Thursday, December 30, 2010

Moving

This blog has moved. Future posts will be at philosophykat.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Journal Register Co. IdeaLab TweetChat

Trying something new: This "chat" will feature only a live feed of a TweetChat amongst the Journal Register Co. IdeaLab members, other JRC employees, journalists, and so ons.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Charlie Manuel on gratitude to veterans

The Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been the source for half a dozen fun stories for me these past few months - and I'm often the only journalist to show up for them.
Although they have a crack PR person, Kathleen Pomorski, and a heck of a resume with some nationally ranked programs, the TV stations and other news orgs from the area rarely do more than a quick spotlight on the events I cover. 
Tuesday, however, showed the coned-off spots Kathleen so thoughtfully reserves almost all taken, because of news totally unrelated to the VA - but serendipitously linked with its holiday event. 
Monday night, Facebook and Twitter erupted with the news that Cy Young award-winning pitcher Cliff Lee had signed to return to the Phillies, creating what many are calling the strongest pitching lineup in baseball. This made a Tuesday morning visit by Phillies manager Charlie Manuel, former player Marty Bystrom, and the Phillies Phanatic and Phillies Ballgirls big news.
The news stations were full of reporters grabbing Charlie to ask about the Phils and his feelings on their coup over the Yankees.
He told me, "I'm not supposed to talk about it" when I dutifully asked about Lee. But despite a downright boyish grin about the pitcher, he was really there for the veterans - and seemed happy to be asked about the real reason for his visit, for a change.
The veterans he visited were mostly from World War II and the Korean War, and Charlie told me in the elevator that he'd had many relatives and friends in those conflicts.

His thoughts on honoring veterans, below:

video

The Daily Local news story I wrote on the event can be found here, with another video of additional fan reactions to the news of Lee's signing.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

David Yezzi at Victory Collaborative

First video of what will ultimately be several from last weekend's Victory Collaborative (to be followed by blogging about learning to edit video solely on the iPad). Enjoy!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Victory Collaborative

To depart a bit from the strict topic of journalism...please join me for (or check out a replay of) some live blogging from a story I wrote about this week: Beer and poetry at Victory Brewing Co.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The roles of the social consumer = ...middle school?

 

This made me think of just one thing...middle school. 

Hey, psychoanalyze me all you want; it's probably justified. And maybe it's just that "peer" is right at the top. But the shifting power dynamics of consumerism as refracted by social media are a lot like power relationships in middle school, where a new pair of sunglasses can make you the "It" kid for a day and a zit on your chin can harm your brand for a week.

Middle school is all about self-branding in a constantly shifting environment; you can't necessarily predict the impact those careful decisions will have. (Those sunglasses will only take you so far if somebody's got the newest iPod.) 

But I don't necessarily see this correlation as a bad thing. On the contrary, while the world becomes more navigable and somewhat more humane after the brutality of brand-as-identity, I don't think we ever really drop those power dynamics of relating to one another. And that means this graphic (and further discussion - follow link) is simply a more accurate and accessible depiction of what's been happening all along.

An app I downloaded tonight, "World Customs and Cultures," informs me: "Russians tend to be somewhat guarded and closed until a relationship is formed... In some instances you may find that Russians will dance around a subject, especially if it's a difficult or uncomfortable topic. In other instances they can be quite direct." 

But isn't that more or less how we all are with any kind of capital - money, time, trust, loyalty?

Implications: I think those people who naturally have a facility for understanding how members of a community relate to one another have always had the edge in marketing. And to be honest, I think the transparency of this time period, as so many of us attempt to literally graph the patterns of desire and influence, can be a wealth of ethical, as well as business and marketing, resources. 

Do you think "humanizing" brands and tracking social interacts to sell is exploitative, no matter what? Or do you think it's more transparent...or somewhere in the middle?


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Somewhere shy of 100 percent

As promised, a full blog post on Jay Rosen's suggestion, "The 100 percent solution."

"It works like this: First, you set a goal to cover 100 percent of… well, of something. In trying to reach the goal you immediately run into problems. To solve those problems you often have to improvise or innovate. And that’s the payoff, even if you don’t meet your goal," he writes.

My first thought, of course, was, "How can I apply this? What would this mean for me?" I cover Coatesville, PA, the only city in my county, which has been described as a scale version of Philadelphia, or Chester in Delaware County. In my spare time (?) I cover the surrounding municipalities as well.

