Monday, December 29, 2008

My break...

Sorry I forgot to tell everyone, but I am taking a break from the blog until after the new year. In fact, I won't be posting again until Jan. 5. I need a chance to recenter myself and refocus on what I want to do with journalism - online? reporting? designing? editing? teaching? Stay tuned for the conclusion!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Narrative writing

I've posted a glowing report about this blogger before, but I feel like I am still surprised by her everyday. Today's post spoke about her experience discovering prostitution in the African country she was visiting. Her words paint a perfect emotional picture for you (her pictures give you the physical picture just wonderfully). Read Maryam's account. Enjoy it. Use it as an example of really good narrative writing. And, as per her style, its done in the third person. Which somehow makes it even more riveting to me.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why we need the press...

I admit. I may be a little biased here. But maybe its not so much bias as truth. And while I would hope you would take my word for it, I don't expect you to. Instead I ask that you just consider a few words about why you should care about newspapers from a free newspaper in New York City called AM New York. Some parts that stuck out to me:

"What this means is fewer voices, fewer opinions presented in fewer ways, all of which has a tremendous impact on the public discourse in a very dangerous way," said Mary Boyle, a spokeswoman for Common Cause.
“How do they do investigative journalism and keep politicians and businesses honest?” he said. “Blogs can fill in some of the vacuum but do they have the resources to risk lawsuits for taking on the powerful?”
As newspaper staffs shrink, so might the ranks of those who dedicate their careers to the profession.

All of these are perfect points that explain why I'm still in newspapers and why I want to fight so hard to save them, or at least the main idea behind them. We aim to share the news and safeguard the people. As long as I am doing that, I am quite happy in any medium. But sometimes its hard to beat the design found on paper (even glossy magazine paper)
Take a look at the AM New York's cover for the story discussed about at Mario Garcia's blog about newspaper design. I send you there not only because the head is so well done and shows how to use both color and words to make your point in design, but also that Mario is quite informed about all things designed. A good resource if it has any interest for you folks.

And, for a laugh (because one really can't be in the newspaper business without a sense of humor, morbid or otherwise), the blogger over at News after Newspapers has an interesting list of predictions for 2009. The most amusing:
"A major motion picture or HBO series featuring a journalism theme (perhaps a blogger involved in saving the world from nefarious schemes) will generate renewed interest in journalism as a career."
And hey, this could mean a revival for journalism.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Disrespecting 'real' writers

When you're a nobody who suddenly becomes the centerpiece of a hardfought presidential campaign, I can see the urge to want to tell your story. But when that nobody is a (unlicensed) plumber who hasn't paid his taxes in years and failed a takeover of his boss's (who actually is licensed) business, he or she should not be the one who gets a book deal when there are so many other talented authors who can't get their novels published or people with real stories that we can learn from can't get published because they live in China. Really, Joe, or whatever your name is, cease and disist.
As Timothy Egan writes in his guest column in the New York Times opinion section, "With a resume full of failure, he now thinks he can join the profession of Mark Twain, George Orwell and Joan Didion."
I love books. I hate people who write books that waste paper and money that others deserve.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sticking up for the bossman...

Okay, okay. All traditional journalists have a thing or two to say about Sam Zell (CEO of the Tribune Co., the parent company of The Daily Press, where I work). Most hate him and the rest can just barely stand him. I think he came at an inopportune time to do something the business needed: shake it out of its self-induced fog of contentment. Unfortunately, it was too little too late to save us the easy way. So this means that we have to save ourselves the hard way, which is exactly what Chapter 11 is. A way to save ourselves from debtors so we can have time to do a drastic reorganization, the same reorganization we've been needing.
As a sort of nontraditional employee here (I'm new to the newspaper business and in fact have no real stake in the Daily Press other than a biweekly paycheck that isn't worth that much) its odd that I suddenly have such strong opinions about Zell and his top minion (Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams). Even odder is that my instinct is to finally stick up for them. Timing seems to put Zell solely to blame for the apparent collapse of a respected media giant. But in truth, he was given the mess we're in now. It may be his drastic cuts and quick decision to try to sell-off such superfluous holdings as Careerbuilder and the Chicago Cubs (why a newspaper would need a baseball team is something I have not been able to understand) that are keeping us from actually having to go bankrupt.
So that said, all of those commenting on the situation are really not helping by attacking Zell and gleefully cackling about the downfall of his plan. All that does is make it harder for those of us actually affected by the company's failures to buckle-down and try to remake journalism.

