No more Journalism

I can tell what you’re thinking – “Mike,” you say, “you haven’t posted in your dratted blog in ages! We all hate you. What kind of a journalist are you, anyways?” – Am I right? Regardless of whether or not this is true of your thoughts, this is what I would think if I were you. Don’t get me wrong, there are not a lot of “you” out there – I guess that happens when you desert your blog for a freakin’ month – nonetheless, I figure I may as well keep up writing now and again just for the fun of it now that I have the time to spare.

The main message of the day is this: no more journalism! Well, not officially. It turns out that journalism school just isn’t my thing, so I’ve pulled myself out of it. Where to next, you ask? Well, back to living under my parents’ roof again – they haven’t admitted to being sick of me yet, we’ll see if that changes with me dropping school and moving back home at the ripe old age of 19. I’ll be sure to write again, though I’m painfully aware that I lost most of my readers. Still, I like writing, I hope to do some internet writing for money at some point, so if you like reading, perhaps you’ll enjoy my blog. It won’t necessarily stick exactly to journalism per say, but my personality and interests haven’t changed, so I’ll do my best to make my posts worth reading – little gems from my own introspective mind, you might say.

For now, hold tight. I’ll write more. Perhaps, if I decide to write fairly regularly, I’ll seek to increase my following. Peace!

-Mike

Journalists and Research

Research is important for journalists. We need to know how to effectively conduct research in order to be an effective news medium.

As journalists, an important first step to research is admitting that we’re stupid. Another way to put that would be to recognize what we don’t know about a subject. We know very little on a grand scale, yet we have to write about many different things. Because of this, we need to learn a little bit about everything that we have to write about, making research our most important tool.

The basic steps to creating a story are research, interviewing, processing of information, polishing the work, then production of the work.

The bare minimum of research that should be done on a subject before writing a story or conducting interviews is to read the most recent thing(s) published on the subject. This ensures you advance the story, creates interview questions, and also sometimes gives a list of good people to talk to.

A good strategy for research is to start with the “I’m stupid” moment – what don’t I know about the subject? Where can I find the need information? How do I then get the information? How do I check accuracy? How do I use the information?

A good person to interview is whoever is most affected by whatever story you’re writing. More things to keep in mind are how the person knows this, whether it is verifiable, if there are assumptions being made, and do they have a vested interest in the subject? Lastly, you want to make sure what they say matches up with your previous knowledge and common sense.

The Role of Journalists

Our role as journalists and how it has changed since the role was established:

A man named Walter Lippmann once defined journalism as a form of conduit between the elite and the common people. He said that journalists should decided what people need to know, and actually wrote up lists of things that should be reported on. Along with this mindset was the thought that the people were a mindless mob of sorts that needed to be spoon-fed information. He did say that propaganda and political spin should be removed from journalism, but treated the whole thing as a hierarchal democracy – the stupid people taught by the clever journalists. We were to inform, explain, and interpret information.

John Dewey disagreed with that philosophy, and taught more of an egalitarian system. What we have today in journalism matches more with what Dewey taught – in an age where people can inform themselves by clicking a few buttons on the internet, if journalists think they can talk down to people, they’re delusional. We share information, we still inform, explain, and interpret information, but we do it as equals with our readers, not as if we’re the big cheese and they’re mere common riffraff.

Sharing information is much more difficult than it was way back when then people used smoke signals and information runners to share news. The problem, strangely enough, is that there is so much news to share. The world is “bigger” than it was when all you had to know happened within 10 kilometres of your farm. There is an overload of information that people need to know, and the role of the journalist is to find out the important stuff and share it, whether it be happening next door or across the world, as people can be affected by things happening anywhere in the “big” world of today.

Adding your information into the world is like spitting into an ocean today – 3 clicks and anyone can have a website to preach off of (I should know, you’re reading an example now). Journalists are different, though. We have trustworthiness, we have a set of professional standards to assure that we have fairness, balance, objectivity, processes of verification, editors/proofreaders – what we present to the public is to be done right, and of good quality.

Journalists have a code of ethics, as well. We are to do no harm, we have an obligation to truth and a loyalty to our audience. We maintain our independence – we cannot be bought. We are a monitor of power, we practice the discipline of verification. We are a forum for public criticism and compromise, we exercise personal conscience. We keep a broad focus and keep news comprehensive.