I'd love to cover 100 percent of what is happening in Coatesville. To me, that means reporting on council, the school district, the Weed and Seed program and new community initiatives, the church community, and the youth element, among others. (The last draws my interest because there's a lot of concern about crime and drugs in the city, and many complain the youth culture both is vulnerable to those problems, and ends up perpetuating them for lack of things to do.)

But I'm one person, and still a rookie at that. How could I possibly cover everything going on in even one of those areas, much less all of them?

Jay mentions two papers in my cluster with the Journal Register Company (for which he is an advisory board member): the Reporter in Lansdale, PA and the Trentonian in Trenton, NJ. And in the examples he gives, teamwork makes a huge difference.

There are multiple people involved on the newspaper end, which in a newsroom shrunk by the economic crisis isn't likely to be an option for me. However, the kinds of crowdsourcing that he describes just might be.

There are already people who contact me with tips, of course. But there's a lot of conversation that happens on Facebook and on Twitter that I might be able to tap into.

Also, despite a deep distrust of the Daily Local News by many city residents (who feel that the Local has targeted the community and exploits its problems to sell papers), I believe there are people who would actively contribute information if I coordinated it - and that I might even be able to win over some of the city in the process.

One major criticism is that the paper doesn't cover enough positive events in the city. It's true that I am not able to attend and write an article about every festival and awards ceremony, or even every community meeting. But I'm happy to collate information that's passed to me...and I think it might be time to make seeking that info a priority.

For example, despite a strained relationship with the school district, I think there's a good chance that I can work with high school students interested in journalism - we already tried that with a program called "iJournalists," but there's no reason I can't seek something a little more community-specific. And members of the Weed and Seed committees are already extremely active in the community, and anxious to get the word out about their efforts.

Would this, if successful, constitute a "100 percent solution"? I'm not sure. From reading the post, though, it seems that despite the name, that's not really the point. The point is innovation. I've hesitated often due to my "rookie" status, but the fact is, I've been testing the limits of internet communication since I was 13 - maybe not to the level of a programmer, but in a lot of ways, that means I have more in common with the average reader.

Sometimes it seems like the bigwigs in journalism are trying to turn the sticky helm of a very big ship, and sometimes I get caught up in that. Don't get me wrong - institutional knowledge of journalism is absolutely invaluable. And traditional journalism, after all, has given me a start and a platform, and print is still the company's biggest source of revenue.

But one question that has been a touchstone for me for the last two years has been, "What would I do if I were starting a media company from scratch?" Thinking that way is, to me, the difference between starting from possibilities and starting from limitations. Turning the ship isn't my gig.

What do you think? If you were to start a media company tomorrow, what would you prioritize? Would the idea of 100 percent coverage inform your strategy, or do you think it's irrelevant?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I know, I know, I should be asleep. But I've had quite a day...and I'll leave it at that for now, but my mind is buzzing.

Today I received an email charging me to "help us (the Journal Register Company) figure out what we should be doing (in the news industry)." ...Glad you asked.

My ideas range from the minute to the grandiose, and many of them have already been recognized by more experienced minds. But a few that are important to me...

-We need better ways to collate information. One thing the Web can do that print couldn't is build on previous stories, right at readers' fingertips. For instance, Coatesville suffered a series of arsons over 18 months. We wrote many articles about them, have award-winning photographs, have video, are now writing about the trials of some of the accused arsonists...why are we making our readers work to find this background? We need to make it easily accessible.

-In keeping with that, some very simple changes. Our datelines should be hotlinked. So should our bylines. Those are the simplest, most effective keywords we have, and with one click, they would call up a list of relevant stories.

-A biggie, that I know is already receiving attention: Our Web publishing. Our software is clunky and awkward, and linked awkwardly to our print content management system. Another thing the Web can do that was harder in print is: Make it pretty. I've been pushing the idea that news is a service rather than a product, but on this point I will concede. Our content needs to be reminiscent of a magazine. The other day, I picked up an informational book in a store, flipped through it, and set it down immediately. The font was too small, dated, and clunky. I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on the content because the package was giving me a headache.

-Just to reiterate, beyond making it pretty, it needs to be easier to update from the field. Our website should not be much more difficult to deal with than this blog post.

