or point out another employee that we should ask, someone who is presumably more “in the know” than they are.

This coincides with the navigational shortcomings I encountered on my trip. A lack of information regarding departures, terminals and times (something essential if you don’t want to get left at the station) was prevalent at every bus station we went to. There were no TVs, signs or any other media indicating when or where you were to get on your bus and as I mentioned previously the staff didn’t seem to think it was part of their job either. Intuitive navigation is an essential part of a functional website. If i’m looking for content and a website doesn’t make it easy for me to find, I generally go back to google and try another resource.

Finally, a reason to come back. This could most often be a combination of all of the above, perhaps a reward scheme for frequent use or maybe just offering a service you can’t get anywhere else. It seems to me that this is the only thing that Greyhound is successful at. With a huge network of buses and an established infrastructure, it’s impossible to find another service comparable for the same price. Just like the online world it seems like companies come and go, internet giants such as Napster and Myspace fade away and there are a million eager entrepreneurs ready to take their place. However,  it seems to me that as long as you have a few people operating on a budget, you’ll continue to have Greyhound.

Leave a comment

Filed under J2150

Conquering writer’s block… busting through or a total bust?

I’d like to say that I am a firm believer in honesty. That is precisely why I am about to admit that I, a wanna-be journalist, struggle with writing.  When I am trying to express how I feel or explain what something was I often find that words get in the way. I realize that this is a total cop-out and that people who can’t express themselves the way they want to enjoy quoting phrases such as “a picture is worth a thousand words”

I am great at spelling, even betterer at grammar… just kidding. Forming sentences however, … different ballgame entirely.

I know what I want to say, because thats how I feel. However, I find that I can’t string together words in a coherent way that adequately expresses my feelings. I get frustrated at the rigidity of grammar and syntax. I am unable to manipulate the words the way that I want to … the way that some authors, bloggers, journalists, etc. seem to be able to do with ease. If it was up to me, I would just take photos and let them speak for me but because of J2150 I have to string together my mental ramblings each week and put a pretty bow on them.

Rick Agran’s lecture about how to be a better writer gave me some great ideas. He recommended an exercise for people who are experiencing writers block or for people who simply want to become better writers, it’s called freewriting. I have heard of this before, but I never sat down and tried it until today. In free writing, you pick a topic – any topic, and set a timer for 10 minutes. During those ten minutes, you are supposed to write furiously. Don’t think about grammar, don’t censor yourself, and don’t think too much about what you are writing or what crazy twists and turns your writing is taking. Just go with it. Your pen shouldn’t stop moving for the entire 10 minutes. Even if you don’t know what else to say, you are supposed to write that out… “I don’t know what to say anymore…” etc.

So this blog was my attempt at free writing, perhaps I’ll get a bad mark for flaunting the fact that I only spent 10 minutes on this weeks assignment. Had I spent any longer, however, then the hypocritical nature of my grammatically correct writing would have stood in contrast to the principles this blog post is based on – and I’ve already mentioned that I’m a firm believer in honesty.

Want another example of someone’s freewriting gibberish?

Leave a comment

Filed under J2150

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)

Leave a comment

Filed under J2150

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under J2150

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under J2150