Making Change Happen

I made a difference in the life of some campers while “leading a team” at Hope Valley Day Camp. For two summers, I was a team leader (counselor) at Hope Valley Day Camp. This means that I was responsible for groups of kids aged 6-12 all day while they were at camp. The opportunity to be a counselor at a camp is unique: it’s almost like stepping in as a parent for these kids.

Regardless of what their upbringing was or who their parents are, “Kibbles” (my camp name) was a form of temporary replacement parent for them during the couple of weeks that they attended camp. Not a parent in every sense of the word, obviously, but a parent in that I corrected their wrong behaviour, I taught them my way of thinking, and they were to abide by not only the camp’s rules, but also by my rules while they were there (and mostly did).

It was crazy to me at first that these kids would look up so much to a skinny teenager who called himself Kibbles, but counselors become role models for the campers, and as I just operated day-to-day quite normally (albeit on my best bahaviour), I found campers imitating me. The values I unwittingly impressed upon them and the example I set for them made a difference, whether great or small, in their lives. I’ve been told by former campers that I served as a role model for them, and it’s a humbling experience, but a great opportunity for making change happen.

Evaluation of an Online Blog

I’ve chosen to do an evaluation of the political blog on The Toronto Star website, written by Susan Delacourt. We’re analyzing a lot of factors, to see if what our examinees have written matches up with how we’ve been taught to write. While by no means a professional blogger myself yet, I’ll apply what we’ve been taught and see how she measures up to our standards. Without further ado, here’s the results of my analyzation.

Delacourt manges to be conversational throughout her blog, all of what she writes feels like it could be used in a normal dialogue between a couple of people discussing politics over a drink, yet she never strays from her mission, which is to inform her readers. The result is a piece of writing that is both highly informative, yet the readers don’t feel like someone is on a pedestal talking down to them.

Delacourt has a fairly broad target audience, and she knows it, so she writes in a way that can appeal to just about anyone, though obviously it’s aimed more at adults, being a political blog. She doesn’t use political terms that beginners to the political scene would’t know, yet she doesn’t shy away from issues, and this appeals to people with all amounts of political knowledge.

Delacourt follows our sentence structure well, keeping sentences short and pointed: she doesn’t waste words. Delacourt does stray a little ways away from our target for paragraph length in some instances; her paragraphs are a little bit longer than we’ve been told to do. They aren’t brutally long, however, and she certainly doesn’t purposely drag them out.

Overall, her article has her opinion interspersed in it, but doesn’t cram her ideas down the readers’ throats. Since political views can be very polarizing, it might be a good idea to be slightly more partisan, but then again, perhaps this style gives it more personality, making it more interesting whether you agree with what she says or not.

Overall, what Delacourt writes matches up pretty well with what we’re being taught to write in our own blogs. This bodes well for what we’re being taught, Delacourt being a blogger for The Toronto Star. Now you (the reader) can go ahead and check my post for the things I’ve been describing. I’m certainly no Susan Delacourt yet, but hopefully the more I blog, the better I’ll get.

Here’s a link to her blog

Journalism Training Continues: Notes From Sept. 24

Journalists must be proactive, and need to find their own news. Methods of finding news include tips (where a person approaches us and gives us a story), hunches (where we sense that something is odd), press releases (which is when a company sends out news pertaining to it to journalists as a whole) and through general observation (we must be alert to news).

We must decide what to cover, and a guideline to help us is to work with multiple ideas, have a framework to evaluate ideas, and to invest time into any story we’re working with. We must also keep in mind QSA (question, source, audience) – what is our question (formulate all stories as questions), who are our sources, and who is our audience?

There are different kinds of stories: event, follow, and localize. Event is the actual thing that happened (e.g. a ribbon-cutting), the follow pertains to what happened after the event (effects, result) and localize is to take stories that happened far away and make them relevant to people locally.

We are subject to forces that will try to manipulate us – everyone wants the news to match up to their interests. It’s our job to maintain accuracy and truth when reporting. We must verify and confirm everything. We are not secretaries for any group or person.

We must learn to report not just a surface story, but complete stories. We must find out where to real story is behind things, find out what’s going on underneath it all. We must also report complex stories, delving deep enough to find the absolute truths, truths that don’t change.

Take Aways From Lecture 2 – Sept 17

The definition of news is something that the audience might be interested in, or should be interested in. This means that it must be something that has some sort of impact on them, and must be new to them. News is evaluating the story about something.