-Videos. Now that we've gotten used to shooting video at JRC, we need to level up. We need someone to lead a workshop on putting mini-documentaries together, and also teach a little bit more about tools beyond FlipShare. This can be done as a live workshop, but also put on the Web as a replayable Webinar.

-And finally, 100 percent coverage, as per Jay Rosen's idea here. This will get its own post tomorrow, but we need to think about what that means, and how feasible it is for individuals. I think that a related idea is dimension. If I have photos, video, and text for a story, how can I make sure they complement one another? I can also tweet, blog, and Facebook - and I can do all six of those things without exhausting a story, irritating my audience, or even just overlapping.

The bottom line with all of this is quality of content. Bells and whistles will only piss off readers if they feel they're not actually getting value. We're not TV, and we're not just print. We're multimedia, and we're allowed to promote ourselves with tactics that are a little shiny.

Monday, November 01, 2010

When I first hit the newsroom, I thought a lot about the media world as a whole. And one early question that struck me was: Why isn't there any certification for journalists? I agree that a broad-based education better prepares individuals to be journalists, but that doesn't take away from the technical aspects of the job.

I was a bit chagrined to realize that the reason is no simpler than...the First Amendment. Journalists have resisted any regulation of the profession because it's too easy for it to constitute a limit to the freedom of speech.

But after my embarrassment subsided, I continued to question the status quo. While I believe it would be certainly unconstitutional to enact legislation banning what many are now calling "citizen journalism," that doesn't prevent the industry from forming its own standards, including some kind of certification showing knowledge of legal issues and industry standards.

This cover story from the Columbia Journalism Review explores this question somewhat, saying the answer to the "critical question" of "the options for public policy reform that might strengthen the media’s contributions to American democracy and civic health" is clear: "We badly require new policies and new thinking in Washington because the media policy regime we have inherited is out of date and inadequate for the times in which we live."

Now, I'm the last person who should be arguing for raising the barrier to entry. I'm currently employed as a journalist with zero formal training. The opportunity changed my life - and I think I have something to offer to the journalism world as well. But at the same time, I am still in the middle of a serious learning curve that affects everything from the structure of my articles to my knowledge of legal issues.

Can policy make a difference? This article in the Guardian may suggest that's so. According to the story, readership is actually growing - in Canada. The article says "...Print and digital readership has risen by 500,000 or so in the past five years. Market penetration in the most important cities ranged between 75% and 80%." It suggests we can learn something from Canada, that they're doing something differently.

Whether it's the economic climate, a question of policy, or a murkier cultural coalescence is very difficult to say. But it seems likely that policy, somewhere along the line, contributes to it.

What do you think of the relationship between policy and journalism? What is it, and what should it be?


Thursday, October 14, 2010

The last six months have seemed to go faster than any period of my life before now, I think.

My transition to full-time reporter has been fraught with wrenches thrown into the works. The two homicides (one a premeditated, cruel and unusual murder) I covered from my first days of working full time presented a challenge that was personal as well as professional.

Despite an interest in newspapers from a young age (I talked my fourth grade class into starting a class "newspaper"...one of my first public speaking experiences!), I never studied journalism or intended to pursue it as a career.

The biggest reason was extremely simple. In high school, I had read a book by a journalist talking about realizing, years into his career, that he had ceased to see his subjects as people. He looked for the questions that would bring out the tears. He might act sympathetic, but he didn't hesitate to walk up to a victim of a crime or the relative of someone who had just died, stick a tape recorder in their face, and ask, "How do you feel?"

That's what I never wanted to do, ever. And yet just as I began to work full time, that's what I felt like my job was asking me to do.

The evolution of that story will be told another time, but suffice to say I found my coping resources stretched to breaking. By my fourth day working as an official, full time reporter, I was in the newspaper's parking lot in tears, on the phone with my mother.

Two weeks later, I fell down the stairs and broke the middle finger of my right hand, rendering me unable to write by hand for nearly two months and slowing me down considerably as I attempted to get up to speed as a daily reporter with a challenging beat.

I have never stopped thinking about incorporating social media into my coverage and exploring publishing models. But each time I think I have the ability to do it regularly, I'm pulled off in another direction.