For other comments on the Tribune check out Buzz Machine, Newspaper Deathwatch, Recovering Journalist, and Web 2.0h really?. These are all blogs and offer a range of comments about Zell's affect on the Tribune and the news industry. My favorite is the old rebuttal from Jeff Jarvis on the Buzz Machine which says that Zell can't be blamed for something that is the result of "decades of egotistical and willfully ignorant neglect by the owners, managers — and staff — at" newspapers.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

on the job search..

Let's just say that in the current condition that journalism is in, it is always better to be perpetually looking for jobs. Especially when your company is set on putting a smiley-face on the numbers while it secretly considers how best to stave off bankruptcy. Oh Tribune, why are you so grim...and so unwilling to give your "valued" employees a heads-up?

And so I scan: job banks, classifieds,, even media bistro's job bank (which holds relatively few newspaper jobs). Sadly it seems that these companies need a great deal of help, considering the sorry state of their ads. Case in point (errors idenified by italics):

The ideal candidate will have Web content experience, including the development of podcasts and/or videocasts. This person will be expected to rap up projects quickly and should be proficient in all aspects of Web technology. This person should also have excellent document management and organizational skills. Video experience is a plus, as is an interest in the manufacturing industry. A Bachelor's degree in Journalism or Communications, or equivalent work expeirnce is required.
This position is responsbile for developing new eMedia projects, including e-newsletters, videocasts, web forums and other Internet realted programs. This position is also responsbile for editing content for style, grammar and spelling.

I'm gonna go with "help needed immediately". I am torn between wanting to work for them because they are so obviously in desperate need for editing assistance and not wanting to work for a company that has such a lack of editors that they couldn't take two minutes to scan their ad to correct such egregious errors. I mean took me less than a minute to find these.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Who needs tv...

While I may have favorite TV shows, I realize that I can't really call them that. Why? Because I haven't watched TV in a long time. Yet, almost everyday I can log on to my computer and watch a favorite show streamed onto my higher quality laptop screen. So when I read this wonderful little anecdotal opinon on the New York Times Web site I couldn't refrain from sharing it with you. This is my view in a nutshell about TV:
"Who Needs TV? I'm Watching on a Laptop"
Apparently I am an "urban myth." Who knew?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Myer-Briggs for blogs

Ever heard of the Myers-briggs test? It's the one where you answer over a hundred questions which are analyzed and somehow turned into a series of letters that is supposed to mean something to us. This is often used by career counselors (especially in the college setting) to tell you who you are and what you are meant to do in life.

Well now a Web site called Typealyzer has turned this test into a scanner that analyzes your blog and tells you who you are and what your blog is meant to do. Which I think is odd, but hey, it's always fun to have someone tell you how you are supposed to approach life based on a few arbitrary items. To Typealyzer, their analysis of my blog reveals that I am a:

ESFP (which still means nothing to me) - 'The Performers'

"The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don't like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves. The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions."

Not quite to a 't but close enough. I'd be interested to know exactly how they ascertain this, but it is smart to note that they themselves say "Note: writing style on a blog may have little or nothing to do with a person´s self-percieved personality." So have fun but don't take it seriously.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hidden in plain sight...

Norfolk has presented to me a vast array of attractions. I used to live and I've lived literally minutes away for more than 4 years now. So the question is: Why haven't I taken in the beauty that the area has to offer? Or the random and interesting little gems hidden all over the place.
For example, when Norfolk got a sister city, that city gave them a pagoda. Since then, the area has been refurbished into a beatiful garden (complete with zen-style waterfall and large bonsai trees) with a charming restaurant that offers asian american fare mixed with random dishes, such as a Moroccan inspired wrap and a Sicilian style meatloaf.
The Pagoda Garden, located on the waterfront near the USS Wisconsin/Nauticus, also offers some beautiful photography, as the entry hints at.

Nearby there is a view of the Elizabeth River, which offers its own opportunities for photography. I walked through the area as the sun was setting and the water was calm, but offered enough ripples to provide these beautiful shots:

Painting with Light...

...On a canvas of water

It just shows you that even when its cold out, there are some wonderful opportunities for outdoor fun right next door.