Journalism is important as it brings news to people, making them better informed. Journalism can be defined as the presentation of news, and how this is done differs with each journalist.

Every person will see news differently, and this can be attributed to fragmentation. Fragmentation refers to the fact that everyone has a different opinion and perspective because everyone has different values and interests.

A challenge in journalism today has much to do with fragmentation: everyone is interested in different things, and journalism must appeal to all of them somehow. This is how the many different types of journalism have been born, and we looked at several examples in class. The most notable were Ellen-like journalism, which is more entertainment, and political journalism, which can focus more on the people and less on the actual subject matter.

A way of defining what qualifies as news is by examining whether is has certain characteristics. If a story has timeliness, importance, proximity, prominence, and protrudes from the ordinary (oddity) then it possesses some of the characteristics of news.

5 “Take Aways” From Class (Number One)

While in reporting and writing 1 class, we were busy not only absorbing information, but also taking notes. Allow me to share some of what we learned with Professor Rob Washburn.

Imposed Significance – Imposed significance is related to a term known as “spin” in journalism – to put imposed significance on something is to try to “sell” the story. An example of this would be to introduce it as being written by a multi-award winning author, or claim that a certain article has won an author prizes or awards. While imposed significance does not make a story bad, it can denote that a story is not good enough to stand up on its own, although this is not necessarily always the case. This is important to know as a consumer of news because writers will sometimes do this to draw a reader in to a story that does not warrant the attention that it is getting.

Natural Significance – Natural significance can be viewed as the antithesis to imposed significance. Specifically, what gives a story natural significance is when it needs no introduction and claims that it is important – this is simply known to anyone reading it. An example we looked at in class is the Olympics; nobody needs to hype up the Olympics and talk about how great it is, people just know. This is important to know especially as a journalist, as these stories would always be preferred over a story where you would have to try to draw the reader in yourself, because the reader would be naturally drawn to it.

Crafting Answers – I was not entirely sure what to title this one, so I picked a title that accurately gets across what the point is – when interviewing somebody, we were warned to avoid e-mail interviews, and stick to in person or phone calls. The reason behind this is evident in the title; people can and will use e-mail interviews as a chance to craft their answers carefully. This makes the interview less real, and gives the interviewee the chance to simply get across what they want, whether it be entirely accurate or not. It also gives them a chance to check with other people on things. While this can be viewed as beneficial for the people being interviewed, it makes the interview more or less fake. It becomes less an interview and more a chance for the interviewee to write a publicity story in the way that they want to with the journalist simply being there as the means to get it to the public.

Natural News – Yes, this is similar to natural significance, but we looked at it in a different way, leading me to believe it deserves its own category. We looked at it like so; when interviewing people, your best bet to make sure it flows and they will want to talk to you is to interview them about an item of natural news Natural news can be defined as news that is relevant to everyone. Like natural significance, people can tell instinctively when something is natural news, and will want to talk about it. Natural news is less in the context of an article, or drawing in readers. It has more a raw, on-the-streets kind of feel. If people see a plane crash into the ground and burst into flames, they’re going to be a lot more willing and eager to talk about it to a journalist than if you try to interview them about their neighbour’s vegetable garden (not to hate on gardens, simply pointing out that more people would be much more willing to talk about a plane crash).

It’s All About Perception – This one is especially for budding journalists like myself. I have never personally been much of a go-up-and-talk-to-strangers kind of guy. That’s one side of journalism that I’ve been dreading just a little but, though I welcome the challenges to expand my comfort zone. It all comes down to perception though. There’s not a lot to say about this one, but I’ll give a concrete example that we looked at in class; how is going up and professionally interviewing someone who’s a complete stranger any different than talking to a store clerk who’s a complete stranger in their professional role as clerk? Them explaining to strangers where to find the video games section or whatever it may be doesn’t have to feel any different than a journalist doing their job and talking to strangers about events.

Well, that’s it for this post, I feel like I’m learning already, and I hope anyone reading this feels the same way!

NFL Season Starts – Here Come The Men In Tights

Here Come The Men In Tights! A new NFL season is starting up, and because the NHL season might not happen at all this year (one minute while I go and have a good crying session), perhaps I can be persuaded to actually watch. Then again, maybe I’ll go watch the Belleville Bulls OHL action instead – I’ve never been much of a football guy. This post, more than anything, is just an introduction to posting for me. Just saying.