Perhaps more to the point, my "voice" has been buried behind the news I cover. I've worried about compromising relationships necessary to my reporting through writing from my personal viewpoint, especially when I don't have sufficient lay of the land. And I've felt like my commentary on the journalism industry has fallen prey to a rocky transition from a meta, outside view to an internal everyday view - one I very much need, but to which I've had to adjust.

And stylistically...well, as a mentor/editor keeps telling me, "Dare to be boring." (He occasionally follows it with the nickname, "Hamlet" because he says I keep going all "to be or not to be" on him.) Daring to be boring may be helping my journalism, but it's making my other writing, well, boring.

But there's been a slight shift this week. A little more composure. A little more balance. And so - we'll see. Maybe this time's the charm when it comes to social media.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

What makes newspapers different...

...when they're not papers anymore?

Last week, I was offered a full-time position at the Daily Local News. I accepted - and Saturday, before I had even begun officially started that position, news of two separate murders broke on the same day.

Man, oh man, have I been wishing I had the tools - an iPhone or other smart phone, an iPad, and a netbook - that will be given to members of the ideaLab, the Journal Register's new initiative!

But mobility is really only part of the story. The way news is delivered changes, society changes, people's desires from news change somewhat - change itself is the only thing that is inevitable. That's why we need to make sure development and adaptability are our key values.

Two thoughts:

1. It's obvious how these tools can be useful right out of the box in terms of mobility. This would imply that those who are more familiar with developing technology should have the tools, because they could do more. This does affect my nominations; however -

2. We don't just need people who know how to develop apps. We need people who experiment with them as the average user will, but who are savvy, out-of-the-box thinkers. The way news is being delivered is changing, but it's changed before and will change again. There will not be a time when we can breathe a sigh of relief, sit back and know that we won't have to go through this mindset-jostling-process again. That's why we need people who possess adaptability as a trait to act as our developers and guinea pigs.

I'm hoping that the ideaLab is a precursor to recognizing the demands of the newsroom and equipping all staff appropriately. This does not necessarily mean handing all staffers a full arsenal of products, but giving these tools to people who will experiment should give us some data on what tool is best for what job. Some staff might be better served, for example, by a netbook than by a computer at their desks.

And finally, one last thought: we don't need to be TV news. As I covered a sensitive conspiracy murder case this week, I talked to long-time neighbors of the family torn apart by the tragedy. At first, they asked to be anonymous. After we talked, I asked again if, considering what they said, they were willing to let me use their names. They said yes - but had I been quick to whip out a camera, I doubt they would have been. As we adapt to a multimedia world, there are still benefits to the intimacy of what we do.

Also - related to intern life - check out the Daily Local interns' blog, linked from the right and also here: Will Work for Clips.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Journalism is a service, not a product

"Media companies are ongoing victims of the evolving user paradigm, because we spend our efforts trying to duplicate the money machine known as order-taking advertising. We mistakenly think that the established equilibrium of the past will, sooner or later, come to fruition online, and that is impossible when people who used to be our audiences are evolving faster than we are. We pay no (or little) attention to the user experience, because we're too busy multiplying the number of page views we can tout to advertisers. The cost of interaction that users must pay with us should be our most important metric, but it's often not even on the page. Hell, if we can shift six page views into seven, why not?" -R&D

The title of the blog from which this is quoted is "Local Media in a Postmodern World," and maybe it's because I studied postmodernism before I studied media, but I have been decrying the commercial infrastructure of newspapers since I became aware of it - which, sad to say, is pretty recently. Did I honestly think the pennies people paid for newspapers paid for journalists? No; it's even worse. I never thought about it at all.

In a way, we're blessed because now people are thinking about it. While it's true that people will use information against you, in many ways, with an explanation, people become better equipped to collaborate. For instance, admitting to our public that on an average day we have two copy editors proofing and laying out the entire paper does promote some understanding that while typos aren't acceptable, they aren't a capital crime (caveat: as long as we don't use it as an excuse). Instead of an editing mistake becoming a colossal tower of shoddiness and laziness at the paper - given that we tell our readers what we are trying to do about it - such mistakes become understandable.

People can be pretty smart; as one reader pointed out to me, there is a certain amount of "self-policing" that occurs in comments, where one commenter will address the inaccuracy of another's assumption.

