Tag Archives: Journalism

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.


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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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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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With today’s advances in technology, can the “decisive moment” be created instead of captured?

I recently stumbled upon  a video  produced in time-lapse format demonstrating the tools and techniques used by a brilliant Photoshop artist. I say brilliant because he can essentially create an incredibly detailed and beautiful picture from scratch through Photoshop. I watched him compose the background from nothing, create a visual story, and infuse it with emotion. As he decides what is in in his picture, his composition is near perfect.

The fleeting and elusive “decisive moment” that photographers strive to capture is a non-issue for him. His angle, focus, and shutter don’t work together to create his image. Instead, like many other artists, he works from a blank canvas and can create whatever he wants with it.

As this artist worked, I felt amazed and threatened at the same time. Maybe this surge of worry is premature or unwarranted altogether, but I couldn’t help but wonder… Since the very first photograph, taken in approximately 1816, the capturing of still images has been something that fascinated humans across the planet. Now, with the accessibility of cameras, has the medium lost some of its allure? Does this artists enhanced drawing mark a resurgence of the more traditional art forms, albeit with a digital twist? This an ancient battle, from sculpture to tapestry, oil painting to engraving, Each new medium challenges the previous to reinvent itself to stay current. Photography challenged the traditional methods of painting and illustration. Now, it appears that the tables have turned.  Traditional photography is facing challenges as technologically based computer art forms continue to develop.

Obviously, there are ethics and standards that journalists should adhere to as far as photo and video editing goes. In the past, some journalists have not followed the values and ethics that people trust, and when they are found out, their actions taint the entire profession. However, what if some unethical journalists “create” images through Photoshop but never get caught? The motivation for certain unethical edits is perhaps tied to the accessibility and user-friendliness of digital cameras.  Photographers may feel more pressure than ever to capture that decisive moment. Furthermore, as images from artists and citizens photographers (who may not be familiar with the ethics and values of journalism) flood into the marketplace of ideas, the public then must sift through images and decide which are truth and which are fabrication.

I hope that the public will always favor and demand truth from journalism, even when a truthful image has a less than perfect composition. As much as I respect the talent that artists use to bring beauty and creativity to our lives, I hope that journalism and art never merge to an undecipherable point; because if that were to happen then  truthfulness – journalism’s greatest asset – may be lost among a sea of beautiful creations.

Below is a collection of some of Henri Cartier Bresson’s photographs. Bresson is known as the “father of modern photojournalism.”

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