And significantly for our concerns, when people realize that it takes money to produce quality journalism, they begin to get accustomed to the idea of paying for the journalism itself, rather than paying magically by taking a cursory glance at the latest Sears ad. Maybe they're not ready to do it yet - but I really believe the mentality is beginning to develop.

I'm trying to develop some "practice rules" for ethical journalism in light of business concerns (in the process of writing my thesis). I believe that business is by nature an ethical endeavor - that ethics separates business from crime, because if business were purely driven by profit motives, that's what it would be. (This might explain a lot, if you think about it.)

My favorite example, which I stumbled across in an academic journal, is that if a tax auditor covers up financial weaknesses, this is not "simply" an ethical failure - she is wrong also because she is no longer auditing. In that vein, deciding how to do journalism both profitably and ethically is a question of defining what it means to "do journalism" at all - hence, the need for what I am calling "practice rules." This process - I think - will help to clarify what exactly it is we're asking people to pay for, and justify that payment.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Linking and learning

Aggregation Day!

I'm looking for reactions to these stories in the theme of what it means for digital news. If you were designing a news website, what would you keep in mind from these stories? What principles or strategies do they suggest to you?

Is Print Media Doomed Worldwide or Just in the U.S.?

"As I walked in the headquarters of the Jawa Pos—the flagship newspaper of one of South East Asia’s largest print media empires—I was wondering just how screwed my profession is; globally I mean."

Dylan Jones: 'News is oxygen and it's a very crowded atmosphere'

The editor of GQ on his political connections, the importance of apps and why he loves the Hay festival.


"The link is, in a way, a technologically advanced form of a footnote. It's also, distraction-wise, a more violent form of a footnote. Where a footnote gives your brain a gentle nudge, the link gives it a yank. What's good about a link -- its propulsive force -- is also what's bad about it."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

At my first staff meeting with my interns yesterday, I mentioned some information from the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell describing how opportunity works.

I told them: age matters. You are at the right time in history with the right opportunities to direct the future of news. On the flip side - you have to define what happens next in news, you have to be a part of it, or you won't have a job.

In a little more detail, interns and friends, here is the information. P.S. - I highly recommend reading this book.

"Historians start with Cleopatra and the pharoahs and comb through every year in human history ever since, looking in every corner of the world for evidence of extraordinary wealth, and almost 20 percent of the names they end up with come from a single generation in a single country." - Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers

Immediately prior, Gladwell had explained that 14 of the 75 richest people in the history of the world were born within nine years of each other in the mid-nineteenth century.

So what gives? These people, Gladwell tells us, made their fortunes in the 1860s and 1870s, when the railroads - and Wall Street - were being built, when economics were being remade. What this list tells us, he says, is that it really matters how old you were when the transformation happened.

"If you were born in the late 1840s you missed it. You were too young to take advantage of the moment. If you were born in the 1820s you were too old; your mind-set was shaped by the pre-Civil War paradigm. But there was a particular, narrow nine-year window that was just perfect for seeing the potential that the future held." In a footnote, he adds that this is also the only period in American history when those born in modest circumstances had a shot at this kind of wealth.

Gladwell goes on to apply the same analysis to computer technology. The biggest date in the personal computer revolution was January 1975. "If you were more than a few years out of college in 1975, then you belonged to the old paradigm. You'd just bought a house. You were married. ... So let's rule out all those born before, say, 1952.

"At the same time, you don't want to be too young. You really want to get in on the ground floor, right in 1975, and you can't do that if you're still in high school. So let's also rule out anyone born after, say, 1958. The perfect age to be in 1975, in other words, is old enough to be a part of the coming revolution but not so old that you've missed it. Ideally, you want to be 20 or 21, which is to say, born in 1954 or 1955."

This range - 1952-1958 with a focus on those middle years - describes Bill Gates (1955), Microsoft's co-founder Paul Allen (1953), Steve Ballmer of Microsoft (1956), Steve Jobs (1955), Eric Schmidt of Novell and later CEO of Google (1955), and Bill Joy, computer legend, writer of much of the underlying code for the internet (1954).

Monday, May 24, 2010

This column originally appeared in the Daily Local News.

Mirror or lamp?

Well, hurry up, decide. Which should news be: a mirror or a lamp?

Often, I've heard comments that so-and-so just watches or reads such-and-such news because it confirms their political bias. I seem to detect some disapproval in these remarks. You know, just a smidge.

But it's a little unclear who's at fault. The news consumer, usually, is being criticized for their lack of discrimination; but the news provider is tainted, too, for not educating the consumer properly.

One of the background problems in evaluating whether journalism is "done well" or not stems from figuring out which metaphor we're looking for. Should journalism reflect the passions and interests of the day, or should it take responsibility to guide public debate?

When we read or watch news, we're looking for information, but often we're also looking for context. In business reporting, for example, those of us without finance degrees need some translating, some explanation of why a given business or economic event is important and what consequences it might have.

In political reporting, those of us who haven't memorized the bios of every member of state or national legislatures and can't quote the bill number of every piece of legislation related to the current one need the same thing. But every decision made by the people who give us that background flirts with the space between reflecting and guiding.

The truth is not something that rises up by itself like bread dough; just reflecting, as a mirror, whatever is most noteworthy on a given day isn't enough to meet the obligations we place on our press. But any shaping or guiding, lighting the way like a lamp, can lead to perceived meddling, giving up the authority journalists are supposed to have as truth-tellers.

So it seems there are problems with either metaphor. Treating the news as a reflection is a problem not only — not even, necessarily primarily — because journalism "ought not" to be passive, but because it is not.

Journalism shapes public debate; if journalists ignore that, they fail to dig up the "truth." By consciously recognizing and responding to public needs, though, journalists run the risk of paternalism, or creating the opportunity for the kind of "confirmation bias" of which we are so critical.

For example, there is a growing movement called "public journalism," which tries to take an actively self-reflective role in the production of news with the conscious goal of spurring public deliberation and interaction in the governing process — things that newspeople are sometimes criticized for failing to do.

But who are journalists to tell the public what it needs to know, what it needs to do? Nobody. And yet, isn't that part of what it means to be a "watchdog press" — an inevitable result?

As the much-quoted masthead of the New York Observer said until recently, there is "Nothing sacred but the truth." But here the line blurs. Perhaps the truth is sacred, but like many sacred things, it wears many faces and is invariably interpreted on a thoroughly subjective basis.

In the attempt to figure out what it means for journalism to be "good" — so that we know what we need, so that we know when journalism is failing us or when we're failing it, hey, even so that we know what's worth paying for — we need to recognize that there's some gray area here.

But the complaint about confirmation bias I hear holds the news consumer responsible as much as the news producer. In order to maintain a watchdog press, we need a watchdog public. We need, as individuals, to check our values, to ask ourselves why we agree or disagree with one news source over another. And maybe to do that, we need both metaphors; maybe we need a lamp in front of a mirror.

Katrina Dix is the assistant news editor at the Daily Local News, as well as a graduate student in an applied ethics program. She welcomes your thoughts on the media (because she knows you have them!). To contact her, send an e-mail to kdix@dailylocal.com.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

On leaving Facebook

I miss Facebook.

A week ago today, I finally got fed up with "Facebook drama" - a phenomenon to which, after my five years on Facebook, I thought I might be immune. Until a couple of months ago, when I was reminded just how easy it is to disprove a rule. I was more upset with caring about what people did on Facebook than with what was happening; add in the amount of time I feel I waste there, and it was time for a hiatus. So I deactivated my account.

But I do, in fact, miss the updates; I feel a little cut off. It's surprising how quickly the Facebook world recedes, how easy it is to feel like nothing's happening if you're not witnessing it. It's a little harder to get in touch with some people, a little more stressful; I'm not communicating with acquaintances, only closer friends.

I'm not ready to go back yet, but I know it's only a matter of time - especially as I miss some of the particularly useful elements. I have not been able to utilize the group I made for summer interns; I made a new profile specifically to run such a group, but I find myself reluctant to use it. Perhaps even more importantly, I also think Facebook might be useful to a research decision I have to make.

For me, the most effective way to do research has long been to print a wastefully large stack of articles - journal, newspaper, magazine, et. al - and mark them up with black pen and yellow highlighter. I deeply appreciate the wide margins of journal articles for this purpose. There is something about pen and paper, the immediacy of being able to highlight something that grabs me and scribble a note as to why, that gives me a record of my first response which I otherwise lose in the aether of consciousness.

However, I dislike carting around a large stack of paper almost as much as I dislike wasting reams of it in the first place. So although this is the "most effective" way for me to do my research, it is not effective enough. Now that I am preparing to write my thesis - on something that will require current research, a pile to which I will probably add a short article or two a day - I need another method.

Enter Facebook. It immediately occurred to me that I could take the option of having a "Links" tab at the top of my profile and add links to my research to that. This way, I could effectively share my research and get responses to at least some of it, sneakily pushing discussion of my thesis topic on all my 800 friends. Or the 200 that actually comment on my wall, anyway.

Twitter could potentially serve a similar function, and I need to start making use of that particular social media. But I don't think it would arrange the links in a really easily accessible way.

The added problem is that these formats allow me to save the locations of my research, but not my comments on it - perpetuating the loss of those invaluable initial thoughts. So they don't solve my research problem...but I still really like the idea of publishing my ongoing research via Facebook links.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

On a slightly more personal note - okay, okay, so "more often" updating I promised is "once a month" rather than "once in eight months," instead of the once a day I aim for. But I'm getting there. The semester is mostly concluded; I still have quite a bit of work to finish for one class, but it's manageable. Unmanageable at the moment is my schedule otherwise. I took a serving job at a new and exciting restaurant focused on sustainable practices...and leading up to the opening, I'm there for long shifts every day. The interns are also starting at the newspaper in dribbles and drabs, and I expect to have the full complement by Monday at 11 a.m.

Summer? Vacation? What are those things? =D However, I am energized by the projects at hand. I'm still more focused on taking it easy than I used to be; I am prioritizing rest (as Mark, my forensics coach, used to say: Protect your rest!). There aren't enough hours in the day for all I want to accomplish right now, but that doesn't mean I should hurl myself against the brick wall of exhaustion for longer than necessary - it means prioritizing.

In closing, here is one article that I'm looking at this morning, an impressively well-writing rumination on the pleasures and perils of Twitterporting: Tweet the Press.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

What's up, Internet?

Don't look at me in that tone of voice. It's only been eight months. Do you know how little time that is, in the scheme of things? That's not even enough time to pop out a kid! Or a thesis, which is the burgeoning birth process in MY life, at least. Journalism is still very nearly in a free-fall, don't fret. Plenty of time to comment on the insanity of what is quickly becoming my universe.

My hiatus from this blog coincides with actually getting a job. In late August last year, the paper I was blogging from as freelance writer/volunteer intern coordinator actually hired me, as assistant news editor - a half-time position that allowed me to stay in my graduate program.

Now, just 11 months after quitting my job as a barista and going back to school, I am a month away from completing the credit requirements for my master's degree. I have taken one weekend off from my job at the paper in the last year, and that was to go to Dublin (a trip planned even before I was hired).

I do not recommend attempting this at home.

But! Dedication to this blog has festered and erupted anew today, and as I gear up for my thesis - a bastardization of philosophy, communication theory, business ethics, and the down-and-dirty heritage of journalism - I hope you will join me in my journey.

Yesterday, I submitted a proposal to present research at a graduate symposium at the end of April. The discussion will center on an argument that business is not inherently amoral, and what this means for journalism.

I think I've answered one of the questions that was theoretically pressing to me: can journalism operate ethically, as a business? The only alternative seemed to be nonprofit journalism, which would suffer from donor bias and hamstrung ambition, likely among other things.

This is a theoretical approach, rather than practical. But business practices are influenced by theory - economic, ethical, and otherwise. I believe that not only is business inherently subject to practice rules that operate as ethical constraints (example: when an auditor covers up financial problems, for kickbacks or whatever other reason, she is failing not because she is not complying with laws, but because she is no longer auditing), but that conversely, the limits placed on the ethical demands of journalism because it is a trade create a balance between its moral mandate and its business needs.

Mouthful, huh? There's more to the discussion, which I will no doubt be breaking down more in the near future - and I'll be commenting on further examples in the media/business world. But in general, my immediate question is: how? I think that the business of journalism does have inherent ethical practice rules - but that these are limited. Limited by what, though? By constraints of profitability? By what can reasonably be expected of journalism? And limited how? How can we tell when journalism has stepped past what it is supposed to do?

One piece of my project will be defining norms for journalism - and the first step will be figuring out what exactly that means.

As always, I welcome your feedback on any aspect of the media industry!